The following are the Ward 22 highlights from the past month for your information. I will be archiving past updates soon at www.joshmatlow.ca for your reference.
Community Budget Consultation
On February 17th, I hosted a Town Hall Meeting on the 2011 City of Toronto budget at the North Toronto Memorial Community Centre to hear from our community and to share information. I invited Josie Lavita, Director of Financial Planning for the City of Toronto, who gave a detailed presentation on the composition of our proposed revenues and expenditures for 2011. After the presentation, everyone in attendance engaged in a candid and thoughtful discussion. There were excellent questions and comments on topics ranging from libraries, garbage privatization, transit and the need to bring more jobs into Toronto and much more.
TTC Bus Route Service Reductions
The Toronto Transit Commission has proposed a number of service cuts that will deeply impact numerous residents in Ward 22 and across the city. While I applaud the Commission's recent decision to cancel some of the proposed reductions on several bus routes in Ward 22, I know that the community is still very concerned about the elimination of service after 7pm on the Mt. Pleasant 74 bus.
According to the TTC's estimates, 43 riders use this route between 7pm and 10 pm on an average weekday - 2 boardings shy of the 15 passenger per hour threshold the TTC has set for continuing bus service. After receiving numerous emails and telephone calls from constituents advocating to retain this service, I decided to personally ride this bus during the hours proposed for reduction to speak with riders and learn more about how they use this service. I was also well aware that there are at least four large seniors' residences on Mt. Pleasant between Merton and Eglinton.
On Tuesday, January 25th, 2011, I took the 7:45 northbound bus from St. Clair station and witnessed over 20 boardings during a single run to Eglinton and Mt. Pleasant. Obviously, this experience raised reasonable questions about the TTC's estimates on ridership along this route. Therefore, I asked my Executive Assistant, Andrew Athanasiu, to conduct a more thorough and accurate passenger count. On Monday, January 31st, 2011, between 7pm and 9:15pm, Mr. Athanasiu counted 95 (rather than the TTC's estimate of 43) passengers - well above the threshold the TTC has set for continuing bus service.
I recognize the importance of being thoughtful about how we dedicate tax dollars and am acutely aware of the very real budget constraints we have as a City today. However, I am also cognizant that the TTC is a public service. These local bus routes are the only transportation option for many seniors, students and workers. Many residents in my community, and across the city, rely on public transit to go grocery shopping, travel home from work, visit family and friends or attend religious services on the weekend. Also, I am concerned about the safety of individuals, including seniors and women, traveling after dark that cannot afford a taxi and are left with long walks to their home without this service they have come to rely on. Our office will continue to advocate for service on the Mt. Pleasant 74 to be restored until 10 pm during weekdays.
Road Work and Disruptions
Road work and water main repairs are necessary. However, like many residents I am frustrated by the lack information that comes our way when major work is planned on our arterial and local roads. I am working with, and advocating towards Toronto's transportation department to help improve the flow of information to local residents when roadwork is going to disrupt our lives.
Once council approves Toronto's Capital Budget, I will share all information available on what city roadwork you can expect over the following year. However, due to unforeseen circumstances, the City and/or utility companies will need to do unplanned repairs. We will work with the City and utility companies to ensure the public is given as much information as possible when this happens.
In the meantime, if you have any questions, comments or concerns about any particular work going on in your neighbourhood, please do not hesitate to contact my office.
110 Heath St. W
I have been working closely with residents of the Deer Park community in opposition to a proposal that threatens the fabric and character of this neighbourhood.
There was an application at the Committee of Adjustment to tear down an existing home at 110 Heath Street West, severe the property, and build two semi-detached homes on a lot more appropriate for a single family dwelling. In order to proceed with this proposal, the developer needed 10 variances to the local Zoning By-Law for each home, and consent to sever the lot. In seeking to maximize and push the local zoning bylaws to the limit, the developer put forward a proposal that is not only out of character with the existing neighbourhood, but clearly ignored the context of the neighbourhood of which these homes would be wedged into.
On February 9th along with the community we asked the Committee of Adjustment to refuse this application, and successfully argued that the proposal does not meet the general intent and purpose of the official plan, that the general intent and purpose of the Zoning By-Law is not maintained, and that the variances are not considered desirable for the appropriate development of the land.
We understand that the developer may appeal this decision to the Ontario Municipal Board. We will continue to keep a very close eye on this proposal.
Toronto Parks and Trees Foundation Grants
The Toronto Parks and Tress Foundation is pleased to announce its 9th Annual Community Grants Program. Since 2002, 127 grants have been provided to community groups engaged in enhancing public parks across Toronto.
A pamphlet that describes the program and outlines the application process is available online in downloadable form at www.torontoparksandtrees.org. Grant applications will be accepted up to March 31, 2011 with grants being awarded on April 22, 2011.