On Wednesday's GFB: June 27th

Jun 26, 2012

By AM740 Staff

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11:15am | Chris Bolton Chairman of the TDSB
11:30am | Councillor Joe Mihevc
12:15pm | Steve Munro, Transit Advocate

GUEST – CHRIS BOLTON chairman of the TDSB.
TOPIC -TDSB .
INFO – Here’s what taxpayers were charged for work done at Toronto public schools:

  • Installing a $17 pencil sharpener: $143 to put in four screws.
  • The installation of a sign on a school’s front lawn: $19,000
  • An electrical outlet on the wall in a school library: $3,000
  • A “breakfast club” kitchen: $250,000

When the librarian at the electrical outlet school saw the bill she hit the roof, wondering at “the number of books that could have been purchased with $3000.”

A Star investigation has found examples of charges that are out of whack with the amount of work done. The work in question was carried out by some of the 900-strong maintenance and construction trades people who have an exclusive contract with the Toronto District School Board. In the case of the electrical plug, the job took four hours, but taxpayers were billed 76 hours, which sources say was done to account for the time of idle workers who had no assignments that week.

What makes the situation so serious is that Toronto public schools are facing a budget crunch so deep one trustee called it a “bloodbath.” Trustees must find $109 million in cuts, which may cut supports for special needs students, and close some classrooms and cafeterias.

More: Toronto teachers stage protest to answer the public’s questions about education cuts

Principals, trustees and parents say that much needed work on Toronto’s aging schools is not getting done. Principals were terrified of repercussions from their management and the union and would not go on the record for this story. Some who have complained say they have been threatened by the union with losing their jobs if they speak up.

Union boss Jimmy Hazel, when first asked about these high costs two weeks ago, unleashed a stream of profanity at a Star reporter.

“We don’t need to f—— prove anything to anybody about costs,” Hazel said. “A s—load more work was done to justify the cost of that plug job I can tell you

GUEST – Councillor Joe Mihevc
TOPIC – TTC chair Karen Stintz (Eglinton-Lawrence) and vice-chair Glenn De Baeremaeker (Scarborough Centre) believe residents can be persuaded to make the kind of transformative investment that would save Toronto from descending into a prosperity-crushing, gridlocked future.

 

GUEST – Steve Munro, Transit Advocate
TOPIC – TTC chair Karen Stintz (Eglinton-Lawrence) and vice-chair Glenn De Baeremaeker (Scarborough Centre) believe residents can be persuaded to make the kind of transformative investment that would save Toronto from descending into a prosperity-crushing, gridlocked future.
INFO – The latest proposal would dramatically expand Toronto’s transit network over the next 30 years. And while it comes with a $30 billion price tag, it is well within the city’s grasp, say the councillors at the helm of the Toronto Transit Commission.
James: Will Toronto pay for subways?

TTC chair Karen Stintz (Eglinton-Lawrence) and vice-chair Glenn De Baeremaeker (Scarborough Centre) believe residents can be persuaded to make the kind of transformative investment that would save Toronto from descending into a prosperity-crushing, gridlocked future.

They are calling their proposal OneCity and are asking council to approve a staff study of the plan in July. Councillors would then have until October to take the plan to their constituents before considering approval.

“What this does is it clarifies for the city of Toronto what our network is, how it fits into the regional context and how we propose to fund it,” Stintz said. “The funding, if approved, is dedicated, dependable and debt-free.”

If it flies, Stintz, who has denied she plans to run for mayor, will have engineered the delivery of two elements in Mayor Rob Ford’s election platform: A Sheppard West subway extension linking the Yonge line with the Spadina subway, and the extension of the Bloor-Danforth subway along the Scarborough Rapid Transit (SRT) route.

More: TTC reports $22 million surplus due to ridership growth last year
The timeline is critical, say the councillors, because the provincial cabinet has not yet signed off on converting the SRT to light rail transit and the new plan depends on being able to leverage the upcoming property reassessment process that begins in the fall.
“If we can create this value proposition and if we can get buy-in from council and if the public believes this is a viable plan, we are in a better position to start collecting that revenue in 2013,” Stintz said.

The funding proposal would involve getting the province to approve a regulatory change that would allow the city to capture 40 per cent of the higher property values from next year’s reassessment.

That would amount to $45 per average household annually, accumulating to $180 a year on average, which would remain on property tax bills. It would mean $272 million a year in new tax revenue for the city.

“Every penny will go into building and maintaining public transit. That’s going to be the test for council and the people of Toronto,” said De Baeremaeker.

Toronto’s property taxes would still be among the lowest in the region, Stintz said.
The $272 million would form the city’s third of an annual $1 billion transit investment, with the province and Ottawa kicking in a standard one-third each.

The plan is being proposed as the provincial agency Metrolinx rallies support for a regional transit investment strategy to raise about $40 billion. That’s the cost of implementing the rest of the Big Move regional transit plan.

The province has already committed to the first $11 billion of that plan, including $8.4 billion for four lines in Toronto: LRT on Finch, Sheppard and Eglinton, and the conversion of the SRT into LRT extending from the Eglinton line.

Queen’s Park gave Metrolinx until June 2013 to figure out how to raise the rest of the money. But with the Liberals in a minority government and close to the next election by the time the strategy is published, there are fears no party will be willing to commit to new taxes.

Stintz has said repeatedly that Metrolinx needs to be consulting municipalities on the issue of how to raise transit funds. Other politicians, including Mississauga Mayor Hazel McCallion, are also advocating new taxes and tools to pay for transportation.

The first funds from the Stintz-De Baeremaeker plan would go toward converting the SRT route into a subway line, at a cost of about $2.3 billion. The project would have a head start from the $1.8 billion the province has already committed, Stintz said.

Although a subway would be routed somewhat differently from the SRT, it would have the advantage of not shutting down the SRT for four years — unlike the current plan, which calls for putting SRT riders on buses for that period, while the new LRT is built.
De Baeremaeker says he’s confident the six Scarborough-area MPPs would support the idea.

The second priority in the new OneCity vision would be an east waterfront LRT, at a cost of about $300 million. Waterfront Toronto has allocated $90 million toward transit on the lakefront east of Yonge St., and developers there have been bracing for a temporary transit solution such as bus rapid transit.

All the lines in the OneCity plan have been approved at one time or another, and in some cases the environmental assessments have been done for years, said De Baeremaker.
Stintz said she’s had preliminary discussions with the province and the mayor’s staff about the plan, but no commitment of support.

OneCity rebrands some potentially divisive projects such as a downtown relief subway line, which has been renamed the “Don Mills Express” line.

It also aligns with some regional transit projects, including the air-rail link, which the councillors say could be converted to public transit by adding three more stops. A second set of tracks to GO’s Stouffville line would allow for a Scarborough Express above-ground subway or train that delivers riders from Steeles Ave. to Union Station.

OneCity’s proposed lines:
Six subway lines, 72 km, $18 billion
Replace the Scarborough RT with a subway from Kennedy Station to Sheppard and McCowan; extend the Yonge subway to Steeles Ave.; build a Sheppard West subway to Downsview Station; build a Don Mills Express subway line from Eglinton to Queen St.; upgrade the Bloor-Yonge subway station; build a Scarborough Express line from Steeles Ave. to Union Station; build an Etobicoke Express Line from the airport to Union Station using the air-rail link.

10 LRTs, 73.5 km, $9.5 billion
Extension of the Sheppard East line to Meadowvale, the zoo, and Malvern; build a Scarborough Malvern LRT; extend the Eglinton LRT to the airport; extend the Finch West LRT to Humber College and the airport; build a Jane LRT from Steeles to Bloor; Waterfront West LRT from Union Station to Long Branch; a Finch West LRT from Keele to Yonge St. and a Don Mills LRT from Steeles to Eglinton

Five bus and streetcar lines, 25.7 km, $1.2 billion
Waterfront East streetcar line from Union Station to Parliament St., Ellesmere bus rapid transit from Scarborough Centre to Sheppard and Kingston Rd.; Kingston BRT from Victoria Park Station to Eglinton and Kingston Rd.; extend the St. Clair streetcar from Keele to Jane; a Wilson BRT from Wilson Station to Keele St.

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