Snow removal and streetcar beefs prompt review by Toronto public works chair Minnan-Wong
February 12 2013
Facing a blizzard of complaints about Toronto’s storm cleanup, the public works chair is launching a review that will, among other things, consider whether the city should have declared its first “snow emergency” since 1999.
“In retrospect we may have wanted to do that,” Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong told reporters at City Hall, saying he is most concerned about the 102 streetcar delays or stoppages caused by parked cars after the 30-centimetre dump.
Stephen Buckley, the city’s general manager of transportation, decided not to recommend that Mayor Rob Ford declare an emergency — an action that would have allowed the city to tow any car parked on “snow routes,” which include most major downtown streets, Minnan-Wong said.
A Buckley subordinate, Myles Currie, told reporters that decision was based on the forecast of a single storm followed by a thaw. Multiple snowfalls in 1999 prompted Mayor Lastman to call in the army, eliciting mockery from non-Torontonians that continues today.
“We would all like to avoid the over 100 delays and stoppages that resulted from selfish people who parked their cars on roads like Queen and King St. and delayed hundreds of people who were using transit,” Minnan-Wong said.
Emergency is “a pretty strong word” and the bylaw should perhaps include a lower threshold that still invokes towing powers, he said.
“If we could find language that conveys the importance of keeping the streets clear, without necessarily thinking we’re going to have tanks rolling through the city, I think there’s a middle ground to be reached there.”
Minnan-Wong said the review will address cyclists’ complaints that most bike lanes were not plowed and also consider whether the 311 resident-help line had properly “staffed up” for the storm that started Friday.
He called the news conference shortly after TTC chair Karen Stintz questioned on her website why a snow emergency was not declared.
Councillor Josh Matlow said he has lost confidence in Minnan-Wong as public works chair and will not be satisfied with “more long reviews and pretending things will get done at some point.”
Matlow (Ward 22, St. Paul’s) said he spent the weekend on the phone with about 20 residents complaining of uncleared driveway ends, small streets ignored by plows and a senior citizen who saw her freshly shovelled sidewalk buried by a plow.
He said he and Scarborough colleagues Mike Del Grande and Michelle Berardinetti will meet with senior works staff during lunch at next week’s council meeting asking for “specific things we can do to make improvements.”
“We want to know specific things we can do to make improvements,” Matlow said, adding Minnan-Wong’s actions on the Jarvis bike lane removal, crumbling Gardiner Expressway and now the blizzard have convinced him Minnan-Wong is “not in charge of the purview he was requested to chair.”
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