Padovani takes credit for Nunziata’s vote

Chiara Padovani’s campaign is taking credit for her opponent’s vote in City Council.

Frances Nunziata voted against a motion that would give $419 million in tax relief to developers. The motion was all-but defeated in a 20-20 vote, and only one development received money by the time the amendments were done.

Padovani said:

I’m so glad to see that our campaign’s pressure to not give hand-outs to developers persuaded Councillor Nunziata to vote this way. This comes after months of community advocacy and organizing.

That may be a bit rich. I have my doubts that Nunziata voted to appease her  critics; I’ll bet she voted against the proposal because it wasn’t in her own ward and would have beggared the city.

Speaking of which, Padovani went on to write:

However, the Councillor has been pushing for the waiving of development charges in Ward 11’s Mount Dennis for years. Mount Dennis is on it’s [sic] way to becoming a pilot project for the waiving of development charges needed to fund our services.

This is wrong-headed. Dropping development charges in Mount Dennis would be good for the riding. It would encourage development, create more housing, and put downward pressure on home prices—an idea Padovani enthusiastically endorses.

There’s only one problem with it: development charges are a zero-sum game, and if we don’t pay them, someone (i.e. the rest of the city) must. We would be beggaring our neighbours—which councillors, as advocates for their own ridings and not their neighbours’—must do.

Ford disrupts Toronto Council

So it’s official; Doug Ford, disrupting in the style of Donald Trump, will soon present legislation to axe the number of Toronto wards from what would have been 47 to 25. Ford, looking confident and as if he is hitting his stride, made the announcement at a press conference this morning. Calling Toronto Council, ‘The most dysfunctional arena in the country’, he  revealed that city wards will be gone; instead, councillors will represent areas that are identical to federal / provincial ridings. After the next election, Wards 11 and 12 will be known as York South-Weston and represented by just one councillor.

Locally, Frances Nunziata and Frank DiGiorgio represent York South-Weston at Council and one of those two will not be returning after October if they both choose to fight for the YSW seat.  Many other familiar faces will not be back after October. The bad news is that it might be harder to get in touch with a councillor who will now have twice as many constituents. On the plus side, a smaller number at council meetings will find the process of passing legislation quicker and easier. A smaller number will mean greater name recognition, scrutiny and accountability for individual councillors.

There will be a lot of people very disappointed with the decision. There will be worries about a loss of democracy and representation. There may be a legal challenge. The bottom line is that in Ontario, city councils are ‘creatures of  the province’ and the higher level of government holds sway.

I don’t think anyone will miss a larger council’s decisions despite the recent flurry of common sense legislation coming from the rotunda this week (apart from ShotSpotter). Frankly, the record of Toronto Council is lousy. These are the people who have brought us neglect and mismanagement of public housing and transit, a subservience to developers, a proposed one-stop subway, threadbare infrastructure and dangerous streets for pedestrians and cyclists. On that basis alone, at least half deserve to be turfed. Will fewer councillors produce a less democratic council? With many wards failing to achieve a 50% election turnout, probably no less democratic than it is today.

Nominations for council have been extended until Sept 14 but the election date will still be Oct 22.

Padovani tackles TD Canada Trust closing.

TD Canada Trust in Weston.

Chiara Padovani wants to be York South-Weston’s next councillor for Ward 11, replacing long-time incumbent Frances Nunziata. She has become quite active in the ward and among other things is closely monitoring the state of retail in YSW.

She recently promised that she would contact the Financial Consumer Agency regarding the recently announced closure of Weston’s TD Canada Trust branch. The closure was announced without any community consultation and Ms Padovani is seeking such a consultation by writing to the FCAC’s Commissioner, Lucie Tedesco.

Here is the letter that Ms Padovani sent:

Re: File with reference number 363484

Dear Commissioner Tedesco,

I am writing to request a meeting regarding the closure of the TD Canada Trust Bank located at 1979 Weston Road in Toronto Ontario (Branch Number 335).

This marks the fourth TD Branch closure in York South-Weston, a community that has become the target of predatory lending and payday loans. The bank has failed to fulfill its obligation to consult with the community, and many customers – myself included – did not even receive notice of the bank’s closure.

As a resident and local social worker in the community, I cannot stress the importance of providing fair access to financial institutions. Had TD Canada Trust consulted with the community, they would have become aware of the social and economic hardship that this closure will cause to the residents of Weston including but not limited to:

Proximity – The branch is within walking distance of over 10,000 residents. Many of these residents do not own cars and spending nearly $7 on the TTC fare required to get to the new location will be a significant barrier for low-income customers. In Forest Hill, a far less densely populated neighbourhood, there are seven TD Banks within close proximity of each other.

Accessibility – The branch is located in a neighbourhood where many residents are seniors and people with disabilities. These residents rely on this branch because they can access banking services without having to travel far.

Lack of financial alternatives – CIBC, Scotiabank and TD Canada Trust branches have already closed down and left the neighbourhood. Predatory lenders are quickly filling the gap for financial services in York South-Weston. As you know, these institutions trap hard-working families in a cycle of debt and economic violence that will threaten the quality of life for too many in this community.

These are just some of the reasons I ask that the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada convene a public meeting between the community and TD Canada Trust to discuss and resolve the challenges posed by the bank’s imminent closure.

Sincerely,

Chiara Padovani

I contacted the MP for York South-Weston Ahmed Hussen a couple of weeks ago regarding the closure and a staff member tried to fob me off to the Ottawa office bizarrely claiming that it was not a local matter. After persisting, the staffer said he would inform the minister and call back but never did. Apparently that’s not an unusual experience.

If you would like to add your voice to the initiative, contact the FCAC at 1-866-461-3222 and mention file number 363484.

Ward 11 Cycle and Pedestrian Report for Weston / Mount Dennis

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.

One of the slogans used by the authors is, “A safe pedestrian is a happy pedestrian.” If I may be so bold as to suggest a corollary, “An unsafe pedestrian or cyclist becomes a motorist”.

A map of Ward 11 with locations of recommendations. (From the report.) Click to enlarge.

The PSCC Plan has 31 recommendations grouped around four main areas:

  1. Pedestrian safety
  2. Add safe cycling options to our streets and roads.
  3. Ensure that people can reach key destinations safely by walking or cycling
  4. Ideas that don’t fit into 1-3.

It’s well worth a read. Let’s hope it doesn’t gather dust somewhere.

Five things that need to change in Weston / Mount Dennis. Part 4.

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.

From aguafund.org

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.

From rcvmaine.com

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.

Voter participation:

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.

From garyvarvel.com

Part 5 of this series (The Planning Process) may be a couple of days what with Christmas festivities and all.

 

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.