Torontonians at City Hall: Liveblogging the Executive Committee Budget Cut Meeting
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Torontonians at City Hall: Liveblogging the Executive Committee Budget Cut Meeting

7:57 AM: AND WE ARE DONE. Thank you for reading, Toronto.
7:57 AM: Voting! All motions pass; we will do this all again in September when Executive re-considers all these options as part of 2012 budget.
7:53 AM: Ford’s up! “This is one of the proudest days I’ve ever experienced at City Hall. Regardless of whether you agree with what we’re doing, you’re here.”
7:50 AM: “We’re actually all in this together.” Michael Thompson. “I’ve never been prouder seeing the people depute.”
7:47 AM: Palacio says councillors need to have “intestinal fortitude” and listen to “silent majority.” Shiner echoes, says: “Many residents that I represent didn’t cme down here today, but they have continually told me” that we can’t keep raising taxes.
7:37 AM: Berardinetti: lots of fear mongering going on in the media. “Cooler heads should prevail.” And this mtg needed more decorum. Echoed by Milczyn. Says this (i.e. KPMG reports) is one piece of information in budget process; lots of other elements. “But what I’m disturbed by is the fear-mongering.” Specifically calls out Cathy Crowe as sinner in this regard. No big speech from Denzil; just thanks everyone for coming and staying through the night.
7:34 AM: Norm Kelly: we need tax overhaul, modern cities can’t fund themselves just on tax base. But also, too much smugness in deputations.
7:31 AM: Mammoliti: “I’m a little disappointed in some of the behaviour I’ve seen in the last 24 hours… shows disrespect to City Hall… I’m not going to stay silent. Someone needs to say the behaviour was wrong.” There were “very few” good deputations, he says, then disparages downtowners for asking for higher property taxes so they can keep services (though he admits they are courageous for having spoken). Ford: “Thank you Councillor Mammoliti. Great speech.”
7:28 AM: Mammoliti: “I’m a little disappointed in some of the behaviour I’ve seen in the last 24 hrs… shows disrespect to City Hall.”
7:25 AM: Motions! All by Ainslie, all different ways of saying: have city manager incorporate savings opportunities into 2012 budget proposal. Or, in other words: send these recommendations to…ourselves! In September, when we will debate them again.
7:21 AM: Adam Vaughan: “They used to say we were NY run by the Swiss. If we were to follow KPMG’s advice we’d up like a town run by what’s left of the Lehman Brothers.” Goes on to say mayor is hiding behind consultants and media strategies. His job is to tell us what he wants to cut.
7:21 AM: Bailao: City definitely facing budget problems, but “there is no gravy onhhow we grow our children, there is no gravy on how we educate our children… It’s about people, not buildings and roads.”
7:16 AM: Mihevc: this process was a failure. Deputants shouldn’t be forced to stay up all night in order to be heard. Was expecting to hear lots of people saying “cut cut cut!” But nope. “Not even three.”
7:12 AM: Matlow: we all want to review budget, but why aren’t we looking at efficiencies at the same time as cuts? Also, we should all get along.
7:09 AM: John Filion: it is “unheard of” for members of a committee to refuse to bring visiting councillors’ motions to the floor, even if only as a courtesy.
7:07 AM: Mary Fragedakis: Echoes concerns with KPMG reports, lack of consultation, selling assets that bring in money, selling “gems” like library.
7:04 AM: Layton: We are making decisions on incomplete data. Don’t know what the impacts of these service cuts will be.
7:00 AM: Kristyn Wong-Tam: “I have always believed that the values and objectives of a society should be reflected in its budget… Unfortunately, I think this conversation has come in rather late, with this deputations. KPMG report is at best incomplete, at worst horribly flawed… ‘Savings opportunities’ are possibly going to devastate poor and middle class families in Toronto.”
6:56 AM: Next, Janet Davis. “This is the longest a meeting has ever gone, and the shortest time I’ve ever had to speak.” Argues we shouldn’t just want to be “at standard”; sometimes being above average is a good goal.
6:52 AM: Speeches! This is where things get fiery all over again. Beginning with visiting cllrs (i.e. not on Executive Committee, i.e. opposition). First up: Perks. He says: “Tonight I experienced something I haven’t experienced in 20 years… I heard Toronto speak.” To Ford: “When are you going to tell us what kind of city you want to govern?”
6:41 AM: And we are done with deputations! Standing ovation from everyone here. Now: councillors get to ask City staff questions (2 minutes each), then make speeches and move motions. How long this takes will depend on how much stamina they hav,e and how badly they want media to have new soundbites.

6:18 AM: A rep from Ford Nation! Wants membership fees in libraries and everything. This brings total of those who want cuts to…three! Mammoliti: “I want to thank you for your three minutes. You’re the only one who sat here and read a list of [suggestions] of what could really happen.” Discounts all other deputations.
6:29 AM: “Yes, you can afford the vehicle registration tax if you can afford the car that came with it.” Deputant 326, Paulette Andrea Hamilton.
6:01 AM: Janet Davis walks by media table, sees cardboard coffee jug. “Ohhhhhhhhhhhhh,” eyes wide. Lots of sharing.
5:56 AM: Number 300! Deputant 300 is David DePoe, who was once a Yorkville hippie activist. Archival footage.
5:51 AM: More hilarity, courtesy of defeated mayoral candidate HiMY SYeD. Begins: “We need to acknowledge the city staff and clerks, they are the unsung heroes of this.” (This is true.) Then continues: “I’m a member of Ford Nation. Nobody was gonna do it, so I stepped up.” Proceeds to work his way around Executive Committee table with requests for each councillor. Last one? To Josh Matlow. “Please unblock me on Twitter.” Room erupts.
5:40 AM: According to the speakers’ list, deputant 290 is Marty Poos. Ford: “Marty Poos? Is there a Marty Poos?” #cityhallslumberparty #20hoursandcounting
5:32 AM: Haran Vijayanathan (deputant 288) speaking in defence of community grants, especially those going to AIDS prevention services.
5:13 AM: “I wouldn’t call Scarborough a suburb any more—it’s part of the city.” Deputant Russell C. Stewart (266) on supposed downtown/suburb divide.
5:05 AM: Uber activist Dave Meslin now up. “I’m mostly just feeling confused. I’m confused because we’ve been hearing a lot about respecting the taxpayer, yet this meeting was set up intentionally to excluse people who weren’t able to leave their families at 4 a.m…. We’ve heard about this immense, powerful, Ford Nation, but I don’t see a single one of them sitting behind me here today… “If you want to trample democracy, that’s fine. But don’t call it respect for taxpayers.”
4:56 AM: Tally! Deputant 260 now up. Most chairs in the room still full. Every deputant gets applause when they finish. You are doing well, Toronto. There are some disputes among journalists in the room—either 1 or 2 deputants have endorsed service cuts thus far. Rest have been opposed. Deputant 260 now up. Most chairs in the room still full. Every deputant gets applause when they finish. You are doing well, Toronto.
4:24 AM: At this point, an increasing number of people on the speakers’ list are proving absent. The ones who are here though? Still cheering.
4:16 AM: “You are creating a health care crisis.” Med student Martin Julien, deputant 235. Also, transit cuts would mean he couldn’t get home after night shift.
4:13 AM: Paul Le Page, a City parks worker, tells the committee morale is lower than its ever been. In reply, Mammoliti: “In my particular ward the parks are in horrible shape. And I blame directly the City workers.” #TOCouncil
4:01 AM: We’re about to break a record people. Longest meeting since Toronto amalgamated ran until 4:30 a.m. Deputant 230 just finished; 114 more on the list. And oh! Mayor has just walked back in. Some shouts from the deputants and observers. “Respect the taxpayer!” “Shame!”
4:00 AM: First singing deputant! Susan Wesson. Her song is about libraries and children. “One building, one book is all that it took to turn one small child onto reading …”
3:47 AM: Up to deputant 220 now. Both she (Adelaida Blaxley) and deputant 219 (Alison Gorbould) emphasize that they took time off work or rearranged their schedules to be here, and that nobody paid them. Blaxley is tearful, tells committee: “What everyone here is trying to say is that the ‘nice to haves’ are what make the city worth living in.” Holyday, briskly (who is chairing now that Ford has gone again), “Okay, thanks!”
3:14 AM: Councillors who are not members of the Executive Committe—and thus not obligated to be here—still present: Layton, Vaughan, Fragedakis, Perks, Davis, Wong-Tam, Filion, Bailão, Mihevc, Matlow,Fletcher, Doucette.
3:02 AM: And now, our first puppet show deputation! Desmond Cole addresses the committee:
2:54 AM: A poetic deputation! Literally. Brian Cauley delivers his deputation in rhyme.
2:47 AM: Nigel Barriffe, school teacher, says many of his students don’t have and can’t afford internet at home. This is why they need libraries. “We need libraries in my neighbourhood, not Tim Horton’s!” (His neighbourhood: Rexdale.)
2:43 AM: And we have officially reached the halfway mark on the list of deputants!
2:15 AM: New emotional high. About 10 minutes ago, a 14 year old girl, crying, cracking voice. “I hate public speaking.” Here advocating for her local library branch. Her name is Anika Tabovaradan. Her library branch is Woodside Square. Whatever you think about closing libraries, these are the kinds of 14 year olds we need. She is at City Hall at 2 a.m., because she cares. Get on your feet for this girl, Toronto.
1:51 AM: Room settled down now, lots of councillors asking O’Reilly questions. Deputants sitting up straight in their chairs. Mayor has put them on notice: if the councillors decide to stop the meeting before everyone’s spoken, then that’s what’s they are going to do, resident anger be damned.
1:46 AM: What just happened: Maureen O’Reilly, head of the library workers’ union, took the mic as library workers marched in multiple bankers boxes of signed petitions in defence of the library. Entire room got on its feet, started chanting “Save our libraries! Save our libraries!” The mayor, who is chairing the meeting, deducted that chanting time from Councillor Mihevc’s one minute of time to question O’Reilly, meaning Mihevc was entirely sidelined. “SHAME! SHAME” crowd belows. Then Mammoliti says: “If this happens again I will move a motion to adjourn the meeting and all further deputations.” Ford backs him up, saying: “If a councillor moves a motion to end this meeting, it’s over. I am being very democratic. I’m being more than fair.” Mihevc: “You know as well I that I couldn’t speak [during the chanting].” Ford: “That’s not my fault.” (Video by Dave Meslin.)
1:25 AM: HD “I have been appalled at the blatant attempts to not have Torontonians’ voices heard. But it didn’t work. We’re still here.” Laura Heslin Piper (deputant number 142). And then, two minutes later: “Mr. Ford, are you listening? Because you don’t seem to be.” Piper interrupts herself to ask, as Ford stands and stares off during her deputation. She’s a Toronto Animal Services volunteer, and says: “If you privatize our services, these animals will be put to death.” She is followed by Aaron Sidney Wright, a grad student. His view? “You should raise taxes on my family, because we can afford it, to help pay for people who are less fortunate than us.”
1:21 AM: New tally! At deputant number 138. 137-1 opposing service cuts.
12:59 AM: That was a short break—Ford’s back. And we have our first instance of Oliver Wendell Holmes quoting (“Taxes are the price we pay for a civilized society.”) from deputants Wendy Greene.
12:50 AM: Ford’s tone of voice getting noticeably more abrupt. And…he just walked out again as we typed that.
12:25 AM: Debbie Field, exec director of FoodShare. “What you’re about to do is make the city vulnerable.”
12:16 AM: “They may not come to your bbqs, but they are your citizens, and you signed up to protect them.” Jennifer Wigmore to Mayor Ford.
12:10 AM: First pro-cut speaker! Only took 116 deputants to get here. Also, in small signs of exhaustion: Ford has started trigger the speaker’s clock when he calls each deputant’s name, before speaker has had a chance to sit down.
12:05 AM: It is councillor Caesar Palacio’s birthday. Entire room just sang him happy birthday.
11:56 PM: Antoinette Davis, John Howard Society: social services on emerging from jail help determine whether an ex-con will reoffend.
11:40 PM: Stretched legs, chatted in the hallway with a few new people who’ve just arrived at City Hall, feeling refreshed. Ford’s absence from the meeting closing in on one hour.
11:18 PM: It is 11:15pm. Nearing 14 hours of meeting. Energy in the room is buoyant, proud, energized. Room is full. A galvanized city. If Ford’s goal in running overnight was to wear the deputants out, it backfired.
11:13 PM: We have hit the three digit mark! Now on deputant 103. And yep, they are still unanimously opposed to cuts.
11:07 PM: Symbolic moment of the night: Deputant Marilyn Wilcoxen has just handed a cheque for a voluntary tax hike & car registration fee over to Adam Vaughan, who brought it up to City Manager Joe Pennachetti. Wild applause.
10:59 PM: In the overflow room, Star food writer Corey Mintz is spooning out some homemade chili for some of the deputants who have been here all day. Right now City Hall is Toronto at its best. Best party in town.
10:50 PM: Mike Layton playing dirty. Just offered Sun’s Don Peat sugar to help him win who-can-last-longest journo bet. #cityhallslumberparty
10:39 PM: Sara Diamond, president of OCAD: “A city devoid of the arts will not have the capacity to compete on the world stage.” Immediately before her, Miroslav Wagner read out a story he had written about City Hall:

Once, there was a house called Toronto. It was a big house with a lot of diverse families in it. It was well equipped with all sorts of useful amenities and people enjoyed them. The most controversial thing for the residents was the basement – there were some unsightly columns and pillars which were unpopular, but remained because some felt that the house could not stand without them. There was the vehicle registration pillar, the land transfer pillar, the property tax pillar, and so on.
One day, a contractor came and told everyone they could get rid of all these foundations. Some were skeptical, but he promised them that everything they loved about the house would stay the same.
After he had knocked down the first column, he told people the house was not stable – it was going to collapse. He assured them this was a pre-existing issue and not his fault. “Don’t worry,” he said, “the problem is just that your house is too heavy”.
He went about solving this issue by first selling the fridge and the stove. The people who cooked were outraged, but those who didn’t said “Why should we suffer so you can cook? We prefer to eat in restaurants.”. Then he sold the tables and chairs. More residents became outraged, but still there were some who said “We can just stand.”.
After all, the contractor had not yet eliminated the land transfer pillar. The residents had now forgotten that they were promised no major changes and he convinced them that furniture was a small price to pay for all of this improvement.
He announced that he wanted to get rid of the television, the shower, the laundry machine, the toilets, and the beds – they were all too heavy. Now more people were starting to get upset. They told him they wanted to keep these things, but the contractor answered “This is what you told me to do. We have a four-year contract!”.
The families were now scared of what might be left after four years. “What is even the point of living in a house without these things?” they asked. They decided to stand up to the contractor. They hoped desperately that it wasn’t too late to save the home they had spent so long building. They also worried that waiting and hiring a new contractor wouldn’t be enough – after all, it is much easier to destroy something than it is to rebuild it.
Nevertheless, they were going to try. They didn’t know if they could avert catastrophe, but their house meant so much to them, they couldn’t just sit around and wait.

10:34 PM: Yelly granny from this afternoon!

10:26 PM: Bob Kinnear, president of the transit union, now up. “I hope Toronto didn’t pay too much for this cut and paste collection of old ideas. You must now all be slapping your foreheads and saying ‘Why didn’t I think of that?’!” Summarizes KPMG savings “opportunities”: “Let’s penalize Torontonians who work late and can’t afford a car.”Massive, massive cheering as Kinnear finishes.
10:08 PM: Now up, activist Farrah Khan. Talks about she has fallen in love with the city again today, seeing all this engagement and passion. Speaks to need for immediate support services for victims of trauma and abuse. Waiting times cause harm, lead to lower recovery rates.
10:04 PM: Coucillors also just voted to extend meeting until we are done, no breaks, no matter how long it takes. It’s officially a #cityhallslumberparty.
10:01 PM: Clear breach of procedural rules. Councillors need to be in the room when a vote is taken in order for their vote to count. Committee considers whether to cut councillor questioning time from 2 minutes down to 1. Tie vote (which means proposal loses). Then Councillor Shiner walks in, is allowed to register his vote late. Boom, speaking time cut.
9:48 PM: HD And now Peter Ortved, chair of Heritage Toronto. Says HT brings very high return to city on relatively small investment.
9:30 PM: Up now, heritage advocate Jane Beecroft. “About 80 yrs ago I emerged into this world, which was a much nicer place than it is now.” She goes on: “Buildings have something to do with identifying us… In the beginning, TO had a beautiful waterfront, a natural waterfront. Today that waterfront is half its original size, and is walled off from taxpayers by a wall of condos.” Speaks in defence of heritage services and retaining our sense of place.
9:22 PM: Worth repeating: if you are worried about the state of politics in Toronto, come down to City Hall tonight. No matter your views or leanings, this show of engagement is, in the dictionary meaning of the word, awesome.
9:18 PM: From the overflow room, the Star‘s Daniel Dale reports: “Concert-esque: Carroll opens door to Room 2, shouts “MARY FRAGEDAKIS!”, Fragedakis walks in and shouts “FIGHT THE POWER,” fist raised…”
9:06 PM: And now: Adam Vaughan is filming Giorgio Mammolit. (Cf. Mammoliti filming participants in the Dyke March a few weeks ago.) Mammoliti raises his Red Bull to cheers him.
8:56 PM: Executive Committee about to get hopped up on Red Bull, courtesy of Mammoliti.
8:52 PM: Math! At deputant number 67 of 344. 67-0 opposed to service cuts. All who’ve been asked prefer tax increase to service cuts. There are 255 ppl left to depute. At an average of 5 min/each (3 min to speak plus questions), that is 21.5 more hours.
8:36 PM: A thought for Giorgio Mammoliti, who keeps pressing deputants on whether it should be the provincial or federal government paying for some of the services being discussed today: if you have a child with someone and your partner abandons you, you don’t let your kid go hungry just cause you’re supposed to have a partner. You take care of them anyway, because that’s your job.
8:35 PM: Kind support for members of the media. In the last half hour the following have been delivered: big jug of coffee, 40 pack of Timbits, one pair grey sweatpants.
8:25 PM: Matthew Jocelyn, artistic director of CanStage, opens with a dramatic retelling of an old Churchill story. When asked to consider arts funding cuts during war, he replied: “Then what are we fighting for??!”
8:19 PM: Councillor Janet Davis: “are teeth ‘nice to have’ or a ‘must have’?” (Rhetorical question following deputation by Bronwyn Underhill, health promoter, Fairview Community Health.)
7:53 PM: Jennifer Arange of the Toronto Women’s City Alliance gives very strongly worded deputation about impact of service cuts on women (who, for instance, are made less safe when they don’t have bus service late at night). “I refuse to pit my public services against each other. I refuse to polarize my city.”
7:47 PM: Mike Layton protests as mayor calls names so quickly a deputant in the next room over couldn’t get to the mike in time before he moved on. People are not getting worn down. Lots of cheering, every seat in Committee Room 1 is still full.
7:31 PM: “Civic involvement should not be a token gesture nor a PR exercise.” Karen Sun, Toronto Open Budget Initiative.
7:29 PM: Rumour mill says: reason we are meeting through the night is because at least some members of the Executive Committee have morning flights. Will lose quorum, meeting would have to stop until they return. (Quorum is 7 of the 13 members.)
7:20 PM: Anita Agrawal (Federation of Metro Tenants’ Association) speaking about tenant concerns regarding affordable housing cuts. “We encourage the mayor to hear the voices of tenants.”
7:02 PM: Christopher Holcroft at City Hall to talk about his mother. When his father passed away a year ago, she found comfort and vitality in her library visits. When she lost her sight a few months later, librarians helped her access special services to allow her to continue using library materials. This budget review, he says, has “all the feeling of a going-out-of-business sale.”
6:54 PM: Robert Cerjanec, vice-president of operations for the York Federation of Students, is full of pep despite the long day. Speaks faster than we can type, but key message: “Clearly this report raises more questions than it answers… Priorities dictate the budget; the budget doesn’t dictate the priorities.” Also, Mammoliti has changed into an orange golf shirt.
6:00 PM: Dinner break! We have heard from 43 out of 344 registered deputants. 43–0 opposing service cuts thus far. Back at 6:45 p.m.

Overflow seating for today’s Executive Committee meeting, set up in the City Hall rotunda. Photo by Hamutal Dotan/Torontoist.

5:52 PM: Ann Dembinski, president of CUPE Local 79: “This is definitely not what Mayor Ford guaranteed during the election campaign.”
5:49 PM: Mike Layton (Ward 19, Trinity-Spadina) comes by media desks. Turns out councillors are taking bets on which members of the press will stick it out the longest. (Rules: must be individual journalists—no relay races per outlet—and have been here from the beginning.) #inittowinit
5:36 PM: “Solving one problem by creating a host of new ones is not intelligent leadership.” Toronto Environmental Alliance executive director Franz Hartmann, on the trade-off between budget and social/environmental considerations. “Eliminating [the Toronto Atmospheric Fund] will do nothing for balancing the budget.” (The TAF runs off an endowment that was created from the sale of City land years ago.) Goes on to say that we are asking the wrong questions: choice shouldn’t be between who suffers due to which cuts, but how to increase revenues; current process akin to asking which of your kids get shoes. Mammoliti: everyone is expecting the mayor to go to other levels of government, but what are you doing to get that money?
5:34 PM: Atwood swag makes its way to City Hall:

Photo by Kevin Beaulieu.

5:29 PM: “I am an example of how City-funded programs can turn lives around.” Brian McLean, speaking about his experiences at the Davenport Perth Neighbourhood and Community Health Centre. “A democracy takes care of its people. All of its people… I was a professional, and I ended up in a shelter. I can’t tell you what that feels like.”
5:24 PM: Legendary nurse Cathy Crowe now giving her deputation, speaking about “fear and despair” over the prospect of these cuts. Says children as young as four have told her they are worried about what will happen if cuts go through.
5:14 PM: Comedian and performer Marni Van Dyk: “In the artistic community no one is trying to live a lavish life. we’re just trying to live and create the work we want to create.”
5:08 PM: In case you’re wondering whether we plan to stop at some point, the answer is no! Your Torontoist liveblogger (that’d be Hamutal Dotan) will be here for the duration. Sweatpants are being delivered for the overnight portion of proceedings. There is a 24 hour Tim Hortons close by. We are prepared!
4:49 PM: Drama! A caped Kevin Clarke was removed from City Hall. “You will be REMOVED. FROM. OFFICE,” he kept shouting on his way out.

Kevin Clarke, in the blue cape, being escorted out of City Hall.

4:33 PM: New tally! 30 deputants. 30–0 opposed to cuts. Also, THANK YOU ALARM FOR STOPPING WITH THE BEEPS. On the loudspeaker: “Toronto Fire Services has investigated the situation and determined no emergency exists.” Guess we can all go home!
4:15 PM: Fire alarm has been ringing for about five minutes. Meeting continues to a soundtrack of beeps.
3:55 PM: If you want to see all the fuss for yourself, we’ll be here all night. In fact, there is now a Facebook page for the Slumber Party at City Hall. (Bring coffee! And snacks!)

An impromptu collection of snacks in the overflow room.

3:53 PM: Now up: John Cartwright, president of the Toronto & York Region Labour Council. “Past generations of Canadians made some decisions. They decided to invest in strong social programs… Those are legacies they left to this generation & this generation should maintain those.” Says he’s going to talk specifically about cleaners: “You’re going to take…jobs from which people can make a living wage and turn them into poverty jobs.” And then, during questions from councillors: “Poverty jobs should never be the goal of the City of Toronto.”
3:19 PM: Kim Fry, mother and Masters student: “We’re here today because we love the City of Toronto and we don’t accept the direction you’re taking it today.” Condemns mayor for fiscal irresponsibility by cutting revenue sources such as Vehicle Registration tax. Fierce applause.
3:07 PM: Jeff Melanson, mayor’s hand-picked arts adviser now up. “For every dollar the City puts in, $17.75 is generated […] My recommendation in terms of continuing to have a great city: hold the line on arts grants.” Thinks reviewing City’s ownership of theatres is reasonable, out of KPMG’s list of potential cuts, but otherwise funding for the arts is an investment with a clear return.
2:54 PM: Raging granny! “Get rid of the entire public library system. Far too many people use library to improve literacy.” Cut everything, she says! Perfectly executed tongue-in-cheek, even Mammoliti laughs. Yelly granny is named Mary T. Hynes. Watch for her on YouTube. (We are betting it’ll be up within the hour.)
2:35 PM: Karen Tisch, president of the Toronto Arts Council: “On purely financial terms it would be hard to find a better investment than in arts funding.” But also “Toronto citizens care about the arts.” Create healthier and safer neighbourhoods, engage youth, fosters understanding across Toronto’s immigrant communities. “I have to say that the terms of reference that were given to KPMG were flawed, because they weren’t looking at the ripple effect [of these cuts] through the economy.”
2:20 PM: Claire Hopkinson, executive director of the Toronto Arts Council: “It seems like a very short time ago that we met to talk about culture in this city.” (That was when the government unanimously endorsed the new Culture Plan, which calls for a per capita increase in funding for the arts.) When she finishes speaking, Adam Vaughan (Ward 20, Trinity-Spadina) asks: “Do you directly fund Margaret Atwood’s work?” Laughter in the room. Reply: we don’t need to fund her, she’s doing quite well for herself, we hear.
2:13 PM: City Hall writer Ivor Tossell is across the hall in the overflow room. “Dude walks into overflow room, grinning, handing out photocopied Margaret Atwood cut-out face-masks.”
2:06 PM: Mammoliti to Tim Whalley of Scarborough Arts: “I am a fan of the arts, I need to tell you that.” Laughter. His line of questioning to every deputant is the same. “Shouldn’t the province be paying for [insert service here]? They’re the ones with all the money!”
1:51 PM: Final tally of deputants registered to speak: 344. Number who have already spoken: 11.
1:49 PM: About half an hour ago, the mayor held a scrum in his office. He didn’t make a statement but did take questions from the media. Nothing new really came out of it—the mayor persists in thinking that grants are at the top of the list of what we should cut, and maintains that staying up all night is the best way to ensure everyone’s voice is heard at City Hall (“otherwise [if we broke to sleep] we’d be here all week!”)—though he did say that the added security was due to threats that he had received. “I’m not particularly worried about them,” he said, and wouldn’t provide more details as a police investigation is underway.
12:22 PM: Because councillors voted to allow deputants with disabilities to speak first, we’ve so far been hearing calls to retain accessibility and social services. Now breaking for lunch—back at 1:30!
11:50 AM: “Mr. Mayor, listen carefully. Our homes are not for sale,” says Miguel Avila.

Deputants and observers watch a live feed of the meeting from the overflow room.

11:38 AM: First deputant is now up. Mark Dukes, concerned about cuts to accessibility programs. Would rather see people get 72 ounces of free wine as part of a harm-reduction strategy than have them “shot in the streets by police.”
11:27 AM: A bit of math. With 302 people signed up to speak, at three minutes each, we get 15.1 hours of deputations. Councillors can each ask each deputant up to three minutes of questions so…yeah. We should have brought a sleeping bag.
11:23 AM: We’ve moved to the softball questions, from members of the Executive Committee. (The earlier, more sceptical questions came from other councillors who are not part of the Executive.)
11:10 AM: “I know you brought forward a numbers of options…unfortunately there are a few councillors who are negative and don’t want to consider them,” says Frances Nunziata.
11:06 AM: The City has just released the full text of Mayor Ford’s introductory remarks. Here they are:

Good Morning and welcome to the meeting to consider the Core Service Review of Programs that fall under the mandate of the Executive Committee.
Before we get started this morning, I’d like to thank my Standing Committee chairs who have already chaired seven meetings as part of this process — and all the Councillors on those committees who have already spent a good amount of time working through this process.
I’d like thank City staff for their hard work launching this process — and the hard work that has yet to come.
But, mostly, I’d like to thank the thousands of taxpayers who have sent emails to my office or participated in this process up to this point. This process is one of the biggest community consultations in Toronto history.
And, I’d also like to thank the hundreds of residents who are here this morning to be part of this process. We are here to listen to you.
This meeting is one part of a long process that involves many steps. This process is necessary for one simple reason.
For years, our city has spent more money than it brings in. Instead of fixing the problem, we’ve kept passing the buck to “next year.” Well, next year has arrived. It’s time we fixed the problem.
What we’re doing with this core service review is the same thing every family in every household across the city does every day.
But it’s something this city has never done – in fact, I don’t know of any city in Canada that’s ever done what we’re doing.
Every year, we’ve added expense after expense to our budget. We’ve added some “must have” spending and a lot of “nice to have” spending. Now, we spend more than we can afford.
Public libraries. Child care. Seniors. Affordable Housing. Safe roads. Clean water. Clean air. Sewers that don’t flood basements. Beaches safe for swimming. Parks ready to play in. Garbage collection. Ambulances. Fire services. Policing. Community Centres. Recreation programs. Public Health… the list goes on and on.
These are all important things. Are libraries more important than Child Care? Is policing more important than safe roads? You tell me.
That’s why we’re here today. To listen… so we can begin to set priorities.
If we are going to reduce spending… and ladies and gentlemen, we must reduce our spending… it only makes sense to take the time to figure out which things are “must haves” and which things are “nice to haves.”
Because, it makes sense to look at “nice to haves” first.
That’s what this process is about.
As a first step, we asked KPMG to look at the city’s spending and report back on which spending items are “must haves” – things that are required by law or essential to the operation of the city. And, we asked them to report which spending items were “nice to haves.”
They’ve completed that work and today’s meeting is the last of a series of meetings where they report their findings.
I want to stress something that has been lost in the media coverage over the past two weeks. This is the beginning of the process. Not the end.
As of today, not a penny of spending has been changed in any budget.
All that has happened is that spending has been listed and put into categories for discussion.
We’ve started a great public debate about what is “must have” and what is “nice to have” – and that’s exactly the point.
Today, we will hear what you have to say about what’s important to you.
That information will go forward, with the KPMG report and a report from the City Manager, to the September special Executive meeting where we will begin to identify our priorities.
Those priorities – combined with a review of how to improve efficiency – plus a user fee review – will then go to council for decision as part of the 2012 budget process which will finish in January.

11:04 AM: Councillors are continuing to question KPMG representatives about the particulars of their report. Highlight so far: Adam Vaughan (Ward 20, Trinity-Spadina) asking KPMG why they didn’t reference the Melbourne’s experiment in privatizing transit lines. It was recommended by KPMG there, and proved disastrous. Much cheering followed this line of inquiry.
10:51 AM: If you want to come down to City Hall and scope out the action in person, there is a screen and chairs set up right in the rotunda, on the main floor.
10:40 AM: Rob Ford stops questions to remind cllrs to show KPMG respect. Felt Councillor Cho was being too aggressive asking about their vision for Toronto.
10:16 AM: To follow along with the meeting, you can watch on Rogers channel 10, or watch the webcast.
10:14 AM: The order of operations for today: first KPMG representatives give a presentation, outlining their methodology and summarizing their findings. Councillors will then be able to ask questions of KPMG, and after that, the deputations begin. Each deputant gets up to three minutes to speak (it is typically five, but councillors voted to shorten the speaking time) and councillors then get a couple of minutes to question each deputant if they wish.

Photo by Michael Chrisman/Torontoist.

9:40 AM: “This process is one of the largest community consultations in Toronto’s history… For years the City has spent more money than it brings in. Instead of fixing the problem we kept passing the buck to the next year and the next year and the next year. It’s time we fixed the problem.” Rob Ford’s introductory remarks to the committee. “It only makes sense that we take the ‘nice to haves’ out of the budget.”
9:24 AM: Gooooooood morning Toronto. Welcome to the epic Executive Committee meeting at City Hall, at which a long list of potential cuts will be discussed.