Tag Archives: Mayor

City funding for Pride Toronto

Mayor says wait until parade’s over to vote on funding
Kris Scheuer
(Written for Town Crier April 18.)

Mayor Rob Ford said the city will wait to see if Queers Against Israeli Apartheid participates in the Pride parade before the city decides whether to fund it. Francis Crescia/Town Crier file photo.

Mayor Rob Ford is taking a wait and see attitude before deciding if Pride Toronto should receive city funding this year.
For Ford, the funding issue hangs on whether the group Queers Against Israeli Apartheid participates in this year’s Pride festival.
If the organization doesn’t participate, then Ford said that Pride Toronto can still get a city grant of about $125,000.
“Last year council agreed if they don’t (participate), they (Pride) will get their money after the parade. That’s what we agreed on,” the mayor said at an April 15 media scrum. “If they (group) does march in the parade (Pride) won’t get their money.”
The city also provides in kind services for police security and clean-up worth around $250,000. The mayor did not know if those city services would be impacted if Queers Against Israeli Apartheid aka QuAIA participates in the parade.
QuAIA issued a statement April 15 announcing that it would not march in the parade, but would instead participate in activities outside the parade. It said now there will be no excuse not to fund Pride.
“Rob Ford wants to use us as an excuse to cut Pride funding, even though he has always opposed funding the parade, long before we showed up,” stated Elle Flanders with Queers Against Israeli Apartheid. “By holding our Pride events outside of the parade, we are forcing him to make a choice: fund Pride or have your real homophobic, right-wing agenda exposed.”

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Ford cancels Finch rapid transit

Mayor Rob Ford opts for enhanced buses service
Cancels approved, funded Finch light rail transit
But promises FInch subway within a decade
Kris Scheuer and Agnes Ramos
(Written for Town Crier April 1.)

No LRT here: Finch transit riders line up for busy buses. Photo by Agnes Ramos/Town Crier.

It is past rush hour at Finch Station on a colder-than-usual April morning, but the corner where bus commuters wait for the 36 Finch West bus is still a hive of activity.
Lines form, and people wait.
The bus route that travels from Yonge all the way past Kipling in Toronto’s west end is the busiest bus route at the station, and frustration among riders is growing as the clock ticks on.
Robert Laws, 47, who has been a TTC rider for over four decades, says the bus route is deplorable.
“It’s the worst service I’ve seen in this city,” he said. “It takes me twice as long traveling the same distance than in any other part of the city.
“Obviously something needs to be done about this issue.”
It’s a familiar complaint among Finch West commuters, and one they worry isn’t going anytime soon, now that the city has effectively cancelled a once sought-after plan for light rail on Finch.

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City to pay $49 million for cancelling LRTs

Mayor’s decision to axe Sheppard, Finch LRTs will cost
City agreed to reimburse Metrolinx for cash spent already
Kris Scheuer
(Written for Town Crier April 1.)

All aboard: Mayor Rob Ford gives the thumbs up with Premier Dalton McGuinty before making a joint transit announcement March 31. Photo by Francis Crescia/Town Crier.

The city taxpayers are on the hook for at least $49 million now that the Ontario government and Metrolinx agreed to cancel two previously approved light rapid transit lines for Sheppard and Finch.
Early in his term Mayor Rob Ford announced the Transit City plan for four surface LRT lines on Sheppard, Finch, Eglinton and in Scarborough was dead. His office spent four months negotiating with the province and Metrolinx to spend the allotted $8.4 billion on making the Eglinton LRT underground and converting the Scarborough RT to a surface LRT.
He also sought permission for the city to look for $4.2 billion in private sector funding for a new Sheppard subway.
That deal, announced March 31, included a provision that the city pay Metrolinx back for any costs associated with canceling the previously approved projects. The bill to the city will be at least $49 million, Metrolinx confirmed to the Town Crier on April 1.
“At this time we estimate there are $49 million in sunk costs mostly for work on the environmental assessments, designs or engineering and project management for Finch LRT and Sheppard LRT,” said Metrolinx spokesperson Vanessa Thomas. “The $49 million (is) for costs we already accrued.

Mayor Rob Ford announced he will seek $4.2 billion in private sector cash to build a new Sheppard subway line. Photo by Francis Crescia/Town Crier.

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Toronto transit investment announcement

Ontario to pony up $8B for Scarborough, Eglinton LRTs
City to seek $4B private cash for Sheppard subway
T.O taxpayers on hook for $49 mil spent on canceled routes

Kris Scheuer
(Written for Town Crier March 31.)

Subway prototype on display at Wilson TTC yard during March 31 transit announcement. Photo by Kris Scheuer/Town Crier.

Get ready Toronto for $12 billion worth of transit including a Sheppard subway, Eglinton LRT and the Scarborough LRT.
Mayor Rob Ford and Premier Dalton McGuinty announced the investment at a press conference from the Wilson TTC yards in front of brand new subways prototypes.
“This is a great day for taxpayers of Toronto,” Ford said. “They want rapid transit to get to work faster and to get home to their families.
“Our new plan will provide a truly rapid transit system.”
McGuinty confirmed that the province, through Metrolinx, would invest up to $8.4 million to build a 25 kilometre, 26 stop LRT line from Black Creek Drive to Kennedy station and north to Scarborough City Centre and to replace the existing Scarborough RT with an LRT.
The premier, mayor, the ministry of transportation and provincial agency-Metrolinx have worked tirelessly to work out a deal over the past four months that would meet the needs of all sides.
“Our provincial priority was the Eglinton line,” said Transportation Minister and Don Valley West MPP Kathleen Wynne. “We wanted to minimize delay, we wanted to get the Presto card implemented and we had said there was no more money.”

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Toronto Community Housing board gone

City voted to remove housing board members
Interim director in place until new board appointed
Councillors question legality of decision
Kris Scheuer
(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.

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Council debates removing housing board

Kris Scheuer
(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.

Housing board could be replaced

Mayor Ford calls special Toronto City Council session
He wants remaining board members gone
Kris Scheuer
(Written for Town Crier March eighth, posted March 9)

Councillor Pam McConnell.

Mayor Rob Ford called a special city council session for this evening to discuss removing the remaining four Toronto Community Housing Corporation board members.
Councillor Pam McConnell is livid and said she thinks it is illegal to meet on this issue with such short notice.
Referring to the city’s shareholders agreement with the city-owned corporation that states on page 15 that “the shareholder (city) will provide prior written notice to the board no less than six weeks prior to any proposed amendments to this direction.”
McConnell, a veteran on council, told the media Tuesday evening that lawyers were looking into the matter and that she was looking at the possibility of seeking an injunction to stop the meeting.
“It is not right to just think you can close your eyes to the law and bylaws and the covenant with your tenants and to say we will forget all of that,” she said.
City legal staff have so far disagreed with her interpretation, McConnell said.
The removal of the board members became an issue after city Auditor General Jeffrey Griffiths two scathing Feb. 25 reports found millions could be saved if contracts were more competitive and uncovered inappropriate employee expenses although he found no fault by board members.
While the reports haven’t gone to the city’s audit committee yet, Mayor Ford asked all 13 board members to resign and last week nine board members including chair David Mitchell did.

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2011 city budget with tax freeze

Budget includes some service cuts
And 2012 budget outlook grim: city officials
Kris Scheuer
(Written for Town Crier Feb. 24)

Mayor Ford talks to city hall media Feb. 23 about the budget. Town Crier file photo.

The good news is that city approved its 2011 operating budget today with a tax freeze.
However, the 2012 budget is already shaping up to be one that will involve hikes in TTC fares and property taxes and selling off city assets to fix the projected $774 million hole for next year’s budget.
But that’s a worry for another day.
Mayor Rob Ford was beaming after the passage of the first operating budget of his administration.
“This is a great day for the taxpayers of the city. For the first time in 11 years we passed a zero percent tax increase,” Ford told the media. “We campaigned hard and definitely slowed down the gravy train.”
Ford said not only did he attend the four public meetings on the budget with hundreds of deputations, but personally returns calls from Torontonians regarding their priorities.
“If you talk to the citizens out there, I am sure 99 percent of them are happy at not having to pay higher taxes,” he said.
The city passed the $9.381 billion gross budget with few amendments.
Councillor John Filion that did get one through with a 44-1 vote to increase the Toronto Public Health Budget with one-time provincial funding of $100,000. This money from the provincial Ministry of Health and Long Term Care is earmarked for a communication strategy to encourage HIV and Syphilis screening.
Mayor Ford was the only one to vote against this provincial money.
“Everyone says it’s provincial money. No it’s taxpayers’ money,” Ford explained his vote to the media.

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City votes for 2011 tax freeze

No tax increase in this year’s Toronto budget
Kris Scheuer
(Written for Town Crier Feb. 23)

Mayor Ford is pleased council supported a 2011 property tax freeze. Photo by Kris Scheuer/Town Crier.

The weather may have warmed up, but inside city hall council voted to freeze taxes on the first day of a four days of budget votes.
Mayor Rob Ford didn’t campaign on a tax freeze but he announced after the election a tax freeze was a priority.
“Taxpayers won’t have to pay a property tax increase this year,” Ford told the media.
After the vote Ford said that taxpayers sent a clear message during the election that they are sick and tried of wasteful spending at city hall.
“We saved $66 million in the first 100 days that’s more than the previous government saved in seven years,” Ford boasted to the assembled media.
The biggest saving came from canceling the vehicle registration tax as of Jan. 1, which gives taxpayers $64 million back, said Ford.
However, canceling the tax means the city will lose $48 million in revenue and it will cost the city/taxpayers $16 million to issue refunds to car owners who paid for the fee in advance.

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TTC’s bad sell on bus reductions

Commission approves reducing hours on Toronto buses
Also plans to improve service on crowded routes
But TTC failed to communicate good news in detail
Kris Scheuer
(Opinion column written for Town Crier Feb 4.)

The TTC is off track, as only the bad news is catching our attention while the good news goes unnoticed.
First the bad news.
The TTC’s gotten negative press recently because pedestrians have died in accidents involving TTC vehicles, drivers have been caught texting behind the wheel, a fare increase was announced then cancelled, and then came the decision to reduce service on dozens of bus routes.
Let’s rewind here.
On Jan. 1, Mayor Rob Ford fulfilled a key election promise to cancel the hugely unpopular car tax, which added $64 million to the city’s budget woes but placed $60 annually back in drivers’ pockets. Then on Jan. 10, Ford announced a 10-cent TTC fare hike to raise $24 million to balance the commission’s budget. When you did the math, it turned out that Metropass holders, like me, would pay exactly $60 more a year while drivers would pay $60 less.
Not good optics, right?
So a day later, TTC chair Karen Stintz announced the fare hike was nixed, as the city would chip in $16 million more for the budget and $8 million can be cut throughout the year.
Good news, right?
But there’s a separate plan to reduce hours on 48 bus routes during slow ridership times. Continue reading