After the marathon Executive Committee meeting in July, councillors opted to punt on their next play. They left everything on the table — all of the hundreds of considerations identified in the KPMG report — and asked City Manager Joseph Pennachetti to report back on their feasibility in regards to the budget process.
And so he did, on Monday with the release of his ‘final report.‘ But the city manager’s report feels hardly worthy of such a declarative title, as it again seems to call for a punt, kicking the brunt of the KPMG considerations back to various agencies, boards and committees for further discussion and debate.
Pennachetti did, however, take some items off the table as potential cuts for consideration in the upcoming budget process. Below is a comprehensive list of what is, at least for now, safe:
- The Toronto Office of Partnerships: Because closing or reducing this office “could lead to lower revenue generation for sponsorships, reduced opportunities for P3s.”
- The Toxic Taxi: This service, which allows residents to schedule pick-ups for hazardous waste and other goop, will continue. Pennachetti points out that a cut here would leave residents without access to vehicles with no real way to dispose of household hazardous waste, and that it would result in reduced matching funds from Stewardship Ontario.
- Small Commercial Waste Collection: Ruled out due to logistic challenges related to determining whether curbside waste was generated by a residential or commercial source.
- School Crossing Guard Program: Among other reasons, it’s said that this cut would “present for the City potential public safety issues, leading to complaints.” People do tend to complain when children are injured by speeding vehicles.
- Water Fluoridation: In a move sure to rile up a bunch of people who love conspiracy theories, Pennachetti says that fluoridation is a continued necessity to ensure a docile population and reduce the risk of a mass rebellion. Just kidding. He says it helps improve dental health.
- Development of bicycle infrastructure: Thankfully, the city manager says that ceasing development of cycling infrastructure would “reduce the incentives/encouragement to cycle, increasing travel by other modes.” He also notes that “cycling is an environmentally sustainable mode of transportation.” Which seems obvious, but is probably worth repeating a bunch of times.
- Emergency Animal Rescue & Care: KPMG said to look at increasing response times for animal rescue, but friend-of-the-forest Pennachetti basically says that will cause more animals to die.
Pennachetti also rules out considerations that we try to establish a partnership with the federal government, making the Toronto Zoo a “National Zoo” associated with Rogue Park. He also nixes an idea for an independent, not-for-profit agency to take control of the zoo, preferring an outright sale to private owners.
Everything else remains on the table as we go forward, which continues to make for a frustrating debate. The Mayor of Toronto does not have the luxury of passing the buck on these kinds of issues. Citizens — or taxpayers; whatever –are entitled to a clear indication of what potentially will and will not be cut in next year’s budget. Only then can we have a full and honest debate about the city’s finances.