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Canadian Urbanism Uncovered

Thursday’s compendium of links

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Moscoe touts landlord licences [Toronto Star]: You need a licence to drive a car, why not a licence to be a landlord? That seems to be the thinking behind a proposal being floated by Councillor Howard Moscoe. The newly named head of the city’s licensing and standards committee wants to make landlords pay a per-unit fee that would be high if the building is rundown, and low if the building is in tip-top shape. The measure, Moscoe argues, would force bad landlords to be good. Moscoe is looking at creating four categories of buildings — A, B, C, and D — where the A building owner would pay a modest fee to the city of perhaps $10 a year per unit, while the D building owner would be hit with a $400 charge per unit annually.

From teacher to council speaker [Toronto Star]: Toronto city Councillor Sandra Bussin left her job as a schoolteacher many years ago because she didn’t like disciplining children. A cynic would suggest Bussin made a big mistake yesterday by accepting the job as city council’s first-ever speaker, a job that will require keeping 44 politicians on a tight leash. Bussin, who represents Ward 32 (Beaches-East York), was approved as speaker yesterday by a 41-1 vote and will assume her duties in the new year. Council traditionally has been chaired by the mayor or by someone he or she would delegate. But a panel set up to study council’s governing structure felt it was important for a large group to have a full-time speaker, and the job was agreed upon by council last December. The move is believed to allow the mayor to drive his policy agenda without having to serve at the same time as an impartial meeting chair.

Bussin named first-ever council speaker []: Coun. Sandra Bussin has been appointed as the first-ever Speaker of Toronto’s council, a position that some predict will be¬†one of the most difficult jobs at city hall. In the new role, Bussin will be expected to rein in the antics and outbursts of the city’s 44 councillors as the “order keeper.” It is also anticipated that she will¬†ensure the mayor’s policy agenda is carried out.

Miller’s foes urged to unite: [Globe and Mail]: With Mayor David Miller using his new powers to deny opponents most key city council posts in a series of appointments confirmed by council yesterday, some are urging the fractious group of councillors to the mayor’s right to get its act together and create a more formal opposition. But persuading the dozen or so councillors who consistently oppose the mayor to focus their attack is difficult, insiders say, as many consider themselves independent actors. Most of Mr. Miller’s more disciplined supporters openly identify with the NDP. Since the Nov. 13 election, a group of at least five right-leaning councillors — including Case Ootes (Toronto-Danforth), Denzil Minnan-Wong (Don Valley East), Karen Stintz (Eglinton-Lawrence), Michael Feldman (York Centre) and David Shiner (Willowdale) — have met to brainstorm, continuing a practice from the past year or so.

‘Very happy’ councillors a risk of late meetings [National Post]: Toronto city council’s decision yesterday to hold evening sessions will just encourage drunken debating, veteran politicians cautioned. Councillors voted to stretch their meeting times to run from 9:30 a.m. until 10 p.m. Previously, council meetings ended at 7 p.m. Deputy Mayor Joe Pantalone argued the extended hours should mean council needs fewer meeting days each month. But Councillor Case Ootes warned the old Metro Toronto council’s evening meetings were often counterproductive because members enjoyed a beer — or two — during their dinner break. “You could get high off the fumes,” Mr. Ootes recalled. “The place smelt like a brewery.”

Council postpones salary issue [Toronto Sun]: A move to kill the controversial 8.9% pay hike city councillors are due to receive was sidelined yesterday until about a month after the raise kicks in on Jan. 1. Councillor Michael Walker urged city council yesterday to deal with his call to kill the raise which will drive up a councillor’s annual salary from $87,214 to $95,000. Mayor David Miller’s yearly take will increase from $147,856 to $160,000. However, Miller ruled that Walker’s motion could not be dealt with at the inaugural meeting of the new city council for procedural reasons.

CHRISTOPHER HUME: Grow up, Toronto [Toronto Star]: They are young and bright and ambitious. And they’re going to change this city. A group of students at Ryerson University’s planning school, all in their 20s, got together at a local pub to do what they enjoy most — talk about cities. This time they invited a reporter to join them. After many beers and scotches, nothing had been resolved, but the future was clear. Forget the stereotype of disengaged youth, too cool and monosyllabic to care; these kids are passionate about urbanity. They’re fed up with same-old suburbanism and car culture. They love downtown and that’s where they want to be. It may sound hopelessly idealistic, but they chose planning because they intend to remake the world, or at least this part of it.

Follow the PATH to surprise [National Post]: Toronto’s underground city, which runs from Union Station to Dundas Street, between BCE Place and Metro Hall, is not for the faint of heart. At lunchtime the PATH is like a casbah: noisy, crowded, hot, smelly in places and impossible to navigate. That said, these days it has back massage booths, juice bars and rosemary foccaccia.

At this restaurant, food is just a starter [Globe and Mail]: From the beginning, Roberto and Lucia Martella wanted their Italian restaurant, Grano, to be about more than just food. Mr. Martella calls it a piazza, like the city squares around Italy. Grano, he explains, offers itself up to artists, authors and friends. Now, after 20 years of bringing people together for meals and more, Mr. Martella has been given the Jane Jacobs Prize, named for the late writer and activist for urban renewal, for contributing to Toronto’s vitality. “Over 20 years, having met all these people, I introduce them and there are synergies that form,” Mr. Martella said yesterday at his restaurant on Yonge Street north of Davisville. “At the very least, that’s what’s important — people meeting and feeling as a whole, because meeting each other and learning, it makes the whole richer.”