‘We can do better:’ Tory promises renewed focus on frontline services, including graffiti and pothole blitzes

Mayor John Tory has announced a series of blitzes targeting quality of life issues ranging from graffiti to potholes as part of what he promises will be a renewed focus on improving frontline city services during his third term in office.

Tory, who was re-elected in a landslide on Monday night, made the announcement during a press conference at city hall.

He said that he spoke with City Manager Tracey Cook as well as upwards of 60 other representatives from Toronto’s civil service earlier in the day and told them that “we can do better, we must do better and we will do better” when it comes to the “nuts and bolts” services of city government.

To that end, Tory is directing city staff to undertake a graffiti blitz on both public and private property, a litter bin blitz, a construction zone blitz, a clothing drop box blitz and an arena state of good repair audit.

He has also asked for a weekly update about the work the city government is doing to improve frontline services overall and “address deficiencies” that have been identified by residents.

“I do want to be clear, this is not the last time I’ll address this,” he said. “This is part of what will be an ongoing effort throughout the next term of council because I did hear some comments about this (during the campaign), had some very thoughtful discussions with residents and I cam back determined to try and meet their expectations in a way that I think they should have the right to expect.”

Tory said that the graffiti blitz will get underway immediately and will involve the removal of vandalism from bridges, underpasses and transit lines, as well as parks and waterfront properties.

The pothole blitzes, meanwhile, will be in addition to the frequent blitzes already conducted by the city in the fall and spring and will focus on “any long standing potholes or problematic areas” that continue to be the subject of frequent complaints, Tory said.

Tory also noted that he has asked for legal advice about what can be done about a litter bin contract with Astral, which still has four years remaining on it.

This is following complaints that the bins are breaking down and are not always kept in working order.

“I’ve indicated to city staff that I want us to have better litter bins on our streets as soon as possible. In the meantime, we’re going to focus on this contract and make sure that it’s managed to the benefit of our residents, our businesses and our streets and that is exactly what it was intended to do from the beginning but clearly we may have drifted away from that,” he said.

As part of the contract, Astral is responsible for both providing and maintaining upwards of 11,000 litter bins across the city.

Speaking with reporters, Tory cautioned that he is “not an expert” but said that the design of the bins could certainly be improved.

“Some of those foot pedals that exist on some of them are broken all the time, some of the doors are open all day and myself I found those very small openings that exist on those cans almost force you to jam things in and stick your hand there,” he said, noting that it is an issue that was raised frequently as he knocked on doors during the recent election campaign. “I guess what we have to do is get the experts to go back and say ‘OK these are a couple of decades old’ so what can we do better?”

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