More Seasonal Thoughts From City Hall

December 30, 2012

(It continues. It? you ask. Yes. It. Here. Today’s holiday musings come from Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam, Ward 27 Toronto Centre-Rosedale!)

*  *  *kwongtam

1) The Gift of Councilling: What is the one moment in 2012 that struck you as the best example of why it was you became a councillor?

The successful creation of Celebrate Yonge was our four-week pedestrian-friendly festival on Canada’s most famous street. It was an urban intervention, similar to others created in New York City and Montreal, except ours had no city funding or mayoral support. We organized the project in partnership with the Downtown Yonge Business Improvement Area, community volunteers and my office. What we didn’t have in city-funded support, we made up by gathering neighbourhood, labour and corporate sponsorship. It’s quite the accomplishment when one considers that we created the largest, new street festival under the most conservative, pro-car mayor in Toronto’s history. It truly represented the lesson of how we as a city “can” achieve anything we want as long as we are willing to work together.

2) Going Forward: In 2013, what is the one aspect you would like to see happen that would help develop better civic discourse?

In 2013, I would like City Council to lead Toronto in an collaborative, research-driven and transparent discussion on what we should do with the failing Gardiner Expressway. It’s time for an honest discussion about transportation modal shifts and how are we going to plan, design, pay for and build it. We need to engage Torontonians to answer the following questions: What would it take for us to build a sustainable and prosperous city in an increasingly dense urban environment? What revenue tools do we use to pay for it? What should the governance model look like and how do we get there? If we smartly plan for the future, we became globally competitive by creating the highest quality of living standard in the world. How City Council deals with and responds to the Gardiner dilemma is the most important question in this council term.

merrychristmas2012

last of the yearly submitted by Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam


Further Season’s Greetings

December 28, 2012

(Reflections on moments past and hopes for better moments ahead continue. Up today, Councillor Adam Vaughan, Ward 20 Trinity-Spadina!)

*  *  *avaughan

1) The Gift of Councilling: What is the one moment in 2012 that struck you as the best example of why it was you became a councillor?

Moving the rezoning on Alex Park Revitalization through council would have been the moment, but the process with the residents has had so many “moments” it’s hard to pick the vote as a defining moment as most of the community wasn’t there to share in it.

As background: The movement to rebuild this housing community south of Kensington Market has been under way now for almost six years. Ground will break in the new year. In the last year a developer, an architect and tenant agreements have been put in place, along with the rezoning.

To select a single moment in this process is tough, but in December an event at one particular meeting stands out. Throughout the years of monthly meetings one particular father in the community has been insisting on making sure the TCHC retains basement storage areas in the new town homes for co-op residents. The gentleman is a talented woodworker and uses his basement as a workroom. The man helps other residents by building shelves and doing small repairs. He also helps out the community gardeners by building their planter boxes. The question of whether the new units will have basements has been touch and go, as TCHC expressed concerns about hoarding. The developer on site was confident basements could be included, the residents pushed hard and staff kept negotiating.

At the last meeting of the year it was announced that basements would be part of the new design. The man beamed, the room celebrated, even the TCHC staff person was all smiles. Moving the big stuff forward is important, but we all need reminding sometimes that getting the details right is quite often what defines the achievement. In this case one resident fighting with his neighbours made his life better, his community stronger and in doing all that made my year.

2) Going Forward: In 2013, what is the one aspect you would like to see happen that would help develop better civic discourse?

Continued success on getting transportation challenges in the city solved. Whether by foot or on two wheels or more, whether by public transit, wheel chair or car, this city needs to figure out how to accommodate the choices people make about how to move in this city. Despite the rhetoric, despite Ottawa and Queen’s Park doing just the bare minimum and despite the relentless focus on traffic, as if road capacity is the only issue that needs addressing, I believe that real progress is possible if we can work as a council and begin work as a region on this issue. Part of the solution lies in finance, but just as much involves convenience trumping efficiency. It requires focussing on creating and sustaining streets as destinations as much as protecting them as thoroughfares. It also of course demands that council celebrate great design, and stop tolerating mediocre one size fits all solutions to building better, more complete streets for all.

merrychristmas2012

seasonally submitted by Councillor Adam Vaughan


Councillor Christmas Continues

December 27, 2012

(Christmas day may be past but our City Hall holiday spirit continues. Today, Councillor Sarah Doucette, Ward 13, Parkdale-High Park!)

*  *  *

sdoucette

1) The Gift of Councilling: What is the one moment in 2012 that struck you as the best example of why it was you became a councillor?

High Park – rebuilding the Jamie Bell Playground within 4 months after the fire and keeping the High Park Zoo open.

2) Going Forward: In 2013, what is the one aspect you would like to see happen that would help develop better civic discourse?

Respect for the deputation process – This year I was only able to give residents 48 hours notice of a public meeting regarding the closure of the Runnymede Fire Station. This gave them less than 12 hours notice before the deputation registration deadline.

merrychristmas2012

seasonally submitted by Councillor Sarah Doucette


Another Councillor Christmas

December 24, 2012

(The second of our holiday themed thoughts from our city councillors. Today? Councillor Pam McConnell, Ward 28, Toronto-Centre Rosedale!)

*  *  *pmcconnell

1) The Gift of Councilling: What is the one moment in 2012 that struck you as the best example of why it was you became a councillor?

For 2012, the moment that stands out for me is the opening of the new Regent Park Aquatic Centre.  This project that has been in the making for 18 years, with the decision to decommission the old Lord Dufferin School pool.  The completion of the aquatic centre is the culmination of many years of consulting with the community, to learn the types of amenities they need for their facility, making sure that the plans properly reflected those needs, and trying to ensure the funding was in place to deliver those needs.  In the end, we received a beautiful facility that is a jewel in Regent Park’s crown, and it will serve everyone, including young children, seniors, those with disabilities, and our Muslim women who desired privacy and women-only swims. And by ensuring that this facility receives a Priority Centre designation, we have established that income will not be a barrier and that everyone inside the community and in the surrounding neighbourhoods can fully participate and enjoy this aquatic centre.

2) Going Forward: In 2013, what is the one aspect you would like to see happen that would help develop better civic discourse?

I think that it is possible to have a productive civic discourse when everyone focuses on building a healthy and vibrant city as the top priority.  At one of the recent Council meetings, we unanimously adopted the Recreation Service Plan.  Recreation programs are incredibly important to the health and well-being of all residents, and I have been promoting improved access since before I was a Councillor.  The new strategic direction in the plan will open up 17 new Priority Centres – primarily in the under-serviced suburbs – and provide free recreation programming for children, youth, and seniors.  Along with this was a Council decision to reverse the implementation of user fees for adults at these Priority Centres, which is a decision I fought against.  I was extremely encouraged to see all Councillors come together, recognizing the value to all residents, and move forward on a program that will have a profound change in so many lives across the city.  It is possible, when everyone chooses to put their best foot forward.

merrychristmas2012

 — Yuletidely submitted by Councillor Pam McConnell


Our Man Joe

December 23, 2012

As our friend Tim Falconer reminded us yesterday, it was ten years ago that Joe Strummer died.

joestrummer2

Back in 2002, I was having dinner with some friends between Christmas and New Year’s. During the course of the conversation, I expressed sadness at the news of Strummer’s death a couple days prior. One of the people at the table had not heard yet about it and let fly with an uninhibited ‘Joe Strummer died?!’ (We were a couple bottles in by that time.) theclashThis created quite a stir among our fellow diners in the restaurant, and not because of the volume of the outburst but because, well, Joe Strummer had died.

A surprising number of people around us were genuinely upset by the news.

Why surprising?

It was two decades since Strummer was at his peak popularity as the lead singer and co-soul behind the seminal group, The Clash. He’d been something of a peripatetic musician-public personality since that time. Acting in ultra-indie movies, stepping in as a replacement musician, radio show host. His work with the Mescaleros was terrific but somewhat unsung in terms of popularity.

But his death revealed a widespread and deeply felt connection between him and those who followed him regardless of what he was doing. He was our front man in the only band that mattered still, twenty years on.

As someone designated a boomer (although Mr. Falconer has embraced our own generational label), I grew up in the flat lined part of that demographic. Forever overshadowed by The Sixties, where for many popular music stopped when The Beatles disbanded, the following decade always felt like the poor cousin. TIt was all somehow nothing more than an extension of what had happened previously.

Still, I’m struck by how much music we crammed in to our teenage years during that thought of by some musical wilderness of the 70s. The burning hot intensity that seemed to go cold within what must’ve been a matter of months. Early on in high school I remember my KISS and Aerosmith phases, followed by a prog rock period. While I listened intensely to Yes and Emerson, Lake and Palmer, somehow there was that crazy Darkness on the Edge of Town Springsteen infatuation.

I came gradually to punk music, not immediately enamoured with the Pistols. But eventually, I fell and I fell hard. Mostly because of The Clash.

They were probably two albums in when I did which is not surprising since when I look back on it, they were crazy productive. The Clash in 1977. Give `Em Enough Rope, 1978. London Calling, 1979. Sandinista!, 1980. Combat Rock, 1982.

This is where I get my generational back up. Fjoestrummer1uck The Beatles, man. I defy anyone to try and match that, album for album, song for song, over a 5 year period.

Joe Strummer wasn’t The Clash. Mick Jones was the musician in the band and was the perfect fragile foil to Strummer. Jones went on to do some era defining music on his own with B.A.D and produced two of my favourite albums from the last decade from one of my favourite bands, The Libertines.

But Strummer… *sigh*. Not for nothing The Hold Steady’s Craig Finn sang: Raise a toast to St. Joe Strummer/I think he might’ve been our only decent teacher.

Strummer showed us it was cool to be political. Cool and vital. You didn’t have to sing like an angel or play guitar like a prodigy, you just had to have a heart.

For someone as musically cloistered as I was, Strummer proved to be an important guide, never getting stuck in one genre. I was introduced to kinds of music that, up to that point, I would never think of listening to. Jesus Christ, listen to the evolution from The Clash to Sandinista! In three fucking years.

Joe Strummer didn’t just sing about never settling, never giving up, never surrendering. He lived it. He carried a vulnerable swagger, a sense of knowing he was right but not certain enough to pull it off entirely. That’s the spirit I think many of us embraced as our own.

joestrummer3

So now all I have to do is to die before Tim Falconer, in order to lift his idea for my funeral.

And when Joe Strummer’s “Silver and Gold” plays — as I insist it will — everyone must stay quiet until the song ends and, after a pause, Strummer says, “Okay. That’s a take.”

Tim Falconer, It’s My Funeral

sadly submitted by Cityslikr


Season’s Greeting From City Hall

December 21, 2012

(In case you missed it here yesterday, throughout the next couple weeks we’ll be posting responses we’ve received from city councillors who answered two questions we floated by them. First up! Ward 21 St. Paul’s, Councillor Joe Mihevc!)

*  *  *

jmihevc

1) The Gift of Councilling: What is the one moment in 2012 that struck you as the best example of why it was you became a councillor?

Two events and highlights stand out for me: the victory in returning to the Transit City plans in the early part of the year is probably the biggest shift in public policy this term of Council. It has saved millions of dollars and will build the transit system that we had been planning for years before Mayor Ford made his “subways only” announcement.

The opening of the new Cedarvale Skating Rink at the rear of Phil White arena is my local highlight. We had been working on this for about 4 years. Every time I go by now it is packed with skaters and hockey players. In the end good local politics is about facilitating this kind of local neighbourhood improvements.

2) Going Forward: In 2013, what is the one aspect you would like to see happen that would help develop better civic discourse going forward?

If I could dictate a policy at city Council, it would be that each member of Council, before making our own speech, would have to summarize the previous speaker’s points in less than a minute to the satisfaction of the previous speaker. This would help on the active listening side of things and help us all to see the best in our political opponents’ perspective. We need to better appreciate the good reasons that stand behind some of the bad choices and votes that each one of us makes.

merrychristmas2012

1st day of winterly submitted by Councillor Joe Mihevc


A Merry Councillor Christmas

December 20, 2012

Right. It’s settled then. That ringing in my ears? Definitely Christmas bells. ringinginmyearsOr, Jingle Bells, to use the more folksy vernacular.

I know it’s only Thursday, still five days to go before the actual statutory holiday but… [insert mayor in Florida/Budget Chief in Rio joke here.]

Now, I’m not saying we’re done here for this year at All Fired Up in the Big Smoke. You never know what might set us off, piercing our already egg nog & rum induced haze, and sitting us back down to write over the course of the next couple weeks or so. All I’m saying is don’t expect much, if in fact you ever really do when clicking on these wire and tube based pages.

What you can expect (fingers crossed, knock on wood) between now and into the early days of 2013 are some words from our very own city councillors. Earlier this month, we sent out RFIs to all 44 and – rsvpfull disclosure here, not the mayor but only because it’s really a hassle to email him. You can’t just fire off a message. You’ve got to fill out a form and we thought it best not to give the mayor’s office our address. No good could come of that. Prank called pizzas delivered and all of that stuff.

We asked two of the corniest questions we could come up with because, well, that’s the nature of this season, isn’t it? Rich food and cheap sentiment. And we promised to run them as is, intact, untouched by us.

How corny?

You be the judge.

1) The Gift of Councilling: What is the one moment in 2012 that struck you as the best example of why it was you became a councillor.

2) Going Forward: In 2013, what is the one aspect you would like to see happen that would help develop better civic discourse?

We were going to ask what their favourite holiday movie or TV special zuzuwas but this is all about peace, harmony and good will, and how many family fights have you witnessed that started over this statement: It’s A Wonderful Life?! That’s not a Christmas movie. It’s so sad!

We put no word limit on, suggesting anywhere from a single word to paragraph but left it entirely up to the councillor’s discretion. So far, there’s been a trickling in of responses, quite a few positive expressions of interest and only a couple polite and curt Up Yours, Buddy.

We’ll just wait, sit back, see what happens and post accordingly.

What we will ask of our readers is to keep any thoughts they may have in the spirit of the season. We will not look kindly upon any comments that do not reflect the better angels of our natures. Keep it civil, is what I’m saying. We can go back to bashing each other on January 7th, 2013. You know, if there’s a 2013 and all that.

Until then, the best of the season to y’all and to y’all a good day. I said, Good Day.

merrychristmas2012

almost solsticely submitted by Cityslikr