Biodiversity is a word from the science of ecology which has become an axiom for a healthy world. It speaks to the range of organisms present in a particular ecological community.
Healthy bio-diverse planets can be measured by the types of different species, or the genetic variations within them. The more diverse we are, the better. The City of Toronto motto of “Diversity is our Strength” picks up on our populations’ bio-diversity and cultural diversity, touting this attribute to be something upon which we can build a great city.
I don’t see much diversity in the way Toronto is being run. Council itself lacks the diversity of political parties and a loyal opposition to the mayor and his executive committee.
Like all the cities across Canada the one grand uniformity is the union of public employees (CUPE). It has certain principals enshrined by the members and generally supported by the current elected municipal officials. Those elected are spending other people’s money, and this rarely provides the discipline needed to oppose the union’s appetite.
The city administration is a collection of departments which too rarely speak with one another. The non-union managers (all receiving the same 3% merit pay) of our city departments are given a narrow range of options and endanger their career by acting outside the box in which they are placed.
Still, some managers and workers try to provide creative ways around problems and give the public services that make sense. Toronto is a great city with a great future. Working on the inside and planning for that future should be exciting and rewarding. This over-arching sameness, however, limits experimentation and creative problem solving. Why can’t the homeless be employed cleaning up litter?
Managers of different departments come together when working on and reporting to council and council committees. But most every decision is predisposed to consider how the union will react.
The current leadership favours the workers’ happiness over the provision of the service for which the job was created. This loss of a service orientation has spilled back to the management in some cases.
When I went online to Solid Waste Management I was met by page after page of the many things they are doing for me and how really wonderful they are leading the city to some green future. My hope, to find out when to put out a Christmas tree, was not top of mind for them even in January. Thinking about what the public might be interested in is secondary to what they wish you to think about them.
This past week the greener-than-thou civic leadership declared that an overly full recycling bin would be left at the roadside. You should order another bin (only from them) and just deal with that stuff till next week. A service orientation would be to pick up the garbage first and leave a note. What’s wrong with having some private garbage pickup companies? Why can’t the garbage man pick up garbage bags?
A retired TTC worker told me that providing service used to be the first concern, but was now irregular, cutting less used routes, providing poor cleaning and surly drivers. There are no creative pricing deals to draw new customers. Charging Metropass holders for parking in TTC lots, just because they can, is another example of the loss of a service orientation.
And the public at large will receive a body blow to service with the planned tear down of the Gardiner Expressway. With only two express routes into and out of Downtown, this loss will be a catastrophe to the transportation system. A diverse transportation system makes room for many types of transportation.
Last month a presentation was held on the future of the Gardiner by Waterfront Toronto. While one might expect the city traffic department to hold these meetings, it is not about moving people but creating more waterfront land to develop.
Most of the copy in this presentation is heavily tilted toward the tear down and building of a multi-laned surface road. Quoting from the presentation, “A common theme in many is that cities often consider highway removal…Another theme is that highway removal decisions are usually made in the context of a significant shift of priorities.
“City leaders and citizens alike begin to prioritize the goals of sustainable urban development over those of auto-mobility.” And my favourite line, “The Gardiner passes through mostly industrial land on the Lake Ontario waterfront.” Industrial land? The only part of the Gardiner that is on the waterfront is along the Keating Channel of the Don River.
Then they proceed to compare the Gardiner work to cities which have torn down old elevated roads. Buffalo, the Bronx and Cheonggyecheon have several other expressways circling or crossing the downtown. You can see this on their website. These examples are short connectors to other city traffic arteries, not a single essential route. We will not have an alternative route when this is torn down.
The Gardiner Expressway is 2.4 km long (1.5 miles). It was completed in 1966. The 6-lane highway (three lanes in both directions) carries 120,000 vehicles per day.
Think what a Toonie toll would pay! In just 360 days, $43,000,000 per year would be collected. It definitely needs to be re-built and slimmed down.
A modest toll would pay for that re-build, reduce unnecessary users and support transit growth. Unfortunately the service provided Downtown by the expressway is not valued.