Jul 11

City Council Scorecard Update: Jarvis Lanes and Public Health Nurses

Toronto Council Scorecard

July 19, 2011 Update: Download (PDF) - Download (PNG) - Google Docs

July’s Council meeting was a feisty three-day affair with a strong emphasis on an issue I’ve already written about at length: the Jarvis Street bike lanes. I’ve included the key voting result from that item in this month’s scorecard, along with an item relating to the acceptance of two provincially-funded public health nurses. While it was the former that captured the city’s attention, the latter is probably more interesting in that it provides a very clear glimpse at existing ideological voting lines within Toronto City Council.

New Votes

City Council Scorecard - July 19, 2011 New VotesThe votes added:

  • PW5.1, Motion 7A — Moved by Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam, this was the most explicit “Save Jarvis” motion. It read as follows: “That the Jarvis Street bicycle lanes be retained and the traffic signal improvements to accommodate left turns for the Gerrard Street East intersection be implemented no later than July 31, 2011, as recommended by Toronto Transportation Services.” It should be noted that, without explanation, several councillors who voted in favour of installing the lanes in 2009 flip-flopped on their position, voting now to remove them. Councillor Josh Matlow said afterward that he voted incorrectly on this item, and should have been recorded in the affirmative. But I’ve decided to institute a policy: the scorecard will always reflect actual, recorded votes, regardless of intent.
  • MM10.9 — A member motion moved by Councillor John Filion, this item required a tough-to-find two-thirds majority to pass. It would have seized and allowed a new debate on an earlier item, deferred by Rob Ford’s Executive Committee, regarding two provincially-funded public health nurse positions. Ford had deferred the item in a bizarre decision not to accept the funds. This 21-21 result gives a clear indication of the current ideological lines at City Hall. I’ll highlight, too, that three councillors — Ford-supporters Karen Stintz, Jaye Robinson and James Pasternak — are conspicuous in their ‘absent’ votes on this item.

Trend Watch

After crossing the 75% threshold, Councillor Ron Moeser has now officially joined the ‘Ford Nation’ faction on council. The Scarborough politician had shown early signs of independence, voting against pivotal motions like designating the TTC an essential service, but in recent months has been a more reliable vote for the mayor’s office.

Of the remaining ‘mushy middle’ councillors, Chin Lee and Josh Colle tend to swing toward Ford Nation more often than not, while Mary-Margaret McMahon and Ana Bailāo have been edging toward the left. Josh Matlow, fittingly, is at a dead-even 50%. Maybe, for him, the truth is in the middle.


Questions about the Council Scorecard? Read my notes on methodology. Also, you can email me.

For those who have noticed that this document is getting progressively harder to read as it grows, take solace: things are happening. Stay tuned.

Jul 11

Searching for Council’s conservatives

Yesterday, Toronto City Council endorsed spending approximately $400,000 removing cycling infrastructure downtown and in Scarborough, despite staff reports that indicated the bike lanes had no substantive impact on traffic flow. They followed this up hours later by voting to uphold an earlier decision by the Executive Committee that, due to concerns that maybe someday the funding might be removed, Council not accept provincial money that would add two new public health nurse positions to the City’s payroll.

Let’s phrase that another way: over the course of one summer afternoon, councillors decided both to recklessly spend $400,000 for no clear reason and to play it safe, eschewing needed resources at public health because they might, one day — but probably not –, get stuck with a $200,000 per year bill for their trouble.

The same Council then had the relative gall to pass a motion calling for the province to step in and fund a greater percentage of the operating and capital budgets for the TTC. And so Council both rejected provincial money and asked for more of it on the same day.

Meanwhile, outside Council chambers, consulting group KPMG has spent the week releasing delightfully concise Core Service Review reports that all follow a similar template. First, they point out that the department they’ve examined has very little waste. Then, they drop a bundle of ‘considerations’ — not recommendations — that range from things like eliminating water fluoridation to selling the city’s stable of barnyard animals.

The consultants — who already have a checkered history with this kind of thing, having once produced a report arguing amalgamation would save the Toronto municipalities a significant amount of money — are clear that they aren’t even really looking at efficiencies as much as they’re laying out a list of things that could legally be cut from the city’s portfolio of public services. That this stands contrary to an election promise made by the mayor seems to have been tossed to the curb.

Also on that curb? The results of the city’s exhaustive consultation sessions regarding the Core Service Review. A full 60% of people who attended indicated they would accept increased taxes to pay for existing service levels. Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong, who’s had a fun week, said Monday that that group was irrelevant. “Self-selecting,” he said. Okay.

For the record, Toronto — you know, the city that we continue to hear is suffering from near-fatal fiscal wounds that can only be treated by deep government cuts — has some of the lowest property taxes in the GTA and recently voluntarily reduced its annual revenues by $60 million.

I’m not sure what you call the ideology that drives these decisions, but it can’t be conservatism, can it? Certainly not principled conservatism. A conservative would demand to see a business case before spending public money modifying infrastructure. In the case of Jarvis, Birchmount and Pharmacy, there wasn’t one. A conservative wouldn’t turn away provincial money — which the city has said it needs –, especially if there was a guarantee in place that the new positions could be eliminated should the funding ever be removed. (Which was the case.)  A conservative wouldn’t call on the provincial government for funding only months removed from electing to decrease the city’s own revenues, and hours removed from opting out of committed, ongoing provincial money for public health.

Our Conservative Mayor

Early in the day on Tuesday — before Council had really started rolling with the big items of the week — Mayor Rob Ford rose and asked to be recorded in the negative on four items relating to grant funding for community groups, including Etobicoke Services for Seniors, the Crime Prevention Association of Toronto and Variety Village. (The latter is interesting, as it comes only a couple of months after Ford made a rare media appearance announcing a new bus stop implemented to serve visitors to the organization, which supports disabled children.) The Mayor also stated his intention to vote against grants for heritage buildings. Late in the day on Wednesday, the Mayor added to this bizarre tally, lodging a vote against the 2011 AIDs Prevention Community Investment Program. This vote marked a milestone for the councillor-turned-mayor: he’s now voted against AIDS funding five years in a row.

The bottom line: If the Mayor of Toronto could have his way, it would appear that the city would cease most community grants, end some of its heritage protection programs and drastically cut back on public health funding.

My kingdom for a conservative

I don’t lean even slightly to the right politically, but I would like to think I understand the merits of conservative thinking. It’s about mitigating government risk, off-loading ambition to the private sector and, in times of economic hardship, turning to austerity as opposed to reinvestment. That’s fine. As much as I disagree with that line of thinking on an ideological level, I respect it. I can hold it in my hands and argue against it. It feels firm.

But what we’re seeing at Council these days isn’t that. It’s a weird mishmash of spite-based decision making and conservatism-when-convenient, held up by the enthusiastic wishes of a “silent majority” that only communicate through the cellphones of the mayor and his brother. It’s all glazed over with a slapdash of pseudo-libertarianism, the kind that exists in the minds of high school students who are like halfway through reading Atlas Shrugged.

Rob Ford is Rob Ford. I can’t fault him for that. He’s maddeningly consistent in his anti-government views and has been for years. What disappoints me — and continuously surprises me — is that he has commanded the support of a cabal of once-sensible Liberals and conservatives on Council, and has driven them to this point where Toronto is now governed by a Council with no consistent guiding ideology, principles, or direction.

Jul 11

The Jarvis vote: What the hell happened?

After a long and contentious debate that spanned across two days, Council voted today to remove the bike lanes on Jarvis Street and return the  street to its original five-lane configuration. The move will cost the city at least $200,000. The debate was marked by a series of (mostly) cogent arguments by councillors opposing the elimination of infrastructure that has, by all accounts, had no significant impact on traffic flow and increased the number of cyclists in the city. Those who supported the elimination responded by generally just wandering around the council chamber and not listening.  The hundreds of taxpayers who came to City Hall to support maintaining the lanes were dismissed by some councillors — notably Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday — as “bike people.”

The media narrative spinning out of today’s vote will be that the cyclists won a “concession” after Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong, chair of the Public Works & Infrastructure Committee and architect of the 2011 Bike Plan, supported an amendment that will see the Jarvis lanes removed sometime in 2012, simultaneously with the installation of new, repaved, separated bike lanes on Sherbourne Street. This is a too-simplistic interpretation that ignores the damage Council has now done to ongoing neighbourhood revitalization efforts across the downtown east-side.

What Council really did today was move to reclassify Jarvis Street — a place where people live and work and go to school — as a kind of downtown highway with a reversible fifth lane. In doing so they’ve thrown out a 2009 Environmental Assessment, a series of exhaustive community consultations and the objections of the local ward councillor, who was in the midst of ongoing neighbourhood beautification efforts in concert with local residents and business.

The vote on Jarvis came down with 18 in favour of keeping the lanes and 27 opposed. Or maybe it was 26-19. Or 28-9. No one is really sure.

Political Gamesmanship

Late on Tuesday afternoon, Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam — the local councillor for Jarvis Street — moved three individual-but-connected motions. Together they worked to protect her efforts to continue to improve Jarvis Street, a recognized “cultural corridor” in the City of Toronto. You can read the motions in full in the Decision Document, but here’s a quick summary:

  1. Council not eliminate the Jarvis bike lanes
  2. Council not eliminate the Jarvis bike lanes before the proposed separated bike lanes on Sherbourne are implemented
  3. Council not eliminate the Jarvis bike lanes before extensive community consultation

Her third item, calling for the involvement of a variety of community groups in an extensive consultation, showed signs of support from a few right-leaning councillors. And why wouldn’t it? Most would acknowledge that it seems cold-hearted to make significant changes to a street over the objections of a local councillor without so much as a public meeting.

Minnan-Wong, as the last speaker on the item, had an ace up his sleeve, however, as he moved an amendment to Wong-Tam’s second motion, explicitly calling for a return of Jarvis to its “pre-existing operation.” This stood as the first significant reference to Jarvis’ former five-lane configuration, and came after several of Minnan-Wong’s right-leaning colleagues had made arguments seemingly in support of a 2009 Environmental Assessment that called for wider sidewalks — instead of bike lanes — and the elimination of the fifth lane. His amendment also employed softer language, calling for more limited coordination between the removal of the Jarvis lanes and the installation of the Sherbourne lanes, as opposed to the original implication that one not happen without the other.

Wong-Tam challenged the amendment, which was ruled to be in order by Chair Frances Nunziata. A vote on whether to uphold Nunziata’s decision saw councillors support their Chair 27-18.

From here, things quickly broke down into procedural chaos. After the vote to retain the Jarvis lanes failed 18-27, the vote on Minnan-Wong’s amendment passed 26-19. Wong-Tam’s amended motion then passed 31-14 in the confusion, which had the probably unintentional effect of making her third motion — the one that would have allowed for public consultation — redundant. Minnan-Wong’s efforts thus had the dual impact of explicitly calling for the return of the fifth lane on Jarvis Street and ensuring that no consultations would ever be held on this issue.

The rest was noise. Some councillors lobbied Nunziata with the sensible suggestion that council vote on the individual items contained in the 2011 Bike Plan one at a time, as this would allow them to express support for elements of the plan while opposing others. Nunziata, as is her way, was obstinate and opted to instead hold only one vote. That prompted nearly all left-leaning councillors to leave the chamber before the results of the vote were read, with eight of them opting not to register a vote at all.

Not About Bikes

The most disappointing thing about today’s outcome is that it cements Jarvis as little more than a strategic battleground in a spite-driven war between cars and bikes. Bike lanes on Jarvis were never the entire issue. A reasonable compromise would have been to see a return to the original staff recommendations made as part of the 2009 EA: removal of the bike lanes in favour of wider pedestrian thoroughfares, and perhaps the installation of a few key left-turn lanes for automobile traffic. Instead, some councillors were disingenuous enough to pretend that this was their favoured option while ultimately placing their support behind a reversible fifth lane.

Today’s decision does little except increase the speed of automobile traffic, foster a substandard pedestrian realm and prop up Jarvis Street’s mid-century-to-now legacy as the tragic story of a once-great street in perpetual decline.


Jul 11

Who to call & email to save the Jarvis bike lanes

With some information that’s rolled in over the past week, I’ve been able to update my projected City Council Scorecard for the vote on keeping or killing the Jarvis Street bike lanes that will take place at next week’s Council meeting.

Councillor Josh Matlow made us wait, but confirmed last night that he would not support removing the lanes. The other Josh — Councillor Colle — has also indicated in responses to email that he does not believe that the City should spend money to remove the existing bike lanes.

I’ve moved some 100% Ford-supporting councillors like Giorgio Mammoliti and Frances Nunziata into the kill-it category, despite that they both voted to implement the lanes two years ago. There was never really a chance that they would vote against the mayor.

That leaves a scorecard that looks like this:

This leaves us with 19 in favour of keeping the lanes, 18 opposed, with eight undecideds or uncommitted councillors. Of the undecideds, six lean toward the Ford Nation side of Council, with middle-skewing Ron Moeser joining them more often than not. My suspicious is that Councillor Ana Bailão is likely to vote in favour of keeping the lanes.

The Toronto Cyclists Union reported yesterday via their twitter account that Mayor Rob Ford has claimed that 70% of the calls he has received regarding Jarvis Street support his view to eliminate the lanes. This is despite numerous reports via Twitter and social media channels from those who have called the Mayor’s famous phone number — 416-397-FORD – who say they were not asked for their name nor was their position seemingly recorded.

Calling Ford is never necessarily a bad idea, but I think it is becoming increasingly clear that it is not an overly effective strategy on this issue. As far as I can tell, the phone calls the mayor talks about receiving have only ever hardened his stance on key issues. Dissenting voices are dismissed as a minority. Calling him is not going to make a significant difference on this issue.

For those who want to truly influence the vote — which is likely to take place this coming Wednesday — I’d urge you to contact the councillors who are still listed as uncommitted votes in the chart above. Particularly if you live in their ward. You can find their contact information on the City’s website.

And if anyone has received an email or message from any of the uncommitted councillors above that makes their intentions clear, please let me know.

Jul 11

FAQ for Councillors considering the removal of the Jarvis Street bike lanes

Update: A version of this post is now available at OpenFile Toronto.

Confidential to Toronto city councillors still considering their vote on the elimination of the Jarvis Street Bike Lanes: So, hey, you’re one of those uncommitted councillors, probably hanging somewhere in the middle of the political spectrum.  I understand that it’s a challenging position to be in. Even if you are a tad uncomfortable with the Rob Ford brand of conservatism, you can’t deny the mayor’s popularity coming out of his crushing victory in the October 2010 election. And if he won big in your ward, doesn’t that mean that your constituents expect you to follow the mayor’s lead and support his team on key matters? Isn’t that the definition of democracy?

Spoiler Alert: The answer to that question is no. I’d suggest that you were elected by your constituents with the promise that you would use your best judgment and work to do what’s best for your ward and for your city. Sometimes that will involve going against what’s perceived as popular. Sometimes that will involve going against the mayor.

So, all that said, you’re considering an upcoming item relating to the potential removal of the bike lanes on Jarvis, and I thought it might be helpful to know the ins and outs of the issue before the motion comes to a vote next week. That way, you won’t have to worry yourself with what direction that famous thumb is pointing. You can just vote based on what you feel is right.

And that’s all we could ever ask of you.

Weren’t the Jarvis bike lanes implemented by the previous council, over the objections of many of those who currently hold the balance of power?

No. The previous council voted to implement Item 2009.PW24.15 “Jarvis Street Streetscape Improvements – Class Environmental Assessment Study by a margin of 28-16. Four members of the current Executive Committee voted to implement the lanes.

But I heard the bike lanes were added at the last minute when the cycling community hijacked the debate?

Not really true. Though it is factual that the original plan for streetscape improvements on Jarvis Street did not include the provision for dedicated cycling lanes, the preferred option from that plan did include wider curb lanes that would have allowed for ‘sharrows’ to allow safer travel for cyclists.

A quick history lesson: Jarvis was, for much of its existence, a tree-lined residential street, home to many of the city’s wealthiest families. Its decline roughly coincides with a decision to better facilitate automobile traffic with the installation of a reversible centre lane on the stretch of roadway north of Queen Street to Mount Pleasant. This middle lane caused an increase to the speed of traffic and made for a hostile pedestrian environment. A 2005 traffic study concluded that, on Jarvis Street, “the pedestrian exposure to conflict is undesirable.” (pg. iii) The study recommended the removal of the reversible middle lane, which led to a staff report calling for streetscape improvements. Following advocacy efforts from the city’s cycling community, the recommended plan was altered to include the provision for cycling lanes, which were installed following the removal of the middle lane in 2010.

But don’t the results of the 2010 mayoral election mean that people want the lanes gone?

No. During his campaign, Mayor Ford told the Toronto Star that he would not remove the lanes: “It would be a waste of money to remove it if it’s already there, that is unless there was a huge public outcry in the area.” As far as “public outcry in the area” is concerned, Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam, who supports the bike lanes, prevailed over opponents who vowed to remove the lanes in the municipal race last fall.

But Rob Ford says he’s gotten a lot of calls from people asking him to remove the lanes, shouldn’t we listen to them?

Absolutely. Consultation with the public is always important. Unfortunately, the item as amended by Councillor John Parker does not allow for further consultations regarding the future of Jarvis Street. In fact, a motion by Councillor Mike Layton that would have required proper community consultations before any changes are made to Jarvis Street was defeated at the Public Works & Infrastructure Committee by a vote of 4-2.

Wasn’t the original plan for Jarvis Street, which didn’t call for bike lanes, a better one?

It very well could have been. Jarvis Street suffered because the 2009 debate became entirely about bikes-versus-cars, when it rightly should have been about what’s best for Jarvis Street. But either way, that plan also called for the removal of the reversible middle lane, so impacts on traffic flow would have been similar.

As far as I know, there is still roughly $6-million allocated for beautification efforts on Jarvis Street, though I don’t think there’s a timeline attached to the work. Before removal of the lanes was put back on the table, Councillor Wong-Tam was also planning to spend $1-million of Section 37 funds to improve the street. Some of that money would have gone to synchronizing traffic lights to further improve traffic flow. All of this work is currently on hold, pending City Council’s decision.

Haven’t the bike lanes on Jarvis Street have resulted in significant traffic delays?

Not really. The bike lanes on Jarvis Street haven’t caused any significant delays. The removal of the reversible middle lane — which, you’ll remember, was going to happen anyway, bike lanes or no bike lanes — did result in a small increase in travel time at peak periods. Average travel times increased by approximately two minutes northbound and southbound in the a.m. rush, and by approximately three-to-five minutes in the p.m. rush.

Much of the increase in the p.m. rush is due to long queues as vehicles wait to turn left onto Gerrard Street. Traffic Services was set to install an advanced green phase this summer, which would alleviate much of the delay. At the very least, Council would be wise to wait for the results of a future traffic study, which should detail the effectiveness of the intersection tweak, before they take any further action on Jarvis Street.

Again, any delays are primarily due to the removal of the reversible lane. Removing the bike lanes could allow for the installation of dedicated left-turn lanes at major intersections, but that alone seems unlikely to substantially improve travel times. If council wants to explore that option further, I’d recommend commissioning a report.

What if I choose not to believe staff’s reported numbers?

You should panic. If that’s the case, I would suggest council has far bigger problems that they need to deal with immediately, and that those problems should take precedence over this issue. If you’re concerned that staff are being negligent or improper with the data they’re reporting to council, steps must be taken to improve that situation.

Of note: A recent news story relating to inaccurate cycling counts on John Street was due to a city-hired consultant using staff-reported numbers incorrectly.

Is it even feasible to re-add the fifth lane to Jarvis Street?

I don’t think so, no. Removing the bike lanes and installing some dedicated left-turn lanes is set to cost somewhere in the neighbourhood of $80,000. Reinstalling the reversible middle lane, on the other hand, would cost approximately $570,000. That’s a substantial financial outlay for the city, given current budgetary challenges.

Further, there are some relatively serious safety and design concerns relating to the previous configuration of Jarvis Street. Typically, the city recommends a minimum width of 3.3 metres for mid-block traffic lanes. Jarvis, in its five lane layout, had lane widths of only 3.1 metres. The 2005 Jarvis traffic study described the lane widths as ‘substandard.’ (pg 25)

Isn’t Jarvis kind of useless as a bike lane? It doesn’t even connect to anything.

It does, in fact, connect to existing bike lanes at Shuter Street. It will also connect to new separated bike lanes on Wellesley Street, should the new Downtown Bike Plan as proposed by Denzil Minnan-Wong be approved and built by this council.

Also, it’s important to remember that cyclists do not burst into flames should they come to the end of a bike lane. Jarvis also connects to numerous bicycle-friendly side streets, as well as popular destinations like St. Lawrence Market and Allan Gardens. The lanes are also directly adjacent to three BIXI bike rental stations.

But the plan for separated bike lanes on Sherbourne — only a block away — means Jarvis is no longer necessary for cyclists, right?

No. Just as Sherbourne and Jarvis are both useful for drivers and pedestrians depending on where one wants to go, cyclists use both routes. You would never argue that sidewalks are unnecessary on Jarvis Street because pedestrians can just use Sherbourne Street.

In addition, the Sherbourne Street bike lanes are currently in a shabby state of despair and require resurfacing. Given that council has not yet approved any aspect of the proposed plan for separated bike lanes downtown, removing Jarvis because of the existence of improved lanes on Sherbourne seems premature.

Finally, the installation of bike lanes on Jarvis have more than tripled the number of cyclists who use the route on a daily basis, which would indicate that there is significant demand for a safe bike route on the stretch.

Jarvis was one of the only working traffic arterials left downtown — how could making it slower be considered a good thing?

Jarvis is not simply a traffic arterial. It’s a street that has historically been residential, with a rich character all its own. In 2001, Jarvis was identified of one of seven “cultural corridors” in the City of Toronto. Thousands of people live and work on Jarvis Street, and more are coming as condo construction works it way east of Yonge Street. Jarvis Street is also home to schools — both a regular one, and Canada’s National Ballet School — and the aforementioned Allan Gardens, one of the city’s largest downtown parks.

As noted in remarks made by Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti, which came just before he voted to install the bike lanes, Jarvis is worth far more to the city as a vibrant place to live and work than it is as a simple traffic pipe. And given that the number of vehicle trips has not decreased even after the removal of the reversible fifth lane, it’s difficult to argue that Jarvis has lost utility as an arterial. It’s still doing the work it used to do, just in a slightly more civilized way.

What’s the big deal? Let’s just remove these things and move on with our lives.

Removing infrastructure should always be a big deal. Whether or not you agreed with the process that led to their installation in the first place, the Jarvis bike lanes are here. The city spent approximately $60,000 putting them in, and they are used by approximately 1,000 cyclists every day.

To justify their removal, councillors need to prove that the removal of this infrastructure is cost-effective. You’ll need to show that the money the city will spend removing these lanes will be recouped through increased economic activity. To do any less would be fiscally irresponsible.

Jun 11

City Council Scorecard: How to save the Jarvis bike lanes

On May 25, 2009, a very different-looking Toronto City Council considered PW24.15, “Jarvis Street Streetscape Improvements – Class Environmental Assessment Study.” This item ultimately led to the installation of the controversial Jarvis Street bike lanes.

In the coming weeks, thanks to a motion by Councillor John Parker on PW5.1 “Bikeway Network – 2011 Update”, council will once again debate Jarvis Street, its role in the city, and whether it should continue to be of use to the 900+ cyclists who ride the route daily. While the exact nature of that debate is still a bit unclear — Public Works Chair Denzil Minnan-Wong would appear to favour the return of the reversible fifth lane, but the cost may be prohibitive — cycling advocates within the city have already begun a campaign to Save Jarvis Street.

But given the divisive nature of council and Mayor Rob Ford’s effectiveness when it comes to gathering support for major issues, the question has to be asked: Can the Jarvis lanes be saved? Is there any realistic hope of Rob Ford and company not getting their way?

Combining data from the 2009 vote and trends from my City Council Scorecard, an answer to that question does seem to emerge. And that answer is: maybe. But there are still a number of blanks that need to be filled in.

DISCLAIMER: This is highly speculative. For novelty purposes only.

Surprisingly, seven councillors who are currently hardline Ford supporters voted in favour of the bike plan on Jarvis Street in 2009. Joining them in support was Councillor Ron Moeser, who leans conservative but tends to vote more with his conscience than with the whip. The 2009 vote passed 28-16, with 1 absent. (I’ve included a breakdown of that vote at the bottom of this post. Just for the hell of it.)

Making a bunch of assumptions based on current voting patterns — along with some statements councillors have made since this issue resurfaced, e.g. Mary-Margaret McMahon’s comment on Twitter –, council currently breaks down with 17 in favour of keeping the Jarvis lanes, 15 opposed and 13 unknown votes. Six of the uncommitted councillors need to break for maintaining the status quo for the Jarvis lanes to win the day.

Of the unknowns, Councillors Mammoliti, Nunziata, Kelly, Palacio & Grimes are likely to flip-flop on their earlier position and support the removal of the lanes. It’s hypocritical and barely justifiable, but that won’t be enough to stop them.

Of the remaining eight, the best bets for cycling advocates are Councillors Matlow, Bailão, Colle, Moeser, Robinson and Di Giorgio. The first three will be significantly easier to convince than the last three, who might trot out the argument that, following the results of the 2010 election, Council has a democratic mandate to remove the Jarvis bike lanes.

It all adds up to a very tough-looking fight. The next council meeting is set for July 12.

If anyone has any information on voting intentions for the councillors I’ve identified as unknown — or if I’ve got a ‘likely’ vote wrong — please let me know and I’ll update the chart. I can be reached via email or on Twitter at @FordForToronto.

Continue reading →

Jun 11

City Council Scorecard Update: Selling TCHC homes

Toronto Council Scorecard

June 20, 2011 Update: Download (PDF)Download (PNG)Google Docs

Last week’s council meeting was light on major decisions, as some of the hyped-up media items (shark fin soup and a second NHL team, for example) were deferred without much debate. The only new addition to this month’s City Council Scorecard is the item regarding the sale of 22 TCHC homes.

New Votes

The vote added:

  • EX6.5 — As written, this vote referred only to the sale of 22 single-family homes owned by the TCHC, located mostly in downtown wards. Several of the houses are currently vacant, waiting very costly repairs. There was a lot of discussion as to how many of the homes listed are actually eligible for sale under various provincial and municipal regulations. Regardless, the debate council had on this item was only nominally about the listed homes. (Council has often sold TCHC properties in the past. Here’s an example from last summer.) Opposition councillors seemed more concerned with the precedent set by the sale — especially considering Case Ootes’ recommendation to sell another 900 homes — and the belief amongst Ford-allied councillors that selling properties represents a scaleable solution to Toronto’s housing problem. As such, even after speaking at length with concerns about the sale, several left-wing councillors — including Kristyn Wong-Tam, Sarah Doucette, John Filion and Glenn de Baearemaeker — ultimately supported the sale. Notably, Councillor Adam Vaughan drew some flack from the mayor’s team for sitting out the vote in protest.

Trend Watch

I didn’t deem it notable enough to include in the Scorecard, but a vote on an amendment moved by Councillor Raymond Cho on the same item was interesting. Defeated on a tie vote of 22-22, the amendment would “[urge] the Federal and Provincial governments to immediately fund an ongoing and sustainable social housing renovation and repair program so that social housing repair needs in Toronto are met and the backlog eliminiated. [sic]

In other words: tell the provincial and federal governments that they’ve kind of screwed us over with this downloading-of-responsibilities thing.

Voting for it included the left-wing of council (minus Shelley Carroll, who missed the meeting due to an out-of-town funeral, and — oddly — Maria Augimeri), the ‘middle’ group of councillors, and Gloria Lindsay Luby and James Pasternak.


Questions about the Council Scorecard? Read my notes on methodology. Also, you can email me.

May 11

For Ford, credit when credit is due

The Toronto Sun’s Don Peat scored an actual, honest-to-goodness interview with Rob Ford. It’s rather light on detail and hard-hitting questions, but it’s worth reading anyway.

I liked this part:

Ford laughs when he’s reminded that retiring councillor Kyle Rae predicted, if elected, Ford would be mayor in name only. Retiring councillor Howard Moscoe said Ford wouldn’t be able to pass gas without council’s permission.

“Well, I’ve done a lot,” he says, shaking his head and smiling. “I’ve done everything we’ve said we were going to do.”

via Six months in: Ford is large and in charge | Home | Toronto Sun.

I already said this last week, but I find it incredibly disconcerting that Ford believes he’s nearing the end of his political agenda. Not only because the agenda is so light on ambitious — though it is: rescind a tax or two, eliminate potential for annoying strikes, kill some council perks, and he’s done? — but because it’s not even accurate.

The Sun also has a list of Ford’s supposed accomplishments. But here are some things Ford hasn’t actually done, despite claims to the contrary:

  • reduced the city’s overall operating budget, or “reined in spending.”
  • secured funding — much less broken ground — on any new subway project
  • privatized garbage collection, or done anything that has ‘reined in’ public sector unions or reduced labour costs

His actual accomplishments so far are actually relatively meagre, typified more by the city’s new lack of ambition, and a handful of spite-based initiatives, instead of some kind of Brave New World of fiscal conservatism.

If Ford can succeed in delivering on his promises for a reduced operating budget, high-quality/low-cost privately-delivered services and a funded subway extension (The Eglinton LRT is a David Miller legacy, and does not count), then he can realistically crow about his accomplishments. But that hasn’t happened yet.

Also from Peat’s article is a bit from Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday:

Asked why the Ford administration has targeted so many of Miller’s legacy projects, Holyday says it’s due to necessity.

“So many things we couldn’t afford to do in the way he planned to do them,” Holyday says.

He pointed to the $24-million Fort York pedestrian bridge blown up by the public works committee.

“We would have had to borrow every cent to build it,” Holyday says.

I’m very confused by fiscal conservatives who savage the idea of debt, as if it’s some terrible way to finance capital projects. How are they suggesting the city invest in infrastructure, if not through financing? Is the province supposed to fund everything for us? Or is this just another private-sector magic beans thing?

May 11

City Council Scorecard: Garbage, Bridges, Committees & Sewage

Toronto Council Scorecard

May 25, 2011 Update: Download (PDF) – Download (PNG) – Google Docs

Last week saw a big three-day council meeting filled with all sorts of exciting developments. I’ve added four votes to the City Council Scorecard. By my count, Council has now considered 17 major items since their term began in December.

In other exciting developments, I’ve finally published the scorecard as a Google Spreadsheet for easier viewing.

New Votes

The four votes added:

  • PW3.1 — The garbage issue, pertaining to solid waste collection west of Yonge Street and litter collection in parks. While initially written as an all-in-one motion that would see council vote to both send a contract out to tender and automatically approve the best bid through the Bid Committee, the mayor and his team conceded to their opponents prior to the meeting and promised to amend the item. As passed, the item is an invitation to the private sector to submit bids. Council will then examine their numbers versus the status quo, and determine how to best proceed.
  • MM8.6 — The motion that killed the Fort York bridge. Sticklers and apologists will tell you that the bridge wasn’t killed when Councillor Mike Layton’s motion to reintroduce the item to council failed to achieve a two-thirds majority vote, but they’re being pedantic. The outcome of this vote means that it will likely be 2015 before anything gets built, which is a lifetime in political terms.
  • EX5.3, Motion 1a — The ultimate outcome of the mayor’s attempt to eliminate citizen advisory committees was delayed by a month, as motions to save many of the committees on the chopping block were referred to the mayor’s office. Staff will report back at the next council meeting, at which time we’ll learn which of them — if any — will survive. One committee that will definitely live on is the Aboriginal Affairs Committee, as Layton was successful in passing a motion that saved the group, despite the objections of Mayor Ford. A relatively minor vote compared to others on the scorecard, but important because it was a major defeat for the mayor.
  • PW3.5, Motion 1 — In an item relating to the treatment facility at Ashbridges Bay, Councillor Gord Perks moved an amendment that would see the city move toward using environmentally-friendly ultraviolet light technology in the facility, instead of the chlorination process used in other city facilities. Team Ford lost this one, though they might have won had more councillors been in the chamber when voting took place.

Trend Watch

Only 13 councillors remain in the 100% club, having voted with the mayor on every major item. The are: Paul Ainslie, Vincent Crisanti,  Mike Del Grande, Doug Ford, Mark Grimes, Doug Holyday, Norman Kelly,  Denzil Minnan-Wong,  Frances Nunziata, Cesar Palacio, David Shiner, Michael Thompson and Giorgio Mammoliti. On the other end of the spectrum, Gord Perks and Pam McConnell continue to share the crown in the anti-Ford club, with Perks holding a slight edge because McConnell has missed a couple of votes.


Questions about the Council Scorecard? Read my notes on methodology. Also, you can email me.

May 11

Ford’s friendless folly

The great-as-per-usual John Lorinc has a new piece on Spacing today, discussing the string of votes that went against the mayor at last week’s council meeting:

What’s the take-away? The Fords like to believe their electoral mandate – and subsequent polling results – magically translates into touchdowns at council. Not true, especially with a mayor whose diplomatic skills are roughly on par with those of a typical schoolyard bully.

The newbies, it seems, may not want to be manhandled all the time. But these results aren’t just about ineffective whipping and insufficient stroking. Those close losses for the brothers reveal, to me, that the mushy middle councillors, and even some of the mayor’s loyalists, are feeling a wee bit uncomfortable with the program.

via LORINC: Rob Ford’s Not-so-Excellent Week « Spacing Toronto.

When Ford was elected, there was a prevailing wisdom that said, given his large popular mandate, those who had previously opposed him on council would need to buckle down, extend a hand, and work with the new mayor.

Ford, too, expressed a willingness to work with council and, beyond the immediate political sphere, bring together Toronto residents. On election night, he took to the stage at the Toronto Congress Centre and declared “Tonight the city of Toronto is not divided. We are united.” Later, his brother, a newly elected councillor himself, told The National Post’s Natalie Alcoba that he did “not believe in this left- right scenario … because I believe every councillor has great ideas.”

The obvious move on both council’s left and right was to soothe tensions, find common ground, make some concessions, and — above all — compromise. The left has had its moments of partisanship — certain opposition councillors do have a tendency to grandstand and make every item sound like critical life-or-death business — but they have, in my estimation, made an effort to work within the structure and mandate of the new council. The night of the TCHC vote, for example, was nothing if not a serious of attempted compromises — let the elected reps stay; let the alternate elected reps stay; keep the appointed councillors on the board; etc. — all of which were summarily shot down until the mayor got his way.

Indeed, from the very first day of council, when Don Cherry took the podium and playfully insulted half the city’s population — after which, Ford told him his remarks were great –, the mayor has almost always refused to compromise. Eschewing a “big tent” scenario, his political tent has gotten smaller by the month, shedding allies and alienating community groups. And now he’s losing votes.