City Council meetings of April 11-13 and April 26, 2000
Year 2000 operating budget
Council approved a $5.9 billion operating budget for 2000 that ensures a third consecutive year of a property tax freeze. The budget, presented at a special meeting of Council on April 26, enables the City to meet all its existing financial requirements and enhances several programs and services by a total of almost $77 million. The budget covers major new costs, including $31.2 million in provincial downloading and $17.1 million for capital projects, while benefiting from savings. Major savings include $15.8 million from amalgamation and $10.8 million in reduced welfare costs. The news release section of the City's Web site provides details about the budget.
Red-light cameras at intersections
At its April 11 meeting, Council approved funding for a two-year pilot project called the Intersection Safety Program to Reduce Red Light Running. Starting in September, the City will rotate the use of 10 traffic cameras at 40 designated intersections in an effort to deter drivers from the dangerous practice of ignoring the stop signals. The cameras will photograph cars in the act of running red lights, identifying licence plates so the owner can be fined ($185 for each offence). Revenue from fines is expected to pay for the program. Several other Ontario municipalities are also planning to use cameras in the same way as part of a safety program under the provincial Highway Traffic Act.
Environmental plan for Toronto
Council adopted the first-ever environmental plan for the new city. The many recommendations and targets build on current work and policies, emphasizing sustainable transportation and energy, green economic development and related education. Sustainability, the plan's central theme, refers to actions that meet goals such as economic vitality while at the same time meeting objectives for environmental and social well-being. Council also supported a series of additional environmental targets proposed by the City's Environmental Task Force.
Dismantling east end of expressway
Council endorsed a contract with two construction companies that will work together to dismantle the F.G. Gardiner Expressway between the Don Roadway and Leslie Street. The contract for $28.8 million also covers the construction of two new ramps for the shortened expressway. The project will require separate contracts for traffic signals, the relocation of utilities, landscaping and related work.
Lakeview power plant pollution
Council adopted a motion asking the province to make conversion of the coal-fired Lakeview power plant to natural gas fuel a requirement of selling the plant. The electrical power station on the shore of Lake Ontario (west of Toronto) has been criticized as a major air polluter even while operating at a fraction of its capacity. If the provincial agency that owns the plant sells it, as planned, it is expected that the new owner will want to increase the production output to increase profitability, which would increase emissions. Burning natural gas as fuel produces much less air pollution than burning coal.
Response to social assistance fraud
Council supported a resolution urging the provincial government not to continue implementing its new policy of a lifetime ban for individuals convicted of social assistance fraud. The City contends that the zero tolerance policy has serious implications not only for those convicted but also for their families. The lifetime ban would also deny prescription drug coverage for people with terminal illnesses and could harm people with severe mental and physical disabilities.
New boundaries for community councils
Council re-affirmed its support for community councils as geographic standing committees dealing with local matters and approved a consultation process to establish new community council boundaries for the incoming Council (to be elected in November). Provincial legislation that divides Toronto into 44 wards for the election eliminates the existing community councils on December 1. Consultation on new boundaries will include public meetings scheduled for May 1, 4, 8 and 15.
Council formalized its congratulations for a recent international environmental award won by the City of Toronto, presenting the Nations in Bloom 1999 award to the Economic Development and Parks Committee. The work of departments (particularly Economic Development, Culture and Tourism), community groups and individuals helped Toronto win the award in the category of environmental achievements by large cities. The City of Hamamatsu, Japan, hosted the competition.
Funding to promote tourism
Council decided to ask the provincial government to raise the provincial sales tax on hotel accommodation from 5 per cent to 8 per cent, with the additional revenues from Toronto hotels to be designated for the promotion of tourism in Toronto.
Garbage service for restaurants
Council endorsed plans to encourage and enforce the payment of service fees the City charges restaurants and other small commercial operations that receive three or more garbage collections a week. Many such businesses choose to receive pick-ups four, five or six times a week. Staff report that about half of the 2,534 businesses billed for the extra service in 1999 have not paid their bills.
Transportation for members of Council
Council decided to retain its car service but will reduce the fleet from six cars to five. Members of Council had debated whether, as a cost-cutting measure, to eliminate the service. The majority held the view that the transportation service helps them do their jobs efficiently.
Managing bingo operations
City officials will develop a process to consider applications for new bingo halls, one of the actions Council adopted in response to a report by the Bingo Task Force. Toronto has 19 bingo halls where more than five hundred charities and non-profit groups conduct bingo events to help finance their operations and programs. Pressures such as competition among halls and new gaming alternatives are reducing the bingo revenues available to those groups and to the City.
New name for atmospheric fund
The Toronto Atmospheric Fund Foundation (TAFF) is gaining a fresh identity after Council approved a new name, The Clean Air Partnership. The name change supports a strategy to clarify the organization's "brand identity" as a charitable, arms-length environmental group.
Previous Council Highlights
Council Highlights is an informal summary of Council's recent decisions, produced for readers' convenience. Any questions about this summary can be emailed to Strategic Communications at email@example.com
The formal documentation of Council's decisions is available at http://app.toronto.ca/tmmis/index.do
Questions about the formal documentation can be emailed to the City Clerk's Office at firstname.lastname@example.org