Newsstand: January 30, 2014




Newsstand: January 30, 2014

So I finally listened to a Justin Bieber song. In retrospect it was a really poor life decision. In the news: council approves a 2.23-per-cent property tax increase, a new development at Front and Spadina could revitalize the area in a creative way, trying to declare war on sandwich board signage, and The Biebs is charged with assault.

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Yesterday, city council approved a 2.23-per-cent property tax hike for the 2014 budget. The motion—put forth by Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly—includes a 0.5-per-cent levy to help fund the shortfall for the Scarborough subway extension. Council voted 32 to 13 in favour of the motion, with predictable dissent from Mayor Rob Ford. Mayor Ford had promised to pull a Rocky-and-Bullwinkle-style rabbit out of his hat by introducing $60 million in potential savings for the operational budget, which has yet to materialize. This could be because the Mayor was really busy yelling at Councillor Michael Thompson (Ward 37, Scarborough Centre) to shut up, and autographing some head shots at his desk. Because he’s got, you know, priorities. At any rate, some details of Mayor Ford’s proposed savings were leaked to the Toronto Sun, including a push to find $19 million in corporate sponsorship for the Pan Am Games, and a reduction of councillor salaries by $1 million. We will just have to stay tuned and see what happens on today’s episode of The Real City Councillors of Toronto.

The 7.7-acre home of the Globe and Mail located at 444 Front Street could soon become a new neighbourhood called “The Well” if developers have their way. The initial plan for a mixed-use development at Front Street West and Spadina Avenue was filed with the city yesterday and would see a mélange of residential, retail, and office buildings interspersed with pedestrian walkways. Another key component of the plan is setting back buildings along the south side of Wellington Street to allow for a strip of green space to connect Clarence Square to Victoria Square, and establishing a 1,500-square-metre open-air plaza. Councillor Adam Vaughan (Ward 20, Trinity-Spadina) praised the plan as a proactive and community-based initiative that will help reduce the need for cars within the walkable neighbourhood. Currently, it is possible that construction of “The Well” could break ground in 2016.

Sandwich boards—technically called A-frame signs—have long cluttered Toronto sidewalks. However, according to Mark Sraga, the Director of Investigation Services at the Municipal Licensing & Standards department for the city, most of those signs are illegal. Businesses are required to apply for a one-year permit which costs $95, and only 69 of those permits were issued in 2013. Considering you likely encounter at least that many on one walk down Queen Street West, it is safe to say enforcement of the bylaw is a bit lax. This poses a significant problem for visually impaired Torontonians who say they are a serious tripping hazard. The Canadian National Institute for the Blind recommends that A-frame signs be prohibited from use as they are in a number of other large cities, including Chicago and New York. Let’s face it, we can safely live without 95 per cent of them anyways.

And finally—because no news cycle is complete without some celebrity behaving badly—pop star Justin Bieber was charged with assault in Toronto yesterday. The charges stem from a December incident where a limo driver alleges that one of the passengers physically assaulted him shortly after he had picked Bieber and his entourage up at a nightclub close to Adelaide Street West and Peter Street. Bieber caused a brief frenzy when he turned himself in to Toronto Police yesterday evening without incident, and is scheduled to appear in court on March 10.