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City council begins with closed-door discussion on street furniture

On the second day of Toronto city council’s monthly meeting, only 27 members out of a possible 42 were in chambers.

Some councillors were reportedly trapped in the elevator on Wednesday morning but after a quorum call, to ensure enough members were present, Speaker Frances Nunziata called the meeting to order.

By 10 a.m., 36 councillors were in the room.

Councillors then began to release held items and introduce new motions.

Coun. Raymond Cho, on what he said was a point of personal privilege, announced he was donating his council salary to charity while he runs for the Progressive Conservatives in the upcoming provincial election.

Cho said his $7,700-donation would go to either building wells in Pakistan or building houses for typhoon victims.

Council then went into a closed session to discuss the street furniture program.

Click here to watch a live stream of the meeting. There are 61 items left in the agenda. Click here to read it.

Tuesday’s council meeting was the first one without Mayor Rob Ford after he temporarily stepped aside last week. Ford took a leave of absence last Wednesday for what he said were alcohol issues.

If the mayor misses three consecutive city council meetings, he could be removed from office.

Raves at Exhibition Place

Coun. Mike Layton is behind a motion that proposes the city reverse a ban and allow dance parties and raves at the Better Living Centre located on Exhibition grounds, as well as conduct a review of safety protocols.

“The problem is when you don’t host them at city venues, you have no control over them,” he told CityNews on Monday.

Coun. Giorgio Mammoliti, who is fighting to keep a ban on EDMs, stormed out of council chambers in protest after councillors voted to debate the issue instead of referring it over to the Executive Committee where it could be further discussed.

Mammoliti said he would hold members of council who support the dance parties responsible for the consequences of the events should the motion pass.

“I will hold them personally responsible and go after them if a child dies with an overdose on Exhibition lands or any city owned land, if this goes through,” he told CityNews.

Last week, the Exhibition Place board of governors voted 4-3 against hosting so-called electronic dance music (EDM) concerts. The motion was introduced by Mammoliti who has said the use of ecstasy and other illicit drugs was of particular concern.

Layton, who sits on the board of governors, voted against the proposal to stop hosting the dance parties at the Ex, telling media the safety concern was exaggerated by Mammoliti and Muzik nightclub owner Zlatko Starkovski, who complained about the EDM events. Muzik is also located on Exhibition grounds.

The last time there was death at one of these events it was because it was in the basement of a garage that had no running water, no sanitary systems and no police or paramedics, he said.

EDMs would also contribute much-needed revenue for Exhibition Place, according to the motion. Layton said the city hosts anywhere from two to five dance parties each year with event organizers paying $100,000 per event.

Allowing such events would also be consistent with the city’s current efforts to revitalize the music industry, Layton’s motion stated.

Click here to read the motion.

Decommissioned street signs

City council has banned anyone from signing decommissioned street signs after councillors voted on a motion by Coun. Paula Fletcher.

The motion, which came after some signs currently being auctioned off were autographed by the mayor, passed by a vote of 36 to five.

Over 1,500 decommissioned signs are for sale over the next year. Click here for the auction site.

“Many enthusiasts would prefer not to purchase a sign that is signed by anyone, as it defaces the sign and reduces its value,” her motion stated.

Fletcher said should a resident want an autographed sign, “they can approach the individual directly rather than have a number of signs autographed in advance which immediately lowers the pool of bidders for the sign.”

Click here to read the motion.

Recyclable cups

According to the city, one million hot drink cups (like Tim Hortons cups) are used in Toronto each day. Coun. Anthony Perruzza, seconded by Layton, wants to make sure those cups are recyclable.

They also want to pressure retailers to introduce financial incentives for customers to reuse their cups, like a discount for travel mugs.

Click here to read the motion.

Maple Leaf Forever

Wood from the Maple Leaf forever tree that fell during last summer’s thunderstorm will be used for a new podium for the city council chamber.

Alexander Muir, who wrote The Maple Leaf Forever poem, planted a silver maple at his home on Laing Street in Leslieville, but the July 19, 2013, storm blew it down.

The motion put forward by Fletcher was approved by a vote of 35 to 1.

The city was able to preserve the wood for other uses, including a Speaker’s mace for the House of Commons. It also planted a sapling from the tree last month at the Leslieville School to mark its 150th anniversary.

Click here to read the motion.

Below are some council highlights from Tuesday’s meeting:

Toronto Community Housing

Council voted to endorse Ombudsman Fiona Crean’s report into Toronto Community Housing (TCH).

The controversial HR practices at TCH ultimately led to the departure of its CEO Eugene Jones and two other executives.

The 111-page report followed Crean’s investigation into TCH’s hiring, firing and promotion practices over the last two years under the watch of Jones.

Council also voted to extend the powers of the Toronto ombudsman to city corporations.

Homelessness task force

Coun. Paul Ainslie wants to know more about the mayor’s task force on homelessness. Ford announced in 2011 that the task force would be run by Mammoliti.

“To date nothing has taken place with regards to a task force on homelessness,” Ainslie’s motion reads, and he wants to know why nothing has been done.

Speaker Frances Nunziata moved to have the motion referred to executive committee. It passed, with 36 votes in favour.

The next executive committee meeting is May 27.

Councillor salary hikes

City council also voted to eliminate a review of councillors’ salaries every four years. However, councillors will receive an annual cost of living increase.

Pay for parking by phone

Council approved a plan that would let people pay for parking with their cellphones, instead of going out, getting a ticket and putting it back inside the car.

Parking enforcement officers will now simply scan your licence plate to make sure you’ve paid.

Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly said it will be implemented this summer at the 130 Green P lots and all on other city streets shortly after.

With files from Erin Criger and Showwei Chu