The Week at Toronto City Hall #8
City Council talks trash, trash-talking on Twitter, taxes, taxis, and more at its last meeting of the year.
On the agenda at City Council’s last meeting of the year: the Rate Supported Budgets, new taxes, one (1) mean tweet, the Ontario Line, cycling updates, and more. Read on for my roundup…plus a festive bug.
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The Week at Toronto City Hall: City Council talks trash, trash-talking on Twitter, taxes, taxis, and more.
The big ticket: Budgets and taxes
In a meeting starting on Wednesday, Council will pass the Rate Supported Budgets: water, waste, and parking. Never very sweeping or dramatic, but here are some interesting nuggets from the reports:
By my count, based on these figures (PDF), there is $1.481 billion worth of deferred Basement Flooding Protection Program projects across the city.
Because of contamination and improper sorting, “most” of the material collected in City park recycling bins since 2018 is not fit for recycling (PDF). What does “most” mean? 51%? 80%? We don’t know, because they don’t track it. However, they did a study this past summer, and results should be out soon.
As you might expect, 2020 and 2021 brought precipitous drops in parking space occupancy (PDF). Bike Share ridership and revenue continues to grow, though.
There’s also a couple more tax-related items:
EX28.2: With Mayor John Tory’s support, it sure looks like Toronto is getting a Vacant Home Tax.
MM38.1: Councillor Mike Colle’s proposed home speculation/flipping tax, however, is probably dead in the water. C’mon, man, our economy is basically three real estate agents in a trenchcoat.
MM38.4: Pundits and policy wonks have long mourned the demise of the iceberg, the too-popular-for-its-own-good infographic depicting the City’s unfunded capital budget projects. This motion from Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam requests a staff report about Council-approved but unfunded projects, as well as the possibility of introducing a sales tax and bringing back the Vehicle Registration Tax.
Housing & development
GL27.16: The Shelter, Support and Housing Administration is still planning on closing the Emergency Shelter Hotels next spring. Who wants to bet that the Omicron variant will throw a wrench into this?
PH29.3: Minimum parking requirements for new developments may be replaced by maximum parking requirements, a move that will make development cheaper and reduce “auto dependency”.
PH29.2: After three years, Council may relax rules for building laneway suites.
IE26.9: The Cycling Network Plan includes not only new infrastructure and funding, but also a mandate to cut down on red tape. (For a closer look at the details of the Cycling Network Plan, see Robert Zaichkowski’s overview.)
IE26.10: Also, the temporary ActiveTO bike lanes are being made permanent.
MM38.20: In other cycling-related motions, Councillor Mike Layton wants policies for accommodating cyclists in construction zones.
EX28.14: Ontario Line construction means lots and lots of downtown road closures over the next seven years. Hey, Matt just wrote about this!
GL27.19: The rise of companies like Uber and Lyft threw long-awaited taxi licensing reforms into disarray. Then the pandemic, in turn, threw the freshly redeveloped licensing scheme into disarray. Now the City is taking another run at implementing the new ride-hailing regulations.
IE26.12: Council may ban delivery robots from sidewalks and bike lanes for accessibility reasons. (By the way, as with other “smart” machines, at least some of these robots are remotely controlled by underpaid overseas workers.)
DM38.1: Ontario is now the only province that hasn’t worked out an affordable childcare deal with the federal government. So Councillor Joe Cressy’s request for an update—and to look into cutting out the middleman and dealing with Ottawa directly—is especially timely.
CC38.2: Integrity Commissioner Jonathan Batty lets Councillor Josh Matlow off the hook for tweeting, back in May, that the Economic & Community Development Committee decision to shelve his motion to allow drinking in parks was “cowardly, dangerous, inequitable & wrong”. (The tweet was deleted too fast to be archived anywhere, but you can find it quoted in articles like this one.) The rationale: criticizing decisions is okay; naming specific people would have been wrong. Batty dryly notes,
Ironically, if anyone has suffered an adverse personal consequence because of the Tweet, it may be Councillor Matlow. Deleting a Tweet because it has offended your colleagues, but not apologizing for it, is a half-measure that does not go unnoticed. Although leeway in political debate is granted under the Code of Conduct, Members may find that observing higher standards in their political rhetoric will help them accomplish their legislative objectives.
IA38.1: Councillor Shelley Carroll has Questions about who, exactly, is responsible for the street in that install-your-own-No-Parking-signs hack I wrote about previously.
MM38.28: Councillor Gord Perks wants a proof of vaccination mandate to councillors and anyone on the ABCs (agencies, boards, and corporations) attending meetings in person. (The City has already implemented one for staff, with around 97% compliance.)
EY28.13: My Tree Removal Application of the Month is this catalpa tree in Edenbridge–Humber Valley, which I featured a few instalments ago.
MM38.22: Let’s close out this roundup with “a winter tradition in Toronto and a fundamental Canadian winter experience”: the homegrown skating rink. Councillor John Filion doesn’t want a repeat of last year, when some rink organizers were refused support by City staff.
*record scratch* Wait, stop the presses!
WEDNESDAY’S 🏆 Bid Award Panel contract award of the week: $131,085 for padlocks.
Nev’s Bug Report
Seasonal greenery like wreaths and Christmas trees often hide surprise guests. Giant conifer aphids (Cinara) are some common hitchhikers. Like all aphids, they have a pair of antennae, six legs, and two small pointed horns on their bulbous butts. They have both winged and wingless forms. Many are dark-coloured; they may also have white markings, or a waxy coating, like bloom on grapes.
Just as the various kinds of smaller aphids feed on plants and flowers, giant conifer aphids feed on—you guessed it—the sap of conifer trees. When their tree is cut down and the sap stops flowing, they may begin a mass exodus into alarmed humans’ living rooms. They are entirely harmless to us, and can be vacuumed up or put outside.
Also: make sure to keep your tree well-watered, and put it out on the curb as soon as you are done with it. Those things are serious fire hazards.
In Monday’s edition of City Hall Watcher: The City Clerk’s office didn’t post this week’s Council agenda until Friday, so we waited a couple of days to post this week’s TWATCH. That means today — for the first time ever — paid subscribers will get TWO new editions of City Hall Watcher.
I’ve got an early look at the City’s 2022 budget, plus another by-request edition of INTERSECTION INSPECTION zeroing in on Gerrard & River. Look for it this afternoon.
— Matt Elliott
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