Wednesday’s headlines

CITY BUDGET 2010
Mayoral hopeful rips ‘Fat Tuesday at City Hall’ [ Toronto Sun ]
Cash-strapped city jacks user fees [ Toronto Sun ]
City hits taxpayers harder [ Toronto Sun ]
Time for a new Toronto mayor to handle city budget: Granatstein [ Toronto Sun ]
A balanced budget, but no long-term plan [ Globe & Mail ]
Poking around the dark corners of Toronto’s balanced budget [ National Post ]
Toronto budget: What the mayoral candidates say [ National Post ]
Number crunching [ National Post ]
City to charge $350 for false alarms [ Toronto Star ]
Surplus helps city balance budget [ Toronto Star ]
Cuts to city services [ Toronto Star ]
Fee increases in the city budget [ Toronto Star ]
James: Is Toronto really as broke as it says? [ Toronto Star ]
Pets, parking, property taxes: It all adds up [ Toronto Star ]
Queen’s Park shares blame for city’s troubles [ Toronto Star ]
Editorial: Toronto budget not sustainable [ Toronto Star ]

TTC
Miller wants province on track with TTC [ Toronto Sun ]
New TTC deal key to city’s budget future [ Toronto Sun ]
Queen’s Park may seek more control over TTC [ Globe & Mail ]
We asked: Do TTC workers need to shape up? [ Globe & Mail ]
Light rail transit is the answer [ Toronto Star ]
Residents ask TTC for LRT tunnel through Mount Denis [ Toronto Star ]

POLITICS
Murray takes his seat [ Toronto Sun ]
Texty beasts [ Globe & Mail ]
Giambrone back to work [ Toronto Star ]
Tory’s regional message [ Toronto Star ]

FOOD
Whole Foods to double its GTA footprint [ National Post ]
Farmers demand right to sell ‘food belt’ properties to developers [ Toronto Star ]
City takes aim at “food deserts” [ Toronto Star ]

OTHER
No pattern seen in pedestrian deaths [ Toronto Star ]
GO Transit unveils trip planner [ National Post ]
Illegal dump makes area an eyesore [ Toronto Star ]

10 comments

  1. A $50 fee to REGISTER for recreational programs. Not to participate, to register. This city is officially FAIL. This is what we get when we put the head accountant into the city manager’s job. Why not privatise parks and rec now we’re paying for everything anyway?

    Kuitenbrower made a good point – charge for parking at rec centres, not hire people to collect pool fees.

  2. Here’s a link regarding TTC’s customer service initiative.

    http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/article/766934–hotelier-named-to-head-ttc-advisory-panel

    The TTC may have a problem with the customer service skills of some front line employees. But looking at all the issues at the TTC, this is hardly one of the major problems. How convenient then for TTC’s management and Commissioners that recent flood of negative feelings towards the TTC are redefined as poor customer service attitudes of front line employees. I’m surprised that so many people seem to have bought into this fiction… but then one should never under-estimate the current depth of anti-union sentiment out there.

  3. I strongly encourage anyone interested in Whole Foods’ expansion in the GTA to read the excellent New Yorker profile on the company and its CEO from last November. Fascinating stuff, and not completely complimentary.

    http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2010/01/04/100104fa_fact_paumgarten

    I find it interesting, and not completely complimentary either, that Whole Foods went for the low-hanging fruit (pun!) in the SUV-packed burbs rather than, say, a waterfront or Yonge-Eglinton or Queen West location. However, the New York-style urban Whole Foods model takes a tremendous amount of foot traffic and the existing store in Yorkville may be the only spot that can sustain that number of pedestrians combined with super-high incomes.

  4. Re: James: Is Toronto really as broke as it says?

    Anybody care to comment on James’s piece? What he said seems to make a lot of sense.

    BTW, I find it strange that the forum is so quite on the budget day 🙂

  5. iSkyscraper,

    Perhaps Toronto’s high commercial property tax has something o do with Whole Food’s choice of locations. Such a burden would make viable locations few and far between. A back of the envelope calculation, 40,000 sq. ft. @ $300 per ft. = an market value of $12,000,000. A store like that would pay about $461,000 per year in property taxes.

    Things are so bad in Toronto that even on one of the most vibrant retail streets in Toronto (Queen West) tax breaks are needed because new retail development is not viable. For example, the buildings lost in the Queen West fire …

    From Adam Vaughan….
    http://www.toronto.ca/legdocs/mmis/2009/ex/bgrd/backgroundfile-22235.pdf

    Through the process of working with the six property owners of these buildings in the
    aftermath of the fire, I have discovered that any new buildings constructed on the fire site
    would pay property taxes at the full CVA rate, and would be ineligible for capping protection. The reality of the significant tax increases facing these property owners threatens the viability
    of redeveloping these properties with street-related commercial uses. The longer the fire site
    remains vacant, the more severe the social and economic impacts facing Queen West and
    the broader neighbourhood become. This is why it is in the City’s interest to facilitate a timely
    and appropriate replacement of the lost fabric of this street.

    Recommendation

    In order to provide assistance to these property owners and help facilitate the rebuilding
    process, I would like to propose the development of a Community Improvement Plan for this
    area, as set out under Section 28 of the Planning Act. This is the only avenue for the City to
    provide financial assistance to support the new street-related commercial uses within the
    Heritage Conservation District.

    ———

    The CIP plan is to provide a Tax Increment Equivalent Grant, a refund of up to 60% of taxes. Even though retail does not qualify. What those how care about Toronto should worry about is that what fire did to Queen West, taxes will do to Kensington Market, The Beach, Ossington and many more. After the capping protection is gone these areas will be economically unfeasible.

  6. The notion of property taxes making downtown locations unaffordable for Whole Foods is contradicted by the ongoing wave of new downtown grocery stores: Sobey’s (Spadina and Bremner, Front and Princess, Queens Quay Terminal), Longo’s (Maple Leaf Square), Loblaws (Maple Leaf Gardens, Queen and Portland), and a planned No Frills (King Street East). Plus, there are smaller stores popping up such as Fresh and Wild (Distillery District, King and Spadina) and Market by Longo’s (Dundas and Elizabeth).

    I think it has a lot more to do with where Whole Foods thinks they can grab the largest market with the fewest locations, as much of the coverage has suggested.

  7. Whole Foods is not a typical grocery store. They are a niche player. Pointing at the development of regular grocery stores as proof of anything may be misleading. How many independent food stores have closed? How many have opened? Are this regular grocery stores taking advantage of a vacuum created by the closing of others in conjunction with increasing local densities?

    On another topic, I am surprised no one was shocked to learn of Adam Vaughan’s attempts to seek tax relief for Queen St. West retail space. Does this not mean anything? If you can’t make it there, can it be made anywhere?

  8. Whole Foods niche? Then Sobey’s is niche, with their small stores. Whole Foods niche!

    I could take Glen more seriously if he didn’t so blatantly try to spin away examples that contradict his points. This one’s got to be the best.

  9. C.A. Lady,

    Whole Foods is a niche, so to Fresh and Wild, Pusateri’s and Market by Longo’s. Niche is not defined by floor space, perhaps you were thinking of nook?

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