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What’s on Council’s Agenda: May, 2014

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.

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It’s a different kind of council meeting today: Mayor Rob Ford is absent and has now apparently entered rehab for substance abuse. It will be interesting to see whether this development will make council members edgier or more somber, or have any impact on how they discuss the issues.

Whatever the case, here’s a look at some of the issues they’ll be voting on:

Examining why a homelessness task force was never created
Seven months into the Rob Ford administration, the mayor summoned a media conference and announced that Giorgio Mammoliti (Ward 7, York West) would lead a task force on homelessness. The thing is, the task force was never actually created. This motion would lead to an administrative inquiry into why the task force was never created, and result in a report addressing questions about the relationship between housing affordability and homelessness and how better to deliver services to the 5,253 homeless individuals in Toronto.

Starting the bid process on Eglinton Connects
John Tory has made Eglinton Connects one of his campaign issues, objecting to the cost of streetscape improvements and the effect they might have on cars—although he’s altered his stance somewhat recently. The street-beautifying project is intended to complement the construction of the Eglinton LRT. With this motion, council will establish the criteria according to which bids will be evaluated—if it prioritizes, say, environmental or artistic contributions in the bid rubric, that would change what bids look like and which ones would end up being accepted. There are also two other motions related to Eglinton Connects.

Encouraging landlords to rent their vacant storefronts
Toronto currently gives commercial landlords a 30-per-cent tax deduction when they’re unable to rent out their storefronts. This is a mandatory provincial policy, but it creates unintended consequences—stretches of real estate in otherwise desirable neighbourhoods feature vacant stores because landlords are holding out for big companies and collecting their tax break in the meantime. Toronto has paid out more than $334 million to commercial property owners through the program’s rebates since 2001.

Stopping rebates for out-of-city political donors
In other rebate news, Joe Mihevc (Ward 21, St. Paul’s) has a proposal to halt rebates for political donors to Toronto elections who are not eligible Toronto voters. Currently, the City offers up to a 75-per-cent rebate on municipal political donations, so a $100 donation would cost the donor only $25 as long as the candidate files their campaign finances. But people from anywhere in the province are eligible for rebates, whether they be a candidate’s uncle from Sault Ste. Marie or a developer located in Vaughan. The program, which is designed to level the playing field for candidates, is expected to cost $4.8 million in 2014. This motion would stop rebates as of the 2018 election to those who are not eligible electors.

Accepting the ombudsman’s TCHC findings
Ombudsman Fiona Crean recently came out with a damning report [PDF] on TCHC HR practices, in which she highlighted what she called “an abject failure of leadership from the top.” The TCHC board of directors came to a “mutual” decisions to part ways with CEO Gene Jones and VP of HR Anand Maharaj—who walked away with severance payments of $200,000 and $160,000, respectively. But council still needs to hear from the ombudsman, and there’s a lot to talk about—there’s the matter of the board’s failure to act sooner, for example, and how to ensure none of this happens again.

Please don’t stop the music
Councillors Michael Thompson (Ward 37, Scarborough Centre) and Mike Layton (Ward 19, Trinity-Spadina) are trying to overturn a ban on all-ages electronic dance music events at Exhibition Place (and may or may not pull out Footloose references on the floor of council). The ban was put in place after the owner of Muzik, Zlatko Starkovski, made unsubstantiated claims that there had been rampant drug use and other illegal activities at these events. Muzik is also located on the Exhibition grounds—and it had complained about the fact that EDM events were competition for their business. You may also remember Muzik from such news stories as “that time Rob Ford went clubbing after a lobbyist and club owner he refers to as ‘Zee’ invited him to come over, allegedly did cocaine, and then got in a spat with Justin Bieber.” Starkovski denies any special relationship with the mayor.

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