What's on Council's Agenda: February 2014
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What’s on Council’s Agenda: February 2014

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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Council meets on Wednesday and Thursday for the first time since it passed the 2014 budget. While everyone is in campaign mode, there are still plenty of issues left to discuss.

Here are a few of the noteworthy items city council will be weighing in on.

Council votes for the new TTC Chair:
Karen Stintz (Ward 16, Eglinton-Lawrence) is resigning her position as chair of the TTC because she intends to run for mayor, which leaves the coveted position up for grabs. The two frontrunners for the position are Maria Augimeri (Ward 9, York West), who promises to be a caretaker TTC Chair, and Josh Colle (Ward 15, Eglinton-Lawrence), one of Stintz’s closest allies on council and her preferred choice. Of course, the Fords are making noise in the background, and want Doug Ford (Ward 2, Etobicoke North) to take over as chair. That won’t happen, but it could turn the vote into a spectacle.

Toronto’s Youth Equity Strategy to reduce violence:
Items like the Youth Equity Strategy do not make for splashy headlines, but have the potential to make a significant difference in how policing and governance work, particularly for some of Toronto’s most marginalized youths. The report provides 110 recommendations on everything from staff training to engaging with community groups in more meaningful ways to providing more shelter spaces for at-risk youth.

It’s the kind of report that could effect some meaningful change if the right political capital were put behind it, but also runs the risk of gathering dust on an office shelf.

Recommended changes to the taxi industry:
City staff have worked on an industry-wide taxi review since December 2011, and the report has been delayed a couple of times. When it finally made its way to the Municipal Licensing and Standards committee in January, 600 people signed up to make deputations on the package of recommendations, which major industry players like Beck Taxi largely oppose. It’s a contentious issue with little upside, so given that it’s an election year, there’s a good chance this will get sent back to staff for more review.

BILD gets a dirty look for its lobbying:
On June 27, 2011, the Building Industry Land Development Association held a political fundraiser for the mayor. Before and after this date, BILD lobbied the mayor’s office on various matters, and the lobbyist registrar reports that in doing so, it contravened the rules by “providing a gift or favour” or at the very least a perception of one.

This is not the first offence for BILD, and the lobbyist registrar advises that the association not lobby the mayor’s office for the duration of the term. That term “advises” is her language, not ours—BILD would be under no obligation to follow the advice. It’s another one of those cases when an accountability officer does not have sufficient governance tools to discipline people or groups who break the rules.

Going to the OMB to fight the Hotel Waverly development:
Council will vote on whether or not to send lawyers to the Ontario Municipal Board to argue against the developer who wants to build a 22-storey mixed-use building where the Hotel Waverly currently sits at Spadina and College. The issue highlights several high-profile issues at City Hall, such as how much density is too much, the frustrating role the OMB plays in the development process, and how the community has a say in proposed developments.

Authorizing internet and phone voting for people with disabilities:
Council will decide on whether it’s appropriate to authorize internet and phone voting for people with disabilities so as to make it more accessible for them to vote. Council originally asked City staff to report back on internet voting, but through the consultation process determined that phone voting would also be important: many people still don’t have easy access to a computer, particularly people with disabilities. The overall cost to enable this voting is just over $1 million, which could get one or two penny-pinching councillors in an uproar.

What to do with e-bikes?:
There are now 15,000 e-bike users in Toronto, and council will look at creating some rules for the scooter-type vehicles. The original staff recommendation proposed allowing e-bikes to drive in bike lanes, but that was deferred in the committee stage. Up for debate in this council session is changing the definition of “bicycle” to exclude e-bikes from the category, and enabling city staff to track and follow up on changes as needed.

Olympic drinking hours:
Mike Layton (Ward 19, Trinity-Spadina) has a motion to allow bars to open up at 6 a.m. and serve alcohol, ostensibly so the city can feed its hockeyholism while it watches the men’s team play in Russia. For some reason, councillors Maria Augimeri and David Shiner (Ward 24, Willowdale) have opted out of this motion, so their wards will have regular bar hours if the motion passes in its current wording.