Hear, Hear To More Misuser Fees!


There was a heated debate yesterday at city council over the above diagram. Heated, in as much as somnolence can be thought of as hot. Like, a nice warm afternoon nap under a cozy duvet in the middle of July with the white scorching sunlight blistering through the window.

What we’re looking at here is part of the city manager’s 2016 budget presentation to the Executive Committee. The rate supported budget, more specifically. The solid waste budget, more specifically still.

This particular graphic shows the estimated diversion rate of a single family household in Toronto. The big bin on the left breaks down the percentage of household waste into categories. 38% for both green bin organic waste and straight to the landfill garbage. 15% recycling, 3% yard waste, 2% electronic waste, 1% household hazardous waste. Then there’s the 3% ‘other’ which, if not any of the above, if not even electronic or household hazardous waste, I have to ask, What the fuck is it?! I mean, am I being too squeamish? Just what other kinds of stuff are people tossing out to the curb?

On the right side of the top photo are the 4 sizes of black, straight-to-landfill (in theory) garbage bins households can opt for, the cost for which rises, the bigger you go, and not proportionately so. disgustingFor good reason. This is the type of waste we should be minimizing, diverting away from. It’s expensive to deal with. It’s environmentally problematic. It’s largely unnecessary waste, profligate, if you will. Wasteful waste.

So owners of the bigger bins pay a lot more, perhaps not on the immediate face of it but through hugely different rebate rates, ranging from a 96% rebate on small bins to just 24% on the extra-large ones. That meant, this year, people using the small garbage bin paid $10.63 a year to have their garbage collected while anyone insisting on the extra-large black bins got dinged $343.60 for the same service. Unfair! as some claimed? No. It’s a financial incentive, a nudge, to use the parlance of the times, for people to stop loading up with the garbage garbage, the garbage that’s most costly for the city to deal with.

Now here’s the kicker. Those 4 black bins in the diagram at the top of the page show an interesting, pertinent and enraging thing. Aside from a statistical flip-flop between the medium sized bin owners and their small bin counterparts, the bigger the bin, the less actual garbage garbage goes into them. That is, the bigger the bin, the less recycling, the less separating of waste there is.

According to city staff, on average, extra-large black bins are filled with 77% of crap that could be tossed elsewhere, the blue bins, the green bins, etc. Over 3/4s of the average extra-large black bin consists of stuff that shouldn’t be there! illegaldumpingIf it weren’t, those people could get smaller black bins and pay less to have them picked up.

Yet some people find the price disparity outrageous! Some outraged city councillors put their names to misleading and misinformed op-ed pieces in local rags, indignant at what they already pay, and now further incensed of a proposed 3% increase in 2016.

Property taxes are meant to cover costs for essential city services, such as police, fire fighting, public works, water supply and sewer services. This proposed garbage tax increase is not only regressive by punishing low- and middle-income families, it targets residential property owners who are doing an excellent job in exceeding the city’s waste diversion rates.

So says Councillor Cesar Palacio. Except that it doesn’t.

Earlier in the article, Councillor Palacio claimed the city was thinking of doing away with the garbage bin rebate subsidies. That doesn’t appear to be true. Budget Chief Gary Crawford suggested that they could ditch the subsidy on just extra-large bins. You know, the ones owned by people who, in fact, weren’t ‘doing an excellent job in exceeding the city’s waste diversion rates.’ Just the opposite. People who could save themselves all that money by taking a little time to sort through their shit and put it in the right bin rather than dump it all in the biggest one they have and let somebody else do it for them.

I’m paying big bucks for this big black bin, dammit. So, I’ll recycle what I want, when I want. tossoutthewindowIncentive, my ass. It’s just another tax grab as far as I’m concerned.

Actually, no. Let’s call it what it really is when you have the option to do the right thing that comes with an added bonus of saving you money but you choose to do otherwise, taking the easiest path of least resistance and contribution. A misuser fee.

Shame on any councillor who actively pushes against the application of this kind of levy.

self-righteously submitted by Cityslikr

The Worst. The Absolute Worst.

Just about a year ago (340 days or so but who’s counting?), as the results of the 2014 municipal election rolled in, I looked over the debris and carnage and declared that this may well shape up to be an even worse city council than the one that preceded it.JustinDiCiano

Impossible to imagine, I know, in the wake of the drunken, crack-laden, I’ve got enough to eat at home Ford years. But I held firm in my view that we did ourselves no favours with the new composition of council even with the new mayor we installed. Just watch, I said.

While I think there have been more than a few examples to back up my claim (the Gardiner east hybrid hybrid anyone?), a vote last night at council cemented it. In a 25-18 vote, our local representatives decided to reverse course and reject the notion of using ranked ballots in forthcoming elections. “A real setback for democratic reform and renewal,” according to Councillor Joe Mihevc.

How did such a turnaround happen? Aside from this simply being a worse city council, you mean? We have to go back to earlier this year, June to be exact.

The province is undergoing a 5 year review of the City of Toronto Act, the 2006 piece of legislation where Queen’s Park bestowed more powers and autonomy on Toronto’s city council. City staff struck up its own review process and the mayor’s office established a panel of 3 councillors, Norm Kelly, Kristyn Wong-Tam and Justin Di Ciano, to work with the staff in coming up with recommendations to pass along to the province for its consideration. The resulting report was before city council to vote on yesterday.

During the debate, councillors were putting forth ideas of their own to package off and send to Queen’s Park. JustinDiCianoThey were flying so fast and furiously at one point that Mayor Tory stood up to lecture his colleagues on governing ‘on the fly’. Staff had worked with council for months to come up with this report. These slap ons were, to the mayor’s mind, going to muddy the waters and diminish the seriousness of the report’s intent. Two of the working group members, councillors Kelly and Wong-Tam, echoed that sentiment.

The third member of the panel, Councillor Justin Di Ciano, had other ideas. Despite apparently working throughout the summer with Kelly and Wong-Tam and city staff on the report council was now amending, plenty of time, you’d assume, for him to float the idea of tossing out the request for ranked ballots, he decided to pursue it ‘on the fly’, as the mayor said. What were his reasons? They were doozies. Real fucking doozies.

Voters found ranked ballots “too confusing” he said. Never mind that the Toronto Star’s Betsy Powell explained how they work in a couple paragraphs.

Under ranked balloting, voters select candidates in order of preference — potentially first, second and third. The candidate with the majority of first-place votes — 50 per cent plus one — wins, just as in the current system.

If nobody meets that threshold, the candidate with the fewest first-place votes is knocked out. The second-place choices of that candidate’s supporters are added to the totals of the remaining hopefuls, and so on, until someone has a majority.

Hopelessly and utterly confused, are you? As the ranked ballot literature says, Easy as 1, 2, 3.

Under softball questioning from fellow council lightweight, Michelle Berardinetti, Councillor Di Ciano cited some study from California that said ‘low-income voters’ had trouble understanding ranked ballots. JustinDiCianoSee? The poorz. They just wouldn’t get it.

The councillor went on to say that this particular council, you know, the one worse than the previous one, shouldn’t be beholden to a decision made late last term. The vote on ranked ballots happened in June of 2013, with almost 18 months left in the mandate. What point does Councillor Justin Di Ciano think should serve as a cutoff in the term of council when it needs to stop doing stuff that might impinge on subsequent councils? A year? Two?

What makes this line of reasoning even more fucking ridiculously vacuous is that the June 2013 vote from city council was a request to the provincial government for the power to decide to use ranked ballots. Even if the province grants the city that power, council would have to vote to enact it. So this city council would have the opportunity to vote against it, and no decision from the previous council would be forced upon it.

Instead, city council said yesterday, nope, don’t even want to consider it.

This boneheaded motion from a terrible, terrible city councillor, Justin Di Ciano, could’ve, should’ve died right there, in its infancy. JustinDiCianoAll it needed was 7 councillors who’d voted in favour of requesting ranked ballots in June 2013 (and one who’d “missed” that particular vote) to vote against it. Amazingly, they didn’t. They did a 180. Like that. Killing months and years of advocacy that a whole lot of people had dedicated their time to. Just like that.

Who were those councillors?

Councillor Michelle Berardinetti (Ward 35 Scarborough Southwest). Councillor Gary Crawford (Ward 36 Scarborough Southwest). Councillor Glenn De Baeremaeker (Ward 38 Scarborough Centre). Councillor Paula Fletcher (Ward 30 Toronto-Danforth). Councillor Mary Fragedakis (Ward 29 Toronto-Danforth). Councillor Cesar Palacio (Ward 17 Davenport). Councillor Anthony Perruzza (Ward 8 York West). Councillor Jaye Robinson (Ward 25 Don Valley West).

Had these councillors not cravenly flipped-floppped, the results of the vote would’ve been reversed, and the motion would’v died. They did and it didn’t. Yeah, this city council sucks.

Click on those links, get a phone number or email address. And start asking these councillors why they changed their minds on pretty much a moment’s notice. Why did they think ranked ballots were a good idea last term? JustinDiCianoWhy do they think ranked ballots are a bad idea now? What changed?

Oh, and let’s not forget the architect of this clusterfuck and big ol’ fuck you to voting reform, Councillor Justin Di Ciano (Ward 5 Etobicoke Lakeshore). Remember this face. It is the face of a city council that makes you pine for the Ford years.

angrily submitted by Cityslikr

Challengers To Watch II

If I were a voter in Ward 17 Davenport, and I was forced to choose between the incumbent councillor Cesar Palacio and,mrpotatohead say, Mr. Potato Head, I’d have to go with the plastic spud. You can pop his eye out when you’re mad at him, plus he sounds like Don Rickles. Neither of those qualities does Councillor Palacio possess.

Fortunately for voters in Ward 17, they won’t have to make that kind of choice. In contention this time around in the upcoming municipal election is Saeed Selvam. He is one of numerous new faces and new voices throughout Toronto running for city council in October. We really should be excited at the prospect of such a vibrant slate of newcomers putting their names forward as candidates. We just have to figure out a way to get them all elected.

Mr. Selvam is a long time social and community activist, going all the way back to high school. He was a member of the Toronto Youth Cabinet. accomplishmentsHe helped create the Youth Challenge Fund. He co-founded the SPARK Initiative. Most recently, Mr. Selvam managed the Your32 campaign for the CivicAction Alliance’s push for more dedicated transit funding.


I got kind of winded just listing the guy’s accomplishments.

When we sat down to chat last week, and with Mr. Selvam already out there knocking on doors in Ward 17, he told me that what he was attempting to do was engage the disengaged. Last time, voter turnout in the ward was a good 5% less than the city as a whole, one of the lowest of the 44 wards. There is a pool of voters out there, largely ignored. It’s a potent number if the right voice decides to speak to them.

While a lot of factors go in to determining voter turnout – personal income, home ownership versus renting, the weight of incumbency – I do think the quality of representation plays a significant part. If your councillor is something of a stiff, disengagedslow to respond to requests and questions, rarely venturing out into the wider community or connecting with them in a any regular and meaningful way, I tend to think they don’t generate a mad rush to the ballot box come election day. Apathy breeds apathy.

For Mr. Selvam, the local leadership in Ward 17 has been largely reactive not proactive. Nowhere is that more in evidence than the St. Clair streetcar right of way. Or the St. Clair Disaster as Councillor Palacio has been known to parrot regularly.

You notice the boundary line between wards 17 and 21 at Winona Drive. East of it in the ward represented by Joe Mihevc, an early and ardent supporter of the ROW, business has bounced back and is flourishing in fact. Part of that is as you head east you approach the St. Clair West subway station at Bathurst Street. The neighbourhoods nearby tend to get a little more upscale too, as you start to nudge into Forest Hill.stclairdisaster

The other way, in Ward 17 the traffic snarls at the western end by the railway overpass that squeezes traffic near Weston Road. This presents the streetcar ROW as a problem not an opportunity for economic development. A disaster!

But Councillor Palacio was an opponent of the ROW from the get-go. He fought it, resisted it and wound up not prepared for the rebuild when the construction did finally end and the streetcars started running. So Ward 17 lags behind its eastern counterpart along St. Clair, at least in part, because the local councillor never accepted it or came to terms with it as an economic driver for his ward.

Mr. Selvam points out another under-utilized asset. Earlscourt Park, a strip of green space between Davenport and St. Clair, on the east side of Caledonia. creatingcommunityIt’s perfectly serviceable, according to Selvam but it could be so much more, much more of a true community gathering space.

Creating a stronger sense of community seems to be one of the main driving forces behind Saeed Selvam’s desire to serve Ward 17 at City Hall. While that may seem like little more than a platitude, an empty talking point, if that’s not every municipal politician’s political touchstone, then you have to question their ultimate motives. A community is only built through inclusion not exclusion. That can only really happen when you endeavour to open engagement to a wider segment of those you were elected to represent.

The truth is, it won’t be easy to unseat Councillor Palacio. He is a wily politician who has beaten back challenges from very impressive candidates over the past couple elections. This time around, however, he has the additional baggage of being one of the ardent supporters of our disgraced mayor, remaining loyal to the end. mosaicHe needs to answer for such loyalty, explaining to every one of his residents how that helped them in their daily lives.

Once again, Ward 17 Davenport has the chance to elect a representative to City Hall who better reflects the new realities of their neighbourhoods and communities. A new voice seeking a wider engagement with a constituency bigger than just those who voted for him. Saeed Selvam represents an opportunity for not just the ward he wants to represent but for the entire city to press the reset button and put the mess of the last 4 years behind us. To get on with the task of real city building.

helpfully submitted by Cityslikr