Thursday, January 13, 2011

Savings Ideas for Toronto Budget

Ponderings, Wonderings, Suggestions and Concerns
  Total Toronto City Budget = $9.3 BILLION

Toronto Police Budget:   $905.9 Million (+2.2% icrease from 2010)

* Current plan is for 5617-30 = 5,587 officers which still gives Toronto more police per capita than any other Canadian city, except Montreal. (NOW story ) Yet, we still alow the police officer who may be making $100,000/year or more to moonlight on off shifts to supervise construction sites. Do we want people with guns who require critical thinking skills to be doing this when any private security girl/guy could do the same for far less cost. How much would be saved by stopping police from doing this?

* John Sewell, former Toronto Mayor and head of Toronto Police Accountability Coalition (TPAC) suggested that money could be saved by going to single officer in patrol cars. Some say a safety issue, but Sewell's logic is that  one officer would be more cautious responding to situations and call in backup when required. Besides, why do we have patrols - police just driving around, possibly aimlessly, anyways? It costs fuel and there is no reason police cars could not be stationed geographically to cover the city and be strategically located for response. They could be doing radar speed traps while waiting for a call. So what if 2 police cars with one officer each arrives at a call? The real cost to the budget as Chief Blair keeps telling us is in labour costs, not equipment.

* Events policing: In his first submission of the 2011 budget, Chief Blair notes that a stressor on police budgetting is the number of events they must police is increasing. Wait a minute. Do we REALLY need police at all these events? Again, private security paid for by event organizers - parade marshals or whatever seems the first consideration. Yes, if there is a big city-wide impact like Pride Parade or Caribana, police no doubt must be involved due to impacts on traffic flows and size of attendees. But how many of us have seen overreaction of having twice or three times as many police at some events? Just say it's an OCAP event and gurantee you, you'll see tons of police there. What of the horse police? What do they do when they are not riot control for protests? Do they wait for calls or can they be in the tourist areas doing policing?

* Why does the civilian oversight Toronto Police Services Board continue to hold all its meetings at Toronto Police HQ on College Street? For propriety and perspective, they should meeting at City Hall. I atttened a meeting there and you would be hard pressed to get over 30 citizens in the room, considering its poor layour and the scores of press that block your view. Perhaps there is office space savings here too,  albeit small.

TTC Toronto Transit Commission  $1.5 BILLION 
City website presntation - click here.

*  There is still an $8 million 'unspecified budget reduction' that the TTC must find. I cannot help much because I am still waiting for a call back from the city's 311 service as to where an ordinary citizen can access that. Strange, if they want public consultation on it in a few days.

Confidence-inspiring TTC Budget found $24 million with haste and blue pen says Toronto Life. Such an obviously rushed budget process does NOT inspire much confidence for me. The TTC is the single largest chunk ofthe overall Toronto City budget (16%). The fact that there was such a rapid flip-flop on the 10 cent fare increase shows up a fault in the process. Why is it that the city  relies on unelected bureaucrats to just look at the status quo of what we did last year, tinker with it and then add some predictable increase before releasing to the public? It is never in the interest of bureaucracies to not incress their fiefdoms. Why not start with public input? If you are looking for experts on the service, do not go to TTC managers - go to the riders who use it every day and the front line drivers who know what is needed. Get their suggestions for optimizing service while controlling costs. THEN, pass on those ideas to TTC budget managers.

* TTC ingrained culture and city councillor political bias needs to be changed. With expected ridership of 487 million this year, it is abundantly clear that the TTC is ESSENTIAL to Torontonians. The TTC is not just a business; The TTC is in fact a societal service that governments must fully fund and recognize as a basic infrastructure need in urban cities like Toronto (Councillor Augimeri says that the city is not a business and I completely agree with her). Rider fares cover 70% of the cost which is higher than most North American transit systems and is way too high in my view.(Columnist Royson James did a great article on the TTC by the way). Columnist Christopher Hume also did an excellent article  on the misplaced calling of TTC riders "customers" and the mislabelling of citizens as just customers.


cselley Chris Selley Tweeted Fri Jan 14 The City of Toronto has 119 lawyers, apparently. Upon reflection, I'm not shocked by that.  hmmmm,...