Archive for the ‘Love Hate Toronto’ Category

Finally! Council Approves Deal To End Strike

A bit of grandstanding by some but Toronto city councillors voted this evening to approve the deals worked out with two CUPE unions. The strike is over!

The special day long meeting resulted in a 21-17 vote in favour of settling. Seems like a decent compromise despite media hype, doomsday projections and hyperbole.

Read the background info. This was one of the lowest settlements among public sector employees in the province. The city is allowing some OT for union workers to clean up the mess BUT is not restricted to hiring contractors if it saves the city money. (Note that some contractors have billed, some who have needed their services The sick day plan benefit has been grandfathered much the same way as in other municipalities like Mississauga.

The bargaining committee for the city, and Mayor Miller, did a relatively good job. If many were paying attention the strain on the city’s finances, started with downloading by the Harris Conservatives. More services dumped down have meant more we have tax increases. All told, while some benefits are still intact for unionized employees, demographics will favour the city as pay outs and the costs of these will fade away. The unions get modest increases and don’t completely hijack to city’s pocketbook.

The workers are back, the services are restored. We’ll have two weeks of unlimited Green Bin and garbage pick up. The ferry services will return to full service Saturday too. Let’s enjoy the rest of the summer and the the Caribana Parade!

Toronto 175

With all the doom and gloom being reported it’s nice to contemplate something good for a change. Friday March 6, 2009 marked Toronto’s 175th Anniversary.

It’s easy to get caught up in winter’s blahs and take for granted what we have. The St. Lawrence Market, Pedestrian Sundays, Kensington Market, High Park, The Beach, Cabbagetown, to name but a few and there are many other reminders.

Spacing’s contributing city photographers have donated 175 photographs to the City of Toronto’s Archives and Spacing has created some great historical buttons. Toronto Star Columnist Christopher Hume has a great interactive map of Toronto architecture. You should pick up Toronto’s Visual Legacy Official City Photography from 1856 to the Present by Steve MacKinnon & Karen Teeple & Michele Dale as it’s a fascinating book. It details Toronto’s progress from the building of The Bloor Street Viaduct, old and new city hall, to street life through the eras.

You’ve come a long way Toronto. Hoping we can continue to build a better city together.

Torontoist Is Getting It’s Plug Pulled After The Ball Drops…

DAMN! Very sad to hear that Torontoist will come to an end after December 31st. It seems that Gothamist decided to cut Toronto out of it mix of US and International city blogs. Hoping that their authors continue to lend their voices to the city and keep writing…somewhere in the future. Torontoist and Spacing have consistently been great additions to the blogosphere and Toronto.

Cough, Cough, Wheeze

Opened the door to smog city and saw the air. It looked like dust floating, like particles rising from a room under construction or deconstruction. But no construction going on that I could see (probably one of the few places that’s c-free in Toronto). My lungs instantly rebelled. I’d forgotten my asthma meds, and boy was I reminded in a hurry.

I didn’t hear if it was a spare-the-air day, but it really should be a stay-inside day. I dream of a time when all cars emit just water and the Ohio coal plants are shut down, of a time when smog is relegated to the history books instead of blanketing Toronto and the whole of southwestern Ontario. Until then, I ain’t going outside on days like this if I can help it!

Free Transit Touted Elsewhere, but Not in Toronto, not for the TTC

A Hamilton City Councillor is pushing for free public transit, a “no-brainer” move some Torontonians would like to see happen here, at the very least on smog days. It’s a no-brainer because as the Councillor points out, free equals more riders, and on smoggy days, when apparently 50% of Toronto’s smog comes from cars, that’s a good thing.

But “while cities like San Francisco and Montreal can offer free rides on
smog days,” Adam Giambrone, Chair of the TTC, says that “the concept doesn’t work with the TTC’s 1.5 million daily riders.” (Nick Kyonka, The Toronto Star, 8 July 2008)

He’s right. Free equals more riders which requires sufficient capacity. I don’t know much about public transit in San Francisco, but I do know that Montréal has more subway lines than Toronto, servicing a much smaller population than we have.* In other words, they can accommodate an influx of riders, the kind of influx that requires large-capacity carrying transit for the kind of riders who won’t tolerate packed, overheated buses and streetcars but will take the subway in lieu of their preferred cars. Toronto cannot.

Not on our buses, not on our streetcars, not on our subways. This is what the Art Eggleton-school-of-apathy established in 1980, the Ontario-Canada-school-of-hate-Toronto, and the learned-helplessness-of-Torontonians have begotten us. The one thing that may save us is the green movement, whereby even the most apathetic and most-Toronto-hating politician may find it beneficial to start building subways again, especially downtown where it would pay for itself. (I don’t know what’s happened to the subway to York U, but it seems to have transferred itself onto the slow track.)

———————–

* How much smaller is Montréal to Toronto: read this tourist post. For a person like me who remembers when the two cities were neck and neck in population, this is very funny. I’m glad she had a good time here! That’s what we like, happy tourists!!! Even if we natives have to put up with an inadequate TTC.

CBC Toronto Does Half a Story on Green Bin Waste

Yesterday, CBC Toronto six o’clock news did a story on what happens to Toronto’s green bin waste. According to their report, the city collects 150 tonnes per day, 20 percent of which is not compostable or organic and contaminates the organic waste stream, impairing the ability of the city to sell the compost. The city says we’re doing three things wrong:

  1. The plebes double or triple bag their waste. Wonder why? It couldn’t be because it’s collected at half the rate it used to be and thus has time to start to rot and smell, now could it? As the solid waste manager noted at the beginning of the piece, organics stink. The city uses a pulper to separate the plastic bags from the waste; the more bags, the longer the pulper runs, the more electricity is required to run the machine.
  2. The mayonnaise effect: plebes throw out the whole jar of spoiled food, rather than scooping the food out (old mayo, for example) into the green bin and washing out the glass jar before tossing it into the recycling bin. I sympathize with the plebes; especially when you’re cleaning out the fridge, who wants to double the time you already don’t have to do this chore by separating each and every container into its component parts. The pulper and rest of the machinery doesn’t completely separate the glass from the food, and so the compost ends up with sharp shards in it.
  3. Us plebes don’t have a clue what to put in each bin. We spend time reading the calendars, checking out what others have put in their boxes, asking others even the city, yet still we get it wrong, and the city blames us. We’re not educating ourselves well enough, and we have to do better, they claim. The only ones who will heed their accusation and feel guilty will be those who are already trying to educate themselves; the passive protesters couldn’t care less. They’re too overworked to spend time listening to a city that can’t deal with a garbage issue so throws responsibility for it onto the people.

The CBC report answered the question how do the organics get separated from the plastic, but it didn’t challenge the city at all. It didn’t ask why it’s not using better equipment, equipment other municipalities have tried out or are using that does a good job of separating all the various waste streams from each other and doesn’t require ordinary people to pre-sort their garbage. It didn’t ask why it’s relying on overworked, underpaid, don’t-speak-English citizenry to do its job and pay for the privilege. Toronto doesn’t seem to acknowledge that there’s a large segment of the population who don’t buy into the garbage-sorting-makes-us-better-citizens BS and never will and that though Toronto prides itself on being multicultural, many of those with poor English skills use that to avoid spending so much time on trying to figure out the convoluted garbage rules. They are in effect being passive protestors.

CBC also didn’t ask how much of the green bin waste is actually recycled into compost and how much ends up in the landfill. It mentioned creating methane from green waste, but CBC didn’t ask if it’s being done now and what’s taking so long; why old landfills’ methane are being vented into the air and not being used for energy creation; and why this form of gas creation is OK but not a high-tech incinerator or plasma arc plant.

In other words, as usual we got a regurgitated press release, just with pretty (or stinky if you will) pictures, telling us what we’re doing wrong instead of challenging the city on why it’s doing a half-assed job and pissing off the neighbours and its own citizens in the process.

Put Toronto First: A New Website

Put Toronto First is a new initiative by the National Citizens Coalition that has just gone live. The NCC are the ones who put that big billboard up of Bob Rae back during Rae Days. Rumour has it they’re planning on doing the same to David Miller. I cannot wait!

Before they put up this new website, they spent April querying the person-on-the-street about what bugs them the most. They have a nifty little pie chart that shows that taxation is the number one priority. I wonder though how well informed people are about all the ways City Hall takes their money.

I had a couple of interesting conversations over the weekend, and despite the plethora of news reports last summer and the recent flurry of info from City Hall, I discovered that usually well-informed people are completely oblivious to the fact that they’re getting a SECOND garbage bin, to match the new blue bin. In addition, THIS ONE they will have to pay for…unless they get a “small” one, which most people I know won’t be able to because of their household size.

Remember big families get dinged the most under this new tax plan. So you would think if people are miffed about taxation and the misuse of tax dollars, they’d be up in arms about this stealth tax in the guise of cleaning up our environment. You’d think.

Round Two: Garbage Bins

Holy cow, did you get a gander at the new garbage bins? No, not the monstrous blue, I mean round two of bindom.

Garbage Bin Ad

I think she must be Glenn De Baeremaeker’s sister. Questions: Will Cabbagetown residents get more ticked off and ensure they get to continue to use bags for their garbage too? Am I going to have to make another call to get rid of this bin too?

If you couldn’t get worked up over round one, how about the fact that this time, you get to pay for it? These bins aren’t the ones they presented to the media last summer — those ones were tame compared to these behemoths! talk about massaging the message — but for the privilege of polluting the visual appeal of your property, even if you don’t use your bin some weeks, the bigger the bin, the greater the hit on your wallet. (BTW the reason why the smallest bin is much bigger than they advertised last summer is because they have to make it bigger for automated collection, which is impossible outside of the burb areas of Toronto but who cares about that small detail, and so they put in a false bottom. The actual bin capacity is half of what you see. You’ll get a $10 annual credit for using that one. Be still my beating heart.)

Of course, if we’d gone to bag tags and continued to be allowed to put out garbage your way (whether bags or bins) you’d have to pay only when you put out your garbage, not every two weeks regardless of how much, if any, garbage you put out. The bag tags also are an easy and visible way to show how much you can save if you put out less garbage; the bin way it’s far more of a hassle to reduce your garbage, that is, you figure out you could go down a size, but then you’d have to know you could do that every 2 weeks, for sure, and maybe you’re not sure plus you have to call City Hall, and who enjoys doing that? So in the end, why bother? So no, the bin way is a less-satisfactory method of reducing waste production plus it penalizes large families and cultures that live in extended-family units. But then Toronto really wants more taxes out of you, and bins are the way to do it. Have a good day!

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.

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.

Terms of use | Privacy Policy | Content: Creative Commons | Site and Design © 2009 | Metroblogging ® and Metblogs ® are registered trademarks of Bode Media, Inc.