My comments on anti-Black racism and the motion on police budget

Posted on June 11, 2020

There is currently a motion expected at the June City Council meeting which includes moving 10% of the police budget to investment to “enhance resiliency in marginalized communities,” including community-led alternatives to policing, programs to help at-risk youth and affordable housing, as well as anti-racism education.

I will be supporting this motion.  My record at City Council has consistently been to request or support the request to decrease the police budget as well as moving police budget dollars to much needed community services.

Anti-Black racism is real and pervasive in our City. As a society we must do, and demand, better.

It is essential that the City of Toronto maintain a strong commitment to resourcing and supporting the work of the Indigenous Affairs Office and to fully implement the Toronto Action Plan to Confront Anti-Black Racism.

Further, our funding priorities must be centred on a robust system of social supports and services, including ongoing investments in Black and marginalized communities. No budgetary demand of the TPS should ever stand in the way of that system.

There may also be an opportunity to begin to reallocate service.  Many of our 911 emergency calls are requesting a response to a Mental Health crisis for example, that response may be more appropriately responded to by a Mental Health professional. We need to provide appropriate response to 911 calls,  as we do when responding to a fire – fire department, or a heart attack- paramedic.

Finally, we must take action to invest in our resources to address these inequities head-on. The City works to apply an equity lens on every budget decision it makes, which is a good first step, but more must be done and it starts with properly funding of City services.

Gord

Spring/Summer Newsletter: Our Parks & Community Centres

Posted on June 11, 2020

In March the City of Toronto closed all City-owned parks amenities and recreation facilities including playgrounds, sports fields, off-leash dog parks, and community centres. This was part of the City’s effort to stop the spread of COVID-19. As the Province has moved to reduce restrictions, the City has now once again opened a number of park amenities. In late May, the City began reopening park amenities which included parking lots, off-leash dog parks, tennis courts and basketball courts. At this time, playgrounds continue to remain closed.

In early June, the City also announced the launch of SwimTO – a program to help with the re-opening of the City’s beaches, outdoor pools, wading pools and splash pads. City staff are preparing outdoor aquatic amenities to re-open when Toronto enters Stage 2.  The City will re-open six swimming beaches, including Sunnyside Beach, on June 22. Starting July 13, the City will begin to offer summer camps across the city as part of its CampTO initiative. As the City and Province move forward with easing restrictions, additional park and recreational amenities will once again be open to the public.

It is important to note that planned park improvement projects and improvements to recreational facilities in Ward 4  are likely to be impacted by COVID19 as well. This could result in some delays and changes to previously shared timelines for projects. Our office will continue to keep you informed as these projects move forward.

As information is continually changing, please visit the City’s COVID-19: City Services website for the latest up to date information. Please enjoy the parks and amenities responsibly. All visitors must continue to practice safe physical distancing by keeping two metres apart.

High Park Weekend Closures

At the end of March, the City announced that most City owned parks amenities including playgrounds, parking lots, and off-leash dog park would be closed as part of the City’s efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19. During this time, all vehicles were restricted access to enter into High Park. In May, the Province introduced amendments to the Emergency Order allowing the City to re-open more than 850 park amenities. As part of this announcement, the City lifted some restrictions related to vehicle access into High Park. Vehicle access into the park is permitted on weekdays (Monday – Friday). However,  as part of ActiveTO, on weekends (Saturdays and Sundays), High Park will only be accessible to foot traffic to allow for physical distancing.

High Park Playground near Bloor St

The north playground at High Park has been closed for repairs and upgrades since fall 2019. The City is installing new playground equipment and structures while also rehabilitating the existing wading pool. The work is expected to be completed in 2020 (subject to emergency measure guidelines).

Charles G Williams Park

In Dec 2019, the City held a community consultation for the redevelopment of Charles G Williams Park. Based on the feedback that was gathered the final design plan was developed and can be viewed on my website. The next phase of work will be construction.

Close Avenue Parkette

In 2020, the City will begin the process to design playground improvements at Close Avenue Parkette. The current plan involves upgrading playground equipment, converting the existing wading pool into a splash pad and other park improvements.

Wabash Community Centre 

Work is underway to prepare for the new Wabash Community Centre. The scope of the project includes a new gymnasium and multi-purpose community spaces. The community will also be consulted on the option of having an indoor aquatics centre included as part of the project. The community centre is expected to open in 2025, subject to approval timelines and construction.

 

 

Updates on SwimTO and CampTO

Posted on June 11, 2020

SwimTO

On Wednesday, the City announced the launch of SwimTO – a quick-start program that will expedite the opening of the City’s beaches, outdoor pools, wading pools and splash pads. City staff are preparing now so that outdoor aquatic amenities can be opened when Toronto enters Stage 2, to help people cool down during hot summer temperatures. Six swimming beaches, including Sunnyside Beach, will reopen on June 22. Lifeguards will supervise each location daily from 11:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. The City will provide lifeguard supervision on swimming beaches coupled with comprehensive crowd management.

For more information on this, visit: https://www.toronto.ca/news/city-of-toronto-launches-swimto-plan-to-help-torontonians-cool-down-this-summer/

CampTO

Starting July 13, the City of Toronto will begin to offer summer camps across as part of its CampTO initiative. There will be more than 32,000 registered camp spaces for children between the ages of 6 and 12, over eight weeks of camps at approximately 150 locations across the city.

CampTO will offer traditional day camp experiences, including dance, drama, music, arts and crafts and active games. To help reduce the spread of COVID-19, CampTO programs will meet health guidelines designed in consultation with Toronto Public Health and in alignment with provincial health guidelines for day camps. Guidelines include lower ratios and capacity, physical distancing, mandatory health screening and enhanced facility cleaning.

Programs will be available for viewing on Saturday, June 13 at http://www.toronto.ca/camps.

Registration for CampTO will take place beginning at 7 a.m. on:

  • Wednesday, June 24 for Etobicoke/York and Scarborough districts
  • Thursday, June 25 for Toronto/East York, West Toronto/York and North York districts

The quickest and easiest way to register is online at efun.toronto.ca. Phone registration will also be available at 416-396-7378. As Civic Centres and community recreation facilities remain closed, in-person registration will not be available. Residents can call 416-396-7378 Monday to Friday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. for help preparing for registration. Extended hours of operation from 8 a.m. to 7p.m. will be offered on June 22 and 23.

Information on free programs and subsidies for recreation programs is available at http://www.toronto.ca/lowcostrecreation

ActiveTO Updates and continued weekend road closures

Posted on June 11, 2020

The City of Toronto, through ActiveTO, has now delivered 65 kilometres of Quiet Streets along 32 neighbourhood routes across Toronto.

Quiet Streets are shared space to allow residents to maintain physical distancing, while getting around on neighbourhood streets. Signage and temporary barricades are placed at intersections to encourage slow, local vehicle access only so the roadway can be a shared space that welcomes people who walk, run or bike as an alternative to riding transit. Parking and drop off areas are not impacted and City services, such as waste collection and emergency access, continue as normal. Quiet Street locations were prioritized based on several factors including population density, equity and access, access to greenspace, nearby attractions, traffic volumes and other considerations.

Staff have been actively monitoring and adapting all locations, based on neighbourhood use, and have been returning to locations to address on-street issues as they arise. This may include work such as adjusting the size and placement of temporary barriers and reviewing the types of barriers to support safety as well as space for on-street parking. A survey for people who use Quiet Streets is planned to help the City evaluate the effectiveness of existing locations.

The Quiet Streets program was officially launched on May 14 and was initially anticipated that approximately 57 kilometres would be installed. In just over three weeks, all planned and approved locations are now in place and, thanks to feedback from councillors and the public, an additional eight kilometres of Quiet Streets were added.

ActiveTO Major Road Closures this weekend:

More than 10 kilometres of ActiveTO Major Roads will again be closed this weekend, from Saturday, June 13 at 6 a.m. until Sunday, June 14 at 11 p.m.:

  • Lake Shore Boulevard West (eastbound lanes only) from Windermere Avenue to Stadium Road. As a result, the eastbound Gardiner Expressway off ramp to Lake Shore Boulevard West (exit #146) will also be closed.
  • Lake Shore Boulevard East (eastbound lanes only) from Leslie Street to just south of Woodbine Avenue (Kew Beach Avenue)
  • Bayview Avenue from Front Street East to Rosedale Valley Road, and River Street from Gerrard Street East to Bayview Avenue.

Vehicle access on these sections of major roads will not be permitted to allow for walking, running and biking. The City will actively manage traffic during these closures through signal timing adjustments on adjacent routes and roadway signage to alert drivers. Motorists who normally travel these roads on weekends should plan alternate routes. Those expecting to use the major road closures to cycle, run or walk should access them by bike or as a pedestrian, since nearby parking is limited and site parking is not provided.

Major road closures are installed adjacent to City trails to make space for people, alleviate weekend and holiday crowding, and ensure there is room to be physically active and support physical distancing. These closures continue to happen on a trial basis and staff are actively monitoring nearby routes and adjusting the closures as necessary.

ActiveTO Cycling Network update:

Toronto City Council has also approved the ActiveTO cycling network plan. It’s part of the largest expansion of Toronto’s on-street bike network ever in one year and will include a total of about 40 kilometres of new cycling routes for 2020.

The cycling network is being expanded quickly through temporary installations by repurposing curb lanes along several key corridors. The first kilometre of new, safe temporary bikeway was installed last week along Dundas Street East, between Sackville Street and Broadview Avenue. The next locations that staff are immediately planning for are along University Avenue/Queen’s Park Crescent, between Adelaide Street West and Bloor Street West, on Bayview Avenue between River Street and Rosedale Valley Road, and on Bloor Street, between Avenue Road and Sherbourne Street.

The ActiveTO program was developed by Toronto Public Health and Transportation Services to provide more space for people to be physically active and improve physical distancing as part of the City’s restart and recovery in the wake of COVID-19. All ActiveTO initiatives have been created to be adaptable, flexible and temporary.

More information on ActiveTO, including an online map of all locations, is available at http://www.toronto.ca/activeTO.

Message from Gord – June 4, 2020

Posted on June 4, 2020

On Tuesday I had my first virtual town hall. Thank you to everyone that tuned in and asked some important questions on how we recover together. I look forward to having more discussions in the near future and to hear your questions and concerns.

My office has also received your emails, calls and messages regarding the tragic death of Regis Korchinski-Paquet, the conduct of the police and our police budget. Thank you for your advocacy on this. Please see my website for more detailed comments. We must continue to do, and demand, better.

For those that have been waiting for this service, I am happy to share that residents can start scheduling curbside pick-up of their reserved materials from Toronto Public Libraries starting June 8. Currently 70 branches across the City are also accepting return of materials through drop boxes. More details on the curbside services can be found online.

The City of Toronto will begin to open some of its approximately 200 parks washrooms this week across the city following the Province of Ontario’s amendments to an order under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act.
The reopening will occur in two phases. The first phase will have roughly 50 washroom sites opening by June 6, followed by the remaining locations by mid-June.
In High Park, the Chess House & washroom (building #39) will be open. A list of locations washrooms and sanitation services are available on the City’s services webpage. Please read the guidelines on safely using public washrooms.
Due to COVID19 we will not be operating seasonal service on the 30 High Park route into High Park this year.

The City also announced a new quick-start program, CaféTO, that will make it easier for restaurant and bar owners to open patios, to expand them, and to access additional space for physical distancing and for that matter revenue generation during the summer months ahead. More information on this program will be available next week on toronto.ca/cafeto.

If you have any questions on any Ward 4 or City-related matters, please contact my office at councillor_perks@toronto.ca .

For the most updated information from the City, please visit toronto.ca/covid-19 .

Sincerely,

Gord

My comments regarding the conduct of the police and our police budget

Posted on June 4, 2020

Thank you for your emails, calls and messages regarding the tragic death of Regis Korchinski-Paquet, the conduct of the police and our police budget.

The SIU investigation is underway.  I will be following the outcomes closely. Her family deserves answers, as do we all.

There are many who question the SIU process and demand reform.

In 2016, I, along with colleagues Councillor Layton and Councillor Wong-Tam, brought a motion to City Council calling for a review of the manner in which police services are provided within the City of Toronto with an anti-black racism and anti-racism lens, and for a review of the mandate, procedures and outcomes of the Special Investigations Unit with respect to the treatment of cases that involve victims from racialized communities.

At the same time, Gerry McNeilly, head of the Office of the Independent Police Review Director was advising a review of the Ontario Police Act for these same reasons,  as well as additional matters province wide.

An independent review led by Justice Tulloch followed in 2017 and resulted in 129 recommendations on ways to transform police oversight.

Unfortunately, while efforts were made to amend the Police Act to enact the bulk of the recommendations, once  elected, Doug Ford proposed legislation (COPS Act) which imposed time-limits on investigations, and a roll-back of efforts to promote independent investigations into public complaints. 

Anti-Black racism is real and pervasive in our City. As a society we must do, and demand, better. 

In the City of Toronto, that means our funding priorities must be centred on a robust system of social supports and services, including ongoing investments in Black and marginalized communities. No budgetary demand of the TPS should ever stand in the way of that system.

Finally, we must take action to invest our resources to address these inequities head-on. The City works to apply an equity lens on every budget decision it makes, which is a good first step, but more must be done and it starts with properly funding City services.

Gord

Join Progress Toronto in calling for a New Deal for Toronto

Posted on June 4, 2020

Progress Toronto has put together a petition urging the Federal and Provincial governments to provide immediate financial relief to cities and commit to a new deal, a new relationship, with our city to help us build a Toronto that works for everyone. https://www.progresstoronto.ca/petition-toronto-in-crisis

Just as so many Torontonians are struggling to pay rent and put food on the table, COVID-19 emergency spending alongside decades of under-funding has pushed City Hall to a financial breaking point and Mayor Tory is ringing the alarm.

If this isn’t solved quickly, the Mayor says he will have to make massive cuts and stop vital services. That means we will be facing increased fares, fees, and devastating losses to services like housing, transit, fire, community centres, libraries, and child care, right when we need these services most and possibly for the long term. It doesn’t have to be this way.

Take action and make your voice heard by signing this petition.

City invites public input on Recovery and Rebuild efforts

Posted on June 4, 2020

The City announced the launch of an outreach and consultation initiative to engage residents, communities and businesses, and to seek their perspectives on how the City can recover, rebuild and emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic even stronger.

Toronto’s recovery and rebuilding in the months to come will be guided by public health considerations and provincial decisions, but will also rely on residents, businesses and others sharing their unique insights on successfully restoring and rebuilding the City’s communities and social and economic infrastructure.

There are several ways to get involved:

  • download a discussion guide
  • provide feedback online or to TORR by June 30, or
  • host a meeting or discussion – sample agendas and resources available online.

More information about the City’s recovery and rebuild efforts, the online survey, and tips and resources to hold a meeting are available at toronto.ca/RecoveryRebuild.

Daily Migration Virtual Art Workshops: Call for Participation

Posted on June 4, 2020

The STEPS Initiative and visual artist Shalak Attack invite you to apply to be part of a unique virtual workshop series that explores the stories and experiences of newcomers in the Parkdale neighbourhood  of Toronto. Up to 20 Participants will have the opportunity to work directly with Shalak Attack, while connecting with others and developing art techniques in watercolour, collage and mixed media approaches. The workshops will culminate with each participant creating a final artwork that will be presented as part of a Daily Migration exhibition in August. Deadline to apply is June 12, 4pm ET.

The applications is available here!

STEPS Daily Migration Virtual Art Workshops_ Call for Participation

ActiveTO road closures this weekend

Posted on June 4, 2020

The City will close sections of three major roads this weekend, in total making more than 10 kilometres of roadway available for walking, running and biking, as part of ActiveTO. This weekend, the closure on Lake Shore Boulevard West will return and the Lake Shore Boulevard East closure will be extended east to Leslie Street.

ActiveTO provides residents with more space to physically distance while getting exercise outdoors, which helps stop the spread of COVID-19.

The following three major road closures are planned this weekend from Saturday, June 6 at 6 a.m. until Sunday, June 7 at 11 p.m.:

  • Lake Shore Boulevard West (eastbound lanes only) from Windermere Avenue to Stadium Road. As a result, the eastbound Gardiner Expressway off-ramp to Lake Shore Boulevard West (exit #146) will also be closed
  • Lake Shore Boulevard East (eastbound lanes only) from Leslie Street to just south of Woodbine Avenue (Kew Beach Avenue)
  • Bayview Avenue from Mill Street to Rosedale Valley Road, and River Street from Gerrard Street East to Bayview Avenue.

Vehicle access on these sections of major roads will be closed to provide people with greater space for walking, running and biking. The City will actively manage traffic during these closures through signal timing adjustments on adjacent routes, as well as roadway signage to alert drivers. Motorists who normally travel these roads on weekends should plan alternate routes. Those expecting to use the major road closures to walk, run or cycle should access them as a pedestrian or by bike, since nearby parking is limited and site parking is not provided.

These major road closures have been planned adjacent to City trails to make more space for people, alleviate weekend and holiday crowding, and ensure there is room to be physically active and support physical distancing. These closures will happen on a trial basis and staff will monitor nearby routes and adjust the closures as necessary.

Along with the major road closures, ActiveTO includes installation of Quiet Streets across the city. To date, a total of 50 kilometres of Quiet Street routes have been installed in 24 spots across the city, with more routes planned.

Quiet Streets are neighbourhood streets where traffic calming measures, such as signage and temporary barricades, are placed at intersections to encourage slow, local vehicle access only so that the roadway can be a shared space that also welcomes people who walk, run and bike. Parking and drop off areas are not impacted, and City services, such as waste collection and emergency access, continue as normal.

Toronto City Council has also approved the ActiveTO cycling network plan. This is the largest expansion of Toronto’s on-street bike network ever in one year and will include about 40 kilometres of new cycling routes for 2020. The cycling network will be expanded quickly through temporary installations by repurposing curb lanes along several key corridors. The first temporary bikeway is expected to be in place soon.

The ActiveTO program was developed by Toronto Public Health and Transportation Services to provide more space for people to be physically active and improve physical distancing as part of the City’s restart and recovery in the wake of COVID-19. At the April 30 Council meeting, staff were requested to look at more active transportation as a crucial part of the restart and recovery and in anticipation of changes in traffic patterns in the coming weeks and months.

While the City of Toronto remains focused on fighting COVID-19 and continuing to provide the essential and critical services that residents and businesses rely on, the City is also looking ahead to the restart and recovery period.

More information and details about ActiveTO are available at http://www.toronto.ca/activeTO

The CurbTO program continues to roll out to immediately address locations where there is sidewalk crowding and temporary parking concerns around businesses. More businesses are permitted to offer pick-up, take-out and delivery services and have created store access line-ups to maintain physical distancing requirements, as recommended by Toronto Public Health.

Details about CurbTO, including a new map, as well as links to the business application are at http://www.toronto.ca/curbTO

 

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