Ana-igma

February 5, 2014

Let me state this again before proceeding.runforyourlife

I do not envy any of the first term councillors whose introduction to municipal governance was essentially a drop from a helicopter into a burning hellfire of partisanship and concerted efforts to city strip. I don’t envy any councillors subjected to it. 2010-2014. Non-stop anni horribiles.

Having said that…

Councillor Ana Bailão (Ward 18 Davenport), am I right?

For the life of me, I cannot get a handle on her. What makes her tick politically? While most of her rookie colleagues scampered toward the respective ideological corners that were quickly drawn when Rob Ford became mayor, Councillor Bailão seemed to get caught flat-footed and wide-eyed somewhere out in the middle, in no-man’s land, flapping like a ragged flag.deerintheheadlights

Sure, she took carriage of the TCHC file in an effort to help fend off the charging conservatives on council just itching to sell of the entire operations if they could. She’s nursed it through the storm. But as chair of the Affordable Housing Committee, Councillor Bailão has essentially served in the role of protectorate. There’s been little advancement made, no decrease in the capital repair backlog at TCHC. Pretty much status quo.

That said, the councillor’s done little to help the city’s revenues with votes in favour of repealing the vehicle registration tax and to freeze property taxes back in 2011. Oh, and the Scarborough subway. The Scarborough subway, diverting millions of tax dollars to a questionable transit project.

This one’s a total mystery to me.headscratcher

At last week’s budget meeting, Councillor Bailão was spared the necessity of publicly choosing between more money for TCHC capital repairs and the Scarborough subway when a motion to do just that was questionably ruled out of order by Speaker Frances Nunziata. When she was forced to stand up and make a defense of the Scarborough subway, Councillor Bailão came up with the 2nd weakest argument after the They Deserve one. Skin in the Game, baby. City council needs to show their willingness to spend money on any old politically motivated transit plan to prove they’re just as unprincipled as other levels of government.

*shrug*

Looking through her voting record as presented in Matt Elliott’s council scorecard leads to a lot of such head scratching. Stop funding the Christmas bureau. Confirming council decision to tear up the Jarvis bike lanes (which she initially voted against). Not factoring in the school year when moving tenants in the case of the sale of TCHC homes. No additional property tax increase to help maintain city services. No additional funds to the Tenant Defense Fund. Reduce funding for AIDS programs. trippedupNo endorsement for any of the proposed Metrolinx revenue tools to pay for public transit expansion.

All mixed in with a majority of more progressive votes, let’s call them, that leaves one’s head a-spinning.

Maybe Councillor Bailão’s just more open-minded than most, not stuck in any sort of partisan rut. Fair enough. But there’s got to be some sort of logic to it. A reasoned pattern of voting. Social liberal, fiscal conservative?

I just can’t make her time in office bend into any sort of coherent narrative.

As Mr. Elliott points out in his 2013 wrap up, in a year when the mayor`s sway over council completely evaporated, Councillor Bailão pro-Ford backing actually increased. While her Ford Nation percentage remains low, she has come through for the mayor on some key items over the course of the past 3+ years. Items that, arguably, bring zero benefit to the residents of her own ward.

Truth be told, the councillor has seemed a bit lost in the jungle of city council during her time there. Maybe if things had been normal, the atmosphere less toxic and threatening, she would’ve found her footing and settled in more easily. roadkillUnfortunately, it wasn’t and she didn’t.

Should Councillor Bailão be rewarded with a second term simply because she made it through alive? That’s pretty weak an endorsement. It could be argued that she made things worse, not taking a stand against divisiveness and city dismantling when the chips were down. She was simply not up to the task of being a city councillor when the city needed her most.

baffledly submitted by Cityslikr


January 5th. It’s Almost Christmas Somewhere

January 5, 2013

(Hey, hey, hey! Before you take down all those holiday decorations, there’s still some seasonal cheer coming from City Hall. Today, Councillor Ana Bailão, Ward 18, Davenport answers our two questions about looking back on the year that was and forward to the year ahead.)

*  *  *

abailao

1) The Gift of Councilling: What is the one moment in 2012 that struck you as the best example of why it was you became a councillor?

Both March 5, 2012 and October 30, 2012 stand out as very important days as my mind – the day Council approved the creation of a Special Housing Working Group to investigate alternatives to the mass sell-off of Toronto Community Housing scattered homes, and the day that Council approved this group’s report.

The overwhelming approval of the Special Working Group’s Report by Council was an important chapter in our City’s life; it reconfirmed our role in providing equitable living standards, mixed-income communities, and affordable living spaces.

It also recognized that, by reaching out to existing partners, and forming new relationships, we were able to find ‘in-house’ solutions to the big problems we face. While never forgetting the critical responsibilities of other levels of government, the recommendations of this Working Group guaranteed 90% of our scattered housing stock will remain affordable.

Of course, the recommendations are not the only benefit, the process – the numerous meetings, long briefing sessions, tenant feedback, and stakeholder sessions – was just as important. Throughout the many months of this process, I came to learn of the incredible complexities regarding the TCH repair backlog, how systematic the challenges were, and made me keenly aware: there are no one-word answers.

The one-word wasn’t “Sell”, and it wasn’t “Upload”, it was recognising that we are a complex city, and so too should the issues we face be seen as equally complex – and be given the respect, the time, and the resources necessary to be considered carefully.

When a problem is so large, and presents so many challenges, it is incredibly intimidating. It is the kind of intimidation that humbles any policy maker, that challenges us, as we realize how immense and far-reaching our positions are.

But even humbled, it reminded me why we began this exercise, the desire to be a public official and to champion and lead issues fuelled by our passions and sense of justice. I look forward to implementing the recommendations of the Special Working Group’s report and continuing to work hard to increase the quantity and quality of Toronto’s affordable housing. I also look forward to future challenges, asking difficult questions, and listening closely to the residents of this City.

2) Going Forward: In 2013, what is the one aspect you would like to see happen that would help develop better civic discourse?

The partisanship demonstrated at recent Council meetings must absolutely be repaired if the next two years are to offer any promise of progress. The level of discussion at Council must rise to a higher standard, one that the people of Toronto expect of us.

The localized partisanship of North vs. South or East vs. West serve no end goal of a better city, only a divided one, and continue to be a barrier against city-wide vision, city-wide investment, and city-wide prosperity.

I have also seen many positive changes of the last two years which I would like to see continue. Among them, community consultation plays a much larger role than any time in our amalgamated City’s history. We have longer deputation lists, greater amounts of feedback and more active and organized resident groups than ever in recent memory. Residents are also becoming more informed and aware of what Council discusses.

More and more often city representatives are reaching out to the public to ask for opinions, ideas and solutions about the important issues that face us; and by participating in this consultation we face these issues not as a collection of separate neighbourhoods, but as a City.

Every citizen of Toronto has a stake – and a responsibility – in these decisions and I will continue to work in ensuring that an opinion voiced is an opinion heard.

merrychristmas2012

seasonally submitted by Councillor Ana Bailão


Compromised

October 31, 2012

If you’ve ever wondered why this city council moves at such a (pre-climate change) glacial pace and never seems to get much done, you need not look any further than yesterday’s meeting. Yes, there was the usual procedural wrangling in setting up the order paper. That’s just a thing. And a longer than necessary debate over whether or not to cut out early tonight for Halloween. (For the record. Why not? They’ll make up the lost time by going longer on Thursday. Their job isn’t a standard 9-5 one. Flexible working hours shouldn’t be begrudged).

No, what really ground the proceedings to the halt were two items, both of which amounted to cleaning up the mess created by the mayor’s previous intemperate and ideological outbursts.

First up was the passing of Councillor Ana Bailão’s working group report on the Toronto Community Housing Corporation, Putting People First. This all came about due to Mayor Ford’s open hostility to the idea of public housing and his orchestrated attack on it during his initial swell of support in the early days of his administration. Manufacturing a crisis over some perceived excessive spending by the board, he ousted the lot and replaced them with another TCHC hater, former councillor Case Oootes.

Their plan for a massive sell-off of homes — ostensibly to help put a dent in the corporation’s massive backlog of capital repairs — met fierce resistance from a majority of council. Instead of unloading 675 single family homes that the Executive Committee had recommended back in January (Ootes had suggested 900 on his way out in June 2011), council went with just 55. Added to the 56 sold earlier, that’s but a fraction of what the mayor was hoping to accomplish and we should view with much suspicion his statement that the report “was a good start”.

But nonetheless, it was proclaimed a compromise victory for Mayor Ford, proof that he was learning to work with council and was growing into his role. Never mind that it took nearly two years to accomplish because of the extreme approach he adopted at the very beginning. It is a one-time fix, a band-aid solution to a growing problem the city’s going to have tackle again, probably sooner than later.

Of course, that process looked like the very model of nuanced governance compared to what followed.

The renewal of the city’s Ombudsman’s contract for a second 5 year term should’ve been effortless. A quick item dealt with, bing, bang, boom. Why would there be a fuss? No one had any complaints about the job Fiona Crean was doing.

Oh wait.

The mayor did.

After her office issued a report citing his office’s interference with the Civic Appointments process, he declared war. Unable to refute any of the report’s findings, he decided to kill the messenger and threw a contract renewal after her first term was up next fall into question. It was pettiness and score settling at its worst.

Now, you would think that a majority of councillors would be able to nip such vindictiveness in the bud like they had on the TCHC file. But here’s a good example of the modest powers bestowed on the mayor’s office being put to ill use. According to provincial legislation, council requires 30 votes to renew the Ombudsman’s contract and there was enough concern that 15 councillors might be craven enough to do the mayor’s bidding on this.

Thus, the 2 year extension “compromise”.

Hours after the matter should’ve been settled, 41 councillors voted in favour of the extension, almost all of them with high praise for the job Ms. Crean was doing. Nice work. There’s no reason whatsoever you shouldn’t be getting a 5 year extension but… you know… the mayor… we had to throw him a bone… you know how it is when the chief magistrate hasn’t a clue about the job he’s supposed to be doing… We’ll talk again in 2014, OK?

Compromise!

It wasn’t.

It was just another example of finding some sort of way for Mayor Ford to save face after he, yet again, stepped into it. A huge time suck spent to placate a mayor who threatened to overturn the applecart if he didn’t get his way. With over 100 items on their agenda, once more council pissed away the better part of a day mending fences the mayor had impulsively ripped up for no apparent reason other than he could.

Respect for the taxpayers indeed.

impatiently submitted by Cityslikr


Is This A David Simon Project?

October 4, 2012

The Rob Ford Story was starting to play out like a classic Hollywood narrative.

Underdog outsider, derided by all the cool kids, defies the odds and becomes student council president mayor of Toronto. The heady heights go straight to his ego, hubris rising, he nearly throws it all away, forgetting where it was he came from and alienating all those who believed in him when nobody else did. He wallows in self-pity, mistakes piling on mistakes, looking very much like he’ll fall back into the little man obscurity he’d just escaped.

That part where Rocky, having achieved international fame after the heavyweight champion, Apollo Creed, has tapped him to be his next an opponent, slacks off, distracted by adoring fans and all the temptations of celebrity. Burgess Meredith is always yelling at him and makes him chase a chicken. I think that’s in Rocky, right? Maybe Rocky II. I just know it’s not the one with the Russian robot.

Redemption awaits.

Or as former campaign director and chief of staff, now unofficial Fordian gadfly, Nick Kouvalis exclaimed: Rob 2.0 He gets his shit together, bounds up the set of stairs and dances/shadow boxes triumphantly. Flying high now! Flying high now!

At the fall city council meeting, the first after his summer of deep discontent, Mayor Ford promises and delivers to beat back those angling to keep the Jarvis bike lanes, one of his early shows of power in Act One. “It’s what the people want,” the mayor pronounced, embracing the populism that got him elected. The foul weather now behind him, it was playing out like a blockbuster storybook tale. Eye of the Tiger and all that.

Except that there seemed to be some genre busting going on. It wasn’t really the mayor who trumped his adversaries on the bike lane issue but, instead, his diabolical evil henchman, Public Works and Infrastructure chair, Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong. He seemed to do all the heavy lifting while Mayor Ford basked in the accolades.

And then there was the addition of a mystery element.

Three middle of the road councillors inexplicably flip-flopped and swung the vote in the mayor’s favour. Why? As Matt Elliott pointed out yesterday, councillors Ana Bailão, Michelle Berardinetti and Josh Colle had all expressed their intention to keep the Jarvis bike lanes and had they all voted that way the result wouldn’t have been a 24-19 win for the mayor but a 22-21 loss. What happened?

Probably some horse trading. One of the amendments was to pay for the removal of the bike lanes not from the biking infrastructure budget as has been floated earlier. Some good ol’ tit for tat. But there was little other glaringly obvious swapping in evidence.

Surely none of these shifty three were still intimidated by the mayor or the power he didn’t really yield. Maybe back in the day when his power was absolute and they were greenhorn rookies. Not now. They were in control, the decision in their hands. Such capitulation seemed more than a bit baffling.

We had now entered Sidney Lumet territory.

Everybody but Mayor Ford, that is.

He continued on his rag-to-riches-to rags-to riches arc. With victory secured, redemption was now at hand. Reaching out to his enemies as represented by the downtown elitists at CBC, the mayor would admit to his own failings, how he’d learned from them and would now rise above the fray to secure his rightful place as the mayor of all people. Everyone hugs (or in the Bollywood DVD only version for increased global sales, dance and sing together), credits roll, The End.

But again, Mayor Ford went off script.

As John McGrath beautifully detailed at the Torontoist this feel good ending did not come to pass. The mayor blustered, made up facts and figures, disputed staff numbers, spouted platitudes and empty rhetoric. Basically reverted back to his desultory Act Two behaviour.

This is what happens when your script is written by committee.

Mayor Ford returned to council to slay the dragon of the much hated plastic bag ban but there was no deus ex machine in sight, the cavalry did not ride in over the hill. The mayor did not have the 30 votes needed to re-open the ban debate. It ended just like that. A whimper. Wait, what? It’s over? Where’s the twist? The surprise plan B that snatches victory from the jaws of defeat?

Worse still for Mayor Ford, he faded into the background, became a bit player. Yesterday’s news was not about him, not about his ignominious defeat but about the Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti-Gord Perks face off. City Hall Brawl, the Toronto Sun screamed.

Earlier in the day, before the plastic bag ban showdown, Councillor Mammoliti rose in chambers and harrumphed something about the Ombudsman’s Report that was to be debated later in the meeting being ‘politically motivated’. Chastised by council and told by Speaker Frances Nunziata to retract his statement and apologize. He refused, stomping from the council floor before being forced out, and up to the media gallery, the councillor continued his tirade in front of the cameras.

Enter our shaggy anti-hero, Councillor Perks. He gets all up in his colleagues face, demanding he apologize or leave the chambers. Back off, out my face. Get out. Stand back. Get out.

Conflict. The key ingredient of any good drama.

In what then appears as a reversal of fortune, Councillor Perks is forced to apologize for his outburst at council while Councillor Mammoliti issues a typical non-apology apology. The mayor’s foes have over-stepped and succeeded only in embarrassing themselves. They hand him the public opinion victory he could not secure himself.

Except the story’s not done yet.

It could be seen that our seemingly reckless anti-hero, Councillor Perks, tactically fell on his sword. In making his confrontation today’s headline, it left people wondering what the two councillors fighting about. What indeed? The Ombudsman’s Report damning the mayor’s office’s involvement in the civic appointments process.

As I sit writing this, I’m listening to city council’s debate over the report. No good can come of this for the mayor. It’s bad news about bad conduct and that’s what everyone’s going to be talking about. This council meeting, the first of what was supposed to be his comeback, will be remembered only for a report highlighting his failure of governance as mayor.

Hardly the Hollywood ending he needed. In fact, this isn’t a movie at all with its interminable requisite sequels. It’s a sprawling miniseries saga that continues to defy expectations. A cautionary tale where the hero does not triumph.

cinematically submitted by Cityslikr


Room To Grow

May 13, 2012

One of the advantages of this thing I do to while away the hours between when its socially acceptable to drink is that I can not only riff on ideas put forth by others in order to fill up the blank pages – like a jazz musician putting his own notes on a established theme – but I’m allowed to take my ideas and run with them for a subsequent post. Acting as my own source. The ultimate insider ball.

Like say, just this past Thursday. In bemoaning the mayor’s abdication of responsibility… no, not bemoaning, exactly. More pointing it out and realizing that there’s an upside to it, I suggested that in the empty space provided, a handful of first term councillors have taken the opportunity to start exhibiting a little moxy, some chutzpah, a long cool drink of independent mindedness. They’ve thrown themselves a debutante ball.

In retrospect, being elected to City Hall for the first time in 2010 must’ve been like winning the lottery and immediately being held up at knifepoint and told to hand the cheque over. Wait… but I haven’t even cashed it yet.

The 14 newcomers were thrown into what could only be described as a bear pit. Some found their footing fairly quickly and not in the least bit unsurprisingly. There was the mayor’s brother, touting the purest form of Team Ford DNA. Others like councillors Kristyn Wong-Tam and Mike Layton were destined to be on the other side, owing to pedigree in Layton’s case and both being elected to represent wards as anti-Ford as they came.

But for the other 11, it has been a strange, strained, tumultuous, uncharted trip.

At the start, Mayor Ford was a force to be reckoned with. Defy him at your peril, mere council mortals. Fear the wrath of Ford Nation!

Sensibly, many neophyte councillors ducked for cover, quietly taking sides and hoping not to be noticed. Councillors Sarah Doucette and Mary Fragedakis usually leaning to the left, Executive Committee members Michelle Berardinetti and Jaye Robinson along with councillors Gary Crawford, Vincent Crisanti and James Pasternak lining up behind the mayor. John Tory endorsed Mary-Margaret McMahon, councillors Ana Bailão and Josh Colle made up what was soon termed (mostly derogatorily) the ‘mushy middle’, voting with Mayor Ford as often as not in the early going.

The 14th newbie, Councillor Josh Matlow broke from the pack earliest, trying to stake out a highly visible non-partisan man in a neither black nor white shade of grey suit. His timing was off, however, not to mention coming across as more than a little self serving. For the first year or so of the Ford administration, compromise and negotiation were simply not part of the equation. It was all about His Worship’s way or the highway.

Pressure was applied to play along. Projects were threatened without consultation. It was tough to learn the ropes when you were always coming under assault. Discretion, for many, was the better part of valour at this juncture. Keep heads low until the storm passes.

It started to break late last year. With Councillor Ford’s ill-advised land grab of the Portlands, the pushback began. Soft spoken Councillor Jaye Robinson took a very public stand against the move which, coming from a member of the mayor’s Executive Committee, signalled that dissent was now possible. Mayor Ford backed down on that, forging a rare council consensus that saved some face but his ironclad grip on the majority of rookie councillors had been broken.

Councillor Robinson didn’t jump ship entirely, remaining a reliable mayoral ally or, at least, not a vocal critic of him. That is, until she announced recently that at the end of the year she’ll be leaving her position on the Executive Committee. It seems she’s looking to spend the second half of her first term a little less affiliated with Mayor Ford.

Fellow ExComm member Berardinetti is travelling a similar but slightly rockier path. While maintaining a closer adherence to the Ford agenda than Robinson, Councillor Berardinetti has already bailed out of her position as a member of the Budget Committee, citing a desire to concentrate more on her constituency work as the reason. It probably also had something to do with her not being as down with the cutting and slashing especially in the face of an increased surplus since the original budget showdown in January.

Now she’s in the middle of a tussle with the mayor over the fate of the 5 cent plastic bag fee. He wants to kill it outright. Councillor Berardinetti wants to try and find a way to redirect the money to the tree canopy fund.

“I don’t know how it is going to happen,” Mayor Ford said. “I can’t support that.” I don’t get it. I don’t like it. End of discussion.

“I’m not sure if he fully understands what we’re trying to achieve here,” the councillor said, “and quite possibly he hasn’t read the full report.” Ouch. I’d call that a serious lack of deference now being shown to the mayor by a member of his very own Executive Committee.

“Berardinetti told the Sun she wasn’t surprised by Ford’s position,” Don Peat writes, “but she stressed he won’t be able to get council to scrap the bag fee.”

Yeah, that thing the mayor wants to do? He can huff and puff all he wants. It’s not going to happen.

Just like not reversing the $15 million or so of cuts in the 2012 budget. Another new councillor, Josh Colle, served as the face of that mayoral rebuff. It didn’t need to be a big setback as it was a miniscule fraction of the overall budget but Mayor Ford’s unwillingness to bend even in the slightest turned it into a major PR bomb. Emboldened, council, along with a solid majority of new members, turned its sites on the transit file in March and assumed complete control of it, sidelining the mayor to a state of almost insignificance.

How much so? Take a look at Councillor James Pasternak. A strong Ford loyalist from the get-go he’s now drifted notably from the Ford fold, rankling under the continual pressure to follow marching orders. He broke decisively during the budget debate despite the mayoral squeeze. “I would say it [pressure] was intense. Very intense,” he told the National Post. “I was looking for an opportunity to speak during the [budget] debate, but every time I’d try and get on the speakers’ list, I would be called away for another mini-caucus in the members’ lounge or in the back room.”

Perhaps in order to keep a closer eye on him or to lure him back with a plum post, Mayor Ford put him on the Budget Committee to replace the outgoing Councillor Berardinetti. So far the move hasn’t exactly brought him back into line. With an even bigger surplus than expected announced a couple weeks ago, Councillor Pasternak wants more of the cuts in this year’s budget reversed. Voted down at his inaugural budget committee meeting, the councillor was not deterred.

“There’s going to be a floor fight on council on this item,” he told the Globe and Mail. “We’re going to move it straight up there and that way all 44 councillors and the mayor have a say in what’s important to Torontonians. I think the most important thing is we have to cut through a lot of the histrionics of financial despair that were plaguing the budgetary process into the fall and early 2012.”

In the space of less than a year, one of city council’s most intimidated new councillors has not only abandoned Mayor Ford but done so openly and loudly. Labelling the mayor’s handling of the budget process histrionic and vowing a ‘floor fight’ at council in response to the budget committee’s refusal to defy the mayor, Councillor Pasternak has staked his position and, perhaps, his political future in the wide open political territory of moderation. By clinging so stubbornly to his far right comfort zone, Mayor Ford has inadvertently given plenty of room for the newcomers to stretch their wings and find their own place on the spectrum, free of coercion or bullying from an administration that, with one self-inflicted wound after another, has diminished its power to wield that sort of clout.

submitted by Cityslikr


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