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‘Teamwork’ the new byword as council returns

Traffic, waste and city’s image among top issues facing councillors this fall

Ward 5 councillor Alan Shefman says he is hoping the upcoming council session will usher in a new sense of teamwork among his colleagues, and it sounds like he may get his wish.

Like the thousands of Vaughan children heading back to school on Tuesday, the mayor and eight councillors are busy getting ready for the new year. Council reconvenes on Sept. 4.

“I think it’s very important that we work as a team and act as a team to address the priorities that exist for the city,” Shefman said in a phone interview this week. “That’s number one for me.”

Though they’ve been away from council chambers for two months, several councillors sounded like they’d been reading from the same textbook, as they identified their main priorities for the coming weeks. Most echoed one another even as they reminisced about their time away.

“We’ve had a good break,” said Regional Councillor Mario Ferri. “We’ve had great weather, had a chance to get reacquainted with my family, had some vacation.

“(And I’m) absolutely raring to go.”

For Ward 4 councillor Sandra Yeung Racco the break wasn’t all play, leaving her clinging to summer for just a little longer.

“You had to remind me about council, eh?” she responded, laughing, when reached by phone.

She says she didn’t have much of a break, what with her MPP husband, Mario Racco, up for re-election in October. She has been running his campaign while fulfilling her obligations as councillor.

“Even though it’s summer recess, it doesn’t mean our residents stop calling,” she said. “As a matter of fact, they call more.”

Many of the calls she answered were complaints about traffic and transportation, two issues that also ranked high with other returning councillors. Waste management, zoning and development and reforming the city’s image also came up more than once.

“I simply want to take responsibility as a leader in the city to help change the image of the city,” Shefman said, adding he’ll be working on transparency and accountability issues in council. “(Vaughan) is a phenomenally dynamic, rapidly growing urban municipality that does many things very well.

“We’ve got to get that image across to people.”

Ferri agreed, saying he wants Vaughan residents to have “a sense of pride”.

“I want people to say, ‘I live in the city of Vaughan and that means something’,” he said.

Other priorities the councillors said they’ll be pursuing were public safety, parks and other environmental initiatives, seniors’ issues and a looming showdown with the nation’s letter carrier.

“Councillor Shefman and I are going after Canada Post and their lousy record on super mailboxes,” said Tony Carella, councillor for Ward 2. “They have an incredible amount of bulk mail that comes through these super mailboxes.

“It tends to become a problem of litter and Canada Post doesn’t seem to take any interest in addressing this.”

Councillors will be teaming up to tackle electoral reform in the fall, hoping to shake the city’s voters out of their historic apathy.

“I’m going to be working on electoral reform,” Ferri said. “Councillor (Tony) Carella is working on a panel that will deal with the adult population and I will be working with the youth.”

But the new session of council won’t be all roses and spontaneous outbursts of “kumbaya” in chambers, particularly on the issue of development.

“(Council should) continue to promote low-density housing because that is what has made Vaughan successful,” Ward 1 councillor Peter Meffe said.

Shefman disagreed, setting up what could be a lively debate this fall.

“One of my major targets is that we change the paradigm around how you do suburban development,” he said. “It’s insane that we’re building these subdivisions with two- and three-car garages, feeding the frenzy to get on the roads.

“And then people complain bitterly when they get on the roads.”

Drafting a new budget also looms large on the new council’s agenda.

“It will be a very challenging budget,” said Bernie DiVona, councillor for Ward 3. “We have an added burden with the firefighters contract and other collective agreements that are going to put a significant strain on out financial resources.

“Costs are going up and our city is aging.”

Mayor Linda Jackson and regional councillors Joyce Frustaglio and Gino Rosati could not be reached for comment.

Vaughan Today 
Friday, August 31, 2007 
Page: 6
Byline: Philip Alves