The Dead Calm After Ford

May 22, 2015

“The universe will unfold as it should.”

I don’t know about anybody else but I don’t find that sentiment all that reassuring coming from an elected official.

Sure. We can debate. We can try and make evidence-based decisions. We can, I don’t know, dance the watusi. But you know what? nonsense1At the end of the day, the universe will unfold as it should. Whaddayagonnado?

After nearly 30 minutes of, I wouldn’t say ‘intense’ grilling but not softballing from Steve Paikin, covering contentious issues like police carding, the Gardiner east expressway, the Scarborough subway, Mayor John Tory essentially gave us the figurative shrug. “The universe will unfold as it should.” Keep calm, folks. Daddy’s got a handle on things.

That the mayor doesn’t was clearly underlined by The Agenda host when asking some pointed questions about the decisions Mayor Tory’s been making lately. “Do you still support carding?” Paikin asked him. “I support the need to reform the policy,” the mayor responded.

Never mind that there had been an attempt to reform the policy in 2014. An attempt the police services under then chief of police Bill Blair simply ignored, essentially thumbing its collective nose at its civilian oversight body, the police services board and creating what Mayor Tory now refers to as a ‘vacuum’. Tomato, tomatoe. Insubordination, vacuum.

“Previously the police service hadn’t been able to agree with the police services board on policy,” Mayor Tory told Paikin. emptytalkJust like that. As if it’s perfectly reasonable for the police services to choose simply not ‘to agree’ with directives from the board that’s in place to oversee their actions. Whaddayagonnado? The universe unfolds as it should.

This was the first example of gaps, let’s call them, that Paikin permitted the mayor. Moments of clarification that, not pursued, allowed Mayor Tory to sound perfectly reasonable. There weren’t many of them, to Paikin’s credit. He was much more assertive than many of us thought he would be although he tended to be more deferential at times than he needed to be.

“Thanks for indulging me.”

“You know I’m just putting you through your paces here.”

“That fine,” replied Mayor Tory.

That’s fine?! Of course, it’s fucking fine. You’re the fucking mayor.

At one point of during the conversation Mayor Tory pushed back at Paikin: “You’ve put me in the position of defending my own decisions. keepcalmandblahblahblahWhich is what you do…” yaddie, yaddie, yaddie. Geez thanks for defining Steve Paikin’s job for us, Mr. Mayor.  Yeah. His job is to put you in the position of defending your decisions. Your job is to defend those decisions.

Which, when he wasn’t doing it flintily, the mayor did opaquely, with a lot of words being said, few in any meaningful way.

The Toronto Star’ Jennifer Pagliaro captured the mayor’s response to Paikin’s question that if reports came back suggesting overlapping transit demands for both the Scarborough subway and his own SmartTrack plan, would he reconsider changing his opinion on the need to still pursue both.

Well, put it this way. One of the reasons they expanded the study area of the current environmental assessment that’s going on is to take account of the fact that SmartTrack was going to be something that would hopefully proceed forward. And so obviously these studies are being done for a reason and I’d be irresponsible if I said we’re going to do them and then ignore what they have to say, but I think on the principle of building a subway, all three government made decisions on that.

Anybody want to try and parse that noise?

All three levels of government have decided to build the Scarborough subway, so, that’s pretty much a done deal. And I promised 22 stations in 7 years with my SmartTrack plan, and I’m not one to break my campaign promises except for that TTC fare increase but free transit for the kids! Look at me. Do I seem like the irresponsible sort? blahblahblah1I certainly wouldn’t ignore any report unless it didn’t jibe with my strongly held opinion like on the Gardiner east hybrid option. In other words… What was the question again, Steve?

In that space in time in which John Tory has sprung up as mayor now referred to as the ‘calm after Ford’, we squee in delight that the city has a mayor who doesn’t merely grunt and exhale heavily into a microphone. Mayor Tory says words! In sentences that form paragraphs!

It’s inconsequential that often times all that verbiage makes little sense, doesn’t directly answer direct questions, simply fills the silence with resounding nothingness. Compared to “I’ve got plenty to eat at home”, our Mayor Tory is simply Churchillian. We shall fight with obfuscation! We shall fight with bafflegab! We shall fight with mumbo jumbo! We will never surrender to forthrightness and candour!whatareyoutalkingabout

I applaud Steve Paikin and The Agenda for politely pushing the mayor out of his obvious comfort zone of unchallenged press releasing and revealing a surprising degree of thin-skinned petulance. Words, well spoken but ultimately meaningless, are no better than farting noises. Bullshit is bullshit, am I right?

“The universe will unfold as it should.”

We need to realize now that John Tory’s version of ‘should’ is much different than the one too many of us bought into during last year’s campaign. While he comes across as more articulate than his predecessor (again, a low bar), it’s obvious this mayor is no less bound and determined to pursue equally detrimental goals, flying in the face of overwhelming contrary evidence and expert advice, if necessary to do so. Should? No soothing words should convince any of us otherwise.

desiderataly submitted by Cityslikr


Tolling Smoke And Mirrors

May 21, 2015

hammeragoodideaOut of the fog of debate over the fate of the eastern portion of the Gardiner expressway, Budget Committee member James Pasternak floated the idea of imposing a toll on non-residents using the city owned and maintained Don Valley and Gardiner expressways. “I think the mayor’s hybrid selection is the way to go, but at the same time, you really do need a secure, reliable source to fund it,” the councillor mused publicly yesterday.

While any talk of tolling roads should be warmly welcomed into the conversation, coming as this does in the service of the willfully misguided effort of Mayor Tory to keep the eastern portion of the Gardiner expressway elevated, we have to simply shrug. It’s feels like little more than a dodge, frankly. An attempt to offset the cost argument against the hybrid option, and serving to deflect from the real issue at hand: the hybrid option is a terrible, terrible, terrible, terrible idea.

Besides, the mayor has no time for toll talk. Att least, ever since re-running for mayor. There was time when he held a different view. Of course.

Now as mayor of Toronto, money is no object for John Tory when it comes to dealing with his beloved Gardiner expressway. There’s just a secret stash of it, tucked away somewhere apparently, whenever he’s looking to gussy or speed it up and burnish his pro-car image.

Without mayoral support for the idea, it’s hard to imagine Councillor Pasternak’s toll item garnering much support, consigned surely to the trash bin at the next Executive Committee if it gets even that far along. The right place for it, if for the wrong reason. I mean, why would the councillor stop at tolling non-residents, aside from the fact they can’t vote in a municipal election in Toronto, freeing him of facing any electoral ire? It can’t be just that crass an idea, can it?

No, no. It’s a question of fairness. trashbinCouncillor Pasternak told Matt Galloway on Metro Morning yesterday [segment not yet archived] that Toronto residents pay to maintain the Gardiner and DVP from their property taxes. Why should outsiders get to freeload on our roads, paid for by our hard-earned property taxes?

But how about extending that sense of fairness a little further? Why should I, a resident of Toronto who helps pay for those expressways I rarely use, be forking over the same amount of cash as someone using them on a daily basis? That hardly seems fair, if we’re introducing the concept of road use/pay fairness.

Another member of the Budget Committee, Councillor John Campbell agrees. “I don’t see why all residents and all users of the highway shouldn’t be paying for it. Basically the TTC is a user-pay system. 80% of the funding for the TTC comes out of the fare box. Why shouldn’t our roads be the same?”

That’s just the tip of the inane iceberg of Councillor Pasternak’s toll idea, a half-baked measure with a full on helping of self-interest. letmecorrectitThe expense of co-ordinating the whole thing would immediately bite into any money made to throw at road maintenance. Fellow Budget Committee member (and former Budget Chief) Shelley Carroll said tolls had been discussed extensively, back in 2006 and the introduction of the City of Toronto Act. “What my colleague is proposing is ridiculously expensive,” she tweeted in response to Councillor Pasternak’s toll idea.

“You can’t collect from ‘outsiders only’ without use of transponder system or Tech ‘Road Pricing’ technology of some sort. Would need to be GTA wide, therefore, not just Gardiner. Would cost minimum $300/400 million to install. $30+million a year to operate. All of this would earn about $20/30 million net to Toronto because we would have to partner with GTA & Province.

Despite the fact the Gardiner and DVP are ours to pay for and maintain, in yet another example of the paternalistic relationship we have with Queen’s Park, we’d have to go to the province for permission to toll them even if it was economically feasible which it isn’t. In other words, Councillor Pasternak is just making noise in an attempt to sound as if he’s put a lick of thought into his idea.

But wait. There’s more from the councillor.

Maybe we should just upload responsibilities for these two expressways to the province, as if it were as easy as wishing. toshredsCiting a ‘historical imbalance’, Councillor Pasternak pointed out that other GTA municipalities don’t have to directly financially support their expressways, the QEW, 401, 404, 407. (Did I miss any?) Why should Torontonians have to bear the burden of the Gardiner and DVP alone?

I hate to break it to him but the Gardiner and DVP have always been ours. Aside from the strip of the Gardiner from the Humber to the 427 which the Harris government downloaded onto the city (h/t to Sean Marshall for that bit of info), these 2 urban expressways were Toronto’s from the outset, birthed and raised into being by the 1st chair of Metro council, Fred “Big Daddy” Gardiner, inspired as he was by the city building prowess of New York City “construction coordinator” Robert Moses. We’ve been maintaining them for some 50 years now. Why suddenly should the province feel compelled to start bearing that burden?

There’s nothing wrong with having a discussion about utilizing road tolls in order to raise revenue to pay for transportation infrastructure. facethemusicIt’s being done throughout the world. We wouldn’t be breaking any new ground there.

But let’s have a realistic discussion on the subject instead of something floated like a lead balloon for no other reason than to divert attention away from an equally politically loaded topic like what to do with the crumbling eastern section of the Gardiner expressway. Councillor Pasternak should be working on answering why we need to throw money to ‘retain and drag’ such an antiquated beast, why exactly is the hybrid option the way to go, not how do we pay to do that. The answer would be much simpler.

We don’t. It’s time to bring the fucker down.

demandingly submitted by Cityslikr


The Best Evidence Is Empirical Evidence

May 20, 2015

At last Wednesday’s Public Works and Infrastructure Committee meeting: Special Edition: Gardiner East!, Michael Kirkland, a Toronto-based architect and urban designer, added his voice of disapproval of the hybrid option being championed by Mayor John Tory and his Deputy Mayor, Denzil Minnan-Wong for the eastern most portion of the ‘curious elevated artefact’ that is our Gardiner Expressway. According to Mr. Kirkland, it’s ‘a mistake we no longer have to live with.’

[via @_JohnTory]

Mr. Kirkland took great pains to point out that the ‘hybrid’ option was nothing more than the previous retain proposal (rejected by city staff), dragging it into an even worse position, further adversely affecting what he called the “singularly most important public space” the city has, it’s waterfront. For what? .15% of 1% of commute times in Toronto.

“It’s dreadful,” Mr. Kirkland told Councillor Janet Davis of the Gardiner east “hybrid” option. Not only will it not help improve waterfront revitalization in the area, it will make it worse. “Let’s not mince words,” he went on. “It’s a dreadful proposal that no one should be interested in.”

When asked by Councillor Anthony Perruzza about the ‘politics’ of the debate — “Is it realistic of us to just simply eliminate a portion of an expressway?” — Mr. Kirkland was absolutely certain we could. “We’ve done it! It works fine.” Yes, right here in Toronto, almost 15 years ago, we removed another portion of the Gardiner and all hell didn’t break lose. “The expressway came down and not a week later it was like it never happened,” Kirkland recalled.

That’s what you call your ’empirical evidence’. The tool at our disposal to help clear the ‘muddied waters’ stirred up by scare tactics of those unable to see a future that doesn’t look exactly like our past.

empirically submitted by Cityslikr


Why Is This Even A Debate?

May 19, 2015

Still holding on tightly to the idea we need to keep the Gardiner east expressway? Mayor Tory evidently does. The sky will fall, raining traffic chaos down upon us! Toronto’s former chief planner begs to differ.

[via @_JohnTory]

What else could we do with $500 000 000? Let me count the ways… 400 more streetcars or rebuilding a downtown expressway? An entire LRT line, say, along the waterfront or rebuilding a downtown expressway?

The hybrid. Locking in the future. It’s fixed. You can’t make changes to it. For 50-100 years. It is what it is.

Lessons learned? We’ll see. We shall see.

audibly submitted by Cityslikr


A Long Weekend Sunday Blues

May 17, 2015

As former Toronto chief of police Bill Blair rides off into the sunset of federal politics, Two Twits Talking look back in anger (and much wailing and gnashing of teeth) at the legacy he leaves behind, a combination of unfulfilled promise and a toxic chemical trail of distrust and outright animosity.

audibly submitted by Cityslikr


Mayor Tyler Durden

May 16, 2015

At Wednesday’s special Public Works and Infrastructure Committee meeting to discuss the fate of the eastern portion of the Gardiner Expressway, deputant Jude MacDonald summoned the ghost of CivicAction (“Citizen”) John Tory who talked of leaving the legacy of a livable city for his grandchildren which included removing that section of the Gardiner. Mayor John Tory now seems to think otherwise. Grandchildren be damned! Drivers gotta drive. Politics really does make strange bedfellows, stranger still when that fellow is the very same person.

What exactly did Mayor John Tory do with Citizen John Tory? Smother him with a pillow while he slept? Say it. Say it!

I am Tyler Durden.

1st rulely submitted by Cityslikr


The Inexplicable Intransigence Of Mayor Tory

May 15, 2015

astutebusinessman

John Tory came into the mayor’s office touting his serious business and private sector credentials, remember? He saw fit to vilify one of his campaign opponents, Olivia Chow, as ‘that NDP candidate’, just another ‘tax-and-spender’ who didn’t understand the value of our hard-earned tax dollars. Tough fiscal times called for someone with prudent fiscal sensibilities. John Tory, he assured us, possessed that in spades.

Yet here we are, having to square this circle. Mayor Tory’s headlong rush into supporting a much more expensive “hybrid” (everybody’s using quotes for that word now) re-build of the 2 kilometres or so of the Gardiner Expressway east of Jarvis Street. It’s an option that puts severe limits on future development (and future revenue for the city) of the waterfront area outside of the Unilever site. It’s an option that leaves an elevated expressway running through the downtown core of the city. It’s an option that caters almost exclusively to some 3% of morning car commuters to the CBD and a recent organization calling itself the Gardiner Industry Coalition (or, as I like to think of them, Drivers Inc.)

scratchmyhead

It’s an option that makes fundamentally little sense for more than a few reasons but none so pointedly as its fiscal recklessness. Something candidate John Tory assured us he would, could never be. Corporate titan, astute businessman, private sector player, yaddie, yaddie, yaddie.

Clocking in just under 20 minutes during a deputation given to the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee on Wednesday, Alfredo Romano of Castlepoint Numa, the largest private sector landholder of waterfront properties, dismantled each and every argument Mayor Tory and other “hybrid” proponents have made to keep this portion of the Gardiner, save for that tattered flag of, Won’t somebody think of the poor drivers. Watching this [h/t @_JohnTory, no relation], it’s difficult not to conclude that our mayor is less a savvy businessman and more a crass, ham-fisted, self-interested politician.

I especially love this next bit. Mr. Romano points out that the city is also a major property owner down at the waterfront. In his view, maintaining the Gardiner east which essentially the “hybrid” option does, serves to shoot ourselves in the foot. The hybrid option will “take away the value of your own asset”, he told the committee. Reading between those lines, I can’t see any reference to fiscal prudence or sound management practices.

They’re calling this a 100 year decision, laying it on a bit thick, in my opinion. The Gardiner Expressway is barely 60 years old and has been falling apart for a decade or so now. Still, it is a very important decision, one that will affect the future development of the waterfront. Until recently, this city hasn’t been very good at that. So I don’t think it too over-the-top to suggest that how Mayor Tory comes down on this will go a long way to determining how posterity will view his time in office. He’d be wise to reconsider his options on this.

prognosticatingly submitted by Cityslikr


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