Mayor John Tory, left, spent half a day with Councillor Jim Hart in Ward 44 on July 28. Hart showed the mayor two stormwater management ponds in the Centennial Creek watershed, Willowlea Wetlands and Meadowvale Wetlands, that have become overgrown with invasive phragmites.

By Kathryn Stocks

On June 28, Toronto City Council listened to the speeches of more than 30 people who applied for the Ward 44 councillor’s position and chose Jim Hart to represent us. It was a good choice because Jim not only knows a lot about the city from the 31 years he spent working for it, he also knows a lot about this ward from his year working in the late Ron Moeser’s office.

Jim grew up in Toronto’s Riverdale area, but has lived in Scarborough for more than 30 years, first near Thomson Park, then in Highland Creek from 1997-2013 and now on Lawson Rd.

Our new councillor has been married to his wife Joan for 30 years. They met in 1983 when both worked at Metro Housing. Joan still works at Toronto Community Housing but Jim moved on to several other departments during his career, including Metro Clerks, the city manager’s office, Municipal Licensing Standards, and Parks, Forestry and Recreation. He retired on Jan. 31, 2014, and played golf for a few years.

Jim had known Ron Moeser for about 20 years, so when he heard that Ron was ill, Jim offered to volunteer in the office for one day a week. But Ron asked him if he could work for three days a week and Jim said sure. That was in June 2016.

“It was inspiring to watch Ron when he was really ill come in here and still deal with resident issues because he had such a passion for the residents of Ward 44,” Jim said. “He would do anything to help them even though he was struggling.”

It’s important to Jim to carry on Ron’s legacy for keeping this ward green and beautiful. “It’s a gorgeous place to live.”

One of the main issues coming his way is rooming houses in Highland Creek. This issue is near and dear to his heart because that’s why he moved away from his last house. He lived on a lovely cul-de-sac near UTSC, but when two houses were sold and became student housing, the condition of the outsides of the homes deteriorated. He didn’t want to be the last person to leave the street as it was changing.

He says one of the main issues with student rooming houses is neglect, which isn’t a bylaw violation but it is a change in community standard. “I think if a bylaw was to be enacted to allow for rooming houses in the long term in Scarborough, which I wouldn’t support, but if it was, there has to be a provision for community standard so the look and feel of a neighbourhood doesn’t change.“

Community consultations have been done and the next step will be whether or not to do a pilot project. Having worked for the city for so long, Jim understands where staff are coming from. “You’ve got a zoning issue where rooming houses are allowed in parts of the city and in other parts they aren’t. We really do have to have one set of rules for a single city, but you also have to have a set of rules that work.”

Another big issue is the Scarborough Waterfront Trail. The environmental assessment is going through the process now and is looking for public feedback this month. Jim said it’s important to connect the waterfront from one end of Scarborough to the other because the enjoyment of walking or biking beside the water is like being out of the city.

During his first weeks, Jim took Mayor John Tory on a tour of the ward on July 28 and had Ron Moeser’s name removed from the sign on the mural. While he’s waiting for the box to be taken down and the wall to be painted underneath it, he is urging KFC to do the same with their sign.

One of the things Jim is looking forward to is dealing with residents’ issues, whether it’s problems on their property, on their street or in a local park. “I love those things because they’re generally fairly easy to deal with and you get immediate results.”  So give our new councillor a call. He’s looking forward to hearing from  you.