Watching Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair play the Police Services Board has been a lesson for Toronto Council as well as the citizens of Toronto. You don’t become Police Chief by being a nice guy. You do it through hard work and force of will. It doesn’t hurt that the Chief is a large man with an imposing presence.
Chief Blair was asked by Mayor Ford to reduce the police budget of $930 million by 10% ($93 Million). Chief Blair stonewalled and said it was impossible; a 1.5% increase was the best he could do and that a 10% cut would lead to over 900 layoffs. Board member Michael Thompson famously declared that Blair’s job was on the line and the Chief was asked by the Board to return to his calculator. They generously told him that he (alone of all city budgets) could spread the 10% cut over 2 years. Blair then pleaded his case directly to Rob Ford who wisely told him to deal with the Board.
Wednesday’s announcement of a huge arrest (timing is everything) made things easier for the chief and he offered to increase his budget by only 0.6%. The Board folded like a cheap suit although according to the Star, Councillors Thompson and Nunziata claim that the Chief has actually reduced his budget by 4.6% or $43 million. One can only hope that our councillor is simply putting on a brave face and that she’s not that easy to fool.
Either way, Police Services Board members were outsmarted by a superior tactician.
The Weston and Mount Dennis library branches will have to cut service hours if City Council accepts the recommendations of the city’s chief librarian. Both the Weston and Mount Dennis branches will be asked to close for an additional 2.5 hours every week.
The cuts have been ordered by Rob Ford, who told every city department to cut 10% of its budget. Not all libraries, however, are being told to close early. Of the 98 libraries in the city, 29 dodged the axe.
Despite Doug Ford’s stated willingness to close library branches, none of the libraries in the riding of the mayor’s brother are facing service cuts. Both libraries in Frances Nunziata’s riding are, however.
Rob Ford promised in his election campaign that “services will not be cut, guaranteed”. Cutting service will only solve part of the library’s budget problems however; collections will also be reduced.
The City Manager has issued his review and has recommended cuts to Toronto services to balance the budget deficit. Among the possible cuts that might affect Westonians:
Elimination of the neighbourhood improvement fund that reduces graffiti, funds murals, and employs young people in Weston
Grants to the Weston BIA
Closure of some branches of the library system
A reduced number of police officers
Additional fares or reduced service on the 352 and 313 late-night busses and service reductions on the 59 Maple Leaf bus
Reduced snow clearing and reduced grass cutting in parks
At this point, details are sparse, and little has been decided. The City Manager report distilled an external audit down to a manageable number of recommendations, which will, if your humble correspondent understands the process correctly, be further debated at City Council among other places.
Councillor Nunziata will be holding a public meeting to hear residents’ input on Thursday, September 15, at the York Civic Centre: 2700 Eglinton Ave. West. The meeting will begin at 7 pm.
While your humble correspondent was off hiking in the wilds, Frances Nunziata, our city councillor, hosted a meeting about the funding cuts facing our community. InsideToronto has a write up.
About 60 residents and agency representatives from Ward 11 gathered at a meeting Monday, Aug. 15 to ask the local councillor about potential cuts to services in their community, which they say needs more resources and not fewer.
“We’re worried about our community. We’re worried about our services. Look at what we have. We have so little,” said Marion Newrick, a Ward 11 resident, who was hoping to establish an open, trusting, two-way dialogue with York South-Weston Councillor Frances Nunziata. “Our worries are very real.”
Frances Nunziata says the library union is “fear mongering” when it alleges that the libraries in her ward are vulnerable. She says
Residents of Ward 11 can rest assured that the Weston and Mount Dennis libraries will not be closed and any suggestion to the contrary is absolutely false.
The Toronto Public Library Workers Union put out a press release earlier this week that said the Weston and Mount Dennis libraries were threatened by the current cost-cutting at City Hall because they are in the ward of a councillor who is sympathetic to Rob Ford. Recently, Doug Ford, the mayor’s brother, said that he would cut libraries “in a heartbeat“.
As we are still in the early stages of reviewing all City operations, there will be rumours surfacing regarding cuts that will be made. The review of the existing library system is one such example of how rumours have spread… The Weston and Mount Dennis libraries are not in any danger of being closed; if this was ever being considered, which it is not, I would fight tooth and nail to ensure that it did not happen.
The Library Union says that the Weston and Mount Dennis libraries are in danger of being closed because they have low circulation and are in the ward of a councillor who supports Mayor Ford’s cost-cutting plan.
Frances Nunziata, our councillor, is a long-time ally of Mayor Rob Ford. She supported him early in his election campaign, and she was given the role of Speaker in council. Her position, according to the Toronto Public Library Workers Union, now puts her in danger: she cannot be seen fighting his policies.
Both the Weston and Mt Dennis branches—the only ones in her ward—have low circulation numbers. Weston circulated 153,000 books last year; Mt Dennis circulated 130,000. The library that Doug Ford, the mayor’s brother, said he would close “in a heartbeat”, has a circulation of 93,000, and a typical Toronto library circulates about 320,000 books, more than twice as many as Weston.
The press release is speculative. Nobody knows whether branches will be closed, or how that decision will be made. The library board voted Tuesday to defer until September considering the KPMG report that recommended branch closures . The press release says,
“We don’t know how the closure decisions will be made but it is not going to be an easy task, politically speaking,” says Maureen O’Reilly, President of the Toronto Public Library Workers Union Local 4948.
“If it is done strictly by circulation, residents in the Executive Committee’s wards will suffer the most because those councillors strongly support the Mayor’s cost cutting agenda and would have no other choice but to vote to close those libraries.”
In an exclusive interview, she clarified her comments about Chaminade College students and says her original words were the result of a ‘miscommunication’. She also acknowledged that the muggings at Weston and Lawrence were very unlikely to have originated from students at that school.
We discussed other matters such as why she will oppose future license applications for bars in Weston. Councillor Nunziata says she has no problem with applications being approved as long as there are conditions attached to ensure good behaviour; e.g. adherence to licensed hours and noise suppression. After a year these conditions would be lifted. She claims that there are too many licensed establishments along Weston Road and Jane Street already, and that some legitimately licensed establishments operate after hours too . She’s ‘had many complaints from residents.’ I asked if any licence applications ever come from deserving businesses and was told that as long as they agree to the conditions and have not caused problems in the past, they will not be refused a licence.
We returned to the topic of crime and the TAVIS initiative. I mentioned my pet peeve which is that while the TAVIS program has great potential and is a great asset to the community, officers tend to hang around in groups of three or more (let’s not call them gangs) and could cover more ground and have more contact with the community in smaller groups. Ms Nunziata replied that the grouping format was agreed to in the TAVIS meetings, as was the location of the surveillance cameras (which, perhaps, could have produced better results along Lawrence Avenue, since much of the crime seems to occur there).
Thanks to our readers for such a vigorous response.