An oak tree, hookahs, and “holy crap, it’s cold outside”: Toronto City Council highlights

TORONTO - Tie a yellow ribbon round that old oak tree. It’s a mighty oak, older than you or me. Council needs to tie a ribbon round that tree —— on Coral Gable Drive, so the squirrels can thrive —— and drop their nuts me……… Council needs to tie a ribbon round that old oak tree.



Thank you, Tony Orlando.

Read on for other interesting tidbits.

Toronto City Council meeting highlights of November 3 and 4, 2015

Poverty reduction strategy
Council adopted the vision, objectives, recommendations and actions for a poverty reduction strategy called TO Prosperity, with a work plan for 2016 that includes 75 City initiatives, many of them involving partnerships. Almost one in five adults between the ages of 18 and 64 in Toronto and more than one-quarter of the city's children below the age of six are living in low-income households, according to Statistics Canada.

Cold weather protocol
Council authorized funding for the provision of cold weather drop-in services 24-hours-a-day in Toronto for this January and February. In addition, Council directed that the City must be prepared to offer the 24-hour cold weather drop-in services if needed in November and December. The City issues an Extreme Cold Weather Alert, with related services, when Environment Canada forecasts a temperature of -15 degrees C or colder or a wind chill of -20 degrees or colder. Council also addressed the City's shelter capacity during cold weather, as noted in the next item.

Hostels/emergency shelters
Council approved financial allocations to shelter providers to expand existing, or create new, emergency shelter capacity in Toronto. Specifically, a new permanent shelter program will be established on Bloor Street West in Ward 19 and seven existing programs at various locations will expand. In addition, more beds will be made available for temporary winter services. Toronto's shelter system includes 10 shelters directly operated by the City and another 49 shelter sites operated by community not-for-profit agencies under contract with the City.

George Street revitalization
Council authorized next steps for the revitalization of George Street in the east downtown area through the co-location of long-term care, assisted living, affordable housing, emergency shelter and other community services in a new facility that will replace the current Seaton House on George Street. Council ‎also requested reports on the transition plan for shelter clients during demolition of Seaton House and construction of the new Seaton House facility, and on the project's impact on the City's overall shelter capacity.

Ban on use of hookahs
Council approved prohibiting the use of hookahs/waterpipes in City-licensed establishments effective next April. The prohibition follows Toronto Public Health's confirmation of the need for a legislative approach to address the significant health risks associated with this alternative form of smoking. Council also agreed to ask the Ontario government to enact legislation prohibiting the use of hookahs/waterpipes in restaurants, bars, entertainment establishments and patios.

Updated plan for managing traffic congestion
Council endorsed a Congestion Management Plan for 2016-20. The plan is an update/enhancement of the 2014-18 plan that Council adopted in 2013, which has improved the management of traffic congestion on Toronto's streets and expressways through technology and operational improvements along with increased enforcement and information sharing.

Waterfront transit reset
Council called for a review of waterfront transit initiatives and options in response to the observation that waterfront transit planning has been incremental, lacking a comprehensive plan for a transit network that can respond to the rapid transformation of the entire Toronto waterfront extending east from Etobicoke. According to a report considered by Council, the absence of a comprehensive plan has resulted in little progress in securing funding for new transit infrastructure on the waterfront.

Capital renewal of long-term care homes
Council approved a plan for renewing five of Toronto's long-term care homes run by Long-Term Care Homes and Services, including one that is part of the broader George Street revitalization project. The other four are Castleview-Wychwood Towers, Lakeshore Lodge, Oriole Yard/Esther Shiner Boulevard and Seven Oaks. The renewal is taking place in the context of Ontario's strategy for long-term care home renewal.

Long-term care homes' service plan
A service plan covering the Long-Term Care Homes and Services division's operations from 2016-20 received Council's approval. Work on the plan involved gathering information from many sources and engaging a wide range of stakeholders in the process. The City of Toronto operates 10 long-term care homes that provide 24-hour care and service.

Internet connectivity in Toronto
Council voted to ask for a study assessing Toronto's current internet connectivity and broadband capacity, especially as it relates to economic development objectives and the City's strategy for reducing poverty in the context of the digital divide. The term digital divide refers to economic and social inequality in people's access to, and use of, information and communication technologies that connect to the Internet.

Replacement of lead water service pipes
Council voted to direct Toronto Water to take steps to support the ongoing replacement of residential lead water-service pipes across the city. Among the steps specified, staff were asked to approach local financial institutions about the feasibility of low-interest or easily accessible loans to homeowners for replacing the private-side pipes on their properties. At present, about 1,500 residential property owners a year replace their private-side lead water service pipes with copper piping, done in conjunction with the City's ongoing efforts to reduce exposure to lead in drinking water by replacing corroded lead water pipes.

Uber in Toronto
Council adopted a motion calling for the City to provide additional information to the public about the current status of Uber in Toronto, including the risks associated with using the UberX ride service. The City is engaged in ongoing communications with representatives of Uber Canada about the City's taxicab broker application process and Uber's continued non-compliance with the Toronto Municipal Code, Chapter 545, Licensing.

Revitalization of distressed retail areas
Council directed staff to establish a pilot Capacity Building Program in two neighbourhood improvement areas as part of a broader economic revitalization program to assist distressed retail areas. The revitalization program involves working with local business communities in distressed commercial areas so they are better positioned to address the economic challenges particular to the neighbourhood.

Appointment of interim Ombudsman
Council appointed Kwame Addo of the Office of the Ombudsman as interim Toronto Ombudsman effective November 17. The current Ombudsman's term concludes on November 16. The appointment of an interim Ombudsman is required pending the outcome of an external review of the City's accountability offices that Council requested earlier this year. The Toronto Ombudsman investigates public complaints about decisions, actions or recommendations made or omitted in the course of implementing City policies and administering City services.

Appointment of new Poet Laureate
Council approved the appointment of Anne Michaels as Toronto's Poet Laureate for a three-year term beginning December 1. Michaels, who is the successor to current Poet Laureate George Elliott Clarke, is a Toronto poet and novelist who has received major literary awards. The role of the Poet Laureate includes serving as Toronto’s literary ambassador at events promoting the literary arts and creating a legacy project for the people of Toronto.

Aga Khan Museum
Council confirmed its support of the Aga Khan Foundation Canada in its efforts to obtain provincial legislation that would enable Toronto City Council to exempt the Ismaili Centre Toronto, Aga Khan Museum and Aga Khan Park at 49 and 77 Wynford Dr. from having to pay property taxes.

Future use of Old City Hall
Council voted to notify the Province of Ontario that its lease of the Old City Hall building at 60 Queen St. W. will not be extended/renewed beyond 2021. Council requested a feasibility study for museums and complementary public uses of the building, which currently houses provincial and municipal court operations. Staff have identified criteria to be considered in determining the best future use and tenant fit for the historic building.

Toronto's oldest red oak tree
Council took steps to protect a 250-year-old oak tree that stands on a residential property at 76 Coral Gable Dr. in North York. The tree is thought to be the largest and oldest red oak in Toronto. Council directed staff to report on the feasibility of establishing a fund dedicated to contributions received for the maintenance of the tree and the cost of possibly acquiring the property at 76 Coral Gable Dr.

Council Highlights is an informal summary of decisions made by Toronto City Council. The City Clerk provides the formal documentation at www.toronto.ca/council

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