The 2010 councillor expenses are out. The full list is available here, and if you like reading about the price of toner cartridge and office rent, you won't be disappointed. Herewith, a few tidbits I didn't see elsewhere this morning.
OMG: Ford filed expenses
Rob Ford continued his zero-expense streak as a councillor in 2010, but he broke down and filed expenses in his first month as mayor -- $918.99 worth, to be exact. The bills, for a rental printer, postage and staff blackberries, could have been a lot higher. Scrawled on one Telus invoice dated Dec. 31/2010 are the words: "No! What's this," with an arrow pointing to a total of $3,574.57. Next to that is another hand-written note: "Just $1440.81. Feb. 4/11." Despite the Dec. 31 date, half the bill seems to be for January, and the total filed for telecom services on the mayor's file is $749.08. The mayor's press secretary did not immediately return a call seeking clarification.
Update: The mayor's office has now responded and says much of the invoice is actually for David Miller's staff blackberries in November 2010. Adrienne Batra, the mayor's press secretary, confirmed Mr. Ford's office only approved $749.08 of the bill for their own staff for the month of December. Ms. Batra also presented invoices indicating Mr. Miller's staff's devices haven't been cancelled, though most haven't been used for outgoing calls. "I think it's the responsibility of council services," to cancel or transfer ownership of the city-owned devices, she added. Ms. Batra said the handwriting on the invoice isn't Mr. Ford's.
The gravy train of donations kept running Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday is a leading a review of the councillor expense policy and one category that's sure to come up is the taxpayer-funded donations councillors can make in their names. The clerk tried to halt this practice a few years ago on the grounds it burnished councillors' personal profiles at taxpayer expense. Council overruled her.
Plenty of councillors continued using their office budgets to merrily donate away in 2010, an election year. Residents groups, churches, minor sports teams and charities were among the recipients.
Glenn De Baeremaker, for example, donated $200 to ACORN Toronto for a tree-planting event at Cedarbrook Park; $200 to the Scarborough Senior Games; and $150 to his local Scarborough Blizzard soccer team. Paul Ainslie donated two bikes and helmets worth $254.20 to a bike rodeo at a Canadian Tire and $500 to the Cedar Ridge Community and Business Association.
Giorgio Mammoliti donated $500 each to the Knights of Columbus, Westbridge Council, Jamaican Canadian Association, St. Jude Catholic School, North Islington Seniors, and the Benrubin Community Assocation.
To see more, just click on the "other expenses" line in your own councillors' file to see if he or she sponsored a sports team or cut cheques to your neighbours.
Constituency offices under threat? Lost in all the back-patting about council voting to cut the expense budgets to $30,000 in 2011 (down from just over $50,000) is how the lower limit might hurt some councillors' ability to serve their constituents. Politicians representing far-flung wards use their office budgets to pay for rent, telephone and computer services at constituency offices, some of which are a really long trek from city hall.
Take Ron Moeser of Ward 44 Scarborough East. Council's biggest spender in 2010, Mr. Moeser represents the ward that borders Pickering. He spent $20,449.70 on his constituency office rent and expenses alone last year.
Most suburban councillors manage to keep their constituency office expenses at a minimum by renting cheap space at one of the civic centres, including Mr. Ainslie ( $5,139.31); Chin Lee ( $2,004); Raymond Cho ( $1,440); Mike Del Grande ( $2,004); Denzil Minnan-Wong ( $4,800) and Shelley Carroll ($4,800), among others.
But the civic centres aren't in convenient spots for all residents. That leaves some councillors renting at private-market rates, including Mr. Moeser, Joe Mihevc ( $9,144.48); former councillor Bill Saundercook ( $15,035.31) and Giorgio Mammoliti ( $13,496.74.)
What will happen to those constituency offices in 2011 is anyone's guess.