Saturday, May 20, 2006

Crossroads, Part III: The Force Takes a Vote

Sorry, I've been distracted by my new niece (Amy Pearl, 6lbs, 10oz), born the day after the Task Force (TF)meeting on Wednesday and infinitely more fun to think about than the TF meeting! The meeting was, disappointingly, sparsely attended (more on this at a later date, me thinks!), so the vote probably wasn't as representative of the TF as it should have been.
The motion presented was strong at the beginning but quite wishy-washy towards the end and the debate got in to more about "what is net-gain for the environment?" It was a motion advising the Task Force to tell council that it does not support the Evergreen project. Instead of people speaking and then others responding and the debate never ending, the Chair went around the room and everyone spoke once about the motion on the floor. I spoke against the motion because I really think that Evergreen's proposal has environmental integrity and that it's the best solution for the Brick Works (BW) at this time. We don't want the buildings to fall down, Evergreen's high green-development standards are laudable and the majority of the 250,000 visitors will be students who arrive in buses, rather than in cars.
With respect to the arrival of people at the BW by car, well, y'know, they'll be coming off Bayview, perhaps off the DVP. 250,000 is a drop in the bucket compared to how many cars travel on those roads each year. Is there a net-gain for the environment with this proposal? I think so. Evergreen's parking proposals are clear about that. Do I support the whole project whole-heartedly? No, I have worries about sustainability AND about achieving the fundraising goals to implement all those green-development ideas.
SOOOO (and I know you're all waiting with baited breath for this), with the Chair's vote, the vote was tied, and therefore defeated. And then one of my fellow TF members accused me of being a liar so, really, what had been a mature and thoughtful discussion and debate deteriorated into petulant childhood. Too bad.
Does this mean the TF supports the BW project? No. Another member then put forward a motion that basically said "Evergreen, we want to stay informed at every stage of this project." I think this will serve as an adequate oversight advisory postion for the TF.
Our meeting then morphed into a discussion about our Terms of Reference. Does the Task Force deal with the Valley at all? Or should we concentrate our efforts solely on the river? As an advisory body to Toronto council, what do we really DO? The term of TF members is the same length as Council's term so it behooves us to reexamine our Terms of Reference so that future members of the TF (be they renewers of their current positions or new members) might start our next term with clear vision of what the role of the Task Force to Bring Back the Don is!


Airwin said...

Thank you for the update, Auntie River Rat! (Congratulations!)

Anonymous said...

Personally, I don't see how you can separate the river from the valley, they are interconnected. Without the river there would be no valley, without the valley there would be no river so clearly the mandate of the Task Force should be to deal with the Don Valley.

But shouldn't the Task Force really be dealing with the watershed? Doesn't stormwater flow from all over the watershed into the river. I don't see how it's possible to separate those issues. Everything's connected, although it's easy to lose sight of these especially when dealing with micro issues like the Brick Works.

I'd be interested in hearing other people's opinion on this, surely I am not alone.

Nate Young

River Rat said...

Hi Nate,

Yes, we do get into some pretty odd discussions at times. I do think the TF should be dealing with the entire watershed or at least keeping in close contact with other groups who are advocating on behalf of the Don tributaries and the headwaters. We're trying to reach out to neighbours of the Don further north but have had a hard time engaging people.
We can view the Brick Works as a micro issue or one that makes us reflect on the broader issue at hand: what "development" should there be in the valley? The Brick Works project has spurred an effort to renew our policy statements around what happens in the valley, not just "development" or "revitalization" but also existing infrastucture, renaturalization efforts and other issues. We're working to come up with principles that we can apply to whatever comes up.
We can think broad on the policy side and then respond to specifics when issues arise.