A Promising Start

October 16, 2014

So it seems (based on the first day of advance polling, at least) that voters in Toronto are rip-roaring to get out there and cast a ballot in this year’s municipal election. crowdThe city clerk informed us that the one-day turnout on Tuesday nearly doubled 2010’s 6 weekday totals, some 28,000+ to the previous 16 K. The single day turnout came in at over one-third of 2010’s total advance voter numbers.

The tea leaves were quickly read. Tory supporters of all stripes getting out there to fend off the Ford horde. Chow voters quickly casting their ballot before giving over to the fear induced Anyone But Ford stampede. People just getting into line because they heard it was for Ford bobbleheads.

Actually, no. I didn’t hear anyone make the claim.

The conventional wisdom seems to suggest that increased voter turnout doesn’t tend to augur well for the incumbent, if there’s an incumbent, and yes, there’s an incumbent. A betting man might see the advance poll numbers and lay down large on Doug Ford not winning this thing, maybe not even placing. kickthebumsoutIf there’s one thing a rock solid majority of Torontonians can agree on at this point, it’s that we don’t want to see another Ford sitting in the mayor’s office come October 28th (or whenever it is the next council is officially sworn in.)

Let me just take the opportunity to say, if that’s the case, if the Ford era days are numbered, our job here is not done. No, no, no, my pretties. It has just begun.

As we have learned over the course of the past 4 years, the notion that simply voting as your one act of civic duty is insufficient to the proper maintenance of local democracy. Regardless of who becomes our next mayor, we can no longer sit back, grab a drink and hope for the best. Chasing one bad politician from office will not magically make the city’s problems disappear. rollingrockTo declare the war won is to sweep everything under the carpet. Out of sight, out of mind.

Engagement is ongoing. Vote with hope but work for results. We cannot leave the future well-being of Toronto in the hands of our politicians. As a group they’ve shown not always to have the best interests of the city or its residents at heart. It is up to us to continue working with our politicians (and against them, if need be) to keep reminding them of who it is they’ve actually been elected to represent.

enthusiastically submitted by Cityslikr


Racist Profile

October 15, 2014

I am a racist.

I am racist.

Note the nuanced difference between the two statements. Racist, in the first, as a noun. Racist, in the second, an adjective. The first acts upon those racist inclinations. racistThe second simply possesses the qualities of racism.

A subtle, perhaps meaningless distinction.

At last night’s 3rd installment of the Real City Matters series, this one called, Can’t We All Just Get Along? How do we talk about—or fail to talk about—race, class, and geography in a sprawling and diverse megacity? And how can we learn to talk about those things better?, panelist Linda Gibbs responded to the question from forum moderator, Desmond Cole, on why we have such a hard time discussing racism. “We’re afraid of our own racism.”

Racist? Who me?! Come on. Rob Ford’s a racist! I’m not a racist.

And the denial spreads.

Toronto is not a racist place. Sure, there are racist individuals living here who occasionally let fly with their disgusting behaviour (Go Back to China! Just Go Back Home!). But they’re anomalies, exceptions proving the rule. Diversity, Our Strength, remember?racist2

And then we find ourselves living in a city that’s more and more delineated along the lines of poverty, opportunity, class with one inextricable link running through them all. Race.

I wouldn’t dare speak for all white people but I’m going out on a limb to offer a broad generalization here. Few of us, of my vintage and from where I grew up, could claim not to be racist. We learned life through a very narrow lens. Our history, as they say, was written by the victors.

So, you know, black people, they can dance, am I right? They’re fantastic athletes but aren’t so good at learning. The Indians (our Indians), if only they could handle their liquor better. The Asians, on the other hand, industrious and driven to succeed. Maybe they could just take a little more time and figure out how to drive better. Oh, and stop eating cats.

It would take a person far more single-minded and strong-willed than I am not to have internalized that prevailing social prejudice. That’s not where the problem lies however. The problem lies in our inability to accept the fact we’ve internalized such racism, to ignore it, to pretend it doesn’t exist.racist1

The racist is guided by those internalized values. Someone acknowledging their internalized racism is always on guard to make sure their opinions or attitudes don’t reflect that racism. Racism doesn’t stand up to ‘political correctness’. A racist does.

A racist would say something like, Yeah well, Toronto might have some race problems, but it’s not Ferguson, Missouri.

Say that to a black person living in Toronto. Tell them Toronto’s not as bad as Ferguson, Missouri. Say that and watch their reaction.

It is not lost on me that, after nearly 5 years of obsessively watching and writing about municipal politics in Toronto that I’ve planted my flag firmly in the transit file. It’s safe. It’s theoretical. It’s about a thing not people. A thing moving people.

Sure, there’s a hint of social justice to it. I’ve wrapped myself in that warm blanket. racist3Getting reliable, fast transit to those neighbourhoods and communities that are under-served and dependent on it. I can argue it as a piece of the opportunity puzzle. Hey! I’m doing my part in making the city a fairer, more equitable place to live.

What more do these people want?

And there’s the thing. That’s what you’d call ‘privilege’. I get to sit here and concentrate on the one aspect of life in the city that, I don’t know, interests me, catches my fancy, affects me, more or less, when I choose to take transit. It isn’t necessarily white privilege but it certainly has to do with income, class, geography which is very much reflected by my whiteness.

To imagine otherwise, to think I am where I am, I am who I am, through no connection at all to the colour of my skin is, aside from pure fantasy, simply racist. It’s to pretend race no longer factors into whose voices get heard up on the stage of public discourse, who gets what job, which apartment, racism4who gets stopped by the police for no other reason than where they happen to be. It’s awarding myself a meritless merit badge for a job well done.

It absolves me of any responsibility for the direction this city is going in. If neither racism nor privilege are a thing, then there’s a more acceptable rationalization for our growing income gap, our increasingly segregated communities, our ease accepting the divisions throughout the city.

Claiming racism is a cop out. There just has to be a better explanation. There has to be or otherwise, I might have to re-think my whole way of looking at the world.

confessingly submitted by Cityslikr


My Lunch With Andray

October 14, 2014

We’ve been writing much here at All Fired Up in the Big Smoke during our conversations with city council candidates about the battle many of them face with a lack of nurtured, encouraged civic engagement. disengagedThis has been especially noticeable to me in the former municipalities of the so-called inner suburbs. Etobicoke. York. North York. Scarborough.

And then there’s ‘enforced disengagement’.

This was a topic of discussion I had last week with Ward 2 Etobicoke North council candidate, Andray Domise. We endorsed Mr. Domise a couple weeks back but hadn’t actually talked to him in person save a couple quick handshakes at a few public functions where our paths had crossed. I quickly realized that the subject of civic engagement was, I don’t know, a theoretical one for me while for Domise and the other candidates running in Ward 2, it was very, very real.muniraabukar

Most of us have heard by now of the sign wars going on up in the ward. Fellow Ward 2 candidate Munira Abukar was nastily instructed to ‘Go Back Home’ on her signs, part of a disturbing racist outburst that has occurred during the later part of the campaign. Domise too has had sign battles, defaced and replaced in a concerted effort to keep his campaign team otherwise occupied.

We can try and shrug it off as the usual electioneering antics and tactics but it’s hard not to see it as having a chilling effect on both candidates and residents alike. Who wants to put their name forward or speak out publicly if the reaction you’re going to get is based on nothing more than your skin colour or ethnicity? Go back home. You’re not wanted here. Your opinions don’t count.

Neither does your vote.

Hardly the environment to cultivate civic engagement.

Making matters worse, of course, is that Ward 2 is the Ford family’s playground. You only had to look at this campaign to realize just how entitled they feel they are to it. wardbossDoug Ford, one-term councillor, announces he’s had enough of municipal politics and will be leaving. In his place they attempt to prop up 20-something nephew, Mikey, and keep him away from any and all media. Rob, the mayor and former councillor, gets sick, decides instead to run for his old position in Ward 2 without really campaigning, bumps nephew Mikey to local school trustee candidate, Doug runs for mayor.

All this after Doug parachutes into town in 2010 to claim the Ward 2 council seat, trouncing local activist and 2006 runner-up, Cadigia Ali, by 10,000 votes. “Hope in Ford country”? Don’t think so.

Add in a degree of fatalistic inevitability – the Fords rule this roost – to the sense of racist unwelcoming, only further fuels that ‘enforced disengagement’.

On top of all of this, life for many residents in Ward 2 has not noticeably changed for the better under the 14 year misrule of the Fords. Follow along with Domise’s Twitter feed to see just how little improvement there’s been, how little engagement, interaction even, especially during Doug Ford’s time in office. justanotherpoliticianWhat’s the use of getting involved if the politicians who are going to win anyway do nothing for you? And when you do, when you throw you hat into the political ring, you’re viewed as just another say-anything-do-nothing politician.

Hostility, inevitability, ham-fisted ineptness = apathy, indifference, disengagement.

Yet, despite all this, the council race in Ward 2 has 3 viable candidates challenging the Ford legacy, with the breakout star being Andray Domise. That in itself should be cause for great joy and celebration. I think those of us who’ve never put their names forward for political office, who live in areas of the city not dominated by zero-tolerance for inclusion and engagement, under-estimate just how much courage that takes.

But you can’t simply flick on wider civic engagement like a switch. It doesn’t pop up from fallow ground. There has to be a history to build on. The Fords claim to speak for the people without ever actually having listened to them or actively attempted to let them speak for themselves.civicengagement3

The Ward 2 city council race will be something of a bellwether for the rest of the city indicating just how far along we are down the path of engaged democracy. Andray Domise has emerged as a new voice in support of that civic undertaking and in opposition to our traditional complacent boss politics. This election represents only the beginning of that change. We all will need to pitch in to continue pushing the concept forward.

submitted by Cityslikr


Our Very Own Cody Jarretts

October 12, 2014

There’s just one culprit here, guys.

That somehow the conversation deviated from that this, and finger-pointing elsewhere prevailed, whiteheat2suggests that we’ve allowed the bad guys, the political thugs, to dictate our political reality here in Toronto.

Doug Ford, once more, tried to manhandle a situation and tilt it in his favour. As we should all know by now, that’s what the Fords do. There is no rule they won’t ignore. No sense of decorum they won’t take a dump on. They are The Entitled who walk amongst us. The dudes don’t abide.

So when Doug Ford decided to lean on Friday night’s Inner City Union debate organizers and force them to dis-invite another candidate because, well, Doug didn’t want to be on stage with him that was the only bullshit move that needed to be called out. The rest of it? whiteheat4The who should’ve done what and when in reaction, and by not doing what when, yaddie, yaddie, was nothing more than pure partisan, reactive opportunism.

It simply validated Ford’s political game-playing. That it’s all just game-playing. There are no rules to adhere to. It’s a free-for-all. Tit-for-bloody-tat. A blood sport, just like Doug Ford had predicted months ago.

Once again, Doug Ford tried to kick the shit out of democracy and, once more, too many of us joined in, taking our boots to the battered and bruised body.

The Fords and their dwindling number of fervent supporters are thugs. Straight up. They have no regard for process, little inclination to pay any attention to simple courtesy. Respect? Respect this.

I may be naïve but I’m not naïve enough to believe the other mayoral camps didn’t weigh their reactions to the Ford foot stomping on a political scale. whiteheat3Neither John Tory nor Olivia Chow are served particularly well by having a second nothing-to-lose candidate up on stage, debating them, especially one as articulate and pointed as Ari Goldkind. It’s not hard to imagine either one figuring out how to massage the situation to their best advantage.

But frankly that doesn’t matter and is utterly beside the point.

Doug Ford, the Fords, are the Cody Jarretts of our local politics. They’ve climbed to the top of the world and they’ll blow the fucker up before they’d contemplate gracefully stepping down. It does not matter to them, the mess they leave behind. In fact, the messier, the better. It only proves their point. Government, right? No good can come of it.

Doug Ford is the bad guy in this situation.whiteheat

Let’s stop forgetting that.

And let’s stop being afraid of the Fords, afraid of calling them out, so afraid of them that we’ll even think about voting against our best interests in order to be rid of them. The best way to get rid of the Fords and everyone still in their corner? Continue to stand up to them.

sick and tiredly submitted by Cityslikr


The Four Sures — Council Challenger Endorsements VIII

October 10, 2014

So we come to the end of our official endorsements for the upcoming municipal election (although we won’t rule out maybe a surprise one or two here or there. Don’t quote me on that though.) bootsonthegroundWe want to remind everybody reading along that even more so than the mayor’s race, these council races really, really matter. In the end, despite some additional legislative powers, the mayor is just one vote. City council is many.

Moreover, council races can be determined by the 10s, 100s of votes. Even the slightest uptick in votes or turnout can flip a race. In 2010, 13 wards were determined by an average of 347 votes. Five of those the eventual winners were elected by less than one-third of the popular vote.

It’s now 17 days until the election. That’s plenty of time to get out there, donate some time or money to the candidate(s) of your choice, the ones you think will do a great job in advancing the interests of every resident of this city. This is when your help’s needed. This is what they call crunch time.

endorsement1

Ward 16 Eglinton-Lawrence

I feel I have to state this upfront. I am a friend of J.P. Boutros. I mean, not a close enough friend to know that he was planning a run for the open Ward 16 before the fact. Still. I have broken bread with J.P. I have had drinks with J.P.

In his role as assistant to the then TTC chair, Karen Stintz, he was frank and fair with me in discussions during the very heated and seemingly ongoing transit debates that consumed last term. As frank as one could be, I think, when it’s your job to adhere to the boss’ plan of action. That’s just the nature of the relationship.

With those cards on the table, let me state unreservedly J.P. Boutros will make one dynamite city councillor.

The least I can say of a possible Councillor Boutros is that he will be one hell of a step forward from his predecessor. The whole transit file aside, don’t forget that Karen Stintz was an unabashed right winger and supporter of much of Mayor Ford’s agenda. Boutros will not be that vote.

His adamant stand against the Scarborough subway during this campaign shows an independence that will be immediately tested if John Tory is elected mayor. Similarly, his outspoken opposition to the island airport expansion. He is a smart growth proponent which too will be subject to a quick study as the Eglinton Crosstown makes its way into the ward.

We think J.P. Boutros is more than up to the task.

We here at All Fired Up in the Big Smoke endorse J.P. Boutros for city council in Ward 16 Eglinton-Lawrence.

endorsement2

Ward 30 Toronto-Danforth

In what should be something of celebratory campaign (as much as any campaign, aside from the winning one, can be celebratory), with 3 women vying for a council seat, there is instead much consternation, driven by fear of vote-splitting and demands for strategic voting, blah, blah, blah.

Look, I have no particular beef with the ward’s incumbent, Paula Fletcher. Point to her absolute anti-Ford voting record as proof of her solid credentials. Tell me how we shouldn’t let our desire for the great threaten getting the good.

But the fact of the matter is, Jane Farrow may be the finest non-incumbent running for city council this time out. Forget great. I’m telling you spectacular.

I cannot rave enough about the new sensibility she would bring to city council, a new approach to governance that has at its core heightened civic engagement. She gets it. She encourages it. Jane Farrow represents a fundamental shift in how business would get done in this city. Ward 30 is being offered the opportunity to make a huge difference in Toronto’s politics.

Hopefully voters there won’t kill their chances at great for fear of the bad. There’s too much of that going on these days.

We here at All Fired Up in the Big Smoke endorse Jane Farrow for city council in Ward 30 Toronto-Danforth.

helpfully, hopefully submitted by Cityslikr


Four Sures — City Council Challenger Endorsements VII

October 9, 2014

The Four Sures are a subset of our Essential Eight city council challenger endorsements, an entirely subjective (as if this whole process isn’t heavily subjective) categorization based on little more than just the positive reaction in sitting down, talking. These four candidates (two today, two more tomorrow), I could’ve hung out with them, drinking coffee, discussing their ideas for the city, for hours. Imagine how great it’ll be for the next four years!

endorsement3

Ward 20 Trinity-Spadina

It’s impossible to see a bad outcome in this race to replace Adam Vaughan. As far as I can tell, there are 3 or 4 candidates who could more than ably fill the former councillor’s shoes. I mean the worst outcome on October 27th will be a Joe Cressy victory, and we could survive that.

But for my money Anshul Kapoor is the best bet for Ward 20. Instrumental in building the NoJetsTO grassroots push against the island airport expansion, the possibilities of what he could do in an official capacity like city councillor are truly exciting. He represents a new wave of young people moving downtown, raising their families there because of the richness of the public domain rather than the vastness of their private space. Build neighbourhoods not just condos, he told me. Let him continue that conversation down at City Hall.

We here at All Fired Up in the Big Smoke endorse Anshul Kapoor for city council in Ward 20 Trinity-Spadina.

endorsement1

Ward 36 Scarborough Southwest

Let me just sum up my pure admiration for Bob Spencer by lifting a quote (like I did for the post I wrote about the Spencer campaign last month) from his interview with David Hains in the Torontoist.

The reality is the city is only great because its people are great. 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.

The added bonus is Spencer’s running against one of the most spectacularly ineffective and insignificant city councillors at City Hall, mayoral portraitist and musical accompanist, Gary Crawford. Spencer lost the council race in 2010 by about 400 votes. It would be a tremendous addition to city council if he turns that result around on October 27th.

We here at All Fired Up in the Big Smoke endorse Robert Spencer for city council in Ward 36 Scarborough Southwest.

hopefully helpfully submitted by Cityslikr


The Essential Eight — Council Challenger Endorsements VI

October 8, 2014

Our next installment of city council challenger endorsements begins in Etobicoke. Seems we’re always starting in Etobicoke. Maybe Etobicoke is the nexus of change at City Hall this October. (A different, more positive change than the one that came eastward in 2010.) As Etobicoke goes, so goes Toronto?

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Ward 5 Etobicoke-Lakeshore

This one landed on the radar late in the campaign. An open ward left vacant by the departure of Peter Milczyn (not necessarily in a hurry) for the provincial legislature at Queen’s Park. The only “names”, such as they are, vying to replace him are a former staffer in the former councillor’s office and the runner-up in Ward 5 in 2010 who came within a hundred votes or so of defeating Milczyn.

But the real deal in Ward 5 is Raymond Desilets. I cannot say enough good things about his candidacy. He is a pro-growth, urban-minded challenger with a platform full of ideas to revitalize and renew neighbourhoods and communities in the ward. How many candidates have you heard make this kind of statement? Property Taxes – I’m Not Complaining. He’s even got a streetcar proposal to provide relief to transit users commuting to and from work downtown.

Perhaps my favourite bit of information about Desilets — Spoiler Alert! This story is contained in the post I wrote about him a couple weeks ago – is how, when mulling over a possible run, he took 4 months to put together his reasons for running and held a mini-Town Hall for 35 friends and family to see what they thought. Fortunately he got a thumbs up from them.

We here at All Fired Up in the Big Smoke endorse Raymond Desilets for city council in Ward 5 Etobicoke-Lakeshore.

endorsement1

Ward 18 Davenport

Alex Mazer is in an odd kind of uphill battle in the Ward 18 race. He’s facing a not entirely awful one-term incumbent but a wholly uninspiring one. Ana Bailão may be one of the most inconsistent, flippy-floppy councillors of the past term.

As we discovered in our talk with Mazer back in June, his is a dynamic campaign built on a foundation of increasing civic engagement. He wants to push forward the concept of participatory budgeting, opening up the budget process to wider public input. He’s a fierce supporter of using schools as community hubs and is strong in his defence of not selling off school properties for simple residential development.

While I don’t think there’s much of an age gap between Mazer and the incumbent he’s looking to replace, their respective ideas on city building seem generations apart. Alex Mazer represents a new era. Ward 18 could use the change.

We here at All Fired Up in the Big Smoke endorse Alex Mazer for city council in Ward 18 Davenport.

hopefully, helpfully submitted by Cityslikr


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