It’s Not Just Ferguson

November 25, 2014

The world is a terrible place.

At least if you’re born on the on the wrong side of the divide of race, ethnic, gender, socio-economic, geography.

Another unarmed black man’s death at the hands of a police officer will not only go unpunished but largely unquestioned.

We as a society, as a white society, as a society structured on the building blocks of whiteness, have grown comfortable, if not comfortable then complacent with the justification of non-white deaths committed with our knowing complicity.  The non-whiteness was threatening. The non-white religion preaches jihad. Their non-whiteness was sitting on top of the natural resources our whiteness required.

First, white peace, security and prosperity. Then we can talk about justice and equality.

It’s as if we drained Randy Newman’s 1972 song, Political Science, of all its satire and adopted it as a viable playbook.

No one likes us – I don’t know why
We may not be perfect, but heaven knows we try
But all around, even our old friends put us down
Let’s drop the big one and see what happens

We give them money – but are they grateful?
No, they’re spiteful and they’re hateful
They don’t respect us – so let’s surprise them
We’ll drop the big one and pulverize them

My historical awareness (and by that I mean, what I first remember seeing on TV) began watching American cities burn, watching black areas of American cities burn. Specifics escape me. I was probably too young to recall the 1965 Watts riots. But Cleveland, Newark a year or so later? Detroit, definitely. It was much closer to home although it might as well been a world away.

1968 happened. Riots, assassinations. To a 7 year old, even a protected, privileged, white kid a couple hours and an international border away from any sort of civil unrest, it felt like – and I’m sure this mostly consists of personal historical revisionism, written with the assistance more than 4 decades of hindsight – things were coming unglued. Order, such as I knew it, was breaking down.

Then, it didn’t.

I’m not a historian, and of course it didn’t all end as abruptly and cleanly as that, but a certain calm re-asserted itself. “… the wave finally broke and rolled back,” Hunter S. Thompson wrote 4 years later in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Revolution was averted. With a few minor tweaks here and there, it was back to business as usual.

As you were, gentlemen.

Nearly 25 years later, I was living in Los Angeles when the Rodney King riots broke out. This time I was much closer to the epicenter, able to stand on the roof of our apartment and watch the fires burn throughout South Central with my naked eye. Still, I stood well behind the protected line of privilege that would’ve been pretty much unassailable if those who’d taken to the streets had even contemplated moving much in our direction.

One or two days in, with a night time curfew still in place, I remember an awkward exchange (coming entirely from my direction) with an African-American woman while in line at our local Ralph’s supermarket. Smiles, some small talk about something that had nothing to do with what had been going on outside in the streets not far away. All I wanted to say to her was that I was sorry. Sorry, sorry, sorry.

Shit got burned. Hands were wrung. But nearly another 25 years on, as evidenced by last night’s grand jury decision in Ferguson, Missouri, nothing much has changed.

In fact, I’d offer our resolve to advocate for change has atrophied in the intervening years. We demand only peaceful protests while allowing our local police forces to militarise. We view systemic inequities as a product of personal failings rather than a societal problem that needs to be solved. We point to prominent non-white (and non-male) people and wonder what everyone else is complaining about.

It’s at times like these when I wonder why there aren’t more bombs, more burnings, more violent acts of retribution directed at those of us who continue to benefit from and propagate such a loaded status quo. When the Ebola crisis was breaking wide open in western Africa, we here in Canada busied ourselves preparing for the ISIS threat looking our way from northern Iraq and Syria. Who do we get to bomb and how often?

Our security and peace of mind is paramount. Any perceived threat to that will be dealt with swiftly and impulsively. If Ebola wants our attention, it’s going to have to make a menace video.

In these parts, we, we white we, have had a remarkable run of peace without extending much sense of justice. We’ve shown a growing preference for authoritarianism over egalitarianism. We value diversity as far as it doesn’t challenge our long established hierarchy of power. We crave even the most oppressive kind of order rather than accept the transformative possibilities of disorder.

The rules on which this system of ours has been established are inviolable. Play by them or else. If you can’t be white (and, preferably, male) understand that there’s always a complaints department where you can express your displeasure if you do so in a personable and polite manner. All concerns will be indulged if not actually addressed. Change will come when it’s convenient for us to accommodate it.

Such convenience, as we’ve seen, is a rare commodity these days.

submitted by Cityslikr


Book Club I

November 21, 2014

(Today I introduce a new semi-regular element to the site. Book Club where I review city/urban-centric books from the pile that have been gathering dust here around me, victims of very good intentions but little carry through. I have some trepidation, to be sure, of revealing my towering ignorance of urban issues through this series. But hey, that’s never stopped me before. Besides, these books aren’t going to read themselves, and if they did? They could bloody well review themselves.)

bookclub

*  *  *

It was pure coincidence that I decided to take Triumph of the City with me on my recent trip as well as the September 2013 issue of Harper’s. Yes, my magazine subscription backlog is as impressive as my waiting to be read book pile. Essentially, I’m admitting my eyes are bigger than my brain or self-discipline. harpers0913I wonder if there’s a book to help me with that…

“Saving Your Children from a Harvard Education” (subscription required) was the title of that month’s Anti-Economist column by Jeff Madrick where he outlined a series of crimes against economic theory committed by Harvard professors over the past 3 decades or so. The last example he cited in his piece was the debt-to-GDP debacle foisted on the world by two Harvard academics, Kenneth Rogoff and Carmen Reinhart, which gave cover to governments worldwide to go on an austerity frenzy. Turns out the paper was full of “data omissions, questionable methods of weighting, and elementary coding errors”. An ‘academic kerfuffle’, the authors shrugged although the world still awaits the positive outcome of the austerity measures they helped justify.triumphofthecity

Turns out Triumph of the City’s author, Edward Glaeser is a Harvard appointed professor as well and, I have to say, he doesn’t exactly burnish the school’s cred any with his book.

It’s not that Glaeser is some anti-urban, pro-sprawl, pro-car type like, say, Wendell Cox although he does share the sentiment that housing prices are influenced mainly by onerous land use and development regulations. Get rid of planning rules, let developers build anywhere there’s demand and more people will be able to afford home ownership. Like Cox, Glaeser cites Houston as somewhere that’s doing it right. Build it and they will come. When they come, keep building more. Supply meet demand. Demand? Supply.

Sure, even Glaeser admits, Houston has a huge carbon footprint, in its insatiable need for electricity to keep all those ranch style houses cool in the summer, and the gasoline consumption for all the driving necessary. singaporeBut what are you going to do? It’s the free market at work, am I right?

Glaeser’s analysis of cities seems only partial, using the bits that fit and ignoring those that which doesn’t. While reading the book, I kept thinking it felt a bit Freakonmics-ish, funny coincidences that in no way denoted causality. Unsurprisingly, when checking his endnotes I discovered regular citing of Steven D. Levitt, a co-author of the Freakonmics books.

Singapore and Hong Kong seem to be the model for Glaeser’s ideal city of the future. Density created almost exclusively through tower living. Its simplicity runs at odds to the complexity of most current cities. While there is nothing inherently wrong with skyscrapers, is that all there really is? What about encouraging more midrise growth in places that seems more appropriate? houstonCouldn’t we help fight the negative externalities of sprawl in places like Houston by promoting less single family housing with slightly more dense forms of dwellings instead of expecting New York City to loosen up and allow more tall buildings around the perimeter of New York City’s Central Park?

For such a free market advocate as Glaeser comes across as, he seems uninterested in addressing urban sprawl with any sort of market costing. While he gives a thumbs up to the congestion charges in London and tolls in general, he doesn’t make much of putting a real price on the cost of infrastructure like the roads and highways that are necessary to maintaining single use communities with single family housing, content to claim that housing is affordable simply because the market’s keeping up with demand. detroit1Glaeser also spends surprisingly little time on public transit. Somehow it’s just going to be there as people make their way to their high rises downtown.

I guess that’s what I found most dissatisfying about the book. The lack of, I don’t know, thoroughness to it. Fixes were straight forward, mostly if the heavy hand of government would just keep out of the mix. Glaeser sees slums and tenements as hotbeds of opportunity, where everyone has one innovation in them to fill a niche that will eventually allow them to prosper. He skirts around the role racism has played in the decline of places like Detroit, suggesting its reliance on a single industry was the sole cause of what’s happened. He sees little merit in doing much to help places like Detroit or New Orleans. History has dealt with them. Let’s move on.

Maybe I’m being a little harsh on Professor Glaeser. It’s not so much that I disagreed with much of his views and conclusions. horsefeathersThey just didn’t come across as very vigourous. He seemed hidebound and stuck by his laissez-faire ideology. On more than one occasion he presented choices in a simplistic, binary alternative. “As noted earlier,” Glaeser writes re: the public school system, “this problem could be eased by a move either to the left or the right.”

Really?

I guess I just expected more from a Harvard professor. But as Jeff Madrick pointed out in Harper’s, that’s a mistake too many of us make.

– bookishly submitted by Cityslikr


Uber Allies

November 20, 2014

I am what you would call a late adoptor. In no way am I anti-tech. I have a smart phone. I know my way around the internets. lateadaptorMy music is all digital.

But I know I just barely scratch the surface of it all. There is so much more I could be doing, to my advantage. It just doesn’t interest me. I don’t say that proudly. It’s just a matter of fact. I use what comes easily to me. Let’s call it ‘tech lazy’. (I’m sure there’s an actual term for that I’m just not aware of.)

I know even less about the taxi industry here in Toronto. My cab trips are few and far between. One is usually around when I want it. I have no solid price comparison with many other places to know if we’re being gouged or not. My main interaction with the city’s cab happens when one nearly knocks me down or cuts me off in a bike lane when I’m riding around.

There was a big debate this past term at City Hall about taxi licensing. boring2People wearing opposing coloured shirts. I think it had much to do with who owned what kind of license or something or other. Frankly, I tuned out. Let’s call it politically lazy. Since it didn’t have much impact on my life, I couldn’t really be bothered.

So imagine my surprise, sitting here, writing something about a ‘car-summoning’ internet application, Uber, being hit with a cease and desist injunction by the city’s licensing staff for its continued disregard of taxi rules and regulations. Oh wow. Tech versus taxi. How deliciously dull.

Look. I have no reason to suspect that Toronto’s bureaucracy isn’t stodgy and slow-moving in its bid to maintain the status quo. We only have to look at something like the great food truck debate last year as proof of that. Certainly, the staff’s claim of safety concerns in seeking the court injunction ring, I don’t know, a little hollow and manipulative.

And there’s little question too that there are some very vested interests in the taxi game here in town who are well looked after as their phalanx of lobbyists at City Hall can attest to. bureacraticAn argument could be made (by someone much more knowledgeable on the subject than I am) that serious, serious reform is needed. A real shake-up might be nice.

Is Uber the one to do it?

Maybe. I don’t know. I guess we’re going to find out.

Meanwhile, they’ve been breaking the rules in conducting their business in Toronto. 35 by-law infractions, I believe it is to date. They’ve simply ignored them, and carried on carrying on. Toronto is not alone in coping with the new reality introduced by Uber. The company has tended to run afoul of the authorities in many of the places it touches down (as well as some it hasn’t even arrived at yet.)

Somehow though, the city has become the bad guy in all of this.

Even more disturbing is how, to many, the corporate titan Uber has become some sort of saviour. The necessary oomph needed to whip the bureaucracy into 21st-century shape. A righteous vigilante, stepping up, busting heads and taking questions later.

You can’t make an omelette without breaking a few eggs, am I right?

Fine. Renegade away. But spare me the indignation when there’s some official pushback. baretta1You want to flout the law? Deal with the fallout.

Couldn’t the city’s injunction against Uber be something other than just a luddite reaction to shut the service down and box out the future from coming? The company is clearly content to continue ignoring the law, shrugging off each and every bylaw infraction notice. Maybe the injunction is just a shot across the company’s bow. Do we have your attention now, Uber?

You know, if maybe this was some actual David and Goliath fight, I could get more behind it. If it struck me as a justifiable bit of civil disobedience that was out to right some sort of wrong, to make the lives of everyone involved – owners, drivers, customers – better, maybe I might be more sympathetic. Right now, however, it only seems like, I don’t know, more corporate disobedience. I’m a lot less comfortable with that.upyours

There’s a real strain of libertarian thought coursing through the politics of this. If we can do it, why can’t we? Who are you to tell me how, where and when I can grab a cab? Why should some bureaucrat determine what and what isn’t a taxi? Damn your restraints on innovation!

Technology trumps governance.

What the fuck is wrong in saying, look, there are rules and regulations in place here. Obviously, they need to be re-thought according to current realities. Let’s take a step back and sort through this. How can we best try to accommodate everyone’s best interests in this?

Uber doesn’t seem that interested in accommodation. As Ted Graham, “innovation leader at PWC, a professional services network”, told Matt Galloway on Metro Morning, Uber’s approach seems to be to flood a market, build up consumer demand and let the chips fall where they may. We’re here. Deal with it. Tellingly, Mr. Graham avoided answering Galloway’s question about why the onus to adapt should be on the regulators and not the company.thefuture

Because… Disruption!

Clearly the plan is working. Many have come to Uber’s defence from a consumer’s standpoint. It’s convenient. For me. It’s cheaper. For me. Why should I have to play by some company’s rules? I want this service. You can’t stop me from having this service. This is the future. You can’t stop the future.

Yeah well, you don’t necessarily have to hand over the keys to the future no questions asked. Who said the future has to be free of regulation and oversight? Grateful consumers not concerned citizens.

stubbornly submitted by Cityslikr


Reshaping Toronto’s Future

November 19, 2014

In the quiet before the hubbub of the new administration at City Hall starts up again next month, retiring city councillor Gloria Lindsay Luby penned an opinion piece in the Toronto Star this week about what could be, arguably, the most important piece of governance business that will emerge next term: ward boundary review.waiting4

By provincial mandate, ward resident populations must be relatively uniform across the city. Toronto’s already been challenged by the Ontario Municipal Board as, I think, the requirement stipulates that no ward can have a population 15% higher than the city-wide average. As it stands right now, a couple wards have grown 30-45% above the average number. On top of which, the current wards and governance structure have been in place since 2000. So a review is overdue.

The process is already underway, with background research beginning last summer. Public consultations start in early December. Final recommendations will go to city council sometime in the first part of 2016.

Why is this so important?

For starters, we should try our best in a democracy to make sure everyone is represented equally. review1As it stands right now (or, at least, as of the 2011 census), Ward 23 Willowdale is home to over 88,000 people. That’s almost double the nearly 45,000 people living in Ward 18 Davenport. Such a glaring discrepancy must affect the relative performance of the respective councillors in those wards to the detriment of residents living in the more heavily populated ward.

Councillor Lindsay Luby is bang on dismissing the nonsense demand to use this review to cut the council number in half. How does it serve anybody to tilt things in the direction of less representation, putting a greater burden on city councillors? It guarantees more of a top down democracy and creates an even greater distance between residents and their local representatives. The city has grown by some 700,000 people since amalgamation. That’s more than 3 Windsors. Having fewer councillors simply waters down local democracy.

In a more abstract vein, given the entrenched parochial sensibilities that have so strongly emerged the past 4 years (Scarborough Deserves A Subway!), it might do us a whole lot of good to look hard at the geographical component of the boundary review. reviewWill it be possible to disrupt the politically exploitable divisions that are based on little more than what are former municipalities? While it would be fun to try, obviously you can’t take a knife and extract, say, Ward 38 and plunk it down on the Mimico lakeshore but is there a way we can shape wards based on current realities rather than previous history? That’s a genuine question. I don’t have an answer but I think it’s worth exploring.

Since 2000 Toronto’s wards have been aligned with federal and provincial riding boundaries, 22 cut in half to make 44. Lindsay Luby suggests that this is ‘less confusing for the electorate’. On that point, I’d differ with the councillor. I think, in fact, it adds an added layer of confusion for the electorate. During this recent municipal campaign, I talked to numerous candidates, and heard it myself at the few doors I knocked on, voters wanting to know what candidate X was going to do about healthcare or the grade 7 curriculum or to stop that damned Stephen Harper. None of which a municipal politician has much of a hand in dealing with.

Such an easy overlap of jurisdictional boundaries can’t help but contribute to an easy confusion in the minds of voters. haveyoursayIt’s a situation that might’ve been exacerbated during this term since the 2010 municipal election we had one federal and two provincial general elections and a host of by-elections throughout the city. Still, I don’t see how aligning local wards with the ridings of the other two levels of government at all helps clarify the roles each play in the lives of the city’s residents.

More cynically, I’d suggest such a configuration only really serves the purposes of the political parties operating at Queen’s Park and in Ottawa. It makes for easy compiling of voters’ lists and helps them in establishing ground games and footholds in areas of the city they’re looking to take runs at during their own election campaign. It encourages backroom party involvement in municipal elections for reasons not always beneficial for the city but very much in the interests of the parties.

What we need from this ward boundary review is a made in Toronto, for Toronto solution. The city needs to establish new political turf (if not an entirely new governance model), free from past grievances and fiefdoms, free from outside interference. buildingblocksGiven the fact that we may have a new voting system in 2018, ranked ballots, if both the province and new council push it through, this is an ideal time to attempt to completely remake the city’s political landscape. The future starts next month.

Have your say. Help redraw the lines. The opportunity to take control of local democracy here in Toronto is soon upon us.

hopefully submitted by Cityslikr


A Mess Of Our Own Making

November 18, 2014

It’s hardly novel on my part to return from nearly 3 weeks in the developing world, let’s call it, to announce that we here in these parts of the developed world might have gone a little soft. alfredenewmanThat’s not to suggest it’s all good here, everything’s fine and dandy, What Me Worry? Eat your peas, young man. Don’t you know there are children starving in India? (Yes, I was in India.)

There’s probably very little distinction between poverty and grinding poverty to those contending with the former.

When I suggest we might be a little soft, it’s more to do with our approach to problem solving. Yes, we have problems. Some serious problems. But by comparison, in a relative sense, the solutions to our problems, even the seemingly intractable ones like inequality, affordability, are simple or, at least, simpler. They are, in fact, not intractable.

While away, I was amazed at how quickly you adapt or adjust to the wildly unfamiliar. The traffic chaos, the incredible shrinking sense of personal space, the urban livestock. indiagarbageBut the one thing I could not get my head around was the garbage. Now, I’m not talking litter, empty take away coffee cups strewn here and there. I’m talking piles of garbage on street corners in almost every village we passed, in major urban centres even.

India has less than one-third of the landmass of Canada but over 30 times the population. Factor in the jarring transition from a rural based, farming society to a high tech urban go-getterism and waste disposal is a significant, monumental social and infrastructure issue. Ditto the delivery of clean, potable water.

And that’s just for starters, off the top of my head, after a 10 day drive by visit.entitled

So when some here in Toronto talk about ‘deserving’ a subway instead of some rinky dink LRT, it takes on something of a grotesque stature if measured by global standards. You deserve a subway. Really?

I think it was Bill Maher who said, in the wake of September 11th 2001 when everyone was trying to figure out why the west had come under attack, that people hated us because we don’t know why they hate us. We argue bitterly over higher order of public transit while much of the world struggles with even the most basic of waste management.

So, yeah. It’s fair to say we’ve gone a little soft. obliviousOur problems, hundreds and hundreds of millions of people around the world would love to have. Yet, we seem deliberately frozen and resolute in erecting reasons why we shouldn’t/can’t robustly address matters that need addressing.

We live in a wealthy city in a wealthy country, full of educated and intelligent people with innovative and thought provoking ideas to make Toronto an even better place (although few have come up with ways to improve the weather here). We draw people from around the world because of the quality of life we have on offer. Improving that quality of life, and extending it to more of the population, isn’t, in fact, rocket science. Toronto isn’t starting from square one in terms of delivering the simple basics like water and waste disposal.

What problems we do have as a city stem from an unwillingness to deal with our problems. noworlaterOur infrastructure deficit exists because we’ve simply neglected to maintain and upgrade our infrastructure needs as the city grew and objects aged not because we don’t have the money to do so. Poverty exists because we’ve failed to address the root causes of poverty not because it’s somehow endemic and unavoidable. It’s not a question of possessing the capacity to deal with the problems but simply an indisposition to do so. No can’t. Just won’t.

Yeah. It feels like a lazy trope to go visit places like Sri Lanka and India only to return with the sentiment, So you think we’ve got problems… ? But coming as my trip did right on the heels of an election campaign that was defined as it was by limitations and very few demands made of voters, the two realities felt particularly jarring. flabbyNever has so little been asked of so many for so few… or something to that affect.

Our To Do list is extensive in its breadth. A little daunting at times owing almost exclusively to having been put off for so long. It’s hardly insurmountable, however, since we’re not exactly starting from scratch. We simply have to stiffen our resolve a little bit, accept some responsibility for building on what was already here when we came along, and get rid of the flabbiness that’s come from the inattention and disregard we’ve displayed over the last three decades or so.

sightseeingly submitted by Cityslikr


Hope Always Courts Disappointment

October 29, 2014

No question.

hope2

Hope is better than fear. Unfortunately, fear has a much more direct route into our hardwiring and manifests itself more readily than hope.

I think about this in the post-election haze, from a conversation I had with Ward 2 candidate Andray Domise during the height of his campaign run. He told me that he was regularly meeting residents who were too afraid to hope. They had been disappointed too many times to simply put it back out there again. hopeandfearSure, hope is better than fear but hope hurts when it crashes against the rocks of reality.

(And certainly judging by the Ward 2 election results again this time, fear of hope was entirely justified by the voters.)

Yet, there they were, candidates of all political stripes, running on little more than hope. Hope, good intentions, public service. Many of them I know quit their jobs or took a leave of absence in order to give if it a shot. It would be very easy for most of them to look at how it all played out, how incumbency can be a deadweight that’s impossible to lift and toss aside.

Aside from an impressive increase in voter turnout, there was very little to show for their efforts.

I mean, fuck. Here I am, from largely on the sidelines, and the only way I can describe my reaction to the numbers as they rolled in is crushing… crushed? … crushing…

My easy analysis of what transpired this campaign is that it was all about the mayor. blindersMost voters had one thing and one thing only on their mind when they cast their ballot. The mayor’s race. Everything else was tickety-boo. At the councillor level, name recognition won the day, and won the day by a wide margin in many cases.

This wasn’t about fear versus hope. This was all about making a very practical decision. The baby was cuddled close as the bathwater got tossed.

Such rudimentary rationalization hardly quiets the disappointment, mind you, but hopefully (there’s that word again), it helps ease us softly toward the reality of the situation we’re facing at City Hall. A lot changed or very little did. It’s too early to tell.

So we should take a step back and best we can lick our wounds. Recoup all that genuine energy and maybe be still for a bit. Hope is better than fear. It’s just a whole lot harder to maintain.

We here at All Fired Up in the Big Smoke will be going quiet for a few weeks, contemplating our collective navel and trying to think about anything and everything other than municipal politics. Like say, elephants. We’re going to think about elephants and listen to the canary sing.

rest

signing offly submitted by Cityslikr


Post Mortem Mea Culpa

October 28, 2014

John Tory will be the next mayor of Toronto. It says something about the rest of the results from yesterday’s municipal election that, this morning, on the day after, I’m largely ambivalent about our new mayor-elect.rosecolouredglasses

Throughout the campaign people I respect told me John Tory would be just fine. Give him a chance, they said. Let him find his sea legs and see what he can do before passing judgement.

So be it.

This morning I’ll choose to believe the John Tory we’ll see emerge as mayor of Toronto will be the John Tory his supporters told us he’d be. Sensible and a consensus builder. Moderate. A healer of our self-inflicted civic wounds.

I say that without a hint of sarcasm or mockery. If John Tory proves to be any of those things, Toronto will be better for it.

I am far less sanguine about the new shape of city council. And by ‘new shape’ I mean the exact opposite, of course. whitelayercakeIf anything, city council got whiter and maler, suggesting that the racist and sexist outbursts we witnessed throughout the campaign and summed up perfectly this week in one cartoon of Olivia Chow by the Toronto Sun’s Andy Donato, weren’t really outliers so much as a reflection of systemic attitudes that belie our municipal motto of Diversity, blah, blah, blah. Electing a white guy mayor was merely the strawberry slice on top of our white bread, penis shaped, white layer cake council we settled on, answering in the affirmative (at least on the political level) Colin Marshall asked in The Guardian yesterday, Has Toronto’s great multicultural project failed?

A resounding number of terrible, terrible, terrible incumbents were re-elected last night with no refreshing or inspiring newcomers figuring into the mix. changeplacesIt’s as if the voters of this city believed that all the trouble and turmoil we went through over the past 4 years could be exorcised simply by switching out mayors. Nobody else was held responsible for the bad decisions that were made. The circus, it was deemed, only had one ringleader, one two-headed ringleader. Remove one of those heads and order would be restored.

Wishful thinking, I think. Pitched battles, I imagine, are already being dreamed up over the fate of rapid transit throughout Scarborough, the island airport expansion, the 2015 budget. Ohhh, the 2015 budget. While the discourse should become more civil around the council chambers, expect little elevation in content, judgment or common sense. I fear we’ve entrenched parochialism not diminished it.meaculpa1

In case you think I’m sitting here, pointing fingers at others, assigning blame in that direction, that is not my intention. Perhaps the most egregious bit of wishful thinking over the past 4 years was perpetrated by people like me. People who thought that simply by highlighting and talking and writing about the bad behaviour and decisions being done by our local representatives, a wave of change would be fomented. The need for it would simply be self-evident. I mistakenly assumed the clamour for change at the mayoral level would permeate down through the council ranks and sweep out a few of the worst offenders.

You’d think by now I’d be aware enough to know that change doesn’t happen easily. When it comes, if it comes, it comes reluctantly, grudgingly, obstinately. Change is an active not passive verb.

So to imagine that voters would simply be in the mood to throw the bums out with very little prodding was beyond hopeful. It was beyond magical subways for free thinking. duginWe had a record turnout at the polls this time out and, aside from at the mayoral level, the status quo was overwhelmingly endorsed. We want to change that? There’s no waiting until 2018. It’s a conversation that happens today, tomorrow. (OK. Maybe in a couple weeks after everybody catches their collective breath.)

How many times have we heard the complaint around these parts, Where is our Nenshi? To use the parlance of our transit debates, Nenshis don’t sprout up out of nowhere from magic beans. The ground has to be fertile from many hands working the soil. If we learn no other lesson from this municipal election of ours, it should be the change we want will never be delivered from the top down with only some urging by us from the sidelines. It’s only going to happen bottom up.

Actually, there’s one more thing.changeishard

Probably the most striking visual for me from last night’s post-election coverage was Rob Ford’s speech in which he warned us that the Ford’s ‘never, ever, ever give up’. I think that may be the most truthful thing I’ve ever heard the man say. The status quo is relentless. The forces of white privilege, racism and exclusion are relentless. The apple cart is heavier than it looks and isn’t flipped with a simple gesture. We have to push back, and push back hard.

2018 doesn’t start in 2018. It starts now. Rob Ford has warned us. This time we better be ready.

unsagely submitted by Cityslikr


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