The theme this week has been public inclusion in decision-making. At City Council we narrowly prevented Mayor Ford from greatly curtailing the inclusion of members of the public in various City agencies, boards, and commissions.
We also succeeded in expanding the amount of public consultation for the upcoming Service Plan review. I still think the process is too compressed and relies too heavily on outside consultants, but we have better opportunities to shape the outcomes than were originally proposed. As I wrote before (http://gordperks.ca/2011/03/25/city-programs/) this plan is troubling in that it sets the stage for big cuts to important public services.
I do believe that a review of our public services can be valuable. But, it must begin with a public conversation about the kind of City we want. None of us has the private resources to make great neighbourhoods, but together we can make the investments that achieve that vision. Now that Council has pushed the Mayor into some improvements in public consultation, it will be up to all of you to make the most of it. I will be posting information on how to get involved soon.
For details of the Council decisions you can read: http://app.toronto.ca/tmmis/decisionBodyProfile.do?function=doPrepare&meetingId=4416#Meeting-2011.CC7
Wednesday also saw the release of the Mayor’s plan to eliminate 21 Citizen Advisory Committees. This includes the Aboriginal Affairs, Cycling, and Pedestrian Committees. Also, the Drug Strategy Implementation Task Force, which I chaired is at risk. As I am a member of the Board of Health I will work to find an alternate arrangement to keep this important work going.
In broader terms I think we all need to speak up in defence of Toronto’s long and proud history of extending decision-making into the broader community. No group of elected officials and public servants can find the best way forward for a complex City unless they actively seek out and include thoughtful Torontonians.
For the list of proposed cuts see: http://www.toronto.ca/legdocs/mmis/2011/ex/bgrd/backgroundfile-37389.pdf. This item comes to the Executive Committee. If you want to submit a written comment or appear in person you can email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 416-392-6627.
Another important decision taken at Council was with respect to Toronto’s Harmonized Zoning By-law. Because a great many appeals have been launched against the by-law many people are experiencing complications and delays with minor changes to their property. Council decided to make some key amendments, and further, to hold a statutory hearing on whether to repeal part or all of the by-law. I will let you know when and how to participate in this meeting soon.