I would like to congratulate and commend the more than 15,000 people who participated in the Toronto leg of the Global Marijuana March at Queen's Park May 5 (NOW, May 10-16).
The sheer number of people who responsibly and safely used marijuana was an eloquent statement in itself on the absurdity and hypocrisy of our draconian substance laws.
Toronto got a good up-close look at thousands of our society's closeted marijuana users. Many were probably shocked to see some of their own kind amongst the demonstrators.
Judging by the rally's respectful and non-violent tone (the march has seen zero arrests in its nine years), we can be optimistic in assuming that a clear statement was made about the petty, fascist laws that govern pot smoking.
Vaughan's plan vacuous
RE The Hex on Heritage (NOW, May 10-16). It's Councillor Adam Vaughan who is putting his own hex on heritage by proposing to use Section 37 settlements to fund Heritage Conservation District (HCD) studies.
The effect of Vaughan's proposal would be to make such funds accessible only in those parts of the city where significant development is going on that exceeds height and density limits.
There are several potential HCDs west of the Humber, and if it takes S. 37 money to get studies done, they're toast. I am disappointed that downtown residents and councillors are seeking to protect a source of public funding for themselves without regard for the rest of the city.
I find that offensive, and I hope that city council will, too.
Punish freeloading pirates
NOW scoffs at Warner Brothers' decision to cancel promo and word-of-mouth screenings because of out-of-control piracy (NOW, May 10-16).
"Will this stop bootlegging?" asks Now skeptically. Maybe not. What might is making the freeloading, parasitic activity part of Canada's Criminal Code, which, astonishingly, it isn't at the moment. Heritage Minister Oda, are you there?
Worse than a token gesture, it's sadly ironic that the city would use Bob Hunter's good name to flog its Environment Days (NOW, May 10-16).
One of the tenets Bob urged over and over (Councillor Gord Perks and works committee chair Glenn De Baeremaeker, too) is extended producer responsibility (EPR), the idea that manufacturers would put less crap on the market if they were made more responsible for its end-of-life management. When Toronto politicians have been asked to show support for true take-it-back legislation, they've opted instead for greenwashing.
Waste Diversion Campaigner The Sierra Club of Canada Toronto
Bustle in SAC's hedgerow
RE No-grow Furor at U of T (NOW, May 10-16). I was present during Paul Terefenko's interview with the OPIRG Equity Gardeners at U of T's Centre for Women and Trans People. I was appalled to read the published article.
The Equity Gardeners spoke at length about the Student Administrative Council's conduct. In particular, they discussed the mistreatment of Caroline Xia.
Xia was appointed to coordinate the Food for All Organic Community Garden. Previously, SAC gave her honoraria, which she dispersed to other hardworking volunteers.
Things turned "ugly," to use Terefenko's word, when SAC denied her an honorarium, and even uglier when Xia was banned from SAC property.
The article also fails to mention that the new coordinator hired with salary in 2006 had in fact largely converted food production space into a flower garden.
Billboard tax missing facts
RE Not So Fast on Billboard Tax (NOW, May 10-16). The Beautiful City Billboard Fee (BCBF) as now proposed would see a minimum of $6 million collected from annual permit fees.
Paid by billboard advertisers, revenue would be directed through the Toronto Arts Council into public art, with a priority on marginalized communities and youth.
If you look at our guiding document - endorsed by 27 grassroots to established organizations - we specifically say the majority of Torontonians want fewer billboards. (See postcard campaign: www.them.ca/postcard.pdf.)
Meslin stretches to state that "there is no doubt a billboard tax would mean more signage over time."
Even the city's consultants' report says the tax we are proposing would result in the removal of some less profitable billboards.
There is no reason why more art, diversified access to communication in public spaces, a more pedestrian-focused aesthetic and fewer billboards with better controls can't happen as a package deal.
Indeed, I can't think of a Toronto bylaw that has ever looked sexier.
Coordinator, BCBF Alliance
Fishy AGO rant
Toronto is a city of 2.5 million stories, but some of them, like Tom Fischer's Gehry's Big Boom Box (NOW, May 10-16) don't deserve to get published.
Fischer is upset that construction at the neighbouring AGO is too disruptive. I find his audacity in approaching the AGO about giving him free lunch money particularly amusing. I was surprised to find that a rep was nice enough to give him a free annual membership.
Knowing the logistical nightmare and hopeless paper trail of expensing free lunches for a non-employee, I find this counter-offer extremely generous. I consider NOW a high-calibre independent publication. Please do not sully your reputation by publishing juvenile personal rants.
Cyclists asking to get dinged
I enjoyed your recent photo of the never-ending scuffle between cyclists and motorists (NOW, May 10-16).
I refuse to ride in the city any more. Toronto is not bike-friendly. It tries to be, but in truth it is very dangerous to ride here. Adding bikes lanes to car lanes is not going to help. It just makes the streets tighter and more congested and aggravating for everyone. Cyclists are asking to be pinned from behind.
(Editor's note: The still on page 12 of last week's issue showing the altercation between a cyclist and motorist, now identified as a police officer, came from a video shot by Gabriela Middlebrook.)
Troops dying defending lie
Letter-writer James Morton (NOW, May 10-16) says that since we are in Afghanistan, Canadians should show support "for the goals of bringing democracy, equality for women and basic human rights to the Afghan people."
Those goals, while laudable, are also unachievable, since they can never be enforced by the barrel of a gun.
Perhaps public support for our troops should be directed at insisting they be brought back home before one more Canadian should die for a lie.
RE Robert Priest's Poetry Profits (NOW, May 3-9). Why did NOW bother to publish an article on the financial struggles of the Canadian poetry industry when NOW seems to care little about whether poetry survives in this country? Now never reviews poetry books or poetry readings. In your Best Of Toronto issue last fall, there was no best poet category.
NOW has always been my favourite local magazine, precisely because it tends to focus on marginalized political and artistic perspectives.
Yet when it comes to poetry, NOW seems only to contribute to how the mainstream culture in general ignores and thereby silences the art form.
I challenge Now to be a truly counterculture magazine and review poetry collections and poetry readings. You could even put a poet on the cover once in a while.