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News and Commentary 2009

posted on November 12, 2009

Hand sanitizer costs Toronto $645,000

Single Source Deal; Nearly twice the going rate to give workers four each

By: Allison Hanes
Published: November 11, 2009
Source: National Post

The city paid nearly double the normal rate for hand sanitizer when it bought multiple bottles for all staff in a rush purchase during the first wave of the H1N1 epidemic, outraged councillors said yesterday.

Councillor Cesar Palacio (Davenport) questioned whether the city got the best price by placing a $645,645 (including tax) single-source order at the height of the crisis when it didn't even need the bottles immediately. Summoned to explain the order, city purchasing staff told a council committee they spent $539,000 on 208,320 bottles of sanitizer, enough to give 50,000 workers up to four bottles each.

http://www.nationalpost.com/

posted on May 13, 2009

Is it 911 time for the 311 customer service line?

By: JOHN BARBER
Published: APRIL 29, 2009
Source: The Globe and Mail
jbarber@globeandmail.com

Mayor David Miller's much-anticipated 311 Customer Service Strategy, a "one-call-does-it-all" phone line designed to improve access to city services and streamline bureaucracy, faces another setback following the bankruptcy of the U.S. consultant hired to implement it.

The future of the Toronto contract remains in doubt following the court-ordered breakup of consultancy BearingPoint Inc., which won the lucrative Toronto contract last spring but filed for bankruptcy in February. The future of the firm's ongoing contracts will be decided next month when its new owner, Deloitte LLP, takes over the company, according to BearingPoint spokesman Steve Lunceford.

Originally included as a promise in Mr. Miller's 2003 election platform, the 311 program has faced repeated delays. The mayor originally promised to deliver it by 2005. In the 2006 election campaign, he promised again to deliver "a 311 hotline so that every resident has direct and simple access to a person at city hall who can help resolve problems."

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/LAC.20090429.BARBE

posted on April 13, 2009

Fiona Crean hired to field public complaints on city services

By: Jack Lakey
Published: Apr 02, 2009
Source: The Star

There's a new Fixer in town, aiming to resolve complaints and identify bigger problems in need of citywide solutions.

Fiona Crean is settling into her job as Toronto's first ombudsman, with marching orders to adjudicate between citizens dissatisfied with city services – or lack of same – and the bureaucrats in charge.

"Fundamentally, it's about ensuring city government is doing its very best in delivering services to the residents," said Crean, previously an ombudsman at York University and executive director of the Ontario ombudsman's office.

Read more >>

posted on March 28, 2009

Toronto mayor wants to freeze non-union salaries

By: JENNIFER LEWINGTON
Published: MARCH 23, 2009
Source: The Globe and Mail

TORONTO — A pay freeze looms for the city of Toronto's 4,000 non-union employees this year, under belt-tightening proposals unveiled Monday by Mayor David Miller.

“At a time of significant challenge to the economy, we have to be prudent and careful,” he told council's employee and labour relations committee, which unanimously adopted his recommendations.

If adopted by council next month, the measures would mean no cost-of-living pay hike for all non-union workers this year, with only a 1-per- cent increase for 2010. As well, the city would cancel lump-sum bonuses over the next two years to those at the top of the pay range.

Those still progressing to their maximum salary – about half of all non-unionized staff – are still eligible to earn a merit pay raise of 3-per-cent this year if they meet or exceed job performance targets.

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/

posted on March 20, 2009

Icy falls cost city millions in legal bills

$30M spent on lawsuits between 2003 and 2008

By: NICOLE BAUTE
Published: March 16, 2009
Source: The Star

Lawsuits springing from slip-and-fall incidents on icy city sidewalks between 2003 and 2008 are estimated to cost the city more than $30 million after all the bills are paid.

According to the city's website, 2008 alone should cost the city close to $5.5 million in settlements and legal fees due to sidewalk slip-and-fall claims.

There were 533 such claims that year, which had a particularly harsh winter, compared to 368 the year before.

In January, the city refused to release the slip-and-fall figures to the Star, saying they would encourage more people to sue following such incidents.

After filing a freedom of information request, the Star was informed this month that the numbers were put up on the city's website in a February report.

Read more >>

posted on March 14, 2009

2009 Teddy Awards

This year, the Canadian Taxpayers Federation honours the Canada Council for the Arts, the City of Vancouver and other big spenders for 'excellence in the art of government waste'

Published: March 12, 2009
Source: National Post

"In Ottawa yesterday , the Canadian Taxpayers Federation (CTF) held its 1 1th annual "Teddies Waste Awards Ceremony " to recognize excellence in the art of government waste. CTF federal director, Kevin Gaudet, acted as the master of ceremonies at the ceremony 's black tie news conference on Parliament Hill. Assisting with the awards ceremony were "Porky the Waste Hater" (the CTF pig mascot) and Samantha, a veteran government waste awards hostess.

The "Teddies" award ceremony is named after Ted Weatherill, a former senior public servant, who was terminated in 1999 for expenses incurred that were "incompatible with his position as Chairman of the Canada Labour Relations Board," according to the Office of the Minister of Labour. Each year, the CTF holds the ceremony during the entertainment awards season to recognize a government, public office holder, civil serv ant, department or agency that most exemplifies government waste, overspending, over-taxation, excessive regulation, lack of accountability or any combination of the five."

http://www.nationalpost.com/

posted on March 14, 2009

Use of consultants stir cup controversy

City criticized for spending $50,000 on studies to come up with recycling solution for coffee cups

By: JENNIFER LEWINGTON
Published: MARCH 12, 2009
Source: The Globe and Mail

Toronto's war on take-out coffee cups took a fresh turn yesterday as city officials defended - and critics slammed - the use of consultants before the debate heads to council this summer.

So far, with the support of a 40-member task force of industry and other officials, the city has commissioned $50,000 in studies to figure out how best to divert 350 million coffee cups a year from landfill.

A decision on an additional study of the economic impact from any city measures is expected in a few days.

With advice from the task force, city officials are set to report back to the public works committee in June on options to recycle paper coffee cups, now barred from the blue box because of their polystyrene lids.

The issue heads to council for a decision in July.

http://www.nationalpost.com/

posted on March 14, 2009

Money buys city advice - and time to cover its mess

By: JOHN BARBER
Published: MARCH 12, 2009
Source: The Globe and Mail

Attention focused on a $50,000 grant to unnamed consultants yesterday as city hall's notorious coffee cup tempest continued to consume it, raising questions about the future of Mayor David Miller.

Officials scrambled in the wake of revelations that the Miller regime had hired consultants to help develop an alternative to the heavy-handed coffee-cup lid ban it attempted - without success - to implement last year.

Embattled city waste czar Geoff Rathbone went so far as to suggest that Waste Diversion Ontario, a privately funded "non-Crown corporation" that handles hot-potato waste issues on behalf of the Ontario government, could ultimately contribute half of the $50,000 cost.

But that remains to be seen. "I can't comment until I see an application," WDO executive director Glenda Gies said yesterday, adding that such consultations are normally "not our scope." http://www.theglobeandmail.com/

posted on March 14, 2009

Difficult times? Not for city staff

By: Peter Kuitenbrouwer
Published: March 11, 2009
Source: National Post

In these troubled times, consider the compensation (and stability) given employ ees of the City of Toronto: A legal assistant with maximum seniority makes $32.68 an hour; a day care worker makes $29.37 an hour; and a museum store attendant pulls down $27 .82 an hour. Plus the workers get 18 sick day s a y ear. They can carry these over, up to a maximum of six months, which the city pay s them in a lump sum when they retire, based on their wage at retirement.

And, with impeccably bad timing, they are asking for more.

Contracts for 22,000 employ ees -- close to half the city 's workforce of 50,7 00 --expired at the end of last year.

Since January, a city bargaining team has been holed up at the East York Civic Centre with representatives of Local 416, which groups together more than 8,000 outside workers (including gardeners, paramedics and dog catchers) and leaders from Local 7 9, representing more than 15,000 inside workers (including mail clerks, day care workers and social housing staff ). They are negotiating a new collective agreement.

http://www.nationalpost.com/

posted March 08, 2009

City Web 2.0 conference webcast

Late November 2008 The City of Toronto held a conference at City Hall on Web 2.0 - collaborative technologies to promote citizen engagement. To see the webcast of the conference, got to http://www.toronto.ca/web2summit/, click on "Relive the Summit", register, and then find "Please click here to launch the November 26 archive webcast player", and "Please click here to launch the November 27 archive webcast player"

posted on March 07, 2009

City muzzles a hero

Staffer gets major award for work with youth - but his bosses won't let him talk about it

By: MARK BONOKOSKI
Published: 6th March 2009
Source: Toronto Sun

"One of Toronto's unsung heroes got his song sung the other day -- winning the first ever Community Award for Youth Service presented by the Committee of Youth Officers for Ontario (COYO), an association of police officers dedicated to combating and preventing youth crime.

It is no small honour.

COYO has been around since 1979 and this year, for the first time in its 30-year existence, it has honoured someone from outside police ranks.

Too bad the honouree can't speak to it.

His name is Al Crawford, a recreation specialist with the City of Toronto and, while it would seem appropriate to get a few words from him regarding his award and his work with Toronto's youth, this cannot be done. "

http://www.torontosun.com/news/columnists/mark_bonokoski/2009/03/06/8647821-sun.html

posted on February 08, 2009

Let local groups manage their own parks, without a tangle of bureaucracy

By: JOHN BARBER
Published: FEBRUARY 7, 2009
Source: The globe And Mail

"The ice on the rink in the park is so perfect I never see my children any more. The shinny never stops. But it's so worth it when they finally do straggle home amid a jumble of sticks and skates. Suddenly it appears: The best of all possible worlds, just as I remember it from my own blissfully frozen youth, just as every boy who ever grew up in Toronto knew it. And it all starts in the neighbourhood park. Some are ample, many are no more than a speck of green (in summer) or white (in winter), but they all share the same magic power. We know it's real because it has a price, expressed in the premium fetched by properties within walking distance of a prime park. Its value is something else altogether. In the enduring best of all possible worlds, park magic would bring pride and a sense of belonging."

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/


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