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Ford faces public wrath over proposed KPMG cuts - CityNews

July 28, 2011
Michael Talbot

The sun will likely be up and the birds chirping by the time a marathon session on proposed budget cuts concludes at City Hall Friday morning.

With the end nowhere in sight, Mayor Ford issued a motion at around 10:00 p.m. to extend the meeting until "whenever it's finished," saying he was prepared to stay until 8:00 a.m. if necessary.

The motion was groggily passed and the public venting proceeded.

At 10:30 p.m. spirited union president Bob Kinnear took to the podium to challenge Ford on a number of issues and admonish him for failing to negotiate with his union, ATU Local 113.

Kinnear is number 87 of 344 scheduled speakers.

At issue are a series of core services reviews conducted by consultant KPMG and ordered by Mayor Rob Ford.

The series of reports provided suggestions on how deal with the city's $774 million budget shortfall for 2012.

The tone was set early when Kim Fry, the 11th speaker, had harsh words for the executive committee.

“It is clear that there is a program to eliminate the public from our great city,” Fry said.

“I would prefer an increase in property tax to an increase in user fees, so that people of all different backgrounds and income levels can come together in our community centres and libraries and parks.”

Coun. Michael Thompson asked if Fry had read the KPMG report. When Fry replied she had read part of it, Thompson had no further questions.

Cathy Crowe of the Toronto Disaster Relief Committee said even children as young as 4 are expressing concern about the proposed cuts.

“They are fearing that they are going to lose parks to play in...that they will no longer have a public zoo and an inner city farm to explore,” she said.  “They fear losing public libraries that are the heart and soul and magic of learning and discovering.”

Counc. Peter Milczyn accused her of fear mongering, and said he routinely takes his children to public parks that aren’t being threatened in any way.

Brian McLean told an emotional story about how physical and mental health problems almost destroyed his life, forcing him into shelters where he eventually got help.

The former social worker now volunteers at the Davenport Perth Neighbourhood and Community Health Centre.

“I was a professional and I ended up in a shelter.  It's a terrible situation,” he said.

“You can't put a price on a person's life and their health and welfare,” he stressed.  “You can't start putting prices on peoples’ heads and programs.”

Franz Hartmann, Executive Director of the Toronto Environmental Alliance was up next.  He said the cuts being proposed would only create more problems.

"Solving one problem by creating a host of new ones is not intelligent leadership," he said.  He used the example of TTC route cuts, saying they may save some money, but would ultimately increase congestion, drive more people into polluting cars, and jeopardize the safety of women who rely on taking the bus at night.

Ann Dembinski, President of CUPE Local 79, was the last speaker before the 6:00 p.m. dinner break.  She criticized Ford for misleading the public by campaigning on a promise of no service cuts.

She said it's Toronto’s nursing, child care, and front line emergency workers that make the city so great and argued vehemently against privatization of city services.

“I don't believe public services should be privatized. They belong to the public."

With files from Shawne McKeown and Erin Criger, CityNews.ca

As originally published here: http://www.citytv.com/toronto/citynews/news/local/article/145631--floodgates-open-deputations-begin-at-meeting-on-proposed-kpmg-cuts

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