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posted October 03, 2007
1. Background to 2006 rink closure proposal
Content: Please let us examine all city staff correspondence, meeting notes, and other documentation relating to Item 4 of the 2006 Operating Budget Service Level Adjustments (copy attached), including all documentation of how the expenditure reductions in that item were calculated.
[Note: Item 4 is a proposal to Budget Committee in 2006 to close all outdoor artificial ice rinks except Nathan Phillips Square and Mel Lastman Rink, saving operating costs of $569,400 for December 2006 and $1,117,500 for January-February 2007]
Decision of Access to Information office, signed by City Clerk Ulli Watkiss:
"After careful consideration, I am of the view that the records you have requested are raising matters involved with policy development at the City. The City is in the process of taking steps to examine policy issues that are related to the subject of your request. However, policy development and approval must follow specific processes through the appropriate committees and City Council, and policy direction cannot be resolved through the Freedom of Information process." The letter goes on to advise talking to Ann Ulusoy, Director of Management Services, or Brenda Librecz, General Manager of Parks, Forestry and Recreation, and adds that the five-dollar fee for freedom of information is being refunded.
"I'm puzzled by your decision to simply refund the CELOS cheque without giving the legal reason for this. The grounds need to be clear for us to consider appeal. This was a budget recommendation that was developed 2 years ago, so it is not current unless it's once again being considered (since it was not approved for 2006). I assume from your letter that this measure is indeed once again being considered, and that during its consideration no public discussion is invited.
That's exactly why it's important to find out what the staff's reasoning was the last time.
In the larger context, it doesn't seem viable that citizens can't find out the nuts and bolts of a municipal matter that was once, and might again be, the subject of a staff policy discussion. If that's the position of Toronto's Access to Information Office, then it's very important to ask the provincial Information and Privacy Commissioner for her interpretation.
I appreciate your invitation for us to consult Ms.Ulusoy and Ms.Librecz about this issue. However, something will have to change before that suggestion will address our specific information concerns.
Please let us know which part of the Act caused you to reject this request."
"The Director, Management Services, Parks, Forestry and Recreation Division (PFR), states that an extensive search will have to be initiated to determine whether there are records responsive to your request. PFR has advised this office that it is expected to take 52 hours (i.e., 1 1/2 weeks) to search....Cost of searching for all responsive records: 52 hours at $30 per hour: $1560.00...Your written acceptance of the fee estimated together with a deposit of $780.00 is requested prior to proceeding with this request."
"...this response seems to share a common thread with other recent responses we’ve had from Corporate Access. Most of the responses seem rather token. Perhaps we are seen as not serious in our inquiries, somehow just wanting to put city staff to a lot of extra work.
However, we are serious, and the stakes are high enough – in terms of what citizens stand to lose – that we need to persist in our efforts. Simply being told by PFR that “there’s no money” to fix what’s broken, or to fully use the public facilities we collectively own, is not an answer we can accept. We need the details, so that we can make arguments at least externally, even if we can’t find the doorway into more direct collaboration.
For that reason I have revised my information request on 2006 Operating Budget Item Four, “close all artificial ice rinks.” The limited information I request does not need 52 hours of hunting by staff. If the specific files I am asking for don’t exist in any readily accessible place, then please let us know that for certain. Hopefully PFR management would then act quickly to ensure that such basic information is retained and accessible from this moment on.
If the information does exist but you decide that it is not available to us, on the grounds that a policy proposal from 2005 (relating to the 2006 budget) properly remains beyond the reach of information requests two years later, then please cite the exemption in the Act. We will then try to get a judgment from the province on whether they agree."
Request for information re: Item Four, 2006 Operating Budget Adjustments (copy attached). Please let me see:
1. Any staff report prepared about this item in preparation for putting it forward at budget committee or elsewhere
2. The record showing how the cost-savings figures connected with this item were calculated: $569,400 for December 2006 and $1,117,500 for January-February 2007
3. Any folder, paper or electronic, containing material relating to staff preparation of this item. (Note: This question is asking the staff responsible for the item’s original presentation, to look in their file cabinet under something like “2006 operating budget – rink closures,” not to hunt around for a week and a half.)