In a remarkable week we discovered that when Toronto speaks City Hall must listen.
A plan to sell off the Portlands portion of the Waterfront to a mall developer was unanimously defeated at City Council on Wednesday because of community action. Under the banner “Code Blue” (http://codeblueto.com/) Torontonians from all walks of life mobilized and overturned the ill-conceived mall-ferris wheel-monorail proposal floated by Councillor Ford. Council upheld a much better plan which will develop the area for mixed uses, community access to the waterfront, marvellous green-spaces, and smart protection from flooding at the mouth of the Don River.
Earlier in the week I attended a 20 hour committee meeting to hear from hundreds of people who treasure our City services and were speaking out against hasty deep cuts. Moved by the huge public outcry the Executive Committee (which is appointed by Mayor Ford) backed off cuts to many services and put off consideration of many others. The issue will come to City Council Monday. I want to caution you that these victories are only temporary. These and other service cuts will be before Council when we debate the 2012 budget in January.
Finally, yesterday Council agreed to hire two public health nurses which Mayor Ford had previously refused. Congratulations to the many community volunteers who lobbied, collected petitions and fought for investments in a healthier Toronto.
I want to tell you about three tools your neighbours used in winning these victories. First, I and other members of Council received 6000 emails this week on these issues in just over a week. Letting City Councillors know how you feel may take a little time, but it works. Second, two very different public protests took place at City Hal Thursday and Friday. In the first about 100 parents and small children came to City Hall and offered us cookies and juice and asked us to pinky swear that we would not cut daycare spaces (I made the pledge). In a more sombre protest a die-in was staged at City Hall to remind us of the risk we take if we cut funding for AIDS prevention grants. Third, I was invited to address two different groups of Ward 14 residents about Toronto’s finances and future. Each of the conversations with groups of 15 of your neighbours was lively and intimate. And in both cases all of us left with a renewed sense of what we value about Toronto, and the work we must do to stand up for our City.
City Hall can be frustrating and disappointing right now. But the dedication to a Toronto that works for everyone is tremendously heartening. Please join the work.
All the best,