Not feeling super witty today. The cold weather has knocked the good humour straight out of me. In the news: Rob Ford storms out of yesterday's budget meeting, Toronto Centre still bleeds Liberal red, wondering whether or not community planning boards are right for the city, a founding member of the National Ballet of Canada has passed away, and the city has its highest number of traffic-related fatalities since 2006.
Yesterday, David Hains put together this ultra-handy field guide to understanding the City’s 2014 operating budget. Since a lot of us can barely balance our own bank accounts without wincing or bursting into tears, it should be mandatory reading to help understand the process. So why don’t you go check it out and then swing back here when you’re done. Okay? Good!
As Hamutal Dotan pointed out in the full breakdown of the draft budget yesterday, one of the main talking points is the 2.5 per cent property tax increase, which runs higher than Mayor Ford’s proposed 1.75 per cent increase. However, the hissy fit the Mayor threw about the return to taxing and spending before storming out of the meeting fails to consider that we live in a reality where the added annual $64 per household generated by the tax increase doesn’t buy a lot of gravy for that train he keeps going on about. In fact, it basically just keeps the status quo possible, with some key service increases such as extra funds for the Toronto Transit Commission, and the hiring of some 56 new paramedics.
Interestingly, even City Manager Joe Pennachetti denied having promised to deliver a budget that would come in with the Mayor’s seemingly arbitrary 1.75 per cent tax increase rate, while everyone’s favourite Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly scoffed at Mayor Ford’s antics as “sloganeering in place of rational and reasonable debate”. Deputy Mayor: 1. That Other Mayor: 0.
Yesterday’s Toronto Centre byelection was easily won by Chrystia Freeland, not surprising since the riding has been a Liberal Party stronghold since 1993. While early in the evening NDP candidate Linda McQuaig gave Freeland a run for her money, before midnight, the gap between them had widened considerably. In the end, the votes broke down with Freeland taking 49.1 per cent, and McQuaig ending up with 36.4 per cent. Conservative candidate Geoff Pollock received 8.7 per cent of votes, while the Green Party’s John Deverell garnered 3 per cent. After all polls reported, voter turnout was at 38 per cent with 34,775 of 91,612 registered electors casting a ballot. Looks like a lot of people were washing their hair all day and couldn’t make it out to their polling station.
Urban Toronto wonders whether or not community planning boards might be the way of the future for Toronto, following a visit from Brooklyn civic leader Craig Hammerman, who has over 20 years experience working within the community planning board program. In New York City, 59 community districts act as a voice for their respective communities while also being required to advise on key issues such as city planning, delivery of city services, land use, and budget planning for their area. Whether or not the successes of the New York City planning boards could be emulated in Toronto to engage residents in participatory urban planning remains to be seen, however Stephanie Calvet points out that earlier this year, Councillor Paul Ainslie (Ward 43, Scarborough East) did pass a motion to engage a pilot community planning board within his ward.
The Toronto Star published an obituary for Irene Apiné, a founding member of the National Ballet of Canada, that is a snapshot of the life of a pretty incredible Torontonian. Apiné was born in Riga, Latvia and fled to Germany after the Soviet Union’s invasion of the country in 1944. While living in a displaced-person’s camp following the Second World War, she and her husband—who was a fellow dancer— joined the Latvian Exile Ballet and toured refugee camps to entertain people. After retiring from dancing in the late 1960s Apiné eventually worked in real estate, where very few of her colleagues realized the elite level of dancer she was. It’s a heartwarming comedown after the palpable excitement of City budgets, politics, and urban planning news this morning.
Finally, a 42-year-old woman died of injuries sustained when she was hit by a van while crossing Steeles Avenue, just West of Yonge Street on Sunday. This fatality is the city’s 56th of 2013, which has become the worst year since 2006, when 57 deaths occurred.