See Ya, Soks

September 10, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

hattip

grumpily submitted by Cityslikr


Tory Time

September 9, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Which was the fucking point of my outburst!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

depressingly submitted by Cityslikr


Shiner On To Greener Pastures

September 8, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

hopefully submitted by Cityslikr


Self-Inflicted Wounds

September 5, 2014

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

That’s why.

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

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

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

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

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

We shall see.

But about that message…runsoutofgas

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

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

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

Provincially, however.

Yes. And who did they beat? Exactly.

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

But here’s what I think.

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

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

Look at Toronto’s To Do list.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

grumpily submitted by Cityslikr


Challengers To Watch XIV

September 4, 2014

With another election campaign upon us, talk has come up about the urban-suburban political divide. donnybrookActually, that discussion hasn’t really let up much during the past 4 years. OK. We’ve never stopped talking about.

Greater minds than ours here have contemplated how to bridge the gap. There’s been an emphasis on downtowners’ needing to try and understand the needs and aspirations of those living in places like Scarborough, York, North York, Etobicoke. While taking no issue with that line of reasoning I do think there’s something else at work too, something that tosses the ball back into the court of suburban residents.

Meeting and chatting with city council candidates running for office this year, a theme that keeps coming up almost unanimously with them is that of disengagement. Not just in the sense of disengaged voters but between people and those they’ve elected to represent them at City Hall. armslength1Councillors simply not getting out and interacting with their communities, keeping them informed of what’s happening in neighbourhoods in the ward or seeking feedback and input from their residents.

In Ward 1, Ward 2, Ward 6, Ward 7, Ward 12, Ward 17, Ward 24, Ward 34, Ward 35, Ward 44, it’s been pretty much the same sense from candidates out on the campaign trail. People never hear from their councillors except at election time. Townhall meetings are few and far between, even on matters as important as the annual city budget. Some voters, having voted in 2010, can’t even remember their councillor’s name.

Ward 3 Etobicoke Center where Peter Fenech is running is another suburban case in point. ward3The long time fiefdom of former councillor (and Etobicoke mayor) Doug Holyday has been Fenech’s home for the past 7 years and he attests to little presence from the councillor there. It’s hardly surprising. Holyday was known almost exclusively for his tight-fisted ways and hate for government spending. He boasted regularly of the small amounts of his office budget spent, suggesting he spent little time on community or resident outreach.

The result?

Fenech sees apathy when he’s out knocking on doors. If no one’s been consciously representing the views or seeking the opinions of residents, where’s the connection to City Hall? There’s one residents association in Ward 3, according to Fenech. When he travels around the rest of the city especially downtown, he sees community movie night, BBQs. There are few community movie nights or BBQs in Ward 3.

The biggest waste of communal space in Ward 3 to Fenech’s mind is Centennial Park. It’s a big park, for those of you who’ve never been there. But as we drove around it, Fenech pointed out the lack of connectivity through it, to it. excludedPublic transit skirts around part of the park’s perimeter. There are parking lots throughout it. There’s just no flow.

In fact while we were there, a car pulled up beside us and asked directions to the splash pad. The lack of signage is notable. The park doesn’t seem to draw people into it. It simply just is.

“Policy Over Politics” is Peter Fenech’s campaign slogan. It’s on the button he sports. Let’s take it one step further. Ideas Over Ideology. I’d argue that places like Etobicoke (and Scarborough and North York and York) have stunted civic engagement with a history of electing hidebound ideologues who believe the only purpose of a city councillor is to keep taxes low and spending to the barest of bare minimums.

I’ll give you a minute to run through the list of names starting with Doug Holyday and the Ford family…armslength

This isn’t to suggest that a new voice like Peter Fenech is some crazy spendthrift left winger. He isn’t but you don’t have to be and still be able to say, “There’s always a way to fund things that matter.” It’s about encouraging possibilities not limiting them.

As almost every candidate out knocking on doors has told me, the two biggest concerns residents have about the current state of affairs municipally are transit and infrastructure. Like many suburban wards in the city, Ward 3 is heavily dependent on bus service. Cuts to that service result in increased commute times. Fenech would also push for the westward extension of the Eglinton Crosstown, right out to Pearson airport. Ward 3, like much of Etobicoke, was hit hard by last year’s flood and ice storm. bubbleThe need for improved and updated infrastructure is self-evident.

Transit and infrastructure. Those things cost money. Money comes from taxes. It’s a basic, incontrovertible equation.

Saying so doesn’t make a candidate like Peter Fenech anything other than responsive to what he’s hearing from residents in Ward 3. Above all else, what seems to be driving him to run in this race is a desire to begin including the voices of constituents, to engage them, give them a voice rather than just speaking for them. His campaign website undergoes regular adaptation and revision based on the input he’s receiving from residents.

There is no one way to overcome what, at times, seems like an intractable divide between downtown and the suburbs, but it would certainly help if City Hall was filled with more councillors from the suburbs like Peter Fenech. Not because they’re just like us downtowners or think just like us downtowners but because they want to bring a real sense of civic engagement with them. discussionThey want their residents to be a part of the process, to contribute to the important decisions that get made which affect all of us.

By bridging that gulf between constituents and their councillors, the one that leaves many voters wondering what their councillor actually does for them, it will help stitch the wider divide plaguing the city. City Hall won’t exist at such a distance from them, regardless of where they live.

helpfully submitted by Cityslikr


The Bastards Keep Grinding

September 3, 2014

“I’m beginning to think politicians aren’t really looking out for the best interests of this city,” wide-eyed, naïve me writes. wideeyed(Yes. Such an aspect of this person exists.)

Jaded, cynical adult me turns and gives wide-eyed, naïve me a withering look.

“You’re fucking kidding me, right?”

This is a thing that happens, early on in the process most days. An ongoing battle between my cheery ingenuousness and the hardened pessimism about what passes as politics in these parts. Lately, it’s been a one-sided affair, and not in favour of the good guy.

“So who’s disappointed you this morning?” meany me asks.

Well, for starters, John Tory called a transit related press conference yesterday. Goodie, goodie, goodie, I thought. staringcontestMaybe now he’ll explain how his Smart Track funding will really work, because lately, some people, well, they’ve expressed some reservations about it. Mr. Gee and Mr. Barber.

“And what actually happened, sunshine?”

Well, not what I expected, OK?

It turned out to be an out-and-out endorsement for John Tory’s mayoral candidacy by the province’s Economic Development and Infrastructure minister and Scarborough MPP/subway lover, Brad Duguid.

“My Liberal colleagues at Queen’s Park are almost unanimously enthusiastic about John’s candidacy,” Duguid said. really“We see him as the guy… to provide the stable leadership to ensure that Toronto is the partner that we need.”

“Holy shit, eh?” nasty me exclaims, bursting out into a disturbingly cackle-like noise. “Imagine that!”

“Can they do that? Should they do that?”

The cackling gets louder and even more harsh on my sensitive ears.

I mean, it’s still nearly two months until the election and the provincial government essentially just came out and told voters in this city that John Tory is the mayor it wants, the candidate it’s willing to work with. Is that normal? Blatantly meddling in a municipal election is something that’s done regularly? Why not just cut to the chase and use its legislative powers to just appoint the next mayor of Toronto?

“I know, right?”

Even the soft-headed, big-hearted me can see the gears in motion, the politics at work. Pick the candidate who’s vowed not to re-open the Scarborough subway debate. Get somebody who isn’t Rob Ford into the mayor’s office to officially close up the Metrolinx master agreement on the previous LRT and sign off on the new subway plan. bodyblowFait accompli.

“Sure. That’s one way of looking at it,” cynical me says. “Don’t forget to factor in though that, above all else, Liberals hate the NDP. More than unfunded transit plans. More than nut job, far right conservatives, more than former opponent and rival, John Tory. John Tory, Tory leader, bad. John Tory, mayor of Toronto, good. How does that even work?”

No. No. I am not going to buy into such soul-crushing, naked cynicism. Cynicism? Fatalism.

Good me, hopeful me, sanguine me refuses to accept the fact that there are politicians out there so corrupted by power that they will sacrifice the interests of the people and places they were elected to serve purely for political gain. Partisan hackery above good, sound policy. I can’t. I won’t.toomuch

“Well, run these numbers around the daisy maypole of your mind, see what conclusion you can continue to ignore.” Meany me’s just taunting happy me now.

“The province gets its subway in Scarborough with both the feds and city kicking in some money instead of having to pull the full freight for an LRT. The province has already been working on its own version of Smart Track. Now here’s this guy volunteering to put up some city money to help them do it. A guy who’s spent the entire campaign deriding an opponent as ‘the NDP candidate’. The question isn’t why or how could the Liberal government endorse John Tory. The question is, what took them so fucking long?”

No. No. Nope. No, no, no. I’m not giving into this. Not again. There’s only one proper response now. drinking1Plug my ears and walk away until jaded, cynical adult me gets bored and goes out and gets drunk somewhere.

LA-LA-LA-LA-LA-LA-LA-LA-LA-LA-LA-LA-LA-LA-LA-LA-LA-LA-LA-LA-LA-LA-LA-LA-LA-LA-LA!!!

[Pulls bottle and glass from desk drawer, pours a nice, stiff drink] Look. It’s not like I enjoy being cynical and bitter. It’s not because it’s easy. It’s just… It’s just… [takes a drink]… Hope needs to toughen up, to smarten up. Hope needs to stop being taken for a sucker. Hope needs to start realizing who the real cynics in this equation are. It ain’t me. Not by a long shot. [Finishes the drink, pours another.] Not by a long shot.

dually submitted by Cityslikr


Smart Track’s Coming Off The Rails

September 2, 2014

Smart Track.

catchytitleIt’s catchy, succinct. Two words, and it tells you everything you need to know.

It’s smart and… it involves tracks.

Smart Track. Rolls off the tongue without so much as giving it a second thought.

Which is a good thing (at least for the John Tory camp) because when people start putting more than a passing thought into this much hyped transit plan, the only thing left to say about it… Track. fingerscrossedYes, it definitely involves track.

Just over a week ago, the Globe and Mail’s Marcus Gee began to wonder how exactly John Tory was going to fund the city’s contribution to the ambitious 53 kilometre, 22 station plan. “I don’t propose to offer hardworking Torontonians transit relief in exchange for a financial headache that could last for years,” Tory said back in June. “Therefore, I will not raise property taxes to build the SmartTrack line. The city’s one-third portion will come from tax-increment financing.”

Tax-increment financing, everyone! The solution for not paying for stuff we need now has a name to it. And a fancy-schmancy, official sounding name it is too.

“But it is far from clear that TIF could work here in Toronto, especially for such a costly project,” Mr. Gee writes.

doesnotcomputeWait, what? ‘Far from clear that TIF could work…?’ Did I read you right there, Mr. Gee. “This leading candidate for mayor is just feeding more false hopes,” he concludes.

**sigh**

A leading candidate feeding us false hopes on transit. Stop me if you’ve heard that one before.

Where Marcus Gee was cautiously skeptical about the Tory Smart Track plan, John Barber, writing in the Toronto Star a week later, was nothing short of stupendously apoplectic. “As mayor, John Tory could derail Toronto by trying to implement his half-baked, financially fraudulent transit plan,” states the sub-headline. And Barber is just getting started.

The magic carpet Tory has commandeered for this trip is called tax-increment financing (TIF), whereby the city borrows $3-billion and promises to pay it off with future tax revenue generated by property development attracted to the new stations. Tory’s breezy backgrounder cites a study by Metrolinx, the provincial transit authority, to explain how the magic is supposed to work. But because the type is so big and the single page so small, it doesn’t have space to report the study’s conclusion: that TIF is the riskiest, least desirable of all potential transit financing mechanisms, given one star out of five in the study’s final rating.

“But because the type is so big and the single page so small, it doesn’t have space to report the study’s conclusion…”swoon

If he wasn’t so grumpy looking all the time, I’d plant a big wet one on John Barber for that sentence alone.

John Tory’s big plan for building much needed new transit is untried and untested here in Ontario. Expert panels brought together to come up with the best ways to fund transit expansion have ranked tax-increment funding well down the list of feasible approaches. As Marcus Gee pointed out in his article, a recent panel chaired by Anne Golden listed tax-increment funding “as one of its ‘smaller’ revenue sources.” Both Gee and Barber point out the funding of subway construction in New York has fallen far short of the original TIF projections.

What happens then? Unsurprisingly, taxpayers are left to make up the differencedoesntaddup1.

AND THERE’S NOTHING WRONG WITH THAT, PEOPLE!

If we want new infrastructure, whether it’s transit or roads or new sewer lines, we should be paying for it. When did we start believing this stuff comes at no cost to us? When crass, craven politicians like John Tory started pitching us a line, telling us there was a magic pot of gold at the end of the rainbow made from unicorn tears.

Nobody seems to dispute the worthiness of the plan itself. The province has been working on their version of it for a few years now. doesntaddup2If it actually contributes to helping reduce gridlock and congestion, bring it on.

But stop trying to convince us it won’t cost us a dime. We bought into that scam 4 years ago and here we are, plans delayed, plans scuttled, relief years, if not decades away.

in arrearsly submitted by Cityslikr


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