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What’s on Council’s Agenda: June 2012

In which we highlight key items from the month’s city council meeting. You can also watch it live.

City council is meeting today (June 6) and tomorrow (June 7). Here are a few items from this month’s agenda that have been in the news, or should have been.

City council will decide whether or not to:

Name the Toronto Island Ferry Terminal after Jack Layton.

One of Mayor Rob Ford’s most endearing public moments to date was shortly after Jack Layton’s death, when, in front of reporters, Ford expressed heartfelt sadness over the passing of his one-time city council seatmate. Now, the mayor brings forward this motion to name to the Toronto Island Ferry Terminal after Layton, despite the fact that the City’s naming policy technically requires a person to have been deceased for two years before they’re eligible to become anything’s namesake.

End the mandatory five-cent plastic bag fee.

And here’s another Rob Ford favourite. The mayor has been grumbling about the mandatory five-cent fee on plastic shopping bags since early in his term. Now, he and the rest of council will have an opportunity to vote on declaring it “a success,” which is a euphemism for “eliminating it, effective July 1.”

Give some money to nonprofits so they can hire artists to paint murals.

The City launched a new granting program for mural projects that, unlike the previous program, requires nonprofits to provide matching funds. Evidently some of them were able to come up with the money, because council will be considering handing out over $225,000 in funding to different groups, much of which will be used to pay for public art.

Think about providing some extra funding for bedbug prevention, since the province won’t, for the time being.

Toronto’s bedbug problem isn’t going away, but there’s hardly any public money available to help officials deal with it. In 2011, the province provided a one-time $1.2 million chunk of change so that the City could hire some public-health inspectors to examine infested apartment buildings. The money was also used to fund cleaning. Now that the extra funding is gone, most of those inspectors will have to be fired, and cleaning services will be eliminated. Council will decide whether to cough up some money to tide over the program until the province decides whether or not to contribute in the future.

Preserve funding for 311′s email service, and for certain childcare centres and pools.

Council will decide whether to use some spare change to restore a few little things that were cut during the 2012 budget process: email service at 311 Toronto, grants for a couple small childcare centres, and service at two pools and five wading pools.

Harmonize the City’s site-plan control bylaw.

Site-plan control bylaws give the City the power to approve developer plans and drawings before shovels go in the ground. Right now, Toronto has a hodgepodge of several of these bylaws, left over from the pre-amalgamation days. Council will decide whether to adopt a new, harmonized site-plan control bylaw that will cover the entire city.

Approve some new bike trails.

Rob Ford is known as an anti-bike politician, which for the most part, he is. But let us not forget that he promised, during his mayoral campaign, to expand the City’s network of off-road bike trails. For the past couple years, City staff have been thinking up ways of implementing that promise. Now, council has an opportunity to approve a number of different bike trail measures, among them a multi-year plan that would result in the construction of 30 kilometres of new trail over the next five years, with more to follow in future years.

Adopt some new guidelines for placing advertising-laden info pillars.

When Astral Media’s new info pillars started appearing on Toronto’s streets, it was immediately apparent that there were going to be problems. For months, City staff have been working on new placement guidelines for the pillars to ensure that they don’t needlessly clutter up sidewalks. Now, council has an opportunity to approve those new rules.

Save Toronto’s small zoos.

Toronto’s small, neighbourhood zoos had their funding cut during 2012′s budget process, and now two member motions (each of which will require a two-thirds vote in order to make the floor of council) are aimed at helping the struggling animal attractions stay afloat.

A motion by Pam McConnell (Ward 28, Toronto Centre-Rosedale) seeks to make it so that the City can continue operating Centre Island’s Far Enough Far through 2012, using private donations. The councillor hopes, eventually, to find a private operator.

Meanwhile, Sarah Doucette (Ward 13, Parkdale-High Park) is trying to make it so that the High Park Zoo can accept donations that would keep it operating into 2013. She’d also like staff to report on possibilities for keeping the zoo running in the future.

CORRECTION: June 5, 2012, 5:20 pm This post originally said that a motion by Councillor Pam McConnell was intended to seek continued City funding for Far Enough Farm. In fact, the motion’s intent is to allow the City to continuing to operate the farm using private donations.

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