Archive for April, 2008

Mr Garbage: Bins Are More Esthetically Pleasing Than Sunny Porches, Flowers, and Lawns

CFTO evening news (oops early senior’s moment CTV Toronto News) did a story on the unsightly blue box tonight. Tom Hayes reported that since the blue bin program started 20 years ago, they’ve been increasing the amount of stuff that goes into the bin and so the bin had to grow. Um no. Here’s a thought: the frequency of pickup had to increase NOT decrease. The illogic of trying to get people to recycle more while decreasing frequency of pickup boggles my mind. But let’s continue.

As the person-on-the-street mentioned, she doesn’t even have to walk out her front door, she just has to look out her window, and there they are: big butt-ugly bins hogging the sidewalks and the visual line of sight. These bins are so big, they do not fit! As Hayes points out, they are changing the esthetics of the entire city. So much for aspiring to be once again Toronto the beautiful or the clean.

“I thought we cared what the city looks likes,” said the person on the street. Apparently not.

The fact that Councillors and city staff members actually thought that these bins would fit and not pose a safety hazard (more later) shows how utterly out of touch they are with the realities of city living when you can’t afford hired help and to rent storage areas. Or in Glenn De Baeremaeker’s case, be in love with garbage. After all, only someone who loves the sight and smells of garbage would actually come out with this stupid line:

“When we go to the garbage bin system, we’ll have a nice row lined up like soldiers of garbage bins, all basically the same shape size colour and function. It’ll be very efficient. And I think it’ll look actually better esthetically on most streets.”

And if you don’t like it, tough. “Get used to it,” he, Mr. Garbage, adds.

If you don’t believe me, that I quoted him exactly, check out the list of videos in the blue band on the mid-right side of the screen: Blue boxes an eyesore for some residents.

Well, I don’t know about you, but I’m fighting this Councillor’s arrogance. I looked out my window recently and saw the first line of soldiers hitting the sidewalks in my neighbourhood and wondered where I’d walk. You see, the bins take up half the sidewalk at least — and these are just the FIRST rollout, there is another set coming — which means I’m relegated to the edge of the sidewalk, not the safest place to be. In the winter between snow banks and bins, there would be nowhere to walk except the road…where the cars are.

But wait, it gets better. After the garbage men came through, flinging bins hither and thither, there was nowhere to walk. I could walk two steps, pick up bins, walk three steps, move bins, walk two steps, pick up bins, or I could walk on the road, keeping ears out for cars and get home in a timely manner. What about the poor mobility challenged? Finally the snow is gone, they can go out again, hurray. Oh but wait, it’s garbage day. Now the sidewalks are for bins, not humans, certainly not humans with canes, walkers, wheelchairs, and scooters or buggies.

Get used to it, says Mr. Garbage. Get used to only being able to use our sidewalks 6 days out of 7; get used to having to use the roads as sidewalks in the winter time every garbage day; get used to a garbage esthetic because that is what Toronto is becoming unless you e-mail your Councillor and the Target70 team and tell them this is unacceptable. You won’t be alone. I understand the Target70 team can’t keep up with the irate calls from Torontonians to get rid of the butt-ugly bins and return to a saner method of pickup. Perhaps we should start flooding Mr. Garbage’s e-mail box too. After all, he should be at least half as harassed as we are with this new insane pickup method.

TTC Back to Work For Now?

At 3pm this afternoon the TTC could be back in service. It’s expected that the legislature will unanimously pass back to work legislation (Liberals, NDP and Conservatives. On Sunday no less!). Hoping the Monday commute will be OK too and that we see a swift end to the strike! The meeting is due a 1:30pm. We can only hope!

Strike, Strike, Strike

It was on, it was a cert according to the media, who couldn’t wait for bad news days filled with person-on-the street interviews, mainly of the stick-it-to-them variety; then it was off. They’d made a deal. Mayor David Miller did not want a strike, and the TTC managers, in their usual noodle-spine way, gave the union what they wanted. One had to wonder why management bothered to negotiate, or did they just talk tough at the beginning so that at the soon-to-be-announced-next-fare-hike, they could say we struck a fair deal, a good deal for the city, and it has nothing to do with the tens of millions more in salaries we’re paying out? Who knows.

But then rumblings stirred the ground. The maintenance men were not happy. We all know what they did to the deaf guy who complained about them smoking inside and allegedly near flammable materials. Well, they’re doing it to us now. They made their unhappiness known to the other half of the union membership. Don’t worry, be happy, everyone said. The union will ratify the deal. Ha! Nothing stirs the blood and let’s Torontonians and TTC management know where they stand than a good strike, and a fast one too. So much for the 48 hours notice.

Miller is fuming. He gave the union what they wanted in 2005, he had the managers do the same in 2008, and this is how the rank and file, the plebes of the union, repay him? He’s not a happy man. The proletariat are already pissed at him over the monstrous garbage bins and his China trip. This is not going to help.

Let’s hope this makes management rethink the fact that these union members provide the public with less service, costing the TTC in millions as they automate their vocal chords, while at the same time demanding very cushy wage increases and benefit increases (benefit increases??? the mind boggles at the thought that they hadn’t long ago gotten the best benefits a threat of a strike could buy). Let’s hope the federal government wakes up to the fact that unless the TTC works, this city’s economic output drops substantially and maybe they need to wake up and become more like the US federal government and start subsidizing some much-needed capital expansion, like a subway line along Queen Street. Let’s hope the province starts to rethink how the TTC has fared since it cut its 75% operating budget subsidy and reverse that fully. And let’s hope that if we have a good long strike that at the end of it there’s a shake-up in management and a shake-up in the union Thatcher-style so that sanity and cost-effectiveness become part of the system. Otherwise, at the end of this strike, all I see is another fare hike, less service, and more childish fighting between management and the union at our expense.

Tory Adscam Saga Continues

Well the Liberals got in bed with shady advertisers to try and keep Quebec in Canada.  Looks like the Conservative Party may have topped them by using the help of Retail Media Inc (and others) to overspend to help win their election campaign.  It’s not surprising that the list of  candidates suspected of receiving ad funding due to creative accounting were in Quebec and in the GTA.  Many tight races for sought after seats, duh.

The allegations are that the federal Conservatives deliberately skirted election financing laws.  Basically they claimed tax rebates at the expense of taxpayers for ad expenses that local candidates were not entitled to.  Stealing your money to steal your votes.  Hmm, what do you think would happen to you if you filed for deductions you weren’t entitled to?

Aparently some Toronto candidates, felt the interpretation of the ad spending and flow of funds was unethical.  If the RCMP are involved there is likely some fire behind the smoke and mirrors.  So far Mr. Harper said that “we always follow the law as we understand it“.  Elections Canada, the RCMP and some Toronto voters will want to better understand what that means in the coming days.  In the end it reinforces the assumption that Markerting and Advertising people are slimier than the greasiest politician.

Spring Has Sprung

Well, I could write about the TTC, about how the union wants the Mayor or the TTC Chair to take over negotiations, which they would of course because the union can easily pound them into flat meat and get a “yes, whatever you want” from either of them, thus guaranteeing another fare hike. Or I could vent about the new ginormous blue boxes, whose blight on the urban landscape is easily discernible to anyone driving from east to west, from blight to friendly, and whose sizes makes one pause about how serious Toronto is about reducing waste production — just because it’s recyclable doesn’t make it more virtuous than trash that gets landfilled or, more enlightened, made useful by being turned into electricity (now that’s high-tech recycling for you!). All waste comes from consumption; all waste requires power and materials to be manufactured in the first place, and recyclables need power again to be turned into something else that will then again be put into the waste bin.

Instead, I’ll just show you the best part of spring.

Cabbagetown Residents May Get Their Garbage Bags Back

Global News tonight interviewed a Cabbagetown resident so peeved by the Big Ugly Blue Bin that she sent it back to the city. She tried to find a place for it, but there was nowhere to be found — surprise, surprise — except to dominate her pretty garden. Toronto Councillor Pam McConnell speculated that for these special residents who live in historical areas they might allow a return to using bags. Why? So the Big Ugly Blue Bins won’t uglify their historical neighbourhoods, won’t be a blight against their lovely gardens, wrought iron fences, and restored frontages. Excuse me, but why is it OK to uglify MY neighbourhood, just because it’s not an historical district? Why instead of flowers and low stone walls and the occasional wrought iron fence, do I need to see ugly-butt bins, bins, bins, bins, bins?! Yes, I can still see flowers, but the bins, even the smallest, are so enormous — and which will soon be joined by their twin ugly-butt garbage bins — that they dominate the sight lines.

Turns out too that healthy, hearty folk are also finding it difficult to cart that sucker around; for them it’s when full. And so they’re just leaving them in place. I guess it’s easier to walk out to the bin sitting at the edge of the property to dump in the trash than to haul it up and down stairs. Who knew? Only someone with common sense, something definitely in short supply at City Hall, so short that Mayor Miller has twinned us with Beijing, the idea being that we will learn how to build subways and run cities from them (and they from us, but that’s a bit of joke in the current era). He sure has a great sense of timing.

No Murder for 26 Days

I heard all over the radio today that Toronto has gone 26 days sans a murder. That’s pretty astonishing for a big city.

The police credit our excellent emergency services. The paramedics get there quickly, and the ER doctors must be getting proficient at staunching blood flow and stitching up wounds — easier said than done. In the midst of news about our Mayor’s questionable ethics (visiting China) and Council’s stupid, oppressive decisions (big bins coming to you), it’s uplifting to hear that something is working right in this city. They may be mostly thugs that the EMS are saving, but it’s bad for a city’s morale — never mind that it causes the news media to become hysterical, sewing fear every chance they can get — to have an increasing murder rate or to hear of murder after murder. For this day, we have good news.

Hot Docs – 15th Anniversary This Week!

It all kicks off this Thursday. Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival is North America’s largest documentary festival and runs from April 17-27, 2008. The festival strings together amazing selections (more than 100 cutting-edge documentaries) from Canada and around the world, past and present. 2008 marks marks its 15th anniversary.

From the photography of Edward Burtynsky, the lives of Carnies, to a Toronto family’s challenge to NOT throw out their garbage. A whole spectrum of interesting and cutting edge documentary films to choose from. Forget reality TV and catch reality on the big screen.

Daytime/Matinees shows (before 6pm) are $10, evening shows are $12 and late night shows (after 11pm) are only $5!

HOT DOCS
April 17 – 27, 2008
Tickets are available at the DOCUMENTARY Box Office, 87 Avenue Road (2 blocks north of Bloor), Hazelton Lanes (Upper Level) by phone at 416-637-5150, or online.

SWERVEDRIVER to play Toronto…

Loaded up my mp3 player of choice with some tunes and came across a reunion tour of epic proportions.  SWERVEDRIVER are touring after a 10 year pause.  So happy that they will be playing Toronto!!!  Ah, but not until June 13th (at Lee’s Palace)…

Never lose that feeling… 

The Monstrous Blue Coming to You

Bob Hepburn in The Toronto Star wrote an excellent column on the ginormous, so-called “medium-sized” uglification campaign called the new Toronto blue bin. Excellent column. It reflected exactly my feelings on the matter. I have zero idea where I’m going to put my new, improved blue bin. It doesn’t fit anywhere except as a front-lawn statue to Toronto politicians’ projected garbage guilt.

Apparently, he’s received dozens and dozens of responses to his column and will be writing more. Others have written earlier about these impending (now here in much of the city) bins, but probably because folks couldn’t see them, they vented, then shrugged. But now that they’re here, folks are real upset. They can see what a boondoggle these bins are, how they do not address the garbage problem, and how they contribute to the deteriorating beauty of our city. There is a consensus here, and we can grab the momentum to bring sanity back to Toronto’s garbage policy, but only if we protest loudly and longly. No shrugging and willingly being run over by City Hall!

For many, the problem is where to put it, but for the most vulnerable in society, it’s how to use it. Those with upper body weakness won’t be able to open or close it; those with upper or lower body issues won’t be able to maneuvre it. Those with any kind of weakness or fatigue will find it particularly hard to get it up and down steps, and many, many homes in Toronto have steps, even homes in which people who require canes or wheelchairs live. And this is just bin #1. Ginormous bin #2 for garbage has yet to arrive. And what’s the betting ginormous bin #3 to replace the current green bin will soon follow? One Councillor is working on a way to use this huge medium-sized bin for both recyclables and garbage so that homeowners won’t have to store two, just one; however, if the bin don’t fit and is not usable by the most vulnerable in our society, even one is one too many.

The whole thing is bogus anyway. All garbage, whether straight trash, recyclables, or compostables, is a waste byproduct of our consumption. The more we consume, the more energy we use during manufacturing and sales, and the more garbage is produced, even if it is recyclable. Even worse, manufacturers are using much more packaging than they used to. Some have called for requiring retailers to remove the packaging at the cashier’s desk since so much of it is impossible to get into. I know I’ve ended up throwing out new products as I simply could not open them up. I have no idea how people with (bad) arthritis manage to break open some of these packages, especially those who live alone or with an infirm partner and can’t easily get help from a strong individual. Furthermore, not all plastic is recyclable, yet I bet most people have a hard time figuring out which is which — which can go in the blue box and which can go in the garbage. The whole sorting thing, which requires those calendars, challenges persons with developmental or mental difficulties especially, trying to understand them, never mind able-minded people who simply have a job and family to run.

And in the end, why do we as individuals need to be virtuous about sorting garbage from recycling? It’s not like we choose our products based on whether they’re recyclable or not. I bet only the fanatics and eco-nuts do that. The rest of us don’t. So why is it virtuous for us as individuals to recycle? To assuage our guilt for not making the “right” choice at the time of purchase?

Worse, all this work results only in homeowners’ garbage being sorted, no-one else’s. I’ve written extensively about garbage before, but perhaps the reality of these blue monstrosities will get Torontonians up in arms and moving into action.

If the city really wanted to tackle the garbage crisis, really wanted to be green, really wanted to clean up this city it would do three things:

  1. Build a facility that sorts garbage into recyclable, reusable, compostable, and trash. Then go back to picking up all garbage twice a week. The entire city would thus have their garbage sorted. This would also particularly help large families who per person may not produce much garbage but in aggregate do; it would help the infirm and disabled who can’t carry much weight and thus with more frequent pick-ups would have a manageable amount of garbage to put out. It would also get rid of that ridiculous calendar with those incomprehensible dos and don’ts. What a waste of paper that is!
  2. Build a clean, modern incinerator, like the ones in Sweden, to create electricity from trash. This would replace the nonrenewable fossil fuel power plant the idiotic Ontario government foisted upon us and allow Toronto to (a) use a renewable resource (trash) to (b) create electricity so that (c) in an event of a natural disaster, Toronto would have a local source of electricity generation that does not reduce our fossil fuels. This would also bring harmony back to our relationships with our neighbours by eradicating the need for landfill and trucks belching smoke down the highway.
  3. Band together with other municipalities to force manufacturers to reduce their packaging.
  4. Require retailers to remove said packaging at the store — businesses are far more likely to act than apathetic Torontonians in forcing manufacturers to get real about their ridiculous packaging.
  5. Recognize that garbage is garbage. One kind is not any more virtuous than another. It’s all waste from consumption. Thus allow people to use bags. In conjunction with item #1, that would mean our sidewalks would be free of clutter so that pedestrians aren’t forced to use the road even after the garbage is picked up, and bags can be tagged. Bag tags have proven effective in other cities in reducing waste and injuries among the sanitation workers. I’m not a big fan but somehow we need to reduce our overall waste production and foisting a humoungous bin on people ain’t going to do it.

Right now we need to protest this blue bin. Make your Councillor so uncomfortable, like the Riverdale residents Hepburn writes about in his column did when they protested, that they will reverse this stupid bin idea and go back to the drawing board. If you don’t know who your Councillor is, click here. And in the meantime refuse to use the new bin. Torontonians used to know how to do protests. Maybe we’ll learn all over again.

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