From the Post:
Failed projects To Get Second chance
Mayor: Troublesome Issues: Miller says Lobbyist Registry Top Priority
James Cowan, National Post
Published: Wednesday, December 20, 2006
The coming year at Toronto City Hall will bring new life to failed or faltering projects, including the lobbyist registry, dog park strategy and Union Station revitalization plan, Mayor David Miller said yesterday.
During an in-depth year end interview yesterday, Mr. Miller vowed to revisit a number of troublesome issues when the new city council convenes in January. While Mr. Miller easily won re-election last month, he has also suffered setbacks over the past year. Plans to introduce a mandatory lobbyist registry were shelved by city council in September while a deal with a private consortium to refurbish Union Station collapsed this spring.
Mr. Miller told the National Post his top priority for council's first regular meeting will be adopting a mandatory lobbyist registry.
"It's about ensuring everybody is playing by the same set of rules, it's about the proper rules and it's about an easy way for the public to access information," Mr. Miller said, seated at his desk overlooking the Nathan Phillips Square ice rink "It's about the public knowing about what's going on. That's appropriate."
The Mayor also promised a new plan for revitalizing Union Station will be released by June.
"It will be a little while before we see results, but it will be back on track within the next six months," he said.
A proposal to give the historic station a $150-million makeover fell apart in April after Toronto's private partners announced they did not have enough time to finalize certain details before a May 31 deadline. The city is now considering other ways to revitalize the station, Mr. Miller said.
"We're going to look at everything," Mr. Miller said. "If we engage the private sector again, we will do it in a different, far less complicated way. Perhaps we can engage other public sector entities. You have to start with the fact that it's a transportation hub, so everything needs to take that into account."
The new city council will also tackle issues that politicians considered too controversial to be touched in an election year. Amongst the contentious topics is a new strategy for creating off leash areas in public parks. Mr. Miller said both dog owners and non-dog owners must be given "a real say" in where the off-leash areas are located. "People are entitled to own dogs in the city, they need places to take them and it's incumbent on us to work with the community and find those places," Mr. Miller said.
Also on the agenda will be the future of Casa Loma. Earlier this year, a task force recommended giving control of the historic site to a public trust, a proposal that angered the Kiwanis Club, which currently operates the castle.
"I haven't got my mind made up," Mr. Miller said yesterday about Casa Loma.
"I know what our end goal should be but I'm not sure the best way to get there. Casa Loma needs to be rejuvenated, it needs substantial investment, it needs professional management. There's two ways to get there: Keep the current arrangement but ensure provisions are put in the contract that meet those goals or go out for bid in the private sector."
Deliberations on these individual issues will take place against the backdrop of new powers created by the new City of Toronto Act. The provincial legislation, which takes effect on Jan. 1, gives the city new taxing and regulatory powers. Council committees have already
been rejigged to reflect their new responsibilities. Mr. Miller yesterday said there will also be changes to the way the city's budget is shaped.
In the past, the budget has been built through committee meetings and public consultations. Instead, city staff will now develop the budget behind closed doors and then present it to the public for review. Mr. Miller said the process will reflect how the provincial and federal governments prepare their budgets.
"The choices that are being made need to be clearer to Torontonians," Mr. Miller said.
"When we develop the budget in public, I think people see it as chaos."
Â© National Post 2006