Fake, Plastic And Unnaturally Green

May 26, 2015

Just last week, as a matter of fact, I noticed a truck on our street delivering what were rolls of artificial turf. ‘Design Turf Synthetic Grass’, I guess the aficionados call it. fakegrassThe notion there was enough demand for this product for a company to actually specialize in it surprised me.

I’d assumed someone had plans to cover a small back cement patio or something similar with it. Friendly up the industrial concrete feel. But really. Does that a business case make?

“I call it year-round grass,” she said, showing off her a front yard carpet of green. “It doesn’t need to be watered. It doesn’t need to be maintained. There’s no mowing. There’s no care and feeding.”

Karen Stintz, folks. Former city councillor and 1 time mayoral candidate, extolling the virtues of an artificially turfed front lawn. Or, ‘Year-round Design Turf Synthetic Grass’ as a brochure might call it.

According to the CBC report, this new generation of astro turf is sometimes difficult to tell from the real thing. All the soullessness and conformity of a grass front lawn without any of the hassle to maintain it! We know how much Ms. Stintz valued the extra two or three minutes a day she got to spend with her family when, as a councillor, she voted to rip up the Jarvis bike lanes. So, any time not spent gardening or cutting the lawn is clearly important to her.

Cheap shot? Maybe. There’s certainly a whiff of the judgmental taste police in my reaction. fakegrass2I mean, come on, Karen. No aesthetic sense at all trumping pure convenience?

In the story, she points out that there’s a city by-law against artificial grass lawns, a $1400 fine for the infraction, in fact. Don’t city inspectors have better things to do, wonders Stintz and a neighbor, than skulk around every January, looking for the greenest of grass in neighbourhoods and handing out fines to offenders? A fair question unless the by-law has something to do less with the concerns of taste and suitability than I’ve expressed and more about, say, the environment.

Sure, as another neighbour pointed out, there’s no watering needed for a fake lawn. So that’s environmentally positive. But does this new generation of faux-turf allow for rainwater or snow melt to soak into the ground below it or does it simply act as a sheet that flushes it off into the sewage system? If not, then the city has every right to enforce their by-law, as convenience for one home owner costs the rest of us money.

At this point, we don’t know but as we also learn in the report, Karen Stintz is heading back to City Hall to fight this unfair by-law.

I’m not going to lie to you and say that news didn’t bring a smirk to my face.fakegrass1

How appropriate is it that, after 3 terms as a city councillor, her last one as the chair of the TTC no less, she resurfaces on the political map, fighting for the right to have an artificial grass lawn? That’s the extent of it, the depth of her 11 years of municipal political experience. “Fake, plastic and unnaturally green,” I tweeted out when I heard the news.

Not to pat myself on the back but I think that’s the perfect epitaph for the political career of Karen Stintz.

salutingly submitted by Cityslikr


Mayor Tory Is A Lawyer, Right?

May 25, 2015

3C

The new development, with a working title of 3C Waterfront, will transform a major portion of the land where the Don River meets Toronto Harbour. 3C Lakeshore Inc., a joint venture by partners Cityzen Development Group, Castlepoint Realty Partners, both of Toronto, and Continental Ventures Realty of New York, will develop the site. The 3C site, positioned between Cherry Street and Lake Shore Boulevard East, is the largest contiguous tract of land on Toronto’s East Bayfront. The project is designed to be a mixed-use urban development adding 2.4 million square feet of residential, commercial, office, retail, and parking space to the waterfront. The overall vision of the project is to expand Toronto’s waterfront to the east by creating a vibrant community space, a gateway to the revitalized Port Lands, and integrating nearby communities into continuous urbanity.

This was written more than 2 years ago, all of which has been thrown into disarray by the sudden appearance of the updated “hybrid” option for the Gardiner east expressway being pushed by Mayor Tory. “We’re this far from settling 3 years of an appeal,” Jane Pepino, a lawyer representing the 3C development group, told the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee a couple weeks ago when she was asked what stage the development application process was at. With zero consultation “and, seemingly, no overlap between those at the city who were working with us and those at the city developing this scheme,” Pepino said, they only found out about the new “hybrid” option at a public meeting just over a month previously.

Hastily drawn up lines on a map, erasing years of careful planning. Sound familiar?

[via @_JohnTory]

Mayor Tory will tell anyone who will listen that this was the “hybrid” option he supported during last year’s campaign. The “hybrid” option both his major opponents supported. That’s not the truth. As Ms. Pepino tells Councillor Ron Moeser during her deputation, the original “hybrid” option had “no detrimental impact on the 3C lands” and they “took no position on it”.

This “hybrid” option – let’s call it “hybrid reboot” – “came out of the blue” because of city engineers’ concerns about the original “hybrid” option.

So again we have hastily drawn up lines on a map, erasing years of careful planning.

What do you think is going to happen if city council pushes ahead with the “hybrid reboot” option for the Gardiner east, scuttling years of development planning in the process, on what is perhaps the most valuable land in Toronto? Can you say ‘litigation’? No? How about ‘massive lawsuit’?

When Councillor Joe Mihevc asked Ms. Pepino for a ‘rough ballpark, back of the envelope value’ of the 3C lands, she had a one word answer for him. ‘Huge’.

Where’s the common sense Mayor Tory keeps talking about in unnecessarily risking that?

advocatingly submitted by Cityslikr


Making It Up As He Goes Along

May 24, 2015

garyowens

A ‘Plan B’suggests the existence of a ‘Plan A’. Unfortunately for Toronto, John Tory’s Plan A consisted of nothing more than getting elected. Having accomplished that, it’s been pretty much flying by the seat of his pants slacks and talking non-stop to fill the empty void of governance, hoping no one notices the hollow sound of vapid cluelessness.

audibly submitted by Cityslikr


The Dead Calm After Ford

May 22, 2015

“The universe will unfold as it should.”

I don’t know about anybody else but I don’t find that sentiment all that reassuring coming from an elected official.

Sure. We can debate. We can try and make evidence-based decisions. We can, I don’t know, dance the watusi. But you know what? nonsense1At the end of the day, the universe will unfold as it should. Whaddayagonnado?

After nearly 30 minutes of, I wouldn’t say ‘intense’ grilling but not softballing from Steve Paikin, covering contentious issues like police carding, the Gardiner east expressway, the Scarborough subway, Mayor John Tory essentially gave us the figurative shrug. “The universe will unfold as it should.” Keep calm, folks. Daddy’s got a handle on things.

That the mayor doesn’t was clearly underlined by The Agenda host when asking some pointed questions about the decisions Mayor Tory’s been making lately. “Do you still support carding?” Paikin asked him. “I support the need to reform the policy,” the mayor responded.

Never mind that there had been an attempt to reform the policy in 2014. An attempt the police services under then chief of police Bill Blair simply ignored, essentially thumbing its collective nose at its civilian oversight body, the police services board and creating what Mayor Tory now refers to as a ‘vacuum’. Tomato, tomatoe. Insubordination, vacuum.

“Previously the police service hadn’t been able to agree with the police services board on policy,” Mayor Tory told Paikin. emptytalkJust like that. As if it’s perfectly reasonable for the police services to choose simply not ‘to agree’ with directives from the board that’s in place to oversee their actions. Whaddayagonnado? The universe unfolds as it should.

This was the first example of gaps, let’s call them, that Paikin permitted the mayor. Moments of clarification that, not pursued, allowed Mayor Tory to sound perfectly reasonable. There weren’t many of them, to Paikin’s credit. He was much more assertive than many of us thought he would be although he tended to be more deferential at times than he needed to be.

“Thanks for indulging me.”

“You know I’m just putting you through your paces here.”

“That fine,” replied Mayor Tory.

That’s fine?! Of course, it’s fucking fine. You’re the fucking mayor.

At one point of during the conversation Mayor Tory pushed back at Paikin: “You’ve put me in the position of defending my own decisions. keepcalmandblahblahblahWhich is what you do…” yaddie, yaddie, yaddie. Geez thanks for defining Steve Paikin’s job for us, Mr. Mayor.  Yeah. His job is to put you in the position of defending your decisions. Your job is to defend those decisions.

Which, when he wasn’t doing it flintily, the mayor did opaquely, with a lot of words being said, few in any meaningful way.

The Toronto Star’ Jennifer Pagliaro captured the mayor’s response to Paikin’s question that if reports came back suggesting overlapping transit demands for both the Scarborough subway and his own SmartTrack plan, would he reconsider changing his opinion on the need to still pursue both.

Well, put it this way. One of the reasons they expanded the study area of the current environmental assessment that’s going on is to take account of the fact that SmartTrack was going to be something that would hopefully proceed forward. And so obviously these studies are being done for a reason and I’d be irresponsible if I said we’re going to do them and then ignore what they have to say, but I think on the principle of building a subway, all three government made decisions on that.

Anybody want to try and parse that noise?

All three levels of government have decided to build the Scarborough subway, so, that’s pretty much a done deal. And I promised 22 stations in 7 years with my SmartTrack plan, and I’m not one to break my campaign promises except for that TTC fare increase but free transit for the kids! Look at me. Do I seem like the irresponsible sort? blahblahblah1I certainly wouldn’t ignore any report unless it didn’t jibe with my strongly held opinion like on the Gardiner east hybrid option. In other words… What was the question again, Steve?

In that space in time in which John Tory has sprung up as mayor now referred to as the ‘calm after Ford’, we squee in delight that the city has a mayor who doesn’t merely grunt and exhale heavily into a microphone. Mayor Tory says words! In sentences that form paragraphs!

It’s inconsequential that often times all that verbiage makes little sense, doesn’t directly answer direct questions, simply fills the silence with resounding nothingness. Compared to “I’ve got plenty to eat at home”, our Mayor Tory is simply Churchillian. We shall fight with obfuscation! We shall fight with bafflegab! We shall fight with mumbo jumbo! We will never surrender to forthrightness and candour!whatareyoutalkingabout

I applaud Steve Paikin and The Agenda for politely pushing the mayor out of his obvious comfort zone of unchallenged press releasing and revealing a surprising degree of thin-skinned petulance. Words, well spoken but ultimately meaningless, are no better than farting noises. Bullshit is bullshit, am I right?

“The universe will unfold as it should.”

We need to realize now that John Tory’s version of ‘should’ is much different than the one too many of us bought into during last year’s campaign. While he comes across as more articulate than his predecessor (again, a low bar), it’s obvious this mayor is no less bound and determined to pursue equally detrimental goals, flying in the face of overwhelming contrary evidence and expert advice, if necessary to do so. Should? No soothing words should convince any of us otherwise.

desiderataly submitted by Cityslikr


Tolling Smoke And Mirrors

May 21, 2015

hammeragoodideaOut of the fog of debate over the fate of the eastern portion of the Gardiner expressway, Budget Committee member James Pasternak floated the idea of imposing a toll on non-residents using the city owned and maintained Don Valley and Gardiner expressways. “I think the mayor’s hybrid selection is the way to go, but at the same time, you really do need a secure, reliable source to fund it,” the councillor mused publicly yesterday.

While any talk of tolling roads should be warmly welcomed into the conversation, coming as this does in the service of the willfully misguided effort of Mayor Tory to keep the eastern portion of the Gardiner expressway elevated, we have to simply shrug. It’s feels like little more than a dodge, frankly. An attempt to offset the cost argument against the hybrid option, and serving to deflect from the real issue at hand: the hybrid option is a terrible, terrible, terrible, terrible idea.

Besides, the mayor has no time for toll talk. Att least, ever since re-running for mayor. There was time when he held a different view. Of course.

Now as mayor of Toronto, money is no object for John Tory when it comes to dealing with his beloved Gardiner expressway. There’s just a secret stash of it, tucked away somewhere apparently, whenever he’s looking to gussy or speed it up and burnish his pro-car image.

Without mayoral support for the idea, it’s hard to imagine Councillor Pasternak’s toll item garnering much support, consigned surely to the trash bin at the next Executive Committee if it gets even that far along. The right place for it, if for the wrong reason. I mean, why would the councillor stop at tolling non-residents, aside from the fact they can’t vote in a municipal election in Toronto, freeing him of facing any electoral ire? It can’t be just that crass an idea, can it?

No, no. It’s a question of fairness. trashbinCouncillor Pasternak told Matt Galloway on Metro Morning yesterday [segment not yet archived] that Toronto residents pay to maintain the Gardiner and DVP from their property taxes. Why should outsiders get to freeload on our roads, paid for by our hard-earned property taxes?

But how about extending that sense of fairness a little further? Why should I, a resident of Toronto who helps pay for those expressways I rarely use, be forking over the same amount of cash as someone using them on a daily basis? That hardly seems fair, if we’re introducing the concept of road use/pay fairness.

Another member of the Budget Committee, Councillor John Campbell agrees. “I don’t see why all residents and all users of the highway shouldn’t be paying for it. Basically the TTC is a user-pay system. 80% of the funding for the TTC comes out of the fare box. Why shouldn’t our roads be the same?”

That’s just the tip of the inane iceberg of Councillor Pasternak’s toll idea, a half-baked measure with a full on helping of self-interest. letmecorrectitThe expense of co-ordinating the whole thing would immediately bite into any money made to throw at road maintenance. Fellow Budget Committee member (and former Budget Chief) Shelley Carroll said tolls had been discussed extensively, back in 2006 and the introduction of the City of Toronto Act. “What my colleague is proposing is ridiculously expensive,” she tweeted in response to Councillor Pasternak’s toll idea.

“You can’t collect from ‘outsiders only’ without use of transponder system or Tech ‘Road Pricing’ technology of some sort. Would need to be GTA wide, therefore, not just Gardiner. Would cost minimum $300/400 million to install. $30+million a year to operate. All of this would earn about $20/30 million net to Toronto because we would have to partner with GTA & Province.

Despite the fact the Gardiner and DVP are ours to pay for and maintain, in yet another example of the paternalistic relationship we have with Queen’s Park, we’d have to go to the province for permission to toll them even if it was economically feasible which it isn’t. In other words, Councillor Pasternak is just making noise in an attempt to sound as if he’s put a lick of thought into his idea.

But wait. There’s more from the councillor.

Maybe we should just upload responsibilities for these two expressways to the province, as if it were as easy as wishing. toshredsCiting a ‘historical imbalance’, Councillor Pasternak pointed out that other GTA municipalities don’t have to directly financially support their expressways, the QEW, 401, 404, 407. (Did I miss any?) Why should Torontonians have to bear the burden of the Gardiner and DVP alone?

I hate to break it to him but the Gardiner and DVP have always been ours. Aside from the strip of the Gardiner from the Humber to the 427 which the Harris government downloaded onto the city (h/t to Sean Marshall for that bit of info), these 2 urban expressways were Toronto’s from the outset, birthed and raised into being by the 1st chair of Metro council, Fred “Big Daddy” Gardiner, inspired as he was by the city building prowess of New York City “construction coordinator” Robert Moses. We’ve been maintaining them for some 50 years now. Why suddenly should the province feel compelled to start bearing that burden?

There’s nothing wrong with having a discussion about utilizing road tolls in order to raise revenue to pay for transportation infrastructure. facethemusicIt’s being done throughout the world. We wouldn’t be breaking any new ground there.

But let’s have a realistic discussion on the subject instead of something floated like a lead balloon for no other reason than to divert attention away from an equally politically loaded topic like what to do with the crumbling eastern section of the Gardiner expressway. Councillor Pasternak should be working on answering why we need to throw money to ‘retain and drag’ such an antiquated beast, why exactly is the hybrid option the way to go, not how do we pay to do that. The answer would be much simpler.

We don’t. It’s time to bring the fucker down.

demandingly submitted by Cityslikr