With longtime councillor Case Ootes retiring from municipal politics, the door is wide open for a new councillor to be elected in Ward 29 Toronto-Danforth.
Candidates Chris Caldwell, Mary Fragedakis, Jane Pitfield, Mike Restivo, John Richardson and Jennifer Wood are vying for the open seat in a ward where there isn’t a lone issue galvanizing the debate. Parking, transit and transportation, parks, and changing the way city hall operates are a few of the issues that are of concern in the ward.
The parking problem in the ward has several prongs with aggressive ticketing and lack of permit spaces being the main two, the candidates say.
“Parking is a huge issue and it’s something where a good city councillor could play a role in framing the issue and providing a solution,” said Richardson, who is running for the second time in Ward 29. “Ticketing is a dis-incentive to people shopping at stores.”
Candidate Mary Fragedakis agrees.
“Another parking issue that is particularly huge is people wanting to have parking pads,” she said, which takes away on-street parking by removing curbs.
Local business owner and lawyer Jennifer Wood has some ideas she would press for to aid the situation including an automatic 10-minute grace period for people who’ve paid for parking during non-peak hours and an easier process to appeal tickets.
“Parking is at an extreme premium in our ward,” Wood said. “(Residents) find the rules are difficult to understand and they change from one street to the next.”
Joining these fresh faces in the debate is former councillor Pitfield who is looking to return to council after a four-year absence. After an unsuccessful bid for mayor in 2006, she has elected not to run in her former ward (Ward 26, Don Valley West), but instead run in Ward 29.
“I’m looking for a new challenge because I accomplished everything I set out to in Ward 26,” she said.
Pitfield doesn’t live in the area, but would move if elected.
Small business owner Fragedakis was born and raised in the ward and she’s looking to represent her community at city hall. She thought the timing was right to move from serving as a community advocate to an elected representative.
“I’m a positive voice for change,” she said. “People are talking about wanting change at city hall.”
Though she’s received the endorsement of several prominent NDP politicians, including Beaches-East York MPP Michael Prue and Toronto-Danforth MPP Peter Tabuns, she said she’d work in collaboration with her council colleagues – and with her constituents.
Others stress consultation with residents as a key issue of their campaign, with several citing the handling of the second exits for Donlands and Greenwood subway stations as what not to do.
“This is an example of the TTC running roughshod over a neighbourhood…They didn’t do a very good job of implementing this,” Richardson said. “You start out by not only listening to the residents of the ward, but also engaging them.”
Retired resident Restivo said he would do the same.
“To bring in true consultation of the people in my ward,” he said. “I’m here to solve people’s problems. I can provide solutions to the people’s problems in response to their needs.”
Several candidates watched the subway exit issue closely, including Fragedakis and Pitfield.
“The consultation has been token,” Pitfield said. “What happened with the second exit could have been avoided if the community and the councillor had the opportunity to work with the TTC.”
This particular local situation is just one way the city and its departments are handling services poorly, the candidates say.
Wood said the way the city is delivering services is frustrating people, for example digging up the city to fix one problem in the spring and then digging it up for another issue six months later.
“That’s both inconvenient and inefficient,” she said.
Fragedakis is concerned with not only the delivery of service, but maintaining services. “The other thing I think is a huge issue is maintaining city services in the ward. We have an aging population in the ward and a lot of young families and we have to make sure we get our fair share,” she said.
She sees the ward’s schools as one way to provide services close to the people who need them. Fragedakis has been working with Toronto District School Board trustee Cathy Dandy on a partnership for community use of schools.
“We have to make sure the school space is secured,” she said.
Green space, including that located on school properties, is also of importance to residents.
Fragedakis said securing partnerships with schools is one way to ensure this green space is maintained.
“There are other bits of land throughout the ward that we can convert into a space for kids to play in,” she said. “There’s a growing number of families in this ward.”
Pitfield wants to see more recreation green space in the ward too, but could not provide specific details on how she would do this. “It’s a plan that can’t be discussed just yet, but if all goes well this is a plan that will benefit, in particular, East York Soccer,” she said.
Pitfield also has a plan for revitalization in the ward, for example in Pape Village, which she believes would reduce crime in the area. “There has been an increase of crime and I think revitalization will get rid of that and the empty stores,” she said.
Caldwell, an urban planner, agrees.
While he believes the Danforth is a great destination, other commercial areas in the ward, such as north Coxwell, north Pape and north Donlands, “could use some revitalization.”
“What we need is an urban design plan for those areas,” he said.
– Danielle Milley