26 June 2008

An Open Letter to Toronto City Councillor Joe Mihevc

Dear Joe,

As you know, I have not been a supporter of the St. Clair Right of Way, and especially not of the process or analysis that was used to justify it. In fact, both came out of a very cynical type of agenda-based politics that foment citizen apathy and disregard for those, like you, who have chosen public service. It is a sad and unfair situation when the collective actions of politicians that result in many members of the public feeling that their elected representatives are simply not hearing legitimate concerns, result in all council members being tarred with the same elitist, and anti-democratic brush.

I am writing to you today to ask you to lower your shield of objection- handling, and blind support of the Mayor's transit plan for the city, to honestly consider a matter important to public safety, and the specific security of those of us who are residents along the St. Clair Right of Way corridor. As has been reported in the press over the past few days, and as Royson James of the Star points out in today's column, the concerns raised by the District Fire Chief must be seriously considered in a non-partisan way by City Council. The fact that the absolute measurements of the clearances along the RoW suggest that fire vehicles can possibly squeeze by the obstructions that the RoW design introduces does not instill confidence. In fact, quite the opposite is the case: the clear political manipulation that is occurring creates a chill of fear, both in the residents whose lives and property will now be at increased risk, and those among the public service who risk speaking out against partisan political interests.

How many lives must be lost before remedial action - at much greater expense to the taxpayers - would be taken? How much property must be damaged, including both private property lost in fires because of slower response, and public property caused by equipment collisions along the RoW as indicated by the District Chief? And, how much more risk will be created because of the tight clearances during the winter months, when snowfall creates additional blockages? Is the City ready for the inevitable negligence lawsuits that will arise from the first tragedy to occur, now that it has been warned of the danger?

And finally, how much lower will the public regard for its elected officials sink because the legitimate concerns of citizens among a variety of poorly conceived issues are systematically ignored and sloughed off? The Right of Way was one such issue. The new recycling and garbage bin plan that seriously inconveniences and discriminates against women, the elderly, the disabled, and many of those that live in the city core, is another.

I urge you to realize that these safety concerns are not proxies for yea or nay votes for the Right of Way itself. These are concerns that have been legitimately expressed in the public forum by someone with specific knowledge and the courage to speak out. Please support having the design sent back for correction now, in order to save lives later.

Mark Federman

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