Marathon meeting wraps up at Toronto's city hall
Published Friday, July 29, 2011 8:18PM EDT
Last Updated Saturday, May 19, 2012 5:31AM EDT
A marathon Toronto city hall committee meeting finally wrapped up Friday morning after hearing nearly 23 hours of deputations from constituents voicing their opinions on a controversial series of potential budget cuts.
Nearly 350 people had signed up to speak on a report that proposed dozens of cuts to city services in a bid to cut hundreds of millions of dollars in city spending. By the end of the overnight session, fewer than 200 people spoke, with many of the deputants unable to wait through the night for their chance to speak.
By the time it wrapped at 8:55 a.m., the executive committee meeting had become the longest continuous council meeting in the history of the amalgamated City of Toronto.
Mayor Rob Ford told the committee room that it was one of the proudest days of his 11-year career in politics.
Ford thanked the members of the executive committee for participating in the overnight session and also thanked opposition councillors and the public for attending and voicing their opinions.
"I respect you for your integrity. I respect you for sitting here and fighting for what you believe in. And the public for sitting here and fighting for what you believe in. That is the great thing about democracy," Ford said.
"Everyone pat yourself on the back because we did a great job today and I think we are going to get this city straightened out."
During the meeting, concerned citizens voiced support for everything from libraries and transit to heritage spending and student nutrition.
Maureen O'Reilly, president of the Toronto Public Library Workers Union, presented the committee with some half-dozen boxes filled with petitions signed by some 30,000 Torontonians.
"Those citizens do not want to see cuts to city services. They do not want to see cuts to the library service," she said amid applause from the crowd.
One tearful teenager from Scarborough made an emotional appeal to keep the library open in her neighbourhood.
The 14-year-old spoke just after 2 a.m. crying as she described how important the library is to her.
"I hate public speaking but this branch is so important to me," she said.
The meeting got off to a rocky start, with Ford stopping the meeting several times in order to admonish councillors for not showing respect to the KPMG representatives in attendance and a fire alarm that cleared the first floor of City Hall.
One man was also removed from the meeting at about 4:30 p.m. after screaming at Ford.
As the night wore on, the theatrics seemed to ramp up.
One woman presented the committee with $55, meant to cover her family's share of a property tax hike and one month of an annual car tax previously scrapped by the Ford administration.
She said the money should cover her share of the cost to save all the programs that were recommended for closure.
Another person gave his three minutes of speaking time to a sock puppet named Roy, who opposed cuts to community grants.
At one point early Friday morning, Coun. Giorgio Mammoliti said he was disappointed by some of the deputations, pointing to the puppet show as an example.
The report, conducted by KMPG, recommended cutting back on dozens of city services; police staffing reductions, library closures and transit cutbacks are among the more controversial recommendations being considered.
Mayor Ford opened the meeting on Thursday by saying the process was about cutting "must have" services from those that are "nice to have" but generally waste public money.
"For years, our city has spent more money than it brings in," Ford told a packed committee room. "Instead of fixing the problem, we've kept passing the buck to ‘next year.' Well, next year has arrived. It's time we fixed the problem."
With files from The Canadian Press