David Miller must have known what he was stepping into when he toured four of the 13 at-risk neighbourhoods he's promising to revive with a $13 mil investment.
And sure enough, the flak keeps on coming.
It starts at the Malvern Community Rec Centre, where the mayor hears Annetta Rhoden, a social worker in the Lawrence and Morningside area , tell him in no uncertain terms that she wants to see more conflict resolution programs, not more arrests. Employment becomes impossible for youth with criminal records, she says, and the city needs to start reaching out to young people who need a second chance. "If they did, this would also ease up the crime."
"This [rec centre] is great, but it's always busy, so we need more of [them]," like the Nike-sponsored track field next door, says Malvern Community Coalition chair Jennifer Robinson .
Meanwhile, residents from Morningside Heights rise to complain about a much-needed bus route. Many have a half-hour walk to the nearest stop at Steeles and Markham. "Cars are going 80 kilometres an hour and there's no light," fumes Prakash Bodelia . "If something happens in freezing rain," he says, people are going to get hurt.
The mayor, who does a lot of handshaking and chumming here, agrees that more services and public spaces need to make their way to Malvern, but big improvements, he tells the folks, are unlikely to happen without community pressure on the feds and the province.
"We can't invest in our neighbourhoods the way we have to without 1 per cent of the sales tax and uploading," says the mayor, ever diligent in his lobbying of senior governments.
There's definitely some cynicism in the room. "He only comes out here when it's not dark," I overhear a man mutter.
Still, not everyone is skeptical. An 11-year-old who gets his photo taken with the mayor - who is generous to a fault with his image - leaves smiling from ear to ear.