Public discusses city finances at York Civic Centre meeting

News Jan 21, 2011 by Noel Grzetic North York Mirror

Support for the arts, libraries and Transit City took centre stage at a public consultation meeting for Toronto's 2011 budget Thursday, but the matter of special interest groups also created a stir between two west-end councillors.

Halfway through the five-hour meeting at the York Civic Centre, Parkdale-High Park Councillor Gord Perks took offense to questions Etobicoke Centre Councillor Doug Holyday posed to a photographer about whether he was affiliated with a union whose director was present at the meeting.

"My privilege as a member of this council is being violated because members of the public are being intimidated by being forced to give their political and union affiliations," Perks said.

It had been earlier suggested at city hall by Scarborough-Agincourt Councillor and Budget Chief Mike Del Grande, that many of the people who attended a previous budget meeting in East York were with special interest groups. Perks had taken issue with that suggestion and now said people at this meeting were being forced to identify themselves as such.

Holyday said no one was being forced to do anything.

Despite the interchange, the meeting was generally peaceful with many citizens keen on sparking action from the council. Roughly 100 people were in attendance with around 45 speakers.

Resident Kevin Mader said the city should turn off as many unnecessary lights at city hall as possible to save money. He also advocated opening up more retail space on TTC property for additional revenue and the adoption of an automated fare collection system.

But the most contentious topic for speakers was Transit City.

"We've been talking about the 'war on the car' in the city but I don't think that the Finch West (LRT) proposal represents an example of that," said Desmond Cole, in reference to one part of the ill-fated Transit City plan. He told councillors he's talked to people who could use the line and they've told him it would be an asset, especially for Humber College and its students.

"We all love subways but they're not practical in every part of the city."

While subways are faster and have a higher carrying capacity, speakers noted Mayor Rob Ford's transit plan wouldn't reach as many Torontonians nor would it be as cost-saving per kilometre.

Ford joined the meeting around an hour and a half in, saying he was happy to hear from the public. "I just want to re-emphasize that you are the boss, you do pay our wages and salaries, and it's very important that we have these public consultation meetings."

He quietly exited in the last hour.

Other issues discussed include funding for a lawn bowling club and the Urban Affairs Library (and Toronto's other libraries), property tax cuts for seniors and promoting literacy for children.

Curtis Barlow, executive director of the Fort York Foundation and board member of the Toronto Arts Council, said he was pleased with the current state of the budget with arts. However, he encouraged council to stay on course with 2003's ten-year "Culture Plan for the Creative City" by raising the cultural investment per capita to $25 by 2013.

When asked by a councillor how this further funding should be procured - by reducing funding for another program or increasing property taxes - he replied, "I think that's a very tough question - that's not my job to answer it. It's your job to hopefully set the recommendations that we made and find a way to do it."

Another meeting took place that night at the East York Civic Centre and two were held in other parts of the city the day before. The aim was to shape the budget via more civic participation, something promised during Ford's campaign. The finalized budget is expected in February.

 

 

Public discusses city finances at York Civic Centre meeting

News Jan 21, 2011 by Noel Grzetic North York Mirror

Support for the arts, libraries and Transit City took centre stage at a public consultation meeting for Toronto's 2011 budget Thursday, but the matter of special interest groups also created a stir between two west-end councillors.

Halfway through the five-hour meeting at the York Civic Centre, Parkdale-High Park Councillor Gord Perks took offense to questions Etobicoke Centre Councillor Doug Holyday posed to a photographer about whether he was affiliated with a union whose director was present at the meeting.

"My privilege as a member of this council is being violated because members of the public are being intimidated by being forced to give their political and union affiliations," Perks said.

It had been earlier suggested at city hall by Scarborough-Agincourt Councillor and Budget Chief Mike Del Grande, that many of the people who attended a previous budget meeting in East York were with special interest groups. Perks had taken issue with that suggestion and now said people at this meeting were being forced to identify themselves as such.

Holyday said no one was being forced to do anything.

Despite the interchange, the meeting was generally peaceful with many citizens keen on sparking action from the council. Roughly 100 people were in attendance with around 45 speakers.

Resident Kevin Mader said the city should turn off as many unnecessary lights at city hall as possible to save money. He also advocated opening up more retail space on TTC property for additional revenue and the adoption of an automated fare collection system.

But the most contentious topic for speakers was Transit City.

"We've been talking about the 'war on the car' in the city but I don't think that the Finch West (LRT) proposal represents an example of that," said Desmond Cole, in reference to one part of the ill-fated Transit City plan. He told councillors he's talked to people who could use the line and they've told him it would be an asset, especially for Humber College and its students.

"We all love subways but they're not practical in every part of the city."

While subways are faster and have a higher carrying capacity, speakers noted Mayor Rob Ford's transit plan wouldn't reach as many Torontonians nor would it be as cost-saving per kilometre.

Ford joined the meeting around an hour and a half in, saying he was happy to hear from the public. "I just want to re-emphasize that you are the boss, you do pay our wages and salaries, and it's very important that we have these public consultation meetings."

He quietly exited in the last hour.

Other issues discussed include funding for a lawn bowling club and the Urban Affairs Library (and Toronto's other libraries), property tax cuts for seniors and promoting literacy for children.

Curtis Barlow, executive director of the Fort York Foundation and board member of the Toronto Arts Council, said he was pleased with the current state of the budget with arts. However, he encouraged council to stay on course with 2003's ten-year "Culture Plan for the Creative City" by raising the cultural investment per capita to $25 by 2013.

When asked by a councillor how this further funding should be procured - by reducing funding for another program or increasing property taxes - he replied, "I think that's a very tough question - that's not my job to answer it. It's your job to hopefully set the recommendations that we made and find a way to do it."

Another meeting took place that night at the East York Civic Centre and two were held in other parts of the city the day before. The aim was to shape the budget via more civic participation, something promised during Ford's campaign. The finalized budget is expected in February.

 

 

Public discusses city finances at York Civic Centre meeting

News Jan 21, 2011 by Noel Grzetic North York Mirror

Support for the arts, libraries and Transit City took centre stage at a public consultation meeting for Toronto's 2011 budget Thursday, but the matter of special interest groups also created a stir between two west-end councillors.

Halfway through the five-hour meeting at the York Civic Centre, Parkdale-High Park Councillor Gord Perks took offense to questions Etobicoke Centre Councillor Doug Holyday posed to a photographer about whether he was affiliated with a union whose director was present at the meeting.

"My privilege as a member of this council is being violated because members of the public are being intimidated by being forced to give their political and union affiliations," Perks said.

It had been earlier suggested at city hall by Scarborough-Agincourt Councillor and Budget Chief Mike Del Grande, that many of the people who attended a previous budget meeting in East York were with special interest groups. Perks had taken issue with that suggestion and now said people at this meeting were being forced to identify themselves as such.

Holyday said no one was being forced to do anything.

Despite the interchange, the meeting was generally peaceful with many citizens keen on sparking action from the council. Roughly 100 people were in attendance with around 45 speakers.

Resident Kevin Mader said the city should turn off as many unnecessary lights at city hall as possible to save money. He also advocated opening up more retail space on TTC property for additional revenue and the adoption of an automated fare collection system.

But the most contentious topic for speakers was Transit City.

"We've been talking about the 'war on the car' in the city but I don't think that the Finch West (LRT) proposal represents an example of that," said Desmond Cole, in reference to one part of the ill-fated Transit City plan. He told councillors he's talked to people who could use the line and they've told him it would be an asset, especially for Humber College and its students.

"We all love subways but they're not practical in every part of the city."

While subways are faster and have a higher carrying capacity, speakers noted Mayor Rob Ford's transit plan wouldn't reach as many Torontonians nor would it be as cost-saving per kilometre.

Ford joined the meeting around an hour and a half in, saying he was happy to hear from the public. "I just want to re-emphasize that you are the boss, you do pay our wages and salaries, and it's very important that we have these public consultation meetings."

He quietly exited in the last hour.

Other issues discussed include funding for a lawn bowling club and the Urban Affairs Library (and Toronto's other libraries), property tax cuts for seniors and promoting literacy for children.

Curtis Barlow, executive director of the Fort York Foundation and board member of the Toronto Arts Council, said he was pleased with the current state of the budget with arts. However, he encouraged council to stay on course with 2003's ten-year "Culture Plan for the Creative City" by raising the cultural investment per capita to $25 by 2013.

When asked by a councillor how this further funding should be procured - by reducing funding for another program or increasing property taxes - he replied, "I think that's a very tough question - that's not my job to answer it. It's your job to hopefully set the recommendations that we made and find a way to do it."

Another meeting took place that night at the East York Civic Centre and two were held in other parts of the city the day before. The aim was to shape the budget via more civic participation, something promised during Ford's campaign. The finalized budget is expected in February.