A year in the life of Mary-Margaret, City Councillor

It’s hard to believe a year has passed since my first day as city councillor of Ward 32! I’m forever grateful to you for your relentless pavement-pounding, for banging up signs and delivering brochures, for hosting coffee parties, for spreading the word to your friends and neighbours, and for generously donating to the ‘McMahon Can’ campaign. I wholeheartedly appreciate the faith you put in me when voting on election day. It truly is an honour to represent our community at city hall. Thank you, Ward 32!

It’s been a year bursting with successes and challenges, and it’s been nothing if not rewarding. Here is a peek into the past 12 months.

It felt like Grade 9 all over again, as 14 new councillors and I marched into our orientation sessions at city hall, arms laden with stacks of binders. City staff was superbly welcoming and helpful. We set up our office (second floor, B street, if you wish to pop by), started building our database (please email us if you’d like to be added) and received 10,000 emails from Transit City supporters the instant our email was hooked up.

We also began meeting with residents, organizations and city departments. I learned my standing committee assignments: Parks and Environment (that’s a shocker!), the Audit committee and the Mayor’s Designate for Waste Diversion Ontario. I was thrilled to become a board member for Young People’s Theatre, Applegrove Community Complex, Community Centre 55, Ted Reeve Arena and the Toronto Atmospheric Fund. I was also introduced to the four business improvement associations and one business association on which I’d also sit as a board member. Can you say, “Plunging in with both feet?”

We brought in the New Year by greeting residents at local levees. Our first set of four Councillor Coffee Talks was held at Red Rocket, Juice & Java, The Grinder and Cake Town Cafe. What a fabulous opportunity to simultaneously chat one-on-one with neighbours, showcase local businesses and enjoy delish chai!

We endured intense yet informative marathon budget sessions, and we questioned the TTC’s plan for building a brand-spanking-new storage yard for the new 100-foot-long LRVs at Ashbridges Bay. We felt decentralizing was the way to go, to ensure streetcars be closer to their starting routes for efficiency and cost-savings with a south-east-north-west storage location. Unfortunately, the site was already chosen by the previous council and, despite our relentless attempts to find a way to re-open the discussion, the contract for the removal of the contaminated soil was awarded and the project began.

We also met with the city legal team to discuss the terms and conditions of the Boardwalk Café lease. They advised it was a solid contract, supported by the previous council, and was unable to be opened up. We started to brainstorm ideas on how to make the best of that situation.

Development projects from the previous year surfaced. We met with residents from Kippendavie and Glen Davis to hear their thoughts and concerns, and we learned just how complicated the planning process is at city hall.

Our Town Hall Visioning sessions at S.H. Armstrong and Community Centre 55 were a big hit, with more than 60 attendees at each. We were blown away by the amazingly creative and innovative ideas that gushed from the minds of the keen residents, and theme-related subcommittees started to form as a result.

MARCH 2011
We continued to meet with residents, attend local service groups and clubs, and tour myriad buildings, such as the Toronto East General Hospital and Neighbourhood Link.

We inaugurated our rotating display of art by Ward 32 artists in our city hall offices and hosted a lively wine and cheese grand opening with the Beach Guild of Fine Art to celebrate. We’re thrilled to have such amazing works of art adorning our office walls and to show them off to all visitors.

Our two Visioning Session groups were brought together for an inspirational evening of crusades and camaraderie at Kingston Road United Church. Leaders were chosen, goals were made and the energy was endless!

I enjoyed liaising with the other councillors and getting to know them more. Common ground and ideas became apparent with a group of us now known as the ‘Mighty Middle’. We are loyal to good ideas, regardless of their source, and we are looking forward to finding a balanced approach to get the city moving again.

APRIL 2011
We partnered with Pegasus, a day program for special needs adults, for the city’s annual 20- Minute Cleanup Day all along Kingston Road. We removed every known piece of litter (mainly cigarette butts) and had a ton of fun doing it.

We held our second round of Councillor Coffee Talks, catching up with our constituents at Cozy Bakery & Café, The 5 Spices, Savoury Grounds and The Remarkable Bean.

Meetings with residents continued about issues such as traffic calming. We connected with our dynamite Community Police Liaison Committee, held a Meet and Greet at Main Square, cut ribbons at grand openings and continued to proudly ricochet around our terrific ward.

MAY 2011
May was off to an athletic start, with an early morning bike ride downtown to launch Bike Month. And I got more exercise than I bargained for, paddling the Don River with my daughter and husband. We also had the pleasure of enjoying our neighbourhoods and neighbours, while on the informative, infamous and ingeniously fun Jane’s Walks.

We researched the ins and outs of garbage contracts, as council debated options. We participated in the Toronto rainy-day launch of Bixi Bikes and learned there’s no better way to navigate meetings in multiple places than booting it on a Bixi!

A Planning 101 workshop was hosted by us at Malvern Collegiate Institute for residents to learn how the planning system works. Three of our city planners delivered an interesting Power Point presentation, followed by a passionate discussion. The ultimate goal from our ongoing discussions about development in our ward is for residents to have a say in constructing a solid and sustainable plan for Queen Street East and other arterial roads in Ward 32, such as Kingston Road.

We also played host to our first Environment Day at Ted Reeve Arena. The event was a festival, really, rather than your typical drop-and-run. Local band The Lost Boys entertained, while we munched on barbecued hotdogs (thank you, Community Centre 55) and spoke with neighbourhood environmental groups. What a gorgeous evening for greening, gabbing and gobbling!

JUNE 2011
Our two Farmers’ Markets (East Lynn Park and Jonathan Ashbridge Park) opened to lots of happy, hungry locavores!

We hosted the first meeting of our Jane Jacobs’ planning panel, complete with local architects, urban planners, landscape designers, etc., and we tossed around ideas of attracting smart development.

Much fun was had at Main Square for our first Bicycle Tune-up Workshop, with the help of Bicycle Commons and DECA Bikes. Who knew there are so many bikes hidden away in those high-rises? And we empowered all green thumbs and keen gardeners at Main Square to help us build a community garden at the back. We hope to run regular events here in the future.
We attended the city’s basement flooding open house to explore solutions to this age-old problem in The Beach. We currently have four areas undergoing an environmental assessment for flooding, and we need to start taking some action.

I learned oodles about our beautiful tree canopy and discussed stewardship idea when we hosted a LEAF Tree Tour in the Upper Beach area, around Normandy Boulevard.

Our spring and summer festivals and events started popping up every weekend, and I played my own game of musical chairs, flying into graduation ceremonies at our local schools. How great it is to see kids excited about their education. Einstein, you’ve got competition!

We partnered with community groups to host three Movie Nights in our über-gorgeous East Lynn, Fairmount and Jonathan Ashbridge parks.

Pedestrians ruled the streets, and smiles were on every face, as residents enjoyed the vitality and energy of our many splendid cultural festivals.

We were treated to a terrific bike tour and talk about some of the social housing gems in our ward, courtesy of Ward 32 resident Joy Connelly, a social housing advocate and writer behind this excellent blog www.openingthewindow.com.

Meetings continued with our local BIAs, resident associations and organizations, such as Tobias House, so I could lend assistance, and I was consumed with two weeks of service reviews at city hall. What incredibly interesting and information-packed meetings.

I carved out some quality time to spend with my family outside of the city. How nice to get to know them again, especially after we finally got our cute dog Lucy (an election promise to my kidlets!).

We hosted a connections meeting for our Visioning Teams to brag about their amazing achievements. Talk about positivity!

The ‘Year That Was’ was not, however, without its soul-wrenching lowlight. My beloved mom, a great role model and community leader, died in June, after a lengthy battle with cancer.

Our two Malvern Collegiate Institute co-op students got their first taste of learning the ropes at city hall. Can you say, “Eye-opener?”

We organized tours of Waterfront Toronto for our councillors to actually see – and believe – the incredible projects currently underway.

Another planning event was hosted with local RAs and the Beach BIA to meet famous planner (and Ward 32 resident) Frank Lewinberg. Questions, comments and queries were in high gear.

Fancy and fabulous festivals continued in our ward, including TIFF, Applegrove’s Applicious, Windfest, the first Kew Cottage Croquet Tournament, school fun fairs and our fourth movie night (at Moncur Park). What a treat to be in the great outdoors, enjoying our greenspace.

And for those of you wondering about the TCH board announcement of the proposed sale of 700 houses, I continue to work with social housing advocates and staff. We’re aiming to create sustainable solutions to the backlog of repairs at TCH properties. I’m determined to keep people in homes that are both livable and affordable, and I want mixed neighbourhoods to continue to be a reality in Toronto.

This month saw the printing and distribution of our ward’s first annual paper newsletter. Please let us know if you were missed, and kudos to local printer Britannia for a terrific job!

We hosted another round of Councillor Coffee Talks at Cozy Bakery & Café, Voulez-Vous Café, Juice & Java and the Beaches Bakeshop. Delectable treats and enlightening discussions ensued.

I was awed by the incredible work of our Greening Ward 32 group, showcased at its first-ever Green Home Fair. The Calvary Baptist Church on Main Street was packed with environmentally curious folks.

Toward the end of the month we toured the Danforth area for our second LEAF Tree Tour. We learned about the dreaded ash borer and ways to preserve our glorious canopy.

We enjoyed an illuminating two-hour Moon Walk along the boardwalk facilitated by Toronto Trails Festival. We truly live in a spectacular area! Thankfully, no vampires and werewolves joined us!

We toured Ecu Home houses and learned about different lifestyles and housing options.

I was proud of Malvern Collegiate Institute’s war memorial restoration group and was honoured to attend the unveiling celebration. Our soldiers were honoured at many Remembrance Day events, and I learned even more about their sacrifices and hardships.

I also joined nearly 400 people on a sombre ‘Ghost Ride’ to the location where Toronto cyclist and mother Jenna Morrison, 38, was tragically killed.

We helped organize the second annual Jack O Lantern Walk in our ward, in East Lynn Park. What spooky fun!

To round out the month, we hosted our first Park Summit with Dave Harvey of Park People and a bunch of local park keeners (see my last Beach Metro News article for more details). Please let us know if you need our help revitalizing your park.

I look forward to being your councillor in 2012 and working with you to make our ward even better. Here’s to another fantastic year together!

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Imagine. A City Councillor who actually holds regular meetings with her constituents and has formed working group committees to address a vareity of issues in the community and it is not even an election year!

I think Mary-Margaret is the best City Councillor Ward 32 has had in 31 years!

It seems to me she is doing a great job, despite the lunacy in City Council.

Thank you Margaret, for all of your work and efforts on behalf of Ward 32 constituents. May you have a great holiday season.

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