2012/10/10 13:35 David Miller, “Finding the Connections Between Academia and Government that Make Change Happen”, City Science Workshop, U. of Toronto

Thematic presentation by @iamdavidmiller on “Cities as systems of systems” to stimulate discussion at #cityscience workshop on “Finding Connections Between City Systems and Subsystems”,University of Toronto Cities Centre, October 10-11, 2012.

This digest was created in real-time during the meeting, based on the speaker’s presentation(s) and comments from the audience. The content should not be viewed as an official transcript of the meeting, but only as an interpretation by a single individual. Lapses, grammatical errors, and typing mistakes may not have been corrected. Questions about content should be directed to the originator. The digest has been made available for purposes of scholarship, by David Ing.

Introduction by Eric Miller

  • David Miller is currently advising at Aird & Berlis, former mayor of City of Toronto

[David Miller]

Important to have discussion on cities future, in academic research

Today, will talk about how decisions were made when was mayor, with research

  • Some insights on what academics should be doing

How politicians make decisions

  • 1. Mandate from citizens of Toronto; wanted to leave the city with commitments made
  • e.g. disagree with Stephen Harper building prisons when crime is falling, but had made that commitment
  • 2. Can speak about philosophical, but are then responsible for implementing down to the last detail, different for mayor from MPs and MPPs
  • City councillors sit on board of TTC
  • Different being a city councillor, as compared to member of parliament
  • Need to understand facts and research, or else will accept the responsibility for screw-ups

Transit City: adopted by TTC in March 2007

  • Was a commitment from 2006 election
  • Based on knowledge from being a TTC commissioner for a number of years
  • Knew it wasn’t possible to create a network of subways: not enough density
  • Could have had a few subway stations, but need a network, because there are places where public transit doesn’t reach
  • Need a rapid transit, not own right of way at high-speed high capacity
  • Wanted to be electric in the long term
  • Committed to put in a network of LRT in Toronto

Post 2006, went to authority, which is TTC

  • They have counts, data matched by no one
  • Bashing them is wrongheaded, they have data
  • In Sheppard subway, they brought in private sector expertise into TTC
  • They developed plan: Finch and Sheppard are through routes, Eglinton
  • All lines based on current projections and future projections of ridership
  • Overlaid with Toronto official plan: we think sprawl is bad, we want to welcome growth into the city, growth should happen in development where there already is mass transit, or will be
  • Was based on best information
  • Etobicoke Finch West went through York U; Waterfront West through Humber; Scarborough Malvern through U of Toronto Scarborough College

Government has mandate, with moral authority

  • If government is smart, then evidence will win the day
  • If they don’t work, then will be responsible for those decisions

Sheppard and Finch also have social benefits in connecting the city

  • Priority neighbourhoods served by lines
  • Heaviest used routes, people with low income
  • Rode with woman from Scarborough who worked at airport, then afternoons in the Royal York: 4 hours in transit
  • Pushed down prices of Metropass, relative to tokens

Had a massive launch of Transit City, Adam Giambrone communications program

  • Most people prefer subway, but most people understand should do Transit City
  • This also got the province interested, it would be a win for the premier

Problem with Transit City was that it wasn’t controversial, had votes 44 to 1, and the news media doesn’t pick that up

Tower renewal

  • Engineers were working on environmental issues
  • Buildings are 60% of emissions in cities
  • Engineers had strategy to skin the buildings outside, and insulate between the skin and the new buildings
  • Buildings were concrete slab construction, there’s about 1000 in Toronto, built in 1960s-1970s-1980s from federal funds
  • Federal funds said could have more height if more green space around it, although lots of pools with no water in them
  • Energy savings were massive
  • Insulating buildings could lower carbon emissions and energy by 5%, when Kyoto target was 6%
  • Architect wrote master’s thesis: reskinning means rejuvenating neighbourhoods
  • Have done in Berlin, Bratislava, Paris
  • Many of buildings are in lower income neighbourhoods, so started working with trade unions for new skills to do retrofits with young people — still in pilot phase
  • Most apartments were there wasn’t rapid transit, yet few have commercial at grade, so to get groceries would have to drive
  • Still had commercial activities, e.g. dentures in one apartment, herbal remedies in another apartment, illegal
  • But if rezoned ground floor as commercial or some of green space, opportunities for entrepreneurs
  • A lot of green space, not used effectively
  • Work would have been done mostly by private contractors
  • Skins might be done locally
  • Had strong dialogue with civil servants

City of Toronto is extremely siloed

  • Got rid of a layer of commissioners reporting to council, replaced with three deputy city managers
  • Social services, planning, IT — tried to drive cooperation
  • This works from leadership from the office of the mayor

Priority neighbourhoods

  • High density neighbourhoods, and Transit City lines connecting
  • High concentration of low income, and low concentration of public services
  • Regent Park is not a priority neighbourhood, they have public services that Jane-Finch and Rexdale don’t
  • Wanted to do neighbourhood-based work, so did United Way
  • Report: where do we need priority investment?
  • Sometimes priority neighbourhood is correlated with crime, not always
  • Became foundation of the community safety plan: safety not just as absence of crime, but living in a community that was socially just
  • Came about with in-depth work: risky, as didn’t know what the research would say, didn’t know if provincial government would fund
  • U. of Toronto came out with studies of poverty by postal code, got lots of media attention

Heard that there was a lack of childcare, a public good for two working parents

  • Built childcare in priority neighbourhood in advance of federal funding
  • Built 60, some in Catholic places not previously covered
  • If Harper hadn’t cancelled the program, would have built 50 more
  • Research doesn’t produce just theoretical results, also practical

Process to make decisions, importance of facts and understanding for government

  • 1. Need partnership with civil service, they see across responsibilities of the city
  • e.g. if building a condo and want to donate some land for green space, civil service will ask for $250K, so it can be maintained, as it’s been done before
  • 2. Need communication with elected officials: briefings and speeches, everyday, so didn’t have time to think through public policy, need it simple
  • Need facts on one page, simply
  • Councillors aren’t quite as busy as mayor, but still busy
  • Have to use plain language to make it simple and clear
  • 3. Communicating with the public: need peer review, but dealing in a world where media writes “Toronto’s war on the car”: Jarvis as extension of Mount Pleasant, 1/15th of length
  • Had public consultatation to put the lane in, apparently don’t need it to remove it out
  • A lie has gone around the world, before the truth has put on its pants in the world
  • Study from Stanford: organic food is no safer or healthier than conventional food — where the study said that it doesn’t have more nutrients, but it does have fewer pesticides
  • To do the right research-based studies, need to be more nimble
  • After headline is out, it’s too late to debate it

Allan Gregg’s article on reason: young people need a common shared understanding, so that can get change

  • Need scientists to be clear

[Questions]

Evidence-based policy making, and policy-based evidence

  • Have good communications methods
  • For research base, be authentic, don’t be afraid to get the facts out
  • Have to find a way to make public conversations more sophisticated, it’s not easy

Lessons from radio show from New York

  • Was a pilot
  • Less interest after the current mayor was elected
  • CBC went to New York, to talk about what they were doing on green initiatives
  • Premise that people don’t know what’s being done that is good for economy
  • Learn from New York: people just do it
  • New York has an active civic culture
  • Paddling canoe down Bronx River, used to be chemical toxic dump, community formed Bronx River Alliance and cleaned it up
  • Highline Park: rail, through meat packing district, disused since the 1980s, organized as Friends of the Highline, then went to city to ask for empowerment

Time, be quicker?

  • After Transit City was approved, TTC went full speed
  • Started Sheppard in 2009, could have started in 2010, slowed down by Metrolinx as they wanted suburban link stops, where Toronto wanted urban link stops
  • If Premier hadn’t pulled funding for Finch (wasted $50M in engineering) would have been ready to go in 2010
  • Federal government wasn’t looking at projects like this, for the stimulus packages
  • More charitably, federal government wanted smaller projects that could be done more quickly
  • Sheppard funding came from Paul Martin
  • Could have been important to Thunder Bay, as suppliers when they’re also suppliers to Detroit, when down
  • Feds wanted to control, didn’t want municipalities to make decisions, which weren’t the ones that Feds would make
  • So, Feds asked for everything that city could do quickly
  • Developers call quickly

Funding cuts, where do researchers go?

  • Austerity is an excuse to cut what you don’t want.
  • World Bank is interested in cities, but its mandate is in the developing world
  • U.S. has an advantage over Canada, as it’s got more charitable foundations
  • Otherwise, need to create political environment where it’s not acceptable to cut research