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 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


Security Detail

April 30, 2015

With today’s release of the City of Toronto’s Ombudsman’s Report, An Investigation Into Toronto City Hall Security, ombudsmanwe’re sure to get another dose of noise from our Tales of the Mayor Behaving Badly tickle trunk. Just comes with the territory when you elect a drinker and drug abuser to public office. Messy shit happens.

And no question, messy shit happened, lots and lots of it.  Much of it reported earlier. Except I don’t remember hearing previously about security helping then mayor Rob Ford drive out of City Hall unnoticed while he was clearly under the influence. Aiding and abetting drunk driving, that is.

D’oh!

There I go, veering off onto the salacious detail trail. It’s so easy to get sidetracked. One could argue that, collectively, we got sidetracked for 4 years, caught up in the weeds and muck of scandal.

The thing to focus on in this Ombudsman’s report is not the instigator, the belligerent provocateur, but instead, how the system coped with a situation that the Ombudsman, Fiona Crean, referred to as ‘without precedent’. In short, it didn’t. Slightly less short, individual front line security officers were left to their own devices to deal with the unprecedented demands and overreach of the mayor’s office on them. forestforthetreesManagement, city management, did little to counter the belief that the mayor was the “head of the city” (339, page 58), so could not really be challenged by security.

In other words, individual security officers were hung out to dry by management, allowing the mayor to run roughshod over procedures and protocol. When management finally did respond, it was frequently too late and reactive. The mayor blew past all established boundaries, and in the process, redefined them.

Yeah, well. What are the chances of this city ever electing a crack smoking, drunken stupor falling mayor again, asked while regularly looking back over our shoulder, wondering if this is the thing that will re-ignite Ford Nation again. Fool me once, shame on you, etc., etc.

“It is behind us, the city’s moved on,” Public Works and Infrastructure Committee chair Jaye Robinson (and noted no friend of the Ombudsman’s office) responded when asked about the security report. Yes. Let us never speak of this again.

The thing is though, Ms. Crean and her staff have revealed not just specific structural flaws in how City Hall provides security but very basic, fundamental flaws, starting with, Who’s in charge here? nothingtoseehereNowhere in the City of Toronto Act, in the position of C.E.O. of the corporation of the City of Toronto or as head of city council, does it say a mayor can hijack City Hall security for his own personal use. The fact that, in this case, some security personal felt intimidated about reporting their interactions with the mayor out of fear of some sort of retaliation from him or his office (350, page 60), and when reports were written, they weren’t filed properly from the same reason, takes this far beyond this one mayor at this one moment in time.

Another mayor might look at this, see the matter of sheepish compliance in the face of the perceived power of the mayor’s office not only from the lower echelons of the public service but upper management itself, the very top of the city’s bureaucracy, and try to push the envelope in other, more troubling ways. Like say, I don’t know, procurement practices, for instance. The mayor lets it be known to the pertinent city department that he’s got an acquaintance with a business that would be perfect for job X. No pressure, you understand. Just a heads up from the “head of the city”. abuseofpowerHow about appointments to the various civic agencies, boards or committees? There’s this lovely lady, a good friend of a good friend. A great fit on the X board. Just some friendly advice from the “head of the city”.

Of course, we have rules against that sort of thing, just like there are rules about the role of security at City Hall. But if they are ignored, if those in charge of enforcing the rules, especially those sitting at the very top, look the other way, then those rules are meaningless, nothing but computer bytes and marks on a page. Rules made even less meaningful if, upon receiving a report detailing the flouting of those rules, our elected officials chose to undermine and attack the offices and staff empowered to investigate and report the abuse of those rules.

That’s why today’s report is important, why it can’t be simply put up on the shelf to collect dust, filed under just another episode of the Ford Follies. Mistakes were made, system failure detected. We need to reinforce the concept of just who exactly is the “head of the city”, underlining the fact that, no, no, it isn’t the mayor, any mayor.

securely submitted by Cityslikr

 


Coffee With Mr. Parker

April 29, 2015

“I’m sure you know how tear gas works.”

I don’t actually (or only from a safe, televised distance). teargasThat John Parker does, with real life, foot on experience, should settle the matter any City Hall watcher in all likelihood has contemplated at least once: How much fun would it be to sit down and chat with John Parker? Lots, in fact, and it heads off in directions you never expected it heading.

Like that time he was backpacking in Europe during the 70s and found himself in the middle of a square in Italy, in the middle of a political donnybrook. Or talking about Cats, the musical Cats, and one of the characters in it, Macavity. I don’t know anything about musicals, councillor. Yes, but T.S. Eliot? Coffee spoons. Coffee spoons.

Sure. We talked some politics too, beginning with his time as an East York M.P.P. and member of the Mike Harris government. I wanted to know how he negotiated the middle ground in the megacity amalgamation battle, representing residents who overwhelmingly didn’t want to be amalgamated. Resistance in his neck of the woods was surprisingly fiery but short-lived, he suggested, settling back once into a sort of acceptance once the deed had been done.

Governance reform was in the air when the Tories came to power. Reports were piled up, gathering dust. johnparkerThe big one, commissioned by the Bob Rae government, with Anne Golden at the helm was pretty much a non-starter with its suggestion of some sort of GTA-wide amalgamation. No one in power at Queen’s Park, not just Mike Harris, would contemplate establishing a local government that would rival the province in political clout, Parker believes. Not back then. Not now.

Was the Harris forced amalgamation an overt anti-Toronto act, I asked him.

He didn’t believe so although there did seem to be some ideological basis for going down the amalgamation path the way the Harris government did. Parker said there was a perception that Toronto, the older, legacy city, had grown “pampered” by its high tax base and social spending. It was thought the suburban municipalities would serve as a “moderating” influence on the excesses of dowtown.

We both chuckled, and thought of Rob Ford.

In retrospect, did amalgamation turn out as well as he’d hoped?

John Parker is in a unique position to address that question. Having been forced to fight for a second term in 1999 in another riding, ironically a victim of his own government’s anti-government mantra that reduced the number of provincial seats from 130 to 103, Parker lost. macavitySeven years later, he won a city council seat in Ward 26, vacated by Jane Pitfield for her ill-fated mayoral run against David Miller. So, like tear gas, he got to experience the effects of amalgamation first hand.

It wasn’t perfect, Parker tells me. The loss of a metro wide level of government without some sort of replacement was almost an off-the-cuff decision, and left city council as first 56 and then 44 squabbling fiefdoms. This basically undercut why Parker thought amalgamation would be good in the first place. The city and most of its big ticket services were already amalgamated. He thinks some of the current council problems could be alleviated with the addition of at-large councillors into the governance mix.

Parker does believe that one of the benefits of amalgamation is the slow but inevitable merging of the planning process from six departments to one. Planning is clearly a passion of John Parker’s, and one of the biggest disappointments for him in not securing a third term in last year’s election. There’s a lot to be excited about, the waterfront, plans and development along Eglinton Avenue as the Crosstown LRT comes to fruition. Unfortunately, he’s not going to be there, on the inside, to actively participate.

This seems to genuinely upset him.

And I think I speak for more than myself when I say, I’m upset with him. Of all the incumbents who were returned to office in 2014, 36 of them in total, only John Parker wasn’t. johnparker1Pick a name. Giorgio Mammoliti. Mark Grimes. Frank Di Giorgio. Ron Moeser. I could go on but I won’t. You get the point. All re-elected. John Parker was not.

Had he not won a 2nd term back in 2010 (another close race), perhaps no one might’ve noticed Parker’s exit from the local political scene. He certainly was not well-regarded on the left side of the spectrum, getting failing grades from media outlets like NOW and from organizations like the Toronto Environmental Alliance. Right-leaning news outlets like the Toronto Sun were lukewarm toward Parker, at best. “Not ready for the chop yet!”

He’d come to City Hall with a newly re-elected mayor, David Miller, who had his agenda firmly in-hand and needing little new support to get it through. Parker eventually found himself part of the Responsible Government Group, a handful of conservative leaning councillors often in opposition to Mayor Miller. The group never really gelled into a potent organized force, Parker says, the coalition often undercut by higher political ambitions of some of the members and other right-leaning councillors. It petered out further after its main target announced his intention not to seek a 3rd term in 2009.

Despite his outsider status and ideological differences with the Miller administration unionjack(although it is fun to hear Parker tout Transit City on more than one occasion when we’re talking transit policy), his first term must’ve been bliss compared to the next 4 years, the Ford era. “A complete disaster”, “disgraceful” is how Parker sums them up. He’d hoped that Rob Ford, after his surprising victory in 2010, would be distracted by the trappings of the mayor’s office and ignore policy which is what he’d done during his 10 years as councillor. What many councillors hadn’t counted on was his brother, Doug.

Parker has no kind words for his former council colleague who basically was calling the shots, and the one targeting things Parker holds dear, transit and the waterfront especially. It was on the transit file, from my perspective, that Parker rose up out of quiet obscurity. He had caught people’s attention as council’s deputy speaker, a calming, funny voice, stepping in whenever the more cacophonous, hyper-partisan speaker, Frances Nunziata, took a break from the chair.

But when Parker, also a TTC commissioner, went on record, referring to the Fords’ Scarborough subway plan as “goofy”, you knew something was up. Soon after, council took back control of the transit file from the mayor, only to take it off in another wacky direction.

ward26Parker had hoped that Transit City simply would’ve been reinstated

This all leads to the question that’s been nagging at me during our conversation. Why did John Tory, who was desperate to convince enough progressive voters that he was reasonable, rational, moderate, publicly endorse the opponent of a reasonable, rational, moderate incumbent like John Parker? Something he promised not to do and only did once, openly campaigning against an incumbent. Once.

If Parker knows the answer, he’s not telling although he did deepen the mystery further for me.

Back in 2007 when John Tory was leader of the Progressive Conservative and running for a seat in Don Valley West, Parker, who represented a ward in that riding at City Hall, reluctantly came out in support of Tory against the incumbent and future premier, Kathleen Wynne. His video appearance figured prominently on Tory’s website (and did not go unnoticed by Ms. Wynne). After the disastrous election results, Parker, as a former member of the party, advised caution in a rush to appear panicky and dump the party leader, once more backing John Tory.

So, why the snub in return? Not once, but twice, Parker informs me. As a high-profile non-candidate in 2010, John Tory also endorsed Parker’s opponent, Jon Burnside, giving his candidacy some legitimacy for any future run.

Parker shrugs. You tell me?johntoryjonburnside

Obviously, I can’t peek inside the “pure heart” of our mayor but it most certainly goes to a question of his character where loyalty and fair play get short shrift. Such machinations on his part would be slightly more understandable if his chosen candidate in Ward 26 appeared to be anything more than a compliant ticket puncher for the mayor. So far, evidence to the contrary is severely lacking.

John Parker doesn’t seem to be bitter about this. Just disappointed about this lost opportunity. Not for just himself but for the city if the new council doesn’t get the big decisions it’s facing right. Transit. The waterfront including stopping the island airport expansion. Eglinton Connects. He’s not sure the right person’s on the job to safely shepherd those issues.

During last year’s mayoral campaign, Parker was an initial supporter of Karen Stintz’s nascent and still undeclared mayoral bid. Policy differences, especially on transit, made that increasingly untenable. He found something of a natural fit in his support for David Soknacki. johnparker2The two men campaigned together.

When that campaign folded, Parker gravitated in a surprising direction. On the big issues that mattered to the city, he said that Olivia Chow was right. Transit. The bulging police budget. Spending on social issues. Olivia Chow got John Parker’s vote for mayor.

A lovely and entirely organic end to a very interesting run at City Hall, during huge upheaval and tumultuous times. Hopefully, now as a private citizen, John Parker’s voice isn’t lost. He’s got a lot of important things to say and it’s a lot of fun listening to him say it.

Thanks, John.

sadly submitted by Cityslikr


A Repugnant Blight

April 24, 2015

So there I am, minding my own business this week, catching up on my magazine subscriptions, making my way through the June 2014 issue of Harper’s. Second article in, The Civil Rights Act’s Unsung Victory by Randall Kennedy [subscription required unless you’re much better with the internets than I am which is a very real possibility]. The following day Desmond Cole drops this searing piece for Toronto Life, The Skin I’m In [no subscription required].

Mr. Kennedy writes about how his family used to pack food picnic-style for their trips back to South Carolina from Washington D.C. to avoid having to find meals on the road in the few places that served African-Americans. Even the car ride itself was fraught with danger. “My father was particularly burdened by the drive,” Kennedy writes.

He became noticeably nervous at the sight of police officers. Over the years several of them pulled him over. They did not charge him with any infraction. Rather, they stopped him seemingly out of curiosity and a desire to test his willingness to accept the etiquette of white supremacy. Their colloquies went something like this”

“That’s a nice car you’re driving, boy.”

“Thank you, officer. Have I done something wrong?”

“Not from what I can see just yet. I notice you’ve got out-of-town plates. You know, we do things different down here. You do know that?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Boy, you do know that, right?”

“Yassuh.”

“Okay. You’re free to go.”

In one of the most dispiriting and gut-punching passages in Desmond Cole’s article, he too describes an encounter with the police, our police, on a highway from Oshawa to Niagra Falls. His cousin throws a Kleenex out the window and police pull the car over immediately. Almost as if they’d been following, waiting for a reason.

A hush came over the car as the stocky officer strode up to the window and asked my dad if he knew why we’d been stopped. “Yes,” my father answered, his voice shaky, like a child in the principal’s office. My dad isn’t a big man, but he always cut an imposing figure in our household. This was the first time I realized he could be afraid of something. “He’s going to pick it up right now,” he assured the officer nervously, as Sana exited the car to retrieve the garbage. The cop seemed casually uninterested, but everyone in the car thrummed with tension, as if they were bracing for something catastrophic. After Sana returned, the officer let us go. We drove off, overcome with silence until my father finally exploded. “You realize everyone in this car is black, right?” he thundered at Sana.

We here up in Canada use the ugly, overt, Bull Connor racism of the American south (or apartheid in South Africa) as a smokescreen to hide our own inherent racism. Come on. We’re not that bad, as if a kinder, gentler racism is possible. We have no history of slavery in Canada. Therefore, no racism exists.

Events in the past couple weeks here in Toronto should disabuse us of that notion. Not only is racism a clear and present danger, it has been justified under the banner of effective policing. At its heart, the current practice of ‘carding’ is the assumption that people of colour, young men of colour especially, are more prone to criminal activity, therefore they forfeit their charter rights to lawful engagement with the police.

If Desmond Cole and I were walking down the street together, any street it seems, he would more likely be stopped by the police and asked for his personal information than I would be. Why? For no other reason than the fact Desmond Cole is black and I am white.

That’s racism, pure and simple. Hum and haw all you like, rationalize it, spin it and massage it. But if we condone the current practice of police carding, we are condoning racism.

By doing so, what kind of democracy does it say we live in when people are forced to go about their lives, negotiating how they move around their shared city differently? Take equality and fairness off the table. They don’t exist unless the words mean something other than I thought they did.

Show me your papers! That’s the essence of police carding, isn’t it?

If an appeal to a sense of decency or basic human rights doesn’t move you, what about the fundamental attack on civilian oversight by our police services we’ve been subject to? Recognizing there were some questions of legality with carding as it was being done, the police services board last term demanded that in a non-investigative interaction with the public, the police had to first inform a citizen that the exchange was entirely voluntary, they could walk away if they so desired. Also, the police were required to provide a receipt of the interaction giving, among other things, reasons for the interaction.

Turns out the police didn’t want to do that. So they ignored the request from their civilian oversight board, rendering their demands non-‘operationalized’, to use the term of our mayor who also doesn’t believe such a thing as white privilege exists, thus there’s no such thing as racism. Police dictate the policy they follow. It isn’t dictated to them.

Raising the equally dire specter of who’s exactly running the show here?

Not only does a strong democracy require an unwavering commitment to equality in all its forms, race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, law enforcement must be subservient to its political masters. Anything else bends toward authoritarianism. We tried in good faith to negotiate a workable, acceptable form of carding. That failed. Nothing short of a complete abolition of the practice will now do.

demandingly submitted by Cityslikr


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