It All Depends On How You Define ‘Respect’

April 24, 2014

This isn’t about Rob Ford (although he’ll think this post is about him, about him). At least, not directly, it isn’t. dimmenIt’s about how we’ve slipped into his skin, donned his way of thinking, his attitude toward government.

Following along yesterday to the monthly proceedings of the Executive Committee, the committee the mayor no longer chairs but remains part of only out of legislative necessity – everyone elected to city council must serve on one standing committee – it all felt so petty and small-minded. Bereft of heft. Lacking in rigour. These are the tiny men of a big institution.

It’s no surprise, really. They all were picked to be there by the mayor before his tumble from the seat of power. Not one to challenge his own preconceptions or belief systems, unLincolnian in assembling a team of rivals, the mayor sought nothing more than to surround himself with fellow boobs and yes-men. The worst and the dimmest.

During the debate over somehow commemorating the 1915 Armenian genocide at the hands of the Ottoman Empire, Councillor Frank Di Giorgio presented a muddled view of history where the Holocaust was fact but South African apartheid was still contested. Or something. badhistoryCouncillor Peter Leon referred to the Armenian genocide as an ‘unfortunate mishap’ which he later upgraded to a ‘horrible atrocity’.

Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti moaned about not being paid to have to deal with international issues like European history. He was elected to fill potholes and cut grass, he told the room. If only you would stick to that, Councillor Mammoliti. If only.

Councillor Anthony Perruzza mentioned prosciutto.

But where that item, tabled late in the afternoon when many members of the Executive Committee might’ve been passed their nap time, brought out the dumb, fizzleit was a couple matters earlier in the morning that really saw the collective sparkle fizzle.

A proposed council pay increase, council office budgets and city travel expenses, all the mayor’s bread and butter, led to not so much a healthy debate as regular opportunities to politically grandstand. Protestations of We Are Not Worthy (which is true for many in that room) mixed with talk of gravy and the need for more oversight and micromanaging. Apparently, our city councillors aren’t paid enough to sort out matters on an international scale but don’t make so much money that they can’t waste time looking through colour swatches to find just the right colour at the right price for their office walls.

Of course, there was no way this committee was going to push forward the 12.9% pay increase for council members recommended by the OCG Strategy and Organization Consulting company after surveying 16 Canadian municipalities. puntDespite the fact that, comparatively speaking, our mayor and city councillors are not in the upper echelon of renumeration in terms of their fellow municipal representatives, this is an election year. Nobody’s dumb enough or brazen enough to face the voting public after giving themselves a substantial pay hike.

OK. Maybe Giorgio Mammoliti is. And Frank Di Giorgio might push the wrong button when it came to casting his vote.

It would also be monumentally hypocritical for this group of men to give themselves a raise after nearly 4 years of preaching the gospel of austerity and penny-pinching. What’s good for the goose and all that. They kind of painted themselves into a fiscal corner on this one.

“We can all agree we are well compensated for the job we do,” declared the mayor, mindful I’m sure of his own financial situation as the scion of a wealthy family. In his case, it’s true. Given the job he does, the time he puts into it, I’d argue Mayor Rob Ford is amply compensated, as are many of his colleagues sitting on Executive Committee with him.

livinglargeHow much should the going rate be for bad representation at City Hall?

How much should the going rate be for good representation at City Hall?

I’ve seen how much work the diligent and dedicated city councillors put in on a daily basis. Forget your notions of any 40 hour work week. Double that. On call 7 days a week most weeks of the year. You break their 6 figure salaries down to an hourly rate and I think you’d find a much more modest pay rate.

But because we’ve assumed the anti-public sector stance that the mayor believes so passionately in, any amount is too much. It’s our taxes that pay their bills, we trumpet. Respect, we demand. Why should they be entitled to anything more that we are?miniscule

We’ve willing agreed to travel down the deceptive road of misconception, believing that somehow the taxes we pay at a local level don’t go toward paying for all the useful things we use on a daily basis. We hear that this councillor makes $100, 000 a year in salary, plus perks, and imagine, well, there goes all my money. Straight into the councillor’s already stuffed pocket, so they can jaunt off to some all-expenses trip to somewhere they have absolutely no need to be going to, somewhere I’ll never get to go.

In actual fact, the operations of city council costs us collectively around $20 million a year. Throw in the mayor’s office along with the city clerk, and I’ll generously round it up to $30 million. $30 million, in a $10 billion operating budget. Do that math. .003 Every municipal tax dollar you submit, missthepoint.3% of that goes to our elected officials, and the general operations of their offices and meetings.

So, if you pay $5000 a year in property tax about $15 of that is used for your mayor and city councillor to do their respective jobs. Do that math. $1.25 a month. Less than a nickel a day.

So when the mayor goes on some outraged tirade about all that gravy, pointing to $150,000 in councillor travel expenses (.00000015 of the operating budget, I think) or the not quite $6 million in city staff travel expenses, reach into your pocket and pull out all the change. We no longer use the denomination small enough needed to pay for your portion of that. And then stop to think about how we’re paying someone $170+K a year to fussily focus on saving us that amount of next to nothing.

Then honestly tell me who exactly it is respecting the taxpayers?

generously submitted by Cityslikr


Vaughan Gone

April 19, 2014

We should’ve known something was up when the eye glasses changed, became more bookish.

Aside from the news that Rob Ford had been elected mayor of Toronto, professorpeabodyhearing that Councillor Adam Vaughan was opting for a run at a federal seat comes a close second in terms of a bummer municipal politics turn of events. He provided much of the spark and lightness during this dark term at City Hall, sparing no opportunity to skewer and eviscerate the bumbling, destructive exploits of the Ford administration. Nothing could lift your spirits like an indignant broadside from Vaughan directed at the latest boneheaded malignancy the wrecking crew had cooked up.

He was the poster boy of anti-Fordism, held up as the example of everything that was wrong with the forces of downtown elitism at City Hall. Whippet smart, tart tongued, dismissive and derisive, his detractors, those preferring their politicians dumb and willfully ignorant, labelled Vaughan smug, pompous and arrogant. There’s certainly some truth to that. At times he came across as prickly, impatient with those not keeping up with him. catandmouseThe proverbial inability to suffer fools gladly.

But if his critics were truly honest with themselves they’d admit that what galls them most about Adam Vaughan is that he was right about this mayor and the administration he misruled. Incompetence above all else. How would you say that in Latin? Imperitiam, quod super omnia. The motto emblazoned on the Team Ford crest. Vaughan called them on it regularly and, many times, ill-manneredly.

Should he have been more temperate in his engagement? Maybe. Except, at this juncture, knowing all that we know now, given all that we’ve seen, what would that have accomplished? The Fords brooked no opposition, sought no compromise with anyone who disagreed with them or called them on their bullshit.

It seldom pays to concede to bullies and thugs. Next to incompetence, what the Fords did best was to play the thug card. Councillor Vaughan stood up to that, many times encouraged it, bringing it out into the open for everyone to see.clownthug

During one particularly heated debate, I forget exactly which one of the too many to commit to memory, Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti leaning back in his chair and yapping down the aisle at Vaughan. I used to beat up guys like you in high school. Yes, we’re sure you did, Giorgio. We’re sure you did.

Over the past 3 years or so, I was fortunate enough to have some conversations with the councillor outside of the political arena, beyond the political melodrama, to talk about building a city. He knew his shit, and his enthusiasm for transforming streets, neighbourhoods and communities was infectious. It challenged me to try and better understand the nature of what makes cities successfully tick.

I imagine when Councillor Vaughan gets asked what he sees as his biggest accomplishment from his time at City Hall, he will point to the redevelopment of Alexandra Park that is just getting under way. Both in private and publicly, I heard him boast about the process and how it hinged on the input from the residents of the community. This was not going to be his redevelopment or the city’s, but theirs, those who lived there.

manoflamanchaWhich makes his jump to federal politics all the more puzzling.

I get the impetus. Any city councillor worth their salt is going to feel the limitations of municipal governance. There isn’t access to all the necessary tools, especially the fiscal ones, to get the job done on major issues like transit, child care and housing. t must be head-bangingly frustrating to care about these items and know there’s only so much you can do, to battle with colleagues who view such shortcomings as a way not to deal with them.

Councillor Vaughan says he wants to go to Ottawa to finally deliver a national strategy on housing for cities. I truly wish him good luck with that but, frankly, these days, Ottawa is where good intentions and direct, hands on democracy go to die. Olivia Chow, whose vacant federal seat Vaughan is seeking to fill, became an MP with similar purpose in mind, and Jack Layton before her. It’s been some time since the federal government paid much attention to the needs of this country’s cities. Maybe Adam Vaughan can turn that around. I won’t hold my breath in anticipation.

I’m guessing the past four years have been a study in frustration for Vaughan. Time spent mostly trying to push against the reactionary, roll back impulses of the Fords and their ilk. He’s done his hitch. robfordbellicoseWhile I’d hoped he’d be around to help pick up the broken pieces of what gets left behind after this messy weather passes through town, he won’t. It’s going to be a pretty big hole that needs to be filled.

When this term is up, Adam Vaughan will have served at City Hall for nearly 8 years. Rob Ford’s time in office there? 14 years. If you are ever trying to figure out why Toronto faces the problems it does, engages in the kind of politics it does, that’s as a good a place to start as any. Fixing that sort of discrepancy will go a long way to sorting our problems out.

sadly submitted by Cityslikr


Go, Go, Go Giorgio

March 18, 2014

STOP THE (WORD) PRESSES!!

stopthepressesBreaking news in our Wards To Watch 2014!

Yesterday, Keegan Henry-Mathieu registered to run for city councillor in Ward 7 York West.

Why is this so newsworthy? Two words. Giorgio Mammoliti.

In our very first post of this series, we implored voters of Ward 7 to rid our city of this clown prince of municipal politics. Along with the Ford Brothers and Councillor Frances Nunziata, Mammoliti makes up one third of the unholy triumvirate of City Hall’s masters of divisiveness, discord and dysfunction. I know much of the campaign focus has been and will continue to be on the mayor’s race with an eye to ending the current reign of error but I cannot stress enough how chasing Giorgio Mammoliti from council would contribute to restoring much calm, decorum and civility as well.chasetheclown

As the councillor likes to point out regularly, in an attempt to deepen the urban-suburban fault line to his advantage, his ward never gets anything. And exactly whose fault is that, Giorgio? In his capacity as both an MPP and then city councillor for the area since 1990, more than a little of the blame should rest on his shoulders. He made it clear repeatedly throughout this term that it was a subway or nothing along Finch Avenue even if his residents had to wait a 100 years. His constant motions to freeze property taxes would also serve to provide a whole lot of nothing for Ward 7 residents.

Councillor Mammoliti also appears to hold the adherence to rules in as much disdain as he does his constituents. shirtlessmammolitiDuring this term, he’s been dinged with some ethical taint not once, not twice but three times. There are those 2010 campaign spending charges. There’s that questionable fundraiser now under investigation by Toronto’s Integrity Commissioner. Last fall, it was suggested that the councillor was paying below market rent owned by a developer that does business with the city.

It all adds up to a big ol’ bucket of What the Fuck? Just whose interests has Councillor Mammoliti been serving at City Hall?

While no official endorsement at this point, I will say that Keegan Henry-Mathieu appears on the tattered political landscape of Ward 7 like a refreshing breeze. I’ve met him a couple times in passing. He is some engaged, having spent time at City Hall as part of the Toronto Youth Cabinet, with an interest on issues like poverty, priority neighbourhoods, nutritional programs and equity. He would represent a much needed new voice on council and for Ward 7.keepcalmandturnthepage

Along with Lekan Olawoye who is challenging long time Ward 12 York South-Weston incumbent, Frank Di Giorgio, maybe Mr. Henry-Mathieu represents a new wave rising up against the old guard in the former city of York. If we could get somebody willing to step into the ring with Ward 11 York South-Weston councillor, Frances Nunziata, it might just be a movement stirring. A new generation of politicians, truly representing a post-amalgamated Toronto.

First, they take York. Then, they take Scarborough…

A guy can dream, can’t he?

hopefully submitted by Cityslikr


Didn’t You Use To Be… ?

January 31, 2014

The final budget of the Ford administration has now been signed and sealed, marking a full circle for the mayor. Full circle? Half circle?

He came in like a lion and went out like a lamb, is what I’m trying to say. tickletickletickleA bleating, scruffy, possibly orf ridden lamb. Nothing you’d want to cuddle up to (unless, of course, you’re Budget Chief Frank Di Giorgio) or use the wool to make a hat and scarf set with, but generally harmless.

However, don’t let the mayor convince you he had nothing to do with the 2014 budget. His mutton smeared fingerprints are all over it, evidence of a time not long ago when he was fearsome enough a force to… a-hem, a-hem… ram his will through that of city council. Echoes of days gone by when he was a man with a mandate.

This is a budget still with lower than needed property tax increases (or other revenue sources) to meet the demands of growth in Toronto. This is a budget still where the soft services like youth initiatives, student nutritional programs, shelter, support and housing, all vie for the crumbs left behind after the big ticket items such as the TPS and TTC have had their fill of the shrinking pie. scarceThis is a budget where tax revenue starts being diverted to build a Scarborough subway.

Let’s call budget 2014 a Ford-lite document. Not too tax-y and with a slight hint, a whiff really, of compassion. Something, if not for everyone, only the zealots and numerically challenged could be indignant about. A true election year budget, living as we are in the Ford era.

(I highly recommend you link over to Social Planning Toronto for a much more thorough analysis of the budget fallout than I could possibly give.)

Getting there was not without its bumps and outbursts and histrionic hissy fits. Mostly from the usual suspects. The mayor. His councillor-brother. Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti. Oh, Giorgio. Knucklehead, knuckle-dragger, numbskull and the scourge of good governance everywhere.

After all his time as the local representative, it’s amazing frankly that Ward 7 is anything but a crater in the ground. To hear Councillor Mammoliti bitch and moan, it may well be. A crater filled with impoverished senior citizens, transport trucks and a flag pole. clownshowHe got his ward that flag pole, right?

Despite his best efforts to be the biggest bane of reasonable, civil debate over the course of the last couple days, I can honestly tell you that at about 6 p.m. last night he was upstaged in spectacular fashion. Nope. Not by the mayor. Not by Councillor Ford. Not even by Councillor David Shiner’s Bullshit Bag.

Nope.

All that paled in comparison to the real warrior of division, newly minted in the intense heat of battle known as the struggle for a Scarborough subway.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Councillor Glenn De Baeremaeker, Ward 38 Scarborough Centre (courtesy of Graphic Matt):

No, but wait. It gets better. From March 2012, less than 2 years ago. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Councillor Glenn De Baeremaeker, Ward 38 Scarborough Centre (courtesy of Himy Syed):

I don’t know the language but I’m beginning to think De Baeremaeker is Dutch for ‘fucking hypocrite’.

Set aside the craven 180 performed in just over a year. What politician hasn’t done an utter about-face when they think it politically expedient? In the face of a fearsome Ford Nation back in 2010, how many councillors voted to eliminate a source of revenue with the Vehicle Registration Tax, only to openly regret it a couple budget cycles later?

What about fellow Scarborough councillor Paul Ainslie Ward 43 Scarborough East? nopledgeDuring the great transit debate of 2012, the one where Councillor De Baeremaeker spoke so lovingly of LRTs, Councillor Ainslie was all about subways, burying the Eglinton crosstown for the entire route. Even in the early stages of the latest Scarborough subway skirmish, while De Baeremaeker was tucking his tail between his legs, worrying about some Ford Nation backlash that would turf him from office in 2014, Ainslie appeared to be falling in line with the otherwise unanimous demand of the other 9 councillors from Scarborough for a subway extension of the Bloor-Danforth line.

But he didn’t. Instead, he stood up at council last year and said that after examining all the facts available to him, he’d decided on both fiscal and transit planning grounds, an LRT was the way to go.

How did Councillor De Baeremaeker explain his conversion in the opposite direction?

Deserve.

Deserve.mineminemine

Scarborough deserves a subway. Anything less, including those sleek, iPad-esque LRTs, would be an insult. A slap in the face of Scarborough residents who’d been waiting out in the cold for too long, waiting for their fair share of 1st-class, world class transit technology.

Deserve.

It’s the last refuge of scoundrels. At least when it comes to transit planning.

When you don’t have the numbers, when the facts and figures really don’t make a case for your demands, reach back into the bag of resentment, deep down into that parochial pit and left fly with the sword of petulant division. You have one! Why don’t we? It’s unfair! We pay and pay and pay, and get nothing in return. We deserve a subway!

Or else.

We’ll de-amalgamate. We’ll take our ball and go home. principledWe’ll hold our breath until we turn blue and get our way.

This kind of divisive, two year-old temper tantrum approach to politics I expect from the Fords. It is, after all, their bread and butter. Consensus is not part of their repertoire. Divisiveness is all they have.

But honestly, there’s a kind of unprincipled principled…ness to how the Ford’s go about doing their business. Everybody knows what they’re doing. They know what they’re doing in sowing the seeds of division throughout the city in the hopes of manufacturing enough of an us-versus-them base to keep them in power. Most of the time, I actually think they believe what comes out of their mouths.

The likes of Councillor Glenn De Baeremaeker? Not so much. He apparently has no principles past getting himself re-elected. That’s pure Giorgio Mammoliti territory. Remember how much he hated Rob Ford before it became apparent he was going to be Mayor Rob Ford? Now, they’re inseparable, attached at the thumb almost.

Whichever way the wind’s blowing, right?hollowman

Councillor Glenn De Baeremaeker has become a hollow politician. A destructive shell of a councillor who is putting his own interests before those of the city he was elected to represent. The whole city not just Scarborough, not just Ward 38.

Scarborough doesn’t deserve a subway. It deserves better representation than the likes of Glenn De Baeremaeker.

indignantly submitted by Cityslikr


From Afar With Frozen Pipes

January 30, 2014

If you take nothing else away from the first day of the 2014 budget debate, let it be this:todayslesson

From City Manager Joe Pennachetti, we have about reached cap level in finding savings for the city through efficiencies. There’s no more fat on the bone. Any further efficiencies will result in service and program cuts.

Also from the city manager, any continuation of raising property taxes at less than the rate of inflation (at least without some other source of revenue to fill the gap) is not sustainable. It is not fiscally responsible. It will lead to further reductions in services and programs in the long run.

Beware the city politician who now comes to you and says we can maintain all the services and programs we want, need and must provide through finding efficiencies and keeping tax increases unsustainably low.cuttothebone

Uh-uh.

They are selling you a bill of goods.

That’s what you need to take away from Wednesday.

Oh, and Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti is a douche. A malignant force on the political life of this city. A do-nothing elected representative unable to grasp even the most basic concepts of municipal governance.

Remember that.

And about efficiencies and low taxes.

And another thing. Councillor David Shiner is intent on further gutting the ability of the city to deliver the services and programs it is obligated to. texaschainsawmassacreHe sees gaps in job vacancies at City Hall and its inability to fill them as needed as some sort of failure to deliver those services and programs to the public. He demands a refund. Starve it and kill it.

And Councillor Doug Ford. See, Mammoliti, Giorgio above.

And one more thing. Budget Chief Frank Di Giorgio has absolutely no place being budget chief. He understands the numbers less than I do. And I’m not budget chief.

Remember all that as we go forward. Remember, all these councillors either don’t care or don’t know that the policies they’re pursuing are hindering the city’s ability to deal with the growth it’s experiencing in any sort of fair, healthy or sustainable manner. They all claim to respect the taxpayer, to be looking out for the taxpayer yet don’t seem to give a toss about the financial burnittothegroundwherewithal of the city they’re elected to represent to manage and its ability to deal with the future.

Remember all that going forward.

That, and Mayor Ford is in legal trouble again. Again.

It is days like these I am amazed these arsonists have not yet managed to burn this place to the ground.

icily submitted by Cityslikr


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