What's on City Council's Agenda: March, 2011
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What’s on City Council’s Agenda: March, 2011

In which we highlight key items from the month’s city council meeting—which you can also watch live.

Photo by Michael Chrisman/Torontoist.

City council is meeting today (March 8) and tomorrow (March 9). Here are a few of the items on this month’s agenda that have been making news, or are likely to in the near future.
City council will weigh whether or not to:

Create an independent body to set councillor salaries
Councillor salaries are reviewed each year by a consultant, but ultimately it’s council itself that decides how much its members should earn. Of course, nobody wants to be seen helping themselves to extra servings of taxpayer dollars. The whole thing is a political conundrum. Rookie councillor Josh Matlow (Ward 22, St. Paul’s) has proposed that council sidestep the problem by appointing an impartial body to set councillors’ salaries for them. Council will vote on whether to add this member motion to the agenda—a procedural hurdle which may allow opponents to pass on having the discussion for the time being. If the motion is added, they’ll vote on whether or not to ask City staff to report on the plan’s feasibility.
Investigate the possibility of electrifying the Union-Pearson Air Rail Link before the Pan Am Games
The Union-Pearson Air Rail Link, which is supposed to provide a premium rail service between Union Station and Pearson airport when it’s completed, has been a source of controversy. Metrolinx, the provincially controlled regional transit agency, wants the Link ready by 2015, for Toronto’s Pan Am Games. To make that happen, they say they’re going to have to run diesel trains on it for the first little while, because outfitting it for electric locomotives would take too long. Residents in neighborhoods along the railpath are worried about the health effects of exhaust fumes from those diesel trains, and have been protesting loudly for almost two years. City council will decide whether or not to ask the province to ask international rail electrification experts to weigh in on the possibility of electrifying the Link by 2015. City council will also vote on whether to ask the province for an alternative transit plan for the Pan Am Games, supposing the experts agree with Metrolinx that electrification can’t be done in time.
Fire what’s left of the Toronto Community Housing Corporation board of directors
Most members of the Toronto Community Housing Corporation’s thirteen-person board stepped down after Mayor Ford demanded their resignations over the spending scandal that broke early last week. Right now, four members remain—two city councillors and two tenant representatives—and now, if this member motion gets the two-thirds vote it needs in order to be added to the day’s agenda (that same procedural hurdle again), council will vote on whether or not to fire those remaining board members. The Globe, rarely wrong about these things, says the replacement board would consist of just one guy, former councillor and close Ford ally Case Ootes, who would serve as “interim managing director” until council could appoint a new board.
Streamline the Toronto Environment Office
The auditor general’s office reviewed the operations of the Toronto Environment Office, which provides grants and loans for environmental initiatives, and found them in need of some tightening up. Council will decide whether to ask the TEO to be more careful in reviewing grant proposals and monitoring grant recipients.
Clarify the rules of the City’s lobbyist bylaw
The City has strict rules concerning who can lobby council and when. After an incident last year involving some illegal lobbying by competing beach volleyball contractors (seriously!), the city’s lobbyist registrar feels that the terms of engagement between council and those who want to influence them on behalf of clients need clarification and “strengthening.” Council will vote on whether to ask City staff to look into ways of doing that.
Come up with some money to maintain the City’s old landfills
The City has lots of old landfills and, until recently, there was a fund of money dedicated to paying for their maintenance, to make sure they weren’t leaking anything they shouldn’t be. That money is depleted now. Most of it went to clean up the soil on a parcel of land in Scarborough that the City, in collaboration with U of T, wants to turn into an aquatic centre for the 2015 Pan Am Games. Council will weigh whether to ask City staff to look into ways of restoring and preserving the landfill fund, and will also vote on other, more esoteric landfill-related matters.