Wednesday, September 14, 2011

CodeBlueTO: Saving the Port Lands

Toronto lurches toward its next crisis, as our charming and tireless mayors, Doug and Rob Ford, are plotting to upend waterfront development plans for the Port Lands. CodeBlueTO has all the information you need to help protect the people's plans for the waterfront. Ford for Toronto's Matt Elliot has again compiled a list of undecided or potential swing votes on Council. However, in light of mounting opposition, I have decided to write to all members of Council not named Ford. Here is my letter:

Dear Councillors,

I am writing to express my opposition to Mayor Ford's move to transfer control over the development of the Port Lands from Waterfront Toronto to the Toronto Port Lands Company. I urge you to vote against the Executive Committee's recommendation when the issue comes before Council on September 21.

I am strongly supportive of the existing, approved plan for the Toronto Port Lands and of the process of extensive public consultation by which it was created. Waterfront Toronto is doing excellent work, mixing development with unique and engaging public spaces, like Sherbourne Common and Canada's Sugar Beach. The plan to renaturalize the mouth of the Don River and provide expansive green space and public access to the waterfront, along with high-value mixed-use development, is affordable and would meet Toronto's wants and needs perfectly.

By contrast, the mayor's "vision" is stunning and almost comical in its extravagance. We have no need for a monorail, a giant Ferris wheel, or a mega-mall, and the obvious question is, how could we ever pay for them? The mayor would have us believe that the private sector will happily foot the bill, but that is the stuff of pure fantasy. Taxpayers deserve to see concrete plans and a full and proper accounting for this "vision" before any steps are taken that would put the current waterfront plans at risk.

That Mayor Ford and Councillor Ford developed their fanciful "vision" in the back rooms of City Hall, with lobbying from unregistered foreign developers, is a slap in the face to all of the Torontonians who participated in Waterfront Toronto's open process. The mayor's actions demonstrate not only disrespect for citizens, but alarming disrespect for Council as well: Council unanimously approved the current plans just one year ago.

If the mayor is concerned about the pace of Waterfront Toronto's development plans, as he claims, he should engage with the organization and work towards a solution that would accelerate them. The very idea that we can speed things up by throwing away five years of planning and starting from scratch is absurd.

The citizens and taxpayers of Toronto are relying on you to do your job and protect us from the mayor's reckless gamble. We have a secure investment in Waterfront Toronto, and the mayor has no mandate to put that at risk. Please vote to safeguard it by rejecting EX9.6.
Special thanks to Jaime Woo for suggesting the wording that I used (approximately) in my concluding paragraph.

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