Each week, we round up the latest news, views, and rumours from City Hall.
Who had Day 533 in the "When will Rob Ford attend something queer" sweepstakes? Sixteen months into his mayoralty, Ford finally broke his unofficial fatwah against events hosted by the gay community Thursday, and surprised everyone with an appearance at a rainbow flag raising to mark the International Day Against Homophobia at City Hall. Following the flap last year when he became the first post-amalgamation mayor to skip the Pride parade, his staff had been urging him to attend at least one queer-related event, and it appears a last-minute visit from Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam Thursday morning pushed him over the edge.
Keep spinnin' that wheel
Speculation over a mega-casino coming to Toronto's waterfront continues to swirl. While many were concerned the once family-friendly Ontario Place was being targeted as the site for a Sin City North, this week Exhibition Place emerged as the preferred venue for major players like MGM Resorts and Larry Tanenbaum, chair of the Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment group. While Rob Ford remains eager to welcome a casino to the shores of Lake Ontario, there will be no decision on the issue until at least the fall. On Monday, Ford's executive asked the city manager to study the economic and social impacts of a casino-resort, and report back in October.
- On Monday Ford's executive committee voted to repeal the 5-cent bag fee, but the matter still has to go to council where it's believed a plan to keep the charge and put the proceeds towards the city's tree canopy has majority support
- On Wednesday, the public works committee voted to commission an environmental assessment on widening St. Clair under the bridge at Weston, a project that would cost $30 million but proponents say would ease a bottleneck that wreaks havoc with traffic on the so-called "St. Clair Disaster"
- Also on Wednesday, the public works committee approved a plan to build 77 km of new off-road bike paths over the next ten years and move ahead with the next phase of a separated bike lane network downtown
Following the release this week of a damning review of police conduct during the G20, Chief Bill Blair released an open letter to the people of Toronto on Friday. The statement falls short of an apology, and Blair says that overall police did a valiant job in the face of the "unprecedented challenge" posed by the 2010 summit. He does however, "fully acknowledge that there were things that were not done well" and says he is "fully committed to holding police officers of any rank accountable for misconduct." Disciplinary charges are proceeding against dozens of officers.
MEETINGS, MOTIONS, AND MINUTES
A neat little motion from Councillor Adam Vaughan (Trinity Spadina) that would allow residents to buy Toronto's decommissioned street signs squeaked through a public works meeting Wednesday. Staff will report back at next month's meeting on whether it's feasible. We've got dibs on Disco Rd.
COUNCILLOR OF THE WEEK
In her first term at City Hall, council rookie Michelle Berardinetti (Scarborough Southwest) has racked up a spotty record of proposing "outside the box" ideas that don't quite pan out. Last fall she tried to save the library budget by getting branches to charge fees to rent out DVDs (turns out libraries are legally prohibited from charging for material) and her attempts to move the Toronto Zoo's three elephants to California have hit a snag.
But the bag fee plan she championed at executive committee Monday just might be a winner. If it gets approved by council she'll have preserved program that discourages waste and diverted the proceeds towards Toronto's thinning tree canopy. For a hard-working councillor whose first 15 months have been somewhat rocky, it would be a deserved victory.
CITY SOUND BITE
"This isn't organized crime... it's legalized crime."
- In what was apparently a freudian slip, Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti (York West) tells the executive committee Monday what he thinks about casinos. .
NEXT WEEK'S AGENDA
On Tuesday the economic development committee will consider a proposal to turn the North York Civic Centre into a post-secondary school. The meeting will also feature a presentation about the popular Doors Open program, followed by a trip to City Hall's eastern tower observation deck, which is closed to the public for most of the year.
In what should make for a lively debate, on Wednesday the licensing and standards committee will debate work standards for the adult entertainment industry. Last time, there was a pole dancer.