Monthly Archives: December 2010

Fighting for Transit City

Kris Scheuer
(Written for the Town Crier Dec. 15)

TTC's new light rail vehicles.

Several residents refuse to believe Transit City is dead.
In December, days after Mayor Rob Ford announced that Transit City is no more, local activist Adam Chaleff-Freudenthaler organized a grassroots campaign in North Toronto to save Transit City, including the Eglinton light rapid transit line.
Chaleff-Freudenthaler took his “save Transit City” petition to the streets in North Toronto’s Ward 16. In December, he continued to canvass every ward affected by the Finch, Sheppard and Eglinton LRTs.
“The goal is to bring high quality, accurate information to people at their doors and communities,” he said.
On Dec. 1, the day he announced Transit City is dead, Ford met with TTC general manager Gary Webster and asked staff to look at costing of various underground options for transit including having the Eglinton LRT completely underground.
Webster will report back in January.
Councillor Karen Stintz, now the new TTC chair, has told the Town Crier on four occasions since the Oct. 25 election she expects light rapid transit along Eglinton to proceed underground.
“I expect when the plan is reviewed, that there won’t be any changes to Eglinton,” she said Dec. 10.

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Pushing city hall to fix Toronto


(Column written for the Town Crier Nov. 25. Read part II)
There’s a new city council embarking on how to shape Toronto for the next four years.
Rather than sit on the sidelines and watch the new Mayor Rob Ford and 44 councillors make decisions that shape the city and your neighbourhood, get in the game.
Now’s the perfect time to push for something you are passionate about. We often complain to our loved ones, neighbours, colleagues or strangers about speeding cars on our street or sketchy characters hanging out in a nearby parking lot.
It’s easier than you think to voice your concerns and make a positive difference.
Keep in mind Mayor Ford was elected overwhelmingly in the suburbs, so he may focus more on these voters.
“Rob Ford will cater to his suburban base, so voices from the suburbs will be more powerful,” said Midtown Councillor Joe Mihevc.
That doesn’t mean Ford will ignore Midtown, especially as he campaigned on better customer service.
Midtowner Adam Chaleff-Freudenthaler is no stranger to political action. He started as a teenager pushing for better education and community safety.
“It starts by deciding what you want changed and sharing it with friends, neighbours and family and people you have never met,” he said. “Get a critical mass together.” Continue reading

Councillors’ office budgets slashed

Kris Scheuer
(Written for Town Crier Dec. 17)

Councillor John Parker voted to cut offices expenses.

Another stop on the gravy train has been eliminated as Mayor Rob Ford and council voted on Dec. 16 to cut councillor office budgets by over $20,000.
The vote was 40–5 in favour of reducing the expense accounts from $50,445 to $30,000, which will save a total of $899,580 a year.
“This reduction is highly symbolic of the will of Toronto city council to listen to the voice of the public and demonstrate leadership in fiscal restraint and respect for the taxpayer,” said Ford in a statement.
In 2009, when the office budget maximum was $53,100, Councillor John Parker was near the top that year, but voted to reduce the amount to $30,000.
One thing he’ll no longer be able to afford is his constituency office on Laird Drive, which cost over $7,000 in 2009 but he’s not mourning that loss.
“I live in the ward, so my front door is my constituency office,” he told theTown Crier. “It was more productive and satisfactory for me to meet with them in their homes, offices, factories.”

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Car tax gone January 1

Council votes today to scrap unpopular tax
It will cost $64 mil in 2011 in lost revenue, refunds
Kris Scheuer
(Written for Town Crier Dec. 16)

Mayor Rob Ford got votes to kill car tax. Town Crier file photo by Francis Crescia.

Mayor Rob Ford got his first win today as council voted 39-6 to scrap the vehicle registration tax as of Jan. 1.
“It’s a great day for the taxpayers of Toronto,” he said in a media scrum Thursday afternoon. “We just put $64 million back into their pockets and they can do what they want. They can create jobs and stimulate the economy or they can save it.”
“I’m glad we finally got rid of it and I look forward to saving the taxpayers more money in the next four years,” he said. “I just want to bring back respect for taxpayers at city hall.”
It will cost the city $64 million to repeal the tax, $48 million in lost annual revenue plus $12 million for refunds for car owners who paid their 2011 tax in advance. The city doesn’t yet know how it will make up the revenue, but that will be dealt with during the budget process.

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Ford’s team: roles for Shiner, Carroll

Councillor David Shiner in Mayor’s Ford inner circle
While Councillor Shelley Carroll to make her own way
Kris Scheuer
(Written Dec 4 for Town Crier)

Councillor Shelley Carroll.

There’s been a reversal of fortunes for North York representatives Shelley Carroll and David Shiner on city council.
Shiner, who complained of being sidelined under former mayor David Miller, was chosen in early December by Mayor Rob Ford to be on the 13-member executive team.
Meanwhile, Carroll who was budget chief and a member of Miller’s inner circle, was not among the new mayor’s picks for key council roles.
Although Carroll does not paint herself as an opposition member to Ford, she said those with differing views can still have influence at city hall.
“You have to ask the opposition to Miller if it had an impact, but I’d say very much so,” Carroll said. “You could be outside the mayor’s circle and have an impact and oppose things and amend (proposals).”

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Ford’s exec votes to kill car tax

Executive Committee approves canceling vehicle tax
It still needs council approval, and could cost city $64 mil
Kris Scheuer
(Written for Town Crier Dec. 10)

Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday agrees with canceling the personal vehicle tax.

Mayor Rob Ford is one step closer to fulfilling his campaign promise to cancel the vehicle registration tax.
“The war on the car stops today,” Ford told the media on Dec. 1. “We will eliminate the $60 car registration tax at the first council meeting in December to take effect on Jan. 1, 2011.”
Ford’s hand-picked executive committee voted to kill the tax at its first meeting on Dec. 9, but that decision comes at a cost of $64 million: $48 million in lost revenue and $16 million to issue refunds to people who paid for their 2011 car registration in advance.
City staff also costed out an option to cancel the tax on Sept. 1 which would cost $48 million in lost revenue but not require refunds.
Ford has announced he can forgo this revenue and still produce a flat-lined 2011 budget, with no property tax increases and no major service cuts. City manager Joseph Pennachetti said his staff will try and achieve those goals, but there’s no details at this stage on how that will be achieved.

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Mayor Ford’s key players approved

City Council gives nod to mayor’s picks for choice roles
Chairs of important committees and Ford’s inner team chosen
Left, downtown and women mostly shut out
Kris Scheuer
(Written for Town Crier Dec. eight)

Mayor Rob Ford. Photo by Francis Crescia/Town Crier file image.

Mayor Rob Ford got a key win today at city hall as the councillors he’s hand-picked for key committees were approved by council.
But the 39-6 decision to endorse the slate with some minor amendments did not come easily.
Some complained none of the 12 councillors on Toronto-East York community council were appointed to serve on key committees including the executive, TTC, budget, police services board or Toronto Community Housing.
The make-up of the mayor’s 13 member Executive, for example, includes five Scarborough reps, three from North York, three from Etobicoke and two from York. Of the nine councillors on the TTC, none represent downtown.
Several politicians argued that these committees and other boards should include not just different ideologies but a geographical representation from all corners of the city.
“There are practical issues about how to make the city functional that require input from people (politicians) from different corners of the city,” Councillor Adam Vaughan told the media this afternoon. “Because different corners of the city are built differently.
“There is no ideological argument about which time of day you pick garbage, but there are practical reasons why you pick it up in Kensington (Market) and not at a certain time in Scarborough,” he added. “If you don’t have a cross section of people weighing in on city wide issues you lose that intelligence.” Continue reading