Bloodied Cesar (I Just Had To)

April 7, 2014

I will give Councillor Cesar Palacio (Ward 17 Davenport) credit for this much. Talk about having the stones to bad-mouth a major piece of infrastructure that runs right through the heart of your own ward. citybuildingInfrastructure built under your watch.

That takes some nerve, it does. Stepping up and announcing to anyone listening, hey. Look at this mess I helped create. Vote Palacio!

But this is exactly the route the councillor took after signing on to Team Ford in 2010. Aside from maybe the mayor and his brother, and perhaps Councillor Frances Nunziata (Ward 11, York South-Weston), nobody beat the drum about the St. Clair Disaster louder than Councillor Palacio. Never mind that most of the claims being made were untrue. Yes, the construction did not go smoothly. There were overruns in both time and money. Businesses along the strip suffered.

Don’t forget, however, Councillor Palacio was in office during all this. It’s not as if he inherited it. By yapping on about some perceived disaster, he’s basically announcing that he’s unfit for office. Almost like he’s daring voters not to support him.

Imagine being a resident up near St. Clair or a business along the strip, idareyou1and your local representative can’t seem to tell enough people about how bad things are there. I hear there’s a really good restaurant on St. Clair. Wanna go try it? I don’t know. I would but I hear it’s a nightmare up there. Or… or… You live near St. Clair? I hear it’s a real disaster. Who’d you hear that from? The guy you elected to represent you at City Hall.

Your councillor, Ward 17. Cesar Palacio. Advocating and fighting for your interests since 2003.

Councillor Palacio has been the closest thing downtown Toronto has to a bona fide member of Team Ford. He has accepted the role with particular relish, garnering himself a seat on the Executive Committee through his position as chair of the Municipal Licensing and Standards Committee. thumbsup3When Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti’s (Ward 7 York West) thumb fell out of favour or into disuse (was never sure which it was), Councillor Palacio, perched as he was directly behind the mayor, enthusiastically filled in, flashing his thumb to let folks know which way the mayor wanted them to vote.

Not that I’d imagine anyone followed his instructions. In fact, I’m not even sure the mayor was ever aware of what Councillor Palacio was doing. The gesture probably had more to do with the councillor signalling to everyone that he was behind Mayor Ford both literally and figuratively.

Despite the mayor’s recent woes, Councillor Palacio has remained a steadfast devotee although he did join the enemy’s list when he voted in favour of stripping the mayor of his powers. The councillor has been firm in his support of a Scarborough subway and against LRTs (because that’s what made St. Clair a disaster, don’t you know). He was part of the gang of 5 TTC commissioners who helped engineer the ouster of then CEO Gary Webster after he had the temerity to publicly suggest it best to stick with the LRT plan that was already in place and paid for by the provincial government. Councillor Palacio was, in turn, thumbsuprobfordunceremoniously dumped when then TTC chair Karen Stintz pulled off her own putsch (curiously however the councillor voted in favour of his own termination), booting those known as Ford loyalists from the board.

Ford loyalist.

I think that would be the most apt and probably only term I’d come up with if asked to describe the councillor’s time in office this term. What else can you say about Cesar Palacio? A Ford loyalist.

And like all Ford loyalists whose last name isn’t Ford, what did the councillor get in return for such fidelity and reliability?

Why just last week in these very virtual pages we reported how the councillor, in his capacity as chair of the Municipal Licensing and Standards Committee, overseeing the food truck issue, seemed to have been blindsided by the mayor’s motion to eliminate the 50 linear metre from any restaurant rule the councillor was proposing. gotyourback1Councillor Palacio asked the mayor if he realized it was his motion that the mayor was seeking to amend. So obviously there had been no consultation between them. The councillor also wanted to know if the mayor knew just how long it had taken to bang out the sort of compromise he was now seeking to undermine with his off-the-cuff motion.

Mayor Ford appeared indifferent to the councillor’s plaintive tone. That’s just the way he rolls, yo. Loyalty’s a one way street with him, baby.

Still, Councillor Palacio hasn’t come away empty handed with his toadying to the mayor.

Only in a Rob Ford administration could an undistinguished councillor like Cesar Palacio rise to the rank of a standing committee chair, even a lowly regarded one like Municipal Licensing and Standards. But hey. If a Frank Di Giorgio can become budget chief, the sky’s the limit for mediocrity. Chances are Councillor Palacio’s star will never shine as brightly (such as it) as it has for the past 3+ years, although I did spot him at the official launch of John Tory’s mayoral campaign, so his time in the sun may not yet be done.droppedball

The bigger question is, what have Ward 17 residents got in return for their councillor’s brush with power? Used as a political cudgel to fight a transit war across the city in Scarborough. Check. The implementation of the Ford agenda. Check. Fighting to remove a methadone clinic. Check.

Ummm… after that, I’m kind of drawing a blank.

After 10 years in office, you’d think Councillor Palacio and the ward he represents would have a lot more to show for it than that.

curiously submitted by Cityslikr


We And Our Cars

April 6, 2014

Earlier last week, I was in the car, on my way to the airport. For those of you familiar with the route, you’ll recognize the drill. carsgarynumanWestbound on Lakeshore, heading for the Gardiner, stop at a red light. It’s four lanes, I believe. On the left, two continue along Lakeshore Boulevard, on the right one exits north to Jameson Ave. The one lane with all the cars takes you onto the Gardiner Expressway.

Now, I’m not saying the layout is badly designed. It was just intended to carry a lot fewer vehicles than use it currently. Inevitably, at almost any time of day, it seems that interchange is a mess. Traffic snarled, taking forever to get from Lakeshore onto the Gardiner.

Of course, such a frustrating scenario can’t help but lead to some conflict. Drivers frequently shoot up the less occupied lanes on the outside and push, sneak or dart their way into the on-ramp lineup ahead of the more patient ones. Which is what happened to us while we sat there, dutifully waiting our turn.

A car slowed down right beside us and just eased its way right in front of ours. No indicator. No wave of thanks from the driver as we let them in. gardinerlakeshorejamesonNo acknowledgement we were even there, in fact. Just eyes front, carrying on as if no big thing. That’s how we do.

Maybe I shouldn’t be so thin-skinned but it just seems to me that very few of us would behave that way outside of our vehicles. How many times are you waiting in line for, I don’t know, a coffee or at the post office (if it were 1996) and somebody just casually steps in front of you? Shoulders in without so much as a please or thank you and continues going about their day. This line starts wherever I put myself.

Our cars have made monsters of us. Entitled, self-absorbed sociopaths believing only our time to be worth anything. Aggressive assholes. Pushy pricks.

Allow me some hyperbole (more so than usual) for a moment here. If you want to point a finger at what ails us these days, the root of all our unhealthy lifestyle choices, the lack of civic and political engagement, there’s no better place than at our auto dependence. pushy“We can have a city that is very friendly to cars or we can have a city that is very friendly to people,” Enrique Peñalosa said. “We cannot have both.”

By prioritizing vehicular over human traffic, we’ve diminished our capacity to act in even the most basic of respectful ways. As we spend more and more time behind the wheel, we become more and more like drivers and less and less like people. Can I just get that at a drive-thru?

Whoa, whoa, whoa, I hear you saying. Extreme much? (I warned you about the hyperbole, didn’t I?) It wasn’t all rainbows and lollipops before the first Model T rolled off the assembly line. St. Bartholomew’s Day massacre wasn’t carried out by a bunch of minivan driving savages. Small town America could not be considered a model of tolerance and acceptance back in the days when trolleys and the horse and buggy reigned. Hell, even the rise of the Nazis occurred pre-suburbia sprawl.

Sure, but tell me those 30s vintage Maybach Pullmans didn’t foreshadow the evils and horrors to come.maybachpullman

Hmmm. I’m not sure but I think I may just’ve Godwinned myself.

Look. I guess what I’m trying to get at is not only do we scar our streetscapes and hamper our ability to move the most people the most efficiently when we buy into the car commercial pitch that the automobile is the key to our freedom, we promote an unhealthy and anti-social lifestyle. With a [insert favourite brand here], you can get anywhere, anytime, whenever you want. Just like that. There’s no one else on the road. Zoom, zoom.

Where I ended up when I was making my way to the airport last week was Orlando, Florida. From the airport there you can drive two hours west through the state to St. Petersburg to Tropicana Field, home of baseball’s Tampa Bay Rays, without leaving a freeway. You practically pull off into the parking lot of the stadium, a stadium surrounded by an asphalt moat.

Beware any sporting arena that boasts kick-ass tailgate parties. It usually means the primary way of getting there is to drive. tailgatepartyTropicana sits pretty much in downtown St. Petersburg but the area around it is fairly lifeless. We had time enough to park our car at the hotel and walk the 20 minutes to the stadium which would be great except for the fact it was an uninteresting walk along what seemed to be mostly retail although trying to grab a drink proved to be oddly difficult. Isn’t America the land of the big gulp?

To be fair, there are strips of the city that make for a pleasant stroll. Boutique shops and a couple restaurant rows. I get that St. Petersburg isn’t a mega-metropolis. But the space between the more pedestrian friendly areas are pockmarked by parking lots, a lot of parking lots, both open and covered structures. metrospeedwaysThe main streets are wide but built mainly for vehicles with plenty of, you guessed it, places for parking.

Bike lanes pop up here and there, some even fully protected, but I couldn’t get a grasp of any sort of network.
I might not have been seeing the place at its best since some of the area closer to the waterfront was still cordoned off for the — wait for it – Indy car race that had roared through town the previous weekend. Hey! We’ve got all this road space. We should definitely figure out ways to put more cars on it.

On the trolley trip we took around town, the driver/tour guide told us that the St. Petersburg area was known as God’s waiting room, in reference to all the retirees living there. It didn’t strike me as a place built for old people. The broad streets didn’t make for leisurely crossing. Not sure I came across a grocery store during my travels. carcommercial1There was that one mall I didn’t go into, so it was quite possible I missed a few of the amenities.

Come to St. Petes. The weather’s great. Don’t forget your car.

After the game and dinner and drinks, on the way back to the hotel, we came across a movie theatre. It was late-ish, for a Monday night, but we checked to see what was playing. Happily, we found a movie we wanted to see and our timing was perfect.

It’s those kind of pleasant accidents that occur when you’re not travelling at 25 miles an hour. They don’t happen in a place designed for cars, where speed and distance are what matters. I mean, you’re retired already. What’s the rush?

On the way back to Orlando, the clip was a little more leisurely, relatively speaking since we were still driving. I started to notice the massive amount of new road construction going on. Just what the area needed.cardestruction

This in a place where you have to pay exorbitant prices to get into a theme park in order to experience any sort of public transit aside from buses. Just more roads for more cars because, well, just because. That’s the way it’s always been. Since the 1950s.

There would be no turning back now. Cars were Florida’s future. Cars have always been Florida’s future. Everything else, merely a destination, a place to get to. See the Sunshine State from behind the wheel of a car just the way God intended.

unfriendlily submitted by Cityslikr


In Your Own Backyard

April 5, 2014

Is anybody else at all weirded out about the fact Toronto’s incumbent mayor is holding his first big re-election fundraiser beyond this city’s limits? suspicious2Or that, back in 2010, more than one-third of his campaign donations came from non-Toronto residents? I don’t know. Maybe it’s standard operating procedure.

In some ways, it makes sense.

As goes Toronto, so goes the region, I’ve heard it said. There’s a wider vested interest in how the city fares, out past the 416 and into 905. Lots of people who don’t call it home have a business, do business, go about their business here in Toronto. It’s only fair that they’re allowed some kind of say as to whom we elect to run things.

I guess.

Maybe I wouldn’t find it so disturbing if this support wasn’t lavished upon such an anti-urban candidate. It comes across as if he’s doing the bidding of the largely suburban area that encircles the city. Reflecting the pre-amalgamated Toronto mindset of many living in both the GTA’s inner and outer suburbs, the Toronto mayor has more in common with the municipalities of Halton, Peel, York and Durham than he does with the one he was elected to represent. surroundedHe’s one of them. An enemy in our midst.

That comes across sounding a little paranoid, doesn’t it. I’ve fallen into that us-versus-them mentality. It could just as well be a case of, I don’t know, going with a winner although, at this point of time, it’s hard to figure out who would shell out $300 a plate in support of Mayor Ford. How is more of the same for another 4 years going to help anyone, anywhere around these parts?

So, I guess it simply comes down to political stripe. A conservative is a conservative is a conservative, good or bad, crack smoking, known to police or not. Their guy is better than the other guy, regardless.

Ultimately I think the thing that bugs me most about this is that it seems anyone residing outside of Toronto can donate to a candidate here and receive the city issued rebate that comes with it. rebateSomething just doesn’t sit right about that. I’m not sure why any city would want to encourage candidate donations from outside its boundaries. You’re just giving money away that, in all likelihood, will be spent outside of the local economy.

My inclination would be to restrict campaign donations to only eligible voters. It just seems clear and easy. But that’s probably too restrictive or exclusive. So how about only residents and those owning a business in the city qualify to donate to municipal candidates? That doesn’t seem unreasonable.

But maybe if you really think it’s important and democratic to be able to donate to the candidate of your choice no matter where they are, donate away. Just don’t expect to be reimbursed or subsidized for it. I already suspect your motives. I certainly don’t want to enable them.

suspicous1

suspiciously submitted by Cityslikr


Big Fucking Idiot

April 4, 2014

No, no. This isn’t about that, the term of endearment hurled at Mayor Ford by his crack-buddy, Elena Basso Johnson, and caught for posterity on police wiretap. bfiNo. I was turning the phrase over in my mind while watching the mayor on his feet at city council yesterday during the Great Food Truck Debate of 2014.

Set aside his personal travails. The manner in which he spends his off hours and down time. The affection and loyalty he so clearly engenders, hanging out and just being himself with the drug and gang folks. Pretend for a moment that isn’t what would normally disqualify anyone from continuing to hold public office anywhere in the real democratic world.

Watch Mayor Ford in action (clip via Matt Elliott), ostensibly doing what he was elected to do, what he’s supposedly been doing since 2000 when he first arrived at council. Watch and tell me, within a couple minutes, you don’t sit back in your chair and just think, What a big fucking idiot. Who voted for this guy again?

Look. The mayor’s not even entirely in the wrong on this. I mean, god! Food trucks! Watching this agonizingly prolonged debate, coming at the end of a year and a half process, you’d think we were venturing into uncharted territory here, as if no place else on earth has gone down this road before. It’s like the plastic bag ban or the fight over removing part of an expressway. Careful as she goes, guys! Trailblazing’s tricky!

And given the last big adventure in mobile food slinging, the á La Cart program (spit!), who’s going to disagree with Mayor Ford when he states that he’d “…just like to loosen up the restrictions a bit”? cuttheredtapeIf there’s one thing councillors should’ve learned from that mess of mess providing is that you can be too prescriptive, restrictive, meddlesome and red tape-y.

Fighting all that and the bureaucracy at City Hall is supposed to be his bread and butter. Looking out for the little guy, right? The defender of small businesses and job providers. Scourge of intrusive big government and political man-handling.

Could there be an item before city council more tailor made for Rob Ford to hit out of the park? A bigger and slower softball lobbed tantalizingly into his wheelhouse?

You wouldn’t think so.

Yet, there he was, in typical stumbling and bumbling fashion, unprepared to defend his motion.

foodtruck1If only he’d done even a modicum of homework.

Yeah, yeah. I know. Rob Ford doesn’t do homework. He’s a fly by the seat of his pants, gut feeling, shoot from the hip politician. That’s why the folks love him.

It’s also why he’s a big fucking idiot.

First of all, his motion to delete the proposed stipulation keeping food trucks 50 linear meters from any bricks and mortar restaurant sought to amend an item put forth by his very own Municipal Licensing and Standards Committee chair, Councillor Cesar Palacio. This is a guy loyal to a fault to the mayor, dimming his re-election chances in Ward 17 in the process. As Mayor Ford’s fortunes go, so too will Councillor Palacio’s.

Clearly from the tone of Councillor Palacio’s questions to the mayor, there had been no prior consultation between the two men before the motion was put forth. The councillor asked if the mayor was aware he was amending his item. Mayor Ford shrugged. Councillor Palacio wondered if the mayor knew about the food vending working group that had been hammering out compromises like the linear distance for the past 18 months. cantbebothered
Again, Mayor Ford shrugged.

This followed the same line of reasoning Councillor Raymond Cho pursued when he asked the mayor if he’d attended any of the committee meetings that put the food truck proposals together. The Municipal Licensing and Standards Committee. The Executive Committee (which Mayor Ford is a member of). The mayor shrugged. Attended? Not so much. He assured the councillor, however, that he followed along. He is the mayor of this city after all.

Besides, Mayor Ford met with people about the item. In his busy, busy office. ‘They’ told him what ‘they’ wanted.

Were these people lobbyists, Councillor Paula Fletcher asked. Like it’s up to the mayor to know that! The integrity-challenged mayor then went on to explain the rules to the councillor. “It’s up to them to register,” Mayor Ford said. “It’s not up to me to ask.” goitalone1Apparently, in Mayor Ford’s world, a lot of people get offended when you ask them if they’re lobbyists before you sit down to discuss city business with them.

I told you guys from the beginning, he’s a big fucking idiot.

Besides his lack of collaborative interest or acumen, Mayor Ford also displays a fundamental deficit of attention to details. In moving to delete the 50 linear meter regulation, he just simply proposed a ‘not in front of a restaurant’ rule. Exactly how not in front? A meter on other side? Could you set up shop right around the corner from the restaurant at the side of it, in clear view of the front? How about the parking lot? Could a food truck park in the lot of a restaurant as long as it was at the back?

These kind of details matter. In all likelihood, they were discussed in the working group and various committees that hashed all that out leading up to the council debate. Meetings the mayor may or may not have followed in between appointments with people who may or may not have been lobbyists.howshouldiknow

If he’d spent even an hour checking out how other cities manage the food truck-restaurant dynamic (and it’s not like he has much else to do at this point in his busy, busy schedule), he might’ve come up with more specific ideas instead of his half-baked “This is free enterprise! Let them sell what they want! Let the customer decide” motion that emphasized nothing more than his haphazard, governance in isolation mode that serves no constructive purpose aside from burnishing his lone wolf brand.

Forget his monumental personal failings. This is why he’s unfit to be mayor of this city. This is why he’s a big fucking idiot.

frankly submitted by Cityslikr


Blinkered

April 3, 2014

Sitting here, listening to city council debate a $10 million loan to MLSE for improvements to the current BMO soccer pitch, notquitesureI am struck by, I don’t know, how many of our elected officials don’t really understand the role of government.

Now look. I’m as leery as the next guy about the public sector getting all hot and bothered with its private sector partners. Examples abound of the taxpayers, to use the parlance of the day, getting the short end of the stick. Hands up all those who remember the sordid tale of the Skydome?

Yeah, yeah.

It’s a delicate balance, obviously. The relationship is fraught with possible pitfalls and skullduggery. There’s also something of an imbalance. The private sector seeks profits while the public sector has broader goals in mind that aren’t always about the bottom line.

One partner’s intention is constant while the other’s vary depending on the particular circumstance. baddeal1No two situations are the same. So we proceed case by case.

What business does the city have in getting involved with a bike sharing program, some ask. If a company can’t make a go of it on their own, the market decides. End of story.

On the other hand, it only makes sense to open up the agreement that would help Porter Airlines expand the island airport and start flying jets out of it. Why? All the economic benefits that would flow from it. Jobs. Tourists. Business.

What’s a few hundred million dollars in order to facilitate that? It’s an investment in the city, in the future. Isn’t that what government’s all about?

One day later, though, some of those same people found it impossible to contemplate a $10 million loan as part of a $120 million upgrade of a city owned asset that would also include improvements to nearby transit stops and infrastructure, paid for by the private sector. We shouldn’t be in the sports business, mused former budget chief and perpetual wet blanket, Councillor Mike Del Grande. It’s not about getting into the sports business, councillor. dontunderstandIt’s not even about getting into any business. We’re just putting up a loan (with interest) to help improve a city owned ass—

Oh never mind. This is the guy who oversaw a $10+ billion annual budget? Why the hell am I trying to explain this to him?

I was going to continue on about how proper governing and city building shouldn’t be an ideological exercise but obviously this isn’t ideological. I don’t know what you’d call it. Nonsensical, maybe.

How can you argue in favour of expanding a waterfront airport that casts a cloud over future development there, with questionable economic benefits, and costs that will most assuredly amount to the hundreds of millions while calling a $10 million loan that will only increase the value of a city owned asset ‘corporate welfare’? Forget consistency. That’s a direct contradiction.

If you’re playing along at home, that’s thumbs up for Porter Air, no way, MLSE. As for Bixi and a bike sharing program? Is providing a relatively low cost form of public transit throughout the city really something City Hall should be involved with?dontknow

If there’s a unifying theme running through this line of reasoning, it seems to be, Don’t look to government for handouts. There’s no such thing as a free lunch. Unless there is and then it’s like, hey, we’re all Keynesians here.

It’s not so much consistency I’m looking for but just some actual evidence that the people we elect to office have even the most basic concept of what it is we elected them to do.

mystifiedly submitted by Cityslikr


Ooops! We Did It Again

March 31, 2014

Our bad.ooopsdiditagain

After months and months and months, maybe even a year or so, of harping on about ignoring the mayor’s office as anything to do with the actual governance of this city — Boom! – there we were, right back at it. A full slate of “major” candidates now established, a couple of debates this past week under our belts, and it’s like March 2014 us doesn’t even recognize March 2013 us. It’s now all about the mayor’s race. How did candidate X respond to the accusations made about them by candidate Y? Why is what candidate Z saying now so radically different from what they said 3 months ago?

Yaddie, yaddie, yaddie, am I right?

Don’t get me wrong. The race for mayor is important. Much of how it plays out over the next 7 months will be an indication of where voters are sitting on bigger picture matters. It’ll serve as a civic temperature gauge. Is it still red hot with anger and resentment like it was back in 2010 or has the outlook cooled some, less volatile, making us more open to a larger discussion?

Following the mayoral campaigns is easy, pretty straight forward. It’s focused. distracted1Coloured coded to help all those of us playing along at home.

But as the likes of Jude MacDonald and Paisley Rae patiently continue to point out, that’s not where the big change is ripe for the picking. If we have learned nothing else from the ongoing saga of Rob Ford, the one take away should be, the office of the mayor can be reduced to little more than a figurehead. Without the will of 22 councillors, the mayor is impotent. Sure, the mayor remains capable of stealing the spotlight, having their views echoed by those paid to cover them. That’s it. Any other influence on the actual running of the city is minimal unless they are leading a team consisting of at least half of the 44 councillors.

In many ways, who will be elected mayor of Toronto in October is now largely out of our hands. All the frontrunners, from which we will almost assuredly be choosing one of come election day, have their teams in place, their organizational structure is up and running. Many resources have fallen into place in order to ultimately secure one vote of forty-five in the next term of city council. eyesontheprizeAn important vote to be sure, one that will be given a head-start to influence the debate and set an agenda. But one vote just the same.

It could be argued that your time and effort would be better spent ensuring that your local voice on council best reflects your views and opinions, your civic values. When it comes down to the votes at city council at every meeting, your councillor’s counts equally with the mayor’s. After all the horse-trading and jockeying that goes on leading up to any vote, your councillor is just as likely to influence the outcome as the mayor is.

You put an x on the ballot for mayor to choose a direction you want to see the city go in. You make your choice for city councillor to see that direction is actually implemented. The first vote is a gesture. The second, a directive.

This goes beyond any sort of partisanship.

If you endorse the direction Mayor Ford wants to take the city, with a continued emphasis on low taxes and small government, make sure you have a councillor that’s fighting in that direction. changetacticsOtherwise, they’re working at cross purposes, one vote pretty much cancelling out the other. The flipside of that is your councillor can serve as a bulwark if a mayor starts galloping off on a course you’re not happy with.

Ultimately, you elect a councillor to serve your interests not the interests of the mayor.

The thing about ward level campaigns is that even the slightest change can alter the result. Thirteen of the council races in 2010, nearly a quarter of them, were determined by just a few hundred votes. Twenty councillors were sent to City Hall with less than half their ward’s popular vote.

A slight uptick in turnout or switch in voter preference might’ve meant a different outcome. Residents in one building or on one block coming out to vote or changing who they voted for could well have tipped the balance at City Hall in another direction. Municipal elections are as close to direct democracy as we have right now. It’s a pity we tend to squander the opportunity through disinterest and disengagement.

Even Mayor Ford recognizes the importance of council’s make-up. He’s predicting big changes come October, a sweeping out of councillors not part of his Ford Nation. workingtogetherWhile his motives are entirely self-interested and woefully misguided – he had control of city council throughout the first year of his term; he squandered it through misrule and an errant belief that holding such sway came with the territory, was bestowed not earned – he knows of which he speaks. It would be unfortunate and unwise of us to disregard his words.

Changing the mayor (or re-electing the one we have currently) is only a part of what we should be looking to do in 2014, and a small part at that. If what you really want to do is transform the dynamic or the culture of behaviour at City Hall, it can be done one councillor, one ward at a time. Get involved with a local race. Start here at Dammit Janet!, with a primer of what your councillor’s been up to for the past 3+ years. getinvolved1Then, pick up the phone or click on the volunteer button to find out how you can pitch in and help elect the representative who you believe will best act for, speak for, stand for the things that are most important to you.

A few hours here and there of your time over the next 7 months might just ensure the city runs more smoothly, and moves ahead more enthusiastically with things that need to be done over the course of the next 4 years.

voluntarily submitted by Cityslikr


A Better Business Model

March 30, 2014

Toronto is not, nor should we try to be, the location with the lowest cost. Instead, we must strive to be the location providing the highest value.

moneytimevalue

Thus spoke (actually, wrote) mayoral hopeful David Soknacki, a week or so back during his Reddit AMA. (Embarrassingly, I had to Google to find out what AMA stood for. Ask Me Anything, in case you’re still wondering.) It’s a quiet but very important point that needs emphasis in this municipal era of finding waste and efficiencies, cutting taxes and generally trying to get by with less. It is a statement that warrants continued consideration of the Soknacki campaign.

I am not a business guy. In fact, you might even consider me hostile to the veneration of business as the building block of society. Or is that even a thing? Certainly, simply because someone has excelled in the business-y private sector in no way translates for me into an immediate assumption of possessing a capable hand for governance. creatingvalueIn fact, history throws up plenty of examples of just the opposite being true.

Government in no way operates like a business. Just as I’d imagine business in no way operates like a government. They serve different purposes and provide different needs. The skill sets necessary to function properly within each entity have to be distinct, complimentary perhaps, but not exact.

This does not mean the two should be adversarial. In fact, I’d argue there needs to be more intersection and interaction between the institutions of government and the private sector beyond players in either camp switching sides every now and then. Does that make any sense? Like I said, writing about business feels like I’m skating out on thin ice.

It is my belief that we have operated for too long under the business-friendly mantra of governments just needing to get out of the way and let business do its thing, unencumbered by red tape, regulation and onerous tax rates. We have taken for granted the contributions governments make in order to create business friendly conditions. Governments educate us. Governments endeavour to keep us healthy. betterservicelowercostGovernments pay for the infrastructure that eases the mobility of people and goods in such a way that business is given opportunities to flourish.

Does it always do any of this in the most efficient or best way possible? No. Nobody here’s saying government is perfect. Not even close. There should be constant vigilance in making sure government works to the optimum for the greatest number of people.

We cannot expect that to happen while starving it of its ability to do so.

That’s why taxes are not fundamentally evil. That’s why having the lowest taxes doesn’t automatically translate into the best business environment. Lower taxes will not inevitably lead to a city being more affordable, liveable or functional. Value isn’t determined solely by opting for the guaranteed bargain basement price.

Nobody makes even the most basic decisions based on one variable, do they? You don’t go to a restaurant just because it’s the cheapest, do you? Who buys only remainder bin books? Even the data plan for you phone isn’t determined purely on the price, is it?

So who moves to a city, as an individual or business, for the sole reason that it has the lowest taxes?attraction

Aren’t there a bundle of factors that figure into the calculation? How easy is it to get to where you need to go? How good are the schools? Are there fun things to do within close proximity? Is it, at the end of the day, a positive experience living and/or doing business in a particular city?

Taxes are but a part of that equation.

Or, in the words of David Soknacki, we must strive to be the location providing the highest value. Value, like taxes, shouldn’t be a dirty word.

In the 30 seconds he was given to inspire the city at the end of Tuesday’s Metro Morning, David Soknacki summed up his vision like this:

I want to reform City Hall where we’re going to be making decisions based on consensus and on facts, and make it representative of our voices and priorities. That in turn will enhance our prosperity, and that in turn will enhance our quality of life.

I’m always a little leery of those putting prosperity before the idea of quality of life. I get it. I’m not a complete idiot. You can’t build anything positive with only good intentions and rainbow hopes. Money makes the world go around.

But isn’t it also possible to strive for prosperity by improving our quality of life first? By any measure you take, Toronto is a rich city. Investing now in infrastructure and other fundamentals of the public realm will invariably enhance our quality of life, as Mr. Soknacki wants to do, and attract more people and businesses and investment here, all vital to enhancing our prosperity.

alexanderdumas

A prosperity that isn’t just about having more money in our wallets. A richness more encompassing than adding up the dollars and cents. A value that goes beyond being respected as a taxpayer and puts as least as much emphasis on a way of life as it does a way of doing business.

business friendly-ly submitted by Cityslikr


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