From The Archives

February 2, 2014

fromthearchives

(Today marks a month into the 2014 municipal campaign and, from an election standpoint, it’s been relatively quiet. At the mayoral level, more time has been spent on who’s thinking about getting in than who’s actually already in the race. Only two candidates have received any attention so far. One is the incumbent who is telling us that he’s busy out there campaigning which you can’t deny him, if by campaigning he means making a drunken spectacle of himself every time he appears out in public. The other, former Scarborough councillor David Soknacki, pretty much has the field to himself. With no one else around to lay a glove on him, he’s simply going about his business, delivering policy platforms and getting himself some name recognition in the vacuum that is nobody else being in the ring with him.

It’s a far cry from this point of time in the last campaign in 2010. The presumptive favourite to win it all was already hard at it. Giorgio Mammoliti was pretending he had what it took to be mayor. There was a nobody named Rocco Rossi threatening to come out of nowhere.

And on this day in 2010, with much hoopla, a young, baby faced contender kicked off what looked to be a serious run from the left as the heir apparent to the outgoing mayor, David Miller. Oh, what heady days those were. When anything seemed possible. Nothing was going to stop the Giambrone express!)

*  *  *

Adam Giambrone has a huge set of balls. [No comment. -- ed.] They must be so big that he has to leave one at home any time he goes out because it would be impossible to cart around both at the same time for fearing of falling forward onto this face. We’re talking major league cojones.

How else to explain his declaration yesterday to run for mayor of Toronto? Adam Giambrone 2010. It’s a suicide mission. A World War I-like lurch up and out of the trenches onto the muddy, bloody, barbed wire fields of gore where the only realistic expectation is to be cut down in your prime. Giambrone is either deluded, blindly full of himself, youthfully idealistic or ambitious beyond the pale. Quite possibly, it’s a combination of all of the above. [We didn't know just how right we were. -- ed.]

Most rational politicians in his position would scan the political landscape in front of them and decide to sit this one out. There is anti-incumbency in the air; howls for the heads of any elected official held responsible for the abysmal shape of things. Look outside your windows, people! Crime is rampant. Roads are clogged and filled with rage. Rats have overrun the subways cars. And the Leafs, oh the Leafs.

Somebody’s got to pay. So if Giambrone were smart, he’d keep his head low, his ward 18 constituents happy and settle back into council this fall as one of the progressive headliners, standing up to the reactionary element that’s been beating its chest in these early days of the campaign. [Hello! Why was nobody listening to us? -- ed.] He bears a double burden this election. As chairman of the TTC, Giambrone is the poster boy for all that’s wrong in the eyes of the media with our public transportation system. A coddler of evil unions, he’s also portrayed as one of Mayor Miller’s minions which is a bad space to be occupying presently.

Yet, there he was in front of a raucous crowd that was packed to the rafters in a bar in Little Italy, going public with his preposterously unlikely bid. So unlikely that cynics have suggested he is simply raising his profile and will retreat back to his ward race by September. [HaHaHa! If only it had been that simple. -- ed.] That doesn’t make a whole lot of sense as Giambrone’s got a fairly high profile as it is albeit largely negative if our daily papers are to be believed. If he is using this now as a profile raiser it would be for an all out run at the job in 4 years time after he steps away from the partisan rancor of City Hall and is seen to be doing good deeds in a social agency or the private sector. Or with an eye toward provincial [How'd that work out for you, Adam? -- ed.] or federal elections in the near future, what with the French and Arabic he was throwing around during his speech.

(proof author was present last night)

Although judging from that speech last night, Giambrone seemed to be in this thing to win. He was passionate, articulate and spelled out the reasons why he wanted to be mayor. Yes, much of it was filled with broad generalities and pep rally platitudes (Better Tomorrows, Brighter Futures and all that). Still, I got a sense of the kind of city he wanted to build. Prosperous, of course, but with an emphasis on an equality of opportunity for everyone living here and not just us downtown fat cats and upscale suburban types. But even for those toiling away in Scarborough!

While short on details, he laid out in broad strokes how he wanted to do this. Ease of access on multiple levels. Opening voting to landed immigrants who have a stake in the city. Continued intensification of community policing in order to not only make neighbourhoods safer but to reduce a siege mentality that has descended on some places. And rather than run and hide from his TTC ties, Giambrone feistily embraced it, fully behind the idea of Transit City [No mention of a Scarborough subway in sight. -- ed.], explaining that making it easy to get to work and back home and to all places in between will ultimately connect and bind people, neighbourhoods and communities.

So a full All Fired Up in the Big Smoke endorsement, you ask? Hardly. While impressed certainly, the devil will be in the details. Among other things, we most certainly will want to hear from AG [about any sort of monkey business on an office couch. -- ed.], how he’s going to deal with the constant fiscal shortfalls that the city faces and the seemingly intractable approach City Hall has in coming up with solutions to that pressing problem.

That said, Giambrone projected a positive, can-do spirit as he entered the race, stating that Toronto is a good place to live. As mayor, he just wants to help make it better. A welcome relief from his opponents who are big on the cut, slash, cracking heads, general all round panic rhetoric that makes great headlines but seldom improves lives. That’s what running for public office should be about, right? [Note to self: ask the Toronto Star's Royson James what he thinks about the scandal which chased Adam Giambrone from the mayor's race in light of our subsequent scandal-plagued 4 years. -- ed.]

cautiously optimistically submitted by Cityslikr


Political Posturing Won’t Build Transit

April 21, 2013

I abhor faux-populism as much as the next Timmy’s loving, hard working, respect demanding little guy. timhortonsMy bullshit detector is acutely tuned to even the slightest judder of pandering. Common sense? Got it in spades. “Common Sense”? I see right through that, Mr. PR Marketing Man.

I’m a straight shooter and that’s what I expect from my elected officials. Give it to me right between the eyes, I say. I can take it. Brain me. Spare me the gut shot.

After decades of it, faux-populists from the right side of the political spectrum are pretty easy to spot. They refer to voters are ‘folks’. They roll up their sleeves. They don’t put the money they’ve saved folks back into the folks’s wallets but into the pockets of the folks’s jeans. Conservative faux-populists are always on the look out for the little guy but phrase it as ‘looking out for the little guy’. A subtle but very important distinction.

Left wing faux-populists are a little more difficult to spot because they’re supposed to be looking out for the little guy not just pretending to, like their counterparts on the right. bobrobertsYou don’t expect any sort of disingenuousness or duplicity on that subject from the left. Fairness, equality and fighting for those who find neither of those things on a daily basis is basically what those on the left are supposed to be doing.

Yet, I’m beginning to smell the stank of faux-ness from them when it comes to the question of transit at the provincial level.

Over at Raise the Hammer on Friday, the NDP Transport Critic (and my local MPP) Rosario Marchese responded to an earlier criticism of his party’s approach to transit funding.  “… the NDP has identified $1.3 billion worth of corporate tax cuts that the Liberals plan on giving away starting in 2015,” Mr. Marchese writes. “That’s $1.3 billion a year that will no longer be available for priorities such as transit.”

I’m all for finally sitting down and having the debate about the efficacy of corporate tax cuts in stimulating our economy. After years of pursuing such a policy, I think there’s lots of evidence pointing to the fact it does nothing of the sort. eattherichDoing more of the same in the hopes of getting a different outcome is the very definition of insanity and all that.

But we need to start hearing more specifics as to the application of new tax revenues coming in due to the cancellation of the proposed corporate tax cuts. “$1.3 billion a year…available for priorities such as transit.” How much exactly of that would go to transit? In his article Marchese admits that even the full amount wouldn’t pay for the Big Move as it is currently structured. And arguably, there are other provincial priorities that are in as desperate a need for an injection of new cash as the GTHA’s transit plans. More details, please.

Adam Giambrone puts some meat on the bones over at NOW this week, pushing the idea of restructuring personal income taxes as part of the transit funding solution. Wealth taxes and surcharges on those earning $350,000 a year and on the sale of properties worth over $3 million. Actual progressive rates of taxation reflective of an individual’s ability to pay.

Even the Globe and Mail’s Jeffrey Simpson seems in the mood to talk about the need for new taxes. The table is set. There’s really no need to be coy about it as the provincial NDP seems to insist on being.

Besides, while I’m all for talking about a fairer approach to taxation, when it comes to finding funds for expanding transit in the GTHA, there are limits to relying solely on corporate and personal income taxes. emptytalkIt’s hard to imagine how either could be administered at just a regional level. If they can’t, then you’re asking the entire province to pitch in and finance transit in the GTHA and we all know what a political minefield that is. There would probably have to be more of a province wide transportation plan which would obviously slice the pie into smaller pieces.

And before we go getting all redistributive here, let’s keep in mind that there should be some sort of incentive/disincentive type of taxation when it comes to transit funding too. Tolls, congestion fees and parking levies to force drivers to begin paying a more equal share of their road usage, funnelling that money into public transit.

The devil’s in the details as people like to say now with Metrolinx and Toronto’s city staff putting forth proposals for revenue tools. We need to start getting specifics, and stop hiding behind what are essentially cheap slogans. To my ears, the reliance on a ‘No More Corporate Tax Cuts’ mantra sounds as flimsy and faux-populist as finding efficiencies and cutting waste does in terms of this transit funding conversation. Vague, politically palatable pap that suggests your heart really isn’t in it. tenfootpoleTransit as topic you’d really rather avoid, thank you very much.

The Liberal government at Queen’s Park has moved slowly enough on the transit file, glacially slow most of the time, to have allowed the opposition parties plenty of time to claim it for themselves. Instead, both have shied away and handed the hot potato off, making the government appear like the only adults having a grown up conversation with the public. Empty rhetoric and catchphrase platitudes may a faux-populist make but it’s not going to get us any new transit built.

warily submitted by Cityslikr


King Of The Road

February 28, 2013

A recent Twitter exchange got me a-thinking. (Yes, I am growing comfortable acknowledging the Twitter/thought equation.)

twitter

It started with Global News’ Jackson Proskow in conversation with the TTC’s CEO, Andy Byford. They were talking about the news streetcars slated to join the fleet sometime next year. You know the ones the mayor and his team swore were going to break the city’s bank? Or was that the new subway cars? Public transportation is so expensive.

I’ll edit the chat for intelligibility for the non-Twitter types in the audience although you really need to get with the program.godzillafordtorontosun

So tweets Mr. Proskow:

TTC CEO confirms you may have to wait longer for a streetcar once new fleet arrives, but says reliability & capacity will improve.

“There are fewer streetcars but let’s remember they are much bigger” said Andy Byford. “my challenge is to make sure they don’t bunch up”.

Byford on new streetcars “people may have to wait a little bit longer but the actual reliability of the service will be that much better”.

Sometime during this, our friend Matt Elliott chimes in.

How fun would a botched launch of the new streetcars be in 2014, right in the middle of a municipal election?

Oh-oh. People hate streetcars, remember? Gulp!

dedicatedstreetcarlaneCouncillor Gord Perks adds a little fuel to the fun fire.

So the TTC is saying I will be certain that my morning ride will be worse.

Then, all jokes aside, JP Boutros, advisor to the TTC Chair, Karen Stintz, floats a little something-something into the Twittersphere.

Downtown TO politicos, please debate amongst yourselves as to why Giambrone’s Mar2007 504 King [streetcar] idea went nowhere & why it might (not) now.

What’s that, JP? some of us asked. 504 King streetcar idea? Giambrone? Why are you interrupting our laugh fest here?

After a little research, and by research I mean Googling, I came across this report, from way back in 2001, during the Mel Lastman era. A certain David Miller was still a councillor and TTC commissioner. Rob Ford was a council newbie. If there really were robots able to go back in time in order to alter the future, it would be to roughly this period where it would travel to in an attempt to kill our current mayor’s political career in its infancy.

Meeting Date: April 11, 2001 Subject: Dedicated Streetcar Lanes On The 504 King Route

OK, while you finish your fits of laughter, allow me to quote some from the report.

illbeback

…two of the options under consideration at this time are: i) banning all traffic, except streetcars, taxis, and commercial vehicles, from King Street during the busiest traffic hours; and ii) a full-time, permanent solution, with physical modifications to the street, whereby through traffic would be banned at all times, but vehicles would still be able to access each block..

* * *

Staff tried to create a dedicated streetcar right-of-way on King Street in the past, but the concept failed. In the early 1990′s, general traffic was prohibited from driving on the streetcar tracks on King Street, through the downtown, during peak periods. This was to be effected through the use of overhead signs and pavement markings, some of which are still in place today.

However, this “passive” system of deterrents didn’t work; motorists did, and continue to, ignore it. While this was disappointing, staff learned a valuable lesson from that experience: there is no “low-impact” way of establishing dedicated streetcar lanes on King Street. For dedicated lanes to be effective, there must be a dramatic change in the way in which King Street operates.

 

*  *  *kingstreetcar1

And in summary,

It is impractical to continue to operate the 504 King streetcar route, with service frequencies as great as every two minutes, in congested mixed traffic conditions. There are a number of initiatives being undertaken by staff to address the variety of problems contributing to the slow and, typically, unreliable service on this route. The most dramatic of these would be the creation of effective, dedicated lanes for the streetcars. TTC staff are working with Toronto ransportation Services and City Planning to identify a design for dedicated streetcar lanes which would fully respect the commercial activities in this corridor. To be effective, any solution will require trade-offs between substantial improvements in the quality of transit service on King Street and auto traffic and on-street parking.

Remember, this was twelve years ago. The King streetcar was already the most heavily used surface route in Toronto, carrying over 50,000 riders a day. (Now close to 57, 000 according to the 2011 stats). kingstreetcarAt peak morning rush hours, the streetcar was carrying almost double the number of people between Spadina and Yonge than were travelling along the route in other vehicles. While the numbers may’ve changed since then, there’s no reason to think the ratio has.

Flash forward six years to 2007. (Or flash back five years from the present.)

David Miller is now mayor. Adam Giambrone is the TTC chair. They’re still trying to do something about the congestion along King Street. Hey! How about a trial restricting vehicular traffic along a stretch of the corridor? See what happens.

Get the cars of King, TTC asks City Hall. TTC Streetcar Proposal for King ‘Madness’.

You can pretty much guess how that all went.

Local residents and businesses get all up in arms, claiming without any substantiation that the plan will kill the area. Without easy access for cars, the strip will shrivel up and die. Even so much as a pilot project will be a death knell.

It’s the exact same argument we’re hearing right now from the owners of Pusateri’s on Bay Street in defense of their ‘lay-by’ cut in to the sidewalk in front of their store that allows cars to temporarily throw out the anchors for easy pickups and drop offs. They’ll live and die by ‘walk in’ traffic (a curious use of wording) only from cars that are able to park right by their doors. kingstreetcar2AS IF NO ONE EVER GETS OFF A BUS OR STREETCAR TO GO TO A RESTAURANT OR GROCERY STORE!

It’s this lethal combination of a white-knuckled grip on the status quo and an overweening sense of entitlement that leaves us stuck in this congestion rut. A War on the Car? Really? As the 2001 TTC report shows, motorists just simply ignore “passive” deterrents to stay off streetcar tracks or make illegal left turns. As a matter of fact, yes, I do own the road.

Show me somewhere that a decrease in private vehicle traffic in densely populated downtown areas adversely affects business. Give me the numbers instead of just scare tactics and dire warnings. What is it that we’re so afraid of if it turns out that in some spots of the city car traffic is really an impediment to better business and quality of life? How could that be a bad thing?

Clearly traffic flow isn’t functioning properly along King Street and hasn’t been for a while now. As the TTC CEO pointed out, our new streetcars aren’t going to fully alleviate the problem. It’s long past time we stop sitting on our hands and try a new approach. Hard to imagine how it could make matters any worse.

wonderingly submitted by Cityslikr


Libel? Nah. Just Democratic Hijinks.

November 16, 2012

I am a bit flummoxed at Royson James’ notion of democracy. Early on in the 2010 campaign, the Toronto Star columnist spearheaded the derailment of then councillor Adam Giambrone’s mayoral bid, outraged over some unsavoury “personal issues”, let’s call them, that had surfaced. Here’s what Mr. James wrote in February of 2010:

Mayoral candidate Adam Giambrone can be gay if he wants to, or bisexual. This is Toronto.

Giambrone the playboy can have a 19-year-old girlfriend on the side, a common practice among the political elite of the day.

Giambrone the TTC chair can use the couch in his city hall office to bed Kristen Lucas late at night when he should have been using the office to solve customer-relations problems at the TTC.

And when caught with his pants on the ground, the man with the clean-cut, fresh, youthful image can admit only to having an “inappropriate” text message relationship with the girlfriend, as if it amounted to mere digital sex, a peccadillo.

But the 32-year-old city councillor can’t do all that and expect Torontonians to embrace him as their mayor.

Yet 2 ½ years on with the man the city did ultimately embrace as its mayor, Rob Ford, in court on the stand, defending himself against libel charges for things he said during the 2010 campaign and Mr. James simply shrugs. “We value our democracy,” he wrote yesterday. “Elections are the purest expression of our freedoms. When candidates put themselves up for public office we want to give them the greatest latitude possible to debate issues, to raise questions, to rail at the moon, to be as outrageous or as thoughtful as possible.”

Apparently for Royson James, a strong democracy needs to be able to withstand undermining attacks upon it by unsubstantiated innuendo, questionable claims and, quite possibly, libellous slurs but cannot cope with a politician’s personal transgression and the lies and hypocrisy that invariably follow any public outing. Adam Giambrone was unfit to hold the office of mayor. Rob Ford was just expressing his democratic rights and freedom.

No one is arguing that Rob Ford did not have the right to say the things he said during the Toronto Sun editorial board meeting. At issue now is facing the consequences for the words he spoke. You’d think that would have James more up in arms than he seems to be.

The outrageous railing at the moon the Fords engaged in with the Sun about in camera meetings, backroom sole-source deals, corruption and skulduggery was just par for the course of the complete fiction their whole platform thrived on. Unchecked, such invention became fact. The Ford administration rode into power on a huge polluted wave of misinformation and dubious rhetorical slogans.

But at least we don’t have a philanderer sitting in the mayor’s chair. I mean, one who cheats on his partner not the entire city with his little football coaching on the side.

Amazingly, given all that’s happened during Mayor Ford’s tenure, James remains blithely oh-well-what-are-you-gonna-do about politicians who engage in debatable discourse that confounds reality. “The thinking is that our community can withstand the rhetorical excess of misguided or over-exuberant candidates. In the end, a thoughtful and clear-thinking electorate will sift through the noise and mess and find a reasonable representative to lead them.”

Really, Royson?! Really!? To quote Stephen Colbert: How is the weather up your own ass?

Goaded by ‘the rhetorical excess of misguided or over-exuberant candidates’, enough voters were convinced City Hall was rife with corruption and bloated spending (and whatever other uncorroborated crimes against taxpayers Rob Ford tossed in for good measure) that we now are in the grips of a fantasy league mayor and his collection of delusional followers. In the article, James claims then Ford campaign spokes person, Adrienne Batra practically dared George Foulidis to challenge the accusations in court “and watch all the stuff come out in public.” The matter is now in court and, so far, no ‘stuff’ has come out in public.

Bullshit built on bullshit can only result in more bullshit.

Whether or not Mayor Ford is found libel in what he said about the process of awarding a contract in the Tuggs deal is irrelevant at this point. What should be clear, especially to long time municipal watchers like Royson James, is that the mayor’s iffy relationship to the truth, on almost every civic matter he expounds on, serves neither democracy nor the welfare of this city. In fact, it’s been nothing but a detriment. Shame on Royson James’ nonchalance in the face of that.

unimpressedly submitted by Cityslikr


Dreaming Of A True Ford Nation

March 26, 2012

Hey.

Did everybody see that? At the NDP federal leadership convention this weekend, councillors Karen Stintz and John Parker, locked arm in arm, cheering the radical left crowd on, belting out Le Internationale.

Yeah, me neither. But apparently that’s exactly what Councillor Doug Ford and his brother mayor witnessed. “You’re on our side or against us,” Mayor Ford said yesterday on his radio show. “You’re on the taxpayer’s side or against them. There’s no mushy middle. It’s left or right down there.”

In what must be the most ridiculous case of repositioning ever, Team Ford is desperately trying to cast the world of municipal politics here in Toronto as a simple binary system, a black-and-white world of simplistic right-versus-left, us-versus-them. You’re either with us or you’ve been brainwashed by the vile and manipulative NDP. The mushy middle has drunk the koolaid.

Councillor Karen Stintz, a dipper. That must be news to the previous incarnation of Councillor Stintz who stood in strong opposition to former mayor David Miller. She was a chartered member of the Responsible Government Group. The other Councillor Karen Stintz speaking out passionately if misguidedly against a motion to reclaim about $19 million in service and program cuts in the 2012 budget.

And former Progressive Conservative MPP and Mike Harris backbencher, Councillor John Parker. Another member of the anti-David Miller Responsible Government Group, now suddenly a left leaning councillor, his blue hues changed overnight to that bilious orange.

Let’s not forget fellow Etobicoke councillor Gloria Lindsay Luby, a long time foe of the Ford family, clearly because of her political stripes. You see, way back in 1999, she had the temerity to oppose Doug Ford Sr. in a political nomination showdown for the… wait for it, wait for it… Progressive Conservative party. Clearly, a lost cause left wing wingnut. So much so that she was a member of Mayor Miller’s Executive Committee before resigning. “I never felt part of that small inner circle”

In the magical world that exists in the Ford family mind, bona fide conservatives become evil socialists the moment disagreement emerges. There is no middle ground, no third way. Councillor Mary-Margaret McMahon, in her 2010 race to unseat David Miller Speaker, Sandra Bussin, endorsed by former provincial Progressive Conservative leader John Tory, is now a left winger. Councillor Ana Bailão ran in the 2003 municipal election against very left leaning Adam Giambrone and then won the ward in 2010 by beating Giambrone EA, Kevin Beaulieu. Councillor Josh Colle, offspring of Liberal MPP Mike Colle, and up until the recent rash of transit votes, sided with the mayor more than 40% of the time. Councillor Chin Lee, another member of the Responsible Government Group back in the day, backed Mayor Ford more than half the time.

Now, because of their disagreement with him over transit plans have all been hopelessly lost to the dark side, left wingers all.

There was a reason some of the more outspoken critics of the mayor and his brother began calling them ‘radical conservatives’. Actually, two. One, because the Fords are radical right wingers. Despite the election promise not to cut services and programs that’s exactly what they’ve done. They want to make government smaller under the banner of efficiencies. They are endeavouring the smash the unions. They want to privatize everything not nailed down.

That is, in fact, a radical right wing agenda.

The other reason to colour them with this label is to differentiate the Fords and their hardcore supporters on council from actual moderate conservatives. Despite what the brothers will try and tell you over the course of the next 2.5 years, city council is made up with a fair rump of moderate conservatives, those who are able to reach out and form a consensus with a majority of council members. That is what occurred on the transit vote. A consensus of 24 councillors from the moderate right to the left (29 when it came to assuming control of the TTC board) to take  the transit file from Mayor Ford when he failed to bring forth a workable plan to build a Sheppard subway that would almost get to Scarborough.

But the mayor and his brother see such cooperation as nothing short of betrayal and treachery. In their us-versus-everyone else who disagrees with us on any issue worldview, true conservatives march in lockstep. Since they are conservatives, you can’t vote against them and still be a conservative.

So now they’ve pledged to run a slate of candidates against any councillor that dares to defy them. This isn’t new. They did it on a limited scale in 2010. They nearly unseated Councillor Lindsay Luby as well as Councillor Maria Augimeri. Councillor Peter Milczyn similarly had to fight for his political life with a Ford backed candidate in the race. He, unlike councillors Lindsay Luby and Augimeri, has largely turtled and become a pliant supporter of the mayor except for some of his recent votes on transit.

In Ward 1, the Fords did manage to boot then councillor Suzan Hall, locking in undying fealty at city council from one Vincent Crisanti. Councillor Crisanti immediately assumed the position as a largely silent deadwood paper weight rubber stamp yes man for the incoming mayor. When he does rise to speak, he invokes the babbling oratory of councillors Frank Di Giorgio and Cesar Palacio. In the debate over transit and the Sheppard subway, Councillor Crisanti insisted busses ran faster than LRTs and endeavoured to ensure Etobicoke would not see improvement in transit in our lifetimes.

That, folks, is the slate of candidates the mayor wants to put together. Team Ford and Vincent Crisantis in 2014.

sirenly submitted by Cityslikr


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