Challengers To Watch VII

July 24, 2014

Normally when I set out to write up something on a city councillor candidate, I like to go and meet them on their home turf, observeget the lay of the land, feel the ground beneath my feet. Observe the species in their own habitat. I’m hands on, if nothing else.

But when it came to writing about Ward 7 York West, I was a little uneasy, if the truth be told. After hearing incessantly for the past 4 years from the long serving incumbent how Ward 7 never gets anything except for the short end of the municipal stick, all I could imagine was this barren wasteland with a mythical tall, tall flag pole and the regular u-turning of transport trucks. Surely only the forlorn and demented would call such a place home. I mean, where’s a guy going to get a latte while up there?

But I was convinced by candidate Keegan Henry-Mathieu to face my fears and head up Jane Street with him on a crowded, rush hour bus run. Squeezed on right from the outset and never really emptying out for the entire ride, we chatted about the campaign. From under one nearby armpit and over another backpack, I asked if transit was an issue for residents in Ward 7.

Spoiler alert: it is.

While we have these high concept transit debates – subways versus LRTs – crowdedbusToronto residents find themselves packed on buses and streetcars, oftentimes with unreliable service and long wait times. This is particularly true in the bus-dependent suburbs of Toronto. Ward 7 will wait a 100 years for subway! declared its local representative, a stranger, I’m assuming, to using public transit to get around the city.

“You think you just got unlucky, getting onto a crowded bus,” Keegan tells me. “But the next one’s exactly the same. And the one after that.” And don’t get him started about waiting for a bus out here in the winter.

In what is becoming a trend for me as I talk to candidates in the suburban areas of the city, they face an uphill battle in engaging residents they meet in their wards. After years, decades, generations of largely being ignored by the people they send to City Hall, ward7it’s difficult convincing them that it can be different, that change can happen. Civic engagement can’t just be flicked on.

So candidates like Mr. Henry-Mathieu knock on the doors of residents who don’t tend to have their doors knocked on by politicians seeking office. People whose connection to the city government is tenuous at best. Those who are usually not part of the wider political discussion.

He tells me he sees it most in the apartment buildings he canvasses, many of them in states of ill-repair, trash tucked away up in the ceilings in some. And property management MIA can be traced back straight to an MIA councillor. Vote for you? Why? What have you ever done for me?

For many residents in many wards of this city, it is a valid question.

After hopping off the bus long north of the 401, officially into Ward 7, Keegan and I continue to walk up Jane Street. janeapartment(Turns out I’m not the first one he’s taken out for a neighbourhood stroll.) There are the usual strip malls and gas stations you would expect to find in these parts. But he points out all the largely unused green space on either side of the street, most of it surrounding apartment buildings.

With even the slightest bit of imagination and initiative, install some benches, tables, bbqs, you could create a real sense of community. Instead, what you have is a whole bunch of fenced in, unused space.

Don’t even get him started on slightly more ambitious ideas. Perfect spots for local farmers markets to bring healthy food into the neighbourhood. What about food trucks? Eye-balling it, I’d say there are plenty of areas 50 metres from the nearest fast food outlet. Why not bring some choice to a part of the city that lacks much of it?

Why not bring all sorts of fresh thinking to a part of the city that’s been lacking it for years now?

Henry-Mathieu is no stranger to talking and pushing policy ideas. timeforchangeHe was part of the Toronto Youth Cabinet at City Hall for the better part of a decade before resigning recently to pursue a council seat. While certainly a natural progression, it stems also from a little bit of frustration.

His activism as a Youth Cabinet member helped deliver incremental change. He now wants to try and push harder, make bigger advances. Starting with improving opportunities for those living in Ward 7.

By all rights, this should be an open ward and a more level playing field for Keegan to take a run at. The sitting councillor, Giorgio Mammoliti, has spent much of this past term fending off, let’s just call them, greasy allegations. The latest, a damning report from the city’s Integrity Commissioner, accuses Mammoliti of pocketing some $80,000 from an illegal fundraiser attended by developers and other business types doing business with the city. shirtlessmammolitiAnd that’s just a ‘for example’.

In an ideal world, Giorgio Mammoliti would’ve been barred from seeking office again.

But this being Toronto city council, things don’t work out quite like that. Instead, he’s allowed to run for re-election, backed by questionable money and having delivered nothing of substance for his ward during his nearly 25 years in office, as M.P.P, North York and Toronto city councillor. Over the course of the last 4 years, he’s been nothing but a disruptive and destructive force, doing little more than establishing a name and reputation for himself.

If residents of Ward 7 are disengaged with local politics, it is almost exclusively to do with the fact that their elected representative at City Hall doesn’t care. It works to his advantage. Voter apathy is the key to a bad politician’s success.

Keegan Henry-Mathieu represents everything the man he’s trying to oust doesn’t. Optimism. Enthusiasm. Inclusion. commissoA belief in positive change through both little and big steps. An expectation that things can be better through collective action.

The guy even found me a more than serviceable latte at a place called Commisso’s, located on a side street, in between two tire stores.

There’s no telling what he could do if voters in Ward 7 give him a shot at representing them at City Hall.

hopefully submitted by Cityslikr


… And Speaking Of Resigning

July 4, 2014

Think there’s no party politics at play at the municipal level? Look around at what’s going on at City Hall right now, folks. pitypartyTell me we aren’t awash in one great big Pity Party.

According to the mayor’s councillor-brother-campaign manager, there’s a “full out jihad” against the Fords now in response to yet another complaint registered with the integrity commissioner, this time about Councillor Ford’s comments made about autistic kids under care at the Griffin Centre. This jihad comes on top of the media jihad that’s been waged upon the mayor since his planned triumphant return from rehab this week.

Happy Ramadan, Muslims. The Fords feel ya.

Not to be outdone in this woe-is-me parade (never to be outdone when it comes to grandstanding), Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti wants everyone to know that he was sick, very, very, gravely ill, so, you know, don’t be pointing the finger at him about some ‘illegal fundraiser’ as alleged by an obviously ‘unfair and biased’ Integrity Commissioner, Janet Leiper, yesterday.

mybrainhurts

How can anyone have done anything wrong that was in a hospital bed with his head carved open?

If there was some improper, shady shit going on in terms of this so-called ‘illegal fundraiser’ – and that’s a big ‘if’ since the integrity commissioner is obviously out to get Councillor Mammoliti as she is always, always ‘breathing down his throat’ – he’s blameless due to medical reasons.  “Some short term memory loss during this period of time.” “I can barely remember any of it.”

The claim, as full of holes and leaky as it is, might hold some water if this was the councillor’s first ethical lapse in judgement. countingfingersI don’t know. The surgeon must have cut out the moral compass of my brain! But it isn’t. Giorgio Mammoliti has come under scrutiny for at least a couple other violations. He’s currently in court facing campaign finance irregularities. There’s the below market value rent he’s received for an apartment owned by a company that does business with the city. Never mind the illegal re-election signs that have popped up.

That’s just this term alone. Let’s not forget the oldie but goodie from way back when the councillor got the city to pay his legal defense against a challenge of his campaign financing in 2006. So either, the thing that was wrong with Councillor Mammoliti’s head was long term and slow growing or the guy simply operates under the premise that The. Rules. Apply. To. Other. People.

Perhaps the most egregious bit of conduct the Integrity Commissioner laid at the councillor’s feet in her report was his accepting of $80,000 from the fundraiser that was attended by lobbyists and companies doing business with city. whome1Even if he was non compos mentis at the time, wasn’t there anybody surrounding the man, family, friends, staff not busy planning the event on the city dime, who thought such a gift might be, I don’t know, a little out of bounds? I’m not a politician, Councillor Mammoliti, but accepting money while you’re in office seems… not quite right. Especially when it’s from people who might benefit from such a transaction with an elected official.

Even when the councillor had seemingly recovered from his brain affliction and returned to his normal state of assholery, he didn’t bother to respond to the integrity commissioner’s offer of allowing him to return the money. Money? What money? Short term memory loss, remember? Remember what? Money? What money? Short term memory loss, remember? Remember what? Money? What money?

And here’s the real kick in the nuts to any and every right-thinking resident of Toronto (and beyond). Even if the integrity commissioner’s recommendations are adopted by city council and Councillor Mammoliti is docked 3 months pay, slaponthewristthe maximum penalty that can be dealt out to him by the city, he’d still walk away with over $50,000 in his pocket. Money paid to him by registered lobbyists and companies doing business with the city.

“This is as offside as you get when you come to a code of conduct violation,” said Brian Iler, the lawyer who brought the original complaint to the integrity commissioner.

Is it any wonder politicians like Giorgio Mammoliti and Rob Ford continue to disregard the rules put in place to ensure ethical behaviour from our elected officials? Why wouldn’t you if you can still come out ahead of the game. It’s a twisted realm of thinking that, if there are no deterrents to your questionable conduct, if there are no tangible repercussions to your actions, like jail time or being chased from office, then clearly, you did nothing wrong. If you did, where’s the appropriate punishment?

getawaywithit

The system as it’s currently set up at the municipal level may not exactly encourage bad behaviour. I can confidently declare that ethical, upstanding councillors heavily outnumber those who aren’t. Those so inclined to disregard the rules, however, are hardly dissuaded from doing exactly that. Ethics preferred but not required should go with the job description. Cheaters sometimes prosper.

cleanly submitted by Cityslikr


Be Better, Angels

June 18, 2014

Let me run one of those chicken or egg questions by you. What comes first? chickenoreggBad political representation or a preference for bad political representation?

Now, I know the second half of that makes no sense. Who would prefer bad political representation if they had an alternative? But I have to tell you. Sitting through yesterday’s Etobicoke York Community Council meeting and watching councillors Doug Ford and Giorgio Mammoliti go through their paces, two long serving local politicians (I know Doug Ford’s a first timer but let’s think of him as the Ford brand extension), you have to wonder. Who keeps putting the likes of these two back into office?

At issue was, to an outside observer at least, a seemingly benign new development proposal along a western stretch of Eglinton Avenue. badpoliticianSixty-eight, three story townhouse units built on the intended route of the new Eglinton crosstown LRT, phase 2. Not entirely surprising, really. Even plans for a new rapid transit corridor tend to encourage new, denser development. At least, that’s how the theory goes.

Councillors Ford, Mammoliti and many of the people in the filled to capacity plus overflow rooms were having none of it. An outrage! A threat to their way of life! Another example of downtowners inflicting their new urbanism on the unsuspecting residents of Etobicoke!

More traffic chaos!!

Both Ford and Mammoliti took the opportunity to deride and denigrate the very concept of the LRT or, more specifically, its above-groundness. They filled the air in the room with misinformation and misdirection. demagogueCouncillor Ford’s main target was Councillor Gloria Lindsay Luby, the local councillor for the development, and her support of the LRT. Councillor Mammoliti? Well, he was just making noise in order to be heard. I rant, therefore I am.

Now it might not be all that disconcerting if they were just a couple stray mutts, snapping and yapping in an attempt to mark out some territory. Sadly, much of the public who got up to speak encouraged the outburst, feeding it and into it with their angry deputations and demands that everything remain just as it is. How dare you try to change the composition of our neighbourhood. We bought a home and settled here in the belief that it would stay the same forever.

I exaggerate for effect. It wasn’t quite that unreasonable. I am happy to report that more than a few in attendance were clearly appalled at the tone of the proceedings, shocked by the sniping and full on frontal attacks between councillors. angryvotersThat said, the vibe in the room over these plans was pitchfork-y. You will build this development and LRT over our cold, dead bodies, yaddie, yaddie, yaddie.

Perhaps that is the key to understanding the enduring presence of piss poor political representation in the system. Angry matters. Angry gets heard. Angry gets indulged. Angry is easy.

It’s easy to incite. It’s easy to maintain. It is easier to make people angry than it is to inspire them.

Thus, the always present demagogue in our midst.bullhorn

Councillors Ford and Mammoliti are the dark angels in our political process. They prey upon our deep-seated fear of change. They paint pictures of chaos and disaster, assuring us that will be the inevitable result if we take a different approach or alter things from the way they are now. Only they can protect us and our way of life from the future. Sure, things might be bad now, they could be better. But they also could be worse, folks. The devil(s) you know are preferable to the ones you don’t, and all that.

The likes of Doug Ford and Giorgio Mammoliti appeal to our very worst instincts. Unfortunately, those tend to be our easiest to access instincts too. We are perpetually vulnerable to attack from lazy, dyspeptic and ill-informed politicians who honestly believe themselves to be the standard bearers for the status quo. goodangelbadangelLooking out for the little guy, am I right?

As long as we continue to leave that flank open to them, they will take it. That’s all they’ve got. They know no other way. The Fords and the Mammolitis (and the Minnan-Wongs and Nunziatas) will continue to represent us until we push back against their brand of divisive fear-mongering. Until we stop being a little less like we are and a little more like we should be.

angelically submitted Cityslikr


This Fucking Guy

June 17, 2014

There are many reasons to dislike many politicians. From fundamental disagreements over policy matters to simply, shirtlessmammolitiI don’t know, their general tone of argumentation. He’s such a smug smart-aleck. I just don’t care for the cut of his jib.

And then there’s Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti.

If there’s a more loathsome politician at work today, I would be very interested to hear about them. Actually, no. Scratch that. Spare me the details. I’ve had my fill of vileness, following along with City Hall these past four years.

It takes some doing, in this the Age of Crack Mayor and His Numbskull Brother-Councillor-Consigliere, to outdo the prevailing degenerate tone of discourse and governance. But hey. Giorgio Mammoliti has proven himself up to the task.

His latest foray into dim-witted fuckery is his continued entanglement with the Muzik club and electronic dance music doings down at Exhibition Place. spewIt is hardly worth delving into except to say it’s all about vested interests, and a business that has close ties to the mayor and the rather unsavoury side of his time in office. Booze, drugs, barfing.

Why Councillor Mammoliti has taken a special interest in the situation is anyone’s guess. It’s the way he’s gone about it that is beyond shameful. Reprehensible does not go far enough to describe it. Like the mayor he’s so strategically defended, this is a man who apparently operates without any sense of shame.

“Given the many issues surrounding children relating to these events [EDM parties] there should be great concern over the fact that the neighbouring Parkdale is home to one of the highest concentrations of registered sex offenders, including pedophiles, living in the City of Toronto,” the councillor wrote in a media release ahead of last night’s community consultation. “With ‘all-ages’ parties being held next to a pedophile district we are simply encouraging the continued abuse of our children. Given the rampant alcohol and illicit drug abuse and poor security, our children can fall victim to peer pressure participating in these activities or becoming victimized at the hands of current and past pedophiles. It is a disaster waiting to happen. The question needs to be posed to the Parkdale representative, Councillor Gord Perks, who has publically condoned the all ages promoters – why are you advocating for children and adults to be partying together right next door to your ward which has one of the largest concentrations of registered sex offenders in the city? Who are you really representing? This is about much more than a dance party.”

This guy. This fucking guy. Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti is the reason some people think so poorly of local representation. miredinthegooWhy doesn’t Toronto have more legislative power to decide its future? Because Toronto keeps electing the likes of Giorgio Mammoliti is why. That guy. That fucking guy.

Set aside for the moment how mired in ethical lapses Mammoliti is currently. On trial for campaign finance violations from his 2010 election campaign(s). Allegations of an illegal fundraiser held for him last year. Below market rent on an apartment owned by a developer who does business with the city. Just last week, he had re-election signs up nearly 4 months before the allowed date. The dude simply does not abide. By any rules he finds inconvenient.

Clearly, he doesn’t abide by acceptable methods of debate either. Rolling around in the goo of darkest paranoia, tapping into our worst fears and prejudices, scotfreehe has little compunction tossing around rhetorical pipe bombs just for the sake of it. The sensational sake of it. Giorgio Mammoliti engages in distressingly nasty outbursts of bile because that’s the only way he can get noticed. If there was ever a time in his political life where he contributed positively, it was a long time ago and even then, you’d be hard pressed to point to many examples of it.

Giorgio Mammoliti does what he does because he’s never had to face the consequences of his actions. There are no repercussions for him. Despite delivering up little more than nonsense and malevolent parochialism throughout his nearly quarter of a century — yes, Giorgio Mammoliti has held elected office for almost 25 years, yes, 25 years – he continues to be rewarded by the voters in Ward 7. Nothing could be better for the tenor at City Hall if 2014 was the end of that improbable and destructive run.

Giorgio Mammoliti needs to be chased from office. pitchforkFor the good of Ward 7. For the good of the city.

If you’ve ever needed a reason to become politically active, if you’ve found yourself fed up but unsure of just how to go about making a contribution, find yourself a candidate who is running against Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti this year and donate some time or money or both to help defeat the incumbent on October 27th. You would be doing Toronto a great service.

call to armsly submitted by Cityslikr


Here’s A Better Idea

May 2, 2014

Just how depraved, deranged and defiled has the atmosphere at city council become? And no,  this isn’t about Rob Ford. denofinequityNot directly, at any rate.

In the wake of the mayor’s departure to clean up his act, into the spotlight stepped Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti, hoping to maintain the crazy factor. Second to our disgraced mayor, and arguably in the political arena, second to none in terms of being, how do you say it nicely, ethically challenged? Councillor Mammoliti selflessly volunteered to run for mayor on the low tax, looking out for the little guy mandate that Rob Ford was elected on in the event Rob Ford wasn’t able to run himself because of his personal problems.

As of this writing, Councillor Mammoliti is embroiled in a court case over alleged violations of campaign finance laws. There are also questions of below market rent he’s been paying in an apartment owned by a company that does business with the city. Oh yeah. hydraAnd about that possibly illegal $5000-a-table fundraiser thrown for him last year. (Read all the gory details here.)

But whatever.

As long as Councillor Mammoliti promises to keep our taxes low, well, why shouldn’t he be mayor of this city? That’s never turned out badly for us before.

It’s not just Rob Ford. He’s only one head of the hydra at City Hall that spits at good governance and flaunts the rules put in place to ensure integrity and trust are honoured there.

Giorgio Mammoliti as mayor? Voters shrugged that idea off already, back in 2010. In 2014, he needs to be chased from the building for good.

helpfully submitted by Cityslikr


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