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Waterfront revitalization a 'waste of taxpayers' money,' Ford says

A Toronto city council meeting on Oct 8, 2013. 680News/Charlene Close.

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford continues to express his outrage of the waterfront revitalization, calling it a “true example of a complete waste of taxpayers’ money.”

At Tuesday’s council meeting — the first scheduled one since the mayor returned from rehab on June 30 — councillors discussed a staff proposal for a strategic review of the second phase of Toronto’s waterfront revitalization.

The revitalization, which is managed by Waterfront Toronto, has received $1.5 billion from the federal, provincial and municipal governments, but it needs more money.

Click here to view the full agenda. You can also watch it live on CityNews.ca and 680News.com.

At last week’s executive committee meeting, Ford criticized the organization in charge, saying “this is a cancer we must cut out.”

On Tuesday, Ford once again brought up the pink umbrellas that cost nearly $12,000 each — $416,000 for 36 umbrellas — and the two rocks at Sugar Beach, which cost over $1 million.

He said people are “furious” about these examples of waste of city and taxpayer money.

“I have not found one person that supports spending $12,000 on pink umbrellas on the waterfront,” Ford said.

“We cannot afford it, we are $3 billion in debt … I cannot and will not support this.”

He also complained about how he is not seeing any results with the waterfront revitalization, and instead sees congestion and “condos, condos, condos” while driving on the Gardiner Expressway.

“If you’re spending this money, you have to see results,” Ford said, adding that if Sugar Beach is a “tourist destination, it is very hard to find.”

However, Coun. Michael Thompson defended Sugar Beach and Waterfront Toronto, calling it a “good investment.”

Then, Coun. Doug Ford spoke and asked: “Does it take 12 years to do what we have to do at the waterfront? Does it take $1.5 billion?”

“Something is severely broken on the waterfront.”

Coun. Denzil Minnan-Wong also ripped into Waterfront Toronto at Tuesday’s council meeting, calling them too secretive.

He said the organization is not under the scrutiny that it needs to be under, and that “greater scrutiny is required.”

Last Thursday, the executive committee supported Minnan-Wong’s motion that Waterfront Toronto adopt a policy similar to the provincial Freedom of Information request, have an open meeting investigator and adopt a policy similar to the city’s regarding whistleblowers.

Minnan-Wong said he will support staff’s recommendation because it will provide a review of Waterfront Toronto.

He said the organization has “discouraged people” from looking at how it spends money.

He said the reports are on their desk, but only board members are permitted to see them.

“We need to force Waterfront Toronto to be more open,” Minnan-Wong said.

Before going into closed session council voted 31 to 6 to approve a waterfront strategic review.

Some of the high-profile motions include code of conduct violations pertaining to Ford and Coun. Giorgio Mammoliti.

Mayor Ford code of conduct

The city’s integrity commissioner recommends that city council adopt the finding in her report that the mayor violated the Code of Conduct by sending a robocall message to residents in Coun. Paul Ainslie’s Scarborough East ward.

Councillors were supposed to vote on this in May; however, it was deferred until Ford returned from his temporary leave of absence.

The robocall accused the Ward 43 councillor of “not listening to his constituents on the Scarborough subway vote.”

Integrity commissioner Janet Leiper says this violates Article XIV (Discreditable Conduct) of the Code of Conduct, and that the mayor should apologize to Ainslie in writing and at council.

Coun. Mammoliti code of conduct

A report from the integrity commissioner finds Coun. Giorgio Mammoliti violated the Code of Conduct by “improperly accepting gifts, favours or benefits” from a $500-a-plate fundraiser in 2013.

According to Leiper, the councillor accepted $80,000 as a “gift” from The Event Company, the third party that along with Mammoliti’s office organized the dinner on May 22, 2013.

The money was generated from ticket sales from the event, which was attended by companies doing businesses with the city or in the ward and lobbyists, among others.

The integrity commissioner wants city council to suspend Mammoliti’s pay for 90 days for violating Article IV of the Code of Conduct, which would work out to around $26,000.

Appointment of the Toronto Ombudsman

Will Fiona Crean continue as Toronto’s ombudsman?

City councillors will decide whether to extend her contract for an additional five years at the meeting. In October 2012, council voted to extend her contract by only two years, instead of the typical five-year term after a push by some councillors to have her replaced.

Crean and the mayor have clashed publicly in recent months — the most heated came when Ford called for her resignation after a scathing report on Toronto Community Housing managerial practices that resulted in the ousting of CEO Gene Jones (a Ford ally).

According to the motion, “The Toronto Ombudsman is responsible for investigating public complaints about decisions, actions or recommendations made or omitted in the course of implementing City policies and administering City services. The Ombudsman is a statutory function required under the City of Toronto Act, 2006 and reports directly to City Council.”

Crean was appointed in November 2008 by the city council as Toronto’s first ombudsman.

The future of the Sam The Record Man sign

The iconic sign from the now-defunct Sam the Record man store could soon rise again near its former home on Yonge Street.

Councillors will decide whether to endorse Toronto’s Planning and Growth Management Committee recommendation to have the sign placed high atop the city-owned building at 277 Victoria St. – right beside Yonge-Dundas Square. The move would make the sign part of the bustling bright lights of the popular downtown gathering spot.

In a staff report, deputy city manager John Livey said after much consultation, the Toronto Public Health building at 277 Victoria St. (at the intersection of Dundas & Victoria streets) would be the “most appropriate location.”

As part of the proposal, Ryerson University would pay to install the Sam sign, as well as operational and maintenance costs, and be released from its existing agreement with the city to place the sign at its new Student Learning Centre or Gould Street Library.

Still, Livey suggests the school put up a plaque at the original site directing the public to the sign’s new location.

The city worked closely with the family of store founder Sam Sniderman, Ryerson and the Downtown Yonge BIA and considered public feedback when developing its plan.

Shelter for LGBTQ2S youths

Council will debate the feasibility of allocating 25 per cent of shelter beds at an existing youth shelter for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Queer/Questioning and Two-Spirited (LGBTQ2S) youths. And it is asking that staff report back on Aug. 14.

Council will also consider whether to ask staff to issue a request for expression of interest to explore community interest in operating an emergency shelter or transitional housing for LGBTQ2S youths facing homelessness.

A 100-bed youth shelter typically costs $2.2 million a year. But the number of beds for a LGBTQ2S shelter hasn’t yet been determined.

There are currently 520 beds available for homeless youths at 12 shelters operated by community agencies in Toronto, and it’s estimated that one in five youths using shelters in Toronto identify as LGBTQ2S.

Click here to read the agenda item.

With files from Showwei Chu and Momin Qureshi

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