Challengers To Watch VI

July 16, 2014

I found myself in a part of the city where it’s best taking a GO Train to get to if you’re going there. notinkansasanymoreWhere the roads are wide and the parking lots full. Plenty of green space too. Oh my god! Is that the soon-to-be Rouge National Park?

WE’RE ALMOST IN PICKERING, PEOPLE!!

Tucked away in the further south-east region of the city is Ward 44 Scarborough East. Toronto’s often forgotten ward. Wait. We have 44 wards?

I’m there chatting with city council candidate Jennifer McKelvie on the afternoon of her official campaign launch. She’s been already out canvassing, fitting it in around her full time work schedule, and will continue to do so until throwing all in come September. So, I have to ask what made her decide to take the leap into politics.

She’s always figured there’d be a political run in her future. It took a question from her kids to set it in motion, one probably asked by hundreds, thousands of children (dare I say a billion) around the city of Toronto. Why can Mayor Ford do drugs and still have a job? Good question with no easy answer but, clearly, the time had come to step up and try to help bring a little decorum and G-rated business back to City Hall.running

Aside from good intentions, I asked Jennifer what specifically she wanted to deliver as a municipal representative. Housing was high up on her list. She was worried about affordability being in her children’s future. Would they be able to afford living in the neighbourhood if they chose to?

She expressed particular concern about seniors in Ward 44. Where would they go when they were no longer able to live on their own at home? This isn’t a theoretical exercise for this part of the city.

Ward 44 has a higher than city average of people living there in the 45-74 year-old age ranges and its single detached home ownership is more than double that of the city. Play that scenario out over the next decade and you’ve got yourself something of an exodus from the area if not dealt with fully. How? New development directed at various types of assisted living, I’d imagine.ward44

But here’s the thing.

New, more intense kind of development is not always embraced in Ward 44. Check out 3 of the 4 candidates in the 2010 council campaign (including the current incumbent but not yet registered for 2014, Ron Moeser). “It’s a single-family community and whatever we do, we have to make sure it fits the character of our community.” “I think we should aim for zoning that keeps it as residential as possible. I would resist condo developments in the ward.” “…it fits with the neighbourhood, it keeps in a theme of green and trees and all the things that are really important to this area.”

Even on Ms. McKelvie’s website, she states: “When I see kids on the street playing, couples strolling, and people running, I smile. This tranquil Ward 44 lifestyle, tucked inside a metropolitan city, is why I live here.” I ask her about that because, for me, this tranquil lifestyle ‘tucked inside a metropolitan city’ sets off alarm bells. It’s what I hear, this ‘character of our community’, just before people blast any sort of new development proposal.

McKelvie is protective of that view. Ward 44 isn’t downtown. But she gets that stand alone single use, single house, entirely car-dependent development is no longer sustainable, at least not at the cost we’re currently charging for it.

Many of the people she’s talked to so far during the campaign seem to get it too. They’re not demanding taxes be kept low. holdingthedoorshutThey want to see value for their money. An amorphous concept in many ways. When I look at, I see the tranquil lifestyle and think, well, hey, you get to live out here in your big lots and tree filled neighbourhoods, and isn’t that the lake I’m looking at right now? That’s pretty good value for your money.

But then Jennifer tells me about the flooded basements during last year’s storms, the damage done by the ice storm. And public transit options. Ward 44’s pretty good if you live near the GO Train and can afford to take it every day. But I hopped aboard the Lawrence East bus to come home and let me tell you…

Like much of Scarborough, Ward 44 is a bus dependent area of the city. Whether or not the LRT or subway gets extended out along the Bloor-Danforth line, the ward will remain bus dependent.

So it’s about improving service through frequency and reliability. Maybe an express line or two. Hell, I don’t know if the ridership numbers warrant it but Lawrence Avenue out in this part of Scarborough is plenty wide enough for its own dedicated bus lane. lawrenceeastbus(My opinion not the candidate’s, in case anyone asks.)

Of course, any sort of talk about BRTs or densification in Ward 44 runs smack dab into the wall of obdurate resistance that is its local councillor, Ron Moeser. Jennifer shrugged politely when I brought the incumbent’s name up. She winced slightly in reaction to my question about whether Councillor Moeser’s health should be an issue during the campaign if he chooses to run again. Felt a little bit like “mudslinging” to her.

I’m not so sure, frankly.

The fact is, the councillor was absent for a good chunk of the first 18 months of this term. Eighteen of some of the most tumultuous months this amalgamated city has seen. Even with his return, I wouldn’t consider him reliable or up to speed on the matters in front of him. movearockOn the day last week Jennifer and I were talking, Councillor Moeser went missing for a vote to determine the future of the current Ombudsman.

One way or the other, Ward 44 Scarborough East needs new representation, a new approach to governance, a new, reliable voice at City Hall. One of those now speaking up is Jennifer McKelvie. She deserves to be listened to.

helpfully submitted by Cityslikr


Gun Play

July 15, 2014

I am a little perplexed by yesterday’s handgun ban announcement as part of her community safety platform from mayoral candidate, Olivia Chow. scratchmyheadIn a campaign that has been devoted to downplaying any hint of a leftward tilt to it, this seems to be an odd choice to send out as a signal to progressives that there she is, representing their values. Personally, I’d much rather Ms. Chow take on the prevailing anti-tax, anti-urban stances of some of her rivals.

At this point, I’m assuming everything the very deliberate Chow campaign does is done in order to provoke an immediate and not particularly well-thought out response from the John Tory team. Its tendency to date consists largely of striking out before the ink is even dry on a Chow statement. NDP Candidate! No Leadership! Flip Flop! Knock, knock! Read/hear, react. Read/hear, react. Medulla oblongatarily.

Again on this, Team Tory predictably obliged, alligatorbrainquickly issuing an indignantly vacuous response. “Empty gesture.” No leadership. “As your Mayor, I will work tirelessly with community groups and police to get guns and gangs off our streets.” Yaddie, yaddie, yaddie.

Better to have simply laid low, stay the fuck out of it, and let the chips fall where they may. Which they did. Right back into Ms. Chow’s lap.

Now look. In theory, banning handguns would be a great idea. Olivia Chow is absolutely correct that handguns have no place in a big city. I’d take it one step further. Guns have no place in a big city.

There’s nothing I love better than gun enthusiasts, gunnutlet’s call them, pushing back on that statement, talking about their right to bear arms. Yeah, no. Check your birth certificate and then point me in the direction where that right is enshrined. As far as gun rights go, I’ll always come down on the side of the collective over the individual.

Equally as flaccid an anti-ban argument is the one about how criminals don’t care about no stinkin’ handgun ban. Criminals, by their very criminally driven behaviour, don’t obey laws. Following that particular anti-handgun ban argument through to its logical conclusion, we should be living in a lawless society then?

Start talking to me about the effectiveness of a handgun ban and then we have ourselves a serious discussion. Especially the ability for a municipality to enforce such ban. In short, it can’t. Aside from policing handgun ownership, the ability to prosecute is beyond a city’s control. nostinkinbadgesSure, sure. Make a point of working with our senior levels of government partners to ensure the optimum of gun safety or whatever but pushing a handgun ban onto the platform of a municipal campaign seems a little, I don’t know, gimmicky.

I have even deeper reservations about a handgun ban than all that, as much as it saddens me to say so. Prohibition of any readily available item hasn’t proven to work that well. Alcohol. Illicit drugs. Cigarettes. You can try to keep them at bay, control their use in an attempt to moderate the damage they inflict on the wider society, but an outright ban seldom results in the elimination of the targeted object.

We live along the largest unguarded border, as they say, with a global leader in the manufacture of arms of all sorts including the small variety. prohibition1Given that scenario, Toronto and the country as a whole does a remarkable job keeping the gun-toting wolf from the door. Not perfectly by any means. Gun violence is largely contained in disadvantaged and disenfranchised communities, speaking to much wider and deeper societal problems, none of which can be wished away or dealt with by a handgun ban.

Still, by its comparative size and diversity of population and quality of life, shall we say, Toronto remains extraordinarily free of gun violence.

The last time a handgun debate popped up here happened in response to a very uncharacteristic spike in gun-related deaths. 2005, Summer of the Gun which culminated a couple seasons later with the lethal shooting on Boxing Day of Jane Creba, a teenager just going about her shopping business who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time and, cynically speaking, tavisthe wrong colour to die in a senseless shooting.

There was talk of a handgun ban then. Closing up shooting ranges in the city, ceasing any sort of gun manufacturing. Prohibiting the sale of ammunition was also put on the table.

Even without such things in place, gun-related homicides dropped back to previous levels. Perhaps simply a regression to the mean or maybe because more effective measures were brought in place to deal with the root causes of much of the violence. Poverty, inequality of opportunity, alienation. In the wake of 2005, the Toronto Anti-Violence Intervention Strategy (TAVIS) was formed to encourage more community based policing efforts. The Priority Neighbourhood initiative implemented.

Pretty much bread and butter issues for Olivia Chow, you’d think, some of which also appeared in her announcement yesterday. chess“Creating police-community partnerships.” Enhancing a more nuanced police response to incidents dealing with those with mental illness. “Focusing on young people”.

So why the emphasis on gun control and a handgun ban?

Undoubtedly, there’s some sort of long game at work. In a 10 month campaign, there’s always a long game at work. Maybe by drawing the predictable (and, in some cases, very reasonable) criticism from her main rivals, Tory and Mayor Ford, she can ask them their ideas for dealing with poverty, youth unemployment, youth violence. At least I’m talking about these issues, Ms. Chow can claim. What about you two?

It’s a tactic, for sure. unimpressed1But how effective of one if, in drawing some blood from your opponents, you raise eyebrows from potential allies and dampen their enthusiasm toward you? How is success measured in that scenario?

At some point of time, a candidate needs to inspire supporters not just count on boxing them in to position of, well, who else are you going to vote for. Serving up a heated, unnecessary wedge issue that delivers little more than optics really isn’t reaching for the stars. It just winds up making me agree with the likes of John Tory. It’s not leadership.

And I hate ever having to agree with the likes of John Tory.

unimpressedly submitted by Cityslikr


Fighting For Change Tougher Than Fighting Against It

July 14, 2014

If nothing else, these past 4 years have taught us an abject lesson about the slow crawl of change in Toronto. slowchangeWhy can’t we have nice things? Because, well, change is scary and must be avoided at all costs.

First, there was Transit City. Three years in the planning and then, boom! Rob Ford’s first official day as mayor, he declares it dead. It is eventually wrestled back from his control but not in its initial shape or name and disfigured almost beyond recognition with a pricey and politically expedient Scarborough subway now attached.

Second, Waterfront TO and the Port Lands. This one underway since 2001, charged with revitalizing the rather sorry state of Toronto’s chunk of Lake Ontario. A slow but now noticeable process building public spaces and economic development. Too slow, however, and not noticeable enough (at least from their car seats, driving along the Gardiner) for the Ford Brothers and their ilk at city council. texaschainsawmassacreUnilaterally, Councillor Ford sought to take control of the situation with monorails, ferris wheels and shopping malls.

This foray, fingers crossed, was stymied without too much delay. But the attacks continue, I-don’t-even-know-where-Sugar Beach-is style. What’s with the pink umbrellas and Quebec rocks?

And remember that environmental assessment (EA) undertaken late in David Miller’s 2nd term to explore options on the eastern portion of the Gardiner Expressway – repair, rebuild or remove? No? Funny thing, that. After getting started, the report was quietly shelved in the fall of 2010 and the remaining money used for other ‘priority projects’. citybuildingThree years later, the EA was resuscitated and completed just this year. This one with significant delays and additional costs now attached.

Then, at last week’s council meeting, another addition to the do-we-have-to bin. After overwhelming approval just 2 months earlier, the Eglinton Connects plan came back to council for some additional authorization, this time to much less overwhelming-ness. Led by the mayor and one of his electoral challengers, the plans came under assault for being too driver unfriendly.

“City planners want to replace much-needed space on our gridlocked roads with bike lanes and wider sidewalks,” the mayor declared during the now semi-infamous shirtless protest. “This does not make sense. It’s a complete waste of taxpayers’ money. We can’t afford more gridlock than we already have. We can’t approve things that will bring this city to a standstill.”

Not to be outdone in his aversion to any new type of thinking when it comes to traffic planning, playingtothecrowdJohn Tory issued his own reactionary statement, although, to give him credit, he didn’t actually stop traffic to do it. “I have said all along that any proposal that will add to road congestion by reducing lanes of traffic is a non-starter in my books. EglintonConnects will do exactly that and will increase traffic by ten per cent on adjacent residential streets.”

We can’t change, we won’t change. As it was, so it shall always be. Anything else?

There’s most certainly some crass political pandering at work here. The War on the Car rhetoric was powerful last time around in 2010. Why not try going back to that well? Much fertile ground to plough there (not to mention plenty of metaphors to mix).

It taps into a strange and opposing dynamic in the electorate. We want change. We know we need change. We just don’t want anything to be different.eglintonconnects

So it seems no matter how much the public is consulted, how much input is offered up, in the end, any sort of significant change in pattern will arouse a noisy pushback. It might not represent significant numbers but it is loud, it is persistent, it is threatening. At least threatening enough to catch the attention of some of our local representatives.

But here’s my question.

Is it our elected officials’ sole job to listen to their constituents, and react only to the most vocal? Eglinton Connects did not suddenly emerge, out of the blue, dropping heavily onto everyone’s laps. By all accounts, it was a very public, open process. thanklessjobHere’s what we want to do? Any thoughts or ideas to improve it?

Just like in real life, sometimes councillors need to stand up to the bullies and loudmouths, marshal support for projects and ideas they believe in. This is a good plan. It will benefit the city, community, neighbourhood, street. Take a position, based on an informed decision, and sell it. Risk electoral retribution? Maybe. But that just comes with the territory, I guess.

Of course, that’s easier said from the outside when there’s no actual risk involved.

Even one of the more change-friendly city councillors, Kristyn Wong-Tam, has had to beat a tactical retreat on a plan in her ward. Friends of Chorley Park have succeeded in delaying the implementation of a new path through a portion of the south Rosedale ravine, better connecting it down through to the Brickworks, a major tourist draw, still most easily accessed by car. This, despite the fact, it has been in the works for two years, with plenty of resident notification and invitations for input.demagogue

Once it became a reality earlier this year, well, all hell broke loose. Petitions signed. Demands made. To the tune of roughly one million dollars in delays, according to Councillor Wong-Tam.

“My concern is that people are dug in so deep that they are not able to compromise on design,” she said, although she remains “…optimistic that we’re going to come up with something great. I’m optimistic that this is a community that’s going to come together and find a community-crafted resolution.”

The lesson from all this, I guess, is no matter how effective a city councillor may be, they can’t push progress forward on their own. They need support from their residents and the public at large. Get involved and get loud. You see something the city is doing that you like and want it to go forward, let everybody know. Beat the drum.

Unfortunately, it seems to be far easier to be against something rather than in favour of it. angrymobChange might result in something worse. It might be better! But it could be worse!

It’s a constant battle against human nature, fighting for change. The best place to start in engaging in that struggle is to help expose the politicians who exploit our risk aversion for their own gains. They aren’t looking out for the best interests of the city, its residents or the future. They’re beholden to only one thing and one thing only. Pure and utter self-interest.

belligerently submitted by Cityslikr


Time To Step Up

July 11, 2014

Of all the madcap weeks we’ve seen at City Hall since late-2010, this one just ending probably wouldn’t qualify as the madcappiest.madcap Maybe not even in the top 5. But if there’s a greatest hits compilation ever issued, this week would most definitely be included.

On Monday, two new city councillors were appointed. One of them, by week’s end, had voted against oversight and in favour of councillors being able to pocket money from lobbyists and others doing business with the city. A real keeper, Ward 5. You should definitely urge him to stay on.

On Tuesday, Mayor Ford’s ‘sobriety coach’ kicked a protester.

On Wednesday, the mayor remained seated during a standing ovation for the recently concluded World Pride event here in Toronto. Some serious questions were also raised about his time spent during the two month rehab stint.

On Thursday, weird machinations surrounding the renewal of the Ombudsmen’s contract swirled around council chambers. While rejecting the basic 5 year renewal term, an in camera motion was approved, the details of which we don’t yet fully know. madhatter1We are aware that at least 15 sitting councillors don’t like the current Ombudsman and many of them have failed to explain exactly why.

And what sort of zany week at City Hall would there be without a Doug Ford outburst?

Of course it would be very easy to shrug all the wackiness off onto the mayor and his unpredictable brother-councillor-campaign manager. Change that dynamic and order will be restored. Presto-magico!

If only.

Free of the mayor’s grip for over two years now, city council itself manufactured the Scarborough subway debacle, perhaps the biggest cock-up of the term. It continued to dance with the TPA and Porter Air over the island airport expansion and allowing jets on it. It’s muddled relationship with the city’s accountability officers remains confounding.

So, the idea of changing one member of council, even the titularly most powerful one, and creating a whole new positive, standingonthesidelinesconstructive dynamic amounts to little more than wishful thinking. Worse still. Hoping to achieve even that modest change by yelling over social media or staging PR protests alone amounts to nothing short of a dereliction of civic duty.

The theme we need to take away from this week is pure and simple: get active and really participate in producing the kind of city council you want to see in place.

(Full disclosure before going into full rant mode. I have been working on the Idil Burale campaign in Ward 1 Etobicoke North. This may seem very self-serving, and to some degree it is. But try to focus on the bigger picture. Pick a candidate and get involved.)

As of this writing, July 11th, with just over 100 days before the municipal election, there are 12 open, incumbent free wards. checklist(Wards 2, 3, 5, 6, 8, 16, 20, 24, 30, 38, 39, 44.) While that number will drop as we get closer to the vote, this presents an opportunity to help instill new blood into council. The candidate slates in many of those wards are numerous, offering plenty of choice for people to join a team.

In 2010, 13 ward races were, very, very close, determined by mere percentage points and a few hundred votes. (Wards 1, 4, 5, 8, 9, 10, 12, 25, 26, 27, 30, 36, 44.) In another 7, the winner got less than 50% of the popular vote. (Wards 7, 13, 15, 17, 18, 19, 29.) This suggests plenty of fertile ground for change.

Then there’s my very subjective, harder to define wards were the seeming untouchable incumbent needs to be seriously challenged because of their continued contribution to the undermining of good governance of this city. That list would include Ward 11, Councillor Frances Nunziata. Ward 34, Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong. Ward 35, Councillor Michelle Berardinetti. Ward 42, Councillor Raymond Cho because he just doesn’t seem to want to be a City Hall any more.

Of course, alarm bells should be ringing because in 4 of the city’s 44 ward, incumbents are currently sitting unopposed. getcuriousWard 21, Councillor Joe Mihevc. Ward 22, Councillor Josh Matlow. Ward 25, Councillor Jaye Robinson. Ward 40, Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly.

Nobody, no one, not even the most glorious, munificent politician who’s able to spin gold from straw should be acclaimed into office. Certainly none of these four have track records that have earned unquestioned support. It’s an utter failure of the democratic process if any of them run unopposed. Acclimation is something that happens in small town reeve races not in the biggest, most complex and diverse city in the country.

Hopefully, that scenario will change before the September 12th registration deadline date. If you can’t even drum up enough engagement for a contested election race, it makes the argument for greater participation in the process a little more difficult. It’s hard to imagine anyone watching the last four years at City Hall and coming to the conclusion that they are entirely satisfied with their representation.

For the time being, at least, there are 40 other council races. Many of them will be highly competitive, the outcome in doubt right up until the very end. getinvolved1The difference will come down to who has the resources to get out the most number of voters to the ballot box. That means volunteers and donations.

You really, really want to have your say in the make-up of the next city council? Set aside a couple, few hours a week between now and October 27th to go knock on doors. Shy and don’t like meeting new people? Fair enough. Contribute some time, stuffing envelopes, making phone calls, entering data. More of the manual labour type? Come early October, volunteer your time and effort hammering in lawn signs.

If any and all that is too much, send some money in your chosen candidate’s direction. $5, $10, $20, the whole donation limit enchilada. Every bit helps. Every penny appreciated.

Our politicians can brush off much of the displeasure they’ve generated with their constituents when it’s expressed from a distance. getinvolved3They can log out of Facebook and Twitter or simply not return email and phone messages. It’s a little more difficult when they’re forced to come face-to-face with it.

Disapproval and discontent become impossible to ignore, however, when a credible threat to their office arises come election time. Such a threat is built purely on the back of a movement based on dedicated volunteers and engaged residents. There is no other way, no flash gimmick-y approach that can be pulled off from a distance. Boots on the ground and money in the bank. End stop.

Unless you are prepared to dedicate more than just a voice, to scream and holler and cast a vote in the fall, you cannot call yourself a truly engaged, civic-minded resident of Toronto. You cannot call for change, demand change and not also chip in and work for it. We are where we are with the city council we have because – and only because – too few people put in the effort to make a difference. There’s still time this time around to try and ensure a different outcome.

you

It all starts with the littlest of efforts. Pick a candidate. Make a call, drop them an email. Say you want to help out.

deploringly submitted by Cityslikr


Challengers To Watch V

July 10, 2014

“Neglect”.

That’s the one word answer I got from Lekan Olawoye when I asked him what it was he was hearing from people in Ward 12 York-South Weston while out canvassing. lekanNot complaints about high property taxes. Nothing about subways versus LRTs. Just plain old “neglect.”

In fact, he’d met a resident living in the ward for 50 years who told him that he was the first municipal candidate ever to come knocking on her door.

It might come as a surprise to many of us who live in Toronto’s politically vigorous areas, let’s call them, where town halls and community meetings draw big crowds. Where our local representatives show up at our doors on a regular basis or respond quickly to our questions and concerns. Neglect? Wouldn’t be the word we’d use.

But take a walk along forlorn sections of Eglinton Ave West, around Keele Street and see what happens when the representative at City Hall isn’t particularly mindful of building thriving neighbourhoods. Empty storefronts. Little street life. Just a thoroughfare people buzz past on their way to someplace else.

This part of the city is the left behind section. Once a solid middle class area with good, well paying jobs not all that far away from home. ward12yorksouthwestonNow a place with much “untapped human resource”, as one Olawoye campaign volunteer and long time Ward 12er told me. Untapped for many reasons, many of those beyond a city’s control, but certainly for some that come down to local representation that just doesn’t get it, doesn’t know how to respond. It’s just there, shrugging obliviously.

So the simple fact of the matter is, in Ward 12, like many of the other inner suburb wards, engagement comes down to basic retail politics. Being available. Acting quickly on very specific, very local needs. Potholes. Basement flooding. Street parking. Serving as a conduit to help negotiate communication between residents and city departments and services.

Lekan Olawoye seems to get that. His pitch is simple. What can I do to make your life easier and better? I’m here to help.

It smacked a little to me of the current administration’s obsession with ‘customer service’. I asked him for more details about his pledge for ‘better transit, support for families, reduced poverty, safer streets and healthier communities.’ All of which any candidate will inevitably tout. These are the whats. Tell me a little bit more about the hows.

That’s not there yet, the nitty gritty details of exactly how you plan to transform systemic problems. ringbellWorking with the TTC to sort out bunching of buses followed by long waits has stumped many a well-intentioned people. Lofty goals need thoughtful and innovative approaches to stay afloat.

But here’s what I’m only beginning to understand about municipal politics. Voters need to really believe that a candidate is there to work for their sometimes very personal interests. They want to know you will be available to help sort out the most basic, mundane of everyday problems and situations they face. If that kind of trust and engagement is not present, they’ll walk back and demand nothing more than just keeping their taxes low and their streets clean.

That’s the hill Lekan is climbing in Ward 12. Years, decades even, of neglect, in his words, by the councillors it sends to City Hall have made it difficult for new voices to convince people that it can actually be different, better. City Hall doesn’t have to be this foreign place, an hour or so trip, off and away downtown.

The situation also leaves lots of room for hope, though.

And Lekan does deliver a lot of hope and enthusiasm.strangeratthedoor

He works the doors of the canvass smoothly and charmingly. While this is his first campaign as a candidate, you wouldn’t know it to see him interact with people during the canvass. He’s personable, friendly and outgoing. At one point of time I watched him actually engage a soccer fan for a quick introduction and chat during the penalty kicks of last night’s Argentina-Netherlands World Cup semi-final.

He has been at this almost since the very beginning of the campaign in January. So he’s getting good at what any candidate needs to get good at. Meet and greet. Meet and greet. Lekan’s also no stranger to the wider world of politics and community involvement. He is currently the Executive of For Youth Initiative, a local non-profit that provides services and programs to youth who live in a part of the city severely under-serviced. Lekan was also the first chair of the Premier’s Council on Youth Opportunities.

He has what appears to be a well-oiled campaign machine, bursting with eager volunteers who fan out across the street as the two of us stand, chatting. That’s going to be absolutely necessary as he’s taking on an entrenched incumbent in Councillor Frank Di Giorgio. From my view point, it should be cinch. Councillor Di Giorgio ranks near the very bottom on my list of terrible, terrible municipal representatives. lekan1As Mayor Ford’s second budget chief, he constantly seemed out of his depth. As a local councillor, he comes across as simply disinterested in doing the job.

Unfortunately, politics at the city level seldom work out that way. Name recognition plays a big factor in determining the outcome. Challengers have to be relentless in getting themselves out there, getting their faces known, convincing voters in the ward that taking a risk on change will be worth it.

Lekan Olawoye appears to be making that kind of dent in Ward 12. On Tuesday night, he had 3 of the tires on his car slashed in his driveway. What? That’s like movie shit, says me, the political neophyte. But Lekan chose to see the upside in it.

“Somebody knows we’re here,” he said.

I guess so. I’ll take the candidate’s word for it. It’s a good sign.

optimistically submitted by Cityslikr


Anger Management

July 9, 2014

After Mayor Ford’s attempted campaign press conference was commandeered by the self-proclaimed #shirtlesshorde yesterday (and the below video is just a fraction of the monumental disruption caused by protesters), there was some talk about the effectiveness of the tactic. Much of it was grounded in how it played to the mayor’s base. Would it paint a picture of this poor guy, fresh out of rehab and on the slow road to recovery, once more under attack by jobless, union-backed, trough-slurping downtown elites. Give the guy a break!

And put a shirt on.

Since his unlikely rise to the mayor’s office in 2010, we’ve been told Rob Ford is like no other politician we’ve ever seen here in Canada. He has a fiercely loyal base that believes unwaveringly that he is just one of them and is always looking out for the little guy. angermanagement2The rules of political engagement are, therefore, different.

What exactly those rules are, however, are not very clear. Ignore him? Attack him? Attack his policies? Mock him? Ignore him? Did I say ‘ignore him’ already?

How do we handle this guy?!

In the post-mortem after his election win, the conventional wisdom was that those of us standing in opposition to the Ford juggernaut failed to understand the anger it had managed to tap into. An anger, much of it in the inner suburbs of the city, at exclusion and disenfranchisement, a feeling of disconnect with the rest of the city especially the downtown core which was perceived as the sole beneficiary of the upside to amalgamation. It had all the good transit, the booming economy represented by all the cranes on the skyline, the perks and fancy public spaces. angryvotersAll mostly paid by the hardworking taxpayers struggling to get by out in the suburbs.

Understand that anger and you’d understand the Ford appeal.

If only it were that easy.

It wasn’t so much that nobody got the anger. Only the most smug, self-satisfied Torontonian could think we weren’t surrounded by high degrees of inequality and isolation, political disenchantment and deeply rooted regional antagonism. angryPeople were unhappy, and many of them rightfully so.

The problem was, there were no quick and easy solutions, and none that the city could address all on its own. The Miller administration was pushing better transit further into the inner suburbs with Transit City and a ridership growth plan. Business property taxes were being adjusted in an effort to attract employers into the city and create more jobs. There were programs like the Tower Renewal introduced.

Systemic change takes time, and in 2010 it got crushed under a steamroller of retail politics. Rob Ford wrangled all the disaffection by offering simple solutions and slick slogans. There was no problem that couldn’t be solved by simply Respecting the Taxpayer. angrymobOr Stopping the Gravy Train.

He took the anger, made it angrier and rode it all the way into the mayor’s office.

Now, four years later, we tremble in fear of in any way poking the angry bear we call Ford Nation.

Don’t attack the mayor. It’ll get the base angry. Don’t make fun of the mayor. It’ll make the base angry. Don’t talk about the mayor’s bad behaviour. It’ll make the base angry. And, for godsakes, put on your shirt or you’ll make the base angry.

An angry Ford Nation is a motivated Ford Nation. A motivated Ford Nation means a re-elected Rob Ford.

So, shhhh! Don’t wake the angry bear.angrywhiteguy

I don’t know. Maybe there’s some wisdom in all that. Anger is tough to sustain, and all recent indications suggest there’s no upward mobility for the Ford campaign. Keep your composure, stand back, let him crash and burn, move on.

But you know, there’s a bigger matter at work here. Our local democracy is more than Rob Ford and these last four extraordinary, at times, demoralizing years. Politics here will continue when Ford leaves the stage, one way or the other. I’m not sure we start to repair things in any significant manner by silently holding the door for him on his way out. Here’s your hat and crack. What’s your hurry?

Four years ago – and I say this through gritted teeth – Rob Ford was something of a blank slate. angrymanHis possible mayoralty, theoretical. When he won, there was something of a reluctant hope against hope. Maybe the office would moderate his immoderate views? He’d have to reach out beyond his supporters to secure a workable mandate at City Hall, wouldn’t he? His brother (and this hope turned out to be the most fantastical), newly elected to council, would be a temperate influence. He’d be the smart one.

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!

Well now, that all turned out to be unfounded dreaming. Rob Ford has a deplorable track record as mayor based on a mountain of lies and gross misconduct. Nothing he says is true. He has ripped up more than he has built. angrywhiteguy1By any measure, he is a spectacularly failed mayor.

And he wants to be re-elected.

Meanwhile, we’re advised to keep calm, our eyes averted, fingers crossed and hope this whole tempest blows over.

What exactly does that kind of negligent compliance signal for the future?

Rob Ford’s reckless governance and personal behaviour, his disregard for common decency has degraded the office of the mayor of Toronto and smeared City Hall. Allowing him a free pass, quietly waiting for the end, is tantamount to a dereliction of our civic duty as residents of this city.

That’s what the Joe Killoran incident was all about. Unfiltered anger at an unrepentant, untrustworthy, entitled politician who somehow is still able to hold onto public office and be out asking for 4 more years. What does it say about us that we stand back, questioning the motives and tactics of those speaking out in order to ensure that all the ugliness just quietly goes away?

While we do, the mayor’s so-called ‘sobriety coach’ kicks a member of the public. The mayor continues to pretend his rehab stunt was anything but a campaign publicity stunt. The mayor remains seated during a standing ovation for the success of hosting World Pride this year.

So I say, rage on John Furr and the shirtless horde! Remain angry. Vigil on, Rob Ford Must Go! Keep reminding us that our mayor remains unfit for office. That he remains a lying disgrace of a human being. Time and time again, he’s betrayed our trust and pissed on everything the city touts to represent.

Don’t be angry? How can you not be angry?

angrily submitted by Cityslikr


An Appointment With Destiny

July 8, 2014

I get it. It’s supposed to be a mindful, deliberate process, disorderlyorderlythe appointment of an interim city councillor to fill a vacancy left behind when the duly elected councillor resigns the position during a term. The will of voters must be observed and, as best as humanly possible, adhered to.

But wouldn’t it be great if everybody threw caution to the wind and instead took a flyer on protocol and just said: This one’s a real crackerjack. Came in, gave a blockbuster of a speech, has a dynamite CV. Here, Ward [Whatever], try this one on for size. Especially this late in the term. What harm could an appointed councillor possibly do in a few short months?

Alas, no. Order (or whatever passes for order at Toronto’s City Hall these days) businessasusualmust be maintained.

So it was yesterday (as it was last year with replacement of Doug Holyday) with the appointment of new councillors in Wards 5 and 20. No fireworks. Very little surprise or suspense. Just a quiet passing of the torch to caretakers, essentially, until the start of the next term in December, to a couple of established figures. Ward 20 got a long time city staffer and social activist while a political backroomer on the south Etobicoke scene became the new Ward 5 councillor.

The only bit of intrigue during the procedure – no, wait. There were two. – came when a couple former staffers applied for the position of Ward 5 councillor. One, Nico Fidani-Diker, worked in Mayor Rob Ford’s office for a time and is on record expressing some reservations about the role Sandro Lisi played in the mayor’s life. Totally coincidentally, I’m sure, there were problems with the clock in the council chambers during his deputation which he felt got cut short by the speaker, Frances Nunziata.fingerscrossed

The other was the fate of Kinga Surma, an ex-assistant in the former city Ward 5 councillor, Peter Milczyn’s office up until last year’s provincial by-election when she went to work on the campaign of Milczyn’s rival in that race, Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday. A supposed amicable arrangement between Mr. Milczyn and Ms. Shurma that didn’t actually wind up that way. She was given her marching orders just a few days after Milczyn returned to the office, having lost the by-election.

Yesterday, she placed a distant 3rd in the appointment race to succeed him, providing a lesson to all political neophytes. Never, ever, publically piss on your boss’s shoes. sinkorswimOther bosses don’t look kindly on it, and won’t really extend a hand to help, given an opportunity down the road.

Unfazed by the outcome, Ms. Shurma almost immediately registered to run for the Ward 5 council seat in October’s municipal election. It was not an entirely surprising move, and one that may’ve also contributed to her lack of support by an overwhelming majority of councillors who had little interest in giving her a running start in the campaign. Hopefully for Ms. Shurma, democracy won’t be as office politics minded as the appointment process appeared to be.

matter of factly submitted by Cityslikr


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