All Fired Up in the Big Smoke
September 23, 2015
Councillor Gary Crawford
City Councillor, Ward 36 Scarborough Southwest
City of Toronto
100 Queen Street West, Suite A11
Toronto, Ontario M5H 2N2
Dear Councillor Crawford:
As an avid city council watcher, I couldn’t help but notice your appearance at yesterday’s Public Works and Infrastructure Committee meeting. Actually, that’s not entirely true. I barely noticed your appearance, coming as it did just after the lunch break when you attempted to get some quick item passed by the committee. Turns out it wasn’t that quick and got shuffled off to the next meeting of the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee in a flurry of what seemed to me at the time to be much baseless and niggling procedural wrangling.
Frankly, I’d forgotten the entire incident until a few hours later when the Torontoist posted this piece, Scarborough Sidewalk Skirmishes March On. It fleshes out your item PW 7.15, Midland Avenue Sidewalk Construction in more interesting detail. Allow me to quote the staff summary of the item as I’m sure it’s just one of many you have to deal with during the course of a day in the life of a busy city councilor.
In late July, my office was contacted by a number of residents on Midland Avenue who were disheartened to learn that, in accordance with City policy, a sidewalk would be constructed on their street in conjunction with area watermain replacements. In this case, while the watermain replacement stretches as far north as Kingston Road, the construction of sidewalks is limited to the west side of Midland Avenue from Fishleigh Drive to Romana Drive.
I have received a petition demonstrating that all thirteen homes on the west side of Midland Avenue from Fishleigh Drive to Romana Drive are opposed to the installation of sidewalks in the currently planned location.
“A number of residents…were disheartened to learn that…a sidewalk would be constructed on their street.” What? “I have received a petition demonstrating that all thirteen homes on the west side of Midland Avenue…are opposed to the installation of sidewalks in the currently planned location.” Surely, this must be some sort of joke. Opposed to a sidewalk?
In the letter, you go on to state that the source of this complaint is that the city’s sidewalk construction policy is not being applied fairly. If I understand your thinking correctly, other parts of the area in question are not getting sidewalks, so in the fairness, residents of these “thirteen homes on the west side of Midland Avenue” believe they too should not receive such fancy civic amenities as a sidewalk either. Perhaps, I am not properly reading between the lines.
Interestingly, in her Torontoist article, Sarah Niedoba points out a previous Scarborough sidewalk kerfuffle not far from this one. In that, Ms. Niedoba writes the opposition to sidewalk construction wasn’t so much a question of fairness as it was about the negative impact a sidewalk would have on the “rural” feel of the area. Rural? Scarborough? I had to check my calendar. Yes. Indeed, it was 2015 not 1815.
I don’t know how much of the ensuing social media chatter you followed but one point made which I think bears repeating, especially if you missed it. “So we’re building subways to a place too rural for sidewalks,” Mr. Alex Colangelo asked. We want our mod-cons to whisk us back and forth from our country homes.
In other words, Councillor Crawford, you cannot demand Manhattan while wearing a John Denver vest.
In other other words (and I believe this requires an ALL CAPS emphasis), YOU CANNOT ADVOCATE FOR A SUBWAY IN SCARBOROUGH AND STAND OPPOSED TO BUILDING SIDEWALKS THERE. I mean, obviously, you can and you are but that would be pandering at its worst. It is a refusal to accept the realities of living in a big, big city in the 21st-century at the same time demanding all the advantages of doing so.
Records indicate that you won re-election in Ward 36 last year by more than 4000 votes. Surely you don’t feel so insecure in your position that you’re compelled to rush to the defense of 13 misguided residents. Is anti-sidewalk sentiment so strong in Scarborough Southwest that it could make any electoral difference to you in the future?
Even if it did, this is a question of leadership, Councillor Crawford. Leadership means not putting your own self-interest, or that of a precious few, ahead of the best interests of the city. Leadership means championing good public policy not kneejerk, reactionary nimbyism.
All the best.