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Newsstand: May 13, 2014

Solange Knowles tried to beat up her brother-in-law Jay Z in the elevator at a swanky gala last week while Beyonce just kinda stood there watching. With Rob Ford laying now these days, it might not be possible to beat that level of crazy today, but here is the news regardless: voters in two Toronto ridings will head to the polls three times in five months, Toronto Fire tackles a hoarding house in the beaches again, and an the construction costs of an entertainment district homeless shelter went more than $6 million over budget.

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Is voting fatigue a real thing? If it is, two ridings in Toronto are steps away from it, with a trifecta of elections and by-elections looming. Between June and October, voters in the Trinity-Spadina and Scarborough-Agincourt ridings will head to the polls at all three levels of government. To start, the provincial election takes place on June 12, followed quickly by federal by-elections in both ridings on June 30. To cap things off, the municipal election will take place on October 27. Campaign strategist Jim Warren warns that this will pose a bigger challenge for federal and provincial candidates, who will be campaigning simultaneously. To help their chances, and cut through the white noise of empty campaign promises, Warren says that provincial and federal hopefuls should join forces and run campaigns together along party lines. Since voters are not good multi-taskers, Warren advises that municipal candidates should pause campaign plans within these ridings until the rush of upper government elections pass. Says Warren, “The municipal candidates are going to just basically have to take a break. There’s no way they that they can try and compete with a provincial and a federal election at the same time.”

A house on Beech Avenue with a history of cat hoarding is being cleaned up once again by City officials. Toronto Fire obtained a court order to remove an excess of combustibles from the home, which previously saw more than 50 cats removed by the SPCA in September 2013. Yesterday, cleaning crews took to the scene in white haz-mat suits to deal with waste from the home that City Councillor Mary-Margaret McMahon (Ward 32, Beaches-East York) says reeks of cat feces. Councillor Josh Matlow (Ward 22, St. Paul’s) says that, until recently, communities have been forced to cut through enormous amounts of red tape and municipal disorganization to get help with these cases of extreme hoarding. In December council passed Matlow’s motion to introduce the Specialized Program for Interdivisional Enhanced Response. The overlong program title condenses down to the acronym SPIDER, and is designed to bring the different departments that are required to work on complicated hoarding cases together for quicker response. Neighbours who have been complaining about the excess of garbage and waste also have expressed concern for the health of the woman—in her 60s—who owns the property. Councillor McMahon says that these situations require much sensitivity to the physical and mental health issues of homeowners who may struggle with hoarding, which further makes the SPIDER program necessary.

Construction of the Streets to Homes Assessment and Referral Centre—a homeless shelter in the heart of the entertainment district—was originally budgeted to be constructed for $5.5 million in 2007. When the City’s government management committee accepted the final figures for the project on Monday, the cost had ballooned up to $11.5 million in 2010. Issues ranging from contract changes and drainage repairs to the installation of an elevator contributed to the rising costs, which do not include an additional $400,000 in legal fees. Councillor Adam Vaughan (Ward 20, Trinity—Spadina), whose ward the shelter is located in, said that city staff should be held accountable for the day-to-day management of project budgets, while Councillor Doug Ford (Ward 2, Etobicoke North) said it was up to the city manager to rein in staff who are not meeting budget targets. In the absence of Mayor Rob Ford, it seems that no one wants to claim responsibility for the gravy train.

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