Thursday, February 21, 2008

Roadmap to a Vital Community

Invitations had been sent to every school, church, political and community organization in the area. But people arrive home weary from a days work and a long commute to the suburbs. And, of course, it was girls night on American Idol. Given such adversaries, would anyone come to hear a talk on community development by Toronto's Poet Laureate?

Millie, at Sister's Restaurant, had donated her party room for the evening and attended the event herself.

People trickled in and time raced toward the 7 pm start of the meeting. In the end, 25 people turned out in a room set for over 60. City Councilor Ron Moeser, MP John McKay and representatives from MPP Margaret Best attended, but no teachers and only one church sent two people. From that point of view it was a disappointment.

Pier Giorgio arrived, tired emotionally and physically from officiating at the burial of a friend. Although the Poet Laureate of Toronto, Giorgio was once a Brother in the Order of St. Augustine and is now a Roman Catholic Priest. The City Planner of Toronto had died suddenly and Giorgio had been asked to preside over his funeral. He had come to our meeting directly from that, dressed in his black suit and roman collar, the normal flamboyant clothing of the poet laid aside for his somber duties.

He went from table to table, engaging each individual in conversation. Who are you, why are you here (when so many others stayed in the comfort of their home), what do you want for your community?

Then he went to the lectern and waited patiently during his introduction. And then he began to speak. Hesitantly at first, struggling to find his way into his message. But then finding the heart of what he wanted to say, his voice gained strength, lifting the audience out of the drabness of suburban life into the promise of a vital community, where people spoke to each other, where artists found each other and contributed to the public space, where political will encouraged innovation and risk over safety, where messiness was tolerated and fears laid aside.

Here is the essence of his message: "Let's say an artist creates a piece of public sculpture, a red boot. You will find there are two reaction to this red boot--"Oh look, someone created a red boot and set it here on the sidewalk. Why would they do that? What a fun thing for someone to do!"--or "Look at that stupid red boot, someone's going to stub their toe on that. We better get in touch with our City Councilor and have that removed."

You can have vitality or safety, human interaction or safety, growth or safety, a healthy community or safety. But you can't have both. Creativity is a messy and risky human endeavor but joyful and hopeful for all of that.

The meeting went on for two hours, with Giorgio having another two hour drive back to his home north of the City.

As we left the meeting, a lunar eclipse was nearing the 3/4 mark. Attendees stood in the cold winter night, warmed by the meeting and the vibrant exchange of ideas that followed and watched the moon turn red. Like the statue of an old boot sitting on a sidewalk, just waiting for someone to stub their toe.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Toronto's Poet Laureate Talk Tonight

Toronto's Poet Laureate is giving a talk at Sister's Restaurant at 7 pm this evening. An adviser to the Prime Minister's office, the Premier of Ontario and Mayor Miller, on the factors that make for creative and very human communities, Di Cicco will focus on the Soul of the City.

MP John McKay, MPP Margaret Best and City Councilor Ron Moeser have all confirmed attendance., as has a representative from Paul Ainslie's office.

Some seating remains for this event so come early and prepare for a provocative evening.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Getting Personal

I decided to work from home on Friday. Year end is coming up and I had a lot of data to enter into AIM and knew from (painful) experience that the work goes faster in the quiet of my home office.

If my dog, Lindsay, was glad to have me home for the day, she concealed it well and could be found sleeping in various places around the house without ever seeming to move from one spot to the other.

About two o'clock I noticed three young teenagers walking down the street with shovels and assumed they were out to make some money shoveling driveways. They'd make no money from mine since I'd already cleaned it off twice that day.

However, one of the boys, without a shovel, walked up my drive, momentarily disappeared from my view, and then turned and walked back down it again. Thinking he had been delivering pamphlets, I went to the door to check the mail box.

Only to spot the same boy retrieving my ergonomic snow shovel from where he had tossed it into the middle of my neighbour's front lawn. I yelled, but he and his friends just kept walking. With my shovel added to their collection. Running back into the house I quickly put on a pair of boots and raced out the door. But they were gone, the street empty.

So I phoned the police and two patrol cars rolled up to my front door within five minutes. They took my statement and description of the boys and description of my shovel.

Being a pessimist, and faced with another snowfall today, I have just returned from purchasing a new shovel.

Oh, and Lindsay the guard dog, of course, slept through the whole thing. If a squirrel had stolen our shovel, I'm sure the entire neighbourhood would have heard about it.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Bob Johnston Ends Relationship with GM

As hard as it is to believe, on another day of heavy winter snow and miserable driving conditions, Spring is within reach. Only this year, when the snow leaves, it will be accompanied by a West Hill landmark that has served the community for nearly 40 years.

Bob Johnston Motors has terminated its long standing relationship with General Motors. Johnston Chevrolet Ltd. had been a fixture in the community since it opened its doors back in 1972. Not only was it the dealership of choice for local residents interested in GM products, but the Johnston family were well known contributors to neighbourhood events. Bob Johnston will continue as a service center for all makes of cars.

With a massive condominium complex replacing the Markington Plaza, the creation of the Morningside Crossing shopping Centre, and the redevelopment of the Montoro Motel site, West Hill is in the process of a remarkable transformation.

Indeed as Realtor Maria Florosz observes, "People are just coming to realize that Scarborough in general and in this area of Scarborough in particular, homes are significantly under valued."

If so, watch for even more radical change in the future.

Monday, February 4, 2008

PC Gord Hayford Retires

The smiling photo of PC Gord Hayford and Community Police Liaison Committee Chair Marilyn Hodge, was taken at last years 43 Division open house.

Gord has put a human face on policing in West Hill as the Crime Prevention Officer and expert in the way Environmental design affects public safety.

Gord announced his retirement from policing today:

A heartfelt THANK YOU

Greetings to all.

Many of you may have wondered over the past several months, what happened to me?

Well I’m still here. But only for today. I apologize for the lack of information but it was due to office politics. Nuff said.

I want you to know though that 43 Division has some of the most caring, competent, compassionate and professional hard working Police Officers I have ever had the pleasure to work with. And to her benefit. The second in command, Inspector Bernadette Button is one of the most intelligent and caring woman I know. A totally competent officer and leader. A real spark in the management of 43 Division.

I would encourage everyone to become more and more involved in your communities. Know that you can make a difference and you can make things change. A community in which people take an interest is a community that crime can not grab a hold of.
Get out on the street. Use your parks, use your recreation facilities. You have the ability to make the space you call your home better and safer. The police can not do this as much as you.

Several years ago, ( now I’m dating myself) a milk store called Beckers started a campaign with buttons which simply stated “our cops are tops”. Well Beckers is long gone and you could probably get a few bucks for those buttons on Ebay. But how about this. When you see a cop drive by, why not wave to him or her. If you see them on the street or in a plaza. Say hello. (No don’t buy them a coffee and donut. They get enough.)

You have no idea how far that goes to making the officer feel accepted and part of the community themselves. An officer who feels that way is more apt to take a more personal interest in the area they patrol. That simple gesture can be a crime fighting tool by it self.

Kind of one of those win win situations. It really doesn’t take much to make a community safer.

At any rate I have decided to retire and today was my last day on the job.
Tomorrow I will be just another citizen. My wife and I have moved up north to a new home on Lake Scugog and I have a water front property. I plan to catch up on some much needed fishing come the nice weather. ( If it ever comes)

I would like to extend my thanks to everyone in the community who have honoured me by allowing me to work alongside them. In the past 33 years I have seen many changes in South East Scarborough. Most for the better. Some of them I have had a part in changing. Most have been changed by you, the community. Your community is one of the most thriving in the city.
I have had the pleasure of working with some fine politicians, Ron Moser, Gay Cow born, David Soknaki, Maryann Chambers and Paul Ainsly just to mention a few.

I extend a special thanks to Lori Metcalfe who is the most dedicated community advocate I know. Also to the staff of CPAT, The Crime Prevention Association of Toronto and Lesley Chitra for their trust, support and dedication to me and the community. I don’t want to forget Marilyn Hodge, Co-Chair of the 43 Division CPLC ( Community Police liaison Committee) and the committee itself for their support.
To my replacement, Const Bill Campbell, the new Crime Prevention Officer, I wish great success. Bill is a very dedicated and caring officer who I know will go that extra distance for the community. A special thanks to Inspector Button for her support over the last few months. Thanks to Deputy Cheif Tony Warr. A great boss, great leader and a real gentleman. I also want to thank you, the community, for allowing me the opportunity to serve you.

On January 24th I was honoured with a retirement dinner / roast in which the Deputy Chief of Police attended along with other high ranking Police officers both active and retired. Members of the community were there, politicians, Auxiliary Police Officers, friends and family. I am fortunate to be able to live vicariously through two of my children who are both police officers at 52 and 54 Divisions.

No one could have asked for a better job or to work with better people than I had the privilege of over the past several years

So again I would like to say both a very heartfelt thanks and goodbye. 33 years working in the streets of Toronto with incredible people. What a ride.

Mark me 10-7

PC Gord Hayford
4496 (retired)

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Markington Square to be replaced by Condos

The Markington Square Shopping Centre at the intersections of Markham-Kingston-and Eglinton Road (as the name suggests) is to be demolished and replaced by seven high rise condominiums., comprising 1400 new residential units. Only the Dominion and Beer store will remain.

A consultation meeting will take place at the Scarborough Village Recreation Centre at 7 pm on Monday February 4 to permit those interested to view the plans for the proposed new development. The Scarborough Village Community Association strongly urges residents to attend the meeting to voice their opinion on the development plans.

The planning application proposes a mixed-used project comprised of four apartment buildings in the seven- to nine-story range, two 23-story towers and one 28-story tower, as well as 26,200 square feet of retail space at the bottom of the buildings fronting Eglinton Avenue. For comparison, the 7 acre Plaza currently has 174,997 square feet of retail space. The Dominion and beer store in the northwest corner of the plaza are to remain.

Nearby Morningside Mall was recently been demolished and is the the process of being re-branded as Morningside Crossing and redeveloped as a higher end retail space.