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A New Approach for Toronto City Hall

 

My Commitment to You and Toronto

Torontonians tell me they want a thoughtful, creative and responsible new approach for city council. Our city's residents want council to engage them with an inspiring plan for Toronto, and to make informed decisions that are based on the merits of arguments - rather than ideology or left or right-wing partisanship.

As our city councillor for Ward 22, St. Paul's, I will offer service that:

• is proactive.

• sets priorities.

• is fiscally accountable.

• responds quickly to local residents' needs, concerns and questions.

• ensures that our residents are genuinely involved in the decision-making process.

I will hold regular ward-wide and local neighbourhood meetings and meet with individual residents, ratepayer and tenant associations and BIAs to seek their advice. I will also work to ensure that residents are true partners in decision making processes that affect their homes and neighbourhoods, rather than be subject to them.

I am guided by a solemn commitment to listen to and advocate for the residents of my ward and will make sound decisions based on evidence. I will be accessible to you and share all information I receive that is of import to our communities.

 

 

Running our City

Budget

The City of Toronto has a gap in its operating budget of more than $500 million and is carrying a debt of $3.8 billion. Our city has several priorities that compete for funding each year and, whether one cares about social services that support our most vulnerable residents or repairing our basic infrastructure such as water mains, public transit and roads, the better financial order Toronto is in, the better able City Hall will be to make the investments we expect.

As your City Councillor I will:

• read each line of every proposed budget

• consult with my community

• identify priorities

• propose innovative solutions

• remind Council to always remember that Torontonians work very hard for the property taxes they pay, and want transparency and accountability from their local government

• make difficult but necessary decisions in order to put Toronto back into a position that is solvent and ready to invest into a well-thought out, long-range plan.

I will also hold the City to account, like I have time and time again with the TDSB as a trustee, when questions about spending need to be raised to protect the public's interest. I believe the more the City dedicates taxes to specific services, and then provides an accountability report on what has been done, whether it was done on time and on budget, and how much it cost, the more confidence residents would have in their City. A line-by-line, independent review of money spent will help to ensure accountability and to make proposals for best (and better) practices.

In addition, Toronto needs a clearer understanding and resolution of what services are the responsibility of the municipal government and what services should reasonably belong to the Province. This resolution should come through thoughtful negotiation between City Hall and Queen's Park, supported by a public discussion, rather than fighting and lobbying between levels of government.

 

Ontario Municipal Board (OMB)

The Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) is an unelected, unaccountable decision-making body, which is appointed by the Ontario government.

As your City Councillor I will:

• advocate first and foremost that the OMB no longer have purview in the City of Toronto

While the OMB still has powers to overturn decisions of our elected council:

• I will suggest that the City could use its ability within the City of Toronto Act to replace the OMB with a locally accountable body for Committee of Adjustment appeals, funded mainly by fees levied from developers.

• I am advocating for a one-year moratorium between when a developer loses an OMB appeal and when they can reapply a development proposal. Even when a local ratepayers' association is able to raise the necessary funds to challenge a developer's appeal at the OMB, and win, the developer is currently able to amend their application and immediately go through the process again. If there is another appeal by the developer, residents are often unable to raise funds as easily as the developer can and they have a natural disadvantage.

 

People in our City

Tenants

Ward 22 has the highest percentage of tenants of any ward in the City of Toronto. Whether in a high-rise, walk up, or subdivided house all renters deserve to live in a property that is clean, well maintained, and a place they can call home. Moreover, it is vital that all tenants know their rights and have access to support when they are in need of it.

As your City Councillor I will:

• assign a member of my staff to be our ward's "tenant expert" and be accessible to respond to tenants' questions and concerns.

• work to make City building inspectors more responsive to tenants' needs and tougher on neglectful landlords.

• support efforts to help stop the spread of bed bug infestations.

• push to make "wet waste" green bin programs for apartment buildings more accessible and practical. This needs to be done in a way to make sure that the cost of these programs don't translate into rent increases for tenants.

• help make every effort possible to ensure that tenants are on the voters list.

Many tenants have expressed confusion over which level of government is responsible for the various aspects of their rented home. The province has jurisdiction over many facets of this arrangement including the Tenant Protection Act and the Rent Bank. The City of Toronto needs to better coordinate these services with the provincial government.

 

Seniors

Our senior citizens built this community into the vibrant, beautiful midtown-Toronto collection of neighbourhoods that we enjoy today.

As your City Councillor I will:

• work with residents of all ages to ensure that St. Paul's provides the services our seniors need and rightfully deserve.

• encourage more interaction between seniors and the community, including school children and opportunities for continuing education, to ensure that seniors are included in the wider community.

• help ensure that the TTC is more responsive and affordable for seniors, along with providing stops nearby their residents wherever possible.

• work to find additional recreational and continuing education facilities that will cater to our aging population. Proactively looking to the future, by 2035, 1 in 5 Torontonians will be over the age of 65. Converting unused portions of public schools for use by seniors is one option I am currently exploring.

Mobility is a major concern for many over 65. We could incentivize public services and private businesses that are essential to seniors to locate close to homes for the aged and neighbourhoods where many senior citizens reside.

 

Youth

Serving as a school trustee for the past 7 years, I am constantly impressed by the passion, enthusiasm and creativity of our community's young people. Our local schools are some of the best in Toronto and provide a space for young people to learn and challenge themselves. However, the City of Toronto needs to do a better job of providing opportunities outside of school hours for youth.

As your City Councillor I will:

• continue to advocate for a standing working group made up of City and School board representatives to be proactive and respond to common agenda items such as school pools, fields, parks, youth-at risk/ youth violence strategies, goods and services procurement, community hubs, etc.

• help develop a strategy to break down the silos between our school boards and the City to offer community-led programs in local schools and recreation centres.

• create more opportunities for youth to positively engage with the rest of the community. Like seniors, teens are sometimes isolated. The City can build on the efforts of the TDSB to create mentoring and activity opportunities with residents of all ages including community gardens, volunteering with seniors and workshops with local businesses and artists.

Also, permits for city recreational facilities have become too restrictive. Something is wrong if families cannot play a game of soccer or baseball in a taxpayer-funded park without first booking and then paying for the field at virtually all times. Given the current obesity epidemic among young people, our city should not be putting undue restrictions on healthy recreational activities. This needs to change.

Please click here to read Josh Matlow's Op-Ed "Something Wrong with Local Government" in the Toronto Star about the importance of changing Toronto's school board governance model.

 

Poverty and Homelessness

As prosperous as Toronto and many of its residents might be, there are still too many people who are living in poverty or have found themselves living on our streets. As a caring society, we must always be seeking realistic ways to support those who are in need.

As your City Councillor, I am determined to work with like-minded citizens and community organizations to help provide better access to mental health providers and employment opportunities.

 

Getting Around our City

Transit

Toronto's public transportation system was once regarded as the best in North America. Today, it is far too often a source of complaint and frustration for many Torontonians. The TTC is vital to Toronto's economy and to the ability of our residents to move around the city each and every day.

As your City Councillor, I will:

• support the underground rapid transit line for Eglinton Avenue throughout Ward 22 (approved by Metrolinx), rather than a "St. Clair Right-of Way" above-ground streetcar line. Meanwhile, we must proactively ensure that seniors, those with disabilities, parents with strollers and other residents along Eglinton Ave. have access to transit between the planned stops at major junctions.

• advocate for a closer working relationship between the TTC, Metrolinx and Queen's Park in order to see projects through to fruition, on time and within a set budget.

• work to modernize the TTC.

• support building a rapid transit extension to Pearson airport.

• promote the use of swipe "Presto Cards".

• engage council in a much-needed discussion about labour costs and the efficient use of its employees' time and skills.

• strive to see better customer service from the TTC. It needs a realistic, proactive and long-term plan to keep Toronto moving as our population grows.

• provide a forum for community residents and local businesses to express their concerns and suggestions regarding traffic and commercial disruptions before construction begins on Eglinton so we can avoid the problems associated with St. Clair.

• stop the additional fare required for Downtown Express routes 141 and 142 on Mt. pleasant and Avenue Rd, respectively and the practice of requiring $35.50 sticker on a monthly a Metropass to access buses on these routes. The TTC is currently charging Ward 22 residents an extra fare, just less than a regular fare, to take so called "premium" routes to get downtown. Transit systems should be set up to offer riders convenient, fast options to leave their car at home when travelling to work. The current measure of charging extra for use of these routes penalizes local riders for making a choice that benefits the city. This is not right.

• work to ensure seniors living between Mt. Pleasant and Bayview, mostly tenants, have better access to public transit.

I support reforming the governance model of the TTC from the status quo of politician-only commissioners to a hybrid of councillors and skills-based citizen members. I also would invite relevant members from other levels of government to sit on the commission -providing that they contribute ongoing, long-term, predictable funding for operating needs.

 

Traffic

No matter what street I visit in our ward, many residents tell me that there are ongoing traffic and parking concerns. Residents on busy through fares such as Heath St., Duplex Ave., Chaplin Cres., Davisville Rd. and many others are worried that the "neighbourhood feel" that makes St. Paul's such a special place to live is being lost due to high traffic volume and speed. Improving public transit is the most effective way to reduce traffic in Ward 22, but it will not solve all the congestion and speed issues that concern our community.

Local residents concerned about traffic have relayed the following information to me:

• Reform how water main projects, like what residents are seeing along Oriole Parkway and Avenue Road, are being done. Currently, two lanes of traffic are unnecessarily being impeded by storage of construction materials. This project is slated to take two years to complete.

• Physical traffic calming initiatives such as speed humps and boulevards can be helpful to reduce speed but often don't do enough to reduce traffic volumes.

• Vehicle restrictions such as "no turn" signs are not easily enforced and sometimes unfairly limit the mobility of local residents. However, there are some specific cases where turn restrictions can protect the quality of life on a residential street and should be considered.

• They would like more vigilant enforcement of speed limits and adherence to crosswalks in school zones.

• I will work with local residents who are justifiably concerned about the impact of having small businesses on local residential streets.

• Speed limit signs need to be more visible and posted with greater frequency. Of course, enforcement is also an important consideration

What is clear to me is that, in general, the current set of tools used to mitigate traffic is not working in all cases. We need a serious strategic adjustment to how we are handling this issue, along with targeted traffic studies. I welcome all input from community residents on how we can make our streets safer, quieter and more navigable.

 

Toronto: The World within a City

Toronto needs a tourism and economic development strategy that truly reflects our city's assets, supports jobs and revenue and contributes to branding Toronto as one of the great international cities. We need to showcase our vibrant and diverse ethno-cultural neighbourhoods, arts and culture communities, maintain and promote our parks and green spaces, and encourage new buildings to be beautifully designed.

 

Arts and Culture

Toronto’s arts and culture community and industry is a major economic driver for our city's success at home and on the world stage.

As your City Councillor I will support a plan to:

• ensure investments in this sector

• attract visitors to our film, arts and cultural festivals

• promote local talent.

 

Parks, Ravines and Cemeteries

Toronto's parks system contributes to our quality of life and is one of our city's best attributes.

As your City Councillor I will:

• work to keep our existing parks and ravines clean and safe and protect them from any development pressures.

• work to beautify our parks and ravines, attend to "eyesores" such as rusty fences, exposed pipes, etc. and add more drinking fountains along the Kay Gardner Belt line for bicyclists, joggers, and walkers.

• continue supporting local farmer's markets such as the Yonge and Eglinton Apple Tree Market.

• create Ward 22's first community garden.

• support the creation of a local oversight committee of interested local residents, ratepayers and tenants associations, and willing councillors from neighbouring wards for our parks, ravines and cemeteries. This includes the Mount Pleasant Cemetery, which is currently run like a private corporation rather than a public trust (as it was meant to be).

• work with Deer Park and Chaplin Estates residents to expand Oriole Park and create more access points to the Kay Gardner Belt line.

 

Greening Toronto

As the former co-Director of a major Ontario Environmental NGO, protecting our natural environment has always been both a passion and priority for me. As our school trustee, I was proud to champion the EcoSchools initiative through which we installed solar panels on school roofs, implemented many programs involving energy conservation, waste reduction and school yard greening, and led efforts to create the new North Toronto Collegiate which will have the highest LEED certification of any public school in Toronto.

To save our planet, and tax dollars, we need to implement new and creative green practices and technology at the City level. Local residents have provided many positive ideas to move forward with including:

• incentives for commercial and residential buildings to install solar panels

• consider building codes requiring higher LEED standards

• a more effective green and blue bin system, especially for apartment buildings

• more space made available for community gardens and parkland

The passion and enthusiasm that you have expressed for greening our community has truly been inspiring. I look forward to speaking with more of you about this issue in the coming months.

Also, in the wake of City Council's unfortunate decision to allow further infill at Yonge-Eglinton Square many tenants have expressed concern over the erosion of open space along the Yonge Street corridor where there are many apartments. I will work with tenants to enhance current greenspace and look for opportunities to create new public space where possible, such as expanding the current boundaries of Oriole Park which is adjacent to the Brentwood Towers.

 

Design Standards

I believe Toronto is one of the world's great cities, but candidly, it is not yet known for its great architecture or design. I believe we must put a new focus on creating a city that we are inspired to walk through and live in. A beautifully designed Toronto will increase our quality of life, property values and tourism.

I'd like us to consider local design criteria to protect and enhance our neighbourhoods' distinct fabric and character. I would also like to investigate the possibility of creating a design board for Toronto, so that while we debate the height and density of new buildings, the expectations for great design is never lost in the discussion.

 

The Future of Yonge and Eglinton

The four corners of Yonge and Eglinton are literally at a crossroads.

The TTC lands at the SW corner have been left derelict for far too long, the NW corner's open space soon will shamefully be replaced with a shopping mall rather than be revitalized as a community meeting space (please click here more details). The City will be considering the future of the other two corners.

As both a resident of the Yonge and Eglinton neighbourhood and your City Councillor, I will:

• work to create more green and open space and improve services for this important transit hub and growing community.

• work on both long term and short term plans for the SW corner that has been sitting derelict for far too long.

• ensure that our community is engaged in a genuine consultation process that makes us part of the decision-making process, rather than being subject to it.

• share all information I receive on this topic with you.

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