Participatory budgeting bringing infrastructure to Rustic

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.

The City of Toronto’s Participatory Budgeting team at the 2017 Falstaff Summerfest.

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.

Two more murals about to be painted

Artist Jason Baerg. Source: jasonbaerg.com

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 Carrying Place Trail Plaque at Little Avenue and Weston Road at its unveiling in 2013.

Progress reports will be forthcoming.

A tale of two wards.

Councillor Pam McConnell. (from Twitter.com)

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.

Mayor Tory schools Nunziata in compassion.

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.

Read more in this Toronto Star article.

Nunziata seeks advice on cycling

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!

Smitherman to bid for council in 2018

George Smitherman. From ctvnews.ca

Weston native born politician, George Smitherman has announced he will run for council in next year’s civic election. While he will not run in York South-Weston, he plans to take a shot at one of the three new wards created after a boundary review and council vote last November. The condo boom of the past few years, has seen population growth in the downtown core and Smitherman hopes to end up with a home and seat there.

While a progressive councillor for Ward 11 might have been a big change from the current incumbent, all is not lost. Many vital decisions at council have been won or lost by only a few votes. Mayor John Tory opposed adding three extra wards. Why?  Possibly because the new wards are downtown and could add three progressive voices and votes which might improve the tone and dare I say humanity of Council decisions. As an added bonus, Smitherman has close ties with the Liberal Party of Canada along with Immigration Minister and York South Weston MP Ahmed Hussen so no doubt there will be a strong link to the federal government.

Here begins the speculation that the long term plan is to knock John Tory off his mayoral perch in 2022.

Stay tuned; it should be an interesting ride.

Today’s Etobicoke York Council Decisions

Etobicoke York Council meets about once a month to deal with local issues. Local councillors discuss matters of local concern and adopt, defer or reject motions which are sent to the full council for adoption and enactment. Today’s decisions that may be of interest to our readers are:

Proposed apartment at 10 Wilby Crescent.

EYC recommends the following:

  1. Staff be directed to schedule a community consultation meeting for the lands at 10 Wilby Crescent together with the Ward Councillor.
  2. Notice for the community consultation meeting be given to landowners and residents within 120 metres of the site.
  3. Notice for the public meeting under the Planning Act be given according to the regulations of the Planning Act.

Decision: Adopted

8 Oak Street demolition

Toronto Building recommends that the City Council give consideration to the demolition application for 8 Oak Street and decide to:

Approve the application to demolish the two storey industrial building without entering into a beautification agreement with the City and the appropriate City officials be authorized and directed to take the necessary action to give effect thereto.

Decision: Amended

Update: The minutes don’t give details of the amendment yet, however, InsideToronto says that Councillor Nunziata asked for a heritage report on the building that will be delivered at the April EYC meeting.

Traffic Calming Poll Results – Rosemount Avenue

The Director, Transportation Services, Etobicoke York District recommends that:

Etobicoke York Community Council NOT to approve installing traffic calming on Rosemount Avenue.¹

Decision: Adopted

All-Way Stop Control – Rosemount Avenue and MacDonald Avenue

The Director, Transportation Services, Etobicoke York District recommends that:

Etobicoke York Community Council NOT approve the installation of all-way stop controls at the intersection of Rosemount Avenue and MacDonald Avenue.

Decision: Adopted

Pedestrian Access to City Laneway – Lawrence Avenue West to MacDonald Avenue

Transportation Services recommends that:

Etobicoke York Community Council NOT approve installing fencing across the laneway between MacDonald Avenue and Lawrence Avenue West, east of Ralph Street in order to block access to pedestrians.

Decision: Adopted


¹(Sorry, we reported this wrong. They did vote to approve speed humps.)