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


Mayor Supercilious

May 14, 2015

In the back of my mind, I’ve always viewed the word ‘supercilious’ as onomatopoeic, sounding just like it means. Silly.twitoftheyear Shallow, nonsensical. Super silly. Really, really silly, shallow, nonsensical, childish in the extreme. Strap a diaper on that thing because I think it’s about to poop itself.

That’s incorrect, I know. And frankly, I think it’s a waste of a very good word. There are far, far better ones at our disposal that give meaning to the notion of arrogance or disdain or contemptuousness. In fact, I prefer those three even to supercilious. How about, lordly, imperious, uppish? You fucking toff.

When I watch our mayor in operation, I immediately think ‘supercilious’ but in my definition of it. He doesn’t project competence or a depth of understanding on any particular issue, just enough to string together a bunch of words on the topic at hand. Words and sentences that, when added up, seldom amount to much meaning of anything in particular.

Look at me, mommie! I’m mayor of Toronto! Stop being silly, Jonathon. Go wash up for dinner. Silly. Super silly.

Listening to Mayor Tory’s take on the Gardiner east removal/hybrid debate, and I’m all like, supercilious. The guy’s a mile wide and an inch deep. He actually has no ability to see more than 10 minutes ahead. toff1He cannot conceive of a future that isn’t almost exactly like the present which has changed little from the past.

Yes, he talks and talks of the challenges of change, the need to adapt but only based on immutable principles firmly anchored in a tradition, a tradition, not coincidentally, that favours people like John Tory.

John Tory cannot imagine a time when car drivers might be further inconvenienced for the sake of simply building and developing a less auto-centric city. It makes no impression upon him that it happened before, right here in Toronto, 15 years ago when another eastern portion of the Gardiner Expressway was removed with little of the deleteriously overwrought fall out he’s now so concerned happening this time. This time. Never mind the evidence from other cities around the world that removed entire expressways and none burned to the ground because of it. This is Toronto. Things are different here.

At a Ryerson City Building Institute forum last night, Mayor Tory also came down against the idea of extending the municipal vote to permanent residents who live in the city. toff2“Tory said citizenship brings with it privileges and responsibilities and he has long advocated keeping voting as one of those privileges,” David Rider of the Toronto Star writes. As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be in the days of the Son of Man, am I right?

When asked by the mayor of Ajax, Steve Parish, if permanent resident voting might help diversify a city council’s make up, our mayor shrugged, couldn’t see how. Teach `em how to get elected, Mayor Tory countered, teach `em how to fundraise. Money makes the world go around, am I right?

It is a view where the status quo can only be challenged by embracing the status quo even tighter. Besides, do you really want to challenge the status quo? It’s done perfectly right by John Tory. We just need to all be more like John Tory, united around a bulging rolodex.

So with the more pressing aspects of running the city left largely untouched (not to mention unchallenged), Mayor Tory busies himself with the appearance of being a serious agent of change, stumping for relaxed rules for food truck vending around the city and the taxi app, Uber. See? Who’s disruptive now? toffThis guy, that’s who.

Food trucks and taxi apps. The silly stuff. Supercilious.

But the truth is, I wouldn’t be far off the mark describing Mayor Tory with the correct usage of that word. He is proving himself to be contemptuous of facts that don’t coalesce with his very rigid view of the world, how they city should run. There’s a certain arrogance reflected in ignoring contrary evidence. His is the privileged disdain of change that could challenge the privileged position he is accustomed to, that he was born into, that he doesn’t believe exists because he can’t see it.

Yeah. Supercilious. Actually, I think it fits quite nicely.

down-to-earthly submitted by Cityslikr


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