Council Highlights – City Council Meeting: February 6,7,and 8, 2012

City Council meetings of February 6 and 7, and February 8, 2012

Special meeting on transit, February 8 
Toronto City Council affirmed its support for a light rail transit (LRT) priority plan for Toronto, consistent with the Metrolinx plan of 2010. Immediate priorities are construction of the Finch West LRT from the Spadina Subway extension to Humber College; the Eglinton Crosstown LRT from Jane Street to Kennedy Station; and the Scarborough Rapid Transit conversion to LRT from Kennedy Station to Sheppard Avenue – with an extension to the Malvern Town Centre as funds become available. Council directed the City Manager to establish an expert advisory panel regarding transit on Sheppard Avenue. The panel will consider questions raised by Council and report back by March 21. In addition, Council authorized the Toronto Transit Commission to enter into discussions with Metrolinx to study the future feasibility of five other transit projects.

Council meeting of February 6 and 7

Toronto and the Ontario Municipal Board
Council voted to request the provincial government to remove Toronto from the jurisdiction of the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB). The board, a quasi-judicial body, has the final say on appealed zoning decisions and sometimes rules in favour of developers – against decisions City Council has made in support of local neighbourhoods and with the advice of the City's professional planning staff.

Relieving rush-hour congestion 
Council authorized an increase in the applicable fine to $150 from the current $60 for vehicles violating stopping, standing or parking prohibitions during the rush-hour periods of 6 to 10 a.m. and 3 to 7 p.m. Monday to Friday (except holidays). A fine for the same amount can be imposed for stopping a vehicle other than a bicycle in a Toronto bike lane at any time. The fines will need confirmation from the Ontario Court of Justice in order to take effect.

Traffic control at film shoots 
Council endorsed the use of traffic control persons (TCPs) instead of paid-duty police officers in certain circumstances as an authorized option for traffic control at film and television production locations. Decisions on traffic control are to be made by the Toronto Film and Television Office. Traffic control costs have an effect on overall production budgets. The use of TCPs, with on-street notice and traffic separation, is often the most cost-effective approach.

Streets and sidewalks
Council voted to amend the section of the City of Toronto Municipal Code that covers the use of streets and sidewalks. The changes, which were made with the help of public input, apply city-wide and are intended to encourage compliance with municipal regulations and reduce the need for active enforcement.

Improving 311 Toronto service 
Council directed management of 311 Toronto to take steps to reduce call wait times and to pursue other ways of improving public service and efficiency. Among the steps to be considered is the possible introduction of telephone self-serve technology in the 311 operation where appropriate. The City launched 311 Toronto in 2009 to provide the public with one easy-to-remember phone number to obtain non-emergency City services and information 24 hours a day, seven days a week. In addition to answering general inquiries by phone and email, 311 Toronto electronically creates service requests for some of the City's divisions.

Allocation of funding for affordable housing 
Council approved $103 million in allocations under the federal/provincial Investment in Affordable Housing program in Toronto and authorized staff to submit a plan to the Ontario Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing for consideration. The program allocates federal and provincial funds for housing allowances, new construction, home renovations and affordable home ownership. Council voted to inform the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing that the City will not fund any affordable housing programs under this program after the expected expiry of federal-provincial funding – in 2017 for housing allowances and 2015 for other components.

Information pillars on sidewalks 
Council directed that until new guidelines are in place, no further information pillars ("Info Pillars") are to be installed on sidewalks without the approval of the specific location by the General Manager of Transportation Services in consultation with the local councillor. The installation of 120 pillars is underway and questions have been raised about their positioning.

Large watermains 
Council approved the use of alternative pipe materials for large watermains, such as pre-stressed concrete, steel and polyethylene in addition to the mortar-lined steel pipes that have been the standard in Toronto since the 1950s. Various types of large-diameter pipes have been found to meet performance specifications. Council directed staff to establish a design standard for situations/locations where additional protection is needed to ensure pipes cannot be damaged.

Special Council meeting on 2012 budget
Last month (January 17), Council approved a balanced 2012 operating budget of $9.358 billion and a 2012-2021 capital budget and plan of $14.836 billion. The operating budget, which covers everyday expenses such as fuel, salaries and utilities, includes a 2.5 per cent property tax increase for residents, a 0.83 per cent tax increase for businesses and a 10-cent fare increase for TTC customers. The 2.5 per cent residential tax rate increase will result in an increase of about $60 for the average residential household assessed at $447,090 in 2012. More budget details.