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


It Ain’t All Glamour And Caviar

July 7, 2014

Today, city council gathers together in a special meeting called to appoint two interim councillors to replace the recently elected members of parliament and provincial parliament respectively, yourehiredAdam Vaughan (Ward 20 Trinity-Spadina) and Peter Milczyn (Ward 5 Etobicoke-Lakeshore). The two join Doug Holyday, who left City Hall just last year after winning a provincial by-election against Mr. Milczyn, only to lose the seat in last month’s general election, as a triumvirate of former councillors, heading for higher orders of government before their terms in municipal office were officially over.

It got me to thinking about the role of city councillor.

All 3 of these men, Holyday, Milczyn and Vaughan, would be classified as council veterans. Including Holyday’s time as a local politician back in the annals of pre-recorded history, between them, they have about 453 years of accumulated elected experience. So I think it’s safe to say that the role of city councillor was not seen as some sort of stepping stone for any of them.poisonous

In fact, I’d hazard a guess that all 3 of their departures were precipitated, at least in some part, due to the foul air at City Hall generated by the continued stink bomb of the Ford Administration. Who, given a choice, would stick it out in such a toxic work environment? It’s going to take years to remove the sludge and de-contaminate that soil. Let’s spend some time over here in greener pastures, shall we?

Only Adam Vaughan (as far as I heard and I was in easy listening distance, living in the riding he won last week) cited a tangible reason for moving on to federal politics. He felt stymied at the municipal level in dealing fully with the big, systemic, intractable issues facing the city. His monster under the bed is affordable housing. Something the provincial government largely downloaded onto the municipalities nearly two decades ago. limitationsSomething the federal government hasn’t touched in a generation.

For Vaughan, housing was part of a wider urban agenda that Ottawa had largely neglected, save the odd political project or the two bits of gas tax thrown cities’ way, much to municipalities’ detriment. This is where the infrastructure deficit began, its source, a nearly dried-up riverbed. Mr. Vaughan heads to Parliament Hill in the hopes of completing the work he couldn’t finish as city councillor.

Which speaks volumes to the job of being a city councillor. A position some 45 people will seek to fill today, and well over two hundred (and counting) city wide in October’s municipal election.

Being a city councillor is a thankless job. It demands long hours and lots of personal sacrifice. Forget what the likes of the Fords or Sue-Ann Levys say about the gravy train and life in the clamshell. thanklessjobIt’s a grueling, 80+ hour/week occupation where you’re always on call. If that’s not the schedule the councillor representing you maintains, you need to ask why and consider voting another way in a few months time.

I’m just going to put this out there as pure opinion and an unsourced claim.

Your city councillor works much harder than your MPP or MP. They get paid less. There is no pension, no matter how long you serve, just a straight up severance package. There is no glory in what they do.

While an MP or MPP dabbles in constituency work, this is what consumes a city councillor’s time and effort. Getting sidewalks fixed. Filling potholes. Making sure garbage gets picked up properly. Dealing with basement flooding. Fence exemptions. Yes, fence exemptions. City councillors adjudicate neighbourhood spats over the height and placement of fences.cleaningupthemess

None of it head line grapping. Much of it mundane. Little of it easy to negotiate.

On top of all that, a city councillor legislates. Each month at council meetings, there are by-laws to sort through, debate and pass. Taxation implementation to consider. Transformative city development to deliberate and put into action.

And here’s the thing.

Municipal governments don’t have the full tool box at their disposal to deal with all of this. Both fiscally and jurisdictionally, council regularly has its hands tied with many of the pressing matters it faces. pleasesirThe powers of taxation are severely limited by the province. Too much of the city’s day-to-day operations are funded off the property tax base.

Say, Toronto, the 6th largest government in the country, wanted to toll its roads to pay for some of its much needed new transit. Not so fast, guys. The province controls many of the key access points to make this work properly.

Even how this city decides it wants to elect its local representation is ultimately in the hands of Queen’s Park to decide.

And don’t get me started on the OMB and the TPA, both unelected entities that serve at the pleasure of higher orders of governments but with huge stakes in the operations of Toronto.

Too many of our city councillors use this dynamic to avoid taking responsibility or making hard decisions. Ssaluteome to further their only seeming objective of keeping taxes low [*cough, cough* Denzil Minnan-Wong *cough, cough* David Shiner]. Others, because doing nothing is what they do best (*cough, cough* Frances Nunziata *cough cough* Frank Di Giorgio].

But those who soldier on, despite the limitations of their office, and endeavour to make Toronto a better city for all of its residents, they are a special breed. Under-appreciated and over-worked, it is, to paraphrase our mayor, a job I would not wish on my worst enemy. Those who accept that fact, and the challenge, are owed our utmost respect and consideration.

thankfully submitted by Cityslikr


… And Speaking Of Resigning

July 4, 2014

Think there’s no party politics at play at the municipal level? Look around at what’s going on at City Hall right now, folks. pitypartyTell me we aren’t awash in one great big Pity Party.

According to the mayor’s councillor-brother-campaign manager, there’s a “full out jihad” against the Fords now in response to yet another complaint registered with the integrity commissioner, this time about Councillor Ford’s comments made about autistic kids under care at the Griffin Centre. This jihad comes on top of the media jihad that’s been waged upon the mayor since his planned triumphant return from rehab this week.

Happy Ramadan, Muslims. The Fords feel ya.

Not to be outdone in this woe-is-me parade (never to be outdone when it comes to grandstanding), Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti wants everyone to know that he was sick, very, very, gravely ill, so, you know, don’t be pointing the finger at him about some ‘illegal fundraiser’ as alleged by an obviously ‘unfair and biased’ Integrity Commissioner, Janet Leiper, yesterday.

mybrainhurts

How can anyone have done anything wrong that was in a hospital bed with his head carved open?

If there was some improper, shady shit going on in terms of this so-called ‘illegal fundraiser’ – and that’s a big ‘if’ since the integrity commissioner is obviously out to get Councillor Mammoliti as she is always, always ‘breathing down his throat’ – he’s blameless due to medical reasons.  “Some short term memory loss during this period of time.” “I can barely remember any of it.”

The claim, as full of holes and leaky as it is, might hold some water if this was the councillor’s first ethical lapse in judgement. countingfingersI don’t know. The surgeon must have cut out the moral compass of my brain! But it isn’t. Giorgio Mammoliti has come under scrutiny for at least a couple other violations. He’s currently in court facing campaign finance irregularities. There’s the below market value rent he’s received for an apartment owned by a company that does business with the city. Never mind the illegal re-election signs that have popped up.

That’s just this term alone. Let’s not forget the oldie but goodie from way back when the councillor got the city to pay his legal defense against a challenge of his campaign financing in 2006. So either, the thing that was wrong with Councillor Mammoliti’s head was long term and slow growing or the guy simply operates under the premise that The. Rules. Apply. To. Other. People.

Perhaps the most egregious bit of conduct the Integrity Commissioner laid at the councillor’s feet in her report was his accepting of $80,000 from the fundraiser that was attended by lobbyists and companies doing business with city. whome1Even if he was non compos mentis at the time, wasn’t there anybody surrounding the man, family, friends, staff not busy planning the event on the city dime, who thought such a gift might be, I don’t know, a little out of bounds? I’m not a politician, Councillor Mammoliti, but accepting money while you’re in office seems… not quite right. Especially when it’s from people who might benefit from such a transaction with an elected official.

Even when the councillor had seemingly recovered from his brain affliction and returned to his normal state of assholery, he didn’t bother to respond to the integrity commissioner’s offer of allowing him to return the money. Money? What money? Short term memory loss, remember? Remember what? Money? What money? Short term memory loss, remember? Remember what? Money? What money?

And here’s the real kick in the nuts to any and every right-thinking resident of Toronto (and beyond). Even if the integrity commissioner’s recommendations are adopted by city council and Councillor Mammoliti is docked 3 months pay, slaponthewristthe maximum penalty that can be dealt out to him by the city, he’d still walk away with over $50,000 in his pocket. Money paid to him by registered lobbyists and companies doing business with the city.

“This is as offside as you get when you come to a code of conduct violation,” said Brian Iler, the lawyer who brought the original complaint to the integrity commissioner.

Is it any wonder politicians like Giorgio Mammoliti and Rob Ford continue to disregard the rules put in place to ensure ethical behaviour from our elected officials? Why wouldn’t you if you can still come out ahead of the game. It’s a twisted realm of thinking that, if there are no deterrents to your questionable conduct, if there are no tangible repercussions to your actions, like jail time or being chased from office, then clearly, you did nothing wrong. If you did, where’s the appropriate punishment?

getawaywithit

The system as it’s currently set up at the municipal level may not exactly encourage bad behaviour. I can confidently declare that ethical, upstanding councillors heavily outnumber those who aren’t. Those so inclined to disregard the rules, however, are hardly dissuaded from doing exactly that. Ethics preferred but not required should go with the job description. Cheaters sometimes prosper.

cleanly submitted by Cityslikr


The Lads Doth Protest Too Much

July 3, 2014

So what is it with the Ford Bros. goons and their anti-urban henchman, Ccitybuildingouncillor Denzil Minnan-Wong, and Waterfront TO? Following along at Executive Committee yesterday as the 3 of them took turns taking swipes at the agency in charge of redeveloping the city’s long forlorn waterfront, you had to wonder what the hell was in that tree they were all barking up. Get that squirrel, Dougie! Get that squirrel!!

“This is the old hokey-pokey,” said Councillor Ford about the alleged shenanigans down on the waterfront. Hokey-pokey being, I guess, the kissing cousin to the boondoggle, and a safe way to hint at corruption without the worry of having to prove it.

“Councillor Doug Ford has turned a dark shade of purple as he rants about Waterfront Toronto,” Toronto Sun reporter Don Peat tweeted.

“You’re looking at a million dollars for 36 umbrellas and a rock, two rocks, two big rocks,” Mayor Ford pointed out about the design of Sugar Beach. “Two rocks. Where did these rocks come from?” he asked staff, pretty much rhetorically. “A rock is a signature piece?

“This is a cancer we must cut out,” the mayor declared. sugarbeach1The Gravy Train, yaddie, yaddie, yaddie, switching up into campaign stump speech.

“It is emblematic of Waterfront Toronto that they just don’t get the value of a dollar,” Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong stated, as if he alone in his tight-fisted, small-mindedness, understood.

“You’re missing the point in Sugar Beach!” Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly told the Executive Committee.

Ahh, yes. You’re missing the point. Especially you, TweetleDum, TweetleDumber and TweetleDMW.

My initial reaction was to look for deeper meaning or intentions in such intemperate outbursts although with these guys it isn’t an irregular occurrence. sugarbeachThe Fords have a tendency to turn various shades of bluster whenever they open their mouths. Councillor Minnan-Wong, he develops a certain tone of smug petulance.

But you will remember back nearly 3 years ago, Councillor Ford had big plans for some of the waterfront. Such monumentally huge plans that he appeared to have left his brother, the mayor, out of the loop. Ferris wheels. Monorails. Shopping malls.

You know, a place where people would actually want to go to visit and not some high concept, artsy-fartsy park.

With those plans shot down and the first leg pulled out from under the Ford mayoralty, I immediately thought, so what are these guys up to now? What plans had they hatched that were under threat by the slow but steady march of redevelopment by WaterfrontTO? sugarbeach2What were there wanting to build down there?

Of course, at this point, that may be over-thinking things, giving the boys way too much credit. Perhaps Christopher Hume last week summed it up best when he took exception to Councillor Minnan-Wong’s tirade about WaterfrontTO. “The problem is Minnan-Wong’s Toronto is dull, sterile and cheap,” Hume wrote.

Like the Fords, the councillor’s view of the public realm extends only as far as the roads he drives on. You want green space? It’s called a backyard. With a lawn. The suburbs like those his Don Mills ward is located in were intended to do away with the need for the public realm. Public realm? That’s what we have malls for.

I don’t want to get all high-falutin and world class city-ish here but truly great cities are measured by their public spaces. Think London, Paris, Barcelona, Washington DC, New York, Vancouver and what immediately comes to mind? notredameI’ll let you fill in the blanks but chances are it’s all about public spaces.

“That’s all well and good but do we really need all those fancy gargoyles around the place?” asks the medieval French version of Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong when looking at the plans for Notre Dame.

But Toronto’s no London, Paris, Barcelona, etc., etc. We’re Toronto. We don’t do public space. We keep our taxes low.

What’s really annoying about all this is, these so-called fiscal conservatives cluck, cluck, cluck over $12,000 umbrellas and $500,000 rocks while steadfastly ignoring the fact that, according to Mr. Hume, projects like Sugar Beach have contributed to bringing some $2.6 billion in private investment to the waterfront. The public sector, working with the private sector, to enhance the quality of life for residents of Toronto. Just like Councillor Ford is always on about.texaschainsawmassacre

Maybe that’s what’s really stuck in their collective craws. The very idea that government can work, that government can actually contribute to the well-being of the city it’s in place to serve. Sure, it might cost some money but it isn’t always about a zero sum equation. We can have roads and beautiful parks too!

Or maybe, it’s all just about crass, retail, low rent politics. As has been stated many times by many people during the course of this administration, it’s about the cost of everything and the value of nothing. A sad reflection of the penurious imagination too many of us bring to table when talking about Toronto.

sow’s ear-ly submitted by Cityslikr


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