February 5th, 2017

[BLOG] Some Sunday links

  • The Broadside Blog's Caitlin Kelly describes a week in her life as a freelance writer.

  • The Dragon's Tales notes how the Indus Valley Civilization did, and did not, adapt to climate change.

  • Language Log reshares Benjamin Franklin's writings against German immigration.

  • The NYRB Daily follows one family's quest for justice after the shooting by police of one Ramarley Graham.

  • The Russian Demographics Blog looks at the Pale of Settlement.

  • Torontoist looks at Ontario's food and nutrition strategy.

  • Transit Toronto reports on how PRESTO officials will be making appearances across the TTC in coming weeks to introduce users to the new system.

  • Window on Eurasia looks at how ethnic minorities form a growing share of Russian emigration, looks at the manipulation of statistics by the Russian state, and suggests Putin's actions have killed off the concept of a triune nation of East Slavs.

[URBAN NOTE] "‘Very serious’ allegations over Scarborough subway debate referred to auditor general"

The Toronto Star's Jennifer Pagliaro reports on the latest scandal involving the Scarborough subway debate, allegations of massive systematic confusion regarding the costs of an extension. This is getting meta, and ridiculous.

A city watchdog is recommending referral of a complaint of alleged wrongdoing by staff in the controversial Scarborough subway debate to the auditor general’s office, calling the allegations it contains “very serious.”

In a letter dated Jan. 24, Ombudsman Susan Opler told a group of residents their complaint was best submitted to the auditor general, who is responsible for investigating alleged wrongdoing by the public service.

The residents, backed by the transit advocacy group Scarborough Transit Action, filed the complaint Jan. 19 following a Star story over a misleading briefing note produced by the TTC in the midst of a controversial debate that saw council again approve a more than $3.2 billion one-stop subway extension over the alternative of light rail line fully paid for by the province.

Opler wrote that “at its core” the complaint appeared to be allegations against TTC CEO Andy Byford under the Toronto Public Service bylaw, according to the letter provided to the Star by the complainants.

While she said her office did not come to any conclusions about the “validity” of the allegations, Opler said it’s her opinion the allegations fall under the definition of “wrongdoing” in the bylaw, which is described as “serious actions that are contrary to the public interest,” including fraud and waste but also “breach of public trust.”</blockquote>

[URBAN NOTE] "Welcome to Toronto! Streetcar 4431 arrives from Thunder Bay"

The Toronto Star's Ben Spurr reports, with only a little bit of justifiable snark, about the arrival of the latest new TTC streetcar from the Thunder Bay plants of Bombardier.

What costs $5 million, weighs 48,200 kilograms, and should have been here more than two years ago?

The TTC’s newest streetcar.

The transit commission’s fleet of new low-floor light rail vehicles grew by one on Thursday, with the arrival of car 4431 at the TTC’s Hillcrest Yard on Bathurst St. It will be the 31st vehicle to enter service, and is the first to be delivered this year.

It was something of a bittersweet occasion for the TTC. Under the original terms of its troubled deal with manufacturer Bombardier, the agency was to have more than 109 of the new cars by now.

“It’s always nice to have another new streetcar in service, for sure,” said TTC spokesperson Stuart Green. “Bombardier has committed to delivering 40 this year and we look forward to more arriving.”

[URBAN NOTE] "City manager blasts Wynne’s U-turn on tolls"

The Toronto Star's David Rider reports on how Toronto city manager Peter Wallace has criticized the Ontario government's refusal to let Toronto levy tolls on the Gardiner Expressway and the Don Valley Parkway.

By flip-flopping on tolls Premier Kathleen Wynne has robbed Toronto of badly needed revenue, prolonged gridlock and undercut the city’s independence and decision-making ability, says the city manager.

Peter Wallace’s withering assessment of Wynne’s surprise decision to block tolls is in a three-page letter to Mayor John Tory and the 44 councillors sent Tuesday and obtained by the Star.

While bemoaning Toronto’s lost fiscal opportunity and flatly rejecting Wynne’s argument she has replaced the lost revenue, he urges council to keep pushing the province for road pricing.

Tolling the Don Valley Parkway and Gardiner Expressway, approved by council in December after Wynne said she would not block tolls, would have helped bridge the big gulf between the city’s limited means and considerable ambitions, Wallace wrote.

Tolls were to “provide stable, significant revenue sources to invest in transit and transportation polices and, importantly, to shift the burden from property tax and transit riders towards user fees for roads.”