August 25th, 2014
The first night of the 55th and final meeting of council ended Monday much like the turbulent last few months at city hall: with the Ford brothers standing united and defiant against the rest of council.
Early in the day, council voted to treat electronic cigarettes like regular cigarettes by banning them in city work spaces. Mayor Rob Ford (Open Rob Ford’s policard) and Councillor Doug Ford (Open Doug Ford’s policard) were the only two dissenters in that 36-2 vote.
Council also rejected the mayor’s plan to have Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment give free use of its new Raptors basketball practice facility to kids living in public housing.
Ford made his 11th-hour pitch as council voted 38-2 to give final approval to a deal that would see the sports company build a $30-million facility on city land at no cost to taxpayers, in time for the 2016 NBA All-Star Game. Councillor Ford was the other naysayer.
The mayor wanted the hockey, basketball and soccer empire to donate use of the facility, to be built on a 1.4-acre site at city-owned Exhibition Place, to Toronto Community Housing residents.
The city’s parks department will, however, get use of the facility when the Raptors don’t need it, and Ford was told the city could offer a deal to teams from TCHC buildings. Under city policy, community groups normally pay $83 an hour to rent quality basketball courts at prime times from the city, and the city could extend that privilege for free if it wanted.
Ford dismissed this option, saying he wanted MLSE to allocate part of its time at no cost to TCHC, despite warnings from staff that such a move could scuttle the deal. Council was told that pursuing such a request could delay finalizing the deal by six months, meaning the project wouldn’t be ready for the All-Star Game.
The mayor said access to the facility could change lives.
“We have to concentrate on the youth in these neighbourhoods and give them the opportunity that everybody else has,” Ford told council. “You’ll bring tears to these kids’ eyes when they get to go down on a professional facility and get to practise and get to play.”
Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly (Open Norm Kelly’s policard) opposed Ford’s motion, saying there are many poor kids who don’t live in TCHC buildings.
“There are lots of kids who are needy.” Council voted 24-15 for Kelly’s suggestion that Ford’s request go to the city manager for a report.
Mayoral candidate John Tory’s campaign issued a tweet accusing Ford of grandstanding.
“Rob Ford had 5,032 days in the past 14 years to support our disadvantaged youth. He failed. Voting records matter,” the Tory campaign said on Twitter.
Earlier this year, Ford opposed a deal for MLSE to invest at least $90 million toward a $120-million expansion of city-owned BMO Field, where MLSE’s Toronto FC soccer club plays. He dismissed it as “corporate welfare” because MLSE was seeking $10 million from the city.
On Monday night, the Fords’ were united again, dissenting on Councillor Josh Matlow’s(Open Josh Matlow’s policard) motion aimed at reining in paid-duty policing costs.
“The Fords talk about finding waste and creating efficiencies but when I provided a clear opportunity to do that they vote against it,” Matlow said after the 33-2 vote. “It was absurd.”
Council also Monday rejected a plan to shorten the period when election signs can be erected. The status quo remains, so the stakes can start going into the ground Oct. 2, 25 days before voting day on Oct. 27.
Council resumes Tuesday morning with 146 items left on the agenda.
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