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8,354 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
A vision for the future
Apr. 16, 2006. 01:41 AM

Dreams are often visions of things that could well be and may one day come to pass. I have dreams like that from time to time. And they're often dreams of Toronto as the truly great city I know we are well on our way to becoming.
I see a Toronto in the not-too-distant future where kids growing up in each and every neighbourhood have equal opportunities — real opportunities — to build good and decent lives.
I see a yellowing front page of the Toronto Star shouting "Gun violence ends!" There are no guns on the street any more because a Toronto-led coalition of mayors from both sides of the 49th parallel stood strong against the American government on gun control.
So persuasive were Toronto's arguments that the U.S. finally enacted common-sense gun control and repealed legislation that prevented lawsuits from being launched against firearms manufacturers.
Instead of worrying about firearms, Torontonians are taking full advantage of the excellent municipal programs made affordable when the federal government awarded Toronto an increased share of the locally raised GST.
Dalton McGuinty and his New City of Toronto Act get thanks for making it possible for Ottawa and Toronto to negotiate their tax-sharing pact face to face. And another tip of the hat to Queen's Park for doing its bit to correct the long-standing fiscal imbalance by returning to the city some of the provincial sales tax revenue collected in Ontario's capital.
This helps explain why gangs aren't a problem any more. No one's drawn to the gangster life because of all the services the city can provide to all of its residents. There are childcare spaces for all parents who need them so they can work and make the money needed to nurture their children. And parks and recreation programs are available free for every child in every city neighbourhood.
Training and jobs have been made available through partnerships established among City Hall, the Toronto Board of Trade and organized labour. Youth from neighbourhoods that were once Toronto's poorest get proper training and gain the self-respect needed to move forward in life. They become carpenters. And bankers. Even journalists. Whatever they aspire to be.
No one in Toronto lives in isolation. Or on the street. Not the young. And certainly not their elders. Homelessness is a thing of the past. Because of the compassion and commitment of Torontonians, all orders of government came together as partners to provide affordable housing to anyone who needs it. There's an incredible array of services for seniors who want to remain engaged in the communities where they live and share their wisdom with other generations.
It's the kind of wisdom that has led Toronto to be recognized as a world leader in promoting peace and harmony. The city will forever be a microcosm of the world's people living together with respect and not a hint of intolerance. Our Canadian Council for Christians, Jews and Muslims is cited around the globe as an example of how to build bridges among people of different faiths. Every man woman and child can walk down every street in this city and know they are recognized as Torontonians regardless of race, colour or religion.
And when Torontonians are exploring their city on foot, they'll meet police constables walking the beats in the very communities they were sworn to serve and protect. These officers are truly representative of Toronto's diversity. There are as many women as men on the force, and the police service is so involved with the community that almost the entire membership has chosen to live where it works.
Neighbourhoods, businesses and non-profit agencies have pitched in everywhere to create beautiful public spaces. Clean streets, beautifully landscaped parks and boulevards across the city. Magnificent public art at every turn. On the strength of our architecture, Toronto is recognized as a city where even routine buildings have the benefit of extraordinary design. University Avenue is a thoroughfare of the arts. It helps link all of our great cultural institutions with Nathan Phillips Square — the public meeting place associated with the name Toronto going back to First Nations people.
Our subway stations are astonishing. As many people enjoy the exhibits at the TTC's Museum station as visit the ROM. They come for an enlightening look at the exhibits before moving on to their chosen destinations. There's a network of streetcars crossing this city on reserved rights-of-way. The Finch Hydro Corridor is now a conduit for light rail transit. People can get from eastern Scarborough to western Etobicoke quickly and at reasonable cost. Every neighbourhood has access to rapid transit, and every able-bodied Torontonian is within a five-minute walk of a bus stop and is one bus journey away from the subway or a light rail connection. For the disabled, every bus, streetcar and subway stop is accessible.
People are talking about the Light Rail Transit funding agreement the City of Toronto recently signed with the city of Calgary and the province of Alberta. The Alberta government was looking for some place to invest the petro-fuelled budget surpluses it continues to amass every year and chose to use some of the money to keep Canada's economic engine running at top speed. It's a beautiful relationship. Like the one Toronto has with the City of Montreal.
The waterfront is an expanse of dynamic neighbourhoods where people come to live, work and play. The streetcar is transport of choice along a lakeshore transformed into a creative hub of film, television, media and communications. Everything down there is green, green, green to the highest green standards. Toronto residents who embraced the city's green-bin program with virtual unanimity proved just as eager to be partners in energy conservation. And, as result of their openness to new ideas, a beautiful park has been created next to the retrofitted Thomas Hearn power plant in the heart Port Lands.
Solar panels have been installed on roofs all over the city by Toronto-based environmental entrepreneurs. They're atop high-rises on Bloor St. And the sun is being harnessed to meet the energy needs of the eight-storey buildings that have gone up all along Kingston Rd. These highly successful developments are being hailed as models of intensification and offered as yet another example of Toronto's environmental leadership.
Torontonians have taken back the water. And they got some help from a federal government that took a good hard look at the Toronto Port Authority's business affairs and quickly decided the federal agency had no legitimate reason to exist. Toronto took control of the harbour and linked it to the rest of the waterfront with a series of boardwalks and bridges. But no fixed link to the Island Airport lands, which have become a beautiful nature reserve.
The waterfront has become a people place year-round. In February it's packed with kids playing shinny on the waterfront rink at Sherbourne Park. In July, people sit and sip cool drinks in the cafes and bistros overlooking the harbour, where children swim in the unpolluted waters.
Toronto is recognized around the world for the vitality sparked by its creative industries.
T.O. Live with Culture is a permanent fixture on the arts scene. Lord of the Rings is still playing at the Princess of Wales Theatre, and the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts is attracting world-class talent and patrons from everywhere.
Smaller theatre companies and performance venues thrive. Film festivals, music festivals, festivals of all sorts. Toronto is a magnet for anyone looking to live in a vibrant, exciting world city.
Businesses are flocking to Toronto following the lead of firms like SAS — the world's largest privately held software developer and a leader in providing employees an environmentally sensitive workplace.
The business boom has made the TSX the third leading stock exchange on the planet.
People have a working relationship with City Hall. They keep the City of Toronto from becoming a sterile institution by getting involved in the neighbourhood councils that have been established under the City of Toronto Act. Every neighbourhood is engaged in local governance.
And this engagement has many public benefits
For example, the Toronto Maple Leafs are so inspired by the city they call home that they win the Stanley Cup. The team is led by captain by Sidney Crosby, the NHL scoring champ who signed with Toronto as a free agent because he just had to live here.
In case you're interested, the Leafs take the Cup in six. The final score in the deciding game is 3-2, with Crosby getting the winner in overtime. Beautiful.

8,354 Posts
Discussion Starter · #2 ·
Hogtown the beautiful
Architecture |
For Toronto to morph from an ugly duckling into a place we can be proud of, we need to focus much more on design and planning, perhaps starting with our schools.
Apr. 16, 2006. 01:00 AM

Turning Toronto the Good into Toronto the Better — Toronto the Beautiful — won't be easy. Decades of architectural thoughtlessness and piecemeal planning have left the city a bit of a mess. People say they like Toronto, but no one ever accused it of being great to look at.
Now, Torontonians want to change all that. But where to start?
The obvious place is the waterfront. As respected urbanist Tony Coombes points out, the Docklands, especially the area around the Shipping Channel, could be the most sought-after neighbourhood in the city. With water to the north and south, it has the makings of something spectacular.
"This would be the most desirable real estate land in Toronto," says Coombes, who has worked in cities around the globe. "It's a phenomenal opportunity to build a glittering city on the lake. That's why thoughts of re-industrializing it — of putting a power plant there —make no sense."
Of course, that's typically Toronto, too. When you have an advantage, squander it. When something makes sense, don't do it. Why lead when you can follow? Why think long-term when short-term will do?
There are many steps we could take — a design review panel (long overdue), a city architect, architectural competitions for all public buildings.
How about an architectural rating service? One that would help developers avoid the second-raters who get so much work and have contributed so much to Toronto's continuing mediocrity.
What about hiring more city planners? So they can do their job properly.
What about abolishing the Ontario Municipal Board? Can't happen soon enough.
What about promoting an enlightened citizenry? One that sees beyond the confines of its own block.
And speaking about power plants, why not turn the Hearn Generating Station into a contemporary art galley like the Tate Modern in London?
But here's a really good idea, and original, too. What if Toronto went back to school? What if we were to rethink the role schools play in the life of the city and reinvent them not just as places where kids learn, but also as centres of architectural excellence and civic beauty?
That's the idea of architects James Brown and Kim Storey, the husband-wife team best known for designing Yonge-Dundas Square and Massey-Harris Park who are at the forefront of innovative urban thinking in North America.
Their argument is that the GTA is dotted with schools that are busy during the day and empty at night. More than that, they are for the most part abysmally designed (especially from the 1960s on) and take little advantage of their site.
Ontario's school boards were left demoralized, underfunded and in disarray by the Mike Harris regime and are still recovering. But even now, funding is strictly formulaic, and individual schools have little autonomy.
Forget all that, argue Brown and Storey, and start from scratch. Their beginning point is the idea that schools represent an enormous unrealized asset — physical, social, intellectual, cultural.
"The state of our culture is reflected in the state of our schools," says Brown. "What if instead of going after the Olympics or the World's Fair, we gave each school several million dollars so they could transform themselves and their neighbourhood?"
Adds Storey: "Our argument is that we could take those billions and distribute the money among schools; they could become cultural sites."
Currently, schools are viewed as physical resources. When enrolment drops below a certain level, a school is closed and the land is sold. But rather than sell such a precious public asset to private interests, why not redo it to serve other public needs?
To demonstrate the potential of a typical city school or, rather, its grounds, Brown and Storey took a look at St. Clare Catholic School at St. Clair Ave. and Northcliffe Blvd. Situated in a nasty red brick building, the school is separated from the corner by a largely unused space enclosed by chain-link fencing.
Brown and Storey's scheme transforms it into a frankly beautiful — yes, beautiful — public piazza that includes a playground, gardens, as well as seating areas sheltered from the traffic. It would be an ideal space for hanging out.
"The idea was to create a prototype," Storey explains. "The current space is chewed up by parking. But why not build a series of outdoor rooms that can be used by the community as well as the school?"
Yet when the plan was presented to school board officials last year, they rejected it out of hand.
Go figure.
"As much as anything," Brown notes, "the problem is governance. It seems that thinking hasn't changed since the 1930s; the schools don't see themselves as part of anything larger. They're so many black holes."
The school boards might take a look at the success of the Toronto Public Library, which, though chronically underfunded, has employed architecture to turn itself into the most-used system in the world outside of Hong Kong. Though its projects are typically modest in scale and budget, they are given to first-rate architects who understand that a library is more than a mere repository for books.
The fully realized library functions as a gathering place, a clearinghouse for ideas, a centre for community activism and social integration as well as an example of architectural beauty.
When the new and quite lovely Malvern branch re-opened last year, for example, circulation increased 60 per cent overnight.
Finally, it was a place where children, teens and adults were clearly welcome. Unlike the original library, which was one of those single-purpose structures built for little more than withstanding hooliganism, its successor is light-filled and — dare we say it? — beautiful. In short, a great place to be.
And as Storey points out, the problem is most acute in the suburbs, where public amenities are desperately needed. She mentions Rexdale as a typical example of a post-war suburban wasteland that exacts a heavy toll on its residents, especially the young.
"In the suburbs," she says, "schools are the only place where you can start the process of civility. Yet even though everything around them has changed, the schools remain the same."
Storey looks to the Dutch as a model. In Holland, she says, "The school is seen as a kind of city in miniature; it serves a variety of purposes. Even the teachers' parking lot is also a public parking lot."
Says Brown: "Schools need to take on new challenges and new uses. Schools are so much a part of the city, it doesn't make sense to have them run by the province."
Given that there are more than 1,700 public and high schools across the GTA, the potential of Brown and Storey's approach is immense.
Our schools form a vast armature on which this sparkling new public realm could be erected. Though schools are not contiguous, the cumulative effect of a rebuilding campaign would be more wide-ranging than anything we have ever seen in this city or region.
What Brown and Storey are talking about is transformative, even revolutionary. In effect, they want the city to understand the power of architecture and planning and to use that to remake itself, starting with schools.
Instead of black holes, they would be a constellation of public amenities, each attractive, generous and inviting. These oases would transform both the city and its inhabitants.
And that, they say, would be beautiful.

8,354 Posts
Discussion Starter · #3 ·
How to create a metropolis with art in its arteries
Apr. 16, 2006. 01:00 AM

We like to think of Toronto as an artful city. On paper, we have all the markings of a populace that's engaged with art: galleries, concert venues, literary festivals.
But we have to ask ourselves, is art a way of life in Toronto? Do we, as a city, engage with art, literature and performance in any relevant, lasting manner? (And don't think matinee tickets to the Blue Man Group count.)
We asked artists and leaders in the creative community to suggest how art can become an important part of everyday life. This isn't about more money for the grants system or building new studios. Rather, it's about a cultural shift to a more art-conscious state of mind.
One place to start is graffiti. While it's a dirty word to police and city officials, many creative people see it as vibrant artistic expression.
For painter Fiona Smyth, graffiti should be flat-out decriminalized. "Billboards are taking over," she says. "Every available space is being grabbed by corporations, and graffiti can be a counterpoint to that .... "
The art form could extend to our rooftops, which Smyth believes are an untapped resource for gallery space. She imagines a city where rooftops are connected by a network of catwalks and feature sculptures, art pieces and gardens.
If the city is going to become a more artful place, its arts institution should lead the way.
The challenge for the Art Gallery of Ontario, in the midst of a massive rebuilding, is to take all the art and culture that exists within its walls and find a way to let it spill into the city.
Matthew Teitelbaum, director of the AGO, has been contemplating this issue for some time. He believes the AGO can transcend its current role as a contained cultural destination.
One way to do that is to physically bring the gallery's collection into the city. It's a project the gallery would try to pull off in conjunction with other art institutions, such as the Ontario College of Art and Design.
"We've begun thinking about the possibility of doing projects in public spaces — Union Station, the waterfront," says Teitelbaum.
Around the corner, OCAD is contemplating similar issues. There's no questioning the talent and creativity that percolate inside the revamped building, but the challenge will be finding a way to share that with the people of Toronto.
Newly appointed president Sara Diamond, a working artist who's known as a forward-thinking advocate for the arts, wants to re-introduce art "happenings" to daily life. These would be similar to those of the 1960s, but rather than being based in the counterculture, these sessions — designed to contemplate the challenges facing our world — would invite not only artists but also scientists and others with specific expertise.
"I really believe that, especially now, art should be at centre, not the periphery," says Diamond. "There's an articulate sense of anxiety surrounding these issues. One of the great things artists do is turn that sense of anxiety and desperation into a kind of envisioning of what could happen in the future, and find creative ways of problem solving. "
Diamond also advocates the introduction of an artistic "welcoming brigade" at Pearson airport that "would declare that culture is at (Toronto's) heart and it wants to attract people to move here in part because of its cultural environment."
In a literary vein, Molly Peacock, poetry editor at the Literary Review of Canada, suggests we stamp poetry into every new sidewalk square. Peacock, who helped bring "Poetry in Motion" to the New York transit system, says if this were to happen, we'd be "the most marvellously literary city in the world."
Toronto poet Sonnet L'Abbé believes the key to a more artful city is for people to "ease up on the gas" in the pursuit of economic prosperity and make a "personal commitment to loving art. And when I say loving, I mean paying attention to it, getting to know, not just throwing money at it.
"It's like a person growing their own artistic flower ... If you have enough flowers, then the whole city becomes a garden of people who love and consume and make art."

8,354 Posts
Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Being (more) neighbourly
Apr. 16, 2006. 02:50 AM

In Toronto, we like to celebrate our diversity, but we also know the reality is often not as rosy as the cheery "most multicultural city in the world" tag would suggest.
How do we get to know each other better so that our differences, whether cultural or linguistic, help build a more vibrant community?
Charles Pascal of the Atkinson Charitable Foundation has a simple idea: organize international exchanges for young people right here at home. He'd call it the Toronto World Exchange Program.
A Muslim high school student born in Pakistan would go live for a school term in the home of a Catholic student born in the Philippines, for example.
"We have the world in our backyard — are we taking advantage of it?" asks Pascal, executive-director of the foundation founded by Joseph Atkinson, a former Toronto Star publisher. Living in another family's culture, a student would learn different customs, different food, hear a different language and most of all, build a bond.
"Sometimes people are hard of listening, and there's not enough empathy and respect for others' views. This is a very simple idea that would lead to deepened insight and respect."
It's a way of drawing people who live close together closer together. In Toronto, where immigrant families from 90 different ethnic groups make up about half the population, according to Canada's 2001 census, there are still deep divisions. A recent projection from Statistics Canada says that by 2017, Toronto and area could have a population of 7.1 million, with a visible minority population of as high as 3.9 million.
"The long-term gain seems to be eluding us — people keep falling back along their own ethnic lines," says Ratna Omidvar, executive director of the Maytree Foundation, which, among other things, supports programs that help newcomers settle. "The thinking had been the parents might hang out on their own, but the children would bridge both worlds."
In her dream of the future, each of us would extend the hand of friendship to someone outside our socio-economic, cultural or educational group. Someone in Rosedale would have a friendship with someone from Jane and Finch; someone from China would befriend someone from India.
The question really is, how do we build communities in a city as big as Toronto? How do you get people out of their houses and apartments to connect and know each other by name?
Turn off the power, suggests Frances Lankin, head of the United Way. "Remember what happened in the blackout? People saw stars and felt a sense of adventure. What if we planned for it? What if we turned off the lights for a couple of hours and experienced the magic of coming together? You can't watch TV or listen to the radio, do the dishes or the laundry, and life slows down, and with nothing else to do, real communication takes place. We can engage one another."
She calls her plan "lights out Toronto" and adds: "It's probably impractical, but it's the spirit we need to recover."
Councillor Joe Mihevc's idea for community engagement is more grassroots. Let's say you have a sprawling, sunny backyard. It's not a nuisance, exactly, but it's a blank, grassy space you keep intending to do something with, but never get around to. Let's say you have a neighbour not so generously endowed with land, but longing to get his hands into the earth and grow a garden.
Ward 21's Mihevc, who's active in community issues, sees such a juxtaposition of garden haves and have-nots as a perfect opportunity for building a stronger community. He says a community listserv or bulletin board would easily link the busy neighbour with the empty space and the one with the green thumb. Their partnership could yield not only tumbling vines of sweet tomatoes and rows of exotic types of lettuce, to be shared by both and maybe even other neighbours, but also co-operation and friendship in a big city that, let's face it, can be isolating at times."You agree to take someone into your own private space, and from good people to good people, you share the produce and the flowers," says Michael Leventson, director of the City Farmer, a group based in Vancouver that encourages urban agriculture. "There's lots of wins here."
He notes that a community organizer would need to sort out the pairings, and gardeners would have to be vetted because they would be working on someone else's property.
Mihevc has another idea: Get neighbours to organize themselves into Kyoto-compliant groups who'd help each other to make their homes as energy-efficient as possible. They'd do energy audits of one another's homes, work together to make the upgrades in their houses, and have communally owned lawnmowers and bicycles. It sounds radical, but when Mihevc talks about neighbours sharing a car, posting a list of who's going where at a particular time so that the car is fully used, it sounds smart as well as plausible. And finally, Mihevc suggests that neighbours gather to research their local street histories, using expertise from the city archives or libraries. Who knows which colourful characters once populated your street? The information could be filed in the local library. A shared neighbourhood history — now that's community.

8,354 Posts
Discussion Starter · #6 ·
The city's newest neighbourhood: the Rogers Centre
HOUSING | Well maybe not. But until the long-term problems of homelessness and poverty are properly addressed, here are a few creative solutions
Apr. 16, 2006. 01:00 AM

When it comes to poverty and homelessness, the long-term solutions are obvious, all the experts say: raise the minimum wage, increase welfare rates, create more affordable and supportive housing.
But until that happens, there are other ideas in circulation.
To begin with the more dreamy notions ... Graham Lee has a creative renovation idea: turn the Rogers Centre (formerly SkyDome) into affordable housing. Writing in Spacing magazine, he says it could become "a compact and eco-friendly city of the future" built within the more traditional city.
Practical elements such as plumbing, wiring and fire routes are already in place for a self-contained community. The bleachers become staged housing units with rooftop gardens, the walkways where concessions now stand become shopping arcades, and most magical of all, the playing field becomes a tree-filled park. Solar panels or windmills on the dome reduce the community's environmental footprint.
Lee argues that the building is underused, and that its value has dropped in recent years.
"Convert this urban stumbling block into a vibrant neighbourhood," he writes.
Architect Alexander Tedesco has an ingenious plan for providing comfort to the homeless who end up sleeping outdoors in the winter. He has designed an outdoor "shelter" with neither walls nor roof — the space defined by the heat it creates.
Tedesco's public square would use geo-thermal heat, drawn from 5 metres below the Earth's surface, to warm pipes just beneath the square.
"The idea is to have the square at a constant 18C, so on cold winter nights when you can't get people to go into shelters, there's a warm space for them," says Tedesco.
When architect John van Nostrand says that more people, including the working poor, should build their own homes, many people dismiss him as a 20th-century romantic.
Modern housing is dense and high, and requires sophisticated building skills and 21st-century technology, they say. And in a red-hot housing market like Toronto's, the notion of an urban homesteader seems fanciful.
But van Nostrand argues that some good ideas from the past shouldn't be abandoned.
In 1950, 40 per cent of houses were owner built (in Ontario in 2000, 8 per cent of houses were owner built, the lowest rate in Canada). Some post-war builders were returning veterans who went on with their new skills to work in construction.
"There's great skepticism about home ownership for poor people in Ontario," says van Nostrand. "Ownership is discouraged when, in the rest of the world — almost any country where I've worked — to rent is absurd."
He believes someone who can spend $350 to $500 a month on housing can afford a $30,000 mortgage. It would require a small lot — say in the port lands — where the property would be protected from speculators.
The biggest impediment would be the down payment, but that could be spread over the life of the mortgage. Or the land could be leased until it could be paid for.
"People say nobody builds houses any more, but look at the massive success of Rona and Home Depot. They sell huge amounts of building material to families. I don't think it's a different world. I think people, if given a chance, would build tomorrow."
Most people who are concerned about housing the homeless agree that Toronto needs more mixed housing that includes all income levels and age groups, retired people and career-focused 30-somethings, living in buildings about six storeys tall, built along transit lines.
Architect Jack Diamond notes that when the poor are downtown, they are more "visible" and thus more likely to get the services they need. "In the suburbs, out of sight, out of mind. We have the infrastructure, we've invested in the downtown, we don't need to build in the sticks."
The city has just bought 110 Edward St., and the call has gone out for ideas on how it should be used. One possibility is to copy the Common Ground model in New York, where residents not only get transitional housing, but receive employment training right in their building.
Debbie Field, director of FoodShare, is also concerned about buildings — well, their rooftops, actually.
Standing on the roof of her agency's Eastern Ave. building, she gazes west and sees not just the towers and mid-rises of downtown Toronto, but places where food can be grown.
Field believes half the rooftops in the city could be used to grow produce. Estimates vary, but experts say up to 25 per cent of Toronto's fresh produce could be grown within the city or very nearby.
(The best estimate is that now, about 3 per cent is grown in the city.)
Meanwhile, Nick Saul, executive director of The Stop community food centre, notes that after paying rent the average food bank user has $3.50 left over for food, transport, clothing and other personal needs.
"The government has washed its hands of the hunger crisis," he says.
One way to put more money in people's pockets, Saul says, is a food or nutrition allowance for people on social assistance.
"You need funding for food. It's fundamental to sanity."

8,354 Posts
Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Destroying Babylon's arsenal
Apr. 16, 2006. 01:00 AM

Rodrigo Bascunan has been thinking, talking and writing about guns for three years now. The 30-year-old founder and publisher of Pound, a Toronto-based hip-hop magazine, and Christian Pearce, a senior editor at the publication, have just completed a book on guns called: Enter the Babylon System, Unpacking Gun Culture from Samuel Colt to 50 Cent.
Babylon, in reggae and hip-hop slang, is a term for a corrupt place — it is sometimes used to refer to white society. Bascunan and Pearce interviewed more than 100 rappers worldwide for the book, to be published by Random House of Canada, talking about the role guns played in their lives.
"How many rappers have been shot, lost a brother, lost a friend?" asks Bascunan. "How much gun violence have we heard of? It seemed pretty obvious what the problem was. Guns escalate violence."
When asked how to end the blight of guns, one of the first things that comes to Bascunan's mind is buying out gun factories and their stockpiles.
There's a precedent for this.
In August 2004, California teenager Brandon Maxfield tried to buy a gun company to shut it down. Maxfield was paralyzed from the neck down at age 7 when his babysitter unloaded a gun in his presence and accidentally pulled the trigger.
Maxfield failed. Bryco Arms, one of the nation's leading makers of small, cheap guns known as Saturday night specials, was bought by a foreman who once worked there for $510,000 (the company had been bankrupted by a successful suit launched by Maxfield). He outbid Maxfield by $5,000.
Maxfield had created a foundation to raise money to bid on the firm. He wanted to melt down the company's stockpile of 75,600 unassembled guns to create a metal sculpture.
While Bascunan is all for buying out gun companies, he also concedes that that would not have a long-term effect — new manufacturers would spring up in their place.
What Bascunan does think could make a difference is setting up a lobby group to offset the anti-gun control propaganda generated by groups like the NRA. As long as guns are readily available in the U.S., stolen firearms will be smuggled into Canada: Customs seizes roughly 1,500 smuggled guns every year, but only about 3 per cent of Canada-U.S. border traffic is inspected, so likely many more firearms make it into the country. To deal with existing weapons, Bascunan would fund massive trade-in programs that turned weapons into art. He would create job alternatives so people who live by the gun could choose a different life.
British rapper Ms. Dynamite is one of the few women proposing novel solutions to the problem of gun violence. When Bascunan asked her what women could do to curb violence, she had one of the most interesting proposals of all.
"We can stop, number one, chasing bad men," she said in an interview published in the December 2005 edition of Pound. "We, if all women on the face of the Earth said, `You know what? I want a man that has a degree, I want a man that has, if not a job, then is looking for a job.'"
Some women, she said, get caught up in chasing men who can give them the nice car, the nice clothes, when a million other things are more important, including whether he has a goal in life.
"I think women can set the standards and stick to them and trust me, if we do that, I promise you, you'll see an instant change ... they can't live without us, trust me," said Ms. Dynamite.
Meanwhile, some look to the schools for a solution to the gangs and guns problem. A program already in place, Second Chance, offers scholarships to young Ontarians who have been involved in the criminal justice system and want to change their lives.
Rick Gosling, founder of the Second Chance Scholarship Foundation, says we need to set up a system in which some teachers spend more time with some kids — after school and even on weekends.
He likes the idea of a corps of teachers who work from noon to 8 p.m. instead of standard school hours. That would make them available after school hours, when some students need them the most.
Teachers need to be paid more, he says, and differently. Raises shouldn't go to the teachers who put in the hours or take extra courses. They should go to those who show the greatest commitment and passion, the greatest dedication to youth.
Ontario Chief Justice Roy McMurtry, who supports Second Chance and who chairs Mayor David Miller's advisory panel on community safety, agrees schools are key.
"The hours of 4 to 6 or 4 to 7 (p.m.) are critical hours. There are thousands of young people with nothing to do or nowhere to go other than the local mall," he says.
He envisions a huge expansion of recreational resources — more homework clubs, for example.
"I would like to see an army of volunteers from the universities and the community colleges," says McMurtry, "to identify the young people who will most benefit and want to benefit, to be involved in mentoring and tutoring as volunteers, because there are thousands of young people who don't have much positive contact with older people."
Ryerson assistant professor Grace-Edward Galabuzi is the author of Canada's Economic Apartheid, which explores the growing racialization of the gap between rich and poor in Canada. He believes the problem calls for a shift from reaction to prevention, and for everything from life-skills centres, peer dispute resolution initiatives and raising the minimum wage to job-creation and business-development programs that target youth.
"There is significant anti-social behaviour that leads to violence," he says, "and a lot of anger that needs to be addressed along with the structural socio-economic issues that are the root causes of the behaviour, anger and alienation."

8,354 Posts
Discussion Starter · #8 ·
The pharmacist has your ecstasy ready
Apr. 16, 2006. 01:00 AM

A Toronto weekend reveller pops into a local drugstore to pick up some ecstasy. He's followed by an addict who's there to buy a single-dose, non-reusable syringe for her fix.
Both transactions are administered by a pharmacist trained to offer advice on the safest way to use the substances.
Nearby, at a "natural herbal products" outlet, pot smokers are lined up for some grown-in-Ontario weed.
The sales are all legal, controlled, regulated and taxed — with profits divided among suppliers, distributors and sellers once a sizeable chunk of cash has been diverted to government coffers for enforcement, management and treatment of drug dependency, and for other social programs.
A far-fetched scenario?
Perhaps, but the Health Officers' Council of B.C., a group of public-health physicians, suggested it was a workable strategy in its landmark discussion paper released last fall.
The document, titled A Public Health Approach to Drug Control in Canada, contends that removing criminal penalties for personal drug possession and placing currently illegal substances under tight controls could not only help to start and maintain rehabilitation programs for addicts, but could also "reduce secondary unintended drug-related harms to society that spring from a failed criminal-prohibition approach."
The paper adds: "This would move individual harmful illegal drug use from being primarily a criminal issue to being primarily a health issue."
The arguments are persuasive: Legalizing illicit drugs would substantially reduce the crime rate, largely by driving the black market out of business and rendering it unnecessary for addicts to commit petty theft.
"So much crime is due to people being driven by their dependency," says Dr. Richard Mathias, a specialist in community medicine and professor of public health at the University of British Columbia. "If we could deal with that dependency and make it not the focus of their lives, at least a reasonably high percentage can get on with their lives, and don't have to steal to get their drugs at a reasonable cost and reasonably safely."
He points to an Ottawa shelter that gives out small amounts of alcohol. "It doesn't make them drunk, but the fact that even with an alcohol addiction, if they know they are going to get booze, they don't go into that seeking behaviour that dependency drives them to. It's made a world of difference."
What hasn't, he and others argue, is the estimated $1 billion spent annually on drug law enforcement in Canada. Yet there never seems to be a shortage of drugs for people who want to get high, the threat of arrest and prison notwithstanding.
The war on drugs is an abysmal failure, say anti-prohibitionists, and it's time society took an alternative approach that accepts "drug use is found everywhere in the world, and we're never going to be a drug-free society," says Philippe Lucas, a medicinal marijuana activist.
The council advised regulating drugs "in direct proportion to the harm they can do."
Just as there are for alcohol and tobacco, there would be age restrictions. Depending on the drug, there could also be mandatory training and quantity could be rationed, and there could be licensing and registration requirements.
Mathias, also health critic for the Green Party, which has put the approach in its platform, said such a system doesn't encourage wholesale drug abuse.
"We agree with the fundamental (tenet of) prohibition (which) says don't use it," he says. "Public health says the same thing, but if you're going to make a choice about drugs you have to do so with knowledge."
It would need inspectors and police involvement, he adds, because a "regulated market is regulated through law, and we need enforcement, or profit motive will cause us problems again.
"Studies done have found it's harder for young people to buy alcohol than it is to buy marijuana," Mathias adds.
And while we're taking the illicit out of drug use, Alan Young, a York University law professor, suggests striking out laws that prevent indoor prostitution, thereby opening the doors to a red-light, brothel-type system in Toronto. "Under the current laws, prostitutes are being endangered by the fact that they can't work indoors," Young says.
"Prostitution per se is not illegal, but all the activities associated with it, including the broadest one, communicating for the purpose, they are all criminalized, so it's kind of a paradox that you can do this legally but you can't do it in any way that's safe, and that's why the law's deficient and should change."
Residents would no longer worry about hookers and johns in their 'hoods. Police wouldn't need to do periodic "sweeps."
So where would Young put a Toronto red-light district?
"Nobody wants them in their backyard, but those aren't insurmountable problems."

8,354 Posts
Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Hot wheels, high up
Apr. 16, 2006. 01:00 AM

Good morning, Toronto. It's sunny and minus 40 with the wind chill. Traffic is frozen on the Gardiner. There's a pile-up on the DVP. Streetcars on King West and Queen East are at a standstill.
Cyclists, however, are once again enjoying a smooth, unobstructed journey into the downtown core. Riders report that visibility is clear, with speeds approaching 50 kilometres an hour in the right-hand lane. For all you high-powered money managers who like to look sharp in the a.m., the shower stall at the Yonge on/off ramp has reopened. And, yes, the city has once again stocked up on that French lavender soap that has been such a hit on Bay Street.
What? You don't believe it?
All right, so the part about the French soap is a bit of over-reach.
But ask local architect Chris Hardwicke about the future of cycling in Toronto, and he will draw you a vision of elevated bike tunnels that could remake the very culture of the city.
He calls it Velo-city or, more properly, velo-city, and it's catching international notice, from Hardwicke's appearance on National Public Radio in the U.S. earlier this year, to numerous international publications, to his scheduled presentation at the Good Life For All exhibition in New York City this September.
The vision: a network of elevated bikeways, tube-like and roofed in glass, providing protection from the elements. Hardwicke has mapped the velo-city network, tucking the bikeways along existing public highway, power and railway corridors, creating not a dense inner-city network, but rather one that connects distant parts of the metropolis. Cyclists will access the bikeways, which will run about five metres above ground level, through ramps tucked under the tubes. The planned grade of the ramps will be gentle enough to accommodate wheelchair usage.
According to Hardwicke's calculations, reduction in air resistance will increase cycling efficiency by about 90 per cent, allowing for speeds, or velocity, of up to 50 km/h. Advantages: no noise pollution, no air pollution. Plus, cycling is good for you, and in this conception bike riders are protected from their car-driving brethren.
The scheme sounds futuristic, yet it is not entirely new. Joseph Adler, an irrepressibly charming engineer, was possessed of a similar vision a quarter century ago: elevated bikeways built not alongside highways, but above roadways crisscrossing Toronto's inner city. On top of the bikeways Adler conceptualized bike stations with restroom and restaurant facilities. The plan calls for interconnecting escalators to assist riders heading up into the bikeways, and ramps for the trip down to street level.
`Every time I see an adult on a bicycle, I no longer despair for the future
of the human race'
H.G. Wells, author and avid cyclist
By training Adler is a hydrotechnical engineer, but cycling is his passion. Just inside the door of his high-rise apartment sits his 25-year-old blue Peugeot, which he rides regularly. Behind the doorway sits his downhill skis. He is 75. In his position as president of Bicycle Expressway Systems, a one-man hobbyist operation, he is currently pitching his bicycle expressway to Dubai, figuring that any desert country with the moxie to build an indoor ski hill just might have the imagination to get behind his project.
Not that there hasn't been interest. Included in Adler's archive are supporting letters from Maurice Strong, William F. Buckley Jr. and endless Canadian politicians and bureaucrats. In 1982, Buckley wrote an op-ed piece for The Philadelphia Inquirer championing the bike expressway. "Adler's idea is adaptable to any city," wrote Buckley. "But concretely, he has engineered ... a bicycle grid that would permit anyone living in metropolitan Toronto (they call it "metro" nowadays) to travel by bicycle from virtually any point in the city."
As it happens, nothing concrete has developed. "The visionaries don't have any money," sighs Adler. "And those with money don't have the vision."
That disconnect has much to do with the perceptions around cycling. Is cycling an add-on method of transportation or an essential service that demands and deserves substantial capital investment? Adler's projected cost: $1 billion.
Chris Hardwicke is 38. He had never heard of Joseph Adler or his bicycle expressway until earlier this year, when Adler called him up. The two have not yet met. They share a sense of despair over the lack of serious funding for cycling. "All the other infrastructures are supported in grandiose ways," says Hardwicke.
Hardwicke's velo-city has not been conceived as an anti-car project, but rather as a system that elevates bike riding to equal status alongside private transit (the car) and public transit (GO, TTC). "The people seem to like to cycle," says Hardwicke of Torontonians. "But they don't have any support ... It's about time we built something that's sustainable."
Points to consider: a bicycle takes one-seventh the road space of a car. Ergo, Hardwicke's bikeways, conceived at an equivalent width, will have seven times the capacity of the adjacent roadways. Velo-city will relieve traffic congestion and the demand for parking spaces. The greater vision extends to this: creating a vibrant cycling city that will feed a proliferation of thriving businesses, cultural activities, restaurants and cafés. Bike riders, surveys have shown, are excellent shoppers.
In the draft for his Good Life presentation, Hardwicke has written this: "Over time, velo-city will create a cycling culture for Toronto: kiss 'n' rides, shower facilities, velodromes, bike parks, health clubs, cycle-path stalls, repair shops, bike couriers, bike picnics, car-free housing, inter-modal stations and cycling fashions. Above all, it would encourage active, healthier lifestyles and consequently better lives for all Torontonians."
Sound fanciful? In an interview Hardwicke says he senses immense energy in the city right now. "There's a huge desire for change," he says. In his work, Hardwicke has cited a quotation from H. G. Wells. "Every time I see an adult on a bicycle," wrote Wells, "I no longer despair for the future of the human race." The author was an avid cyclist.
Here's another Wells quote that seems to suit the circumstance: "What really matters is what you do with what you have."

8,354 Posts
Discussion Starter · #10 ·
`Villages` that solve our traffic chaos
Three disparate thinkers arrive at a similar conclusion
Apr. 16, 2006. 01:00 AM

Think of an elaborate Tinker Toy construction.
Now, think of sky-scraping cities — carbon copies of downtown Toronto's commercial hub — dotting the region and interconnected by a sophisticated web of high-speed trains.
Sound futuristic? Perhaps not when compared with hover-buses, robot-driven monorails and the flying car as imaginative solutions to Greater Toronto's traffic chaos.
But when we asked a civil engineer, an urban transportation expert and a Green Party activist about the problem, they all came up with strikingly similar fantasies on how to solve The Long Commute.
Their multi-city concept actually requires rethinking decades of urban design, not just transportation planning. It essentially asks planners, politicians and the public to abandon the idea of one big fat city towering over sprawling communities connected by freeways.
In civil engineer Baher Abdulhai's view, this would result in tens of thousands of fewer cars commuting in and around Toronto at rush hour, clogging up streets and highways and polluting the air. Currently, nearly 80 per cent of area residents commute by car if they work more than 20 kilometres away from home, according to Statistics Canada.
We caught up with Abdulhai in his car, yes, commuting on the QEW from his Toronto office to Oakville. As a professor at the University of Toronto and director of the Intelligent Transportation Systems project, he tracks traffic patterns across the GTA and develops and applies new technologies for innovative transportation solutions.
He calls his concept of transit-connected multi-cities "employment villages." He envisions five or six futuristic cities erected atop and around GO stations in, for example, Mississauga, Newmarket and Oshawa, with trains frequently zipping in and out of station tunnels as they transport people to and from work.
The key is putting the jobs at the station, enabling commuters to leave their cars at home. The convenience allows them to walk mere steps to the office, as many now do from Union Station. Each village would offer the amenities of downtown to attract workers — underground parking, underground malls, street-level restaurants, large central plazas, clubs and shops.
Suburban sprawl, on the other hand, has only reinforced the need for a car, Abdulhai says.
"When you scatter office towers across the whole suburbs, right there you've created a lasting problem because they're not going to be accessible by any mode except driving."
The multi-city concept also creates multi-way traffic for GO transit. Recent studies show the increase in traffic congestion on Toronto-area highways is mostly due to so-called "reverse commuters," people living in the city and working in the suburbs, or commuting from one suburb to another. Why would they take public transit if they find themselves getting off a train in the middle of nowhere, and still have to take a bus or two and then walk a ways to get to work?
About 160,000 people ride GO trains on a typical weekday, and most are heading into the city to work.
"You don't want people just travelling from the suburbs to downtown," says Abdulhai. "You want people going from suburb to suburb, from downtown Toronto to all the suburbs — in all directions."
Green Party activist Raymond Dartsch had a similar GO-cities idea when we spoke to him. We caught up to Dartsch, a registered nurse, just before he was leaving for his commute. He lives in Burlington and travels to McMaster University in Hamilton, where he is doing his MBA. There is no GO train between the two cities, so he drives.
"That," he says, "is because those large-scale infrastructure decisions (he means highways) were made without my consultation and before I was born."
Dartsch also envisions a rapid train system that interconnects Oshawa, Peterborough, Barrie, Burlington, Hamilton, Toronto and Niagara Falls, with trains running every 15 minutes. (Right now, for example, you can get a GO train between Hamilton and Toronto only during rush hour.)
"We want a transit system that's more like a human circulatory system. Right now, it's more like a respiratory system where, in the morning, Toronto breathes in all these people and, in the evening, it breathes them all back out again. That's what GO does."
Rather than skyscrapers, he recommends GO "villages" that spring from smaller office buildings, apartments, condos, stores and restaurants — but not the big-box stores, sprawling parking lots and drab office buildings that make today's suburban arteries so devoid of character and grace.
The City of Burlington is on Dartsch's side. Its seven-member council is in a fight with Wal-mart, which bought up lands at the city's Brant St. GO station. The council, looking for ways to build offices and condos at GO stations, subsequently froze development around its three stations as the dispute awaits an Ontario Municipal Board decision.
Sue Zielinski also talks about these "central hubs" that connect people living in the regions to their workplace, but she takes commuting a step further with car-, taxi-, and bicycle-sharing schemes.
Zielinski is an urban transportation planner and used to be in charge of the City of Toronto's innovative Moving the Economy program. She now lives and works in Ann Arbor, Mich., where she had just tied up her bicycle after a few minutes' ride from her house to the office, a renovated building on the University of Michigan campus.
Zielinski is fascinated by the emerging technologies that are turning cars into robots you can practically live in — global positioning systems, collision avoidance systems, autopilot systems, not to mention the convenience of wireless Internet, iPod docks, heated seats and flat-screen TVs.
So why not make public transit just as appealing?
"Public transit can become first-class," she insists. "The status of car transportation is starting to go the way of cigarettes."
Zielinski envisions a multi-faceted public transit system that marries efficiency with comfort: Wi-Fi (VIA now offers it in first-class). A car-sharing service (you call ahead from the train to reserve a car in the station's lot for short-term trips). Alternatively fuelled jitneys (shared taxis) to transport people from station to work or home. Bicycles for rent at each station. And, finally, a "smartcard" that automatically gets you onto any mode of public transit.

8,354 Posts
Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Finding a future in the route not taken
Enthusiasts mine the past for a vision of what could still be.
Apr. 16, 2006. 01:00 AM

Anyone can draw some lines on a map." That's how the TTC's chairman dismisses dreams for an ambitious web of new subway lines.
But that simple sentence might also be the rallying cry for local transit utopians: a democratic call to take up pens and reimagine the way Toronto moves underground.
Mapping a dream TTC has become the signature exercise of a new generation of transit enthusiasts. Over the past few years, a half-dozen fictional Toronto subway maps have popped up around the city in various contexts — online, in galleries, in the back of a recent book of essays about the city.
They all play on the same theme: To reinvent Toronto, you have to start with a reinvented transit system. And to reinvent the transit system, you must start underground. Buses and streetcars are fine, the thinking goes, but subways do the heavy lifting that city-building requires, moving enough people to determine where healthy, pedestrian-friendly communities will spring up.
These maps feature new subway lines on Queen St. and along Eglinton Ave., a rail link to Pearson, and a line that would run from Brampton through downtown Toronto and then up Parliament to connect with the Sheppard line, among others.
As well, the maps are all predicated on the notion that a truly comprehensive network of subways, like New York and London have, would transform city life here, allowing real neighbourhoods to take root where now only subdivisions are possible.
The maps borrow aggressively from the region's past, featuring subway lines that were never built. "Part of the tragedy is we had a plan for quote-unquote utopia and then we stopped," says James Bow, author of "Where have all the subways gone?" an essay in uTOpia: Towards A New Toronto.
If Bow were to rebuild Toronto's subway system, he wouldn't start from scratch. The writer and self-described "transit geek," who co-founded the information site Transit Toronto would begin with something called Network 2011, a plan that went down with Bill Davis's provincial Tories in the mid-1980s.
Network 2011 was an ambitious, 30-year strategy to build: a subway line on Sheppard Ave. from Downsview to the Scarborough Town Centre; a line across the city along Eglinton Ave.; and the "downtown relief" line, which could have run from Sheppard south through Don Mills, along Donlands to Union Station, across Front St. and up Spadina Ave.
Those lines, along busy corridors with mixed development, would have met transit needs while encouraging growth in less built-up areas. "I always feel that if Bill Davis had stayed in power for another six months ... we'd be further along than we are now," says Bow.
In uTOpia, Bow writes about N.Q. Duong, creator of one of the city's best-known recent dream TTC maps. A takeoff on Duong's work also appears in uTOpia. That map — the "Toronto Rapid Transit Guide" — by cartographer Andrew Alfred-Duggan, features: an Eglinton line that reaches the airport; a west-end line that snakes its way uptown, ending at Jane and Finch; a Sheppard line that begins in Woodbridge and connects with the Scarborough RT line; and a Bloor-Danforth line that stretches from Square One in Mississauga all the way to the Toronto Zoo. It also includes a Don Mills-Parliament line that loops around to Pearson. The key is that the lines connect with each other, all but ensuring a high volume of use.
Transit enthusiast Matthew Blackett says Toronto could make it happen over 50 years by spending $1 billion a year. It costs $150 million to build one kilometre of subway, and Blackett maintains the expense would be easy to bear if shared by three levels of government.
"Why not?" he says. "Works gets $400 million a year to spend on roads." Blackett suggests the city raise its portion of the cash through road tolls, which would be possible under the new City of Toronto Act.
He argues that a citywide subway network — supported by a feeder system of rapid-transit lines like the controversial streetcar planned for St. Clair Ave. — would have a "Brooklynizing" effect on culturally moribund pockets, turning suburbs like Brampton into hubs of independent community activity.
Fictional TTC maps "let the imagination soar. They suggest the experiences we might have in those places if those lines were actually there."
Artist Leif Harmsen hacked into the TTC's website to build his dream subway map over a pdf file of the transit service's actual map. The result includes a Queen St. line with stops at cultural landmarks like the Gladstone Hotel.
Blackett, meanwhile, observes that by digging into past plans, mapping exercises suggest an alternate present.
He points to Toronto's first missed subway opportunity, a downtown line that city council rejected in 1910.
"We could very well be taking the subway below Queen St.," he says. "What would that have meant for Parkdale? Would it have gone through the bad times, the derelict times that it has for the last 50 years?"

711 Posts
Wow, thats a lot of articles! Thanks for posting them, I rarely read the paper and do it all online. One thing that I laughed at in Millers write is,
"U.S. finally enacted common-sense gun control and repealed legislation that prevented lawsuits from being launched against firearms manufacturers."

I'm not out to bash the U.S but having a gun is one of their commandments and they'll never give that up and the above will never happen in all states, every single state has different laws, some have similar and some same but not all are the same.
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