Each week, we round up the latest news, views, and rumours from City Hall.
The people vs. Robert Ford
The week at City Hall began with a bang, as prominent Toronto lawyer Clayton Ruby announced he's filed a legal complaint asking that Ford be removed from office. The application, filed on behalf of Toronto resident Paul Magder, asserts that Ford engaged in a conflict of interest when he spoke at and particiapted in a council vote last month. That vote absolved him of the obligation to repay $3,150 of donations to his football foundation that the integrity commissioner had found he improperly solicited from lobbyists. So, is this a politically motivated stunt or a genuine legal argument that could see our mayor turfed in disgrace? The general feeling among City Hall watchers seems to be that Ruby technically has Ford dead to rights, but that a judge isn't likely to overturn an election in Canada's largest city based on a technicality. The first court date on the matter is March 23.
Experts agree, it's Sheppard LRT
It's no surprise, but the expert panel council convened last month to look into transit options for Sheppard Ave. has overwhelmingly recommended surface rail over the subways Mayor Ford continues to push for. The report was published Friday, and found that LRT outperformed both a full subway and a short subway extension connecting to an LRT in terms of cost effectiveness and matching projected ridership. Dr. Gordon Chong, the man Ford hired to write a pro-subway business case last year, was the lone panel member who dissented. Before the report was even released, Ford dismissed it as "hogwash."
- Andy Byford was officially named CEO of the TTC, and vowed to literally clean up the transit system and aggressively pursue enhanced customer service
- The Ontario Lottery and Gaming Commission announced it will bring a casino to the GTA, sparking a contentious debate weighing the benefits of increased revenue against the social ills of gambling
- Labour woes continue, with the city's inside workers union filing a bad faith bargaining charge against the city and library workers warning branches will close as early as Sunday if a new contract isn't agreed to by midnight Saturday
The big read this week is the expert panel's 66-page justification for building an LRT on Sheppard Ave. It incorporates not only loads of data from our city, but also leans on examples of working surface rail in other parts of the world, like this LRT (above) in Strasbourg, France.
MEETINGS, MOTIONS, AND MINUTES
There were no votes of note this week, as most committees had the week off for March Break.
COUNCILLOR OF THE WEEK
In a week with little activity over at City Hall, Councillor Shelley Carroll made some waves with a profanity-laced interview about Rob Ford's attempts to have her nominated TTC chair instead of Karen Stintz. Carroll cautioned the mayor that if he doesn't make some compromises with his increasingly emboldened opponents at council, he risks becoming just "that guy down the hall."
CITY SOUND BITE
"The mayor is known for speaking ahead of the facts. I come from a university where facts are important and we read reports before we reach a conclusion."
- Eric Miller, director of the U of T Cities Centre and expert adivsor on Sheppard Ave., trying, but not quite succeeding, to stay above the sinkhole of incivility that is Toronto's transit debate
NEXT WEEK'S AGENDA
There's lots on at 100 Queen West next week, first and foremost the special meeting on Sheppard Ave. transit on Wednesday, March 21. If all goes as expected, council will approve a light rail line on Sheppard to go with the ones they've already greenlighted on Finch, Eglinton, and the current route of the Scarborough RT. Should the Sheppard LRT be approved, Ford's subway scheme will be officially relegated to the realm of the theoretical.
Monday March 19, Ford's executive committee will meet. On the agenda is a proposal from Councillor Paul Ainslie to consider redrawing ward boundaries to better reflect Toronto's growing populations. There's a chance that someone on the committee will move to look into decreasing the number of wards, and hence the number of councillors, as per Ford's belief that council needs to be cut in half.