My letter to Toronto City Council, who will be considering the fate of the Sam the Record Man sign at their October 8th/9th meeting:
To Mayor Rob Ford and all Toronto City Councillors,
On September 10, 2013, I made a deputation to Toronto and East York Community Council regarding Ryerson University's request to be released from their agreement to restore and re-install the Sam the Record Man Sign, and in its place to implement a Commemoration Plan, consisting of a website, a plaque, and an inset in the sidewalk on Yonge Street.
The main thrust of my argument at the time was that we — the City of Toronto and its residents — had a deal. That, in fact, we HAVE a deal. Ryerson made a promise to the City that they were now trying to back out of, due to cost, environmental, and esthetic concerns. The cost concerns were predictable. The environmental concerns were, at best, greatly overstated and, at worst, extremely suspect. And the esthetic concerns were wholly irrelevant.
Protection of heritage assets is important, and it's important enough that allowing Ryerson to duck out of its commitment to restore and re-install the sign would be setting a very dangerous precedent. Why should any developer who makes a commitment, however reluctantly, to the people of Toronto ever again live up to that commitment?
Now, City Council is being asked to approve a different motion as recommended by Toronto and East York Community Council. The result of this motion would not be materially different from the original proposal - Ryerson would still be let out of their agreement to restore and re-install the sign on either the Ryerson Student Learning Centre building currently under construction or the existing Ryerson library building, and they would still implement their Commemoration Plan. In place of the existing agreement, the City would give Ryerson even more time to find an "alternative" spot for the sign, and would simply require a report back to Community Council within a year regarding this effort. The City would also amend the existing agreement, enter into a new agreement, or just release the existing agreements from title to effect this change.
This is an attempt by the City to fix a problem that isn't the City's to fix. By approving a motion that would direct Ryerson to find an "alternative" site, the City would be closing the door on the sign ever returning to its rightful home at Yonge and Gould. Even now, Ryerson has still failed to provide a single compelling, legitimate reason why the sign cannot be re-installed at Yonge and Gould as promised. This isn't surprising, because no such reason exists.
I urge Council to reject this attempt to rewrite history. I urge Council to reinforce that agreements to protect our heritage assets are in fact worth more than the paper on which they're printed. In the strongest possible terms, I urge all Councillors to vote "No" to amending Ryerson's deal with the City on the iconic Sam the Record Man sign.