At its meeting today and tomorrow (February 7 and February 8), city council has, as usual, a lot to decide on. Here are a few of the items on this week’s agenda that have been making news, or are likely to in the near future.
City council will weigh whether or not to…
Freeze salaries for city councillors and the mayor: The perception at City Hall is that the mass of voters who swept Rob Ford into the mayoralty want their municipal government to be thrifty. This makes it all but impossible for councillors to vote in favour of anything that might be perceived as a “perk.” At this week’s meeting, council will decide whether or not to freeze their own salaries in 2011, despite the fact that they’re all entitled, this year, to a cost-of-living pay increase. Expect this item to be adopted by a wide margin.
Spend more time thinking about the green roof bylaw: In May 2009, council passed a bylaw requiring certain types of buildings constructed after January 31, 2010 to have partial green roofs; industrial buildings were exempted until January 31, 2011. Council will decide whether or not to extend that exemption until April 30, 2012, to give the City more time to explore complaints from the industrial sector that green roofs are “technically and economically impractical and would increase construction costs.”
Pay an extra $47 million to host the Pan Am Games: The City initially agreed to put up $49.5 million to build the infrastructure necessary to host 2015’s Pan Am Games, but now it’s apparent that as much as an additional $47 million will be required. Council will decide whether or not to ask the budget committee to consider getting the extra money from the City’s reserves, and by borrowing. Any decision would be subject to two more rounds of approval: first by the budget committee, and then by city council at its budget meeting at the end of this month.
Develop a strategy for enforcing sidewalk cycling rules: The laws that govern sidewalk cycling in Toronto are, as written, completely insane. E-bikes can ride on sidewalks, but pedal-driven bikes can’t. A sidewalk riding infraction that would earn a cyclist a $90 ticket downtown would cost only $3.75 in Scarborough or North York. Council will decide whether or not to direct the Toronto Police Service and City staff to look at ways of eliminating these inconsistencies in cycling enforcement, and to investigate ways of enforcing existing prohibitions against parking cars in bike lanes.
Create task forces to investigate new ways of delivering childcare and ice rink infrastructure: One of Mayor Ford’s priorities is finding ways of reducing the City’s budget without affecting existing service levels. He’s hoping to achieve that, in part, by privatizing certain services that are currently provided by the City. These two task forces would look at new funding models for childcare and ice rink infrastructure in Toronto. So-called “public-private partnerships” would be very much on the table. Council will decide whether or not to implement the task forces, and put confirmed panda lover Giorgio Mammoliti (Ward 7, York West), who chairs the Community Development and Recreation Committee, in charge.
Condemn cuts in federal funding for Toronto settlement agencies: The feds cut funding to settlement services in Ontario, meaning large parts of Toronto will have to do without settlement agencies. Council will decide whether or not to declare its opposition to the cuts, and then direct City staff to look at ways of minimizing the negative impacts.
Adopt the City ombudsman’s customer service recommendations: Fiona Crean became the City’s first ombudsman in 2009, and made headlines late last year when she released a damning report on the failure of City staff to help a sick old lady deal with complaints about a tree in her backyard. As a full-time investigator of citizen complaints against the City’s bureaucracy, Crean would seem to be a natural ally of customer-service-concious Mayor Ford. (Though it’s looking like her office, like many City services, won’t be getting any additional money this year.) Today, council will decide whether or not to adopt a set of customer service recommendations contained in Crean’s annual report for 2010. This will be a small but significant litmus test of the new council’s commitment to improving the City’s dealings with the public.
Make sure everybody knows it’s legal to park in their driveways: The City’s new “harmonized” zoning bylaw, enacted in August, is a massive piece of legislation, over eight years in the making. Anything so huge and complex is bound to contain a few bugs, and the new law has a large one: a provision that appears to forbid Torontonians from parking more than one or two cars in their own driveways. City staff say that this was never the bylaw’s intention, and council will decide whether or not to clarify the bylaw so that it says as much.