Let’s Take Back Our Cities

The announcement that Toronto’s Air Canada Centre is going to be rebranded as the Scotiabank Arena generated about as much enthusiasm as the notice of another road closure. We seem to have reached a tipping point for public toleration of corporate intrusion into daily life. I think I reached the breaking point years ago when I arrived at Union Station and was appalled to see the floors and stair risers of the historic building covered with vinyl-graphics advertising in addition to the numerous posters and ads already covering the walls. Virtually every arts and sports venue in Toronto has been claimed by a corporate brand. I no longer know where many of them are because the current name is meaningless and some names have changed several times.

For years we have been told that wages and corporate taxes have to be kept low to compete globally. Yet the same corporations still have hundreds of millions to spend on discretionary branding exercises, and that’s after paying executives record-breaking, tax deductible, compensation. In 2016, Canadian CEO pay was 159 times greater than the average income (Huffington Post). We are expected to accept corporate names on buildings, arenas, and theatres; transit vehicles wrapped in advertising; bus shelters and litter bins plastered with ads. Every major fund-raising charity event is co-opted with corporate advertising. This is the corporate elite telling cities, “We own you.”  Continue reading

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Neighbours, Friends and ‘hoods

I was intrigued recently by an article published in Vox titled, “How our housing choices make friendships more difficult” (David Roberts, Jan. 16, 2017). It seems particularly important as Innisfil prepares its next Official Plan, Our Place, which seeks to define specific places for public gathering and interaction. Speaking of experience in the United States, the author says:

“Our ability to form and maintain friendships is shaped in crucial ways by the physical spaces in which we live. “Land use,” as it’s rather aridly known, shapes behavior and sociality. And in America we have settled on patterns of land use that might as well have been designed to prevent spontaneous encounters, the kind out of which rich social ties are built.”

The article goes on to discuss how friendships change as people age, form families and move into their own homes. The article references some research on the subject:

“The researchers believed that physical space was the key to friendship formation; that “friendships are likely to develop on the basis of brief and passive contacts made going to and from home or walking about the neighborhood.” In their view, it wasn’t so much that people with similar attitudes became friends, but rather that people who passed each other during the day tended to become friends and later adopted similar attitudes.”

The article notes how patterns of human settlement have changed over millennia:  Continue reading

‘Our Place’ Public Open Houses

The Town of Innisfil has released Our Place, the Draft Official Plan which lays out objectives, planning policies, zoning and goals for our municipality. Residents have an opportunity to learn more about the plan at 2 drop-in Open Houses:

  • Thursday January 19, Lefroy Arena, 6 – 8 pm
  • Tues. January 24, IdeaLab /Library, Alcona 4 – 8 pm

The report outlines three goals:

  • Grow – “collaboratively develop a thriving community that embraces a managed level of growth, actively engages residents, attracts and supports business and promotes economic prosperity.”
  • Connect – “ensure opportunities exist for residents, businesses and organizations to connect in all ways that are meaningful – physically, socially, culturally and digitally.”
  • Sustain – actively maintain itself as a viable and vibrant community that fully embraces the principles of sustainability.”

Some of strategies for achieving these goals include:  Continue reading

Innisfil – Just Not Ready

As I write this, Innisfil is making good on its promise to demolish the streetscape median east of St. John’s Rd. Let me share the result with you:

MedianAfter2

Road

 

 

 

 

It only took a couple of whiners and an ignorant, weak-kneed council.

Continue reading

Geography More Than Luck

In my last article, Bradford was said to be “very lucky to have a very cohesive development group that’s willing to front-end the water and wastewater projects”. Of course, it’s obvious that a lot more than luck is involved.

It has more to do with geography. Bradford’s core is centered around Yonge St. and it has developed new housing tracts to the west, filling the area between Yonge St and Highway 400. The cost of installing the wastewater services is being absorbed by those new Bradford households. Naturally, those developers are now willing to share the cost of extending that infrastructure beyond Hwy 400 for Bradford’s industrial lands.

My abbreviated history of Innisfil Heights illustrates that the situation is much different in Innisfil. Our town is a collection of small settlements based on historical farming communities and post-war seasonal cottage communities. Our ‘primary’ settlement, Alcona, which encompasses about half of Innisfil’s population, was built adjacent to Lake Simcoe. Hwy 400 is about 12 km distant. Extending municipal services to the designated highway industrial lands without major new residential development to finance it has proved to be virtually impossible. Councillor Doug Lougheed regularly likes to refer to Alcona as “The Mistake by the Lake”.  Continue reading

The Innisfil Water Wheel

The wheels continue to spin on a viable plan to bring sewer service to Innisfil Heights industrial lands. The prolonged examination of a strategy centred around the creation of a Municipal Services Corporation has come to an abrupt end.

An early staff report to Council (DSR-53-15, March 18, 2015) discussed a study from KPMG, which included an option for a Municipal Services Corporation:

“… the KPMG study concluded that the best option for the municipality was to create a municipal services corporation (MSC) and place the assets for both water and wastewater into that structure which would enable the MSC to separate the assets and liabilities from the Town’s books. The future debt capacity would vest with the new corporation consistent with the manner in which we handle the financial requirements of INNPOWER …”

“On January 1, 2016, the Town transferred the water and wastewater assets, including two water pollution control plants, one surface water treatment plant, municipal wells and the associated collection and distribution systems to InnServices [Utilities Inc.].  InnServices is also tasked with building over $200 million in new infrastructure …” [Town of Innisfil website]  Continue reading