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Newsstand: May 21, 2014

A band called Spirit is suing Led Zeppelin for allegedly copying a riff of theirs in “Stairway to Heaven.” Sure, nobody likes filling out legal paperwork, but did it really take them 40 years to get around to it? In the news: high levels of lead in Toronto tap water, former CBC radio host Jane Farrow enters the Ward 30 race, a new pledge for city councillors, and the City releases a brand new smartphone app for cyclists.

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A new study that tested approximately 15,000 samples of Toronto tap water between 2008 and 2014 shows that nearly 13 per cent of homes had high levels of lead in their water. The data were obtained from the Residential Lead Testing Program, which revealed that the majority of heightened lead levels were found in aging neighbourhoods across the city including the Annex, High Park, and Lawrence Park. Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong says Toronto tap water is safe for consumption, and lead water-service pipes are the cause of the high levels. These old pipes are gradually being replaced by the City, while phosphate has also been added to the drinking water treatment process to lower levels of lead. Note to self: drinking tap water—probably safe. Further note to self: Eating paint chips—still unsafe.

On Tuesday morning, former CBC radio host Jane Farrow filed her paperwork to enter the municipal election race in Ward 30, Toronto-Danforth. Farrow is expected face incumbent Paula Fletcher, as well as television personality Liz West, who battled for the seat in 2010—a contest Fletcher won by a 259-vote margin. Farrow, who was the first executive director of Jane’s Walk, fancies herself an Adam Vaughan-type who will work with developers to grow the city in a way that keeps green spaces, bike lanes, and walkability a priority. If they’re both elected, Farrow and Mayor Rob Ford are sure to be besties.

Toronto’s integrity commissioner Janet Leiper says all incoming members of city council should sign a pledge to declare that they have read the official code of conduct and promise not to violate it—cross their heart, hope to die. In the same report to council, Leiper recommended the addition of a paragraph to the code of conduct that reminds members of their obligation to behave at meetings. The proposed paragraph begins by reminding councillors that a “member of council does best when he acts in service of the people who elect him. She strives to speak clearly and honestly. He does not attack or demonize those who complain or do not agree with him.” Basically, Leiper suggests that council have its very own version of the Girl Guide Promise, because nine-year-olds have a greater capacity for self-governance and ethical behaviour than these fully-grown adults do. Another note to self: look into the possibility of having Girl Guides run the City of Toronto (if only for the cookies).

Finally, a newly released smartphone app gives Toronto cyclists a chance to help the City develop its cycle plan using GPS technology. Information collected by the app—including routes travelled, speeds, and distances—is submitted anonymously to a City-managed database. The information will be studied and incorporated into future plans for expanding cycling infrastructure, to be released to council in 2015. The free app is available for both iPhone and Android—sorry BlackBerry, nobody likes you anymore.

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