city hall bureau chief
Mayor David Miller was criticized yesterday for not attending an emotional Monday night meeting on proposed new taxes in the city. And it wasn't just his usual opponents muttering about the mayor's absence.
Deputy city manager and CFO Joe Pennachetti and other city staff were left to do the heavy lifting at Monday's session, the first of four public consultations about new taxes the city says it needs to balance its budget in coming years. The only councillors present were Denzil Minnan-Wong, Karen Stintz and budget chief Shelley Carroll.
Several members of the audience noted that the city's chief elected official was nowhere to be seen.
"We were surprised (Miller wasn't there)," Von Palmer, director of government relations and chief privacy officer for the Toronto Real Estate Board, said yesterday. "It would've been nice to have politicians on stage. We need to ask them questions."
Minnan-Wong (Ward 34, Don Valley East), a frequent Miller opponent, said the mayor had a responsibility to attend. "These proposals will cost families thousands of dollars," he said.
Likewise, Councillor Brian Ashton said senior politicians should have been present.
"I don't know if the mayor needed to be there, but staff should never be hung out to dry like that at a public meeting that's so contentious. It's like a heavyweight boxer sending his trainer into the ring."
Ashton, one of Miller's choices to sit on the city's powerful executive committee, said councillors are accountable to voters and should attend important public meetings. "If you don't like getting hit in the face, you shouldn't run for office."
Miller spent the evening at the 50th anniversary celebration of the Community Social Planning Council of Toronto.
The consultation was intentionally set up to be an occasion for staff to seek public advice, he told the Star yesterday.
"It's unfortunate that ... quite far-right organizations like the Canadian Taxpayers Federation can't have a conversation, but that's just part of the process."
Kevin Gaudet, of the taxpayers federation, was among the vocal critics at Monday's meeting.
"It's legitimate for people to raise concerns," Miller said. "We want to hear their concerns. But I do know that organization, which is really at one end of the political spectrum, certainly had some members present."
Miller said he won't be in town for the next couple of hearings. The final session takes place on a night when city council is supposed to meet.
Wednesday, May 09, 2007
Posted by Kevin Gaudet at 8:55 AM