This is the week when Toronto City Council votes to determine the extent of cuts to various city departments and organizations. Many departments have seen major cuts scaled back as public pressure has mounted. As already noted, last October, Police Chief Bill Blair presented an expenditure increase as a cut and stared down opposition. As a result, by 2013 the cost of policing this city will approach a billion dollars and continue to consume an ever-increasing portion of the total budget. Chief Blair can confidently assume that his budget will be relatively untouched, either this year or in the years to come.
In contrast, the Toronto Public Library system has managed its resources prudently over the past several years. Library visits are up while costs have declined on a per capita basis since 2004. As a reward for their efficiency, libraries, which are reckoned to be the great equalizers in terms of social opportunity, still face cuts to hours and personnel. Rather than being planned and deliberate, budget cuts appear to be dependent on force of personality, the mood of councillors, and public pressure rather than actual need. Hardly a rational or well-thought out process.
Councillor Josh Matlow (Ward 22) has an excellent summary of potential cuts here.
Our councillor, Frances Nunziata represents one of the poorest wards in the city yet has voted consistently to reduce programs and services that mitigate the grinding poverty of many of her constituents. Her voting record for 2011 reflects a 97% adherence to the Ford Agenda.
It is hoped in her 15th year as councillor that she will start the New Year with a resolution to do the right thing and vote to maintain programs and services so desperately needed in Ward 11.
The Urban Land Institute is giving almost $24,000 to kick-start revitalization of John Street in Weston. The money will be matched by other organizations, which will bring the total up to about $80,000.
Competition for the money appears to have been stiff. Ours was one of only two projects in Canada awarded a grant; twenty-eight other projects around the world were given money, but few received as much as Weston.
The money will go towards the regeneration plan that will make the street more attractive for retail, create a permanent space for the farmers’ market, and make a better link from the village to the commercial district.
In the press release, Frances Nunziata said, “This is a positive step toward seeing the community’s vision for a revitalized Weston Village become reality”
The plan and the grant have grown out of the Urban Land Institute’s design conference, which was held in May of this year. That conference was an intense planning session to take advantage of the redevelopment opportunities coming out of the building of the Air Rail Link and the new Weston station.
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.