New city governance structure will have fewer politicians on fewer committees; Hearn changes from public to private ownership; Seen and heard: you won’t believe what was requested of the mayor by a city councillor at the Board of Health

11:02 a.m. Nov. 20, 2018. Mayor John Tory, with Grade 4 and 5 students from St. Barnabas Catholic School and Kensington Community School, at Toronto City Hall, on National Child Day.
11:02 a.m. Nov. 20, 2018. Mayor John Tory, with Grade 4 and 5 students from St. Barnabas Catholic School and Kensington Community School, at Toronto City Hall, on National Child Day.

Signal Weekend Newsbrief: November 25, 2018

What happened at city hall this week

Mayor supports new city governance structure that will have fewer politicians on fewer committees. It has been more than two months since Premier Doug Ford’s government bill to cut Toronto city council to 25 wards was deemed lawful, and almost five weeks since the municipal election. Still, reports on recommended changes by City of Toronto staff on the new committee structures and responsibilities of councillors – including the number of committees and boards they will sit on – is still not yet available to the public. (Typically, reports are made available to the public one week before the date of the committee or council, and published on the city’s website.) In the 2014-2018 term of council there were 12 committees with members made up of city councillors that reported directly to council. On Tuesday, Mayor John Tory called the premise of the new governance structure “sensible.” The new structure is expected to involve fewer politicians on city government committees and boards of public organizations. “Obviously, with 25 councillors it’s not possible for us to have the same structure that we had before. We just don’t have enough people to fill up all those committees, including the outside boards, places like the TTC and [Toronto] Hydro.” The City of Toronto staff report is expected to be published on the city’s online system some time this week ahead of the December council meeting.

Controversy surrounds sale of Hearn Generating Station. Local city councillor Paula Fletcher and the provincial NDP opposition spoke out over the sale price of the public Hearn Generating Station on Friday. This past week, the Ontario Power Generation released a statement saying it had sold the R.L. Hearn Generating Station and industrial land (former site of the Luminato Festival) to Studios of America Limited Partnership, the long-term tenant and property manager. Fletcher said the $16-million sale price had “been sold for a song” in a story first reported by the Toronto Star’s David Rider. In a statement on Friday, the NDP’s critic for energy and climate change, MPP Peter Tabuns, said he is calling for an independent appraisal. “Studios of America’s president is a Ford insider and long-time Ford family campaign donor and supporter,” the release stated. “Something smells fishy here. People deserve answers,” Tabuns was quoted saying in the release. Attention to the Port Lands has increased recently with flood protection at the Don River, a deal between Waterfront Toronto and Sidewalk Labs, and the relocation of film studios. At a meeting of the Toronto Film, Television and Digital Media Board in December 2017, Mike Williams, general manager of economic development & culture, spoke about the massive infrastructure efforts and the attention to the area. “Five years ago it was hard to get anyone to think about this area, and now we have the whole world.”

City of Toronto hosts elementary school students in Committee Room 1 for National Child Day. Tuesday was National Child Day, a day that acknowledges the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. The day celebrates children as active participants in their own lives and communities, and recognizes that children should have opportunities for meaningful contributions to decision making. Canada adopted the UNCRC in 1991. To mark this occasion, local students in Grades 4 and 5 visited City Hall to share their ideas with senior City leaders about how to make Toronto a more child-friendly city.

Fêting Joe Mihevc. This week outgoing city councillor Joe Mihevc received accolades of all kinds from colleagues this past week. At the Board of Health meeting on Monday, where Mihevc chaired his last meeting of the term, Mayor John Tory made a special visit to honour Mihevc with a plaque for his nearly 30 years of service. What did the outgoing councillor really want from the mayor? A hug. Later in the week, at an announcement by the Interfaith Coalition to Fight Homelessness about resources related to mental health, Beth Sholom/Beth Tzedec Out of the Cold Shelter presented a donation for 100 meals in recognition of the councillor’s advocacy over the years at an announcement at City Hall.

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In other news

– Nov. 22, 2018. By Emily Mathieu, the Toronto Star.  Which neighbourhoods have seen large spikes in rent? The Star mapped 5 years of rental data in 15 Canadian municipalities

– Nov. 22, 2018. By Andrea Janus, on Is Toronto’s downtown relief line ‘a’ priority, or ‘the’ priority? Transport minister won’t say Negotiations to upload subways to province to begin early next year, according to Jeff Yurek

On deck this coming week

On Monday, the Toronto Parking Authority will meet. On their agenda includes an item that is closed to the public regarding advertising on bikes by Astral Media, as a means to augment revenue generation for the city’s bike-share program. On Tuesday, the Sign Variance Committee will be meet for a couple of items before going into closed session “for purposes of education and training.” Also on Tuesday, there is a joint meeting of Build Toronto and Toronto Port Lands Company. Almost the entire meeting’s agenda is scheduled in closed session. On Thursday, the Board of Management of the Toronto Zoo will meet.

Good to know public consultations

Not just about an Airbnb issue. The third and fourth (of four) public consultations on zoning regulations for Zoning for Secondary Suites is scheduled this Thursday at Metro Hall. Currently, an owner is only permitted to build a secondary suite five years after the main home is built. The city’s website states, “City staff are proposing a draft zoning framework to simplify and help facilitate the creation of secondary suites across the city, in response to provincial policy changes to the Planning Act.”
Monday, Nov. 26, 6:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. 399 The East Mall, Etobicoke Civic Centre, Main Boardroom
Tuesday, Nov. 27, 6:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. 150 Borough Drive, Scarborough Civic Centre, Committee Room #1

Weigh in on how the city grows. The second and third of five public consultations on the Official Plan Review: Public Realm and Built Form policies. Take part in the City of Toronto Official Plan statutory Five Year Review process with a focus on draft public realm and built form policies. Staff are also proposing to add a Block Context Plan as a new complete application requirement for certain development proposals.
Tuesday, Nov. 27, 6:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m. 5100 Yonge Street, North York Civic Centre, Council Chambers
Thursday, Nov. 29, 6:30 – 9:00 p.m. 399 The West Mall, Etobicoke Civic Centre, Council Chambers

Rezoning for more municipal shelters. The second, third and fourth (of four) public consultations on proposed zoning amendments to allow for more shelters across the city. Currently, zoning regulations permit municipal shelters as long as they are separated by 250 metres from another shelter and located either on a major street or on an intersecting street if the lot is within 80 metres of the major street.
Monday, Nov. 26, 6:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. 5100 Yonge Street, North York Civic Centre, Committee Room #3
Tuesday, Nov. 27, 6:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. 55 John Street, Metro Hall Room 310
Nov. 29, 6:30 – 8:30 p.m. 150 Borough Drive, Scarborough Civic Centre, Committee Room #1

Replacing rooming housing. Four (out of four) public consultations on a draft Official Plan Amendment with new policies to address the loss of dwelling rooms due to redevelopment and the displacement of tenants who rent them. The policies would require the same amount of dwelling room gross floor area to be replaced as rental housing in the new development and assistance be provided to displaced tenants.
Monday, Nov. 26, 7 – 9 p.m. 399 The West Mall, Etobicoke Civic Centre, Council Chambers
Tuesday, Nov. 27, 7 – 9 p.m. 55 John Street, Metro Hall Room 308
Nov 28, 2018 7 to 9 p.m. 5100 Yonge Street, North Civic Centre, Council Chambers
Nov 29, 2018 7  to 9 p.m. 150 Borough Drive, Scarborough Civic Centre, Council Chambers

Seen and heard: you won’t believe what was requested of the mayor by a city councillor at the Board of Health

Nov. 19, 2018

Mayor John Tory: Mr. Chair. Members of the committee and ladies and gentleman, when you hear 27 years of service mentioned, it hardly seems adequate to come here and say the words that we’ve said. I knew you were presenting a compendium of some of the stories that Joe Mihevc worked on as chair of the board and otherwise and chair of health, and what we end up giving, a lot of the time, completely ends up inadequate when it’s measured against 27 years of public service… If it makes you feel any better, no one gets anything more – it’s like when you work for the United Way, no matter how long it is – I think in my case it’s about 20 years – you get a T-shirt and a mug and that’s it. [room laughs] No, that’s what everyone gets so at least you don’t feel like you’re being short changed –

Mihevc: How about a hug, too?

Tory: …but Joe, I hope you understand – um, pardon me?

Mihevc: How about a hug, too?

Tory: Well, I’ll give you that, that’s not a problem. Very few people ask for those, actually, so it’s good. I’d feel better about that. [room laughs]

What it says here [on the plaque] is simply the following: It says Mayor John Tory would like to extend a heartfelt thank you to Joe Mihevc, for services and [being a] member of the city council, and in particular for your leadership as chair of the Board of Health. The Board of Health, through the work of Toronto Public Health, strives to reduce health inequality and improve the health of the whole population. Your leadership as chair and your role as the city’s poverty-reduction advocate has ensured that Toronto is a healthier city for all. Thank you for being a thoughtful leader, a dedicated elected official, and a true public health champion. I hope that in a small way can express the gratitude that I certainly feel, and I know the other members of council do as well, for all these years of totally distinguished and reputable service, and it just comes with a lot of affection and respect from me.

[Tory walks across room to give Mihevc the plaque, and they hug]

Mihevc: You know, he forgot one thing where we worked together very well, along with Councillor [Joe] Cressy, and that was around supervised-injection sites. When we as a city of Toronto – getting your head around harm reduction – really it’s complex intellectually and it’s complex ethically when you think of what you’re actually facilitating and helping people do, and it was a struggle for me and I know it was a struggle for the mayor as well. One of things that you charmed me, Mr. Mayor, was when you went down to the site at Moss Park, and you stayed in the tent, and said that you were willing to kind of work with the evidence and kind of figure it out. I think if we use that as a city more – stay in the tent and figure it out – we’re going to be an even greater city so I’m really appreciative of my relationship with you and the relationship we built through public health – and we did some great things together.

You can read our Q & A interview with Joe Mihevc.

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This Newsbrief is by Arianne Robinson.