Here's what city council will be debating at this month's meeting.
In which we highlight key items from the month’s city council meeting. You can also watch it live.
City council is meeting on Monday and Tuesday, for the last scheduled meeting of the year—and the first since council stripped Rob Ford of many of his powers, as well as much of his office budget and staff. Here are a few items from this month’s agenda that are in the news, or should be.
City council will weigh whether or not to:
Pilot a new, integrated approach to helping vulnerable residents
Torontonians who are particularly vulnerable—who face overlapping problems with housing, health care, and a cluster of other issues—often need to navigate multiple administrative processes to get help from the City. Council will debate authorizing $200,000 for two temporary staff members to try out a new integrated approach to helping these residents. The goal is to have various agencies work in a coordinated way, and address the person as a whole rather than their fragmented points of contact with municipal services.
Approve the water and wastewater budgets
Toronto actually has several budgets: there’s the operating budget (for day-to-day services like TTC, policing, and parks); the capital budget (for major infrastructure projects); and the rate-supported budgets (for water and waste management services). Today council will debate the last of these. Back in 2005 council adopted annual water rate increases of 9 per cent, in order to generate enough money to start tackling our outdated water infrastructure; this is the last scheduled year for that increase.
De-politicize the boilerplate that goes on all municipal news releases
One of those small but telling points of contention since Rob Ford took office: the wording in the standard concluding paragraph of every City of Toronto news release. It’s not supposed to be political in tone—it’s a statement that is meant to reflect the government overall, not the ideological preferences of any particular administration—but when Ford took office it was revised, to include things like Toronto’s commitment to “reducing the size and cost of government.” After some stalling by the mayor, there’s now agreement on new language.
Increasing the number of community centres offering free programs
In order to ensure low-income residents have access to recreational programming, the City right now has 23 designated Priority Centres, which offer them for free. This motion would would add 16 new centres to the list. They are located in areas with the highest rates of low-income residents and the smallest number of nearby centres.
Improve shelter access across the population, and for specific under-served groups
Toronto has a shelter access problem. A recent study found that a quarter of calls to shelters go unanswered, and only 12 per cent of people who go to a shelter get immediate access to a bed. The situation is worse for women: only 3 per cent get an immediate offer of a bed. This motion calls for adopting a new framework for shelter access in Toronto, aiming to increase bed availability and look at establishing a 24-hour drop-in centre for women and a transitional housing centre for LGBTQ youth (who are overrepresented among shelter users).
Adopt a sales policy for decommissioned street signs
When the City recently announced it was putting old street signs up for sale it was overwhelmed with interest: about 3,500 people made requests. They decided they needed a more robust system for handling the issue, and now are proposing that some signs be set aside for a public art project, and that others be put on public sale (about 200 of them a year) with a minimum bid price of $100.
Implement a set of measures to try and improve gridlock downtown
While Toronto continues to debate what new transit to build, City staff have been conducting a Downtown Transportation Operations Study to examine where there are small-scale measures that might improve things in the meantime. Among the proposals that study is recommending: increased stopping and parking enforcement, better courier management, and adjustments to peak period parking and turning restrictions. Also on the list: traffic cameras, and a two-way conversion of Wellington and Simcoe streets.
Refuse permission to demolish heritage buildings on the land where the proposed Mirvish/Gehry King Street towers would go
David Mirvish and Frank Gehry want to build three giant towers on King Street. Some are excited about the landmark architectural potential, others—including Toronto’s chief planner—are worried because the plan doesn’t include the requisite public space and amenities, and would put a great deal of strain on existing public services (like transit). The plan also requires tearing down four designated heritage buildings, and that needs council approval.
Accept that the integrity commissioner won’t be investigating Rob Ford after all
When councillors voted to strip Rob Ford of most of his powers, they also voted to have the integrity commissioner look into the mayor’s behaviour, and determine whether he had violated council’s Code of Conduct. After a preliminary examination of the issue the integrity commissioner has found that the request exceeds the proper scope of her office, and she cannot proceed. She has filed a report with council advising them of this; if councillors want to proceed anyway they could, in theory, try to reword their original request to narrow the focus of her investigation.