Wednesday, March 31, 2004

Miller at the Underground

Written by Aliza Libman - Assistant News Editor
Excalibur - Wednesday, 31 March 2004

Youth engagement in the political process was the subject of discussion on March 26, when Toronto Mayor David Miller spoke at a town hall meeting held on York campus.

Sporting a button that read “subway to York”, Miller discussed youth engagement and community activism with the modest crowd at the daylong conference.

The conference was sponsored by a non-partisan organization called the Ginger Group, comprised of students and academics, many of whom attend York and Seneca.

According to organizer David Sloly, the primary purpose for the conference was “to engage people in public policy debate”.

“We’re here promoting getting involved, but not [specific] parties,” says Sloly, who says that the members of the Ginger Group are “people with interesting ideas about making society better”.

York president Lorna Marsden and Senate chair Ian Greene were among the 75 attendees of the conference.
Miller told the audience that he was proud of his track record since being elected mayor in November.

“We’ve changed the way we do things at City Hall,” he said, noting that a clean city, policing and job creation were his priorities.

Mayor Miller’s ideas to improve society included “Listening To Toronto”, a system of consultation with Torontonians.

“Communities know best what their own needs are,” he said.
The mayor also expressed a desire to find jobs for disenchanted youth and to work for a cleaner city.

During question period, Miller was staunchly defensive of the need for public development.

York Federation of Students vice-president external affairs Alan Kan asked the mayor about transit, suggesting that privatizing the TTC might be a way to alleviate some of its problems.

“Privatizing the TTC would be the single biggest way to destroy the city,” replied Miller, who noted that “not all bus routes make money”.
He also drew upon the example of Highway 407, calling it “an example of ideas triumphing over common sense”.

“We literally gave a gold mine to the private sector,” the mayor said.
While much of the crowd praised Miller for his initiatives to better the city and his support for the Jewish community in the wake of anti-Semitic attacks in the city, he also drew criticism for his recent move to stop construction on the Island Bridge.

“Because of your plan to stop the Island Bridge, my dad is losing his job,” challenged a York student who identified herself as Michelle. “How do you feel about that?”

Miller was defensive of the decision, though, stating that he did not believe that job losses were a necessary direct result of the move.
“I can’t accept that cancelling the bridge equals job losses,” he said, adding that he believed it would actually create jobs in the long run.
“As mayor, you have to look at the big picture.”

Though Miller did not address the issue of the subway at York significantly in his speech, he hasn’t given up hope that an extension will eventually be constructed.

Miller explained that the subway would have been done by now had the motion passed in 1995, when it was originally brought to city council.
“I voted for it in 1995,” says Miller. “It lost by four votes.”

Miller says that even if construction began tomorrow, the amount of time needed means that the first people who would benefit from it are currently 12 years old.

“The TTC’s first priority has to be to maintain the current services,” Miller says, explaining that implementing a two-year, $43 million busway would be more feasible than a seven-year, $1.4 billion subway extension.

Miller said that he was glad to speak at York, though youth voter turnout is down.

“They’re residents of Toronto and I want to hear what they have to say. It doesn’t matter whether they vote or not.”

Wednesday, March 17, 2004

No parking equals no money for York

Written by Aliza Libman - Assistant News Editor
Wednesday, 17 March 2004

A report marked ‘confidential’ has predicted that parking and transportation services at York will have a $4.9 million deficit this year, while hundreds of parking spaces remain empty on campus.

According to the “Ancillary Operations Long Term Plan”, dated November 17, 2003, this deficit will continue until 2011-2012 and can be attributed to a recent campus building spurt.

“To [relieve] the loss of revenue, Parking will introduce significant cost-saving measures including … selective rate increases,” reads the report, which was presented by governor Timothy Price at the December 1, 2003 meeting of the Board of Governors (BOG). The report attributes the deficit to the costs of parking garages that the university has been “required to construct”.Andy Wickens, assistant vice-president campus services and business operations, says that the current operating deficit of parking should be no cause for concern. He explains that it has been budgeted for, and spread over the next number of years, a common practice when building.

In the last two years the campus has seen the addition of two parking garages. According to Trudy Pound-Curtis, assistant vice-president finance and chief financial officer, the garages were built to accommodate the double cohort.

“When you add buildings and have more square footage, you have to add [parking] spaces,” Pound-Curtis says, explaining that this is a city council bylaw.

In order to fund the two new structures, the university took out a $68 million dollar loan, she continues.

However, many of the new spaces lie vacant. In an October 21 interview, Tom Arnold, executive director of security, parking and transportation services at York, told Excalibur that there are more than enough spaces to park on campus.

“There is plenty of available parking,” says Arnold. “On any given day, we have over 1,200 vacant parking spots.”

Since that interview, a new parking structure – the Student Services Centre garage – has opened, creating 1,367 new spaces. In the mid-afternoon of a Tuesday – York’s most crowded day of the week – cars occupied only one and a half of the lot’s four floors.

On the same day at the same time, the entire top floor of the Arboretum parking garage was vacant. According to parking services, the Arboretum lot, which opened in September 2002, has 781 parking spots.

Wickens explains that many spots are vacant because York has been pushing to shift students away from driving to York alone, and towards public transit and carpooling.

“We actually have fewer cars on campus now,” he says.

He defends the decision to build the sparsely occupied garages, explaining that many surface lots in the south of the campus will be closing down in coming years.

York community members can park at the Arboretum parking garage (PS2) and the Student Services Centre parking garage (PS3) for $13 a day, a price that many think is so steep that they park only at the other, less expensive lots.

“I’ve had to mortgage my house because of the $1,000 [I pay for parking],” says second year history student Shira Stanleigh, who parks in lot eight. “I do not have the monetary wealth to support such an undertaking.”

Stanleigh’s reason for parking so far from her classes is simple, she says. The cost of parking in the closer parking structures is too much.
“I don’t have a second house to mortgage,” she says.

However, Wickens defends the cost of parking: “Parking has to fund itself.”

Fifth year philosophy major Zulma Mejia says she only drives to York occasionally because of the prohibitive cost of parking on campus.

Mejia is not surprised that spots in the new garages are sitting empty.
“I don’t know how many people are willing to pay $13 a day,” she says.
Other students have developed their own ways to get around parking fees they consider excessive. One first year law and society student, who asked only to be identified as M, says that he does not pay for parking because it is too expensive.

“I park for free,” he says, noting that he only rarely gets ticketed. He adds that parking in the new garages is much too expensive for him to consider.

“$13 is a lot,” M concludes. “If it was five dollars a day, I think they’d get more people.”

Wednesday, March 10, 2004

Pants off to YFS

Written by Aliza Libman - Assistant News Editor
Excalibur - Wednesday, 10 March 2004

The ongoing battle between the York Federation of Students (YFS) and its constituency committee (CC) ended last night as the members of CC stormed out of the annual general meeting of YFS, with one walking out with his pants down around his ankles.

“This will be our last attempt to deal with the YFS,” says Wayland Gill, Winters College Council (WCC) president. Gill sits on the CC with all the presidents of college and faculty councils. He says that the majority of them agree with him and will be attempting to “derecognize” the YFS.

“The YFS does not represent the students that we represent,” adds Gill.Gill was disappointed by the amending of the YFS by-laws, new appointments made to council as well as the speaker’s decision to disregard the CC’s February 25 veto of the controversial by-law amendment.

YFS had altered the by-laws a number of times over the course of the past year, most controversially when they changed from a fixed election date in March to a floating date within 12 months of the ratification of a council.

Though the CC vetoed that motion two weeks ago, saying that the YFS had “ignored the will of their membership”, acting-speaker Kiley Thompson ruled that the veto could not be used because it does not fit the conditions required for its use.

“The CC veto is invalid in this motion … It is fully outside the realm of the constituency committee,” Thompson decided.

Despite opposition from several council members, the agenda called for the passing of the by-law amendments as a whole, rather than by individual amendment.

As the by-law amendments were all adopted, Gill and other CC members in attendance became upset for the second time in the meeting. Earlier in the meeting, Gill had tried to nominate former frosh bosses and Winters students Shaun Waterman and J.J. Stocker to the vacant council positions for Winters representatives.

However, a secret ballot conducted by the YFS elected second year chemistry student Iris Reyhan, who lost the Keele councillor election in November, and first year student Daniel Cooper as Winters YFS councillors. YFS president Paul Cooper (of no relation to Daniel) nominated them both.

Other positions filled were for Atkinson College and Glendon College. The Atkinson Students Association appointed their own councillors, as per a contractual agreement between Atkinson and the YFS.

Aurangzeb Mubshar and Boris Augilero were ratified as Atkinson representatives, though they were not present at the meeting.

Some council members objected to the appointment, noting that the Atkinson representatives were not duly elected.

“Why didn’t they run in the past election?” asked vice-president academic and university affairs Stefan Santamaria. Two councillors who had been acclaimed in November’s elections, who were on Santamaria’s slate, were never ratified, due to the agreement between the YFS and Atkinson.

Two more seats were filled for the Glendon representatives, as standing councillors Ron Fiedtkou and Hossein Samiian, who were elected in March 2002, had been removed from their positions on January 28 because of claims by the YFS that they missed too many meetings.

Founders College Council president Curtis Phills nominated Fiedtkou and Samiian to resume these positions, while president Cooper nominated Christopher Mahon, a second year political science and economics student who serves as a student senator, and Joseph Lavoie, a first year political science student who had directed the Glendon Extreme Sports club.

In the scrutinizing period, Mahon and Lavoie were asked if they were bilingual and were asked to answer questions in French. Lavoie, who is bilingual, did so, while Mahon told the council in French that he was working to improve his French at Glendon but is not bilingual.

Fiedtkou and Samiian were not present at the meeting and could not respond to the questions asked, but council was told that Samiian is bilingual.

A secret ballot elected Mahon and Lavoie to council.

To the members of the CC, the events of the meeting were the last straw.

“It’s important for us to interact with responsible student governments. We’re interested in working with anyone else – we’re just not interested in working with the YFS,” says Phills.

Phills expects that Founders College Council will follow the WCC’s example and pass a motion directing council not to affiliate with the YFS. Other councils plan to do so as well, he says.

“It’s been discussed among the members of the CC, informally,” says Telle Vilkama, president of Calumet College Council.

Gill notes that his council will not be permitting YFS to participate in their orientation in September.

“It’s a farce, they’re useless,” he says. Gill left the meeting in boxer shorts, with his pants around his ankles to show disdain for the council.

YFS is not concerned by the actions of the CC, though.

President Cooper chalks the outburst up to differences of opinion, noting that CC members have to expect to disagree with some actions of council.

“We’re disappointed that their disagreement with us has led them to take such unilateral and undemocratic action,” says Cooper, calling their actions “irresponsible”.

Cooper adds that they are still planning to work for all students, and with any council who wishes to collaborate.