Here's to spending the next six months still writing 2013 on everything. In the news: Fire at U of T, a decent drop in impaired driving charges over the holidays, an even more dramatic drop in prostitution-related offences, the TTC commuter parking lot at Yorkdale will soon be closed, getting to know TCHC's Gene Jones, and a puppy gets rescued from Lake Ontario.
A fire that broke out at the University of Toronto’s Athletics Centre shortly after 2 p.m. yesterday produced massive wafts of smoke across campus, but thankfully was contained and extinguished without injury. Toronto Fire Services has yet to state the cause of the fire; however, they have confirmed it originated in an air handling unit on the building’s roof. The building was never closed or evacuated, although people were instructed to shelter in place.
Good news from the Ontario Provincial Police. As the annual holiday R.I.D.E program wrapped up yesterday, the OPP reported that there were fewer impaired driving charges laid this year compared to last. From November 23, 2013, to January 2, 2014, 578 impaired driving charges were laid across the province, compared to 693 last year. The number of suspended drivers was also down to 481 this year, from 625 in 2012.
Impaired driving charges are not the only offences taking a dip. Prostitution-related charges in Toronto courts have dropped by 90 per cent in a five-year period, says the Ministry of the Attorney General. Back in 2006, there were 1,088 charges related to prostitution before Toronto courts—while in 2011, there were only 110. Although it is hard to pinpoint the exact cause of the decrease, lawyer Alan Young says it may be partly because police have made these crimes less of a priority. No matter what the cause, the decline comes as a surprise to advocates for sex workers’ rights, who say that street-based sex workers in Toronto still face a great deal of profiling and harassment from police officers.
If there is a clever segue between prostitution and transit closures it seems elusive this morning, so just note that the Toronto Transit Commission will soon be closing the commuter parking lot at Yorkdale Shopping Centre. The lot will be shut down on Monday, and will then be demolished. Commuter parking will be available again at the site in about 18 months. The commuter lots at Wilson, Downsview, and Finch stations will provide alternatives during the closure.
The Toronto Star has an in-depth profile of Toronto Community Housing Corporation CEO Gene Jones that is well worth reading. Starting in 2008, Jones spent four years with the Detroit Housing Commission, an agency that faced seemingly insurmountable troubles in a city that was embroiled in controversy and financial challenges. He’s credited with whipping the agency into shape, and spearheading major housing developments that had long been stalled. Jones’ time at the TCHC hasn’t been without its own challenges and controversies. In the last year, he’s faced an internal scandal that led to the firing of five management-level employees, and a property repair backlog that keeps growing at light speed. He has been described by former colleagues as both a dedicated man who just wants to get the job done at all costs and as a tyrant—and he recently appeared on our list of 2013 Villains. It remains to be seen what kind of lasting mark he will make in Toronto. He already has big plans, though, including the initiation of a smoking ban at all TCHC properties, and two major revitalization projects in the works—one at Lawrence Heights, and one at Alexandra Park.
A five-month-old German Shepherd puppy called Lola was rescued from Lake Ontario by the Toronto Police Naval Unit yesterday morning after she jumped into the freezing waters. Twice. The dog was out for a walk on the waterfront near the Toronto Naval Division when she somehow ended up in the water. She was pulled to safety by her owner, but witnesses say the dog then plunged back into the lake—not the smartest move ever—and slipped under the ice before being saved by two Marine Unit officers who definitely earned some good karma for the rescue.