In which we highlight key items from the month’s city council meeting—which you can also watch live.
Photo by Michael Chrisman/Torontoist.
City council is meeting today (April 11) and tomorrow (April 12). Here are a few items from this month’s agenda that have been in the news, or should have been.
City council will weigh whether or not to:
Change some rules for appointments to the boards of City agencies and commissions
The City has lots of arm’s-length agencies and corporations. They’re controlled by boards that usually comprise some mixture of city councillors and ordinary citizens. Council will consider a package of changes to the way people are appointed to those boards.
Of particular note is a provision that would reduce the number of councillors on the Toronto Public Library board from five to two. Some people in the know think it’s part of a nefarious Fordian plot to micromanage TPL’s spending. (Shrug.)
Put healthier drinks in City vending machines
The vending machines at City facilities currently sell a whole lot of soda. This proposal before council would guarantee at least 50 per cent “healthy vending,” meaning lots more fruit juices and milk-like drinks of various kinds. But not bottled water, because the plan is to eliminate that, too. (Because, you know, waste.)
Toughen security measures at City properties
The City tightened some of its security procedures last year, and tomorrow, if council adopts this item, they’ll tighten them yet again.
We don’t know exactly what the tightening would consist of, because some of the details are confidential, but members of the press are concerned that their access to councillors’ offices might be curtailed, which would make it harder for reporters to cover City Hall effectively. Because that’s going so well for them already.
Revise the new harmonized zoning bylaw
Toronto’s new harmonized zoning bylaw, enacted this past August, was a mammoth undertaking, requiring years of work and public consultation. The final bylaw was so huge that print copies had to be wheeled around on carts. Unfortunately, the thing had a few bugs: tiny errors, mostly, but some with implications significant enough to get the City embroiled in disputes at the OMB.
Council will consider a committee recommendation to send the whole bylaw back to staff for revision, though it’s not clear what this revision would consist of, exactly. City staff have also, at committee request, prepared a report on the possible consequences of a wholesale repeal of the zoning bylaw. Repeal would likely require another round of approvals, but some information relating to the process is confidential for the moment.
Fight for the City’s right to tax billboards
A March decision of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice effectively neutered Toronto’s newish billboard tax, part of the purpose of which is to fund enforcement of the City’s newish harmonized billboard bylaw. Staff estimate that the court decision will cost the City something like $9 million in 2011 alone, if it stands. Council will decide on a legal strategy for dealing with the situation. Details are confidential, for now.
Reappoint the auditor general
City Auditor General Jeffrey Griffiths is probably the most famous bureaucrat at City Hall right now, because he was the guy responsible for blowing the lid off the Toronto Community Housing Corporation’s spending habits. Without him, we might never have known that taxpayer dollars were funding lame staff Christmas dinners at North York banquet halls! And manicures and pedicures! And stuff.
Griffiths is a fiscal watchdog serving an administration that values fiscal watchdoggery above all else. Not least for his extreme display of respect for taxpayers, he will almost definitely be reinstated when his position comes up for review at this week’s council meeting.
Establish a better conflict of interest policy for itself
Strange but true: city council doesn’t have its own conflict of interest provision. As things stand, if someone suspects a councillor of voting with a conflict, it’s a matter for the courts. Which is potentially costly for all involved—and certainly, in any case, it’s a pain in the ass.
This member motion by Janet Davis (Ward 31, Beaches-East York), if it gets the two-thirds vote it needs in order to make the floor, would ask staff to report to council on ways of developing a system for handling conflicts of interest within City Hall.
Get the ball rolling on Rob Ford’s core service review
Council will consider the idea of a third-party review of the financial efficiency of the City’s various service offerings, and those of its agencies. (Read: consultants.)
Considering the fact that the City has already put aside $3 million for this purpose, and even started looking for consultants to do the job, this item’s adoption is basically a fait accompli. But it will be interesting, at least, to listen to the accompanying debate, assuming there is one. Some on the left think this whole idea is just a Trojan horse for guilt-free service cuts.
Think about ways of easing traffic jams on Finch Avenue West
Finch Avenue West was the big loser in the transit-planning reshuffle that followed Rob Ford’s ascension to the mayor’s office. It was supposed to get light rail; now it might be getting improved bus service of some kind, but depending upon how that’s implemented it might amount to squat in the scheme of things. Nobody really knows how things are going to work out.
If this member motion receives the two-thirds vote it needs to make the floor, council will decide whether or not to direct staff to report on options for making sure Finch West transit riders get something out of the TTC’s next round of expansion, other than bupkis.
This article originally said, inaccurately, that “nobody is seriously suggesting” repealing Toronto’s harmonized zoning bylaw. In fact, repeal was discussed in detail by the Planning and Growth Management Committee. The article has been revised to reflect this.