Can Toronto's New Planning Head Succeed Where Others Have Failed?
Jennifer Keesmaat, a partner at design firm Dialog, a frequent public commentator on urban issues, and a columnist for CBC Radio was named this week as Toronto's new chief planner, reports Elizabeth Church.
"The search for a new chief planner for Toronto officially started in November and gained widespread attention as speculation mounted that the vacancy was going unfilled because of the reputation of Mayor Rob Ford and the high-profile firing of TTC boss Gary Webster," writes Church.
In an interview with the National Post, Keesmaat, who has publicly rebuffed the Ford administration, addressed whether the Mayor's reputation and recent actions had any impact on her decision. "I won't lie, it gave me pause," said Keesmaat, "But in the end, it was something that was quite easily overcome simply because of my love of the city and the magnitude of the opportunity. There is so much good stuff to build on, it's extremely exciting."
On the biggest challenge facing the city from a planning perspective, Keesmaat had this to say:
"There are a few Top of mind for most people is that we think very carefully and have some honest conversations about transit planning and where we are putting density to link up transit planning with land use planning, so we can get out of the traffic chaos we are in. We are doing a pretty good job with our downtown. Our public realm needs quite a bit of work. We need to focus on our waterfront, we need to focus on our priority neighbourhoods, transportation planning and transit planning, and thinking about some of the forgotten parts of the city, like the inner suburbs."