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posted October 07, 2007
We present two articles on local concerns, written within a week of each other, which -- in their original versions Sue-Ann Levy's Toronto Sun article, Paul Terefenco's NOW Magazine article -- seem to further polarize public discussion. What if explicit or implicit insults are removed? Could the issues raised in these articles lead to a working out of some solutions? What follows are versions of the originals as re-written by a CELOS researcher, to explore this idea.
'With apologies to the writer, this is a less inflammatory version of Sue-Ann Levy's Toronto Sun article
'I have a plan': Mayor Miller
But to many residents faced with rink closures and program cuts, it sure doesn't seem like it
By SUE-ANN LEVY (altered by CELOS)
West Toronto resident Jutta Mason came down to yesterday's executive committee meeting on the off chance the cost containment measures would be on the agenda.
The mother of three says she's found -- particularly in the past month -- she's had to turn up at City Hall "on spec" because items not listed on the public agenda of a meeting often end up being discussed anyway.
So true. It seems as of late in Mayor David Miller's regime, controversial agenda items are withheld until the last minute to head off any public input.
Mason couldn't have called it better yesterday. An unbelievable 10 items were walked on to the committee agenda at the 11th hour, including the cost containment report.
Not that her appearance made a darn bit of difference, mind you. It's clear Miller and his allies are determined to ram through their controversial tax measures this month -- taxes it seems will only collect $250 million next year instead of the original $356 million anticipated. And according to CFO Joe Pennachetti that money will be used to plug the city's deficit hole next year and not to city build as the mayor contends.
Don't worry, be happy. At City Hall numbers are a moving target and the stories are forever changing.
Nevertheless, Mason had hoped to convince the executive committee to re-consider keeping the city's ice rinks closed until January. She felt -- quite rightly -- since the city's full-time staff will be on the job anyway, there are better ways to save $160,000 than not operating the rinks during their busiest time in December.
"There are quite a few people around who feel these measures are a blunt hammer," she said, noting her Save Our Rinks group has also submitted a proposal to city staff on how the rinks could be run more efficiently.
"It seems to me -- and a lot of people are feeling (the same) -- that it has to do with trying to teach people a lesson."
Indeed, Miller and his allies did not disappoint again yesterday.
First they dismissed Mason's proposal out of hand. Parks committee chairman Paula Fletcher said a rink report she's sure will "address those issues" would be coming to her committee in the next couple of months. "We wouldn't want to fast track that," she said. (Heaven forbid.)
VOTED DOWN FLAT
When Coun. Karen Stintz suggested $160,000 "is not going to save the city" and that the executive committee consider creating a reserve account to raise the money to run the rinks, she was voted down flat.
But the back-patting portion of the meeting was yet to come.
Coun. Giorgio Mammoliti thanked staff for coming up with "cuts that affect the least number of citizens." That assertion wa followed up with claims the proposals are fully "supported" in his ward. (I'll bet they are.)
Deputy mayor Joe Pantalone said the mayor and staff "should be congratulated for trying to do the right thing." He said if council objects to the "deep pain" of $35 million in cost-containment measures this year, imagine how $600 million would feel next year.
Actually, as city manager Shirley Hoy clearly stated, the cost containment measures this year amount to $43 million. But heck, what's a mere $8 million difference?
When Coun. Denzil Minnan-Wong dared suggest the budget numbers keep changing and there's a lack of "transparency and accountability" from the Miller regime, the mayor became very annoyed.
"It's shameful for a member of council to suggest there is a lack of transparency," he said. "That is outrageous, wrong and factually false."
But wait. He finished his speech by saying, "the city has a plan, I have a plan."
Could have fooled me. Mason says a lot of people across the political spectrum are becoming "very impatient" with Miller's tactics. "To use the rinks in this way, it's playing dirty pool," she said.
In short, Miller, Pantalone. Mammoliti, Fletcher and Co. can berate their opponents all they want.
They are not winning the public relations war.
You know it and I know it.
'With apologies to the writer, this is a less inflammatory version of Paul Terefenco's NOW Magazine article
“These kids hate veggies”
Residents’ group rejects FoodShare garden
By PAUL TEREFENKO (altered by CELOS)
City Councillor Adam Giambrone pulled the plug on a FoodShare community garden at Erwin Krickhahn Park last week. Far from fuming at the removal of a program that could have offered locals in the hard-hit area space to grow their own food, most people at a public meeting about the project said the garden took out more than half of the playing-space in the small neighbourhood park.
"Most of the individuals may have been the same residents who fought traffic calming measures, bike lanes and tree planting along Lansdowne," explained Giambrone.
Jack Fava was one of those leading the charge against Giambrone and FoodShare's garden on Rankin northwest of Bloor and Lansdowne. He says his community wasn't consulted before FoodShare "slopped" a pile of dirt in his 'hood.
"It was a little devious," says Fava, who adds that he never received information about the project and was only alerted when his son noticed soil and spray-painted markings in the park. "People felt they weren't respected," he says.
The Ward 18 councillor stresses that a public meeting seeking approval of the community garden project did take place, but says it's true that only 12 people came out to it.
FoodShare, caught off-guard by the hostility, says it has no interest in opposing the will of a community.
"We don't generally go into an area with the intention of leading the process. We like to support community groups that already have energy and enthusiasm," explains Ravenna Barker, FoodShare's urban agriculture facilitator.
Barker admits to some unfortunately timed miscues.
"The garden was initially dug twice as large as was intended after rain washed away the markings," says Barker. Then, when FoodShare agreed to address community concerns, premature construction of a fence around the larger version, by the City's Parks Department, "eroded any trust there may have been." Children's hand-lettered signs went up on the fence, including an "I hate veggies!" sign. Barker said this was unfortunate. "We want kids to learn about the beauty and wonder of where food comes from especially veggies."
FoodShare executive director Debbie Field felt hopeful when the same kids who spoke about their distaste for the vegetable garden at the meeting, eventually gravitated to the free carrot sticks offered as snacks at the gathering.