The recently released ‘MOVING FORWARD‘ is ‘An Action Plan to Improve Safety and Opportunities for Pedestrians and Cyclists in Ward 11’. It’s a huge and detailed report by the Ward 11 Pedestrian Safety and Cycling Committee (PSCC) and contains 31 recommendations. The plan was commissioned by Councillor Frances Nunziata in an effort to create a safe environment for cyclists and pedestrians in Ward 11. It has already received praise in other jurisdictions.
This is a fantastic report by the pedestrian and cycling safety committee in Ward 11. 31 specific recommends to make streets safer.
As we approach the year end, here are some things that seem to be holding us back locally. This is the fourth of a five part series.
As always, your comments are welcome.
4. The Democratic Process.
Next October will see city council elections for councillors and and mayor. Barring a cataclysmic upheaval, few seats will change hands in 2018. One positive note comes from the recent redrawing of ward boundaries to better reflect the changing population densities. The boundaries, in place since 1999 needed updating since ward populations had become uneven during that time. For example, downtown has many more residents thanks to the ongoing condo boom. This change was fought by the likes of Justin Di Ciano and Giorgio Mammoliti who presumably felt threatened by a more democratic redistribution. The OMB, (needing to act quickly and not known as a fan of democracy) in a surprising decision, rightly smacked down the appeal.
Ward 11 (along with only 6 others) will be unaffected as the population in our area has remained relatively static but four additional wards will be created in time for the elections; three of them in the downtown core. Downtown wards are often quite left leaning so the good news is that this may signal a more progressive council in the next term
We have a ‘first past the post’ system for all Canadian Elections including local council seats and mayor. A simple majority determines the winner. Unfortunately, the first past the post voting system favours incumbents and many people stay home, knowing that their candidate is disadvantaged. This is why we have so many career-politicians in Toronto. Some are elected term after term, often with the votes of a tiny fraction of constituents.
There is a better way. Ranked balloting allows voters to choose their first, second and third choices and gives more voting power to electors whose first choice doesn’t win. It also prevents fringe candidates from winning through a split vote. In the last mayoral election for example, Doug Ford could well have been elected if Olivia Chow had run a stronger campaign and split the centre-left vote between herself and John Tory. As an aside, other than bluster and the occasional ferris wheel popping up, one can be forgiven for wondering if anything would be different had Mr. Ford won in 2014.
It would seem obvious that anyone interested in a better democratic process in Toronto would support ranked balloting. The province is in charge of such legislation and would need a request from City Council to make the change. Sadly, our own councillor voted against studying the use of ranked ballots and effectively (with a group of other councillors) killed the possibility for the near future.
At council meetings, our councillor along with a cadre of nodding deputy mayors is obliged to vote the Mayor Tory line on most matters since she is Council Speaker and wants to keep her prestigious job. Sadly, this means that she and the rest of the Tory bloc often vote against the interests of Ward 11. The councillor cannot serve two masters effectively and it would probably be better for Ward 11 to have a councillor with no such conflicts.
As the saying goes, all politics is local. We are lucky enough to have local politicians who consult with the people on a regular basis on matters of importance. If we do or don’t like what’s going on, we need to attend the meetings and express our views. Shy folk can send emails or write letters but it’s vital that people express their opinions because no matter what the issue, you can be sure that corporate interests have already made their cases strongly and often.
Lastly one final thought: we need a better turnout for elections. In 2014, fewer than 51% of eligible voters bothered to cast a ballot.
Part 5 of this series (The Planning Process) may be a couple of days what with Christmas festivities and all.
The third and final phase of the City of Toronto’s Participatory Budgeting Pilot Project will kick off in early-September 2017.
In the final phase of the pilot, Rustic has a lot to look forward to. Several light posts, along with water bottle filling stations, will be coming to both Rustic and Maple Leaf Parks. Some of the more “fun” ideas voted in include a movie wall, which was championed by local youth, in Maple Leaf Park, and a ping pong table in Rustic Park.
Rustic, one of York South—Weston’s six Neighbourhood Improvement Areas (N.I.A.s) (formerly known as Priority Neighbourhoods), was chosen as one of the three areas in Toronto for the pilot to take place in. Rustic is located in the northwest end of the riding, bounded by the 401 to the north, Culford Road to the east, Lawrence Avenue West to the south, and Jane Street to the west.
Participatory budgeting is exactly what it sounds like; it lets members of the community decide the allocation of city funds for infrastructure. While this is the City’s first time officially trying participatory budgeting, it has been used by other cities such as Boston and New York. Toronto Community Housing also has a Participatory Budgeting program for tenants.
In Rustic, $150,000 was allocated to the N.I.A. for the project’s first phase, and $250,000 has been allocated for each of the final two phases.
Before participatory budgeting came to Rustic in 2015, most of its parks were dilapidated with worn out playground equipment and a dire need for more lighting.
Once the final phase of the project is complete, a report will go to City Council on whether the City should continue with the project or not.
Weston should keep an eye on participatory budgeting. Like Rustic, Weston is home to several different demographic groups, and is always looking for new infrastructure. Participatory Budgeting can promote social cohesion and community relationships, but it can also expose decades-old community divisions. When involving ourselves in civic engagement, we should look to what makes the community—and city—more liveable for everyone as opposed to what might make it a little bit better in the short-term for ourselves and a few of our neighbours. This is the lesson that participatory budgeting teaches.
If you want to see the full list of ideas or if you live in Rustic, you can submit ideas here.
Urban Arts will be completing two new local murals this month. One will be under the Lawrence Avenue bridge and the other under the Scarlett Road bridge. These will be viewable by pedestrians and cyclists and will have an indigenous people theme. Cree Métis artist Jason Baerg, and his team of mural painters presented ideas for comments last night at the Weston Library. Both murals will be painted on long and narrow bridge abutments that run under the respective roads with a stylized thunderbird theme for the Lawrence bridge and a sweetgrass theme for the Scarlett location.
The indigenous people theme is particularly appropriate since the Carrying Place Trail ran alongside the Humber for thousands of years before European settlement of the Weston area.
The recent and untimely death of Councillor Pam McConnell brought forth an outpouring of tributes. Many remembered her service to the community and the great things a determined councillor can achieve in a Toronto ward. Ms. McConnell may have represented Rosedale but she consistently voted to defend her poorest constituents, not the richest. She also fought hard to improve the public domain rather than work for private interests.
We can view Ms. McConnell’s recent voting record through a handy grid compiled by Toronto blogger Matt Elliott. The Google Docs spreadsheet itemizes how each Toronto councillor voted on important topics over the past few years. As part of the grid, Mr. Elliott also keeps a scorecard on how each councillor’s overall votes align with those of our right-leaning Mayor John Tory – recently described by some wags as ‘Rob Ford in sheep’s clothing’.
Ms. McConnell it turns out, voted with the Mayor only 41.5% of the time. In contrast, our own Councillor Nunziata voted with the Mayor a remarkable 92.5% of the time; more than anyone else on council. That’s loyalty but at what cost to the people in York South-Weston?
Mr. Elliott’s scorecard can be found at this link.
Last year, it was announced that up to 15 new homeless shelters would be built in wards throughout Toronto. One of them, a temporary shelter located at 731 Runnymede, just south of St. Clair Avenue West was proposed with a lease of 10 years with two 5-year extension options. Much effort has been put into ensuring that the shelter was to be state of the art after addressing many community concerns.
Early this morning, Ms Nunziata came up with a way of killing the shelter by cleverly proposing that the shelter site be leased for only 5 years at a time, effectively rendering the proposal dead given the uncertainties of the short time frame.
For some time now, Ms. Nunziata has been taking credit for chopping the proposed 100 bed shelter down to 50 but was shamed into voting for the temporary shelter’s 10-year lease when Mayor Tory gave the councillor and her allies a strongly worded lesson in compassion. Ms. Nunziata also managed to accuse city staff of misleading the council about the project but was forced to withdraw her comments by the mayor.
Her allies on the motion were Cesar Palacio and one of our many deputy mayors, Denzil Minnan Wong. No doubt it helps that Mayor Tory has the power to strip these councillors of their privileged positions on council.
Watch the whole process unfold here:
and part 2 here (Mayor Tory’s speech is in this one):
Perhaps Mayor Tory isn’t the worst mayor ever…. We’ll see.
Frances Nunziata is looking to form a Pedestrian and Cycling Safety Committee “whose mission will be to help plan and promote safe and enjoyable ways for pedestrians and cyclists to travel throughout the ward.”
Her office is looking for a few good people to help give input on safety and planning, and the first meetings will be in May. You can contact her, if you’re interested, through her website. I hope to see you there!