Ward 1 Town Hall, Feb 16/23
Councilors Brenner and Robinson held their second town hall meeting recently, the success of which might be considered a split decision. View the town hall meeting video at the end of this post.

311 Phone system
C. Chakravarthy, IT director for the regional department of the 311 Phone system, was the guest presenter for the first part of the town hall.


“Casey” Chakravarthy

The 311 Phone system is tomorrow’s telephone today. It is a system, launched in February, with the intention of becoming a reporting and inquiry centre for residents of Durham. Residents can report issues to the region or ask about services the region provides from garbage collection to health and social services information. The service available weekdays from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm is in its initial phase of development based on software development by the Microsoft Corporation.

The second phase of the system scheduled to launch in 2024-2025 will have improvements and modifications based on user data gathered during the launch period.

Confidentiality and privacy guarantees
As ‘Casey’ Chakravarthy clearly underlined, the phone system is very cognizant of user privacy and confidentiality emphasizing that legal monitoring, restrictions and privacy gateways are in place to constantly improve and safeguard the personal data of individual users of the system. Casey assured the town hall attendees that data would never be sold or released to third parties and reinforced the idea that protection procedures were ongoing and constantly reinforcing privacy protection.

Councilor Brenner confirmed that the operating expense of the 311 system currently is the responsibility of the Durham region and impacts its tax-paying residents. He added that the 311 system uses existing resources (Regional Employees) that have always been part of the Regional Operating Budget. It brought together all the Customer Care silos and amended them into 311.  The only additional costs in the Budget are the software systems that are required on both online and phone systems. These are the new costs noted in the Regional Budgets which Durham hopes to recover via various Government Grants to improve efficiencies. However, he sees provincial and federal assistance as a likely possibility in the future as the system grows, develops and is improved.

For now, the 311 phone information service is restricted to Durham residents only, putting them on the leading edge of yet another technological innovation that looks like it has much value and many benefits to the users of the region.


Durham Region Rapid Transit System

The second part of the town hall was a presentation by David Dunn and Lorraine Pennock of the Durham Region Rapid Transit System Planning department.

DRTS Planning Executives David & Lorraine

The presenters explained that the goal of the DRTS plan was to provide a more efficient system of moving people around the Durham region safely and securely with its first planning phase concentrating on the southern, east-west corridor of traffic movement. The plan encompasses more than just traffic movement, vehicles, cycles, and public buses but even considers things like heating floors in wait shelters in winter and ways to attract great use of public transit in the system.

The presentation began as an explanation and description of what was being planned but it devolved into a vociferous expression of opinion and commentary as the audience members voiced their displeasure with a number of aspects relating of it: that it felt like it was “etched in stone,” a done deal, that there was a misconception of Metrolinx’ role in it and that it seemed to be being pushed on to the locals without enough input from them. The audience seemed to express being upset at what was felt was inadequate input from the local residents because too little public notification had been published in regard to planning meetings with local residents. 

The audience members expressed fears and anxiety over finance, cost over-runs, and inadequate consideration of north-south traffic movement to which Councilor Brenner replied that though this phase of the plan was complete, wishes and further suggestions and considerations mobilized and expressed to the department would not be disregarded in the future. Presenter Lorraine emphasized that these kinds of plans always took years to develop and more changes and modifications were inevitable and likely.

This part of the town hall seemed to end without a clear conclusion but rather a loudly expressed dissatisfaction with the current DRST plan.


Councilors Brenner and Robinson deserve many commendations for the town hall they presented. They were responding to issues, concerns and comments made in their first town hall, January 16/23 and this meeting was informative and well presented though the second half of the town hall did shift from presentation to debate and discussion reinforcing the claim as many attendees made that the planning department needs to consider improving its system of publishing and informing local residents about such meetings where resident input is considered vital and important.

The success of this town hall is a split decision but its value is unquestionable.

The next town hall will be on March 16, 7 pm at the Abbeylawn Retirement Home, 534 Rodd Ave., Pickering.

A video of the town hall is displayed below. [ Produced by Joe Pacione ]


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