Newsstand: May 30, 2011
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Newsstand: May 30, 2011

Illustration by Sasha Plotnikova/Torontoist.

On Monday we sweep up the weekend news-crumbs: Toronto is seeing a graffiti-removal business boom with consequences, councillors go rogue with ad hoc citizen’s groups, observatory acreage in Richmond Hill may be a developer’s for the taking, and a factoid for underaged citizens of Ontario: teenagers have more luck buying booze than cigarettes.

Rob Ford’s crackdown on graffiti has raised a slew of unintended consequences, the Globe and Mail reports. With 4,300 notices of violation handed out since the mayor shuffled into office in December, business is booming for the graffiti removal industry, but even they’re saying that it’s not all sun and crackers. For one thing, not all brick scrubbers are created equally, and graceless work with a power washer can do damage to brick and mortar. The rise in graffiti removal-by-hose is also sending far more aerosol paint residue into the sewer system and, ultimately, Lake Ontario. The crackdown has also prompted taggers and graffiti artists to search our more remote, difficult-to-access space, posing a danger to both the maker and the remover. Finally: the graffiti crackdown is destined to be perennial, with many landlords and small business owners stuck with a fine from the city and the cost of the graffiti’s removal, only to see the same space re-painted. Something’s gotta give.
Speaking of RoFo logic, remember how the mayor was trying to scrap a bunch of citizen advisory groups to council? Well, councillors have begun to go it alone, creating ad hoc versions of the committees on their own, starting with Councillor Mike Layton (Ward 19, Trinity-Spadina), who is forming his own version of the in-the-process-of-going-defunct cycling advisory committee.
The 189-acre tract of land in Richmond Hill that is home to the historical Dunlap Observatory, the large optical telescope through which the first mass black hole was discovered, is at risk of being rezoned to accommodate an 833-unit housing development. The developer is willing to turn over 47 per cent of the land to the town and refurbish the historic buildings on the property at no cost, so long as they can use the other 53 per cent of the space for development. While many community members turned up at a council meeting to speak out against the development plan, members of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada are in favour of the move, having hashed out a deal with the developer that would allow them to care for the observatory property and run programing there. After a vote by council to continue negotiations, the issue is heading to the Ontario Municipal Board. Ad astra per aspera, we say. (We heard someone say that once, and it made them sound pretty smart—like a bit of a wanker, maybe, but smart.)
It’s easier for the underage in Ontario to put their young livers to the test than it is their lungs. A marketing company sent professionally trained actors aged 15 to 18 into LCBOs, Beer Stores, and convenience stores and had them attempt to buy beer and cigarettes (we wish we’d had a summer job like that in high school). The results: one in eight minors managed to buy a pack of smokes, but one in four bought beer from the LCBO and one in five bought some from the Beer Store. The alcohol purveyors have a policy to ID those under 25. Our own informal poll, taken this morning among a sample size of one person, reports that the Beer Store is more likely to ID baby-faced writers in their mid-20s than is the LCBO.