Music To A Councillor’s Ears

April 28, 2013

Tell the truth.

communitybenefits

Have you ever heard of a CBA before? Community Benefits Agreement. Apparently, they’re all the rage in other places.

This from a handout I picked up at the Community Benefits Mount Dennis Weston public forum on Friday:

A community benefit agreement or CBA is a contract negotiated between a developer or public agency and a community that outlines the benefits the community will receive from the development in return for community support of the proposed project. Benefits can range from guarantees of local hiring and training to a Project Labour Agreement to community-space allocations and funs for community programmes.

When big development projects like the Staples Centre in Los Angeles, the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow and the Vancouver Island Highway came to life from the planning stages, representatives from impacted communities stepped forward to start negotiating for things like living wage agreements and apprenticeship programs. staplescenterBig development projects, you say? Toronto’s got development projects. Where are our CBAs?

The Community Benefits group is trying to get that on the table as construction for the Eglinton LRT kicks into gear. (Never mind that the PanAm Games are just a little over two years from now.) On the former Kodak lands in Mount Dennis, Metrolinx is set to build a maintenance and storage facility. Aggressive pursuit of a CBA would greatly help the area economically. An area in need of an economic boost.

Yet, on Friday evening the audience is told only six people in the entire city are working on the CBA angle. Six people. $8.4 billion is going into LRT lines in Toronto. How much in getting ready for the PanAm Games? And six people are trying to kickstart the idea of Community Benefits Agreements?

Our mayor expends what little energy he actually expends on his job talking up the economic upsides of a possible waterfront casino or island airport runway extension (while talking down new taxes that would directly lead to more jobs building transit). bigmoveWhy is he not tubthumbing about CBAs on projects that are already up and going? Fighting for fantasy jobs when there are real ones right here already to be had?

And Councillor Frances Nunziata whose ward the Kodak lands are in, one of the most economically disadvantaged wards in the city, where is she on CBAs? Why is she spending her time cheerleading Mayor Ford’s phantasmagorical pursuits rather than acting as a conduit between her community’s economic interests and Metrolinx on a development running right through her ward?

Councillor Nunziata is one of the biggest complainers at City Hall. Never does she miss an opportunity to point out how deprived and in need her Ward 11 is. An area of the city she has represented one way or another since 1988, it should be noted. Surely to christ she must be one of the six people in Toronto working away on Community Benefits Agreements for the Eglinton LRT construction. If she isn’t, why isn’t she?

The councillor made the briefest of appearances at Friday’s public forum. Shook a few hands. Stood in front of a camera. panamgames2015But was gone before the discussion got started.

A discussion that included Patricia Castellanos, the Deputy Director of the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy, who was instrumental in forging a CBA on the Staples Centre development. Ms. Castellanos praised the municipal politicians in Los Angeles she worked with, calling them enlightened on the topic of CBAs and very helpful in getting them finalized. She said that many of the councillors she worked with were embarrassed with high employment rates in their districts, so were driven to find ways to provide jobs and benefit their communities.

Maybe the first step residents of Mount Dennis Weston and Ward 11 need to take is to elect municipal politicians who will actually care about such local concerns as employment, training and poverty. Some new blood willing to learn about alternative approaches to community building like CBAs. Enlightened politicians embarrassed about unemployment and poverty rates in their ward, and prepared to do something about them other than just to use them as a cudgel to make divisive noises.

headinsand

helpfully submitted by Cityslikr


Heightened Security. Diminished Awareness.

August 15, 2012

If a politician says that what is needed to deal with a crime problem is more security, more cameras, guards with dogs on patrol 24/7, the next thing that comes out of their mouth should be: I resign. They’ve simply given up looking for actual solutions. Lock `em up and throw away the key. Problem solved.

“Most of the shootings that have happened in my ward have been at Toronto community housing buildings,” said Councillor Frances Nunziata, Ward 11, York South-Weston. “At these problem buildings we need 24-hour security, guards with dogs patrolling the area.”

According to the councillor, security cameras alone don’t help this situation. At least not in the 84% of TCHC buildings that are equipped with some 4300 cameras. So the only solution is to beef up security further.

The only simple solution, that is. Talk of alleviating poverty, providing opportunities that help keep kids out of the reach of gangs, creating less of a bunker mentality at TCHC properties, that’s a little too complicated, too hug-a-thuggish. And it all costs money. Money that could be better used further shoring up an already plenty shored up police budget.

It just makes sense. Step up an approach that hasn’t proven to be overly effective in curbing a particular behaviour in the first place. Like punching a baby in the face to stop it from crying. It’s going to work at some point of time, right?

Not surprisingly, the three councillors advocating this stepped up line of attack are three of Mayor Ford’s closest allies, Vincent Crisanti, Cesar Palacio along with Speaker Nunziata. There was hardly a program, service, tax they weren’t on board with the mayor to cut. A free public nurse to refuse. A Tenant Defence Fund to de-fund. Yet somehow there’s always money (in the banana stand) to increase security measures.

Never mind that there’s really very little evidence that shows that throwing money at a crime problem in the form of more security and policing yields much in the way of positive results. At best, it’s a knee-jerk, crowd-pleasing, stop gap, make-it-look-like-we’re-actually-doing-something display. At worst, it’s this. Something akin to a militarized zone.

What’s particularly galling about Councillor Nunziata’s role in this is that it’s as if she’s some kind of innocent bystander. Like her regular complaints about her ward and her former municipality of York always getting the short straw on things, there’s no community centre, the downtown gets everything and the suburbs get nothing, blah, blah, blah; all this helpless hand-wringing and cloaking herself in the victim hood and cape. Excuse me, councillor. But haven’t you represented the good people of York for, like, 80 years? If memory serves, weren’t you the city’s last mayor before amalgamation? Shouldn’t you be shouldering at least some of the blame for the state of things in your ward? For having nothing but the most simplistic of solutions?

Rather than just clutching at straws and offering up floppy band-aids, just admit you’re in over head and step aside. That’s what someone who was truly concerned with the residents of your ward would do. And take the likes of councillors Crisanti and Palacio with you. There are serious problems that need to be fixed and clearly your tool box is empty.

submitted by Cityslikr