In which we highlight key items from the month’s city council meeting.
City council is meeting today (September 21) and tomorrow (September 22). 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:
Revisit planned development in the Port Lands
When news broke, earlier this month, that Doug Ford was championing a plan to wrest Toronto’s Port Lands from Waterfront Toronto in order to allow developers to turn the area into a kind of 1950s vision of a futuristic shopping destination—complete with a “mega mall” and a monorail—there was, predictably, public outcry. Surprisingly, just three weeks later, the Fords are now backing down from their alternative proposal, by working with their political opposition to draft a “consensus” plan that would leave Waterfront Toronto’s original designs substantially unchanged. Today, barring any unforeseen developments, council will approve that consensus plan.
Appoint a bunch of new citizen members to City boards
The City has a lot of subsidiaries that are managed by independent boards of directors. City boards usually include at least a few councillors, but they also have spots for ordinary citizens, and those citizen seats come up for review, generally, at the end of each term of council. Council replaced the board of the Toronto Community Housing Corporation in March, under a fairly spectacular set of circumstances, but is only now starting on making the rest of its citizen appointments. Up for approval tomorrow are the Toronto Public Library board (likely to be swept clean for its disobedience during last year’s budget process), the Toronto Police Services board, and others.
Currently the fine for blocking a lane of traffic with a stopped car runs from $40 to $60, but Councillor Josh Matlow (Ward 22, St. Paul’s) wants to hike it to $500 on arterial roads, even in cases when the only lane of traffic being blocked is (shock!) a bike lane. If this member motion gets the two-thirds vote it needs in order to make the floor, council will decide whether or not to do this thing. Considering the number of people such a hefty fine would piss off, it’s a fairly safe bet that the idea will either be defeated outright, or referred for further consideration.
So what’s with all this exploding glass falling from downtown condo buildings? If this member motion by Kristyn Wong-Tam (Ward 27, Toronto-Centre Rosedale) gets the two-thirds vote it needs in order to make the floor, council will decide whether or not to direct City staff to find out.
A lot of people (and especially municipal politicians) hate the Ontario Municipal Board, the provincial tribunal that rules on municipal development disputes. The problem, as city boosters see it, is that the OMB tends to side with developers over municipalities, effectively thwarting the efforts of City planners and councillors to regulate Toronto’s growth. If this member motion by Kristyn Wong-Tam gets its two-thirds vote, council will decide whether or not to ask the province to abolish the OMB, once and for all. The province would be under no obligation to do so, though, and definitely wouldn’t, unless some kind of miracle occurred and their hearts grew three sizes, etc.
The emerald ash borer is a destructive pest that will probably have eaten through Toronto’s entire ash-tree population by 2017. If this member motion by Paul Ainslie (Ward 43, Scarborough East) gets its two-thirds vote, council will decide whether or not to ask the feds to exploit a loophole in an existing program so that Toronto homeowners who have to remove an ash at their own expense can get grants to cover the cost of replacing the tree.
At the moment, a City bylaw forbids political candidates from advertising on TTC property. (That is, on vehicles and in stations. Bus and streetcar shelters aren’t owned by the TTC.) Council will decide whether or not to change that.
Rob Ford hasn’t been talking to the Toronto Star since they ran an article containing allegations that he had essentially roughed up a high school kid. (Apparently, untrue.) The feud has gotten so bad that Ford’s press people don’t even send news releases to the Star. If this member motion by Adam Vaughan (Ward 20, Trinity-Spadina) gets its two-thirds vote, council will decide whether to make this type of behaviour against City policy.
In July, council rejected two provincially-funded public health nurse positions, at the urging of the mayor’s executive committee. If this member motion get its two-thirds vote, they’ll have a second opportunity to accept those nurses.
And one note: at the very beginning of the meeting there will be a motion of condolence in memory of Jack Layton. Councillor Mike Layton (Ward 19, Trinity-Spadina) will make a statement about his father at that time.
Livestream the meeting here.