A letter to Mayor Rob Ford regarding TTC cuts, with his response.

TBCA member Lois Schklar recently sent Mayor Ford’s office the following letter in response to planned TTC cuts (Toronto Star: Prepare for fare hike, TTC Chair says) for budget year 2012.

Mr. Ford

I do not support your drastic cuts to the TTC. I rely on public transit to get around the city. I already wait longer than necessary for streetcar service due to cars clogging the downtown streets. I know you are a car guy and probably commuting as you do from the far edge of the downtown area necessitates your driving every day. But many of us do not drive nor do we wish to drive. The congestion is unacceptable. More streetcars and busses are needed not less. What are you thinking?

Only last year you said the TTC was an essential service. Obviously meaningless political dribble.

Check out any European city and their public transit systems. Our system has a very long way to go. You are only contributing to its decline. Make our TTC more efficient not less.

Please reconsider your outrageous actions and help make Toronto the world class city it deserves to be.

Please do not auto respond. That is really annoying.

Lois Schklar

Here was the response from the Mayor’s office:

Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts about the TTC’s proposed budget for 2012.

The previous administration regularly increased TTC fares. Last year, the TTC was able to provide services with no increase to fares. However, like the rest of the City’s services and departments, the TTC has inflationary pressures which must be addressed. Ten cents represents a 3.3% inflationary increase this year, after no increase last year.

No TTC routes will be eliminated. In most cases, changes will be minimal, measured in seconds, not minutes. We are in fact shifting TTC services and staffing to those routes experiencing growth in ridership from those routes where there is lower usage.

In the fiscal year 2010-2011, the TTC received $91 million from the Province for its operation- roughly 6% of its $1.5 Billion operating budget. We are grateful for the support from the Province. We will continue to work with our partners at the Province and Federal Government to find solutions for funding. However, we recognize those governments also face their own financial challenges.

Thank you again for expressing your comments and concerns. Your valuable input on this important issue is greatly appreciated. Please do not hesitate to contact my office at any time.

Yours truly,

Mayor Rob Ford
City of Toronto


Corporate advertising in our parks and playgrounds?

Council is soon going to be debating some significant and alarming changes to the City’s Naming Rights and Sponsorship Policies.  The proposed changes would effectively allow corporations to buy naming rights to public places, including streets, parks, and children’s playgrounds, with little or no community consultation.  In my opinion, the City should not be selling off the names of public spaces for corporate gain; it should be consulting with communities to ensure that names for public spaces reflect the identity and interests of the community that uses them.

Some of the policy changes about which I think we should be most concerned include:

–       the loophole that allows for “honourific” names for streets to be sold to “organizations” which could include corporations.  Previous street naming policy included a clause expressly forbidding using street naming to facilitate advertising.  For some reason, this clause has been removed, leaving the door open to naming streets after corporations.  The clause forbidding this should be reinstated.

–       the granting of virtually unlimited authority to City staff to enter into advertising deals with corporations for naming rights and sponsorships.  The policy changes would give City staff the authority to enter into contracts for naming rights and sponsorships if the sum of money involved is less than $500,000.  This proposed increased delegation of approval authority to staff will make it much more difficult for Councillors, local communities, and interested groups to challenge naming rights and sponsorship sales and raise their legitimate concerns.

–       the selling off of the naming rights to children’s playgrounds to corporations.  Children are particularly vulnerable to advertising.  Playgrounds should be places in which children should feel welcomed as members of a community, not targeted as potential consumers of corporate products.

The naming of public places is one of the most important ways in which a community can build its sense of identity and its understanding of its heritage. Naming places after corporations undermines civic identity. Let’s urge all Councillors to reject any proposed policy changes to naming rights and sponsorship that would promote the interests of corporate advertisers over the interests of the community and encourage them to promote policies that would strengthen the requirements for community consultation and transparency in these matters.

– Anne Keary

CAMH gets $30 million donation

Cutting-edge work investigating new ways to treat mental illness and provide better care for patients will soon be one step closer to reality because of a massive $30-million donation to create a new research institute at Toronto’s Centre for Addiction and Mental Health.

The donation, made by the daughters of the late Audrey Campbell and their families, is the largest private donation ever made to a mental health and addiction research hospital in Canada.

Link to article