Building A Machine To Defeat The Machine

December 1, 2014

This week all the post-election hypotheticals begin to collapse into reality. The very long, drawn out, seemingly at times without punctuation chapter of the Ford Era closes. quantumdecoherenceJust the chapter, alas. We’re pretty sure that book remains open.

The 2010-2014 term of Toronto city council makes way for 2014-2018, leaving behind a mess of crises, to paraphrase the incoming mayor. To use some sprots terminology, this city is in rebuilding mode. Nothing’s been fixed over the last four years, hyperbolic protestations to the contrary. Everything’s got a little more frayed around the edges.

Worst case scenario, we begin having rational discussions again about how to get our civic shit together. (Actually, a late addendum. Worst case scenario? Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong.) Best case? City council actually coalesces in a meaningful way and starts implementing concrete plans to do just that.youagain

It’s hard to imagine how the proceedings will be any worse than they were last term, although perhaps too many of us have misplaced expectations in the change that’s happened at the top. (Exhibit A: the new mayor’s choice for Executive Committee.) Most of the main offenders, enablers, deadweights and flat out crackpots who contributed to the mayhem and dysfunction at City Hall last term are back for yet another kick at the can. Maybe a semblance of sanity in the mayor’s office will help rein in their worst instincts but can it really make them better city councillors?

We can hope for the best but I’m fairly confident that before long we’re going to realize our local government is terribly broken. How we elect and who we elect to represent us fails miserably in reflecting the people of Toronto. exactlythesame2Despite a very strong group of challengers throughout the city in October’s election, council managed to get whiter and more male. Even most of the newcomers felt like the usual uninspiring suspects.

Jonathan Goldsbie wrote an exhaustive piece last week in NOW about the seemingly status quo entrenchment that’s occurred. There’s no end of ideas on how to combat it and to contend with the overwhelming power of incumbency. Some possibly right around the corner (ranked ballots, permanent resident voting), others still up for debate (formation of municipal parties, term limits). None, I believe, even enacted all together, would serve as any sort of magic bullet and transform our democracy.

That’s going to take a whole lot more hands on engagement. If we learned nothing else from this past election, it should be that best wishes and high hopes contribute nothing more to a campaign than… best wishes and high hopes. exactlythesame1Too many strong candidate challengers were left to their own devices, lots of them out in our poorly represented inner suburbs, without much institutional help for the all essential ground game, ultimately picked off by lesser opponents who’d garnered party-friendly, unofficial backroom support.

As much as we hear about our municipal campaigns being too long, for most council candidates the 10 months is not long enough. Too often, candidates enter a race unprepared, under-financed and without enough human resources to get their names and faces out there in time to established themselves as legitimate contenders. No amount of social media adoration or late in the game endorsements will unseat an incumbent, even the worst of the worst incumbents, even incumbents under criminal investigation.

The reality — the sad, sad reality – is the 2018 race for city council starts right now. Sitting city councillors cannot be allowed 3 years of unchecked governance. Shadow opposition must commence immediately. Challengers popping up onto the scene in year 4 of a term, telling residents that change is needed, and that they are the needed change are seen as interlopers, opportunists. perpetualmotionmachineWhere were you when all this so-called bad shit was happening around here?

Unfortunately, very few people can just set aside 4 years to campaign, monitoring their city councillor or get themselves a Monday-Friday AM talk radio gig to maximize their exposure. Hell, not everybody knows 4 years out if a run for city council is even in the cards. The incumbents’ advantage is like a perpetual motion machine.

City council challengers need to be nurtured not just encouraged. As importantly, a campaign apparatus needs to be established, free of political party-ship, that will develop off-season electoral muscle. Create an active community throughout the city that starts to learn the doors to knock on, the phones to ring, the meetings to attend, connect to and organize.

The best city councillors are always out there, engaging with their respective neighbourhoods and communities. fix1Any prospective candidate needs to be doing exactly the same thing. Those of us discouraged by the results of our last election must pitch in to help create a system that makes that possible.

Clearly this is a process requiring a hands-on effort by a committed group, getting the proverbial boots on the ground. As we discovered once again to our dismay (and are re-learning as the new administration begins to take shape this week), we can’t hope and wait for change. It’s not going to be wondrously legislated for us. It’s going to take all sorts of people, working to make the change.

determinedly submitted by Cityslikr


Now It’s A War On The Raccoon

August 19, 2014

You know we must be in full-fledged municipal campaign season when right wing candidates are turning up the volume and frequency on their Outrage, denzilminnanwongan Outrage inversely proportional to both its importance and reality itself.

Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong’s invective against the cost of umbrellas and rocks paid by Waterfront TO to build Sugar Beach. A cost almost entirely all borne by upper levels of government on a project that is succeeding in its goal of generating private sector development in a long underused and undervalued area of the city. Outrageous!

Now Councillor David Shiner is up in arms about an alleged explosion in the city’s raccoon population. “There is an increasing population and they are out there and they are getting more aggressive”, Councillor Shiner claimed at yesterday’s Licensing and Standards committee. raccoonhorde“They are breaking into people’s houses and ripping up people’s lawns and getting into their garbage.” Something must be done. Outrageous!

It is a claim city staff aren’t on board with. At least, not yet. There’s a report being done on Toronto’s wildlife population and is due next year but there’s no indication that the number of raccoons has ballooned. Still, who amongst us hasn’t seen a raccoon this year? So you do the math.

Never one to turn down an opportunity to deliver a public display of über-outrage (not to mention pad a rather skeletal looking re-election campaign), Mayor Ford hopped on both the incensed wagons of Sugar Beach and anti-raccoonness with outbursts that ratcheted up the nonsense into the realm of performance art.

“It’s a severe problem,” the mayor told a media scrum yesterday. “They’re getting braver and braver.” He told of “standoffs” with raccoons. Raccoons popping out of recycling bins. The kids and wife refuse to take the garbage out at night out fear of the raccoons lurking, waiting. outrageous1We are under siege, folks, from an implacable and growing procyonid army, intent on taking control of our curbside garbage placement routines.

It would be funny – it is funny as you can tell by the media snickers elicited by the mayor’s raccoon comments – if it wasn’t the elected leader of a city of 2.5+ people making such ridiculous and (as usual) unsubstantiated remarks about what is, essentially, an inconsequential matter. But that’s just how he rolls, making mountains out of molehills that, of course, being omnivores like they are, raccoons will inevitably destroy in order to satiate their ravenous appetites. Get the people riled up and indignant. Light the flame of anger and outrage under their collective butts. Lash out, people! Lash out.

It should come as no surprise to anyone that the mayor offered zero solutions to the pretend problem he was creating. “We have to do something with the raccoons. I don’t have the answer but…” There’s always a ‘but’ followed by silence. The mayor and right wing cohorts like councillors Minnan-Wong and Shiner rarely provide answers because manufacturing outrage is just easier. hornetsnestIt validates their dimly held view of the role of government in our lives. Give the government an inch, it’ll take a mile. Give it a buck, it’ll buy $12 000 umbrellas. And when a problem pops up from behind the garbage bin like this rise of the raccoon horde, government is powerless to help us.

Anger rather than inspiration is their stock and trade. That’s all they know how to do. Pick a fight, stir the pot, move on. Create endless points of outrage in order to keep your name in the press. It’s so much simpler than actually contributing in any positive way to the operations of this city.

racc0onteurly submitted by Cityslikr


Challengers To Watch VIII

July 30, 2014

As the municipal campaign begins to gather a little mid-summer momentum of interest, there’s been an uptick in chatter about new faces, new voices challenging incumbents in various city council races. brandnewNOW’s Ben Spurr wrote an article last week, Progressives in the heart of Ford Nation, featuring a group of candidates running up in the city’s northwestern corner. “A group of young, bright candidates are tackling far right politics and voter disaffection in Toronto’s northwest”, he writes.

This is a most encouraging and welcome development. But let me just add that new doesn’t necessarily have to mean young. A challenge to the status quo only needs to be done in spirit and intention. Age has absolutely nothing to do with it.

So it is with Mary Hynes as she has stepped forward to take on the entrenchiest of entrenched incumbents, Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong, in Ward 34 Don Valley East.

For anyone who’s followed along Toronto politics over the last 4 years, you might recognize Mary as ‘Yelly Granny’ as she was pejoratively dubbed after she gave a blazing deputation at the Executive Committee during the Summer of the Cuts in 2011. Although intended, I think, affectionately, it diminished her impact, enabling those in the mayor’s camp to view her as nothing more than one of the ‘usual suspects’, as I think Giorgio Mammoliti took to saying.

It was unfortunate for another reason as it also undercut what has been a lifetime committed to social justice. An elementary school teacher in Scarborough for twenty-five years, she has also worked on and with a whole lot of community causes. Aside from the ones that pop up regularly at City Hall — Social Planning Toronto, Toronto Environmental Alliance, TTC Riders – Mary’s also a busy part of the Ontario Health Coalition, Older Women’s Network and Fairview Food Security Council.

While no stranger to political campaigns, having run previously at both the provincial and federal levels as well as in a 2012 school board by-election, ward34I wondered what compelled her into this race at this time. It’s all about taking ownership of our communities, Mary tells me. “People don’t know what’s possible.”

At the doors, she’s hearing that, after the condition of the roads which to a car dependent area of the city like Ward 34 is, is a very important local issue, residents tell her there’s a definite lack of communication from their city councillor. As we’re discovering on our travels throughout the suburban areas of Toronto, people don’t really expect municipal politicians to come knocking on their doors. Residence associations, when there are residence associations, tend to focus on keeping property taxes low. There’s not a whole lot of community building going on the part of the city councillor.

So Mary sees big chunks of public space, green public space, going unused. There’s very little sense of connection between neighbourhoods in the ward unless you’re driving. yorkmillsWhile the bus service is adequate, this is not a part of the city easily traversed on foot or by bike.

None of which should come as much of a surprise since this part of the city has been represented at City Hall by Denzil Minnan-Wong for a long time now. He is the stodgy, reactionary, get off my lawn candidate in this race. Regular readers of this blog know the level of contempt I have for the man. He is easily in the top 5 on the worst councillors list, a truly destructive, malignant force at City Hall. davidandgoliathThe skies would be a whole lot bluer, the air much, much sweeter if he was shown the door in October.

Still, this is very much a David versus Goliath battle. At a political level where name recognition means a lot, the current Ward 34 incumbent has a lot of it. As chair of the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee, he hogs an awful lot of the spotlight, out grandstanding against almost all sorts of public building and spending outside of roads and bike lanes on roads he doesn’t want to drive on. You might not know why you know his name. You might not even like why you know his name. But you know his name nevertheless.

The one bright spot I’ll take from that, however, is over the past few elections, the councillor’s share of the popular vote has declined noticeably. From nearly 71% in 2003 to just under 54% last time out, it’s a trajectory that might suggest the more Ward 34 residents get to know their councillor, the less they like him. bornoldI know that’s certainly true for me.

Mary Hynes offers up a positive alternative for voters in Ward 34. She is running for city council to build something, to foster a sense of community for every resident not just a select few. She wants to be a councillor who listens first and talks second which is diametrically opposed to the sort of representation the ward has had for nearly 20 years now.

Don’t let the looks fool you. Mary Hynes very much represents the new guard of candidates looking to transform the dynamics at City Hall.

hopefully submitted by Cityslikr


Call The Question

July 21, 2014

If they want to make it a campaign issue, I say, bring it on. Let’s have the discussion we should’ve had in 2010. replayAll that talk of gravy and the city’s spending problem. The mayor, his brother, Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong all want to put it back on the table again this time around. Fine. Let’s revisit the conversation.

The current object of their fiscal hawk ire is Waterfront Toronto, and its spending practices on a couple projects as part of the wider waterfront revitalization. I’ll try and ape their tone of outrage. $12,000 on umbrellas!! Half a million dollars on rocks!!! $600,000 for a washroom!!!

Resign! Resign!! Resign!!!!

You see, when it comes to the public realm (of the non-road related kind), everything can be done more cheaply. Some parks build public washrooms for 25 grand. Why does Cherry Beach need one for 600 grand? Half a mil for rocks? mockoutrage1Councillor Doug Ford offered some from up at his cottage for a fraction of that cost.

Never mind that Waterfront Toronto has some perfectly legitimate explanations for the cost. The umbrellas at Sugar Beach are permanent, all weather umbrellas intended to last for 25 years. The sports field washroom was installed in a spot away from any sewer infrastructure that needed its own septic system to deal with the large number of people using it.

But as a Toronto Sun editorial warns us, “Too many appear prepared to take whatever Waterfront Toronto says at face value. Bad idea.”

Absolutely. Instead, take at face value what a handful of grandstanding-happy, campaigning politicians tell us.

As Waterfront Toronto CEO John Campbell points out, the agency is overseen by all 3 levels of government. demagogueWhere are the other outraged voices at all this profligacy? Why are we just hearing the loudest and the crankiest? Or more to the point, why are we giving them any sort of credence?

Even many fellow city council conservatives aren’t onside with this shameless bit of pure self-promotion. Economic Development and Culture Committee Chair Michael Thompson gave one of the best speeches I have seen him give in a fiery defense of Watefront Toronto earlier this month. By investing public money into previously derelict areas of the city’s waterfront, some $2.5 billion in private investment in the area has happened.

“Notwithstanding,” sniffs the Toronto Sun.

Notwithstanding?! That’s the entire fucking point. While not technically a public-private partnership, it’s kind of the theory in practice. Public money used to improve a public asset which, in turn, encourages private investment and development.

notlistening2Not to mention improved public spaces although it’s more difficult to put a price tag on that.

“What taxpayers know is that when it comes to revitalizing the waterfront,” the Sun goes on, undeterred by reason or even simple observation, “politicians, bureaucrats and publicly-funded agencies from all levels of government have been over-promising and under-delivering for years.”

So when those ‘politicians, bureaucrats and publicly-funded agencies’ do start delivering, as they have with the steady march of development along the waterfront, as indicated by $2.5 billion in private investment, you stand back, unimpressed, and moan about the cost. Did it have to be so expensive? Couldn’t you have done it cheaper?

Geez, I don’t know, Toronto Sun, Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong and the Ford Brothers. Could we? Tell us all about how you would’ve done it while saving the taxpayers’ a bundle. neverhappyHow about just slapping up, I don’t know, an outhouse at the Cherry Beach sports field would’ve accomplished the same result.

It’s time Councillor Minnan-Wong, who’s been a city councillor for nearly 20 years now, step up and start telling us, not what’s wrong, but how exactly he’d make it right. It’s time Councillor Minnan-Wong told us about the positive contributions he’s made to the life of this city, how he’s served to make the residents’ lives better. It’s time Councillor Minnan-Wong start justifying his continued public presence.

And if, in the end, all he can point to are numbers with dollar signs on a ledger sheet and refer to those he represents as ‘taxpayers’, I’ll suggest that’s not enough, not even close. As we have seen with a similarly small-minded, monstrously narrow-focussed, anti-government conservative in our current mayor, big cities need big pictures not just the itty-bitty ones that spark indignation fueled solely on fallacious resentment. texaschainsawmassacreNay-saying is an easy political platform to build. Unfortunately, it collapses under the weight of governance.

So yeah, if Councillor Minnan-Wong, the Fords and the Toronto Sun want to try and re-hash the 2010 campaign, pitting their self-proclaimed record of stinginess against the idea of productive city-building, let them. This time, however, demand they show the results of their actions. Demand a full accounting of the costs and benefits. Demand actual leadership and not just mindless, crowd-pleasing axe wielding.

daringly submitted by Cityslikr


The Lads Doth Protest Too Much

July 3, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

sow’s ear-ly submitted by Cityslikr


For Hamish and Jared and Janet and…

May 15, 2014

If cycling advocates can’t agree on the best way forward on building a better bike network throughout the city, disagreehow exactly does one get built?

Some believe that protected and completely separate bike lanes, installed where conditions warrant, will encourage more riders, many too fearful for their lives (somewhat correctly) to mingle directly with car traffic, to take up cycling. Ridership grows. A network grows. Others contend that just starting out with brightly coloured lines that seamlessly connect easy routes from east to west, north to south will increase ridership that will ultimately justify further spending to build a more permanent cycling infrastructure of protected and separate bike lanes.

Two opposite approaches aiming for the same ultimate goal. The elevation of cycling to equal consideration as part of the city’s transportation grid.

Into the void of tactical disagreement, let’s call it, step the decision makers, bikinghippiessome who don’t believe cycling has any place within our transportation system, who can’t comprehend how more people on bikes, getting around the city, could possibly help alleviate Toronto’s congestion. For them, cycling is a diversion, a pastime not used by serious people intent on going about their business in any sort of serious way. It’s something done by elitists or hippies, physical fitness nuts. Real commuters don’t commute on bikes.

Our current mayor is one of those types. Bikes have no place on the roads, he once famously said, comparing it to swimming with the sharks. At the end of the day, yaddie, yaddie, yaddie.

So, in many ways, it’s kind of remarkable that 4 years into his term, the streets of this city remain as full of cyclists as they do. sherbournebikelaneDMWI know it’s cold comfort to say but the situation could’ve been so much worse. Things have ground to a crawl but haven’t been irretrievably reversed.

That fact is even more remarkable given the person sitting in the Public Works and Infrastructure chair, the committee that oversees road construction and design, is Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong. He is no slouch when it comes to car-centricity. Why, just yesterday in fact, during a PWIC meeting, he wanted to make sure there was a representative from the CAA present when going forward with school zone safety measures. Why? Well, because drivers of cars that “allegedly” hit pedestrians need to have their voices heard too.

Or something.

*shrug*

Yes, under PWIC chair Minnan-Wong, the bike lanes of Jarvis Street were torn up and moved a couple blocks east to Sherbourne where, ostensibly, “better”, “protected” and “separated” lanes were built. The more I ride them, the more ridiculous they seem, having to share the space with public transit sherbournebikelane(which they didn’t have to do on Jarvis) and almost never are they fully protected or separate. Cars and delivery trucks easily and regularly breach the porous barriers.

I will set aside my normally disparaging opinion of the councillor and refuse to accept the possibility that he simply threw cycling advocates a few small bones purposely to hear their cries of outrage in order to throw up his hands and claim that these people are never happy. There’s never any pleasing them. They want the entire road or nothing.

Instead, I choose to believe that he did the best he could, given the circumstances at hand and his inherent lack of understanding toward anyone who might willingly decide not to get around town in any way other than by car. He did not kill cycling in this city. He merely succeeded in frustrating it.

Of bigger concern is the next four years. What direction the incoming administration will go in terms of biking. emptypromiseSo far, there’s little to get excited about and much to be fearful of.

Mayoral candidate John Tory had this to say to Global News’ Jackson Proskow about the PWIC’s decision to approve a pilot project for bike lanes along Richmond and Adelaide Streets:

“My priority from day 1 as mayor is going to be to make sure we keep traffic moving in this city, and I am in favour of making opportunities available for cyclists to get around the city too because that will help, in its own way, to get traffic moving too. But I want to look at the results of discussions that are going on today and other days and make sure that whatever we do we are not putting additional obstructions in the way of people getting around in this city, because traffic is at a stand-still at the moment and that’s costing us jobs, it’s hurting the environment, it’s not good for Toronto.”

There is so much wrong and mealy-mouthed about that statement that it’s impossible to imagine the person saying it actually lives in this city let alone thinks they can lead it. Bikes in no way constitute traffic. The idea that more people riding bikes, especially in the downtown core, means less people driving cars (or using public transit) seems incomprehensible to someone like John Tory. Bikes are nothing more than ‘additional obstructions’ for people – people being car drivers – ‘getting around in this city’.

“I am in favour of making opportunities available for cyclists.” John Tory might’ve well said roads are meant for buses, cars and trucks. littlewinsThere’s not much daylight between the two sentiments.

It isn’t going to get any easier going forward. Cyclists and those fighting for them at City Hall have to accept the little victories, the pilot projects, as serious steps forward. The status quo never gives way easily, and the status quo in Toronto remains tilted in favour of cars. Two generations of bias don’t change overnight. Or in a day. Or in a week. Month. Year. Decade….

hopefully submitted by Cityslikr


Why We Can’t Have Nice Things (Part One Billion)

May 13, 2014

I’m sorry I have to go back to this well but I think the point is well worth repeating and remembering.repeatmyself

As important as the mayor’s race is to the future proper functioning of the city, the direction it ultimately goes will be determined by the make up of the 44 councillors. And as long as the likes of Councillor Gloria Lindsay Luby and Denzil Minnan-Wong remain in the mix, we should expect a rocky road going forward. These two are why we can’t have nice things in Toronto, to paraphrase the old lament.

“Why is it when tolls are proposed in this city, they always end up targeting those who live in Etobicoke?” Councillor Lindsay Luby tweeted. “Of course we get nothing in return.”

Nothing in return, save the roads that move you back and forth to your detached homes with their big yards and green lawns. nonono4How dare we even bring up the subject of finally getting around to start charging for the actual cost of building and maintaining the system that allows those behind the wheel of a car to move about the city and region from great distances. Why must we always be so anti-Etobicoke?

Why indeed.

It’s a marvel to me that someone who has served in public office for as long as Councillor Lindsay Luby continues to see the city through such a fundamentally skewed lens. Why Etobicoke? Perhaps because the very skeleton of its existence is built on 3 major thoroughfares running through it. The 401. The 427. The Gardiner Expressway. Why’s the man always got to stick it to poor ol’ E with his road tolls? It just might have to do with you living in a car-dependent, highway heavy area of the city, councillor.

While Councillor Lindsay Luby may be misguided, even woefully so, I don’t think she is trying to be willfully destructive or dismissive. nonono2That would be the domain of Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong who seems to have slithered out more into the sun since the shadow of Rob Ford has receded somewhat.

In response to an intriguing article written by the city’s Chief Planner, Jennifer Keesmaat, in the Globe and Mail, Here’s how to change Canada from a suburban to an urban nation, Councillor DMW fired off a couple tweets. “We love our gardens and lawns in Don Mills. We are proud of our neighbourhood in the suburbs.” A couple minutes later, this. “Not everyone wants to live in a little box in the sky.”

Never mind the chief planner didn’t suggest anything of the sort. There was no talk of razing detached suburban homes or pulling up their manicured lawns and fancy gardens, and replacing it all with 80 story monstrosities, devoid of windows, air and sunshine. nononoThat’s just what the councillor wants you to think, wants you to believe is part of the urbanism espoused by our chief planner. There’s no in-between with this extreme. Only unholy, enforced communal living in tiny little boxes in the sky versus the clean open spaces (and lawns and gardens) preferred by right thinking people.

The suburban-urban divide. You might recognize that tune having been sung before.

In the second sentence of her Globe article, Ms. Keesmaat writes “…it is unlikely that our next wave of development will resemble the last.” This echoes a sentiment I heard from Human Transit’s Jarrett Walker earlier this year when he suggested people always assume (incorrectly, it turns out) the future is going to be just like the past. You grow up and live in a leafy suburb, driving everywhere you go, so it is, so it will always be.

For the likes of councillors Denzil Minnan-Wong and Gloria Lindsay Luby, they refuse to comprehend any other approach to going about business aside from the way it’s always been done during their respective lifetimes. Back in October 2012, nonono5Councillor Lindsay Luby led the charge against a development proposal in her ward’s Humbertown (since settled to everyone’s relative satisfaction without going to the OMB). Railing against the idea of affordable forms of housing like, what do you call them, apartments being built in the neighbourhood, she said famously: “That’s never been the demographic for that area.”

Change? My family didn’t settle here back in the 1950s in order to have things be different sixty years later. You will get road tolls from me when you drag the coins from my cold, dead hand.

It’s the blanket incuriosity that is most infuriating. Everybody knows that there’s a serious problem with mobility in this city and region. Getting around, to work, to school, to errands, has become a burden to many, an unnecessary burden.

But when it comes to offering up solutions? Led by politicians like councillors Minnan-Wong and Lindsay Luby, it’s all about, don’t be looking at me. nonperpetualmotionThere’s no sacrifice they’re willing to make, no change in lifestyle they’re prepared to undergo to contribute in order to begin fixing anything. Low taxes. No user fees. No little boxes in the sky. Only wide, green lawns and brightly flowered gardens for now and forever.

Steady as she goes. Never change course. Always looking back, never forward.

As long as city council is infused with this way of thinking, Toronto will be doomed to repeating past mistakes, and coming to grips with the problems we face will always be an uphill battle.

sick and tiredly submitted by Cityslikr


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