Better Parks and Public Spaces
Toronto mayoral candidate Olivia Chow spoke just outside a park in East York on Wednesday touting a campaign promise to “cut red tape” for grassroots organizations looking to hold events on city property. During 30 Minutes event she proposed a solution to speed up and simplify the process to book city parks for public events.
“People shouldn’t have to navigate a complicated maze to get the right permits to use parks we all own,” said Olivia. “Our summers are short enough so as your new mayor, I’ll make it quicker and easier for families and neighbourhoods to enjoy our parks.”
Olivia Chow plan contains:
- Put permits for common activities online to make things quicker and simpler. Currently, people who want to have a birthday party, picnic, take wedding photographs or book a tee time at a city golf course have to fill out paper forms. It’s 2014, and people should be able to get permits online, as well as buy tickets for island ferries. Olivia would also enhance online information, with interactive maps.
- Cut red tape for larger events such as parades, festivals, markets and arts events, which make our city more liveable and generate significant tourism activity. Currently, if an event uses a park, sidewalk or street, the organizers have to deal with two sets of staff, fill out two forms and pay two fees. This makes no sense, and Olivia would simplify it.
- Make it easier for friends-of-parks groups to improve parks. In recent years, “friends of” parks groups, which augment work done by staff, have become more popular. They allow people who live near a park to improve it and hold community events there. Olivia will make it easier for these groups to make our parks more lively and beautiful, and help them use parks for more uses including farmers’ markets, food events and pumpkin parades around Hallowe’en. She would also waive fees and cover insurance costs for their fundraising events held in parks because citizens shouldn’t be out-of-pocket when they are making communities stronger.
- Help citizens let the city know if there’s a problem in a park by posting the name and contact information of the staff person responsible. It should be easier for people to let the city know about vandalism, unusual amount of litter or drug-related activities in parks.
- Establish the mayor’s public art foundation to beautify our city. Other cities, such as New Zealand’s capital, Wellington, have public art foundations. They raise funds from companies and citizens to commission public art that is donated to the city. (Wellington’s was formed in 1982 and has commissioned 30 pieces, which can be seen at sculpture.org.nz) Olivia would introduce one to our city to make public spaces more welcoming, using the talents of our vibrant arts community.
“We like to think of ourselves as a city within a park, but too often forget that there are people within the city,” said Olivia. “We have parks so people can enjoy them and I’ll make it easier to do just that. I’ll also help organizers of larger events inject culture and vibrancy to neighbourhoods across the city.”
The cost of Olivia’s proposals is negligible. Waiving fees and paying insurance for groups holding park fundraisers is about $30,000 a year.