TPR Newsletter Email For December 16 2022: Municipal Affairs Noted

Province Tops Up Transit COVID Funding

The Province announced more funding for local transit systems to offset decreased revenues due to lower ridership following COVID.
Hamilton will receive another $5,181,247.

Hamilton’s COVID transit reserves remain healthy, but the HSR’s revenues remain significantly down – people are not commuting to work or they are driving.

Hamilton is not in as rough of a financial shape as other cities.

The mandatory UPass agreements at Mohawk and McMaster bring in a large chunk of the HSR’s revenue.

The student unions decided to have their members pay for UPasses last year even as campuses were closed.

This unearned revenue allowed the HSR to bank COVID funding for future rainy days.

Toronto Gets Another Bailout

Torontonians will continue to enjoy low property taxes as the Province once again gives the City of Toronto a deficit bailout.

This time the City of Toronto will receive ~$266-million to cover one-third of Toronto’s forecasted 2022 deficit.

Toronto enjoys a strong commercial tax base. This combined with frequent bailouts enables the City to keep its residential property tax rates artificially low.

Toronto relies heavily upon its Land Transfer Tax to fund its annual operating budget.

Less year was particularly good for Toronto with over $ 1 billion in land tax revenue.

This year is not looking as good with fewer real estate sales.

Land Transfer Taxes are not reliable nor prudent revenue sources for municipalities.

During the 2022 election, Toronto Mayor John Tory promised to deliver below-inflation property tax increases this year, and the Province is obliging.

In Hamilton, facing a tax increase in a range between 6.9% to who knows for sure, and some on our City Council want the same deal.

Ward 5 Clr Matt Francis gave notice at the end of Wednesday’s Council GIC that he’ll be introducing a motion to seek similar treatment for Hamilton.

To his credit, Francis noted he would seek advice on wording his motion before putting it on the floor.

[Francis also asked “Would this be a good opportunity to look at municipal land transfer tax on the sale of homes?” in Hamilton to address our fiscal crunch.]

UToronto IMFG on Strong(er) Mayors in Ontario

Ontario Premier Doug Ford plans to give the mayors of Toronto and Ottawa even stronger strong mayor powers, including the ability to govern with only a 1/3rd minority of their councils.

Hamilton is the next largest single-tier municipality in Ontario, meaning it is possible the “strong mayor” powers will arrive here in 2023.

The University of Toronto’s Institute for Municipal Finance and Governance released a paper last week summarizing a recent academic panel they hosted.

Here are some takeaways.

Dr. Karen Chapple, Director of School of Cities and Professor of Geography and Planning – UofT, noted that in the United States: ‘cities seem to be moving away from the mayor-council form; 56% of American municipalities had a strong mayor in 1984, compared with just 44% in 2008.’

Chapple noted the advantage of the council-manager form [which is the current form in Ontario] includes that ‘it reduces corporate influence,’ ‘quality of public service is higher,’ ‘citizens are more engaged,’ and ‘it reduces conflict among elected officials.’

Journalist Matt Elliott noted Toronto Mayor John Tory ‘the mayor almost never loses a vote.

John Tory has won 98% of relevant council votes this [past] term’ and thus Elliott doubts Strong Mayor powers ‘is going to have major ramifications for the way City Hall operates – at least in Toronto.’

Dr. Alison Smith, Assistant Prof Poli Sci UofT, sees the Strong Mayor powers as a further downloading by the province on affordable and social housing. ‘It is always important for me to note that while we are currently facing a housing crisis across Ontario, there has been a crisis of housing for people with low incomes for decades.’

‘While empowering mayors to accelerate housing production may allow for more nimble action, this is also the downloading of responsibility for addressing the housing crisis to the local level.’

Dr. Gabriel Eidelman, Asst. Prof Munk School UofT, noted having senior staff accountable to the Mayor will clarify lines of responsibility in municipal government.

He discussed the need for safeguards and protections to ensure professional civil servants can still act as professionals.

TMU URBAN RESEARCH: WHERE ARE THE LOW-RISE APARTMENTS?

TMU’s Centre for Urban Research and Land Development is taking a break from shrilling for land speculators’ profits and greenfield paving.

The think-tank asks why there is a lack of low-rise apartment construction in the Greater Golden Horseshoe.

Their conclusion?

“The analysis of CMHC apartment starts data shows that the construction of low-rise missing middle apartments in the GGH, defined as buildings of three storeys or less or six storeys or less, falls considerably short of the units required to offset the under-production of market-based ground-related housing as well as the inherent demand for low-rise apartments.

Only 6% of the apartment starts in the City of Toronto were in buildings of six storeys or less. This small number of missing middle apartment starts in the City of Toronto, combined with a robust latent demand, points to the need for an explosive increase in the construction of these apartments in the city. The most obvious way of achieving this is the up-zoning of existing single-family housing neighbourhoods.”

 

The Absurd Side of Strong Mayor Powers

Now that he is “strong,” Toronto Mayor John Tory must approve minor decisions related to land-use planning and housing.

Last month, Mayor Tory gave his formal blessing to some parking changes and speed humps in Old Toronto and East York.

The Twitter mockery is amusing.

Toronto City Manager Paul Johnson

Using his strong mayoral powers, John Tory appointed Paul Johnson as Toronto’s new City Manager.

Johnson was first hired into government at the City of Hamilton as director for the neighbourhood action program, then director of LRT.

As Hamilton City Manager, Chris Murray promoted Johnson to General Manager of Emergency and Community Service. Johnson was hired to Toronto by Chris Murray.

Murray became Toronto’s City Manager in 2018. Johnson moved to Toronto in July 2021 to be one of Toronto’s Deputy City Managers under Murray.

Toronto’s Ombudsman To Provide Oversight of Toronto Police Service

The Toronto Police Services Board and the City of Toronto Ombudsman signed a Memorandum of Agreement to enable the City’s Ombudsman to provide independent oversight of the police service in matters not presently captured by provincial oversight agencies.

The City of Hamilton does not have an Ombudsman.

TTC Senior Transit Planner Jasmine Eftekhari on Transit in the Post-COVID World

The UToronto student chapter of the Institute of Transportation Engineers hosted Eftekhari who discussed how service levels are adjusted based on projected and observed customer demand in the post-COVID era when travel patterns are less predictable.

The 37-minute talk video is on YouTube.

Fairness Matters in Municipal Council Licensing: Divisional Court

In a ruling entirely keeping with obvious case law, Ontario’s Divisional Court is making the Municipality of Leamington redo its appeal hearing after the municipality’s Appeal Committee failed to conduct a procedurally fair hearing regarding a tavern.

Similar to Hamilton, Leamington’s Appeal Committee is composed of elected councillors.

A bit more in this TPR Brief.

A Window into Integrity Commissioner Pay

Retired Hamilton City Solicitor Janice Atwood-Petkovski’s firm, Principles Integrity, is the new Integrity Commissioner for the municipality of Wellington North.

The Township’s Council openly discussed some of the fees they will pay to retain an IC.

Principles Integrity charges a $1,250 annual retainer fee. The firm is paid a “block fee” of $1,750 for each day they are asked to attend a council meeting or provide council training.

PI’s hourly rate is $275.

The Wellington Advertiser states the Township paid former IC Guy Giorno “$1,088 since his appointment” in 2019.

Giorno’s hourly rate was $300 per hour. He was not called upon to conduct investigations during his term.

At the time of this report, October 7, Principles Integrity held 45 municipal and local board appointments as IC.

Mississauga Loses Court Appeal Over Sealing Election Records

Ontario’s Divisional Court in a 2-1 decision upheld the determination of Ontario’s Privacy Commission to order the release of 2018 election records in Mississauga, dismissing an appeal by Mississauga’s City Clerk against a ruling of Ontario’s Information and Privacy Commission (IPC) that determined where the Municipal Elections Act states all election records are public documents, the Act states they are public documents.

This case is quirky. Unfortunately for Hamilton 2022 candidates who were denied access to data, this case is not helpful due to these quirks.

There are methods for Municipal Clerks to legally seal records.

Hamilton City Clerk Andrea Holland has availed herself of the MEA Section 86(6.1) to seal voting records that were denied to candidates on Election Day.

Ontario’s Ministry of Municipal Affairs conducts a review following each municipal election cycle.

It will be interesting to see if the MEA is changed in light of the 2018 events in Mississauga and the similar situation that unfolded in Hamilton during the 2022 election.

A little more on TPR here.

Richmond Hill’s Karen Cilevitz Should Be the Poster for Electoral Reform

Ward 5 Richmond Hill Councillor Karen Cilevitz has a list of Integrity Commissioner adverse findings against her, she’s a bully towards citizens, and she was criminally charged with fraud.

She was convicted of fraud under $5,000 in a plea deal which saw more serious charges dropped.

She was re-elected last month due to vote splitting. Yes, one of Ontario’s worst municipal councillors is back with only 23.34% of the vote in a ten person race.

When people talk about the merits of ranked ballots in municipal elections, they should use Karen Cilevitz as the top example of why ranked ballots are needed.

 

Anchorage eliminates minimum parking requirements for new developments, adds bike parking rules

Alaska, yes, the frozen north, is adopting zoning reforms which eliminate parking minimums and “add a minimum bicycle parking requirement for new large residential buildings and new commercial buildings.”

Anchorage councillors hope the measure will decrease the cost of new development.

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