Liveblog: The Sheppard Debate, Day Two
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Liveblog: The Sheppard Debate, Day Two

After a very heated debate yesterday, city council continues to discuss the future of transit on Sheppard today.

BREAKING: CITY COUNCIL APPROVES LIGHT RAIL FOR SHEPPARD BY A VOTE OF 24-19


THE OPTIONS

GREEN: Rob Ford’s full subway

8 kilometres, 7 stations

Requires additional $1.7–$2.7 billion in funding

PURPLE: Expert panel’s light rail

13 kilometres, 25 stations

Requires no additional funding

BLUE: Hybrid light rail/subway

(On map darker blue=subway, lighter blue = LRT)

13 kilometres, 2 subway and 24 LRT stations

Requires additional $0.5-$0.8 billion in funding

(Red: Current Sheppard subway and planned Scarborough RT —> LRT conversion)


Last month, city council decided to opt for surface light rail for Eglinton, Finch, and a conversion of the Scarborough RT. Yesterday they met all day in a special meeting convened to decide on a transit plan for Sheppard—but failed to finish that debate. Here’s how day two is shaping up…

Summaries of the main proposals above; liveblog updates follow below.

EXPERT PANEL’S PROPOSAL
(Moved on the floor of council by Glenn De Baeremaeker)
That city council:

  • Authorize the City Manager to enter into a Master Agreement on behalf of the City with Metrolinx, and the TTC, to implement City Council’s decisions in regard to transit expansion including without limitation all Council decisions regarding transit expansion on Sheppard Avenue, Eglinton Avenue, Finch Avenue.
  • Confirm that Light Rail Transit (LRT) is the preferred rapid transit mode for Sheppard Avenue East, from Don Mills to Morningside.
  • Request the City Manager to develop a communication plan which outlines the significance of transit’s role in city building, on Sheppard Avenue East and across the city.
  • Develop a comprehensive public consultation process that provides residents and businesses an opportunity to participate and inform the development of a sustainable transit plan, including funding options, for the City of Toronto.
  • Develop an intergovernmental strategy in support of a sustainable transit plan.

MIKE DEL GRANDE’S PROPOSAL
That city council:

  • Commit to a program of continuous and ongoing expansion of Toronto’s rapid transit network using dedicated City revenue tools.
  • Commit to perpetual funding for rapid transit expansion of up to $100 million annually.
  • Direct the City Manager to establish a Rapid Transit Planning Office…[which will] complete by 2020 an extension of the Sheppard subway line from Don Mills Station to Scarborough Town Centre…and assess and prioritize, on an ongoing basis, Toronto’s existing and emerging rapid transit needs, including a subway connection from the Yonge-Sheppard Station to the University-Spadina-York University line, a Downtown Relief Line, rapid transit for the Waterfront and Portlands, an eastward extension of the Sheppard Line to Malvern and the Toronto Zoo, a westward extension of the Bloor-Danforth Line to Sherway Gardens, a westward extension of the Eglinton Crosstown Line to Pearson International Airport, and additional North-South routes along major highway, rail or hydro rights of way.
  • Direct the City Manager to prepare, as part of the 2013 Operating Budget, a new revenue tool in the form of a non-residential parking levy that would generate up to $100 million per year on an ongoing basis and that all revenues from this levy be used to create a Rapid Transit Legacy Fund dedicated to building rapid transit infrastructure.

NORM KELLY’S PROPOSAL (revised)
That city council:

  • Approve a first phase of a subway from Don Mills Station to a station at Victoria Park Avenue to be funded by $333 million from the federal government’s Building Canada Fund and $650 million from the Province of Ontario.
  • Request the CEO of the TTC to report back to City Council on requirements to construct and operate a rapid bus system on Sheppard Avenue, utilizing the mid lanes from Victoria Park to Conlins Road.
  • Request the Budget Committee to consider and advise City Council on the future funding of rapid transit projects.

OTHER MOTIONS:

  • Moved by Giorgio Mammoliti: “request the Federal Government to start negotiations immediately with the City of Toronto on the potential funding from the Public Private Partnership Fund for subways.”
  • Moved by Raymond Cho: that council request “the federal and provincial governments to provide funding for…the extension of the SRT conversion from Sheppard Avenue East to Malvern Town Centre [and] the extension of the Malvern LRT to University of Toronto Scarborough Campus.”
  • Moved by James Pasternak: that council ask the TTC’s CEO to advise on prospects for a “North York Relief Line (Sheppard subway west) which would run between Downsview Station and Yonge and Sheppard Station.”
  • Moved by John Filion: that council ask the TTC’s CEO to “develop and conduct a broad public consultation process to discuss the City’s transit needs over the next 50 years.”
  • Moved by Mary-Margaret McMahon: that council “direct the City Manager to prepare a long term transit funding strategy…by the fall of 2012, that outlines a diverse array of public and private revenue tools that could be implemented to generate sustainable revenue dedicated to financing continuous transit expansion.”

2:55 PM: Motion on studying feasibility of building a “North York Relief Line (Sheppard West subway)” betw. Yonge and Downsview PASSES 39-4

Motion to ask TTC CEO to conduct broad public consultation on city’s transit needs over next 50 years PASSES 38-5

Motion to ask TTC CEO to come up with a long-term sustainable transit funding strategy PASSES 42-1 (the 1 was Norm Kelly).

2:51 PM: We are told the mayor will be scrumming after the vote. Curious to see how he handles this.

2:51 PM: Motions calling for study of other revenue tools, asking fed/prov gov’t for more $, establishing infrastructure reserve fund—all pass.

2:45 PM: Motion to refer Mike Del Grande’s $100 million parking tax to city staff for study (as opposed to implementing it right now) PASSES 42-1.

2:43 PM: Voting. EXPERT PANEL’S RECOMMENDATION FOR LIGHT RAIL PASSES, 24-19.

2:37 PM: Last speech! Rob Ford, who is much calmer than this morning. “You have to walk a mile in someone’s shoes” to understand what they want. “Until you actually get on a bus, go along Sheppard Avenue you will [sic] see how badly they need subways.” He laments “the mayhem on St. Clair.” Says hundreds of people he sees in day to day life keep telling him to fight for subways. “All the professionals, all the leaders, support subways,” Ford says, and most importantly, the taxpayers support subways. “As soon as you mention the LRTs, or fancy streetcars, [the taxpayers] panic… “We cannot have St. Clair streets in the city, with streetcars that are going to congest traffic to no end, and cost the taxpayers billions of dollars.”

2:24 PM: Adam Vaughan, talking about downtown: “instead of talking about ‘subways, subways, subways!’ we started talking about ‘neighbourhoods, neighbourhoods, neighbourhoods!'” This is why downtown is okay with LRT—because it has streetcars and that connects neighbourhoods.

2:21 PM: David Shiner has a motion! To amend Del Grande’s proposal to consider other revenue tools, beyond the parking levy. He commends Del Grande for having the “courage to ask Torontonians to pay for their transit.”

2:19 PM: Also, on our return from lunch, a press release from the TTC: their brand new CEO, Andy Byford, will be speaking at the Board of Trade tomorrow morning at 8 a.m. Trying to take the news cycle back from bickering politicians?

2:10 PM: Back in session at City Hall. First up to speak: Gord Perks. He is emphasizing that the LRT option would serve east Scarborough and subways won’t. As he puts it, not a single plan on offer today guarantees that any subway station would get in Scarborough at all—since we only have $1 billion of funding for Sheppard now, the plan is to build two stops now (if subways get voted in) and find money for the rest later.

12:30 PM: Lunch break! Back at 2 p.m.

12:20 PM: Procedural update. There are currently two names left on the speakers’ list, and we break for lunch from 12:30–2 p.m. Bank on a few more speeches (last minute names often added) and then voting this afternoon.

11:55 AM: Mary-Margaret McMahon has a motion! Calls it the “show me the money without any strings attached” motion. It asks for the TTC CEO to report to council on long-term funding strategies.

11:48 AM: In the middle of a run of pro-LRT speakers. Janet Davis, now Shelley Carroll. Their themes: city-building, the importance of a network, and of building transit that serves the far reaches of the city.

11:41 AM: Councillor Doug Ford tells us you “just don’t get anywhere with these monkeys,” speaking, it seems, about his colleagues. Protests. Then he apologizes.

11:36 AM: Every time someone moves a motion, other councillors can ask questions, so now councillors are questioning Fillion. At this rate we’ll be meeting well into the afternoon.

11:33 AM: Rob Ford, doing what he does best, takes a stroll over to the public seating while Fillion speaks, talks to some residents who have come down to City Hall to watch the meeting. “Thanks for coming,” he says smiling broadly. His press secretary hovers nearby.

11:27 AM: John Fillion has a motion! It calls for broad public consultation on the city’s transit needs for the next 50 years. He adds that he’ll be supporting LRT for Sheppard.

11:13 AM: Now up: Kristyn Wong-Tam. She calls Rob Ford’s cancellation of Transit City on his first day in office “flippant,” tells him “Mayor Ford, your time has run out.” Calm though—mood in the room now quite subdued. And then: “We cannot continue to follow a man with no plan… Mayor Ford had the ball in his hand and he fumbled.” She says that it is clear now councillors we be leading, not the mayor. “Toronto’s democratic deficit ends today.”

11:10 AM: Well, that last bout seems to have exhausted everyone a bit. Speeches now on the main issue—do we want light rail or a subway—with everyone much calmer.

11:06 AM: Voting on the deferral! It fails, 18-24. So, one way or another we’ll be voting on subways vs. light rail on Sheppard today. And keep an eye on that number, 18-24. It may well portend the final vote on the key issue.

11:00 AM: So, basically, all those nice thoughts about getting along at the beginning of the morning have really taken hold.

10:59 AM: Doug and Gloria Lindsay Luby now fighting about whether Luby represents Etobicoke properly. “Don’t tell them what they want! I know what they want—they want subways!” says Ford, then invokes her small margin of victory in the last election. She rises on a point of privilege, saying he’s impugning her reputation.

10:55 AM: Council is resuming. Ambient noise in the room has lessened considerably. Now up to speak: Doug Ford, talking about what the market will dictate. “Any business person with half a brain would go out to the market,” he says. Why are we looking at revenue tools when we haven’t seen what the private sector will do? “The government system is terrible here!”

10:48 AM: Frances Nunziata calls a time-out. (Technically, a five minute recess.)

10:45 AM: Vincent Crisanti says LRTs are slower than buses. Then a lot of shouting. Then, in response, Frances Nunziata: “Councillor Lindsay Luby sit down and behave. Just go back to your workshop.” A lot more shouting.

10:41 AM: Deputy mayor Doug Holyday gives a bizarre speech in which he says the reason they need a deferral to consider things properly is because this is all the result of councillors signing a petition to call a meeting on 24 hours notice. They did—the last meeting, in February. This one everyone has known about for weeks.

10:41 AM: Gord Perks now speaking. Ford’s speech was about “tearing Toronto’s consensus down.” Telling some people they have everything and others nothing. I reject the politics of division.” Says Ford and his allies are trying to set Torontonians against one another. “It is a way of destroying politics in this city.”

10:41 AM: Ford’s speech done. It was…really kind of an eruption. Flat out shouting.
10:36 AM: Rob Ford speaks! “The people of the city have spoken loud and clear. They want subways, folks. They want subways, subways, subways.” He is YELLING. “People hate St. Clair. They don’t want streetcars blocking up our streets.” Says this will be a billion dollar boondoggle.

10:33 AM @StrashinCBC: More Trouble brewing on labour front? City to outline contingency plans today. Talks with CUPE 79 apparently not going well.

10:32 AM: Norm Kelly: “This is at heart an economic issue.” Many of his colleagues disagree on that, and don’t think he’s voting like it is, to boot.

10:31 AM: TTC chair Karen Stintz, fiercely: we have no reason to think if we wait other governments are going to come up with more money. Everyone on austerity budgets. (Procedurally, what’s happening: councillors have moved on from questioning Michael Thompson on his deferral motion to making speeches for/against that deferral motion.)

10:26 AM: A council-themed distraction! City councillors, set to the dulcet tones of Angry Birds, created by local activist Dave Meslin:

10:25 AM: Mayoral departure.

10:21 AM: First mayoral spotting!

10:20 AM: Glenn De Baeremaeker: “We had a comprehensive transit plan. It may be one some people don’t like, but we had a plan.”

9:59 AM: We are resuming normal meeting activities. Currently, councillors are questioning Michael Thompson, who has moved a motion to defer this whole entire decision so that the City can come up with a “comprehensive transit plan.” (Apparently this isn’t part of one already.)

9:50 AM: On the upside, Frances Nunziata is apologizing to Josh Colle for shuttng him down on a procedural point yesterday. Joe Mihevc is apologizing for using the word “Scarberia” yesterday, which apparently offended people. And Michael Thompson is acknowledging that he and Colle have just received an award and is thanking their staff for their support for that award-winning program. Kumbaya.

9:49 AM: Dear god now councillors are going to talk about their feelings. Mary-Margaret McMahon has inspirational quotes (“Coming together is a beginning, keeping together is progress, working together is success”—Henry Ford), Michelle Berardinetti chastizes her colleagues for fillibustering, and Gloria Lindsay Luby then turns Berardinetti’s words against her. So today is going to be excellent.

9:47 AM: Our first excitement of the day! Mike Del Grande seeks permission to remove his motion from floor—this usually means either that he knows he doesn’t have the votes, or that another ally has a related motion that Del Grande wants to support instead. His council colleagues need to vote on it all, however, and they say no. Councillors—and crucially, the mayor—will now need to vote on Del Grande’s motion whether he likes it or not. Note: this is kind of mean. Councillors usually agree to such requests as a matter of course, and courtesy.

9:30 AM: And here we are, back for day two. Yesterday was quite the adventure. What it boiled down to: right-wing councillors, convinced they don’t have the votes and will be losing on the LRT debate, decided to run out the clock and push council to a second day of debating. (This is not analysis or interpretation—it’s been made very clear. Budget chief Mike Del Grande told the Sun that the point of the delaying tactic was to send a message to pro-LRT councillors. That message? “We’re not going to do your slam dunk on your timetable.”) This is the juvenile, infuriating element of it all: that vital, billion-dollar policy battles are being waged, in part, as vindictive sport.

On the upside—and it is a huge upside—city council is finally having a substantial, no-holds-barred, long-overdue debate about what kind of transit we should be building in Toronto, and where. Councillors yesterday—most notably, the tax/levy-averse right-wing councillors—were willing to argue for unpopular financing measures on the grounds that Toronto needs transit, and so no matter how much of a struggle, we need to find a way to pay for it. This, for the current Toronto city council, is downright revolutionary, and very heartening. No matter the result of today’s vote, the cone of silence around the politically uncomfortable but nonetheless undeniable reality that we actually need money to pay for infrastructure has been pierced.

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