Wednesday, 21 September 2011

The Port Lands Timeline

From an out of nowhere Waterfront proposal to a midnight consensus the Port Lands has taken a lot of twists and turns in the quick month since it became an issue. In the interest of looking back and preserving those details, here is a timeline of how it happened:

August 25: Waterfront activists hear rumours that there will be imminent action on the Port Lands. 

August 26: At 4:15 on Friday, Port Lands item EX 9.6 is announced on the city website for the next Executive Committee meeting. 

August 27-28: On the weekend, speculation mounts as to what the Ford plans for the Port Lands are. Initial guesses include an NFL stadium at the RL Hearn site. 

August 29: After the weekend, the daily newspapers pay more attention to the Waterfront issue and it's generally not positive.

August 30: In an effort to gain public support Doug Ford is sent to pitch his vision to the media. With only rumours surrounding it earlier, he takes to Metro Morning, Newstalk 1010, AM640, CP24 and CTV to articulate his plan for a Ferris wheel, monorail and mega-mall. 

Predictably, Twitter reacts negatively. Laurence Lui (@larrylarry) starts the hashtag #CodeBlueTO to organization opposition. It will be the name of a quickly mobilized group of activists organized to support the current Waterfront vision.   

August 31: Doug Ford refers to his backroom meetings with developers as 'backroom vision'.

September 1: Torontoist contributor and Animaniacs enthusiast Jaime Woo creates a video to dispute Doug Ford's claim in his Metro Morning interview that aside from the Eaton's Centre there is nowhere to shop downtown (and thus a mega-mall is needed). 

September 2: John Tory and Julia Deans of Civic Action release a letter urging community consultation and cooperation with Waterfront Toronto. 

September 5: A formal complaint is lodged with the integrity commissioner over Doug Ford meeting with Australian mall developer Westfield without them registering as a lobbyist. 

September 6: The day of the Executive Committee meeting where architect Eric Kuehne's video and PowerPoint presentation is given (see eye candy designs here). There is strong opposition in the room, including critical deputations from former Chief City Planner Paul Bedford, waterfront activist and lawyer Cindy Wilkey and waterfront academics Gene Desfor and Jennefer Laidley.   

During the lunch break Councillor Adam Vaughan organizes an impromptu informational media session with Waterfront Toronto's John Campbell, Mark Wilson and Wilkey. 

The executive unanimously approves the motion to be sent to council, but executive Councillor Jaye Robinson is noticeably absent from the room at the time of the vote. 
Eric Kuehne's Ford Vision

September 7: After being critical at the executive committee and on Twitter, centrist councillor and critical vote Josh Matlow indicates in an online letter he will not be supporting the Ford vision. 

September 8: Mayor Ford gives a classic quote, that trees in the Port Lands are nice but a mega-mall is better because, "That tree can't employ anybody".

September 9: Waterfront Toronto officials indicate to the Globe that the Ford vision might cost $270 million more than the current plan. 

September 12: Ivor Tossell writes a very good piece for the Toronto Standard comparing Doug Ford to an 1860s prospector.

September 14: A very bad poll comes out that puts Ford's approval rating at 42% following the waterfront vision and KPMG cuts being in the news. 

Also today, The mayor's chief of staff, Amir Remtulla, writes a letter accusing Waterfront Toronto CEO John Campbell of a 'serious breach'. This is in response to a question about the pace of development and that he has to turn away offers because, "We cannot do deals behind closed doors". 

September 15: Jaye Robinson becomes the first member of the Executive Committee to defect over the Port Lands. Later in the evening TTC chair Karen Stintz posts a letter to constituents indicating the same thing as well as executive councillor Michelle Berardinetti. Deputy Speaker John Parker will later join them while executive councillor Peter Milczyn sends out a 1300 word e-mail to constituents explaining that he will support the mayor's vision but encourages compromise and cooperation.    

Also today, Richard Florida, Richard Sommer, Paul Bedford, Eric Miller and other leading Toronto academics, planners, architects, engineers and thinkers hold a press conference and release a letter to strongly criticize the Ford vision for the waterfront. 

CodeBlueTO also releases a comprehensive reality check and announces that they have reached their goal of 2,500 signatures. They would go on to collect 7000. 

September 16: A massive poll of 13,000 is commissioned by CUPE 79 that shows only 27% of voters would vote for Rob Ford tomorrow. The poll is ostensibly about the KPMG cuts but is further proof of Ford's declining popularity. 

September 18: Doug Ford had cancelled his guest spot on Josh Matlow's weekly radio show a few days earlier and Goldsbie teased on Twitter that Matlow would have story to share related to it on-air before 2:00. Matlow then related an exchange that while Ford had cancelled on his show he would do it the following week if he voted 'yes' on the Ford Port Land vision. Saying that he didn't do horse-trading, Ford allegedly responded that 'everyone has their price'. 

Minutes later Ford angrily calls into the show to correct what he feels are inaccuracies. He then inaccurately says that planner Ken Greenberg is married to Adam Vaughan's executive assistant and claims he feels bullied by Janet Davis. The whole thing is alternately bizarre and amazing (last five minutes of Sept 18, part one and first half of part two). 

Sensing that they have the political leverage, CodeBlueTO releases a 'no compromise' message to councillors, Waterfront Toronto and TPLC. They insist on the approved Lower Don Lands vision for river naturalization, Waterfront Toronto as the lead agency and to use the existing environmental assessments and research while recognizing the need for some sort of deal. All of these priorities will be realized in the final deal.  

September 19: While most eyes are on the marathon KPMG core service review Executive Committee meeting, John Lorinc writes an excellent Spacing article on the case to be made for measured compromise on the waterfront as Waterfront Toronto will still have to work with the mayor if the Ford vision loses on the 21st. 

September 20: Late in the day, word breaks that a 'consensus' agreement has been reached. The consensus is worked on until midnight and seems to have heavy involvement from councillors Fletcher and McConnell (whose wards include the Port Lands) and executive members Milczyn and Thompson.  

The consensus defers all governance 'enhancements' proposed for TPLC from the Ford vision and requires further financial and environmental assessment to be done with increased city coordination and a report to be completed for May or June. It also calls for an 'accelerated' timeline but avoids specifications. 

CodeBlueTO holds a public event "Behind Closed Doors" to raise awareness for the issue. They deliver their petition to City Hall and Pam McConnell and Paula Fletcher sing "Behind Closed Doors". In their three week campaign CodeBlue's website received 20,000 hits. 

September 21: The consensus agreement unanimously passes. Councillors and citizens in the audience cheer each other. The mayor goes up to his brother, shakes his hand and has a short conversation with him. 
The scene after the consensus vote with Rob talking to Doug and the crowd cheering.
Photo credit: A Goldsbie production

Correction (10:00 AM Sept. 22): An earlier version of this post incorrectly had the name 'Jamie Woo' rather than the correct and updated 'Jaime Woo'. I regret the error and thanks to Geoff Gilmour-Taylor for pointing it out.

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