Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Rob Sawyer's letter to Toronto's mayor

Apropos of this, here's the letter I just sent -- in hardcopy and electronically -- to Toronto Mayor David Miller (pictured above):

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Mayor David Miller
Toronto City Hall
100 Queen St. West 2nd Floor
Toronto ON M5H 2N2

Dear Mayor Miller,

I'm shocked and severely disappointed to read of the huge reductions in services that the Toronto Public Library has had to make in response to your government's funding cuts.

I am cognizant of the fiscal difficulties facing Toronto, but if we lose sight of the big picture -- of the things that make Toronto great -- the consequences will be severe.

The value of libraries in education cannot be overstated, but that's true in any city. What makes Toronto so special is its multiculturalism -- and it is in our libraries that newcomers to Toronto learn about the city and its traditions of inclusiveness and peacefulness. When you force library branches to curtail their hours, cut back on acquisitions, and freeze hiring, you are doing severe damage to the fabric of what once was, and can again be, the greatest city in the world. I urge you and your council to find another solution -- because the current one is untenable.

I speak not just as a library user, but also a past writer-in-residence for TPL, and the current recipient of the Toronto Public Library Celebrates Reading Award. I am a writer today because of Toronto's libraries -- and I'm a better citizen today because of them, too. Do not allow the great institution that is TPL to be whittled away by fiscal shortsightedness. Find the funds; don't let literacy, multiculturalism, learning, and fun fall by the wayside in David Miller's Toronto.

Respectfully submitted,

Robert J. Sawyer

CC: Josephine Bryant, TPL Chief Librarian
Kathy Gallagher Ross, Chair, TPL Board

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site


At August 09, 2007 7:57 PM , Blogger RobertJSawyer said...

Mayor Miller's office sent this reply:


Thank you for your email to Mayor David Miller. I am responding on his behalf.

The mayor and treasurer have been very clear with members of city council and the public since March that if the new taxes were not approved by council, real cuts to service and/or property tax increases would be necessary to balance the books. This point has been made repeatedly since public hearings on the new taxes began. It's unfortunate that was not reported by all media outlets.

The sales tax on home purchases and the tax on vehicle registration would raise $356 million a year. Without that revenue, there are very few options for filling the budget gap, which is the result of provincial downloading of services

The mayor will continue to work with the province to properly fund the City of Toronto, but without any guarantees of an uploading of social service costs (like welfare administration and public housing) and a share of public transit operating costs, very difficult and undesirable decisions have to be made.

The Mayor Miller was elected to build a city, not dismantle it. But he also has a responsibility to keep the books balanced and options for doing that in the absence of new revenues and provincial support are limited. The fact is, in 1998, the province downloaded services never intended to be paid for from property taxes. While there has been support from the provincial government in recent years, it's simply not enough to run a city Toronto's size. Torontonians are encouraged to raise this issue with provincial candidates in the upcoming campaign and also talk to their local councillor about the need for new revenues to protect and enhance the important city services they want and need.

The city manager has directed all city operations to review spending and identify savings and possible service cuts as a means to reach specific targets. It has never been the mayor's first choice to make cuts, nor was it what he was elected to do, but there's simply no more room to maneuver within the very tight city budget

Irene Schneider

Office of Mayor David Miller


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