The Dirty (Baker’s) Dozen

September 19, 2014

throwoutthetrashOn Monday we typed out a hearty endorsement of twelve incumbent city councilors seeking re-election next month. The nice-to-haves, let’s call them. So how about we bookend the work week with a screaming indictment of a dozen (+1) incumbents who contributed nothing to the well-being of the city and the residents they were elected to serve? I dub these, the need-to-gos. City Hall would be a much better place without them.

From worst to only marginally less worse.

1) Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti (Ward 7 York West)

Two words: Police Investigation. What can you say about a politician who allegedly accepted $80K as some sort of gift while serving in office? And it seems like he can’t understand how anyone thinks he did anything wrong! Add to that his noisy divisiveness and boisterous, braying demeanour whenever there’s a camera or microphone nearby, Councillor Mammoliti needs to be shown the door. A resounding ‘no’ in answer to the question: Could [fill in a candidate’s name here] be any worse?boo1

2) Councillor Frances Nunziata (Ward 11 York South-Weston)

The soundtrack to the Ford administration. Councillor Nunziata succeeded in dragging the position of city council Speaker to the dreary depths of partisanship, procedural disregard and ear-piercing combativeness. She wasn’t a moderator. She was a cheerleader. Her plaintive and repetitive beef about her ward never getting nothing from the rest of the city belies the fact she has represented that ward in some manner or fashion for about three decades now. Ward 11 residents should take a long look in the mirror and reflect upon why that may be.

3) Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong (Ward 34 Don Valley East)

I will give the councilor this much. He adhered closely to the few principles he has when he voted against the Scarborough subway and a casino. The latter had something to do with his religious faith. The former underlined the fact there wasn’t a tax Councillor Minnan-Wong didn’t hate, an investment in the public realm that couldn’t be cheaper. thumbsdown2While he may think of himself as the fiscal conscience of city council, he’s actually the spirt of miserliness, determined to shrink the city into helpless submission. His is a pre-amalgamation mindset, one we have to rid ourselves of if we actually are interested in building a cohesive, inclusive city.

4) Councillor David Shiner (Ward 24 Willowdale)

Councillor Shiner would probably rank as a true leader of civic destructiveness if he actually gave a shit anymore. He’s harmful enough as it is and he’s now just going through the motions. Nothing signals that more than his successful non-attempt to ban the selling of plastic bags in the city during the nickel tax debate. He just threw the item up for a disruptive laugh, with little debate, no city staff input or review, only to be caught off-guard when it actually passed. He’s another one from the ancien regime of Mel Lastman with little raison d’etre for serving on city council anymore.

5) Councillor Michelle Berardinetti (Ward 35 Scarborough Southwest)

In a close race, Councillor Berardinetti wins the worst rookie councillor award. It was better being an elephant in this city during her first term in office than say, a cyclist or public transit user. sweepoutThere didn’t seem to be a bike lane she wasn’t happy to tear up or a Scarborough subway plan she didn’t embrace lovingly. The fact that she became one of the most outspoken supporters for the subway extension of the Bloor-Danforth line speaks volumes to the dubious nature of the project. Gender (or location) alone didn’t earn her a spot on Rob Ford’s first Executive Committee. She was a true believer, changing courses only when it became politically expedient to do so.

6) Councillor Vincent Crisanti (Ward 1 Etobicoke North)

Owing his very presence on city council to Rob Ford, Councillor Crisanti proved to be nothing if not loyal. Literally. He was nothing but loyal to the mayor, right to the bitter end, voting against any sort of sanctions against the mayor even after the crack scandal broke wide. Aside from that, I can’t come up with one thing the councillor championed during his first term, few he even bothered to express an opinion on. He did excel in asking confusing questions to both staff and his council colleagues during city council meetings. So I wouldn’t go as far as to call him a complete and utter non-entity. Just a simple non-entity will suffice.

7) Councillor Ron Moeser (Ward 44 Scarborough East)

He came into last term ailing, missing many, many important meetings and decisions during the first 18 months. While his attendance and health appeared to pick up over the last couple years, I don’t think it unfair to make it an issue during this campaign. thumbsdownEven when he returned to work, there were times Councillor Moeser didn’t appear to be on top of the proceedings especially during the last budget deliberations after he was made a late addition to the committee. His most memorable moment over the last 4 years? Railing against ice cream trucks during the food truck debate.

8) Councillor Cesar Palacio (Ward 17 Davenport)

While the councillor wasn’t elected to office on Rob Ford’s coat tails, you certainly wouldn’t know that by how he conducted his council business. A Ford loyalist and then some, he even took to flashing his thumb in support of the Ford agenda during votes after Giorgio Mammoliti thought better of such public displays of affection toward the mayor. Councillor Palacio seemed to take great delight in railing against the St. Clair disaster despite the fact it painted a bleak picture of his own ward. Ward 17 residents have every reason to wonder exactly whose interests their councillor put first, theirs or the mayor’s.

9) Councillor Gary Crawford (Ward 36 Scarborough Southwest)

Not a word of a lie, even now, nearly 4 years on, whenever Councillor Crawford got up to speak at council, I’d be surprised. My immediate thought was, who is that guy? throwoutthetrash1The quietest member of city council, he let his actions speak louder than his words, his major accomplishments being, painting a portrait of Mayor Ford and drumming for the band that played at a few of the mayor’s Ford Fests. After that, he silently supported the mayor’s agenda, rarely getting up to explain why. A loyal button pusher until it became problematic to do so, Gary Crawford is a city councillor without distinction.

10) Councillor Frank Di Giorgio (Ward 12 York South-Weston)

Amiable enough, the Team Ford 2nd budget chief, Councillor Di Giorgio came across as overwhelmed by all the big numbers. Actually, given his lengthy time in office, he seemed surprisingly overwhelmed by most aspects of the job. He regularly stood up in city council meetings to ask some of the most stupefyingly obtuse questions, to state the most stupefyingly obstuse points, you had to wonder some days how he was even able to find his way to City Hall. When people point to the low quality of local representation as the reason not to give municipalities more control over their future, they will end up pointing to the likes Councillor Frankd Di Giorgio as proof of their argument.

11) Councillor James Pasternak (Ward 10 York Centre)

I’ve conversed briefly with Councillor Pasternak. Councillor Pasternak seems to be a genuinely nice person. booHowever, I still think Councillor Pasternak shouldn’t be a city councillor. His subway obsession in the form of the mystical North York Relief line and the burr he developed up his ass toward the Ombudsman combined to make for a petulant, pandering politician. The fact that he rose to the ranks of both Executive and Budget Committee member speaks more to the emptiness of the Ford Administration than it does to his talents as a city councillor.

12) Councillor Mark Grimes (Ward 6 Etobicoke-Lakeshore)

If anyone knows why it is Councillor Grimes got into politics in the first place, why he continues to seek re-election, maybe they can give us a hint. He doesn’t seem to much like his job, reluctantly participating in city council meetings. I think his main contribution this term was to try and limit the amount of time councilors got to speak during meetings. He gives off an annoyed, can-we-move-this-thing-along vibe regularly, as if he has more important things to do with his time than be, you know, a city councillor. The Midnight Mayor nickname Rob Ford bestowed upon him should ultimately mean nothing more than nobody really sees much of Councillor Grimes. That’s how much of a non-factor he ultimately is.

13) Councillor Glenn De Baeremaeker (Ward 38 Scarborough Centre)thumbsdown1

We include this bonus track because nobody so cravenly enabled the push for the Scarborough subway at the city level more than Councillor De Baeremaeker. A largely unremarkable councillor with a penchant for bringing props to council meetings, he displayed a serious lack of political judgment when did he did his 180 from LRT to subway in a matter of months for no other apparent reason than out of pure fear of Ford Nation electoral retribution. Turns out, there is no such thing as Ford Nation and now we’re stuck with an unnecessary subway extension. This Glenn De Baeremaeker is what gives politicians a bad name and supplies political haters with all the ammunition they need.

helpfully submitted by Cityslikr


Challengers To Watch XVI

September 16, 2014

Sitting in a small coffee shop on Kingston Road chatting with Ward 36 Scarborough Southwest city council candidate Robert Spencer about the city’s alarming rate of child poverty, gabbingI was struck by the fact that, wow, we were talking about child poverty. Here we were, as our municipal campaign hit its home stretch, and we’ve heard precious little about this ‘epidemic’ level of child poverty in Toronto. Talk about all the transit and infrastructure needs you want but a city that tolerates nearly 150,000 of its kids living under the poverty line isn’t really a place you should be proud to call home.

This seems to be the issue that has Spencer back knocking on doors after having lost in 2010 by just over 400 votes. Questions of fairness, equality of opportunity, justice have been lifelong pursuits of his during a career spent as a community activist. A former chair of the Toronto Board of Education, Executive Director of Ontario Association of Food Banks and co-founder of the Bluffs Advocate local newspaper, Spencer is well versed with the needs of the community as well as the bureaucracy that sees to them.

“The reality is the city is only great because its people are great,” Spencer told David Hains of the Torontoist last week. “The city only works well because we all get together and work together. I think there’s a whole slew of issues that are missed — if you only look at the hard services in a city, you miss what makes a city useful: art, culture, community education, good health programs, and good nutrition programs for kids. Those are all within the mandate of the City. They’re all much more interesting than arguing about whether eight years from now an environmental assessment is going to be put on this alignment or that alignment, this number of stations or that number of stations.”

Politics is about people not things. “Repaving the roads is not enough,” Spencer told me, although trying to “resolve as many of the practicalities as possible” is a city councillor’s job, filling potholes doesn’t make a city liveable, filling hungry kids’ bellies does.activism

It’s impossible for me to demonstrate the gulf of difference between Robert Spencer’s approach to governance and that of the man he’s trying to remove from office, Councillor Gary Crawford whose signature items during his first term were painting Mayor Ford’s portrait and drumming in the band that played Ford Fest. Oh, and his 76% pro-Ford voting record during the term, including eliminating water efficiency rebate programs, closing library branches, defunding the Tenant Defence Fund, eliminating community environment days, the Christmas bureau, the hardship fund.

And that was just in year one!texaschainsawmassacre

All this while one of the poorest areas of the city sits smack dab in the middle of Ward 36.

According to Spencer, he’s not hearing much of the Ford agenda banter as he’s talking to residents of the ward. Keeping taxes low doesn’t come up that often. As for the Scarborough subway plan, he’s says it’s about evenly split in terms of support. He doesn’t think much of it. It doesn’t do anything in terms of transit for the ward. He’d rather see express bus service brought back that was lost way back with amalgamation.

Again, politics is about people not about things.

I wound up my hour+ interview with Spencer with barely half a page of notes taken, not because he had little to say or out of sheer laziness on my part. communityinvestmentWe simply talked about the state of the city we both loved and what was needed to help try and fix it and I forgot to write stuff down. But his passion for Toronto and Ward 36, and his focus on how to create a fairer place to live with increased opportunities for everyone was obvious.

Whatever the outcome of this election on October 27th, if Robert Spencer is elected councillor of Ward 36 Scarborough Southwest, City Hall will be a better place. He is truly one of the good guys.

happily submitted by Cityslikr


Stupidity Not Mendacity

September 12, 2014

It will come as no surprise to anyone reading this that I hate the Scarborough subway plan pacification vote getter plan. hateitNothing more than, what do those politician-hating politicians call it? A boondoggle. If this monstrosity actually comes to be, and there’s no guarantee it will, folks. There’s no deal signed. No money in the bank. Just malleable promises, pandering politicians and one big novelty cheque.

But let’s say the political winds don’t change and sometime down the line, off there on the horizon, at a distant point in the distant future, 3 new stops get slapped onto the eastern end of the Bloor-Danforth subway. Hurrah! Scarborough gets more of a subway, civic pride is restored and… well, nothing much else will change. It’s all just questions after that. Will the ridership numbers live up to the pie-in-the-sky estimates or will there be more of a drain on the TTC’s operational budget? What about all those other residents of Scarborough who can’t easily walk to one of the three subway stops and are once more relying on bus service for their commutes? How come I’m still paying property taxes for this fucking subway?ooops1

What’s so particularly galling about this nonsense is that it’s all so unnecessary, unnecessary and counter-productive.

In a discussion paper released this week, Build Regional Transit Now, the Toronto Region Board of Trade, among other things, called for an end to political interference in transit planning. This being 2014, it is something of a sad irony such a plea had to be made since the provincial transit planning body, Metrolinx, was established just for that very reason. David Hains does a great job in the Torontoist, running down the rocky not so non-political history of Metrolinx.

I want to take you to page 17 of the TRBOT’s report. Under the subheading, “Decison-Making and Project Execution a Struggle”, it speaks directly to the Scarborough LRT/subway debacle. Or ‘standoff’ as the report calls it.

At the heart of any sound governance structure is accountability and efficient decision-making. These elements were clearly not in place with the on-going Scarborough subway versus LRT standoff. Indeed, it demonstrated much confusion around the roles and responsibilities of Metrolinx and who exactly was accountable for driving regional transportation expansion. Despite Metrolinx’s transportation planners recommending an LRT line, including close to $100 million in sunk costs associated with environmental assessments and other preparatory work, Metrolinx’s advice was, in the end, ignored by both the Province and the City of Toronto. Over the span of several weeks, the agency was compelled to first endorse a subway proposal from the then provincial Transportation Minister and later Toronto Council’s approved subway route.

In a paragraph nutshell. Expert advice was ignored. Money burned. Political pressure brought to bear on an apparently non-political agency.

The question, of course, is why? And the simple answer is politics. whyThe conventional wisdom went that Scarborough residents wanted a subway, so Scarborough politicians bent over backwards to give them a subway, good governance and a cool hundred mil be damned.

But here’s what really burns my ass about that line of non-reasoning. When did that become conventional wisdom? Rob Ford’s election and his Subways Everywhere mantra, perhaps. The minority Liberals, running scared and willing to do anything in order to keep seats in Toronto.

A good theory, I guess. I don’t have a better one. The problem is, I’m not convinced the very premise lying at the heart of all this holds water.

As a Forum poll showed this week, 56% of Scarborough residents asked stated a preference for subways over LRTs. Here’s the catch. It was a completely loaded and skewed question. thisorthatEssentially it went, subway or LRT, “if costs for building both were the same”?

The costs aren’t the same. Not even close. Subways are more expensive. End stop. Moreover, the Scarborough LRT wouldn’t have cost Toronto residents any additional money. The subway has its own property tax increase.

So it was a stupid question, for sure, of the all things being equal type when clearly they’re not but even so, even with a pro-subway angle to the question, only 56% of respondents in Scarborough favoured building a subway.

That is hardly an overwhelming majority. Nowhere near the 100% support the mayor and other subway proponents tout. Given a proper shaping of the question, it would be even less.

In fact, earlier this year, a Leger poll found 56% of Scarborough residents wanted to revert back to the originally planned Scarborough LRT. “I think we’re starting to see a shift now as people become more aware of the cost to build subways,” said a Leger researcher. ontheotherhand1Yet, here we are, being told the exact opposite by the politicians we elected to represent our best interests.

The confounding thing to me is why. If voters can be convinced of the folly of building a subway extension into Scarborough with little more than a money argument, how come politicians aren’t willing to do just that? To recommend the advice of the non-political experts who tell us that a Scarborough LRT is really our best option. How has this debate become so fucking convoluted and divisive?

I have no answer. It’s one thing to chalk up politicians’ motives as doing whatever it is they need to do to get elected, and re-elected, and re-elected. Putting their interests before the interests of the voting public. A time-honoured, tried and true formula.

But the decision-making process for the Scarborough subway doesn’t seem to be that. It’s not about some failure to lead. It’s about the desire to mislead.

steamroll

When all the factors point in the direction of one decision, and the public appears prepared to accept that decision, what politician would opt not to make it? That’s not crass and craven politics. It’s flat-out idiocy.

head-shakingly submitted by Cityslikr


See Ya, Soks

September 10, 2014

Even in light of David Soknacki’s withdrawal from the mayor’s race last night, I refuse to go blaming a campaign team for over-estimating the public’s desire to engage in meaty policy thinking during an election campaign. goodintentionsIt’s a good instinct to have, I think. Optimistic. Displaying faith in your fellow human beings. Respecting our collective intelligence.

Unfortunately, it also may be somewhat misguided. What a candidate really seems to need to be successful is an image consultant not some nerdy issue wonks. Keep it simple. Most people don’t pay that much attention.

“Ultimately, the reason Ford got elected is that voters were very superficial,” says [Soknacki campaign manager Brian] Kelcey, noting his awareness that these comments may come back to haunt him. “I believe that the reason voters were willing to vote for Ford in 2010 in such numbers was because they were being superficial about municipal issues. That they wanted change, but they bought into the idea that the solutions could were simple and could be expressed in meaningless slogans without a plan to back them up… The challenge is that we’re still facing superficial voters, and the voters who are being anti-Ford may be being as superficial as the voters who were being pro-Ford in 2010, by not demanding more of the other candidates.”

While this, in David Hains’ fantastic Torontoist piece from yesterday, might come across as sour grapes from a failed campaign, it’s difficult to disagree with Mr. Kelcey at this point. sourgrapes1Even in a campaign this long, months and months long, there was very little space given over to detailed ideas and platforms with even two dimensional complexity. Freak shows and catchphrases. Toronto Votes 2014.

Maybe that’s just politics in the Rob Ford era. 2010, Rob Ford, good. 2014, Rob Ford, bad.

But I think it goes much deeper than that. We’d like to think that in a robust democracy substance matters. An informed electorate will look past personalities and zippy slogans, and dig down into the meat of matters. The message is what matters not the messenger.

The fact is, we’d be idiots to believe that. “Firstly, it must be said that Soknacki is a dedicated and conscientious policy wonk and, I think, a genuinely decent human being,” @mightygodking tweeted last night. “All of that said: so what? This is politics. It is not THE WEST WING.”

We can blame this on all those ‘low-information’ voters out there, too busy or too ignorant to take the time to become really informed, substancebut I suspect most of us are not immune to our visceral, initial impressions of a candidate. Many of us love our brand affiliations. This is why the ‘NDP candidate’ Olivia Chow barb from John Tory has stuck so clingingly. That’s gut trumping brains.

Everybody knew that this campaign would be some sort of referendum on Mayor Rob Ford. That tends to happen when an incumbent runs for re-election. The calculus of engaging that by each candidate was different.

David Soknacki and his team rolled the dice, figuring the public was tired of the outrageous antics of the mayor, and wanted somebody the exact opposite. A low key, less colourful figure with good ideas. Toronto just wanted some peace and quiet, and for city council to get on with running things competently.

The problem for Team Soknacki turned out to be that John Tory did them one better. patricianHe was low key and less colourful than Rob Ford minus the good ideas part which rarely counts for all that much in an election campaign. Sorry.

Where in 2010, Rob Ford caught the spirit of voters with one word, resentment, John Tory is doing it in 2014, competency. Is he competent? Doesn’t matter. His suit fits perfectly.

David Soknacki ran smack dab into the impermeable bubble of illusion created by money, influence and class, frankly. The patrician John Tory had the Those Seeking Competency Above All Else vote from the outset. He didn’t have to prove it. He just was.

But I will throw mad props out to David Soknacki and all those who dedicated their time and energy to his candidacy for actually thinking we were prepared to engage in an issues-oriented campaign, for making a bid to our better angels. For various reasons, we weren’t up to the task. Toronto scared itself shitless 4 years ago and now was desperately, irrationally trying to un-inflict the damage. 2014 was no time to engage in ideas about the future.

hattip

grumpily submitted by Cityslikr


Tory Time

September 9, 2014

What do John Tory supporters see when they see candidate John Tory? What do Tory supporters dream when they dream John Tory dreams?sheepdreams

I ask, as I was struck somewhat by a series of responses I got over the Twitter this weekend after I took to mocking their dear leader for his apparent flip-flop over the ranked ballot voting reform initiative now sitting in limbo at Queen’s Park. (Here’s John Tory in May, all over the idea of ranked ballots:  Yes, I’m very open to the discussion…” blah blah blah… “ Look, if you have the discussion, there’s no reason you couldn’t have it in time for the next election.” Here’s John Tory’s response to the ranked ballots Big Idea published this weekend in the Toronto Star: “Position:  No. Both the city and the province are examining electoral reforms and I look forward to seeing the results of those studies…” blah blah blah…

Carrying this parenthetical over to a 2nd paragraph, it’s also interesting to note in John Lorinc’s Spacing article from May, twofaced1John Tory was gung ho about the Downtown Relief Line and stated emphatically that the rapid transit expansion for northwest and northeast Toronto in the form of the Finch West and Sheppard East LRTs might have to be delayed, de-prioritized and sacrificed at the altar of the DRL. Four months on and the guy can’t shut up about SmartTrack. Just how malleable are his transit plans, it makes one wonder.)

In response to his glaring ranked ballots flip-flop, I fired off a series of tweets, suggesting that aside from their respective code of conduct differences — Rob Ford, all debauched, degenerate and dissolute, John Tory, buttoned-down, hair parted on the left, corporate – I couldn’t see much daylight between the two candidates. While Tory’s SmartTrack isn’t nearly as phantasmagorical as the mayor’s Subways Redux plan, it still relied solely on a one magic bullet funding solution. John Tory hates taxes as much as Rob Ford does, except when it comes to the Scarborough subway. waitasecondBoth men now appear to be on the same page when it comes to voting reform.

John Tory: a warmed over Fordism dressed up in a tailored suit. City Hall, crackless, but essentially Rob Ford’s 2nd term.

I expected pushback in terms of policy from Tory fans. No, no, no. You got it all wrong. SmartTrack is this… Or, Mr. Tory’s new position on ranked ballots is more new nuanced. It’s not so much a reversal as it is a re-thinking.

Uh uh. Not even close. What I got were variations on a theme. ‘Inoffensive.’ Gracious. A pleasure to work with. ‘Genuine and impacting’. (**shrug**) ‘A businessman with a sparkling resume’.

Which was the fucking point of my outburst!

Nothing but personal testimonials. Issues? Issues? Give me an issue, I’ll make a tissue and wipe my ass with it. (h/t to the Lou Reed for that.)

Clearly, politics in Toronto has grown flabby and lazy. The uptick in support for John Tory in this campaign suggests that more and more people in this city look around and see the problems we face, birdsofafeatherwhether it’s congestion or growing inequality, and they come to the conclusion that, damn, if only our mayor hadn’t smoked crack, we wouldn’t  be in this mess.

We seem willing to extend our delusion that these things can all be fixed without anybody having to lift a finger to contribute. We just need to fire a few more bureaucrats. Lean on the private sector a bit more. Keep on keeping our taxes low.

Ignore the fact Rob Ford did all these things. In between crack smoking bouts and punching people in the face while holding a McDonald’s bag, these are all policies he pursued. Cuts to services and programs. Reduction in spending. Sheppard subway extension anyone?

Now we seem to think that all these things would work if we only had someone else in place to implement them. Someone inoffensive. Someone gracious. Someone genuine and impacting. Someone like John Tory.

What I once thought was a political liability, I’m now beginning to think might’ve been a stroke of pure genius on the part of John Tory. Back in the 2010 municipal campaign, he donated money to both Rob and Doug Ford. When the donations came to light this time around, people jumped on him. What were you thinking, John Tory? wolfinsheepsclothingLook how this all turned out.

I can only imagine what it was John Tory was thinking. Help get Rob Ford elected mayor. Support him early on. And when he crashes and burns, because the safe bet was he’d crash and burn, people would turn to John Tory to come in and clean up the mess. John Tory’s ticket to power would be that he wasn’t Rob Ford.

The joke is, beyond the wreck in the mayor’s office, John Tory has no intention of cleaning up the mess Rob Ford left behind. A John Tory mayoralty is going to be pretty much business as usual. Build and repair what you can within the confines of shrinking revenue. Cut and eliminate where necessary to keep the books balanced.

He’s done or said nothing to suggest otherwise. Believing he has is simply believing in fairy tales. Once again a plurality of Torontonians seem happily prepared to fall for the big con, part two.

depressingly submitted by Cityslikr


Shiner On To Greener Pastures

September 8, 2014

On Friday, one burning question about Toronto’s October 27th municipal was answered. Will David Shiner be seeking re-election as councillor for Ward 24 Willowdale? whyYes. Yes, he will be.

Leading to the inevitable and next logical train of thought. Good god in heaven, why?

Over the course of the past 4 years, we have all been witness to the wanton destruction wrought down on the city by what I’ll call the antediluvian, pre-amalgamated mindset of the Ford brothers, Rob and Doug. A low tax, user pay services, car-first approach to local governance that sees red at money spent on anything they don’t attach value to. Clear and pave the roads. Pick up the garbage. Keep the city safe.

Much past that and it’s pretty well everybody for themselves. If you want something, pay for it out of your own pocket. tightwadIt’s called, Respect For Taxpayers.

But before Rob Ford moved from the fringes of crank councillor, and brother-Doug took part-time off being a private sector magnate to grace City Hall with his presence, Councillor David Shiner represented the height of suburban Toronto reactionism. In his defence, he comes by it by it naturally, as son of former North York politico, Esther ‘Spadiner’ Shiner. Just a couple years ago, in fact, during one of the countless transit plan debates, he stood up and proudly boasted of marching in favour of the Spadina Expressway, back in his anti-flower power days.

Shiner descended on Toronto city wide, flocking down Yonge Street with the Mel Lastman horde, in 1997, resolute nothing should change for the lives of residents in the former municipality with amalgamation. Nothing at all. Nothing whatsoever. Nothing.

He’s pretty much maintained that belief for nearly 4 terms now, willing to sacrifice all but the barest of civic essentials in his pursuit of keeping taxes as low as possible. pieinthefaceHe sandbagged rookie councillor Mike Layton, back in early 2011, leading the rear-guard action against a long planned Fort York pedestrian and cyclist bridge. “Too fancy”, he called it.

Although later reworked to everyone’s seeming satisfaction, the Fort York bridge incident is a good example of Shiner dual destructiveness. A less than collegial relationship with fellow councillors and an absolute penury of public spirit. If that’s not bad enough – I mean, he isn’t alone in that — fellow Lastman era North Yorker, Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong has a similar knack for blind-siding his co-workers and openly attacking plans and development of the public realm, over the course of the last term, Shiner has displayed an open disregard for ethical behaviour.

Last October, it was reported that, along with Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti, Shiner was paying below market rent for an apartment leased from a company who does some business with the city. He shrugged off questions, saying he wasn’t exactly sure what the rent was he paid. Mayor Ford, no stranger himself to questions of ethics, stepped up to the councillors’ defence. “It’s a private issue, it’s between them and the landlord,” he said.questionsquestionsquestions

A few days after that allegation, it was revealed Councillor Shiner worked as a federal lobbyist for a company “… that was competing for millions of dollars in municipal contracts,” Daniel Dale wrote in the Toronto Star.

“It is common for councillors to maintain their private businesses while in office,” according to Dale. “It is also common for councillors to become lobbyists after leaving office. It appears rare, though not illegal, for a councillor to work as a lobbyist while still serving as an elected representative.”

Nothing illegal but most certainly in an ethical grey zone. As Guy Giorno, a lawyer and ‘an expert in lobbyist legislation’ said in the article: “Nothing in the law prohibits a municipal politician from holding another job, even if that job is to lobby another level of government. However, given the fact that councillors in Toronto receive full-time pay, it is legitimate to question why they should hold second jobs.”citybuilding

It’s bad optics, to say the least and does raise concerns just how much time Councillor Shiner dedicates to representing the interests of those who elected him to public office. Who does he work for, himself or for the residents of Ward 24?

Perhaps most egregious of David Shiner’s questionable behaviour during the past 4 years is his continued support of Mayor Ford.  Last November, he was the only non-Ford on city council to vote against stripping the mayor of most of his powers in light of the admission of crack use. Shiner was adamant in his tepid support of the mayor, insisting he’d “done a reasonable job.”

A reasonable job? Only if you view the main purpose of the job of a member of city council to be keeping taxes low and making sure the future of Toronto doesn’t get too fancy.timeforchange1

While the focus of the 2014 municipal campaign has been on the unsuitability of Rob Ford to continue leading this city, the dynamics at City Hall won’t change significantly if his enablers, and David Shiner has been among his most ardent enablers, are returned to office. He remains a throwback to an earlier time, one that is no longer up to the task of running a city of this size, this complexity and in need of adapting to the 21st-century. As much as Toronto has to move beyond the Fords come October 27th, Shiner time must also be relegated to a thing of the past.

hopefully submitted by Cityslikr


Self-Inflicted Wounds

September 5, 2014

When a capital ‘L’ Liberal leaning newspapers pronounces on Toronto’s vanishing NDP act, it’s pretty much required reading. willywonka1Straight up, objective, no dog in the hunt opinionizing. A fair and balanced view, as they say.

That’s why.

“Rising support for Liberals in Toronto may doom Olivia Chow’s mayoral bid,” chirps the subheadline of Bob Hepburn’s piece.

Rising support for Liberals in Toronto? I get the logic from the last provincial election but should we draw a line from that to the recent uptick in support for John Tory in the mayoral race? If so, if Liberals are actually turning to John Tory as some sort of liberal alternative then, well, Hepburn’s article should really be about the disappearance of liberalism in Toronto’s Liberals.

Now look, you’re not going to hear from me any defence of Olivia Chow’s campaign to date. It most certainly has been listless. There’s been no one or two issues put forward that you can really sink your teeth into.wolfinsheepsclothing No red meat for the base.

I heard apprehensive rumblings as the mayoral race began taking shape, back late last year, questioning the strength of Chow’s campaign abilities. Could she sustain a city-wide drive throughout the entire race? Perhaps there was some truth to such misgivings.

I was a constituent of hers, when she was both a city councillor and MP. The few times I met her during campaigns, she was very engaging and full of energy. But, in truth, I’ve seen little of that outside of her official campaign launch. So, are we, once again, looking at another race where the standard bearer of the left is not up to the task? Like Joe Pantalone in 2010, in the end, will it come down to the fact Olivia Chow could not sell a progressive vision for the city? The messenger unable to sell the message?

We shall see.

But about that message…runsoutofgas

In the article, Hepburn points out that in putting together a campaign team, Chow “…recruited senior Liberals…including self-styled ‘progressives’ such as former Ontario Liberal cabinet minister George Smitherman…” Former Ontario Liberal cabinet minister? You mean, former failed mayoral candidate, George Smitherman?

I mean, seriously. George Smitherman?! Who the fuck thought that was a good idea? What knowledge was he going to bring to the table for Olivia? How to blow an early lead? Done. Tell us again, George, how you helped run Barbara Hall’s 2003 mayoral campaign into the ground.

To the wider picture, why is an NDP candidate, as her opponent, John Tory, has brayingly labelled her, seeking Liberal help in her campaign? Because they win, you respond. badadviceNot always, I reply. George Smitherman, for instance. Federally, not so much lately.

Provincially, however.

Yes. And who did they beat? Exactly.

Now, you might argue that Liberals know where the NDP’s weak spots are, offer advice on how to patch up the electoral holes. Liberals provide a good sparring partner in the war room. Pop you one on the chin when you drop the left hand. See? That’s what you’re doing wrong.

But here’s what I think.

Liberals, more than anybody, have internalized the 30 year neoconservative drumbeat against the notion of tax-and-spending, interventionist government. That’s what the triangulation bullshit has all been about. It wins some elections, sure, but it only minimizes the damage rather than ends or reverses it.

What’s so frustrating at this point, with the Chow campaign and the provincial NDP one in June, is we’re living the result of three decades of neoconservative/neoliberal rule. imaproAn infrastructure deficit. A lack of affordable housing with the unsurprisingly accompanying spike in homelessness. Inequality. Grotesque and incapacitating inequality.

Look at Toronto’s To Do list.

Transit. Transit. And more transit. The horrendous TCHC backlog. Flooding and blackouts. Decreasing affordability for many people to live here.

The public good is wobbly under the weight of neglect, and there’s no finding efficiencies our way out of it. In aping Conservatives, Liberals have assisted in the piling on. totherampartsThe best the NDP can hope for, in copying the copy, is to, hopefully, make matters less worse.

Maybe it’s just me but what I was hoping for in the Olivia Chow campaign was a full on embrace of the tax-and-spender label. Yes, Mr. Tory. It’s time to start taxing and spending again. After years of pretending that this city is built on free swag, we now have to roll up our sleeves, pull out our wallets and start rebuilding.

She wouldn’t be out of line in saying such a thing. For the past couple years now, the city’s CEO, no raving lunatic leftie joe, Joe Pennachetti has told anyone prepared to listen that there’s not a whole lot more fat to be trimmed. “We don’t have all the revenues that probably are needed to ensure that we build and grow a city that we all want,” he said last month.

Hand the ball over to any progressive candidate who wants to run with it. Off you go! To the ramparts!ignored

But no such luck. It’s all been minor measures, tweaks here and there, avoid the big idea because it will demand a big solution. What’s passed for boldness is pretend maps paid for by pretend money, to paraphrase the only mayoral candidate talking to us as if we’re not drooling imbeciles, and he’s mired in the low single digits with regular backroom discussions about whether to continue on in the race.

Contrary to what the Toronto Star’s Bob Hepburn thinks, it’s not that NDP support in Toronto has vanished. There’s just nobody talking their language, speaking to their values. Maybe in hushed tones or in a code, over late night drinks. It’s just not enough to rally around, go to bat for or champion.

grumpily submitted by Cityslikr


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 261 other followers