Dear Mayor Ford:
Thank you for your message. I am sure you are doing your best to save Toronto taxpayers from paying more.
However I think that what is more important is that every person living in Toronto has the basics of life such as healthy food, a clean, safe place to live, and community centres that do not require fees so that even the poorest residents can have some recreation. I see people still living on the streets and panhandling to make a go of the life they have. I have also read that there is a twelve year waiting list for affordable housing for many Toronto families. I know you say you care about the people who live in Toronto Community Housing. You need to do more than say you care. I believe that most Toronto residents would be willing to accept a very small increase in their property taxes in order to house and feed more people in a decent way. In fact Mr. Mayor, Toronto already has the lowest assessment of any municipality around Toronto. I was told that by a city employee who came to speak to my table at one of the community meetings where we were supposed to prioritize the services we wanted to keep. So your constant refrain that Toronto residents are overtaxed is just false.
You say at the end of your message that one of your priorities is ‘Transportation City’. If it is, why did Toronto suffer another two years of delay while you cancelled ‘Transit City’ only to see it go through under the leadership of Councillor Stintz and most of the other councillors?
My wife and I just visited southern California – and I want to comment on what we saw in Los Angeles and San Diego. We actually used the very fine bus system in Los Angeles and did you know that seniors can travel the buses on weekdays between 9 am and 4 pm for $0.25 and all weekend. They don’t have transfers so you do have to pay for each bus, but it is still far cheaper than Toronto’s system. Los Angeles also has an ‘underground’ rail system but we didn’t use it.
As well, they are promoting cycling. They have huge billboards and huge signs on the backs of buses that convey the message – ‘share the road with cyclists, they are vehicles too’. San Diego is also promoting the use of bicycles to alleviate car gridlock. Also in San Diego they have a surface rail system like Toronto is getting. They call it the LRV meaning Light Rail Vehicles. They are extemely proud of their system. A person at our hotel raved to us about their transit system. We rode on it a couple of times. These light surface trains have the priority when there is a crossing with cars. A horn sounds, wig-wag barriers come down and car traffic stops while the trains pass through. They also place employees at the stations where one buys a fare to help tourists to buy tickets. With the ticket you can get on any car (there are 4 cars in a row) without having to pass the driver. Your ticket is your proof of payment. Mr. Mayor they are miles ahead of us.
While still speaking about transportation, my brother and sister in law just returned from a trip to Holland where they spent time in Amsterdam. They were amazed at the majority of people who cycle to and from work, in business attire. And they were amazed to see roadways dedicated to cyclists, skaters and pedestrians. They understand that the promotion of cycling as a normal way to get to work takes a huge burden off car roads and transit. Mayor Boris Johnson of London England has just embarked on a huge project to bring cycling to London as a major way to ease the pressure on roads and subways. Why don’t you get that? Why do I feel like I am taking my life in my hand whenever I ride my bicycle into the downtown or on any road that has high speed car and truck traffic. When are you going to promote cycing as the best and healthiest way to get around Toronto and reduce gridlock at the same time?
Finally I am disappointed in your unwillingness to talk, not just to the press, but to the people of Toronto about the so-called crack scandal that is still swirling around you. Do you know that I am sick and tired of politicians lying to me? (This includes the lies and cover-up going on in Ottawa regarding the Senators’ living allowance scandal.) And the lies are not just words but the lack of words. You were elected by all Torontonians; therefore you have an obligation to come clean with all of us. I don’t care what your personal habits are but if they are affecting your performance as mayor then I do care. You have had many of your staff resign or be fired and the rumour is that it is because you did not want to follow their advice about taking a break and getting some kind of help. I do not appreciate your selfish attitude that it is more important for you to keep your job than it is for Torontonians to receive the proper service that we expect from our mayor.
One of the big things I expect is an expressed vision about where we are going as a city. For example I may have missed it but I have never heard you talk about climate change and what we need to be doing to mitigate the flooding and other extreme weather that is already happening around the world. The closest you came to this was right after the Don Valley and subway station flooding when you said there was a need for us to pay attention to our water and sewer infrastructure. I would like to hear more about this.
Still on transportation, I think Toronto needs to tear down the Gardiner Expressway. Do you know that the Mayor of Seoul, Korea ordered that very thing done to their expressway a few years ago? They too had traffic gridlock on that expressway. When someone asked the Mayor later where the traffic went he just said, I suppose they took public transit. It was no big deal and the people got their city back.
You say that I can contact your office at any time. I have called your number a few times but have never reached you. I challenge you to deal with some of the issues I have mentioned. I have never listened to your radio show on 1010 radio and I don’t intend to start. I have seen enough in CBCTV reports of what you and your brother talk about.
Do you know what I want most from you Mr. Mayor? I would like you to show some ‘respect’ to a senior (I am old enough to be your father) resident of Toronto and have you say that you will pay some attention to the issues I have described.
Another busy week at City Hall has come to an end.
I’m very pleased to announce that the City of Toronto realized a surplus of 248 million dollars in 2012. This surplus was largely driven by savings found within our divisions.
This is excellent news and proof that today, our City is on the right track. Before I took office, any annual surplus was used to fill holes in bloated operating budgets, but not on my watch.
Under my leadership, the City of Toronto has changed its financial management strategies. We are now planning for the future. In 2012, City Council voted with me to put an end to the unsustainable budget practices of the last administration.
Our new Surplus Management Policy dictates that 75% of any annual surplus must now go towards funding our capital needs. That’s 186 million dollars we are investing in funding our transit priorities, resurfacing our roads, maintaining the Gardiner Expressway, and projects to address traffic congestion.
The remaining 25% of our 2012 Surplus, about 62 million dollars, will go to replenishing our reserves, to help fund future liabilities.
This 248 million dollars will help us pay for critical capital needs, and offset future tax increases. This is exactly where your money should be going.
On Thursday, we heard some very troubling news coming out of Toronto Community Housing Corporation.
I want to thank the Ombudsman for the report, which outlined issues faced by seniors at TCHC.
Although I was saddened and shocked after reading the report, I am glad to be aware of this situation, so I can take the appropriate action. We now know that there were those who have been allowed to slip through the cracks.
The reality is, once I became Mayor, I took responsibility for the 164,000 tenants who live in TCHC. It’s no secret, I have a special place in my heart for the residents in Toronto Community Housing.
I have visited thousands of units and seen the horrible conditions some of our residents have been forced to live in, first hand. But, I take comfort knowing that Toronto Community Housing Corporation is turning the corner.
TCHC is currently in the middle of a significant internal reorganization. We are realigning the Corporation to deliver better customer service to our tenants and establish clear roles and accountabilities for every employee.
Today, I met with our President and CEO, Eugene Jones to discuss the report. Mr Jones has accepted all of the Ombudsman’s recommendations and has already begun to implement them.
Next week, we will be dealing with a number of important issues at City Council. I encourage you to come down to City Hall and follow along.
Be sure to listen to my weekly radio show on Newstalk 1010, on Sunday between 1 and 3 pm.
Please do not hesitate to contact my office or I, if we can ever be of assistance to you.
Mayor Rob Ford
OFFICE OF THE MAYOR
Mayor Ford’s Four Priorities:1 Customer Service Excellence2 Transparent & Accountable Government3 Reduced Cost and Size of Government4 Transportation City