My deputation to TEYCC - September 10, 2013 (part 2)

After I spent the day filling up your timeline with all my tweets/posts about the Sam the Record Man sign debate at Community Council today, I figured it's only fair that you see what the fuss was about. 

Speaking in opposition to TE26.34 (Proposed Amendments to Agreements between Ryerson University and the City of Toronto - Sam the Record Man Signage)

Thank you, Madame Chair, and good afternoon. My name is Sean Boulton, and you all may remember me from items such as TE26.18 earlier this afternoon. 

I moved to Toronto in 1987 to attend what was then known as Ryerson Polytechnical Institute. On the first day of classes, I remember riding in from Parkdale on the 506 and walking down Yonge Street, passing by those iconic spinning discs of the Sam the Record Man sign, and rounding the corner onto Gould. And when I reached campus and walked around for the first time, I saw Lake Devo, and Kerr Hall, and Jorgenson Hall. Unfortunately, today, it's all about Monty Hall. Let's make a deal.

I'm surprised this discussion is happening. And yet, somehow, I'm not surprised at all. Anyone paying even a little bit of attention could have and should have seen that this is exactly how it would turn out. Let's make a deal? No, thanks — we already had one.

The staff report notes that Ryerson, and their signage expert and their architect, have raised a series of "concerns"; problems that make it less than ideal for them to meet their commitment to restore and re-install the sign. For example, the sign apparently conflicts with the design of the new Student Learning Centre. That's unfortunate, but the time to address that problem was while  the Student Learning Centre was being designed. We had a deal.

The sign will be costly to operate and maintain? That's unfortunate, but the time to address that problem is during Ryerson's annual budgeting process, or as part of its ongoing fundraising campaign. We had… a deal.

The sign would damage the façade of the library building? That's unfortunate, but the time to address that  problem was before agreeing as part of the Easement Agreement — a legal contract, by the way — that it would be the secondary site on which to install the sign. We… had… a … deal.

I could go on, but there's a pattern developing here. Many of those problems could have been foreseen. And the ones that couldn't have been foreseen could have been planned for once they were uncovered. And, oh yeah — WE HAD A DEAL. 

Look, this is a pretty straightforward situation. The city lived up to their commitment and now Ryerson's trying to beg off theirs, after they've torn down the building and are well on their way to having the replacement built. If a contract involves offer, acceptance, and consideration, Ryerson has received their consideration, but they're being very inconsiderate in return.

You know, I saw someone make a joke on Twitter the other day. I don't remember who or the exact words, but it was along the lines of "Ryerson doesn't want to put the sign back up? That's fine, but it'd be a shame if something were to happen to those nice planters blocking off Gould.". [Note - I found that tweet right hereImplicit threat aside, there's truth there. The city has partnered with Ryerson in helping it create and grow a community downtown. And, Ryerson has a responsibility to give back to the community in return.

Now, I'm not a heritage expert, and I respect that staff is trying to be pragmatic and find a solution to this problem. But I'm not bound by pragmatism. As a taxpayer, I'm disappointed that the city would even consider not forcing Ryerson to do the right thing. And as an alumnus of Ryerson, I'm disgusted that they'd NEED to be forced. It's unconscionable.

I'm sure the commemorative insert that's been proposed for the sidewalk might be lovely. And if this were the beginning of the process back in 2007 or 2008, it might even have been worth considering. But it's not the beginning. It's hardly even the middle anymore. And if Council ever again wants someone who makes a commitment — however reluctantly — to the people of this city to live up to that commitment, this is a precedent you can't afford to set. And you especially can't afford to set that precedent with regard to heritage protection. It's too important. 

We had a deal. No, strike that — we HAVE a deal, and we need you to enforce it. I'm not interested in trading it for what's behind door number three, and I really hope that you're not either.