City council preview: Sam the Record Man sign, Pierre Trudeau and subways vs. LRTs

The flagship Sam the Record Man store at 347 Yonge Street at Gould Street in downtown Toronto, Canada on June 29, 2007, one day before closing permanently on June 30, 2007. Michael Hudson / The Canadian Press

TORONTO – Mayor Rob Ford and city council colleagues return Tuesday a two-month summer break to tackle a hefty agenda.

Councillors are expected to debate everything from whether to let a north Toronto homeowner remove a tree so they can install a pool, to commemorating former Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau, to yet another motion on whether to build an light rail or a subway in Scarborough.

Here’s a rundown of Tuesday’s city council agenda:

The July 8 storm

The fast-moving storm that wreaked havoc across Toronto in July, flooding homes and trapping hundreds for hours on a flooded GO Train, is the subject of three motions. The first recommends councillors reiterate requests for provincial and federal funding to address property damage from the storm and ask for the two other level of governments to develop new disaster mitigation programs in the wake the flood.

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The second explores the impact the storm had on the city’s sewer and stormwater systems.

The third deals with a tree destroyed during the storm known for decades as the inspiration for Alexander Muir’s 1867 song Maple Leaf Forever. Due to the tree’s “cultural significance,” staff recommends the city take exhaustive steps to salvage some of the wood from the tree as well as develop and implement a Maple Leaf Forever National Art Competition at an estimated cost of $150,000.

More heritage: The Sam the Record Man sign

What to do with the Sam the Record Man sign? That’s the question facing councillors Tuesday as they debate whether to let Ryerson University renege on a 2008 commitment to restore the sign onto Yonge Street or Gould Street.  Ryerson’s reasons for abandoning that promise include risk of mercury spillage, a lack of qualified neon sign professional, high maintenance costs and structural risks related to mounting the sign.

Commemorating Pierre Elliot Trudeau

Council will continue its “Best of the ’70s (and ’80s)” theme by debating whether to commemorate former Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau. A motion brought forward by Councillor Michelle Berardinetti, seeks to find a Toronto landmark, be it a major roadway, building or gathering place, that can be renamed in tribute to Canada’s longest serving prime minister.

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The debate may seem innocuous but may get heated: Some councillors don’t agree on Trudeau’s impact on Toronto. Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong told the National Post, “Pierre Trudeau has done as much for Toronto as shoemakers have done for fish.

Subways, subways, subways… or maybe LRT.

Council will reprise the week’s retro theme by spending much of the two-day council meeting rehashing plans for rapid transit. Councillors will choose to either push forward with a scarcely funded subway through Scarborough or discard months of debate and revert back to the fully-funded Scarborough LRT.

If this sounds familiar, that’s because it is: City council had near-identical debates in July and May.

If the city chooses a subway, notes a report from City Manager Joe Penachetti, it will have to raise property taxes and development charges to fill the funding gap between the $1.8 billion the city demanded in July and the $1.4 billion the province offered in July. The report does not say how much development charges will increase but does say Torontonians can expect a 0.5 per cent increase to property taxes in 2014 and 2015 and a 0.6 per cent increase in 2016 if the city chooses to build a subway.   

Supporting fallen cyclists, Canadians in Cairo and religious freedom

Council will also be debating special recognition for ‘ghost bikes’, proclaiming the city’s support for John Greyson and Dr. Tarek Loubani, who until this weekend, had been held in an Egypt jail and in light of Quebec’s recent Charter of Values, reaffirming the city’s support for freedom of religion and expression.

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Bike lanes and solar power

Council will also debate a motion to extend bike lanes on Bay Street from Cumberland Street to 30 metres south of Bloor Street.

Another motion seeks to install solar panels on city facilities.

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