It’s not often that candidates for City Council are given the opportunity to run without an incumbent in the ward. This year there are eight nine wards with seats ripe for the picking. This post is the third in a series on the candidates in these contested wards, and the key issues in the neighbourhoods they seek to represent.
Ward 29 – Toronto Danforth
Bounded by Danforth Avenue, Coxwell Avenue, the Don River and Canadian Pacific Railway to the northwest, this ward includes neighbourhoods such as Danforth Village, Greektown, Riverdale, Todmorden Village, and Central East York.
Case Ootes has been a member of council in some form since 1988. He was the first deputy mayor of the megacity, and served on a multitude of other City boards, but announced his decision to retire from City politics in January. With Ootes out, a number of candidates have jumped into the race. Jane Pitfield, who lost the 2006 race for mayor to David Miller, announced her candidacy the day Ootes resigned, while others such as Chris Caldwell had hopes of running against the City Hall lifer.
Jane Pitfield was first elected to City Council in a 1998 by-election, and won re-election in 2000 and 2003 before giving up her seat to run for mayor in 2006. She says that her proudest moments at City Hall were when she (with Joe Mihevc) was able to convince council to pass the pesticide bylaw, and creating the Fraud and Waste Hotline which saved the City $600,000 last year. After the 2006 mayoral campaign, Pitfield came in second place for the job of president of the Board of Trade and has since been on boards of community heritage organizations and non-charitable organizations supporting affordable housing. While many people talk about the need for fresh faces on council, Pitfield says that her four years off have given her time to reflect and research and she comes into the race as a “refreshed face.”
With a background in Urban Planning, Chris Caldwell says that councillors in Toronto need to shift their focus to creating a more accessible and sustainable city. He plans to do this by initiating community-based planning and budgeting, in which councillors are completely accountable to the residents’ needs and wants. He describes his Utopian city as a place where people are genuinely happy, where birds and people talking can be heard over cars, and where street-side vendors overtake big box shopping malls.
As an environmentalist and lifelong resident of Ward 29, some of Mary Fragedakis’ key points focus on bettering the world around her. Her key issues include increasing accessibility to solar panels and acting to maintain current green space while creating more. Endorsed by Jack Layton and former mayor of East York Michael Prue, Fragedakis says her vision is one that is shared by her community members, and constituents.
John Richardson, a self-proclaimed jack of all trades, has an academic background as a lawyer and runs his own business conducting seminars on a number of different topics, including some for university students on how to progress from school into the real world. Richardson is focusing on the issues of taxation on local businesses and the taxing of renters in buildings with more than seven units. He says that it’s unfair for businesses to be taxed four times that of residents, and for apartment tenants to be taxed at the same rate as homeowners.
Also running is Jennifer Wood, a resident of ward 29, who has a bachelor of law as well as a bachelor of science. She is currently a senior manager at RBC for mergers and acquisitions, but is also a board member of the Kiwanis Club of Toronto and volunteers with the Boys and Girls Clubs of Toronto and Covenant House.
Mike Restivo is also running, and has a background in IT and finance as well as philosophy and psychology. His website includes a short biography and a number of blogs that include comments he made in regards to election issues on the websites of newspapers.
THE ISSUES SPECIFIC TO THE WARD
Some say that parking is a hot topic in the ward, some say otherwise. Between all the small businesses on the Danforth that attract a crowd, and the residents that live there, parking is certainly tight.
- Pitfield recognizes that the parking is an issue, but says that there is going to have to be a lot of community consultation before even approaching any solution. Do people want to see more bikes or more cars?
- Richardson compares the current situation in the Danforth area to what Bloor West Village faced a couple years ago. The solution for that area came via a survey though businesses about how their customers got there. The result showed that most customers were local and therefore have other alternatives including walking or biking to the area and more parking lots were unnecessary. He would like to see the same kind of community study done for the Danforth.
There aren’t a lot of parks in Ward 29. The ravines surrounding the Brick Works are inaccessible, both by foot and on bike, except at the Brick Works itself.
- As a long-standing environmental activist, Fragedakis says the current green spaces in the area are underserved and not maintained. She would like to see a place carved out for more green space, as opposed to paving over green space for a parking lot which was proposed under Case Ootes.
- Caldwell believes that Toronto should bring in a happiness index that would record people’s levels of satisfaction. He says that green spaces and access to them enhance people’s happiness and those people generally have better relationships.
- Richardson would like to see more space for community centres. He recognizes the need for it, and would love to see recently abandoned buildings such as the Music Hall (which, being on the south side of the Danforth, is not actually part of Ward 29) taken over for community recreational activities.
- Fragedakis founded the Broadview Community Youth Group in the hope of bringing youth together to build up the community. One of their recent projects included getting local artists, children, and youth to paint a mural on the south fence of the green field just north of the Danforth with a magic garden theme to discourage graffiti tagging.
- Wood believes in holding regular town hall meetings on all topics in order to generate feedback and interest in issues that involve the community.
Transit and Walkability:
After the Danforth subway stations second exit ordeal, residents in the area are concerned with tactics used by the TTC, and those in the north part of the ward feel that bus routes aren’t properly connected.
- Caldwell would love to see more attention paid to the northern parts of the ward, which are extremely car-oriented and not walkable. Broken sidewalks and a lack of greenery don’t entice people to congregate in areas north of O’Connor, but instead encourage people to get in their cars and drive to somewhere more desirable.
- Wood would like to encourage accessible and diverse plan for transportation, one that integrates cycling, walking, public transit and driving.
In this part of the city, Spacing is hoping to see some revitalization of public spaces, such as more parks and a better state of repair on sidewalks and streets. Also the revitalization of the Eastern Danforth and business taxation should be a hot button issue for candidates as debates are scheduled and the race continues.
Photo by Jamie Bradburn