In the face of a new draft postering bylaw, the city may be poised to not enforce a friendlier-sounding ban than the one they were preparing to not enforce a year ago.
The new version, the Harmonization Of The Sign Bylaw Concerning Posters On Utility Poles And Hoardings, was discussed March 6 by the planning and transportation committee, which a year earlier weathered hours of confused debate over technologies for controlling all posters.
At the time, they accepted in principle some sort of bylaw having something to do with postering; Councillor Howard Moscoe called the result "unenforceable"; council agreed and referred the bylaw to the mayor's office.
The new proposal makes a distinction between general postering and "community" posters (defined as those "promoting citizen participation in... non-profit activities... festivals, community events [and] political ideas" or notices of lost persons or items).
Community posters would be allowed on utility poles or new poster kiosks. All others would be restricted to kiosks.
The new proposal also greatly expands the definition of the "owner" of a poster, including not only those who erect it but also those who create it and anyone who "benefits" from its message. This, combined with the requirement that each poster be signed, dated and removed after 30 days (or five days after an advertised event) or be subject to a fine, continues to arouse concern.
The Toronto Public Space Committee's conciliatory approach at the March 6 meeting was a change from last year's impassioned fight. "We are thrilled with the tone of this attempt," said Alison Gorbould, taking care to emphasize that the bylaw should be viewed as a work in progress and noting that independent musicians should not be considered truly "for profit."
Josh Paterson of the Canadian Civil Liberties Union objected to the fines, stating that since posters are routinely covered up or copied and put up by volunteers, organizations cannot be held responsible. "This bylaw threatens to punish citizens for failing to do the impossible," he deputed. "Fines may stop community groups from putting their posters up in the first place."
And some groups may be more fearful than others. Adam Chaleff-Freudenthaler of the Youth Cabinet, responding to Moscoe's continued belief that "100 per cent enforcement is impossible," wondered if "some posters could be targeted for political reasons."
While committee staff noted that people may not want to have their names attached to controversial political posters, committee member Kyle Rae was unimpressed. "If you don't want to attach your name," he said, "then you have no business [putting up a poster]."
Staff were directed to draft a specific bill that would come into effect following council approval of the kiosks. Grad student Phil Pothen, who wrote his thesis on postering, believes that a focus on commercial postering could benefit all involved, but he noted with concern the continued use of the term "aesthetic blight" to describe posters. "I would hope this bylaw is not seen as a way to control postering," he said, "but to facilitate a key component of what a city does."