It has been a very busy start to 2014. I have been working on several local priorities in every Ward 22 neighbourhood and bringing initiatives forward to council to improve our city on issues ranging from seniors, youth equity, transit, infrastructure, gridlock, planning, and much more.
Now, and over the next 6-8 weeks, there is a massive cleanup effort across the city taking place to clear our roads and parks of debris caused by the recent ice storm. Today, the mayor and deputy mayor are meeting with GTA mayors regarding the clean up and enormous costs related to it. With respect to the storm recovery and necessary preparation for the next one, I believe it is vitally important that politics be put aside and that our leaders work together, in a mature and productive way, for our city and region's residents.
The power outages over the holidays were a truly awful experience for so many people here in Ward 22 and around the GTA. I have been actively sharing feedback I've received from residents (and my own observations) with senior staff at the City of Toronto and Toronto Hydro about how storm and disaster preparation, and response, can be improved. This has focused largely on issues such as communication, infrastructure and governance.
I do want to express my gratitude again to the hydro crews from Toronto and across North America for their tireless work to restore our community's power. Along with the many City staff who responded to our requests for support, I believe Toronto Hydro's Joyce McLean and Abby Bogart deserve our recognition. Over the course of ten days, I exchanged literally several hundred emails and calls with them on behalf of residents. They responded to each one and did everything they could to provide assistance. I will forever appreciate the work they did and who they are as people.
And thank you to the many Ward 22 residents who offered everything from firewood and generators to food and even a warm place to stay at their homes to neighbours who were in need. Our community truly came together when it mattered.
Please see my latest update to you below on city and local issues, and some public meeting notices. Click here to read my previous community updates.
REMINDER: 2014 City of Toronto Budget Community Town Hall
Next week, I am hosting my 2014 Budget Town Hall for Ward 22 residents. Please join me on Thursday, January 23 at 7 pm at the North Toronto Memorial Community Centre - Multi-Purpose Room (200 Eglinton Avenue West).
Update on Addressing the Roots of Youth Violence
I am pleased to announce that, after nearly a year since I first moved a motion at Council to create this strategy, the final report to address the roots of youth violence, titled the Toronto Youth Equity Strategy, is coming to Community Development and Recreation Committee on January 21. This comprehensive report contains 110 recommended actions to support our most vulnerable youth.
It is time for the City of Toronto to take thoughtful and proactive measures to deal with youth violence no matter what neighbourhood it is found in. We cannot wait for another tragedy to spur more calls for blue ribbon panels and simplistic reactions. There have been many good reports that have already provided us with recommendations on how to move forward including The Review of the Roots of Youth Violence by Dr. Alvin Curling and The Honourable Roy McMurtry. Genuine, evidence-based action is needed now and without delay.
My colleagues at Community Development and Recreation Committee supported my motion to move forward with staff-recommended initiatives to provide mental health, employment training and crime diversion supports in targeted areas across Toronto. I will be working with my colleagues to help ensure these measures are approved by Council through the 2014 budget process.
Please see this article in the Toronto Star for more information.
June Rowlands (Davisville) Park playground now officially named the "Sharon, Lois and Bram" Playground!
Also at Toronto and East York Community Council, my motion to have the playground at June Rowlands (Davisville) Park named after celebrated, Toronto-based children’s music and entertainment trio, Sharon, Lois & Bram, was approved. The official playground sign will appropriately be in the shape of an elephant.
Sharon Hampson, Bram Morrison and Lois Lilienstein are all local residents of midtown Toronto and have been performing quality children's music and entertainment for over three decades and continue to be cherished and loved by many generations of children around the world. Their contributions are not only cultural; Sharon, Lois & Bram have been members of UNICEF since 1988 and were appointed National Ambassadors by UNICEF Canada in 1989. They used their television appearances to support the annual trick-or-treat penny drive campaign and received the Order of Canada in 2002 for their commitment to improving the lives of children around the globe.
Update on the new Natural Rink at June Rowlands (Davisville) Park
I have some exciting news! I’ve been working closely with parents in our community to get a natural rink open at June Rowlands (Davisville) Park while Hodgson Rink is temporarily closed this season for necessary repairs. While I was very upset about the timing of this work, members of the community and I decided to create a natural rink to ensure there will still be a local rink for our kids to skate in the interim. The natural rink will be open soon. I’d like to thank our remarkable local parents/residents who worked incredibly hard to make this happen!
P.S. Given that we’ve already named the playground at June Rowlands Park after Sharon, Lois & Bram, many of us are unofficially calling our new rink the “Skinnamarink”! :)
Improving Urban Design in Forest Hill Village
Forest Hill Village is a unique retail area in Midtown Toronto. It is one of the few commercial shopping enclaves in the city that is wholly contained within a residential area.
Several recent developments and renovations within the Village have been undertaken with little deference to the prevailing streetscape (such as the new LCBO). To allow this inconsistent development to continue will further threaten the very character and aesthetic that makes the Village unique.
That's why I moved a motion to Toronto and East York Community Council this week that directed planning staff to develop urban design guidelines for Forest Hill Village, in consultation with the community, to protect the distinctive "village" character of Forest Hill.
You're Invited to Meet with the Midtown Planning Group
While our Yonge and Eglinton neighbourhoods face enormous development pressure, they are divided by three wards and two different planning areas. That's why I, along with my neighbouring councillors, created a process to finally bring forward a comprehensive and holistic planning vision for the Yonge and Eglinton area. The next Midtown Planning Group meeting will be on Tuesday, January 21 and last met in November 2013 (the minutes can be found here).
This next meeting will be held from 6 to 9 pm at the Anne Johnston Health Station, located three blocks north of Yonge and Eglinton, at 2398 Yonge St.
Midtown in Focus – Public Meeting #2
On Tuesday, February 4, the Midtown in Focus Study Team will present and discuss its Draft Concepts and Implementation Strategies for Yonge-Eglinton's parks, open spaces, and streetscape. This information is the result of community input collected over the fall and winter of 2013.
The meeting will be held from 6 to 9 pm at the Salvation Army, located at 7 Eglinton Avenue East.
Beautifying the Bus Barns at Yonge and Eglinton
After working hard with the TTC, Metrolinx and City Planning, we are moving forward with an improvement plan to beautify the perimeter of the site. Construction crews are currently working to place informative panels about the new Eglinton Crosstown line that will cover the derelict site in behind that has been left an eyesore for over a decade.
While the space is needed in the short-term as a staging ground for Crosstown construction equipment, protecting traffic lanes in the process, I am advocating that there be new public space on this site as part of any new redevelopment.
I will continue to advocate that all parties respect the wishes of the community as set out in the Yonge-Eglinton Centre plan that allows for well-designed and reasonable development, while ensuring public space that major cities all over the world have at major transit hubs.
New Mural for the Kay Gardner Beltline Trail
This week, I met with Greenwood College School students to talk about a mural they are designing for the Kay Gardner Beltline Trail at Mount Pleasant Road. I'm excited to be working with a very talented group of art students and with City staff on this project. I will also be consulting with local residents about the design and will share details of upcoming community consultation meetings once they are finalized.
Cleanup of the Kay Gardner Beltline Trail
As I’ve reported to you before, City staff have told me that it will take at least up to 6 to 8 weeks to clean up debris throughout the city from the recent ice storm. While I know it would be nice to see it all cleaned up overnight, I am encouraged that City crews are working hard to clear up our streets and parks as soon as they can. Specifically, to those who have sent me questions about when we can expect the Beltline Trail to be cleared, I can confirm that Parks, Forestry and Recreation staff have made this a top priority and believe that work can begin within the next couple of weeks. I will send out another update if this timeline changes. While debris on the ground is a focus for the cleanup, certainly safety should always be our priority, including broken branches that are overhanging the trail. For more information on cleanup efforts, including a map that is updated daily, please visit this City website.
Public Meeting on the proposed Billy Bishop Airport Expansion
On Monday, January 27, City staff will provide an update on the status of their review of the request to permit jet airplanes at Billy Bishop Airport. Representatives of City Planning (including transportation planners), Economic Development, and Public Health divisions will be present to answer questions.
The meeting will be held from 6:30 to 8:30 pm in the City Hall Council Chambers at 100 Queen St. West.
Free the Food Trucks!
The regulations restricting the operation of food trucks are far too restrictive. As this portion of a Torontoist article demonstrates, there are a number of by-laws in place that make it near impossible for a mobile food operation to be successful:
"Operating a food truck in Toronto can be a complicated business: you’re not allowed to set up shop in the majority of Toronto streets; you can’t work for longer than 10 minutes in a privately owned parking lot; you can’t settle yourself in a side street; and you’re forbidden from selling your wares within 25 metres of a restaurant that deals in a similar kind of food."
While there may be good reasons for some of these regulations, the City needs to look at reasonable ways to allow these businesses to be competitive and for consumers to have more choice. Please visit this City website to learn more about the public consultation process and have your say on the future of food trucks in Toronto.
Build the Relief Subway Line Now!
The Relief Subway Line would provide an alternative within our existing subway system, which is already overcrowded during rush hours. It would also curb gridlock on our city’s streets and increase access to jobs and attractions. It is the evidence-based subway expansion project that would most improve Toronto’s economy and residents’ quality of life.
To take action and learn more about the proposal, please visit my page on the Relief Subway Line.
Starting a Midtown-Yonge BIA
Successful local small businesses, on vibrant main streets, are important for our merchants but also for the quality of life of community residents. Another exciting meeting I had this week was with Steering Committee members of the proposed Midtown-Yonge BIA. I have been working with a dedicated group of business owners who are interested in starting a BIA for Yonge Street from Soudan Avenue in the north to Merton Street in the south. As the Steering Committee proceeds through the official process of starting a BIA, I will continue to send updates through my e-newsletter. To learn more about BIAs, click here.
Ward 22 Developments
As you know, Midtown has a large number of new development applications. I continue to work closely with our community to protect the fabric and character of our neighbourhoods and advocate for structures that respect the City's Official Plan and consider quality design. I also recognize that the current planning system gives an unfair advantage to developers and I am working to free Toronto from the Ontario Municipal Board (see below). To view development proposals in Ward 22, please visit the development page on my website. I created this to ensure residents would have direct access to staff reports and be informed about proposed developments in their neighbourhoods.
Free Toronto from the OMB! Stop Inappropriate Development
The Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) is an unelected and unaccountable provincial body which has the final say on all planning decisions in the province of Ontario that often gives the development industry an unfair advantage at "appeals" hearings over the interests of our communities and the City of Toronto's Official Plan.
The OMB has a history of contributing to inappropriate development in our city. Toronto's midtown neighbourhoods are facing an unprecedented amount of new developments, many of which are condos, and it's putting an unjustifiable strain on our community without the adequate infrastructure, including transit and public realm, to keep up with the growth in population.
For more information on how to get involved and take action, please visit my page on the OMB.
Stop Unfair Rent Increases
Above the Guideline Increases (AGIs) for basic upkeep and repairs have pushed rents, that are already steep, into the unaffordable range in recent years. Landlords can apply for AGIs through the Landlord and Tenant Board. While there are certainly some very good landlords, too many others are abusing the system. Many repairs should be included as part of a landlord's overall expenses and paid for from the rent they already receive. It is clear that tenants, often seniors who have fixed pensions, are being unfairly burdened for the landlord’s basic cost of doing business.
For more information and to learn how you can take action against spiralling rent increases and unexpected fees, please visit my page on AGIs.
For ongoing council and community news, my contact information, along with a calendar of events, please visit www.joshmatlow.ca.