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Councillor Matlow’s City Hall and Community Update
Councillor Matlow’s City Hall and Community Update
Midtown Hygge Events: Bringing our Community Together to Support Mental Health & Well-being During These Challenging Times
Hygge (hoo-gah) (n.) is a concept, originating in Denmark, of creating atmospheres that promote warmth, well-being and staying present. Now, more than ever, I believe it’s important to create Midtown’s Hygge online events to bring us together as a community. You’re welcome to join us.
Happy Lunar New Year!
My heartfelt best wishes to those in our community celebrating the Lunar New Year! I hope you and your family have a wonderful celebration, obviously in a different way this year, and that the year of the ox brings you good health and happiness.
A New Approach to Community Safety: Mental Health Crisis Response Pilot Approved
I’m pleased to announce that the advocacy from so many of you last summer resulted in meaningful action at Council this past week. Council approved a pilot project that will see teams of mental health professionals become the first response when Toronto residents are in crisis. Please click here to read more about this important initiative.
My Motion to Strengthen the Mask Policy in Apartments & Condos Approved at Council
Congregate settings in multi-residential buildings have unfairly presented an unavoidable risk of COVID-19 transmission for many Torontonians. Apartment and condo residents do not have a choice as to whether they enter their building’s lobbies, elevators, and laundry rooms.
While the Mayor and Council enacted by-laws requiring Landlords and Condominium Boards to put signage in common areas stating that masks are mandatory, the message has unfortunately not been followed by far too many people. Over 2,000 complaints of neighbours not wearing masks have been filed through 311 to the City. That is in addition to the many complaints Councillors have received directly.
Mayor Tory has recognized the issue and has supported sending by-law enforcement to the buildings with the most complaints. This action is a great first step, but more must be done to ensure that mask-wearing is strictly followed within multi-unit residential buildings, especially with the more transmissible variants of COVID-19 having been found in Ontario.
While it is incumbent upon Landlords and Condominium Boards to follow the rules and post the signage provided by the City, it is not reasonable to expect them to be able to ensure that every resident wears a mask in common areas of their buildings. That’s why, I’m pleased Council supported my motion requesting City Staff to develop a strategy to promote, and enforce individual responsibility for wearing a mask to protect their neighbours’ health and safety as necessary.
CaféTO and CurbTO: Supporting Small Businesses & Creating Vibrant Main Streets
Last spring, I began advocating to City Staff on the exciting prospect of using curb lanes in Toronto for outdoor dining to address the indoor capacity restrictions restaurants and bars were facing due to the public health emergency. I was thrilled to see this initiative come alive and transform our streets into vibrant and safe spaces this past summer. In fact, I believe many Torontonians are pleased to finally have a patio culture we have long envied in cities around the world. Please click here to read an important update about the CurbTO and CafeTO programs as we enter the 2021 patio season.
The City’s initiatives are only a part of how we can all support our local businesses through these challenging times. Our community’s business owners have been trying to the best of their abilities to adapt to our constantly changing environment. While our favorite local shops are working to protect our health and safety, let’s shop local to support them. We need our main streets to survive this pandemic. I welcome you to visit my website here to see the many Business Improvement Areas in our ward that you can support through shopping local!
Addressing the Digital Divide: Internet Connectivity for All
Scarborough Residents Promised a Subway, Only Given longer Commutes Buses
Last week, the TTC unfortunately informed the residents of Toronto that the Scarborough Rapid Transit Line-Scarborough Line 3 will no longer run past 2023. This is 3 years sooner than what City Council was previously told and would leave Scarborough residents on long bus rides for 7 years if the province builds the still unfunded Scarborough Subway on time.
It is sad, but not surprising, that years of baseless pandering to Scarborough residents with promises of a subway that never made sense have brought us to this point: no rapid transit of any kind. I will continue working to provide honest, fact-based transit options to get residents to work, school, and see loved ones as efficiently as possible
The TTC has estimated that the discontinuation of the Scarborough Rapid Transit service will result in a loss of ridership due to an eighteen minute average increase in commute time. It is estimated that this inferior service will cost over $300 million in additional capital and operating costs. Further, the TTC states that the increase in buses will cause traffic delays and impacts on local residential neighbourhoods.
Given the significant effect that this discontinuation of service will have on Scarborough residents, and the City as a whole, it is incumbent upon City Council to explore every option to mitigate the impact of this service disruption. That’s why I moved a motion with my Scarborough colleague, Councillor Paul Ainslie, requesting that the City Manager provide a technical assessment of the Scarborough Light Rail Transit project, and options to use the existing Scarborough Rapid Transit right-of-way to run a faster, more efficient bus service.
Unfortunately, Council ran out of its allotted time last week and this item has been deferred to next month’s meeting. For more information, please read these Toronto Star and Toronto Sun articles.
Taking Action on Road Safety: Traffic Agents in Midtown
Last year, I wrote to you about the start of the City-Run Traffic Agents Program. This program places Traffic Agents, employed by the City of Toronto, at key intersections during morning and afternoon peak periods. Due to the collaboration with the Toronto Police Services Board, these agents have the power to manage traffic at signalized intersections in our city – something that only police officers were able to do thus far.
I’m very happy to finally see this program begin after many years of advocacy and work through the bureaucracy of the City, Province and the Police Services Board. As a member of the Council’s Audit Committee in my first term, I set a process in motion to reduce the number of paid-duty police officers the City needs to hire at construction and work sites; contributing to significant cost savings. This helped pave the way for the subsequent work on the traffic wardens program in 2017 that became the Traffic Agents program that we see today.
I am happy to see that agents have already been placed in our ward at locations such as Yonge and Roehampton. My office and the Eglinton-Yonge Construction Hub Coordinator have been receiving positive feedback on the presence of the agents. Many have reported improved safety at these intersections in this busy area of our ward. There are many more improvements that we need to see, but this is a good step forward. I will continue my advocacy on this front and keep pressure on the Toronto Police Services Board to provide necessary resources to adequately enforce the Highway Traffic Act in our city’s neighbourhoods.
You can see more information about the Traffic Agents Program at this link.
Councillor Josh Matlow’s 2021 City of Toronto Budget Town Hall
It’s very important to me that I accurately reflect our community’s priorities, and represent you, when I vote on our behalf on the City of Toronto’s budget.
On Tuesday, February 16th at 6:30pm, I’ll host an online 2021 Budget Town Hall for the residents of Toronto – St. Paul’s.
The City of Toronto’s budget will affect virtually every City service so I encourage your feedback. If you would like more information on the proposed 2021 City of Toronto Budget in advance of my Town Hall meeting, please click here.
You’re Invited to a COVID-19 Pandemic Online Public Forum with Toronto’s Leading Health Experts
The More Time Lost, the More Lives Lost: My Advocacy as Toronto’s Seniors Advocate During the COVID-19 Pandemic
Challenging Overdevelopment in Midtown: Update on 733 Mount Pleasant
At last week’s Council meeting, I supported sending City Legal and City Planning to oppose Rockport’s 733 Mount Pleasant development application that was appealed to the provincial Local Planning Appeals Tribunal (LPAT). The City has carefully reviewed the proposal for a 27-storey tower on a site that was originally identified as a midrise site in our Midtown in Focus Plan, and presented strong evidence in their Refusal Report that the development does not meet relevant Official Plan and provincial policies. Some of the issues the City has raised include inappropriate transition to the adjacent neighbourhoods, significant shadowing and wind impacts and lack of adherence to the City’s Tall Building Guidelines. Please click here to learn more about the development and the appeals process.
Keeping our Community Safe: New Community Consultation Meeting on Development Near the CP Rail Line
City Planning is proposing an amendment to the Official Plan and an amendment of the City-wide Zoning By-Law regarding new development in proximity to rail infrastructure. The amendments are the result of the Development in Proximity to Rail study that was completed by the City in 2019. You can see more on the study at this link, which also includes previous public meetings, staff reports and additional background information. Details on the community meeting can be found by clicking here.
Improvements to Robertson Davies Park: Make your Voice Heard – TONIGHT!
The City of Toronto’s Parks, Forestry and Recreation Division and I would like to invite you to learn more about the new park improvements coming to Robertson Davies Park and provide your feedback tonight in our virtual meeting. Please also feel welcome to share your thoughts with them in their online survey any time before the deadline on February 26th, 2021. Tonight’s virtual meeting will be held between 6:30-8:30.
Location: WebEx – visit the City’s webpage to register
Community Meeting on Proposed Improvements to Cottingham School & Neighbourhood
I am pleased to announce that I’ve been working closely with local residents as well as the TDSB regarding improvement to Cottingham Junior Public School’s playground facilities and Lionel Conacher Park. The local working group and I are excited to provide background on the project, present some of the initial concepts and obtain your feedback during my upcoming virtual public meeting on March 2nd at 6:30pm. Please click here for more information on how to access the meeting.
Creating a New Park for Midtown Toronto: Green Line Update
Thank you to everyone who participated in our virtual public meeting held this past November regarding the new park between Davenport on the east and Hydro lands on the west on the south side of MacPherson Avenue as part of the City’s Green Line initiative. We have received hundreds of responses to our online survey with feedback about the designs since our last meeting. Parks Staff and I are now excited to move on to the next stage and present the Preferred Concept Plan in our upcoming virtual meeting. Details are as follows:
Date: February 25th 6:30 to 8:00 p.m.
Location: WebEx – visit the Green Line website at www.toronto.ca/greenline for further information and for a link to the meeting.
UPDATE: Activating Community Youth Space in Our Oakwood-Vaughan Neighbourhood
I’m excited to be co-hosting an online Town Hall Meeting with the Deer Park Residents Group (DPRG) to discuss important issues and priorities within the Deer Park community. We will be providing an update on a number of important local and city-wide issues including responding to the recent development pressure in the area, traffic safety, cycling, social and community development, CafeTO and the Ravine Strategy. We will also be facilitating a discussion between panelists to answer questions and hear feedback on different and initiatives that are important to you.
The panel will include members from the DPRG Board, Senior City Planner for the area: David Driedger as well as his Supervisor, City Traffic Engineering and Laura Perruzza who is the lead on the Yonge St. Clair transportation study. Details are as follows:
When: Wednesday, February 17th 6:30pm-8:30pm
Where: Please click here for details on how to join online
Getting to the Root of the Issues: A Follow-Up to the 2019 Tree Maintenance Services Audit
A few years ago, the Auditor General revealed that private tree maintenance workers were charging taxpayers for work that never took place. At next week’s Audit Committee, I’ll be reviewing the findings of the follow-up investigation which includes the Auditor’s General office spending 500 hours surveilling private contractors to determine whether questionable practices had changed. According to the report, in many instances the workers continued to spend significant amounts of time drinking coffee, reading, smoking, and even exercising while on the clock. To learn more about this, please click this CTV article.
Commemorating Black History Month
Black History Month is an opportunity for all of us to recognize the past and present contributions that African Canadians make to the life of Toronto in such areas as education, medicine, art, culture, public service, economic development, politics and human rights. I’m pleased to acknowledge that our very own Alicia Hall, Executive Director of the Nia Centre for the Arts, was recently recognized by the Children’s Breakfast Club for her outstanding contributions to our community. Alicia, is currently heading up the development of Canada’s first professional multi-disciplinary arts facility dedicated to supporting and showcasing Afro-diasporic art. Our Nia Centre will be transformed into a 14,000 sq. ft. facility that will include a 150-seat theatre, artist studios, a digital media lab, a recording studio, event space, co-working space and gallery space. Congrats Alicia!To commemorate this month, I invite you all to check out four extraordinary young Black musicians who have combined their talents to create a Black History Month concert that educates and entertains audiences. The show introduces the music of Black classical composers from 17th to 21st century who were well known in their day, but have been forgotten or dismissed. The music is performed by these young musicians who excel in their areas, and who provide essential role models for young people everywhere. The concert, Celebrations and Revelations 2021, is a FREE online show that is offered from February 1st to 28th, and seeks to start a conversation among all Canadians. To RSVP and watch the show, please click here.
International Holocaust Remembrance Day
In January, my office and I commemorated International Holocaust Remembrance Day. Together, we all have a responsibility to take a stand against Anti-Semitism and ensure the horrors of the past are never repeated or forgotten.
Make Your Voice Heard: TTC’s 5-Year Fare Policy & 10-Year Fare Collection Survey
The TTC and York Region Transit (YRT) are working together to develop a new 5-Year Fare Policy and 10-Year Fare Collection Outlook. As part of this process, the TTC and YRT will be reviewing changes and improvements to the way customers pay their fare, including fare options that are available for people to use, pricing and cross-boundary travel. This is an important project that will work to improve the overall customer experience and create a simple and consistent fare system, for both the TTC and YRT. Your feedback is needed as the TTC makes improvements to their fare policies. Please complete their 5 to 10-minute survey through one of the options below:
The survey will be available until February 18, 2021. If you have any questions or require accessibility accommodation, please contact TTCFares@ttc.ca
City of Toronto’s Mental Health Support Strategy
In April 2020, the City launched the Mental Health Support Strategy, partnering with 13 key mental health service providers to ensure that mental health support services are well-integrated and that Toronto residents are aware of the free support services that are available to them. Through the strategy, residents can access free mental health support from the safety of their own homes through text, online or by phone by simply calling 2-1-1. This free service is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Services are available for children and youth, seniors, frontline workers and those with intersectional identities, such as Indigenous, Black, persons with disabilities, and LGBTQ2S Torontonians who are struggling.
Anyone feeling lonely, isolated, anxious or depressed or knows someone who is struggling during this pandemic is strongly encouraged to reach out for help. It’s free, safe, and available for all who need it. From April 27 to January 9, almost 110,500 Torontonians have either called, texted or sent an online message for support to access mental health services. Of those who reached out, more than 100,000 people have received direct mental health support and more than 10,300 people were referred directly to mental health partners for additional support. For those looking for further support, there is a mental health section on toronto.ca/covid-19 that is full of helpful advice and resources. Click here to learn more.
Check Out What’s In Store this Winter Season with Mosaic
Our friends and partners at Mosaic are working hard to ensure that our seniors are staying connected and keeping well during this pandemic. I encourage to check out their Winter Newsletter here to learn more about the online programs they offer.
Toronto Rent Bank: Interest Free Rents
ACORN’s Resist Renoviction Workshop Event
On Monday, February 22nd at 6:00pm, ACORN will be hosting an online Resist Renovictions Workshop. This event will be covering details regarding renovictions, what to look out for, how tenants can protect themselves and how to get organized in your building to fight back. To learn more about this event, please click here
UrbanArts Beats Mind Movement
BEATS. MIND. MOVEMENT (BMM) is a FREE music programming initiative dedicated to providing youth between the ages of 16-29 with the knowledge, skills, and mentorship needed to succeed in today’s evolving music industry. Check out UrbanArts’ weekly digital programs for the winter season by clicking here.
Take Steps to Prevent Frozen Pipes
Cold weather can cause your water pipes to freeze, resulting in no water & expensive property damage. To learn more about the steps you can take to protect your water pipes from freezing, please click here.
Check Out the Best of Davisville Initiative
The Best of Davisville supports local businesses in the Midtown Yonge, Mount Pleasant Village and Bayview Leaside areas by curating themed gift bags from shops around the neighbourhood. Now available: “Kickstart 2021” Coffee set which includes three bags of coffee from three local coffee shops, as well as Valentine’s gift sets and a “Cozy Night In” set. Find out more, by clicking here.
Feeling Lonely? We Care About You
During the COVID-19 crisis, and even during normal times, too many seniors are isolated. I’ve organized a team of caring volunteers who are ready to reach out to seniors in our community who feel lonely. Please feel very welcome to post this notice in your building or street. For a printable version, please click here.
Speaker Series For Seniors Hosted by Manor Road United Church
Let’s stay connected! Manor Road United Church runs a weekly program “Friday Speaker Series” via Zoom. Enjoy friendly conversations and learn something new from this virtual neighbourhood. Meet new speakers and join in the discussions on varied topics. The program is free and open to everyone Fridays 1-3PM. For the Zoom link, please email email@example.com. If you know of seniors who may be interested but need some support, email us and we can help them learn how to use Zoom along with their devices. For more information, please click here.
STEPS Announces ArtworxTO
As part of ArtworxTO: Toronto’s Year of Public Art 2021, STEPS Public Art has just launched CreateSpace, a national public art residency program designed in consultation with advisors from coast to coast, to provide emerging Black, Indigenous and racialized artists with the skills, relationships and practical experience needed to take their public art practice to the next level from March through December 2021. STEPS is currently looking for spaces (i.e. open or closed storefronts, greenspaces, walls, or other public-facing surfaces or areas) within BIAs to host the artwork of their first cohort of artists. If your BIA has spaces available that you would like activated with art, please reach out to Janet Hinkle, STEPS’ Program Coordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org.To learn more about the residency, please visit here.
TD Park People Grant
TD Park People Grants will provide $2,000 to groups from Toronto to help build vital connections between people and city parks. Applications are set to close on March 1st, so we encourage you to visit this website to get all of the details, helpful event ideas and application form for the TD Park People Grants program.
TEA’S Zero Waste High-Rise Project
The Toronto Environmental Alliance (TEA)’s Zero Waste High-Rise Project supports staff and residents to reduce waste in multi-residential buildings. NEW for 2021 TEA is launching new online tools and resources, virtual learning events and tours, recognition for participating buildings, and a micro-grant opportunity for eligible projects in Toronto. Click here to learn more.
Follow My Updates on Social Media
I’m grateful to provide you with regular updates through our e-newsletter. Make sure you don’t miss a beat by connecting on social media as well! Follow me on Facebook (Josh Matlow), Twitter (@JoshMatlow), and Instagram (@joshmatlow) to keep up with the latest news from our community and City Hall.
TO360 Local Map Consultation
TO360 is the pedestrian wayfinding system that is a central to the City’s ambition to make Toronto a more walkable, welcoming, and understandable place for residents and visitors. TO360 provides consistent wayfinding information through a unified signage and mapping system delivered by the City and project partners.
The City’s Transportation Services has prepared some draft wayfinding maps for St. Clair West and Eglinton West and is looking for feedback from local residents who are passionate about their neighbourhood and who want to make walking in their community better. Click here to learn more about TO360 and the ways to get involved!
Province Permits Pet Groomers to Open
Last week, the Province of Ontario announced that pet groomers are now permitted to operate in some limited circumstances and under strict conditions. The City of Toronto has informed COVID-19 enforcement officers of the amended direction and conditions for groomers to operate in compliance with provincial regulations.
Under provincial regulations, pet grooming businesses are only permitted to open to provide grooming services that are strictly necessary to prevent an animal from requiring foreseeable and reasonably imminent veterinary care or that the pet owner has been ordered to obtain for their pet under the Provincial Animal Welfare Services Act. When these limited services are provided, grooming appointments must be scheduled in advance and businesses must use curbside pick-up and drop-off. Only one appointment for one animal at a time is permitted. Guidance for pet groomers and other businesses offering curbside services can be found on the City’s COVID-19 Guidance: Employers, Workplaces & Businesses webpage.
The City recently paused enforcement of curbside pick-up and drop-off pet walking services following public comments from the Province permitting such services. As with all activities, please consider whether employing a pet walker is essential to the health of your pet.
Businesses with questions about what is permitted under the Reopening Ontario Act should contact the Province’s Stop the Spread Business Information line at 1-888-444-3659. The updated Reopening Ontario Act is available online.
A Message from Play4All MertonLockdown still looms and our activity has been restricted to essential errands and exercise. Did you know there are children in Toronto without access to safe outdoor play space? We would love your support to break down the barriers these individuals and families face. Here’s what the Play4All Merton team is doing to even out (and build) the playing field.
On January 10th their team hosted Cooking4ACause, a fun, family-friendly online cooking event. They delivered participants a basket of fresh ingredients and they joined us in making a homemade Sweet and Sour Stir Fry! Our team led the group through fun icebreakers, vegetable jokes (do you know what day is a potato’s least favourite?!), and good vibes cooking music.
Missed your chance to join us? Come out when they are hosting the event again in April! Keep up to date with their progress and latest fundraisers by signing up for their newsletter at www.play4allmertonproject.com.
Part of Cooking4ACause’s success was due to the support they received from our student volunteers. Play4All.MertonProject launched Ambassador’s Week, an online campaign where students spread awareness about our mission and event while simultaneously completing their community service hours online! Over 20 students joined us in making cooking videos, emailing the media, talking to their family/friends, and more!
It’s a financially stressful time, we are all worried about health and many people are understandably counting their resources. If you are able to give, Play4All’s GoFundMe link can be found here. We thank you for joining us in the journey to break down the barriers to play, making outdoor recreation free and accessible for everyone.