Every month city council debates items that shape our city. In the City Council Recap, we highlight some of the more important and interesting items to track what’s going on at city hall, and in Toronto.
This week saw the introduction of a new city manager, Peter Wallace! It’s an important job, as it’s the top civil service position in the city, and Wallace will oversee more than 35,000 employees and an operating budget of $10 billion.
Council debated his selection for five hours in a closed session Tuesday night, and while council sources tell Torontoist there were concerns that Wallace was originally on the selection committee that eventually recommended him, in the end his appointment received unanimous council support. Mayor John Tory introduced the new top bureaucrat at an 8:45 a.m. press conference on Wednesday–early press conferences are a thing with this mayor–and then brought him in front of council, insisting that councillors come forward, introduce themselves, and shake his hand. Outgoing city manager Joe Pennachetti retires today.
Wallace officially starts the job in July, and deputy city manager John Livey will take the role until then.
Council voted to postpone a debate that could bring further taxi reform (or undo reforms years in the making) until after Uber has its day in court with the city. Toronto is looking to have Uber shut down, as they do not operate with Toronto Taxicab Licences, which the city says is a potential safety risk to the public.
Uber did apply for a licence on Tuesday, but its other divisions, like UberX and its limo fleet, did not. A new ride share regulation could be the ticket here, which would allow Uber to operate legally.
This debate will take place at the June council meeting.
Slowly but surely, Toronto’s food truck laws are being loosened.
On Tuesday, city council dropped laws restricting food trucks from being within 50 metres of an open and operating restaurant to 30, and now trucks can take up five square metres of sidewalk instead of three and a half. They’ll also be allowed to stay in one place for five hours rather than three.
The existing food truck regulations were largely seen as overly restrictive, as only 17 trucks applied for a license from the city over the past year.
Zane Caplansky, the owner of a food truck and of a restaurant, believes restaurants and food trucks operating in close proximity will not be a problem because “competition is good for business”–although much of the resistance to relaxed food truck laws has been from traditional restaurant owners.
A debate about phasing in development charges to fund the Scarborough subway extension quickly turned into a small debate about the extension itself. Again.
Charges to developers for each unit built (meant to offset the increased demand on city infrastructure and services) is one of the ways the city plans to raise money to pay for the $3.56 billion subway line. But developers want the fees phased in over the next two years, rather than paying the original fees of 10 per cent per residential unit, and 11 per cent for industrial units right away. Council rejected this idea as it could cost $4 million.
Ward 22 councillor, Josh Matlow (St. Paul’s), still opposes the Scarborough subway, but found some common ground with his colleagues, saying “it should be done well” even though he hopes it won’t be built. Anthony Perruzza (Ward 8, York West), on the other hand, chose this debate to make his stand against the project, a mere 19 months after being a key swing vote in favour of it, calling the extension a “colossal waste of money” and claimed many of his colleagues feel the same way.
The very next item also regarded the Scarborough subway extension, this time discussing whether the city should pay Infrastructure Ontario to do a study on how the subway extension project should be delivered.
Speaker Frances Nunziata (Ward 11, York-South Weston) prefaced the item with a joke about the attention Scarborough receives: “unfortunately it is about Scarborough again!” This must have rustled Ward 39 councillor Jim Karygiannis’ (Scarborough-Agincourt) jimmies, as it prompted him to stand up and demand an apology on behalf of his beloved bailiwick.
Perruzza spoke on this item as well, extending his lament about his choice to vote in favour of the Scarborough subway. Nunziata asked him to stay on topic and Giorgio Mammoliti (Ward 7, York West), the former NDP MPP turned Rob Ford apologist, heckled “it’s summertime, let me offer you a set of flip-flops!”
Council approved the item with a spending cap of $500,000.
Last July, Toronto Ombudsman Fiona Crean launched an investigation into the practices of city hall security after a dozen or so complaints–many of which came as a result of events involving former mayor and current Ward 2, Etobicoke North councillor, Rob Ford. However she made it clear before proceeding with her delivery that it was not an investigation of Ford and his staff.
The report was released at the end of April and its six recommendations were brought before council this week. Recommendations included statements like: “Security [should] ensure its personnel are properly subject to management’s direction and not that of elected officials” and “that the City ensure Security policies and practices are adhered to by all involved parties.”
This didn’t prevent a pile of clarifying questions (read for yourself, the report is really clear) and accusations from the likes of Mammoliti that she was being “cocky” and “sensational” with the headings detailing events she investigated. He also boasted that city hall has the best guards in the whole dang city. How one would know this is something we can only guess at.
Despite a valiant attempt to derail debate by Mammoliti and Karygiannis, council voted to award a new green bin contract.
The two boisterous councillors said they acted like raccoons to prove the green bins don’t work, and most other people rolled their eyes.
In spite of the community theatre on display, the $31 million contract, which followed a standard procurement process, was awarded to California-based Rehrig Pacific Company. The new green bins will roll out in late 2015 and early 2016.
With additional reporting by David Hains