Council held a marathon four-day meeting this week, their second session since Rob Ford bolted City Hall for rehab. With the term winding down and councillors turning their attention to the October election there were few big ticket items on the agenda, but that doesn't mean there weren't plenty of important votes. Here are the highlights.
Council scored a hat trick on the homelessness front this week. They overwhelmingly approved seeking out an operator for the city's first 24-hour drop-in space for women, which advocates say will give the most vulnerable street-involved people a safe overnight space; voted unanimously to find a way to save the Red Door Family Shelter in South Riverdale, which is at risk of closing after finding itself in the middle of a messy real estate dispute; and lastly approved $850,000 to renovate a vacant Toronto Community Housing property to use as transitional housing for sex trafficking victims. Hey, it's not always bad news out of City Hall.
Sixteen months ago council voted to review city policies to ensure that undocumented immigrants have access to city services without fear of being reported to the immigration authorities. That report came back this week and recommend specific measures, including a training program for municipal workers and only collecting residents' immigration information when federal or provincial law says so. The report also calls for an public education program and possibly creating a U.S.-style municipal ID card for people without other documentation.
The report was easily approved in a 29-8 vote, but not before Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong reprised his rather odious speech from last year about undocumented workers getting off the plane at Pearson and heading straight the the welfare office.
The deputy deputy mayor
With Rob Ford currently enjoying what appears to be the most entertaining rehab program this side of a Sandra Bullock romcom, Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly has assumed all his powers. But Kelly is on vacation next week, so he asked council to designate Councillor Mike Del Grande to take on his responsibilities while he's away. Yes, that Mike Del Grande. The perpetually grumbling former budget chief is council's equivalent of Grumpy Cat, except Grumpy Cat probably has a more highly developed sense of social responsibility. And he'll technically be acting Mayor of Toronto next week. You might want to think about taking a vacation, too.
Sony Centre in shambles
What Toronto's latest spending scandal lacks in scale (we're talking thousands, not millions, of dollars) it makes up for in absurdity. Among the latest revelations in are that Dan Brambilla, the outgoing CEO of the city-owned theatre, was paid nearly $8,000 to hold his own wedding at the venue, charged the public $572,000 in consulting fees - even though he was an employee, not a consultant - and was regularly reimbursed for meals at the theatre's cafeteria. The theatre's management has since explained that he was performing "quality control testing" on the food.
The Sony Centre board's volunteer members resigned en masse last week, and on Wednesday council voted to appoint an interim board made up of eight councillors and senior city staff. One board member, Councillor Pam McConnell, called the Sony Centre management's explanations for some of the payments "not comprehensible."
Bike lanes ahoy!
Richmond and Adelaide are getting bike lanes, and it only took two and a half years! Thirty months after council voted to look into a pilot project of separated bikeways in the corridor, councillors finally gave the green light to building the bloody things. The lanes will go from Sherbourne to Bathurst and should be installed by the fall. It's only a pilot project though, and the final vote on whether to make them permanent won't come until next year. Also good news: council approved filling in gaps in the bikeway on the Harbord-Hoskin corridor, using buffered cycle tracks in some spots. Those lanes will be permanent (at least until some future council votes to rip them out, of course).
New Ford prevention officers
Council appointed a new integrity commissioner and auditor general, two of the accountability officers tasked with making sure
the mayor council members play by the rules. Valerie L. Jepson, a former lawyer for the Ontario integrity commissioner, will replace Janet Leiper, while Beverly Romeo-Beehler takes over the auditor general role form Jeffrey Griffiths.
But council couldn't reach a decision on whether to re-appoint ombudsman Fiona Crean, whose investigations have ruffled a lot of feathers since she took the job in 2008. The debate about whether to reappoint her to another five-year term happened behind closed doors but reportedly got so ugly that councillors voted to defer the issue for a month so they could cool down.
No Pride fight
Every year that Pride funding comes before council, council funding falls into the deep soul-sucking morass that is the debate about Queers Against Israeli Apartheid. Well, thankfully that debate didn't happen this year. Maybe it's because city staff have been abundantly clear that QuAIA does not violate Toronto's anti-discrimination policy, or maybe because Toronto will host the biggest LGBTQ event in the world later this month and no one wants to be seen as messing with that. All that happened this year was Councillor James Pasternak introduced a motion essentially reminding everyone to play by the rules. Pride Toronto will get its $161,000 funding, which is a pittance compared to the civic benefits of World Pride.
The best summer job in Toronto
Councillors voted to hold a special meeting to fill two vacancies left by politicians who have jumped ship from City Hall. Adam Vaughan resigned his Trinity-Spadina seat last month to run for federal office, while Peter Milczyn is moving on to Queen's Park after defeating another former councillor, Doug Holyday, in Thursday's provincial election in Etobicoke-Lakeshore. The meeting to appoint two new councillors will take place on July 7, after which there are only two regularly scheduled council meetings before the October election. The appointment is open to just about anyone who can vote, so if you're looking for something to do for the next five months, put on your best suit and come on down!