Archive for the ‘News’ Category

Hot Air, Not Safety

We have an odd City Council. On the one hand, they’re suddenly all hot and bothered about private gun clubs leasing space on city property, which as any thinking Torontonian can tell ya will make diddly squat difference to the gun crime rate in Toronto. On the other, they couldn’t care less that the fire department reports serious safety concerns with the design of the St. Clair streetcar right-of-way. They’re much more concerned that Fire Chief Bill Stewart toes the party line and declares everything hunkey dorey. Of course, if they do act in Torontonians’ best interest and start tackling the issues raised in the fire department’s report, then they may, gasp, have to rethink their vaunted light rail transit design and may even have to modify the strategy and, in the end, admit that subways make much more sense on some city streets. After all if wide St. Clair Avenue cannot fit a dedicated streetcar right-of-way (and I’m not saying it cannot, it’s just that the fear-response by Council suggests it), how can narrower, more crowded streets accommodate them, like Pape Avenue on the proposed Don Mills Road LRT?

Mayor David Miller and Council took an inordinate amount of time to respond to the summer of the gun. He couldn’t even get out of his comfy limo to say some soothing words to the masses. But this late-day hot-air shutting down of gun clubs, while shutting up the Fire Chief, says that nothing has changed since 2005. Miller still can’t figure out how to make this city safer, and even when given a concrete report on how to ensure emergency services can arrive safely and quickly to Torontonians in trouble, he doesn’t want to know about it. This is leadership?

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!

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.

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.

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