August 25th, 2014
This is it: on Monday and Tuesday, city council convenes for the last time this term, and there are more than 400 items on the agenda—from futile symbolic gestures to motions that could affect the upcoming municipal election.
Here are some key items council will consider…
Changing election sign rules
The Licensing and Standards Committee is recommending a number of amendments to the rules that govern the placement of election signs. Most significantly, the committee recommends reducing, from 25 to 14, the number of days before an election that lawn signs may be erected. It also recommends developing “a policy on appropriate enforcement actions for multiple violations” of election sign regulations. (Rob Ford committed 483 such infractions last election and enforcement amounted to his $13,362.25 fine being quietly waived.)
Making the Union-Pearson Express fare more affordable
Metrolinx has faced criticism recently from politicians and airport employees alike over the $20 to $30 the agency is planning to charge for a one-way trip on the new Union-Pearson rail link. This month, council will consider two nearly identical motions—one by Josh Matlow (Ward 22, St. Paul’s), the other by Frances Nunziata (Ward 11, York-South Weston)—aimed at bringing the fare price down. Both items call for the City to request Metrolinx make the fare more affordable; Matlow’s motion specifically targets the controversial $1.85 fee designed to compensate the Greater Toronto Airports Authority for parking revenues lost to the UP Express.
Ensuring condo developers put windows where they’re supposed to
Mike Layton (Ward 19, Trinity-Spadina) wants to make sure condo developers put windows where they’re supposed to. The Ontario Building Code requires that bedrooms have “a view to the outdoors,” but according to Layton, “The quality of this compulsory view to the outdoors is being pushed to the limits with applications that include bedrooms in the rear of very deep and narrow residential units.”
Demarcating public from private property
Last week, Brookfield Properties took heat for confiscating bicycles parked on public property at the northeast corner of Yonge and Bloor streets, and then doubled down by claiming the right as an “adjacent property owner” to remove the locked-up bikes, which they believe constitute a “perceived risk to pedestrians” somehow. The company has since agreed that, actually, they don’t have the right to take other people’s property for ill-defined safety reasons by virtue of being adjacent to it any more than you have the right to steal your neighbour’s standard lamp because he might trip over the cord. Kristyn Wong-Tam (Ward 27, Toronto Centre-Rosedale) is proposing the installation of discreet visual aids marking the boundaries between public and private property as an alternative approach to dealing with this issue.
Reducing excessive motorcycle noise
Wong-Tam also wants the Licensing and Standards Committee to report to council at the first meeting of next term on “options for improving regulations, management, and enforcement of excessive motorcycle noise.” Other cities, including Edmonton, have already begun to crack down on obnoxiously loud motorcycles, which are typically modified by their owners to run at ridiculous volumes. (Incidentally, there is no evidence for the undying myth that “loud pipes save lives”; there is, however, ample evidence that noise pollution may be harmful.)
Receiving reports from the integrity commissioner and the ombudsman
Integrity commissioner Janet Leiper and ombudsman Fiona Crean have both released policy reports to be received by council. Noting the massive surge in complaints received over the past year, Leiper suggests in her annual review that Code of Conduct and Complaint Protocol reports go directly to council instead of to the Executive Committee. Crean, meanwhile, points out in her five-year review that demand for ombudsman services has increased “as residents recognize the value of the office.” She’s asking for an $800,000 budget bump to pay for six new staff members and accompanying work stations and computer equipment.
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