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2008 05 07
More Illegal SIgn Nonsense
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The casual observer would assume by now that Toronto's illegal sign wars should be behind us now—the good guys won, right? Wrong. In spite of what you might have heard the signs are still with us. Here is the latest news from Rami Tabello:
NORTH YORK AND ETOBICOKE ENFORCEMENTS NOW UNDER ATTACK AS CITY SOLICITOR CUTS SECRET DEAL WITH AD COMPANY

Media Release, Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Strategic Media Inc., a billboard company that is operating about 30 illegal large-format vinyl wall signs in Toronto, has become the second media company to sue the City of Toronto over billboard enforcements.

Strategic Media's signs are familiar to Torontonians as it is the only company that operates third party signs without a company nameplate below the sign.

The latest lawsuit, filed on April 18, challenges the Etobicoke, North York and Toronto by-laws. Earlier this year, Titan Outdoor filed suit to quash Toronto's by-law. The new suit comes after the City Solicitor entered into an agreement with Titan Outdoor that will likely allow Titan to maintain 39 illegal billboards in the downtown core for at least three years.

"This new lawsuit is in fact a subterfuge. The Company's goal is not to win in court but to obtain the same sweetheart deal that Titan Outdoor obtained out of court," explains Rami Tabello, coordinator of IllegalSigns.ca who notes that Community Council rejected Titan Outdoor's variances only to have the City Solicitor allow Titan to maintain the signs. "Companies are obtaining de-facto variances from the City Solicitor that they can't obtain from City Council."

IllegalSigns.ca notes that since a 1983 amendment to the Municipal Act, the City has had authority under law to remove illegal billboards without recourse to the courts. In September 2005, City Council directed staff to remove all illegal billboards in the City "as soon as possible," and in June 2007, Council directed staff to remove Strategic Media's illegal billboard at the DVP and Highway 401.

"City Staff have refused to comply with City Council direction and entered into an agreement with Titan Outdoor without the advice or consent of City Council. They have also decided on a strategy to obtain $1,000 fines against illegal billboards instead of removing them," says Mr. Tabello who notes that the advertising companies have never obtained an injunction preventing the City from removing their illegal billboards.

The complaints against Titan and Strategic Media's signs were filed by IllegalSigns.ca.

A copy of the Strategic Media lawsuit is available on http://www.IllegalSigns.ca this morning, along with photos of Strategic Media's portfolio of illegal billboards.


Media Contact: Rami Tabello, Coordinator, IllegalSigns.ca
Phone: 416.822.3696
359 Palmerston Boulevard
Toronto, Ontario M6G 2N5

[email this story] Posted by R Ouellette on 05/07
2008 05 03
Have The Pugs Saved Toronto?
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There are buildings in this city that have not earned the right to grace the public realm and It doesn't take an architecture critic to point out the obvious culprits.

That's why when the Pug Awards came to life four year ago, the inner design critic inside many of us found a forum to express its displeasure—very publicly. After all, if a developer is going to blight a neighbourhood for the next fifty years then they at least have to face the Internet equivalent of being tarred, feathered, and run out of town.

The Pugs are back with a new website and a new list of buildings to rank. It is time once again to tell local architects and developers if you think their creations are good or bad. Here’s some advice: don’t hold back.

Why? It is probably a coincidence, but the level of attention to architecture and urban design in the city has inched its way upward over the last few years. Shining a critical, popular light into the world of the developer may just be paying off.

When the good people at Cecconi Simone and Tricon Capital Group launched the Pugs in 2004, they were motivated by a passionate commitment to making Toronto a better place to live. Thankfully, they are succeeding.

This year’s list of 21 nominated buildings includes some favourites. There is, of course, the ROM Michael Lee-Chin Crystal. Love it or hate, Libeskind’s complex vision of a 21st Century museum deserves to be on everyone’s list.

There are some buildings noted—I won’t try to influence your vote by naming them—that never should have been built. In form, detail, and sensitivity to their urban context they fail miserably.
If you have walked anywhere near the railway lands development you know one or two of them.

On the other hand, there are some gems (and since well-designed buildings are obvious, I’ll mention one). The Broadview Lofts project by Turner Fleischer Architects has managed to take a marginalized stretch of the city’s eastern industrial lands and make it pleasurable to visit again.

I often go by this cluster of new and old buildings, and the reaction I have rarely varies. I look at the expanse of glazed walls thinking of how light must play in the loft units behind them. The town homes to the west of the main structure fit well with the old warehouse buildings, and the way they edge the street is workmanlike, but in a considered way.

Why aren’t all developments in the city so well thought through?

Ask yourself that question, then go online and vote LOVE IT OR HATE IT. This year there is even more reason to get involved.

The Pug Awards is launching the Pug Cup, a trophy that will reside at City Hall. Standing 35 inches high, the cup will be engraved with the names of the winning buildings.

To qualify for this year’s awards a building must have been completed in 2007, reside in the old City of (...read more...)
[email this story] Posted by R Ouellette on 05/03
2008 05 01
Is Ontario A “Have Not” Province?
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Let's face it. We were all a little bit shocked when the Toronto Star announced yesterday that Ontario was now a bit player in the Canadian provincial hierarchy.
"Ontario is not the mighty king of the economy any more," said TD's chief economist, Don Drummond, predicting the province could get $400 million in 2010 and $1.3 billion the following year.

"It's one of the weaker partners, but again it's not so much Ontario's being weak as the other provinces are really roaring along."

The report noted that one traditional "have-not" province, Newfoundland and Labrador, is about to join the "have" club, thanks to revenues from offshore oil and gas production.
There is the argument neatly summed up by one of the Country's more respected economists. Unless we are either pumping oil or making cars for some other country's automobile sector, we are nothing. Well, I don't buy it. Rather than wail that the sky is falling, in a quarterly driven profit and loss blinkered vision of reality, why not use this obvious sign that industry is changing as a reason to revamp our economy and prepare to take on the real big "NEXT" markets?

We all know what they are. I wasn't surprised to read a few short weeks ago that the German industrial sector has made a few good deals buying up Canadian environmental technology companies and relocating them to Europe. Some European countries are literally changing their landscapes because of an economic shift to sustainable, knowledge-driven industries.

What about this picture don't our policy makers understand? Big cars pollute, cause global warming, and use too much of a non-renewable commodity. Plus, no one in their right mind wants them now except as a symbol of conspicuous consumption that would make Thorstein Veblen blush.

Still, here we are bemoaning the fact that people aren't buying enough obsolete car designs, and our smokestack industries are failing. Come on! We've predicted this failure for a generation and a half. That it seems to surprise government should be a warning sign to the electorate: Why can't our elected representatives think outside of the short term and plan for the future?

Change is good. Change usually involves short to mid term pain. If we are going to experience that pain anyway—as a have-not province—let's make something out of it. Let's build an economy for tomorrow's markets using the best of today's ideas—you know, the ones that far-seeing countries are buying up from under us. Then when residents of other provinces can't breath because they've burned up so much fossil fuel to convert sand to oil, we'll have clean air, livable cities, and an economy with a future.
[email this story] Posted by R Ouellette on 05/01
2008 04 27
Turns Out We Didn’t Dodge The Strike Bullet After All
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WInnipeg general strikers tip streetcar over—1919—a scene that stranded Toronto TTC users might have replicated if they could of early Saturday morning

Our collective relief over the announced TTC strike settlement wasn't enough to actually prevent a walkout by TTC workers who voted to reject the agreement their leadership accepted. In spite of the union promise to provide 48 hours notice of a strike action, they walked off at 12:00 AM Saturday morning with 90 minutes notice—stranding thousands of commuters. Right now the Ontario Legislature is about to meet to issue a back-to-work order.

Why did the initial agreement fail? Ron Nurwisah at the National Post has been live-blogging the strike, its causes, and its repercussions. The Toronto Star is all over this story with continuous updates on its web site including person on the street interviews that are worth reading.

My favourite take so far? Well, that's got to be poet Philip Quinn's TTC poetry site with the latest addition, "Strike me dead." Here it is:

Woke up at my girlfriend’s to the news, that the TTC is on strike

Drivers, trains, buses, nothing’s moving

Woke up to the news


How am I going to??????
And then do that?

Fucking walking?

I might as well stay here, stay in bed until this thing is settled.
It’s going to put the entire city to sleep

But I join the other sleep walkers at Bloor Street, in small clusters, drinking coffee and muttering about the TTC strike that seized the city at midnight

in small clusters
drinking coffee, the paper cup clenched strongly in a working man’s grip

the needs of many should outweigh the needs of the few, the man beside me said. It’s turning the city into a cripple.

this old man made up of tall buildings and decayed roads hobbling along with a bad limp, that's our city alright

in small clusters we debate the strike
in small enraged clusters, we feel the anger
solidarity with all brothers and sisters who ride the underground

every possible swear word, doesn’t even begin to describe the TTC, said another man

But now I’m walking the backbone of the city, Yonge Street, the hump past the cemetery
Breaking my back, carrying a sports bag with all my worldlies

Who said the world could stop?
Who said that they could say no to the contract?

I’m walking my way back home
Thumb ready to pop out like a flick knife
At the first chance of a ride in a car

(from The SubWay, a collection of poetry)

[email this story] Posted by R Ouellette on 04/27
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