What's on Council's Agenda: November, 2013
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What’s on Council’s Agenda: November, 2013

Here's what city council will be debating at this month's meeting.

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

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City council is meeting on November 13 and 14. Here are a few items from this month’s agenda that are in the news, or should be.

City council will weigh whether or not to:

Tell the mayor it’s not okay to lie to the public and ask him to take a leave.

This is a series of symbolic measures that would informally indicate to the mayor that he’s lost his colleagues’ trust, but would have no practical effect (council cannot force the mayor to do any of these things). Among the items they’re considering: asking the mayor to apologize for “misleading” the public, asking him to co-operate with police investigations, and asking him to take a leave of absence.

Strip the mayor of some of his powers.

This motion is not actually up for debate at council, but is being introduced so that it can be debated at council’s next meeting. It’s a very unusual motion, which would censure the mayor in practical ways, temporarily stripping his office of key powers. Because it’s effectively a rewriting of council’s existing power structure, the process for passing this motion is more complicated—that’s why it needs to be introduced at one meeting, and then debated at the next.

Give Mayor Rob Ford a light slap on the wrist.

Rob Ford almost got himself booted out of office over issues related to his use of City resources to ask lobbyists for contributions to his private charity, the Rob Ford Football Foundation. Which is why it was so amazing when, after the mayor won a conflict-of-interest lawsuit by the skin of his teeth, the Star uncovered evidence that Ford had again used his office to hit up lobbyists for donations. A new report from the City’s integrity commissioner says Ford’s misstep violated city council’s code of conduct, but that the mayor has taken steps to make sure it never happens again. As a result, no sanctions are recommended. Council will decide whether to agree with the integrity commissioner that Ford deserves to be let off the hook this time.

Fix Mayor Rob Ford’s stupid news-release boilerplate.

Most people who don’t deal with the City on a regular basis probably don’t know this, but at the bottom of every official City news release, there’s a paragraph of boilerplate text. It’s supposed to contain a little bit of boostery, upbeat information about Toronto, so journalists who are writing stories about us will know how awesome we are. One of the first things Rob Ford did after being elected mayor was ruin the boilerplate paragraph by turning it into Rob Ford propaganda.

Ford’s administration replaced all the banal, good-news info with a bunch of stuff about the mayor’s personal political goals, like “customer service excellence” and “reducing the size and cost of government.” The only reason this is on the council agenda is that Josh Matlow (Ward 22, St. Paul’s) wrote a letter to the City Manager asking about it. The City Manager’s response says, essentially, that the Mayor’s office can have whatever boilerplate it wants. So council can’t actually do anything about this for the time being.

Give Casa Loma a new operator.

The City let the Kiwanis Club operate Casa Loma for almost 75 years, but by 2010 the business relationship had soured, and the hunt for a new property manager had begun. Now, council will decide whether to lease the castle to Liberty Entertainment Group, operator of event spaces like the Liberty Grand. The plan reportedly calls for Casa Loma to be revamped into a swanky restaurant and banquet hall, though it’s expected that the building will remain open to the public as a historical attraction.

Save Bixi Toronto, somehow.

We can’t tell you what’s in the proposal—contractual matters are kept confidential—but we do know that there is some sort of attempt to rescue Bixi from financial implosion. This could mean anything from finding a new sponsor, to subsidizing Bixi, to buying the bike-share program outright. All we know is that City staff have come up with a strategy for “putting Toronto’s bike-share program on a solid financial footing and protecting the City’s financial interest.” (The City guaranteed Bixi Toronto’s start-up loan, and will be on the hook if it defaults.)

Ban smoking in building entrances and public squares and City parks.

Collectively, these two motions would curb the number of places that you can smoke in public. Among the places that would become off-limits: municipal sports fields, skating parks, outdoor pools, swimming beaches, and entrances and exits to public buildings. Both recommendations come to council via the Board of Health, which endorsed them unanimously.

Make City-run recreation centres free for everyone.

Mayor Ford stacked the community development and recreation committee with a bunch of his leftist political rivals, and look what happened: they voted to abolish user fees at City recreation facilities, at an estimated net cost of around $30 million over the next year. If this were actually to happen, things like swim lessons and fitness-centre memberships would suddenly be free, citywide. (Some recreation centres in low-income neighbourhoods already offer free programming.) City staff have warned that universal free programming might cause wait lists to get even longer than they already are. Council will decide whether to make it so.

Start studying the possibility of bike lanes on Bloor Street, again.

The City started an environmental assessment of bike lanes for Bloor Street back in 2010, but council cancelled the study a year later, dashing the dreams of cyclists who have been dodging car doors on the east-west thoroughfare since time immemorial. Now, councillors will have a chance to restart the process. This item calls for a new Bloor Street study to be tacked onto a previously approved environmental assessment of bike lanes on Dupont Street.

Lay some groundwork for an eventual relief subway line.

This is what’s called a “member’s motion”—one that comes directly from a councillor (in this case, Josh Matlow) rather than going through the standard committee process—and thus will need a two-thirds majority in order to be debated. If it passes, it will accelerate the debate on a new subway line for Toronto by getting the ball rolling on preliminary studies and assessments. The goal is to do as much background work as possible, so that when, somehow, money is found to actually start construction, we’ll be able to hit the ground running.