Category Archives: The City is Beautiful

Two Neighbourhood Fence Removals: West & East!


Hey folks,

The Downtown De-Fence Project is at it again, and we need your brawn to help us out!

No experience required.  Bring a pair of pliers, if you have any.  (Available at Dollarama)

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De-Fence • Sunday June 16

Each time we take down a fence, we liberate a lawn, and our hearts.

Open neighbourhoods say “hi“.  Fences say “go away“.

Learn more about the Downtown De-Fence Project, and then join us on Sunday!!

Neighbourhood Fence Removal
Sunday June 16, 2pm
50 Campbell Ave
Facebook RSVP.

“I’m a geek, you’re a geek” • RaBIT on TV


This week, I had the privilege of spending some time with Steve Paikin, and talking about the merits of municipal ranked ballots and runoff voting.

Watch here.

Op-ed: Transit funding and beer

Here’s my latest op-ed, about how we can build financial support for transit expansion, by celebrating the shovels (and machines) that are already in the ground.

(Cross-posted from the Star, March 1)

(Also, here’s a great follow-up from TTC Chair Karen Stintz, March 5)

Toronto STAR: Building support for Toronto transit expansion

After years of political bickering and setbacks, there seems to be a renewed sense of optimism about public transit in Toronto. Major outreach campaigns have been launched across the region. Metrolinx recently hosted public roundtable discussions, Toronto City Hall has announced a transit consultation process and Civic Action is running a campaign asking commuters how they would spend an extra 32 minutes a day – if transit was more efficient. Each project has similar goals: to seek input on future transit planning and help build public support for new revenue sources required to implement the province’s regional transit plan, The Big Move.

The campaigns are clever and effective, but if we want to get people really excited about building transit perhaps there are lessons we can learn from an entirely different Big Move.

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We Built this City on Rock n’ Roll

If you picked up the phone right now and called Rob Ford’s office, a nice fellow by the name of Tom Beyer would answer the phone.  Tom has been the ‘customer service’ face of Ford’s office for two years, spending long days answering hundreds of calls and even making appearances on behalf of the mayor.

About a year ago, Tom and I were chatting about our hobbies.  Tom’s an avid videographer, and his favorite subjects to shoot are off-street bike paths and indie rock bands.  That got us talking about music, and we came up with a fun idea: let’s create a non-partisan City Hall band!  I liked the idea of left and right coming together to make music.  It seemed to fit well with other efforts I was making to reduce polarization at City Hall and encourage civil discourse and mutual respect.  Oh, and it would be fun as hell.

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“Please Disturb” • Alone, Together, in Vancouver

Last week I spent four days at a brilliant conference in Vancouver called Alone Together.  It was all about “Connecting in the City”, and participants explored themes of urban isolation, social disconnectedness, and the sensation of feeling alienated or lost in your own city.

The conference was well-organised, with an amazing 6-day programme.  One of my favorite things was the back page of the official conference booklet.  They printed a door hanger – for your neighbours.  Love this:

“I’ve got no quarrel with that” • Would the real John Parker please stand up?

“Do you think we should be consulting the local residents before we make this decision?”
~ City Councillor Mike Layton

“I’ve got no quarrel with that”
~ City Councillor John Parker

During the 13 years that I’ve been following meetings at City Hall, I’ve learned a lot about how the democratic process is supposed to function.  It’s a complicated process – one that I’ve tried to de-mystify for my readers last year by writing “Inside Baseball: The rules of City Council” and a chapter in Local Motion called “Finding your way through City Hall”.

The process can seem complicated and burdensome, but every part of it exists for a reason.  The process is designed to include input from a variety of sources, such as from expert staff or from residents who will affected by a decision.

When procedural steps are avoided, or ignored, the system breaks down and the process is no longer democratic.  One of the worst cases I’ve ever seen (and I’ve been watching Council meetings since Mel Lastman was mayor, and Jack Layton was a rogue Councillor), was last year when John Parker moved the motion to remove the Jarvis bike lanes at the June meeting of the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee.

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Drivers for Jarvis • Batch #3!

Since I first posted about Drivers for Jarvis, I continue to receive new requests from across TO from those who want to join the campaign!

I’ve pasted some recent photos below, and the full list can be found on the Cycle Toronto website.

Wanna add your name to the list?  Get in touch:

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Crowd Funding: Help bring the Fourth Wall exhibit to life!

Six months ago, the Fourth Wall exhibit was installed at the Urbanspace Gallery for a successful three month visit.  The exhibit explores 36 proposals aimed at transforming our local democracy.  At the end of January, the exhibit was removed from the walls of the gallery, and we’ve been trying to figure out how to bring it back to life in other formats. Continue reading

Drivers for Jarvis • Moving beyond rhetoric

Last year, Toronto City Council voted to remove the bike lanes on Jarvis Street.  This was done without any public consultation, without the support of the local Councillor and against the advice of City Staff.  It was a political move that puts the safety of hundreds of cyclists at risk. Luckily, the bike lanes have not yet been removed.

I’m working on a project, with Cycle Toronto, called ‘Drivers for Jarvis‘. We want to show that the debate about Jarvis Street isn’t about cyclists vs drivers.  It’s about safety vs rhetoric.  It’s about sharing the road vs hogging the road.  It’s about common sense. Continue reading