Tuesday, September 28, 1999

Paul Moloney

p. B1.

Mayor joins police board

Lastman to help choose new chief and pare costs

Mayor Mel Lastman is immediately joining the police services board, where he expects to play a major role in hiring a new chief and finding ways to cut costs.

Lastman said yesterday he's taking over from Councillor Judy Sgro (North York Humber), his designate on the seven-member board, who is running for the federal Liberals in the upcoming by-election in York West.

His decision to take the seat himself, rather than hand it off to interested candidates such as Councillors Tom Jakobek (East Toronto), Frances Nunziata (York-Humber) and Doug Holyday (Markham-Centennial), shows the importance he places on policing issues, observers said.

"I think the mayor coming on the police services board is a really wonderful thing. It signals that he sees this as a very high priority," said Councillor Olivia Chow, a board member.

The board is expected to decide in November who will replace Chief David Boothby, who steps down in February. Front-runners include deputy chief Mike Boyd and York Region chief Julian Fantino.

"I want to be involved with who the new police chief is," Lastman said. "I want to get to understand more about what the police are doing in our city, and how they can do it better, maybe, and bring in some efficiencies.

Mayor takes police board seat vacated by Sgro

Administration must toe council line: Lastman

He rejected a suggestion by Councillor Norm Gardner (North York Centre), the police board chair, that homeowners be hit with a 1 per cent tax hike to pay for a $9.3 million overrun in this year's $523 million police budget.

"Norm Gardner doesn't live in Toronto. The 1 per cent would be paid for only by the homeowners who live in Toronto, so why would he mind?" Lastman said of Gardner, a York Region resident.

"But I'm not looking for a tax increase. I'm looking for a tax freeze and I promised a tax freeze and I will do everything in my power to keep a tax freeze."

Lastman said the police had incurred unforeseen costs such as $1,3 million to cover demonstrations outside the U.S. consulate and $1.1 million because of fewer retirements than projected.

But he said the police administration must toe the line set by city council.

"The chief did say right from the beginning that he cannot live within the budget that was set down for him. He made that very clear, but Toronto council are running the city, they're running the budgets and it's up to the police to try to live by it.

"(Budget committee members) Tom Jakobek and Olivia Chow have a point: The point is we're running the city, we allotted the budget, now why haven't they done it?"

Lastman said he's considering bringing in an efficiency expert to find cost savings, possibly by making scheduling changes and controlling overtime costs officers charge for court appearances.

The mayor's assumption of his police board seat is expected to reduce Gardner's influence on the high-profile body, which provides civilian oversight of policing.

"Certainly there are a lot of really important decisions to make in the next two or three months, especially the budget," Chow said. "We'll let the mayor and Norm work that out."

Chow said Lastman will be on hand for next month's regular board meeting, which is to be held at city hall instead of at police headquarters.

Mayor's arrival on board to reduce Gardner's influence

"I think it's a great idea because city hall is known to be symbolically very open to people, citizen participation is encouraged and it's really a place for people to gather," she said.

Lastman said he will attend meetings on a regular basis.

"I think it is (important) unless there's something on there that just isn't important and they're calling a meeting to discuss nothing," he said.

The mayor spoke to reporters at the North York Civic Centre, where he opened Enterprise Toronto, a new economic development office to help small business and entrepreneurs.

He said he is keen to land production of a new jet for Bombardier Inc.'s de Havilland plant in Downsview, which assembles Dash 8 commuter planes.

But he said Councillor Brian Ashton (Scarborough Bluffs), chair of the council's economic development committee, has warned now isn't the time to start aggressively lobbying for the 3,000 high-paying jobs.

Bombardier will decide early next year whether to proceed with a new line of 100-seat commuter aircraft called the Big Regional Jet, or BRJ.

"I want Bombardier," Lastman said. "I want them bad. I want them to do their expansion here very badly.

"But what can I do when people who are close to it are saying this is not the time?"

Toronto Police clippings… [Fiona Stewart]

Created: October 9, 2000
Last modified: October 9, 2000
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