If You’re Not Even Going To Try…

October 21, 2014

Friends, living in Ward 11 York South-Weston, asked the other day what on earth they should do when it comes to voting for their local councillor. decisionsdecisions1As many of you probably know, Ward 11 is the domain of long time city councillor, Frances Nunziata. Frances Nunziata is easily one of the 5 worst city councillors at City Hall. She’s been ill-representing residents of the area for over a quarter of a century.

You might think with such an abysmal record and tradition, there’d be a long list of challengers out there, knocking on doors, talking to residents in the hopes of defeating Ms. Nunziata. You might think. But my friends’ dilemma was real. There is no viable candidate running to unseat her in Ward 11 York South-Weston. I checked. I watched.

Voting against Frances Nunziata in 2014 essentially comes down to, Well, candidate X couldn’t do any worse, right? holdyournoseandvoteAnd in the case of Dory Chaloub, I’m not sure I could say that with a whole lot of confidence.

How is that possible?

This takes me back to a theme that’s emerged most glaringly during this campaign. In amidst talk of infrastructure deficits, transit deficits, what’s lost in the shuffle is our democratic deficit. In places throughout the city, like Ward 11, residents have been so poorly served for so long by those they’ve elected to City Hall that they’ve simply given up hope for anything different. There’s no reason to hope for change because change never comes, and when and if it does, it rarely is change for the better.

One of the first questions council challengers hear at the door when they’re out canvassing is, How are you going to be any different? That’s a tough one to answer because “they” haven’t been any different for years, decades, a generation.

So who on earth is going to put their neck out there and risk what is almost certain defeat?

What is remarkable is how many people have actually done that this election year. holdyournoseandvote2There are a lot of eminently electable candidates running in areas of the city where good candidates are not the norm. Despite an uphill battle convincing constituents that it can be different, they’re out there, convincing them.

Not in Ward 11 this time out, unfortunately.

There is no good choice to be made for city councillor in Ward 11. If I lived there, I’d probably leave my council vote blank, decline it as best you could, as a form of protest.

I was surprised a little bit then when yesterday in the Toronto Star’s city council endorsement list, they gave a thumbs up to Dory Chaloub, reasoning, pretty much, that anyone would be better than Frances Nunziata. “A dose of vitality.” Obviously, they saw something in him that escaped our notice or (and I’m thinking this is much more likely) they weren’t paying that close of attention.decisionsdecisions

I base this assertion on some of the other endorsements the Star made including perhaps the most jaw-dropping. Denzil Minnan-Wong in Ward 34 Don Valley East. “A thinking conservative,” the Star called him. “An asset on council.”

It’s hard to believe the person who wrote those words watched the same last 4 years of city council as I did. Minnan-Wong was every bit as destructive, divisive and partisan as Frances Nunziata, arguably more so as he held much more policy sway than she did. (Think of him as last term’s John Tory to Nunziata’s Rob Ford.)

The big difference between them is Minnan-Wong’s actually got a viable, interesting challenger running against him in Mary Hynes. Yet he gets an endorsement and Frances Nunziata doesn’t. How?

This happened elsewhere throughout the city in the Star’s endorsements. endorsement1They give a ‘lukewarm’ endorsement to Michelle Berardinetti in Ward 35 Scarborough Southwest even though she’s got a very good challenger in Paul Bocking. In Ward 7 York West, they overlook Keegan Henry-Mathieu for the non-entity but last election’s runner-up Nick Di Nizio to replace Giorgio Mammoliti. With a series of open wards in Etobicoke, the Star just as often went with names as they did interesting choices. Andray Domise for sure. But Stephen Holyday and Justin Di Ciano?

And aside from showing up, it’s hard to see how Diane Hall will be a better representative for Ward 44 than Ron Moeser especially when there were at least a couple other strong candidates running there.

Look, we agreed with the Star more often than not in its endorsements. (They did pick Franco Ng over Jim Karygianis to replace Mike Del Grande in Ward 39). We certainly didn’t expect to agree across the board with them.holdyournoseandvote1

But I look at their endorsements and I’m not sure what kind of city council the editorial board of the Toronto Star wants. Cynically, my first guess is familiar faces. Aside from the worst of the worst of incumbents – your Nunziatas, your Mammolitis, your Crisantis, Fords Crawfords and Grimes – I’d argue the Star went with name recognition even in many of the races where they wanted the incumbents defeated, they picked 2nd place finishers in previous elections or other candidates who had some traction already.

“We’re not big fans of political dynasties but…” Stephen Holyday? Why?

It’s not that we here at All Fired Up in the Big Smoke ran an exhaustive survey of the council races. We did our diligence in many of them and where we didn’t feel we did? We didn’t endorse. It seemed unfair, uninformed and arbitrary. eenymeenyminymoWe wanted our choices to reflect our values of what we expected from city councillors not be little more than, I don’t know, lottery picks.

Trotting out a list of endorsements heavy with name recognition does little to battle the power of incumbency. It further beefs up the status quo and gives the impression of immutability. Change comes slowly if it comes at all.

It helps feed into the sense of hopelessness in places like Ward 11 where someone like Frances Nunziata reigns supreme.

disconcertingly submitted by Cityslikr


No One Gets Out Alive

August 22, 2014

I begin this already doubting its relevance to the wider general public. Which may ultimately be the point of it, I guess. doubtAlthough, why bother then, you could ask.

Indeed.

Earlier this week a whole lot of dust was kicked up when noted political thingie and Olivia Chow campaign volunteer whatsit, Warren Kinsella, referred to mayoral rival John Tory’s Smart Track transit plan as ‘Segregationist Track’ in a tweet. Outrage ensued. How Dare Hes abounded. Demands for an apology were issued.

The offending tweet was deleted. Kinsella apologized, put up a Gone Fishin’ sign, and went silent. The Chow team put some distance between itself and Kinsella, the volunteer. New news broke. People moved on. The earth kept spinning.

Honestly. Did you hear about any of this?gonefishing

If not, maybe the actual intent of the tweet is still at work.

During the initial fury, amidst the calls of misappropriation of the word and the accusations of ugly intimations of racism contained in the tweet aimed at John Tory, Siri Agrell, a communications strategist, consultant and a David Soknacki (another mayoral candidate) fan, dropped this into the debate:

“If intent is to plant a counter-narrative that Tory is racist, is getting everyone in the media to report tweet really a strategic stumble?”

Ahhhhhh!

Essentially, have someone who gives you plausible deniability take the hit for a contentious public statement and when the heat cools, the heat always cools especially in a 10 month long election campaign, what’s left behind, the residue if you will, is the question of why anyone would want to make you think John Tory is a racist.daffyduck

Arguably, Kinsella’s choice of words was inappropriate. Arguably, he should’ve apologized quicker and louder. Pull the pin. Detonate the grenade. Brush the smoke smudge from your face. Ooops. Sorry. Step back from the damage.

Still.

A couple days on now and all that really lingers, if anything is lingering from the incident at all, is that question. Why would anyone suggest that John Tory is a racist? ‘Segregationist Track’? What’s that even mean?

And then the explanation.

Take a look at Tory’s Smart Track map. That dark blue void of nothingness, up in the left hand corner, where a bright red line should be, representing the Finch West LRT and new rapid transit options for the residents of northwestern Toronto. A part of the city home to many of the city’s non-John Tory phenotypes, let’s say. New Canadians hailing from non-white countries around the globe. People representing places that give us bragging rights to our official municipal motto, Diversity, Our Strength.

How come John Tory isn’t prioritizing their transit needs? Why is he ignoring a fully funded by the province piece of vital transit infrastructure in their neighbourhoods? Does John Tory not care about visible minorities?

Don’t be ridiculous. I mean, seriously. Just stop… being ridiculous. John Tory isn’t a racist. Some of his best—Don’t be ridiculous.

OK, fine. Then why has John Tory’s Smart Track plan wiped the Finch West LRT off the transit map? Can he explain that for us?

There you have it. This thing that began as a question of Olivia Chow’s character judgement about those who are working on her campaign, even peripherally, becomes more a question of John Tory’s priorities and who he’s actually looking out for. Who exactly is part of John Tory’s vision of the city?

And those of us who like watching the insider baseball nod our heads, struck by the possible cleverness of the strategy. outragedHuh, we say. Well, let’s see how this all plays out. This is why these people get paid the big bucks, I guess. They know how to play the game.

Of course, we are in the minority, we close observers of the game. Quite possibly the far bigger audience, the general electorate out there who will ultimately determine the outcome, won’t see it that way. They won’t appreciate the nuance of the tactics like we do. Floating the John Tory is a racist balloon might be seen as nothing more than the worst kind of mudslinging. Everything they fucking hate about politics.

Or claim they hate, anyway. Going negative has a proven track record, going negative practitioners will claim. Hell, Rob Ford’s entire existence is built on a negative platform, a campaign of hate and hurled baseless accusations of corruption and incompetence.

People might not like it but they seem to take the bait an awful lot. At least, the people who continue to participate and come out to vote even if they’re not happy or enthused about doing so. The others? The growing number of people who’ve just tuned out and turned off? smotheredWhy bother voting? It only encourages them.

They’re the casualties of the war rooms. Democracy is dead to them. They’ve walked away and not looked back.

So, I guess the bigger question is, is it worth it? Is the shot at elected office worth the long term harm inflicted on democracy? We pay very smart people enormous amounts of money for the benefit of candidates, and at the expense of the general voting public. Is that a sustainable democratic model?

I don’t ask this rhetorically. I have no answer to it. I’m just a concerned citizen.

discontentedly submitted by Cityslikr


Wards To Watch — Surprise Edition

May 22, 2014

There’s a dust up brewing over in Ward 30 Toronto-Danforth where Jane Farrow, the Jane Farrow, former CBC media type, donnybrookformer Executive Director of Jane’s (the other Jane) Walk, former Executive Assistant to Councillor Mary Margaret McMahon and just generally fabulous left of center Jane Farrow registered to run against the incumbent, Paula Fletcher, a well-established, long time left of center councillor who barely squeaked out a victory in 2010 over media celebrity, notably not left of center and back for another run at it, Liz West.

VOTE SPLIT!! was the almost immediate reaction by many City Hall watchers, with the assumption generally being that this automatically paves the way to victory for Ms. West. Each ballot cast for Ms. Farrow would be one less cast for Ms. Fletcher. ptahasdisbandedThat only needed to happen about 250 times and the race would be over.

This is presumptuous on a whole bunch of levels.

To start, Councillor Fletcher hasn’t even registered to run yet. Sure, the election’s still over 5 months away but if she is in the race, she really should signal her intentions. Waiting on the sidelines is kind of oily incumbent behaviour. Keep everybody guessing. Either a bunch of people jump in with the expectation of an open ward, ending up carving up the vote or it keeps everybody on the sidelines, wondering, should they enter, shouldn’t they, until it’s too late to mount a serious campaign.

As I tweeted out when the news broke, since when has incumbency bestowed any sort of squatter’s rights on a ward? kingofthecastleA designated position until either the candidate or voters deign to say otherwise. Until there’s an actual vote splitting scenario, you know, between two actual candidates, maybe we can back off the sturm und drang for a bit.

More annoyingly, who says all progressive, left of center voters are the same, expect the same from candidates? It is hardly a uniform bloc of singular group think. In fact, just the opposite, much to its exploitable electoral detriment.

Maybe it’s time that Councillor Fletcher has her progressive qualifications taken out for a test run, see if they’re still what the residents in Ward 30 are looking for. My guess is, while there is much overlap between the two, she and Ms. Farrow have some very distinct views of what constitute progressive values in Toronto in 2014. allthesameA good airing out of ideas and opinions never hurt any discourse or policy positions in the long run.

Besides, how do we know for a fact that this thing’ll get settled on a left-right split? Sure, Liz West was a Ford-lite sounding waste and efficiency finding vessel and Councillor Fletcher was a high ranking target of the outgoing David Miller administration. While I don’t think she’d achieved a Sandra Bussin level of loathing in the media, Fletcher did make something of a spectacle of herself when she badgered one budget deputant she thought to be a John Tory radio show plant. “Come on down, baby!”

Couldn’t it have been Ms. West just struck Ward 30 residents as the best possible alternative to Fletcher in 2010? She was a two term councillor at the time. Maybe she had just almost worn out her welcome.

What’s not to say that Jane Farrow may present Ward 30 voters as their best alternative come October? toughchoiceIn that case, she may just as well strip votes from Liz West who, to the best of my knowledge, hasn’t spent the time between the last election and this one, working the constituency, establishing herself ready to step up and serve as city councillor. Unless, of course, appearing on Hamilton TV constitutes working the constituency.

Look, I don’t have any beef with Councillor Paula Fletcher. Her voting record over the last 4 years shows a strong resistance to the Ford agenda. The Boys and their crew never missed an opportunity to drag her name out as the prime example of the tax and spenders they were constantly doing battle with in order to be respecting the taxpayers.

But from my perch observing the proceedings at City Hall, she was not one of the go-to bulwark stalwarts against the hurry up offense of the Fords. toughchoice2That grunt work was done more often than not by the likes of councillors Shelley Carroll, Janet Davis, Gord Perks and Adam Vaughan, both at council meetings and with regular appearances as visiting councillors at standing committees where much of the public input happened and policy decisions took shape. A reliable no vote? Sure. But there’s that goes into the sausage making than that.

Perhaps most annoyingly about all this is that we’re still having the same conversation about vote splitting. If there was ever the case to be made for ranked ballots, this would be it. Two candidates, of similar political persuasion, neither would be a terrible choice for councillor. rabitOne speaks to your sensibilities, just a little bit more. That one is # 1. The other, # 2. And let the run off begin.

Unfortunately, we’re still lagging behind on that count. Until such time as we finally step up and embrace ranked ballots (Hello, Queen’s Park!) voters are going to sometimes have to face the unpleasant prospect of vote splitting. We’re not there yet in Ward 30. So let’s take a step back, relax, and enjoy having too many good candidates to choice from rather than too few.

excitedly submitted by Cityslikr


A Blast From The Past

March 21, 2014

(As the 2014 mayoral debate season begins to pick up steam, and the inevitable discussion about which candidates to include and which ones to ignore, we were reminded of an event from back in 2 ought 10 during a quick conversation with Dave Meslin earlier this week. We vote — online and using ranked ballots, of course — for the candidates we’d like to see on stage with all the pre-determined front runners. Last time around it was 2. But there’s no reason necessarily there couldn’t be more, or more than one of these kinds of debates.

If the media isn’t going to encourage are more inclusive process, we just might have to be a little more proactive.)

*  *  *

Attending my first mayoral debate last night, thrown by the folks at Better Ballots at the University of Toronto’s Hart House, it’s difficult to properly assess the proceedings. There’s no baseline to measure it against as the scientists say. Are they all like this because if that’s the case, debates are a lot of fun. More people should make a point of attending them. It was infinitely more entertaining than, I don’t know, Iron Man 2, although in reading that sentence I realize it could be taken as less than complimentary toward political debates.

I do know that this one was different than previous debates so far as it introduced some of the other 22 candidates who have registered to run for the office of mayor. Two, Rocco Achampong and Keith Cole, had won an online poll to join the 6 main contenders up on the stage while the other 20 were given the opportunity to give a 1 minute speech throughout the course of the evening. (We’ll go into more detail about how the “other” candidates fared in our Friday ‘Meet A Mayoral Candidate’ post, only to say now that Mssrs. Achampong and Cole acquitted themselves very, very well on stage last night.)

Held in the very proper Debates Room, the atmosphere was both stuffy and almost carnivalesque. Stuffy, owing mostly to the lack of A/C in the place. It was warm, close. To the point where I was half expecting a wet-pitted Huey Long to appear on the podium, exhorting a radical redistribution of wealth.

Yet, at least metaphorically speaking, the event felt light and airy. Finally allowed access to a wider audience, many of the previously overlooked mayoral candidates who were present took the opportunity to mingle with the crowd, some handing out their campaign literature, others promenading down the middle aisle of the room, holding up handmade campaign posters. Candidates on parade! Place your vote for mayor here!

Doing their level best to dampen the upbeat mood, however, was the Red Menace. A group of youthful red t-shirted Rocco Rossi supporters, hogging up chairs by the row full, wrestling the loose vibe in the room to the ground, harshing the mellow. As the jostling swirled around me, I realized they were in a pitched battle with equally young but perhaps even more doe-eyed, undercover George Smitherman (only one of them sported their team’s purple shirts which he quickly removed) backers. I fought the urge to ask one of these youngsters why on earth they were wasting their formative years working for such soulless candidates but fortunately resisted, not wanting to ruin the evening with fearful thoughts of our future well-being.

As for the debate itself, it was a tightly run operation based around the 14 electoral reform proposals that Better Ballots have been working on, ranging from extending the municipal vote to permanent residents and online voting to term limits and campaign finance rules.

If I can offer up two bits of constructive criticism, it would be as follows:

  • One, since Better Ballots had held 4 town hall meetings throughout the city in April for interested members of the public to discuss and vote on, I might’ve used the numbers to eliminate the issues that least caught peoples’ attention, i.e. municipal parties, at-large councils, even possibly term limits. That way, there would’ve been more time to discuss the remaining issues in more detail and not allowed any of the candidates to simply agree or disagree without giving the reasons why.
  • Two, again to afford more time to delve further into details, I would nix the 6-10 minute open portion after each of the candidates were given their 1-1½ minutes to speak on a specific issue. It only opened the door to pre-packaged digs between candidates and empty, rhetorical posturing that often had little to do with the issue at hand.

That said, for much of the evening all the candidates seemed to be in the spirit of things, offering up thoughtful opinions on electoral reform. Except maybe Rob Ford who came across as completely uncomfortable and out of his element. To be fair, he was the main target of shots from the other candidates and the Hart House crowd was not his crowd and the room grew increasingly hot so he was sweating a lot but I still half expected him to break out into a Chris Farley “I live in a van down by the river!” routine. Ultimately, if I were voting for the candidate who I thought would make the best Walmart manager, Ford would be my candidate.

Sarah Thomson struck me as a high school valedictorian. Whenever she kept pointing out that she’d built a multi-million dollar business, I wanted to stand up and scream, “But government isn’t a business, Ms. Thomson!!” Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti drifted in and out of lucidity, constantly badgering Ford, dismissing his incessant call to reduce the number of councillors to 22 as nothing more than empowering the unelected bureaucracy and calling for (I think) publicly funded elections. George Smitherman was smooth, said pretty well next to nothing(a voting reform package sent to a council committee) and struck me as extremely unlikable.

I must admit that, despite the presence of his Redshirts, Rocco Rossi caught my attention with his thoughtfulness and passion. So much so that whenever he talked I found myself thinking, if we only could get him off this whole selling of public assets nonsense… Then came his final statement where he tried to convince the audience that the real reason for voter disaffection is due to the choices the current mayor has made, and then proceeding to dismiss plastic recycling and public toilets as unimportant.
Clearly the man had no read on who he was talking to on this particular evening and his ideas of civic engagement are wildly antithetical to mine.

Leaving us with Deputy Mayor Joe Pantalone. Neither here nor there, pretty well lost in the shuffle, he didn’t seem out of place so much as content to go along, surf the various tides as they swell up in order to be one of the last candidates standing come October. He seems non-ideological and cordial enough to work well with a fractious council.

But I just wish he’d stand up (no pun intended) and be more forceful about why he thinks government matters, why he would be a good mayor and that after 29 years in office, the city he’s represented is not doing too badly despite what the gaggle of naysayers on the stage around him are saying.

It is still just June yet. Lots of time remaining for policies, platforms and personalities to coalesce. Onward and forward to future debates!

– dutifully submitted by Cityslikr


A Mayoral Catch-22

March 20, 2014

I was mulling over Edward Keenan’s piece in The Grid yesterday about, well, fringe mayoral candidates, thinkinganddrinkinglet’s call them for lack of a better heuristic when, don’t you just know it, up pops the news that former candidate Sarah Thomson is planning another run at the mayor’s office.

You know Ms. Thomson. Barely cracked double digits in the 2010 race before throwing her lightweight weight behind the eventual 2nd place finisher, George Smitherman. Then ran something of a spirited campaign for the Liberals in the 2011 provincial in the riding of Trinity-Spadina, giving the long time incumbent Rosario Marchese a bit of a scare. Sarah “Transit” Thomson who basically took her one good idea from 2010 – road tolls – and built a platform of self-promotion around it. Yeah. That Sarah Thomson.

As I write this, Thomson showed up at City Hall this morning in a horse drawn red wagon to register. Whatever. But it does provide me a nice little segue into a larger discussion about fringe candidates.

Next Wednesday CityNews will be holding the first televised mayoral debate of the 2014 campaign. cinderellaAll 5 “major” candidates have signed on to participate, according to the announcement. Olivia Chow. Rob Ford. David Soknacki. Karen Stintz. John Tory.

Will a 6th podium be added now for Sarah Thomson? If so, why? Because she ran previously? Because she organized events around regional transit problems? Because she owns a publication? Because all this combines to give her public standing?

On the other hand, if CityNews doesn’t extend an invitation to the debate to Ms. Thomson, why not? Why do they get to make that decision? Who determines which candidacy sits beyond the fringe and which one doesn’t?

Mr. Keenan seems to suggest that’s it’s kind of an organic process. “As with any job — in this case, the CEO of a $10 billion-a-year organization responsible for millions of peoples’ daily necessities,” Keenan writes, cv“the hiring criteria includes significant experience and demonstrated abilities as much as anything else.”

There’s certainly some truth to that. In Toronto, it’s been the case for pretty much forever that the only way to the mayor’s job is through city council. Mayoral hopefuls have traditionally put in time as councillors first. No outsiders need apply.

“Putting together a successful campaign is actually a pretty good proxy for many of the attributes you need to govern,” Keenan continues, “managing a staff and volunteers, inspiring people to work on your behalf, raising funds, and engaging in a public debate that convinces citizens to put their trust in you and your plan. The press will pay close attention to candidates who show they can do that on a citywide scale. And so will voters.”

Again, certainly true, but for me, really only half of the equation. “Managing a staff and volunteers…raising funds…engaging in a public debate” are essential but none of it just appears out of the blue. All that’s easier said than done. Without an established name or easy access to money to buy yourself one, outside candidates have to work doubly hard (at least) to get their name and ideas out there. backroomI am troubled by that notion.

What I see is a slate of candidates that is presented to voters on the basis of money and influence. Prominent, backroom donors, well-worn campaign strategists, political party apparatchiks, all cajoling, tempting and eventually signing on to work for candidates they deem acceptable to run for mayor. These are your candidates, Toronto. Now, vote as you see fit.

And the media, especially media outlets that wind up hosting mayoral debates and forums, are complicit in this heavy-handed winnowing of the field. Only candidates from the given slate are invited to participate. Why? Well, because these are the ones voters want to hear from? Why is that? How does the media determine that? Look at the polling numbers, we’re told. Numbers derived from polls featuring only the non-fringe candidates’ names.

It’s a pre-determined, closed loop. An iterative process with only a handful of appointed variables, ultimately ending up with the choice from pick one of the above. closedopensystemNone of the above is never presented as a viable alternative.

Look. The 2014 campaign is about two and a half months old. Candidates have been registered since January 2nd. Yet, only after Olivia Chow — who everybody knew was running — officially entered the race last week were we informed that the official debates would begin. I’m not alone in finding the timing a little fishy, am I? It feels like the fix is in.

Instead of hashing and rehashing the will he or won’t he/when will she narrative and pursuing the HMS Destructive tour of the current incumbent, maybe a little time could’ve been devoted to listening to some of the other candidates for mayor, suss out their fitness for the job. In early February the U of T Scarborough student union held a mayoral forum that featured the mayor, David Soknacki and 3 of the fringe candidates. footinthedoorThe Toronto Star’s Daniel Dale covered it and, in his opinion, declared that one of the 3, Robb Johannes just might’ve won the debate.

So why hasn’t Mr. Johannes been invited to participate in the CityNews’ debate? Based on the observation of an experienced City Hall reporter giving his candidacy some legitimacy, what must he do to be given a shot at proving himself worthy of further consideration?

In 2010, we here at All Fired Up in the Big Smoke ran some 30 or so Meet A Mayoral Candidate posts throughout the campaign. Admittedly, most, a high percentage of them, rightfully deserved the fringe label. Remember, anybody with $200 to spare can run for mayor. It was hard to tell why many were in the race. A lark. Mere attention seeking. Misguided sense of direction.

But a handful of them were thoughtful, interesting and dedicated to giving their time and energy to the city. Hell, we ended up endorsing one for mayor when all was said and done. Not every fringe candidate should be viewed fringe simply because they don’t yet have money, resources or influence.musicalchairs

And I would argue that this time around, there are even more potentially serious fringe candidates then in 2010. The subject of Mr. Keenan’s article, Ari Goldkind, immediately strikes me as somebody worth listening to. Matt Mernagh. Jeff Billard. Richard Underhill. Morgan Baskin. The above mentioned Robb Johannes.

Are any of these credible mayoral candidates? I don’t know. But who the fuck am I to blithely brush them off before giving them a chance to hear what they have to say, deliver their plans and ideas to a wider audience?

“You don’t need the press to legitimize your candidacy,” Keenan informs the fringers. “Only your campaign can do that.”

That sentiment seems hopelessly and impossibly pollyannish or unaware on Keenan’s part; neither adjective I’d normally attach to him. Yes, we can all look to Calgary’s Naheed Nenshi as living, breathing proof that an unknown entity can come out of seemingly nowhere to score an improbable victory. ignoreOutsider candidates should look to Nenshi to see how exactly he and his team pulled that off. But to point to that very, very rare example and conclude it’s all about a little innovative DIY, and that somehow the media’s exclusionary practices to all but the few anointed candidates doesn’t play into the fringe determination of the many, that only truly viable candidates will earn a place in the spotlight, I think ignores just how a vast majority of the voting public gets their information and processes it in determining what way their support is going to go.

disappointingly submitted by Cityslikr


Summertime By-Election Blues

August 1, 2013

By-election day today in Ontario and, let me tell you, this is one election I am content to be able to sit out. hohum1While I can’t speak to the three races outside of Toronto, what we’ve witnessed with the two campaigns in town – Scarborough-Guildwood and Etobicoke-Lakeshore – has been dismal. Dismal, dreary, discouraging. If the intent of the three major parties was to disengage the voting public beyond what any summer by-election would do naturally, well, bravo. Slow clap and let me just rinse to get the bitter taste from my mouth.

If it wasn’t apparent in the last provincial general election, this past five weeks or so has shown beyond a doubt that the Liberal government is suffering through ruling rot. Three terms in now and it’s all about desperately holding on to power by any means necessary. ribbitHopes that a leadership change might’ve sparked some sort of internal renewal have pretty much been dashed by their performance at least here in the two Toronto riding by-elections.

Prime time for the opposition parties to step up and make their case.

But like in 2011, both the Tories and the NDP have run one note campaigns: The Liberals are bad. Time for a change. OK. I agree. What kind of change are you going to bring to Queen’s Park? The Liberals are bad. Time for a change. OK. We’ve established that. So what will you do differently if elected? The Liberals are bad. Time for a change. A change to what? The Liberals are bad. Time for a change.

Can you give me any sort of specific change you propose?

pander

SUBWAYS!!

But the Liberals are for subways too.

The Liberals are bad. Time for a change.

Throughout the last 3 rancorous, chaotic years at City Hall, there’s been a quiet conversation happening about perhaps the need for the discipline of party politics at the municipal level. partydisciplineToo many wildcards, acting in their own parochial best interests, making decisions in a willy-nilly fashion. Time to bring in the whip. Time to restore order.

Nothing about party politics at the provincial level currently would make me think this is a good idea. These by-election campaigns have revealed the system to be one of rigid thinking and unquestioning loyalty to a banner not the people. It warps otherwise seemingly well-intentioned candidates into talking point spewing automatons. How else to explain the former chair of the TTC and champion of the LRT-driven Transit City now referring to the technology as 2nd-class? His Liberal opponent, past CEO of the CivicAction Alliance, a group well-regarded as sensible contributors to the region’s transit debate, has thrown all that from the bus to embrace a sudden Scarborough subway zeal. brandloyaltyThe city’s Deputy Mayor who has spent some 30 years in municipal politics not building subways wants voters in his riding now to think he’ll deliver one to them as their MPP.

If as a voter in today’s two Toronto by-elections you can bring yourself to cast a ballot for any of the three major parties, you’re just pledging blind, partisan allegiance to empty party politics. You are part of the problem not the solution.

From my perspective, I’d like to see Doug Holyday win in Etobicoke-Lakeshore for no other reason than to have him take his cranky old man act the fuck out of City Hall and up to Queen’s Park. A side benefit might be that Peter Milczyn and the other nominal Liberals on council will realize that Mayor Ford is not their friend and that their relationship with him goes entirely in one-direction. protestvoteMaybe they’ll stop rolling over, hoping for a friendly rub of their bellies.

In Scarborough-Guildwood, it strikes me as the perfect time to go Green. The party’s candidate, Nick Leeson, has sounded the most reasonable, positive and not beholden the interests of Big Subway. I voted Green for the first time last provincial election and the world did not end. My candidate lost but, at the very least, I let it be known to the Liberals, PCs and NDP that none should take my vote for granted and that what they were delivering up as reasons to vote for them were no longer palatable options.

Today’s vote shouldn’t be seen as just a referendum on the sitting government. It needs to be an indictment of the entire system at Queen’s Park and the putrefying, self-serving culture it’s become.

protestly submitted by Cityslikr


Things They Are A-Changing Back

June 12, 2013

During yesterday’s council session, while debating the mayor’s first key item, Traffic Congestion Management and Traffic Signal Coordination ghosttown(aka Cars Go Fast!), both councillors Gord Perks and Adam Vaughan talked about the positive aspects of a congested city. “I don’t want to live in a ghost town,” Perks said. “I want to live in a vibrant exciting place where I’m meeting people on the street and saying hi.”

Naturally this brought howls of derision from the likes of the Ford Bros. and Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti. “Congestion is not good,” Mammoliti declared, “and if you suggest that it is, blow your nose because it isn’t. Clear yourself.”

The councillor then went on to introduce a mocking item that would revert everywhere south of Davenport back to the 19th-century, complete with dirt roads and period customs. Funny, for sure. Giorgio can be a funny guy at times. carcommercialBut it also revealed a couple other telling aspects about him and the car-centric crowd on council he runs with.

They cannot envision a city that doesn’t prioritize the use of the private automobile. It’s completely alien to them. Without our cars, without giving them easy and unobstructed access to go wherever they want, whenever they want, as quickly as possible with the least amount of hassle, we might as well be living in the pioneer days. Before cars, there were only horses.

Their reaction to the congestion statements by councillors Perks and Vaughan also displayed a fundamental incuriosity to what is a fairly counterintuitive idea. Instead of standing to ask for some sort of clarification – Congestion is good?! What the hell do you mean by that, councillor? How could congestion be good? – they just rolled their eyes and laughed in disbelief. crazytalkCouncillor Mammoliti even suggested that statement would come back to haunt Councillor Perks.

Congestion is good? How stupid is that?

But stop to think about it for a moment.

Councillor Vaughan brought up the image of downtown Detroit. No congestion there, apparently. Drive from one side of the city to the other, free of bumper-to-bumper traffic. The wind in your hair. The wide open road.

Perfect for quickly getting from point A to point B but you wouldn’t want to really live or visit where there’s nobody or nothing going on, right? A ghost town versus human congestion, let’s call it.

Think Manhattan, for example. There’s congestion caused by intense activity of all kinds. Pedestrians, cars, bikes, buses. Working, shopping, playing. Bustling, in other words.

That’s far different than the spectre of congestion Councillor Mammoliti is trying to evoke. busystreetNo one believes the gridlock that has bogged down commuters and the movement of goods throughout the GTAs as something that’s good. To pretend that’s what councillors Perks and Vaughan were suggesting is either deliberately obtuse or pure political calculation.

Or it’s just status quo hugging laziness.

Like Mayor Ford’s reaction yesterday to council giving the go ahead to ask the province to allow permanent residents to vote in municipal elections. “I think we have a good system,” the mayor responded. “It doesn’t make sense. How can someone that’s not a Canadian citizen vote?”

How can someone that’s not a Canadian citizen vote? How can congestion be good? How can anything that isn’t exactly how it is now or is exactly how I think it should be good or an improvement or in any way a positive sort of change?

The mayor, his brother, the likes of councillors Mammoliti, Minnan-Wong, Del Grande, Holyday et al notlistening2cannot understand anything that deviates from their point of view, anything that challenges their perception of how the world works and how it might be made to work better. It’s rigid, ideologically hidebound and fundamentally incapable of arriving at any sort of compromise.

Unsurprising then that this gaggle of reactionaries finds itself occupying a smaller and smaller circle at city council. The backward brotherhood, united in a dislike of and disbelief in anything that smacks of them having to lead their lives in any way different than they always have.

bob robertsly submitted by Cityslikr


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