City Hall

Reforming the Committee of Adjustment

For the past six years, one of my chief priorities at City Hall has been to make the Committee of Adjustment (CoA) more effective, accountable and transparent.

In 2014, I placed multiple motions intended to overhaul the Committee of Adjustment, recommending professional training for CoA members, better engagement of residents and improvements to the public notices and notification process.

This year, there are plans to hold training sessions for CoA members in all four districts. This training will focus on the Neighbourhoods policy of the City’s Official Plan to ensure that CoA members are more attune to and respectful of the needs and desires of our local neighbourhoods.

City Planning is also planning to host a roundtable discussion this year with resident groups in each district to discuss outreach strategies and how the CoA can be more accessible and user-friendly. As a result of recent meetings I’ve had with Planning staff, the notice sign is also being redesigned to make it more visible and staff are exploring other strategies to improve the public notice process altogether.

I’ve long advocated for the audio-visual recording of CoA meetings, which finally came to fruition last fall. Currently, the city is working to enable live-streaming of CoA panels on Planning’s Youtube page by the end of the summer, this will increase the accountability of the CoA and allow residents to follow the proceedings in real time..

Modernizing the City of Toronto

As a strong believer in fiscal responsibility and accountability, I’ve consistently pushed city staff to find efficiencies during my two terms in office.

That’s why I’m pleased to share the city is embarking on a bold – and much-needed – new plan to modernize city operations, increase efficiency and save money.

The new measures include:

  • A customer service strategy that offers more online services and streamlines the city’s service counters;
  • Maximizing city office space to increase productivity and engagement;
  • Reviewing the city’s current real estate holdings; and,
  • Hiring a Chief Transformation Office to oversee implementation of the plan.

These innovative, forward-thinking measures are on track to save the City of Toronto millions of dollars each and every year. For example:

  • $8 million annually will be saved by transferring services currently provided by phone and at service counters to online.
  • $4 to $6 million will be saved as a result of the Office Modernization Project, which reduces the overall office space needed at the city by retrofitting existing space to be more collaborative, efficient and productive.
  • $30 to $60 million in savings are expected through the implementation of a new centralized real estate and facility model that will maximize the city’s land and property assets.

Toronto’s financial envelope is limited, and we need to continue to drive savings in-house by finding new ways to conduct our business more efficiently, effectively and affordably.

Have Your Say: Toronto’s Long-Term Financial Plan

As you may know, the City of Toronto is currently in the process of renewing and updating its Long-Term Financial Plan – and we want your input!

The Long-Term Financial Plan is a road map that will the guide the city’s investments so that we can build the city Torontonians want.

City Council has adopted economic, social and environmental strategies to move our city forward. However, we need a strategic plan that articulates our priorities, outlines our revenue and spending targets and establishes a transparent planning process so that we can make sound, fiscally-responsible investments in Toronto’s future.

This winter and spring, the city will embark on the second phase of public consultations. In particular, we want your feedback on the city’s long-term financial direction as well as how we can strengthen governance, financial management and oversight of the city’s programs and agencies.

Head to www.InvestingInTO.ca for more information on the city’s Long-Term Financial Plan and the fiscal challenges currently facing Toronto.

Click here to sign up for updates and learn about upcoming consultation sessions. You can also get involved by following @GetInvolvedTO on Twitter and using the hashtag #InvestingInTO.

Our City’s Financial Direction

With experience on both sides of the fence – as a former senior manager in Economic Development and now as a City Councillor – I’m well aware of the challenges the City of Toronto faces to deliver services while also balancing the books.

I’m a firm believer in fiscal responsibility and accountability. During my two terms in office, I’ve consistently pushed city staff to reign in spending and find efficiencies from within.

Unfortunately, the Standing Committees and City Council often vote on items without being presented with a full assessment of how new services or programs will affect the city’s operating and capital budgets.

The City of Toronto’s financial envelope is limited, and we need to make sure that Council is aware – before it votes – of every new line item on the budget and its long term implications for the city’s financial sustainability.

With that in mind, I moved a motion at last month’s Executive Committee directing the Chief Financial Officer to prepare a financial impact summary outlining the financial and staffing implications of reports from the various Standing Committees.

We must keep track of what we’re approving and how we’re going to pay for it – that’s the only way to ensure smart, strategic investments and maintain our city’s financial health.

I’m pleased to let you know that Executive Committee and City Council supported my motion  – you can read it here.

Recording Committee of Adjustment Meetings

Committee of Adjustment meetings are now being recorded!

In my first term, I directed staff to consider the feasibility of recording Committee of Adjustment panels to improve transparency and accountability. In November 2015, city staff brought forward a positive report recommending the purchase and installation of a storage and recording device.

The device has now been installed and tested at City Hall, and audio-visual recording of all Committee of Adjustment meetings began on May 1, 2016.

Staff also reported this month that live streaming of the panels will be possible as of July 1, 2016 – this means that you can follow the meetings right from your own home!

You can read the full report to the May meeting of the Planning & Growth Management Committee here.

Improving Planning Notices

You’ve no doubt come across a sign from City Planning with information about a new development proposal.

The signs are confusing and difficult to read – you certainly don’t walk away with a clear sense of the proposal or how to get involved.

That’s why I supported a proposal at July’s City Council meeting to redesign City Planning’s public notices!

City Council directed the Chief Planner to review its public notices and look at making them more accessible by using straightforward language and informative illustrations.

Consultation will be part and parcel of the review and a report is expected in early 2015.

Open Letter and Motions on Mayor Ford

Many of you have written or spoken to me about the ongoing and disturbing events surrounding the Mayor and I appreciate you reaching out to me. Each day brings a new headline, a new troubling allegation followed by the same pattern of denial, deflection and belated admission.

That is why, six months ago, I took a leadership role on this issue by being the first one to speak out and ask the Mayor to step aside and address the headlines about his actions honestly, definitively and transparently.

From the beginning, two goals have guided my approach: avoiding disruption and refocusing attention on the city’s agenda, from transit to planning reform to the upcoming 2014 budget debates.

Last week, I spearheaded a petition signed by 30 City Councillors asking the Mayor to step aside and address his challenges privately, outside of the public eye. I presented the petition at the beginning of last Wednesday’s City Council meeting. My aim was to avoid more spectacle and distraction. 

Unfortunately, the Mayor refused to step out of the spotlight.

Earlier this week, City Council voted overwhelmingly to shift the Mayor’s non-statutory duties and responsibilities to the Deputy Mayor.

These measures are unprecedented but so is the situation we face. Misleading the city for months, hiring old friends with six figure city salaries to coach football, sending his staff on liquor runs and other personal errands, erratic public behaviour, failing to show up to city events, deplorable conduct in City Council, refusing to cooperate with police and, earlier today, Bloomberg reported that the Mayor’s actions have driven up Toronto’s borrowing costs – the Mayor has lost the ability to push city business and our fiscal agenda forward and City Council had to act.

The good news is that the measures passed with overwhelming support from across the city and the political spectrum. City Council is working together to shift city business back into the spotlight. It is time to put this issue behind us.

Royson James: Hurray for Robinson, now free to vote her conscience

Royson James
Toronto Star
June 11, 2013

Robinson should be ecstatic; Ainslie should leave before the Ford administration collapses.

Jaye Robinson is too nice, too good, too principled and too caring to be associated with Rob Ford.

The city councillor should have concluded as much over the Christmas holidays and quit the mayor’s executive committee then. T he fact she stayed while others jumped ship only burnished her
reputation.

The mayor repaid her Monday. As is his privilege, Ford dumped Robinson from his executive committee. It’s his loss, another in a bulging list.

A rookie councillor, Robinson should be rejoicing — freed as she is now to vote her conscience without feeling guilty about not supporting the mayor and his nonsensical policy directions.

Who can forget her agony over the seminal transit vote a year ago? An inept leader, armed with nothing but bluster and untruths about “subways, subways, subways,” Ford gave Robinson nothing to cling to as she valiantly sought a way to support his unsustainable boasts.

In the end, Robinson rightly concluded that you can’t build subways with hot air; that contrary to Ford’s claims — a position he mendaciously maintains to this day — Ford has no private sector funds to build subways; that Ford, conclusively, doesn’t really want to build transit, not when he rejected the most benign olive branch of a study of parking fees to finance a city plan to build the subways.

Even before the transit epiphany, the freshly elected Robinson set up her own private meetings with Waterfront T oronto to learn about the plans for waterfront revitalization. She had to go incognito — afraid of the bullying of the mayor’s brother, who wanted to bring in megamalls and a Ferris wheel on prime land.

She rebuffed the Fords on that one, too.

The marriage was always a difficult one for Robinson. She represents one of T oronto’s most affluent wards, including the Bridle Path. The majority of her constituents may embrace fiscal conservatism, but they abhor fools and are hardly tolerant of the buffoonery that passes for mayoral behaviour at city hall under the current mayor.

While Councillor Frances Nunziata swallows everything Ford says and dutifully votes in lock step with the mayor — a namby-pamby, boot-licking sycophant that few would have anticipated from the once nervous but brave and bold mayor of Y ork — Robinson’s character traits wouldn’t allow such unquestioning allegiance.

When Ford was elected in 2010 he had a tough time fielding his executive committee. As a cabinet of sorts, a group of 13 men wouldn’t play well, Ford was told. Nunziata was already locked up for the job of Speaker, and Karen Stintz had the T T C chair, exempting both from the executive. T he rest of the women all presented a dilemma or two.

Pam McConnell, Janet Davis, Paula Fletcher, Kristyn Wong-T am, Sarah Doucette, Mary Fragedakis, Maria Augimeri and Shelley Carroll were, heavens no, lefties. Four other women — Mary-Margaret McMahon, Ana Bailao, Michelle Berardinetti and Robinson were rookies.

In fact, Ford had the perfect candidate — a conservative councillor from Etobicoke named Gloria Lindsay Luby. Oops, sorry, never mind. Ford once dismissed her as “a waste of skin.”

So Ford settled on Berardinetti from Scarborough and Robinson — hailing them as two young, bright lights.

Berardinetti faced the same struggles as Robinson. She quit the executive committee in frustration in December; Robinson stuck with it.

When news of Ford’s crack-smoking video surfaced in May, a bewildered Robinson repeatedly asked the mayor to address the issue squarely and fully. She was one of the signatories to a letter demanding same.

Ford responded Monday, tossing her overboard.

The lifeboat is getting full — populated by Ford’s ex-staffers, aides, and political allies.

Councillor Paul Ainslie is hanging to the side of the ship of state. He is not trusted by the administration. It was he who told the Star he asked Ford’s handlers to get the mayor home from the military ball because the mayor wasn’t functioning properly — he seemed either intoxicated or high
on some substance.

Ainslie could have wilted under the pressure to recant. He stood firm in what he saw and did.

If more of Ford’s allies and handlers were more like Ainslie, the mayor would have long since been forced to leave office to repair what’s broken in his private life.

Instead, it is the good people being sacrificed to keep the ship afloat.

Read the full story here.