Wednesday 30 November 2011

Council Snack (sized news)- Photoshop Edition

Reddit had lots of fun with its Ford photoshop challenge. 
City Hall may have banned council snacks for its elected officials, but that doesn't mean us plebians should suffer. So here are your City Hall (news) snacks for Day 2 of the November session:

The big news of the day is the information coming out on the previously announced layoffs. Sue-Ann Levy feels the elimination of 2,338 positions including 1,190 firings is overdue, citing the struggles in the auto sector and media over the past few years as a parallel. If you follow that logic, you probably don't read this blog anyway. For bonus fun, see if you can find the glaring error/typo in her article (which has been part of the article for far too long). 

These layoffs and vacancies will have a direct impact on service and that's particularly bad for a mayor who has promised to improve 'customer service' so much. When they change the dispatch target times for emergency personnel and have a looming crisis with a firefighter shortage you're prioritizing your numbers over reality (more on this later).

Now also might be a useful time to remind Rob Ford of his campaign promise for no layoffs

In response, Adam Vaughan said these cuts are entirely avoidable and represent voodoo economics being driven not by reality but ideology. 

The other big news of the day was the proposal for a private-public partnership on the Eglinton crosstown LRT. There would be no problem for that on the construction side, but this includes looking at the operational side too. That is, that a private company would run the Eglinton line while the TTC would be publicly run. This sounds like it would have a lot of problems (Same pricing? Tickets? How to transfer? What about standards for employees?) It might also be worth mentioning that Ford's top strategist and policy adviser argued on his personal blog during the campaign to sell the TTC entirely.

Late last night the Toronto Star's chairman announced via an editorial that the paper intends to lodge a complaint with the integrity commissioner for the mayor's refusal to include them on press briefings and notifications of conferences. As they should. The administration's Star freezeout is juvenile, embarrassing and wrong. In spite of this, the Star provides the best coverage of City Hall of the four dailies and good on them for it. 

At council there were some key items. Most notable was a late-night vote to sell Enwave, which passed handily. It's a profitable city-owned enterprise but it makes sense to sell it. It's well positioned for growth but is under-capitalized, making it a good opportunity for an outside investor. Additionally, further expansion could help with providing strong environmental options for downtown tower energy use. The debate for Toronto Hydro is a different story and that will come up in January. 

There was debate on the city's naming rights policy and there are significant changes to it. Most importantly, city staff have discretion for naming rights on contracts up to $500,000 whereas previously it was a tenth of that, $50,000. Little to no naming rights go for more than $500,000 so it looked like it was intended to be a way for the Mayor's office to take power from council by having 'staff' make all the decisions. 

But a motion from Paul Ainslie nixed that and likely unintentionally. His motion expands the policy to city agencies, boards and committees, meaning that they will eventually go to Council. We all know from Ainslie's Twitter account how much he loves corporate ads, so this has to be unintentional. But there were some bad items too. Adam Vaughan motions to not sell sponsorship targeted towards children (a position Public Health supports) and not selling naming rights on heritage properties both failed. 

Mary Margaret McMahon's motion to allow backyard hens was referred to the Licensing and Standards Committee meeting on January 25, where I'm guessing it will be voted down. Twitter produced many successful puns on the subject though.

Council also voted to support sideguards on trucks in principle. I say in principle because they have no authority on this. Rob Ford was one of three votes against. Ford was also one of three votes against another Lawrence Heights project vote. 

My vote for worst vote of the day goes to Denzil Minnan-Wong, who was the sole vote against receiving a petition from 20,000 people in support of arts funding. Voting against receiving a petition? What the fuck is that? 

I don't really give many hat tips to Speakers Frances Nunziata and John Parker because they have been aggressively partisan in their rulings and the former consistently loses control and or track of the meeting. But both rightly admonished Ford ally Giorgio Mammoliti for abusing points of order and unfairly berating staff for not producing a document on short notice (Layton was criticized for this yesterday). So good on them. 

And good on Giorgio Mammoliti (weird sentence is weird). After a couple councillors, particularly Gloria Lindsay Luby, worried that some street names might be 'too ethnic' for people to pronounce, Mammoliti hammered this argument. To paraphrase, he argued: This is who we are and if these people are part of our history then they deserve to be represented. Have trouble pronouncing their names? Then learn them. Failing that is a slap in the face to immigrants. 

I don't get to write this much so I will- right on, Giorgio.  

I don't follow the theatre community, but I'm told a big-name producer was in attendance this morning and is looking at doing a production based on City Hall, which is great theatre in and of itself. It sounds good if this is better than the reportedly lousy fringe plays produced on Ford this past summer. Goldsbie, Nicholas Hune-Brown and Cityslikr are all much bigger theatre buffs than myself and seemed excited.

Over at Reddit, the hivemind went to work on photoshopping our Worship in a thread that has more than 500 comments and the results are pretty great. I posted my favourites on Twitter, but here they are again

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