Councillor Pasternak wants community space to offer free rec
(Written April 4 for Town Crier.)
Councillor James Pasternak wants the city to make Antibes a Priority Centre where all recreation fees would be waived. Photo courtesy City of Toronto.
Residents in the under-served Antibes community shouldn’t have to pay out of pocket for rec programs offered at the local community centre, councillor James Pasternak says.
The Ward 10 rep is asking city council to consider making the Antibes Community Centre, located off Bathurst Street, north of Finch Avenue, a designated priority centre.
City program fees continue to increase, and programs formerly offered for free now have costs, Pasternak said. This is affecting participation rates in a neighbourhood where the average annual family income is about $30,000 lower than Toronto’s average.
“Making (Antibes) a priority centre is crucial for Ward 10,” Pasternak said. “It would allow unfettered access to recreation. It would help newcomers and low-income residents.” Continue reading
Posted in Toronto poverty
Tagged Antibes, centre, community, councillor, fees, free, James Pasternak, Kris Scheuer, priority, Recreation, Town Crier, waived
Toronto Community Housing renovated 42 Hubbard Blvd
While housing nearby for sale, this site gets $4 mil reno
(Written for Town Crier April 7.)
Kew Beach resident Deborah Beaven will be moving back to renovated Toronto Community Housing apartment complex at 42 Hubbard Blvd. Photo by Francis Crescia/Town Crier.
Deborah Beaven can’t wait to move back home to her Toronto Community Housing apartment at 42 Hubbard Blvd.
She’s lived at the 27-unit Kew Beach apartment complex for over two decades, but all the tenants were moved out two years ago when mould was found throughout the building.
This summer she and any of the previous tenants who wish to return will be moving back home.
“I am down there every second day watching it (construction),” said Beaven. “I am marking the days on my calendar. I miss being in my home. I miss my neighbours of 22 years.”
Beaven was one of the lucky ones as she was relocated only seven blocks away.
“But it’s a world away,” said Beaven, who was the 42 Hubbard’s tenant rep for seven years.
She said through phone calls, emails and Facebook connections she gathers that 80-85 percent of previous tenants plan to return to the Hubbard building, which offers a mix of rent-geared-to-income and market rent apartments.
Posted in Toronto Beaches
Tagged 42 Hubbard, Beach, Case Ootes, community, Deborah Beaven, fix, housing, Kris Scheuer, Mould, renovation, Toronto, Town Crier
Case Ootes lone board member votes to sell 22 homes
City-owned housing provider to make millions
Money would be used to fix crumbling housing stock
(Written April 6 for Town Crier.)
Case Ootes explains his vote to sell 22 social housing properties. Kris Scheuer/Town Crier photo.
Case Ootes, the one man board at Toronto Community Housing Corporation, voted today to sell 22 single families homes in the portfolio that could net the corporation up to $15.7 million.
Some who came out to the meeting asked Ootes to defer the decision until a full board is in place this June. But Ootes said he’s acting on recommendations of the previous board to sell these homes including beachfront property on Hubbard Boulevard that are too costly to maintain.
A staff report this issue states the net profits from the sales should be used to tackle the backlog to fix up existing community housing across the city which Ootes pegs at close to $600 million.
“I made the decision based on the fact this corporation is facing serious financial problems,” he told the media after the meeting. “There are almost 2,000 vacant units in some form of disrepair. Money is needed to repair these units.”
But selling all 22 homes, which contain 29 separate units, won’t be a cakewalk.
Currently, 15 of the 29 units are occupied by tenants with most of them paying market rent. The market rent tenants can’t be kicked out by any new owner unless they or their families plan to live in the homes.
“Most buyers do want (houses) to be vacant so it will be more difficult to sell,” said Ootes. Continue reading
Posted in Toronto News
Tagged Beach, board, Case Ootes, city, community, homes, housing, Hubbard, Kris Scheuer, properties, sell, TCHC, Toronto, Town Crier
New mayor has shown a push to privatize city services
(Column written Mar 4 for Town Crier.)
Mayor Rob Ford has been in office for more than 100 days now and one trend that’s emerging quite vividly is his preference for privatization and partnering with the private sector.
Exhibit A: the mayor campaigned on contracting out garbage in an effort to save money and avoid strikes.
On Feb. 7, the city announced it had given CUPE Local 416 a 90-day notice that it plans to privatize all recycling collection in city parks, half of the city’s litter collection, plus garbage pickup in 165,000 residential homes west of Yonge Street to the Etobicoke border.
City staff will report back on the issue in April and go to council for a vote in May.
So far, the city estimates it can save $8 million if this move succeeds. Interestingly, right-wing think tank C.D. Howe Institute and U of T released a report before the municipal election outlining how Toronto could save $49 million by privatizing garbage citywide. The Ontario Waste Management Association, made up mainly of reps from private sector waste haulers, gave $50,000 toward that study.
I’d like to see the upcoming city staff report explain potential savings in further detail, given some full-time city workers have a “jobs for life” provision in their contract that guarantees them city work if their positions are contracted out. And while the mayor is moving in this direction to avoid strikes, like the 39-day episode in the summer of 2009, there’s no guarantee a private sector contract will mean no strikes. Continue reading
Posted in Toronto Politics
Tagged community, garbage, housing, Kris Scheuer, LRT, Mayor Rob Ford, privatize, Sheppard, subway, Toronto, Town Crier, Transit
Former councillor getting 25k for 3-month gig
City appointed him interim man director at housing board
(March 16 blog post)
Case Ootes former ward 29 rep is now the interim managing director of the city's housing board. Photo Francis Crescia/Town Crier file photo.
Former East York councillor and ex deputy mayor Case Ootes is the one man show on Toronto Community Housing’s board now. He’ll began his new role on Monday and will be in it until mid-June at the latest. He’ll make $25,000 in compensation as the interim managing director of the TCH board.
The city manager Joseph Pennachetti set the rate of pay for Ootes.
At the emergency council session March 9 that the Mayor Rob Ford called, the city voted 25-18 to sweep the remaining 4 members of the board. The other nine board members already resigned at the mayor’s request over a scandalous set of city audits that involved spending by TCH employees and sole-source contracts that if put out for competitive tender could have saved millions.
But not all city councillors wanted Ootes to get paid for his temporary role, but councillor motions to have him work for free were defeated. The main issue raised was that Ootes, who was a councillor from 1988 to 2010, was already receiving severance for his almost 22 years in public office. He’s receiving the max allowed which is 12 months pay equal to $99,619.52.
According to the city’s policy on severance, a councillor can receive 1 month’s pay for every consecutive year worked with the maximum allowed of 12 months. In Ootes case he was a councillor for over two decades, so is entitled to a year’s severance.
After the council vote, the mayor told the media everyone deserves to be paid so he was fine with Ootes being compensated in his new role despite the fact he’s currently collecting severance from the city/taxpayer.
According to the Globe and Mail, Ootes also earned $11,000 from his role heading up Mayor Ford’s transition team after the Oct. 25 election last year.
It will be interesting to see what Ootes suggests for city-owned housing corporation while he is in charge of the board. One thing he’s been quite vocal about in interviews I have had with him as a Town Crier reporter is that TCH should not house people in million dollar houses.
What’s your take on his pay and new appointed role?
Posted in Toronto News
Tagged board, Case Ootes, cheque, community, compensation, director, housing, managing, pay, TCH, Toronto
City voted to remove housing board members
Interim director in place until new board appointed
Councillors question legality of decision
(Written and revised March 10 for Town Crier)
THC tenant reps Catherine Wilkinson and Dan King were among board members removed by city. Photo by Kris Scheuer/Town Crier.
Mayor Rob Ford got his wish. The four remaining members of the Toronto Community Housing’s board were removed last night after a midnight vote by city council.
It its place a single managing director has been appointed to take over the board’s duties.
It’s been confirmed former deputy mayor Case Ootes will fill that role until a new board is formed no later than mid-June.
Councillor Raymond Cho, who along with Councillor Maria Augimeri and tenant reps Catherine Wilkinson and Dan King were removed from the community housing board, said during the debate he felt the mayor was telling him to get lost by asking him to resign from the board after he was just appointed in December.
Last week, the other two councillors appointed to the board after last year’s election, John Parker and Frances Nunziata, resigned at the mayor’s request.
Posted in Toronto News
Tagged audit, board, Case Ootes, Catherine, city, community, council, councillor, Dan, decision, Doug Holyday, gone, housing, King, Kris Scheuer, Maria Augimeri, Mayor, remove, reports, Rob Ford, Shelley Carroll, Toronto, Town Crier, Wilkinson
(Updated story here.)
The last four remaining Toronto Community Housing board members were removed by the city in a vote 25-18 around midnight on Wednesday night/Thursday morning.
In the interim one person will act as the managing director and while his name remains confidential for now it’s been widely reported as former deputy mayor Case Ootes. To read the many motions and how councillors voted, click here.
I filed my story for the Town Crier at noon today detailing some of the next steps and concerns some councillors have over the process of removing a board that was not found to be implicated in any wrongdoing.
When that story is edited, I will post it on m blog.
The full story is done now and can be read here.
(For March 10 update click here.)
Mayor Ford shown on the big screen at city council tonight speaking about wanting the current TCH board removed. Photo by Kris Scheuer/Town Crier.
Council has been debating for three plus hours now on Mayor Rob Ford’s request that the last four board members of Toronto Community Housing be removed tonight. He wants them replaced tonight by an interim managing director – Case Ootes.
Read the mayor’s letter to council on what he is seeking.
While there are a number of motions be city councillor being debated now (9pm), the main issue comes down to this: the mayor’s request the last four board members councillors Maria Augimeri and Raymind Cho and the two tenant reps Catherine Wilkinson and Dan King be removed as they refuse to step down. Mayor Ford wants those four replaced by one person, former councillor Case Ootes, as the interim managing director.
And the main alternative being debated tonight is Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam’s motion that the four current reps stay on the board and the interim managing director be added but that he not be paid because as an ex councillor Ootes is already getting severance.
See all the councillors’ motions here.
The debate and media scrum didn’t end until almost 12:30 am Thurs March 10. Here’s the update on the results.
Posted in Toronto News
Tagged board, city, community, council, debate, housing, Kris Scheuer, Kristyn Wong Tam, Mayor, Rob Ford, TCH, Toronto, vote
Toronto Community Housing board still in place, for now
City Council to discuss TCH board at special meeting Wed
(Written for Town Crier March eighth. Update here.)
Councillor Doug Ford wants remaining board members to step down. Photo by Kris Scheuer/Town Crier.
The remaining members of Toronto Community Housing’s embattled board are staying put despite Mayor Rob Ford’s calls for their resignations.
The issue was expected to be the heated topic today at city hall, but while politicians voted unanimously to move the issue to the top of the agenda, the mayor failed to get the votes needed to debate it without having the issue sent to Executive Committee first.
The controversy stems from scathing reports from the city’s auditor general which said the housing corp. could have saved between $4-10 million if there was increased competition for contracts and shone the spotlight on inappropriate staff expenses ranging from planning meetings at spas to lavish Christmas parties. Meanwhile the city-owned housing corp. has a state of good repair backlog of over $300 million.
While the auditor didn’t call for a clean house of the current board the mayor has. The board chair David Mitchell plus eight other members resigned at the mayor’s request but councillors Maria Augimeri and Raymond Cho and tenant reps Catherine Wilkinson and Dan King remain.
“Has (council) malfeasance on our part?” King asked. “Has the auditor general mentioned cause for our removal? If not, then we have a legitimate right to be here. Calling for our removal because they don’t like certain people is not what I call democratic.”
Posted in Toronto News
Tagged Adam Vaughan, audit, board, community, council, Dan King, Doug Ford, fired, housing, Kris Scheuer, Maria Augimeri, Mayor Rob Ford, Raymond Cho, TCH, Toronto, Town Crier
Toronto Community Foundation’s annual report on Toronto
(Column written for Town Crier Oct.7)
If we took the city’s pulse, what would it tell us?
Would we get a healthy, hopeful prognosis for Toronto’s future or would we hear a faint heartbeat indicating the city is a mere shadow of its former self.
In some ways, it depends on who you ask. Pricewaterhouse Cooper has chosen Toronto among its top international cities. However, the Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey ranked us 215th out of 272 as the least affordable city.
These are just two of the findings highlighted in Toronto Community Foundation’s Toronto Vital Signs report released just 20 days before Torontonians go to the polls to elect a new mayor and council.
The charity tells a good news, bad news story of this city.
Good news: Crime is down and has been declining for a decade and most of us feel safer in our neighbourhoods.
Bad news: This June, there were 160,000 people on social assistance representing a 12 percent rise compared to the same time last year. Continue reading
Posted in Toronto Politics
Tagged community, election, Foundation, Kris Scheuer, Mayor, Rahul Bhardwaj, report, signs, Toronto, Town Crier, vital