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Liveblog: Special TTC Meeting

Commission convenes for a special meeting to discuss the fate of Chief General Manager Gary Webster.

Photo by {a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/marcgautier/6800461539/”}Photolipher{/a} from the {a href=”http://www.flickr.com/groups/torontoist/”}Torontoist Flickr Pool{/a}.

6:30 PM Of note: in the open mic meeting are Peter Milczyn and John Parker, two right-leaning councillors who have broken with Ford about transit issues. Anyone who calls this a meeting of downtown Pinkos isn’t doing a proper head count.

6:22 PM: @goldsbie: In the hall, Milczyn says to Royson [James, columnist for the Toronto Star: "This is your fault!" He's heard this was in response to Royson's column about the suppressed report.

6:13 PM The question of the hour: if city council cans the current TTC board and installs new Commission members, could that new TTC board re-hire Webster. Answer: procedurally yes (i.e. those commissioners would have the authority to do so), though in theory Webster's settlement package could include a clause precluding this.

6:07 PM We stepped out for a bit as Webster gave a short statement. He too was diplomatic, and took no questions. "This is not how I expected this or wanted it to end...I am proud of the opportunity I have had to serve as chief general manager." He thanks Torontonians for their support and says transit will still run tomorrow, as usual.

6:05 PM The first of the speakers at the open mic session: Allan, who deputes frequently at the TTC. He had a slidedeck in which he draws an analogy between Gary Webster and Galileo, who both got in trouble for saying true things public leaders didn't want to hear. (The text in his slides was red for emphasis.)

5:57 PM Some updates from the past half hour. Stintz is currently running an informal open mic session in the overflow room, so that those who had registered to speak at the TTC meeting and other in attendance can still share their views on today's decision. About six or seven have spoken so far, all opposed to firing Webster. In a scrum before the session she was very diplomatic, saying that while she opposed the decision it was the Commission's decision to make. She also noted that the last search for a general manager took a year and a half, and produced no results. This isn't an easy role to fill. When she came into the overflow room she sat down and introduced herself: "My name is Karen Stintz, and I am the chair of the TTC. For today." Laughter.

5:21 PM VOTE ON MOTION TO FIRE WEBSTER: 5-4, same lines as the councillors who called the meeting.

5:19 PM Milczyn, long a Ford ally, is breaking with him over this, says managing the transition will be a challenge. Finally, Stintz speaks, offers thanks to Webster for his service at the TTC. She says she wants to take a moment "to talk about the values we all share. We all value the TTC and what it does for the city... "the decisions we are making today are certainly difficult ones, but the values we share are shared by Gary Webster," and those values will survive.

5:14 PM Frank Di Giorgio: "I come at this from an angle that examines the behaviour of previous administrations." Can't think of another mayor where "they haven't come across this kind of situation.... I also think very highly of the general manager." (Jeers.) "In a bureaucracy excellence is defined by...ability to put forward positions that are consistent with positions put forward by the major." And then, astonishingly: "I agree that it's without just cause, no question about it."

5:14 PM John Parker' s speech, in its entirety: "the key words in the motion are 'termination without just cause.'"

5:14 PM Augimeri, speaking against the motion. This isn't servicing riders, the TTC, employees, or the City. "You can rely on him to for .intelligence and decency and hard work. What are you thinking?" Also, she says, "you can rely on him not to hide reports." And then: "Today is a clear demonstration of an abuse of power and an abuse of privilege."

5:13 PM Gary Webster has requested that there not be deputations. Stintz is recommending that they set up an informal open mic session in a room next door; she will officiate.

5:09 PM Meeting back in session. Motion on the floor: "[T]hat Gary Webster….be provided with immediate written notice of termination of his employment.” Also calls for an immediate search for his replacement, and for the current chief operating officer to fill the post on an interim basis.

4:58 PM And…still in camera. Making the rounds outside, via Joe Mihevc, the Professional Engineers Act, and specifically a clause which states that failure to disclose the consequences of a deviation in proposed work (say, a major shift in a subway or LRT plan) constitutes negligence.

4:31 PM Yep, still in camera.

3:31 PM In camera session is lasting longer than predicted—the official announcement from the TTC advised that public proceedings would resume around 3:15 p.m. In the meantime, it’s a #TOpoli social in the overflow room. Janet Davis took a turn at the board game, residents exchanging stories about the replies they’ve received from various councillors offices, journalists and councillors milling about waiting.

3:08 PM Speaking to the press, TTC union head Bob Kinnear does not pull any punches. Says Denzil Minnan-Wong (one of the TTC commissioners who called for this meetng) has “little to no understanding” of how transit works, and that overall he has never seen a set of commissioners with such a lack of understanding of how transit works.

3:03 PM Activist Dave Meslin interjects: “The Sun is very sad nobody brought board games.” (Meslin created a Facebook page for public attendance at the meeting, and suggested people bring board games for the wait.) Someone raises a tote bag: “I have one!” Outside, TTC union head Bob Kinnear is giving an interview.

Game time! People waiting to re-enter the meeting play a city council-themed version of "Guess Who?" (top), originally created for a previous meeting by David Hains, and Jenga. Also spotted: "Settler of Catan," with resource values defined for building subway vs. LRT.

3:01 PM Other questions getting raised by the public: “If they’ve already made up their minds, what are they doing for so long?” A few laughs. “What happens with the special report on Sheppard?” Explanation that the report will need to go through an approval process at council, several steps still to come there.

2:57 PM “Show of hands, who thinks Webster should be fired?” Only hand to go up is Sue-Ann Levy’s. Gord Perks: “Aw, you lost Sue-Ann!”

2:53 PM One of the members of the public asks if Webster has a case for wrongful dismissal. Nobody commits on an answer, but there’s already been speculation that he might bring suit.

2:51 PM Phonebanking advice continues in Committee Room 1. Jamie Kirkpatrick, an advocate with the Toronto Environmental Alliance, is reading out the phone number of Vincent Crisanti (Ward 1, Etobicoke North), one of the TTC commissioners planning to oust Webster.
“The subway the mayor promised is just a line on a map at this point,” he says. Joe Mihevc is wearing his “I <3 Gary Webster button."

2:47 PM: @GraphicMatt: Fun coincidence: one of Ford’s campaign planks was whistleblower protection for staff. “Your transit plan is a waste of money” is a whistle.

2:47 PM Earlier today, TTC Chair Karen Stintz: “Transit’s not political. It shouldn’t be. Transit’s about making sure people get to where they want to go on time, and making sure we have the most transit available in the most parts of our city.”

2:26 PM “Rapid transit now, underground just where it needs to be.” Shelley Carroll (Ward 33, Don Valley East), speaking to the overflow room, with advice on the message to convey to their councillors. Says that a short, simple message will be heard most loudly by councillors.

2:22 PM Advocacy 101 going on in here. Other councillors in the room: Gord Perks (Ward 14, Parkdale-High Park); Joe Mihevc (Ward 21, St. Paul’s); Paula Fletcher (Ward 30, Toronto-Danforth); Pam McConnell (Ward 28, Toronto Centre-Rosedale); Josh Matlow (Ward 22, St. Paul’s); Gloria Lindsay Luby (Ward 4, Etobicoke Centre); Mary Fragedakis (Ward 29, Toronto-Danforth); Raymond Cho (Ward 42, Scarborough-Rouge River).

Toronto Environment Alliance chair Franz Hartmann.

2:15 PM Councillor Gord Perks (Ward 14, Parkdale-High Park) is now talking to the overflow room. Warns that the Commission may vote against allowing public deputations when the meeing reconvenes, urges everyone to use this time to have an open discussion about transit.

2:06 PM Next, a motion for that in camera session. It passes, and members of the public and media are booted from the room. We all head over to Committee Room 1, set up for overflow for this meeting.

2:02 PM Just getting underway in Committee Room 2 at City Hall: special TTC meeting on a “personnel matter,” i.e. firing Gary Webster. First motion, by councillor and TTC commissioner Maria Augimeri, would allow councillors who are not members of the TTC board to participate in their “in camera” session. Required for handling any contractual matters still up for decision, in camera sessions are portions of City meetings which are not open to the public. Augimeri’s motion fails.

Photos from City Hall by Miro Wagner.

Comments

  • Anonymous

    ““Transit’s not political. It shouldn’t be.”

    Except when it suits your goals. Like flipping off Council and funneling money meant to stave off cuts to WheelTrans instead. (Or scrapping new bike lanes so a few thousand motorists can keep using Jarvis as a 400-series highway.)

    • Anonymous

      Bike lanes aren’t transit….

      • Anonymous

        It’s transportation- and Stintz-related, so it’s worth mentioning.

        • Anonymous

          Sadly, the City has seperate transit and transportation departments. Stinz isn’t chair of the transportation comittee, she’s chair of the TTC.

          (This is why I prefer the British-English term “public transportation” – it reenforces that what we call transit is a form of transportation, not something special and difference).

          • Anonymous

            I’m aware of the difference between the two. The point, as it escaped you, is that Stintz is happy to play politics with “people getting where they want to go” – whether it’s by (reduced) bus service or bicycle – when it suits her.

          • Anonymous

            ZOMG it’s a politician!

            Thanks Captain Obvious!

      • Anonymous

        No, but they only cost $25,000 / km to install and if the administration of this city was smart they could be used as a really cheap way to alleviate crowding on the transit system.

      • Anonymous

        Tell that to China (and numerous other places).

        • Anonymous

          “The earth has gravity”
          “Tell that to space (and numerous other places)”

  • http://www.corbinsmith.ca Corbin Smith

    “When I’m mayor, we’re not going to have these so called of in camera meetings.” – Rob Ford
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zEwtEa5SBIs

    • Anonymous

      Who knew he would discover a gravy river right under Eglinton Ave. ?

  • http://www.facebook.com/roy.schulze Roy Schulze

    Shame!

  • Anonymous

    I am now pretty certain that the Fords and the councillors that support them, have an agenda, that is out to diminish public transit in Toronto. Next on their chopping block. All surface streetcars that share roads with the all might automoblie. Let’s hope the rest of city council stops their every attempt to do so.

    I also think there might be some self interest in promoting projects that all the experts say are not worth the cost. Would love to know who is actually pulling Ford’s strings? And if no one is, then he’s just an egotistical moron who needs to get his way.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=632836493 Katherine Carleton

    As upsetting as all of this is to read about (and, hey, it’s not like I’m Gary Webster), I’m grateful that you were there to report. Thanks, Torontoist: you are an increasingly important part of my world.

  • Hollow Island

    Sign the petition to have council remove the Minnan-Wong, Crisanti, Kelly, Di Giorgio, and Palacio from the TTC board. Pass it around, put it on facebook, send it to your councillor…

    http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/ttcboard/

  • http://twitter.com/RJO Ryan James OSullivan

    I wanted to share my Gary Webster story with Toronto. He promoted my grandfather back in the 80s at the TTC and was the last thing my grandfather and I talked about before he died.

    Just for some context on the man. http://www.ryanosullivan.ca/?p=15551

  • Anonymous

    Gary Webster can hold his head high, unlike the cabal of odious little bootlickers, who plotted to remove him at the instigation of their puppetmaster.

    And it’s difficult to call Rob Ford the master of anything, even that sad lot, with a straight face…

  • Anonymous

    Time to take back the city from the children.

    • Anonymous

      Tired old troglodytes and knuckle-dragging cretins, more like.

  • Anonymous

    “…the Professional Engineers Act, and specifically a clause which states that failure to disclose the consequences of a deviation in proposed work (say, a major shift in a subway or LRT plan) constitutes negligence.”
    So if Webster had done what Ford wanted, he would have been guilty of negligence – which would be grounds for dismissal, and loss of Professional Engineer status.

    • Sanchez

      That is pure b.s. It’s not negligence. The engineering behind a subway versus an LRT is mature and well understood. What would constitute negligence is say you know a design requires a 5 ft circumference column but to save costs your firm decides to use a 3 ft column and something nasty happens…if you fail to whistleblow….then you’re negligent. Another example is with Morton Thiokol and the shuttle’s solid rocket booster O-ring incident…where the engineering staff knew of its poor thermal performance in negative temperatures…the company knew of this but failed to disclose to NASA….that is negligence.

      • Anonymous

        The situations you describe are definately all negligence. That said, if Webster had said what Ford wanted to him to say when questioned by Council, that would also have been negligence.

  • Anonymous

    Be careful what you wish, Rob.

    The TTC may sooner or later be allowing private citizens to sit as commissioners on the TTC. Which means that Gary Webster may return as a commissioner, or even chair, at some future date.

  • Anonymous

    Milczyn has it very wrong, Royson James was doing his civic duty as a member of the press in reporting on the report that Ford has kept hidden. James is not responsible for Webster’s firing any more than I or anyone else is, those responsible are the Ford brothers and their sycophants on the transit commission and no one else.