Subway Ground Down

January 28, 2015

I really don’t want to be writing this. Like the Toronto Star’s Ed Keenan, I’m tired of it, of the Scarborough subway debate. Just as likely, you’re sick of it too. notthisshitagainThere’s gathered a great storm of ennui, a wave of yawn. Just Get On With It has now become the default position. Build Something!

But…but…There’s always the but.

In Keenan’s article today he points to a recent Forum Research poll that shows, given the full options of what Scarborough would get if we spent $3+ billion on transit there, 61% of Torontonians would pick the Scarborough LRT extension of the Bloor-Danforth subway line. A healthy majority of those living in Scarborough too favoured the LRT option given to them.

Just yesterday, as I was railing about the $75-85 million the city is in the midst of handing over to the province via Metrolinx for the work already underway on the Scarborough LRT that council cancelled, I cited a Leger poll from back in February 2014 that showed similar numbers. 61% of respondents preferred the Scarborough LRT option over the subway. 56% of those living in Scarborough leaned that way also.

So why the fuck are we here, spending billions of dollars building something the majority of Torontonians don’t want?

Public enemy number 1, of course, is Rob Ford. Subways, subways, subways, am I right? scarboroughsubwaybellowThe people want subways.

Not to diminish his role in the mess but let me say this. At the very least, Rob Ford and to a lesser extent, his brother Doug, truly believed that subways were the way to go. As committed car drivers, public transit was something of a puzzle to them. They hated streetcars that blocked up the middle of the roads. Buses they tolerated because they were easier to get around. But underground transit? Out of sight, out mind, out of the way.

Because the folks voted for him, giving him a mandate, they too wanted subways. Subways, subways, subways! Like the classic bullshitter that he is, Rob Ford (and again, to a lesser extent his brother) actually believed the bullshit he spouted. He didn’t need no stinkin’ polls to tell him what he knew in his heart, heard every day from the folks he met in line at Tim Horton’s.

This is not to excuse him. He served as the bullhorn for the subway cause. The self-appointed guardian of the taxpayers’ nickels and dimes stubbornly contributed to throwing away of billions of dollars of their money to further a cause he willfully knew nothing about.notthisshitagain1

The larger question though is, how, with these numbers, 4+ years after the debate started, 4+ years after the People Want Subways campaign slogan metastasized into a corrupted conventional wisdom, we’re determined to plunge ahead into this madness? The villainous list is long. Rob Ford becomes little more than the inciting incident in this story, a preening, comic foil Malvolio.

The true monsters in this sorry-assed tale sit up at Queen’s Park. First in the form of the skittish Dalton McGuinty Liberal government, seemingly dead in the polls and facing an election in 2011. In the face of the first (and only true surge) of Ford Nation, they quickly buckled when the newly elected mayor unilaterally declared Transit City dead. Hey. If you say so. Whatever. They would survive the initial assault, holding on to power but reduced to a minority government.

But imagine if instead they had stood their ground, stood up in the face of what was little more than a noise-making machine. Was subway support really ever as strong as the mayor and other Scarborough politicians came to claim it was? Certainly Councillor Glenn De Baeremaeker didn’t think so in 2012 when city council wrestled the transit file from the mayor and re-instated Transit City.

At this point of time, it seemed cooler heads had prevailed. Subways, subways, subways had been revealed to be little more than the dying bluster of a mayor who’d soon be sidelined to little more than a cranky observer. Pheee-ew, right? We narrowly dodged that bullet.

But then…

What the hell happened?

Well, here’s where the story gets nothing short of clusterfuckery.

New leader of the provincial Liberals, new premier, new beginning, we’re told. They start to get their sea legs, win a by-election or two including one in Scarborough-Guildwood with Mitzie “The Subway Champion” Hunter. A by-election where, curiously, her NDP opponent, former TTC chair Adam Giambrone, an early Transit City advocate, docilely nods in a similar subway support direction.

Suddenly everybody loves subways! notthisshitagain2Egged on by Scarborough MPPs, city council lurches once more, agreeing to scrap the Scarborough LRT in favour of a subway. A subway the city will now have to contribute to building and maintaining. Scarborough deserves nothing less than a subway, we are told.

Except, still, with the options laid out for them, residents would opt for the LRT.

Despite that, here we are. The Liberals are back as a majority government. They now have both the city and federal government pitching in to build a Scarborough subway. They have a new mayor who, despite his claim to prudent fiscal management, campaigned on a pledge not to reopen the subway debate and is perfectly content to just piss away 10s of millions of dollars in order for that not to happen. In addition to which, his signature transit plan, SmartTrack, is offering even more city money to help the provincial government build their regional transit system.

And all the Scarborough pro-subway city councillors who ran for re-election last year are back. (Interestingly, so is the one very vocal pro-LRT Scarborough councillor, Paul Ainslie, easily re-elected.) notthisshitagain4The debate is over. The people have spoken. They want subways.

Except, apparently, they don’t. Or more precisely, if given an option, they’d take LRTs. It’s the politicians who want subways.

If there’s a more salient example of why we’ve become so cynical and disengaged, I can’t immediately think of one. It’s little wonder we’re bored of this debate. Our elected representatives aren’t listening to us. What’s the use of continued talking?

repeatedly submitted by Cityslikr


We Knew. We All Knew.

January 27, 2015

We did.

bigsurprise

Anyone following along with the “Great” Scarborough transit debate of Two-Ought-One-Ought to Two-Ought-One-Three couldn’t help but know that once city council reversed course once again and decided on the 3-stop subway plan over the 7-stop LRT, we would be on the hook for some money. Lots of it. Lots and lots of money.

So when news broke late last week that an amount had pretty much been settled on, an amount not far off of what had been bandied around during the aforementioned debate, somewhere likely in the $75-85 million range, it shouldn’t have caught anyone by surprise. topsecretWe knew. We all knew. We did.

That we found out in the manner we found out, from the city manager, as done and done, it’s already accounted for and in the capital budget, whoah, wait, what?! “Yes, it’s in the capital plan,” Joe Pennachetti stated, perhaps a little too imperiously. “No, you’d not be able to see it.”

I think it’s fair to call that something of a surprise. Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam said it was news to her, literally. She heard about it the first time everybody else did, in Jennifer Pagliaro’s Toronto Star article. “I think the public should be very concerned about the dearth of accountability and transparency,” Councillor Josh Matlow, perhaps one of the Scarborough subway’s most vociferous critics, said. According to him, city council was never fully briefed on the final costs of deciding to ditch the LRT.

Yet, there it is, now in the city’s capital budget plan, with none of our elected officials (as far as we know) sure of the exact amount.burnmoney

It is a fitting, highly appropriate twist to this sad, sordid tale of malefic governance and shameful political self-preservation. Appropriate too that two of the most shameless proponents of the Scarborough subway, councillors Rob Ford and Glenn De Baeremaeker have gone silent on the issue, not a peep so far from either of them. This despite the fact Councillor Ford’s opinion has been sought out on almost every other matter going on at City Hall.

The fact of the matter is, actual support for the Scarborough subway has never been as deep or clamorous as the noise its supporters on council have made it out to be. Polls that set out the LRT and subway plans for respondents to see regularly came back showing a preference for the LRT. “If you get past all of that rhetoric and you get down to how much is it going to cost,” Dave Scholz of Leger Research said, “who’s going to pay for it and who’s going to be serviced by it, then people have a very realistic view of what they want.” scarboroughsubwaybellowLast February, just as the municipal campaign was kicking into gear, Leger showed that 61% of those asked, including a majority in Scarborough, favoured the LRT extension of the Bloor-Danforth subway.

Just think of what those polls might say if these sunk costs of $75-85 million are run up the flagpole for full public viewing. Which probably explains this attempt to bury them instead. Already putting ambivalent residents on the hook for an annual property tax increase to help pay for the subway, oh yeah, and **cough, cough, cough, cough** an extra $75-85 million. **cough, cough, cough, cough** I’m sorry. What was that again?

Subway supporter and TTC Chair, Josh Colle isn’t prepared to just simply take those numbers at face value. He wants some full accounting. “Absent of any construction happening, where is this supposed money?” he wondered.

A fair enough question from the councillor, and maybe one he should’ve asked before he voted in favour of the subway back in 2013. icouldtellyou“I can show you my notes from City Council Oct 8/9 2013,” Councillor Paul Ainslie, the only Scarborough councillor who voted against the subway, tweeted last week in response to the Toronto Star story. “I wrote answers to my public questions [of city staff]…I wrote “sunk costs est. $85M” I did not make this number up. So I was not surprised by TO Star.”

The numbers were out there. Councillors who ended up voting for the subway did not make their support contingent on a full breakdown of the costs the city should be expected to pay for that decision. They collectively shrugged and pressed the ‘yes’ button. Their sudden demand for fiscal probity rings a little hollow now.

Councillor Paula Fletcher wondered why the city now should be on the hook for the entire amount of cancelling the LRT. “Let’s not forget the provincial government ran a by-election on the Scarborough subway, with their candidate, Mitzie Hunter, named as a subway champ for Scarborough,” the councillor said. “To come back and say the onus is all on the city is a bit disingenuous.” Ahhh, there’s that word again. Disingenuous. If there’s one word to describe this entire fiasco, the entire past 4 years, really. Disingenuous.wishlist

Still, it’s a legitimate question for the councillor, who, it should not be forgotten, helped bring the subway debate back to the floor of council in the convoluted transit vote of May 2013, to ask. A question that should’ve been asked over and over and over again until an actual answer was given before an actual vote with actual repercussions was cast. While Councillor Fletcher eventually wound up opposing the subway, 24 of her then-council colleagues pushed ahead, costs be damned! Scarborough deserves a subway!

And drip, drip, drip goes the money down the drain. At a budget committee meeting yesterday discussing the staff recommended 2015 budget, Councillor Gord Perks listed a bunch of council directives that staff were ignoring. “The budget drops 3 youth lounges from the Council directed 10,” he tweeted. “City turned down climate change and health funding proposal that the Board of Health approved.” “Budget ignored Council vote on playground repair funding. On average we repair once every 80 years. Council said get to 1 in 30. Cost $3M/yr.” “We have been told budget doesn’t achieve Council direction on planting trees. We don’t yet how short.”

We can’t blame all of this nickel and diming on the fact that without any debate on the specifics the city has to come up with some sum of 10s of millions of dollars to pay for the Scarborough subway. A below the rate of inflation property tax increase and a mayoral dictate to all departments to find 2% in “efficiencies” will contribute too. buryingmoneyBut in a largely zero-sum game of a municipal operating budget, money going somewhere has to come from somewhere. So, residents who may soon find themselves paying more to use city services and facilities can rightfully wonder if that Scarborough subway is actually worth it.

Trying to bury the evidence won’t change that fact.

serves us rightly submitted by Cityslikr


The Reckoning

January 14, 2015

OK. That’s it. This has to stop.notthisshitagain

For the sake of future civic sanity, Toronto City Hall has to sit down and do a full, frank costing of services, programs and capital expenditures across the city, breaking it down into the 4 community council brackets. How much gets spent on what in each area of the city. Top to bottom, from street maintenance through to swim times, after school programs to park grass cutting. The whole enchilada.

Because I am so fucking sick and tired of this parochial drumming up of regional resentment that has led directly to the white elephant-in-waiting council decision like the Scarborough subway extension. The usual suspects were at it again this week, led of course by the Scarborough {air quote} Deputy Mayor {end air quote} Glenn De Baeremaeker, on the subject of skating rinks. “I can’t imagine many people would object to building more outdoor ice rinks anywhere in this city,” he said, insisting that it needed to be done on a more ‘equitable basis’.

The back story is, Scarborough has only 1 of the 52 outdoor artificial ice rinks on the city which, no argument here, is clearly way out of whack, disproportionately speaking. shortchangedThings are only a little more even-handed but still not what anyone would call equitable when it comes to outdoor natural rinks, only 11 of 69 in Scarborough, and indoor skating rinks, Scarborough has 9 of 49. Discrepancies abound, no question but the sentiment, vaguely hovering over the numbers, is that Scarborough, once again, is getting the short end of the stick. Raw numbers in terms of skating rinks or subway stations presented as proof that while the city splurges on these things elsewhere, Scarborough remains frozen out in the cold.

Is that actually the case?

Could it be that, historically speaking, pre-amalgamation, Scarborough was a municipality that placed little emphasis on public spaces (aside from streets and roads), and adhered more to a pay-as-you-go approach to providing services and programs? You want it? You pay for it. (An approach epitomized by the former councillor for Ward 39 Scarborough-Agincourt and budget chief, Mike Del Grande. Cupcakes for widows and orphans.) Traditionally, skating rinks might not have been a priority for Scarborough and now we’re playing a game of catch-up.

I’m just posing that possibility. I have no hard data to back it up but neither does anyone else when they start making noises about the unfair treatment Scarborough receives when it comes to the doling out of municipal nice-to-haves. please sirWe need a full, robust accounting in order to have a full, robust conversation.

We need to expand on the Fair Share Scarborough report Councillor Norm Kelly undertook early in amalgamation. Let’s not just look at soft services the city provides – the skating rinks and parks — but the hard ones too. How much of our public works expenditure goes toward maintaining the wide streets of Scarborough. As a percentage of our waste collection budget, what’s Scarborough’s take in order to provide the service to all their big-lotted, detached homes. What’s the portion of our police budget that is spent in Scarborough. The buses serving as the backbone for commuters in Scarborough (and that will continue to even if it gets its subway), how much do they cost the TTC.

It may well turn out that Scarborough is underserved and underfunded in comparison to other parts of the city. There’s just no way of knowing that currently, and counting skating rinks (or subway stops) isn’t really the best way to tally it. thebillWe downtowners acknowledge your lack of rinks, Scarborough, but where’s our sidewalk snow shovelling or windrows clearing or leaf collection?

That’s not to say that if it were to turn out that Scarborough is a money-suck due to the high maintenance and delivery costs to service its sprawling built form, sorry, folks, no outdoor skating for you because you have so many roads to plow. This shouldn’t be a zero-sum game. But the Scarborough Warriors need to start putting solid evidence on the table, showing exactly how they’re being short-changed in this amalgamated deal of ours. Otherwise, it’s empty carping. Divisive governance intent only on benefitting their narrowly defined interests at the expense of everyone else in the city.

— resentfully submitted by Cityslikr


The Unbearable Lightweightedness of Glenn De Baeremaeker

December 30, 2014

Not to step on any Torontoist toes with our own year-end summary of local villainy but I cannot let 2014 go without commenting on what may be the pure essence of terrible, terrible governance. The very reason we cannot have nice things. Councillor Glenn De Baeremaeker, Ward 38 Scarborough Centre.

glenndeb

Now, I realize that may be something of outrageous claim in an environment where the likes of Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong has been elevated to a position of second in command at City Hall. Where Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti still roams free to be Giorgio. Where Ward 39 Scarborough-Agincourt actually downgraded from Mike Del Grande to Jim Karygiannis. Where a Councillor Ron Moeser is still a thing.

For me though, we have a handle on all of them. They represent the worst aspect of do-nothing, maintain the status quo municipal representation that is something of a legacy in these parts. Keep taxes low, roads clean and clear and let’s all pretend it’s the happy days of the 1950s. We get it.

Glenn De Baeremaeker, on the other hand, maintains the fresh-faced appearance of someone who just wants to help make everybody’s life better. From animals of all shapes and sizes to people of all ages and colours, he comes across as an impossibly more squeaky clean, naïve version of Howdy Doody. Wide-eyed. Congenial. All cowboy hale and hearty. Hey boys and girls! Who wants a subway?! We all want a subway!!

howdydoody

But by now we should know that Glenn De Baeremaeker is about nothing more than Glenn De Baeremaeker. He’s in it for himself first and foremost. Everything else is, well, collateral damage.

His latest assault on the proper functioning of City Hall came last week when he publicly mused about wanting another stop in his already unnecessary and entirely self-serving Scarborough subway extension of the Bloor-Danforth line. What’s the sense of having a new subway that many people can’t directly access, he wondered out loud, repeating a line of questioning most LRT proponents posed back during our last great transit debate. Or was it the second last? I honestly can’t remember.

twofaced

Back then, you might recall, Councillor De Baeremaeker brushed aside the argument about building the best option for rapid transit in Scarborough for the most amount of people which clearly was the 7 stop LRT plan that the very same councillor fought for just 18 months earlier. No, no, no, he moaned. An LRT was 2nd-class transit being foisted on Scarborough by greedy downtowners luxuriating in their 1st-class subway rides. Ridership numbers could be massaged. Questionable route alignments justified. The point was, Scarborough deserved more subways. Deserved. Anything less would be a civic slap in the face.

It is at this point in the conversation when we pause and ask you to take two minutes and six seconds (via Himy Syed) to watch De Baeremaeker earnestly defend the choice of LRT for Scarborough transit users. Just to fully grasp how craven and bold-faced his pivot has been. How utterly despicable and unprincipled.

Of course, the councillor could not have performed such a feat of purely political machination solo. A Scarborough subway was also intended as the springboard to the mayor’s office for then TTC chair Karen Stintz. The provincial Liberals used the debate to shore up their eastern Toronto flank with a slew of pro-subway Scarborough MPPs and subway champion candidates heading into last spring’s general election.

The manoeuvre turned out particularly well for the governing Liberals. Not only were they returned to power with a healthy majority but they got the city to pitch in with money for capital spending on not one but two transit projects, the Scarborough subway and the new mayor’s campaign pet project, SmartTrack. What did the Liberal government give back in return? Absolutely nothing.

mrburns

Councillor De Baeremaeker too was returned to office, easily re-elected to a 4th term, in a race nobody except the councillor and the Ford brothers thought he might lose. This mutual assured delusion served as the basis of De Baeremaeker’s cynical transformation from ardent LRT supporter to avid subway fanboy. He blanched in the face of their threatening bluster back when they were pushing for another Scarborough subway, this along Sheppard Avenue, took their robocalls to his residents seriously and instead of standing up for the right thing, he folded up his cards for the wrong reasons. His personal political self-interest.

Now, he wants more. Another station for his subway. Another $150-200 million dollars of capital costs, further increasing the city’s long term debt levels and jeopardizing the viability of other big ticket items like housing, say, or other transit projects in other areas of the city that are truly under-served by rapid transit. It’s as parochially pork planning as you can get, the very definition of it in fact. The councillor has nakedly utilised the politics of divisiveness, pitting one section of the city against another, ignoring the exigencies of built form while emphasizing unwarranted grievances, for no other reason than his own continued existence as a councillor.

cowardlylion

It’s one thing to boldly revel in your disregard for your job as city councillor, to ignore the job of serving the most people to the best of your ability. Take a bow Deputy Mayor Minnan-Wong and Councillor Mammoliti. It just seems that much worse to mask your indifference to the concept with a contemptuous gesture of community building that is only really about a community of one, yourself.

How else to explain Councillor Glenn De Baeremaker’s 180-degree change of heart in just a matter of months, from LRT lover to subway demander with nothing more than a blink of political calculation? A builder of regional resentment instead of sound transit plans. For the sake of another 4 years in office, the councillor’s helped put a chokehold on the city’s capital expenditure budget for decades to come. A master stroke of self-interested posturing, an abject display of elected representation. Well done, Councillor De Baeremaeker. You are truly the worst.

— year endingly submitted by Cityslikr


Empty Chairs

December 5, 2014

Sitting in the largely empty ballroom at the Cedarbrooke Community Centre in Scarborough last night for the 1st public meeting of the Toronto ward boundary review, emptyrooma thought struck me. How can we expect and encourage civic engagement from the general public when it’s not much in evidence from those we elect to represent us at City Hall?

I know, I know. It’s December, the beginning of the holiday season. It’s the very first community consultation. It’ll take a bit for people to warm up to the process. It’s cold and dark out there.

But still.

There we were. I counted 6 non-official attendees, tucked away in the southeast corner of Ward 38, domain of the new deputy mayor of Scarborough, the mayor’s eyes and ears on the ground there, the Scarborough warrior, Councillor Glenn De Baeremaeker. He wasn’t there. missingIn fact, the only Scarborough councillor present, the only member of the Executive Committee which will be tasked in shaping the new ward boundary proposals for city council in 2016 was Councillor Paul Ainslie.

And yes, there will be 2 more meetings in Scarborough this week. We were told some councillors will be conducting their own meetings with constituents. They can’t be everywhere all the time. Stop being so demanding!

It’s just… we can hardly scold the folks for not showing much interest in matters of public concern when the local leadership goes MIA. Tracing a direct line between citizen disengagement and elected representative absenteeism is easy to do.

Not like there’s anything important at stake in this process. Simply the political reconfiguration of the city for the next 4 election cycles. Let’s call it the better part of the next couple decades. As it stands currently, resident numbers per ward are horribly out of whack. The presentation last night suggested that a 10% variation in population between wards is acceptable. puzzleFrom 10-25% is tolerable in some circumstances. Right now, we have one ward that has almost double the number of residents than the least populated ward in the city. With that, it’s difficult to pretend everybody’s vote carries the same weight.

There are other issues to consider when adjusting ward boundaries. Natural and physical boundaries like green spaces, highways and railroads. “Communities of interest”, as the consultants phrased it. Keeping neighbourhoods, heritage districts, ethno-cultural groups together with the same local representation.

All of this criteria considered together in an attempt to arrive at a sense of equal and `effective representation’ throughout the city. That’s a mushy, nebulous term, ‘effective representation’ that gives way to different interpretations depending on different expectations. For some keeping taxes low is the best form of effective representation. Others, it’s about delivering services in a way that builds stronger and fairer communities.

The process is also a moving target, projecting population growth 15 years down the road. projectionRight now estimates are for 600,000 new residents by 2031. That’s almost another entire new Scarborough of people moving within the city’s borders. And it won’t be evenly distributed either. Given the development underway and that in the proposal pipeline, downtown and midtown will see much of that growth, along with pockets in southern Etobicoke and Scarborough. This is all before factoring in not yet on the board plans like, say, SmartTrack. If it gets up and going in 7 years as the mayor has told us (I know, I know), how will it affect growth patterns?

So, you see what I’m saying that this just might be an important point in Toronto’s transformation?

We really don’t want to leave these decisions solely in the hands of the various vested interests. I’m not talking about just the councillors, some of whom may be looking at ways to ensure their political longevity through favourable ward re-alignment. opportunityknocksThere will be a push to keep the wards as closely in tune with both the federal and provincial ridings to avoid ‘voter confusion’, we’ve been told and to better help streamline services. As I wrote a couple weeks ago about this, I’d like to see the math on that assertion as the sceptic in me tends to think such overlap is simply more politically expedient for the respective parties in terms of amassing voters’ lists and other campaign efficiencies.

And of course, we should expect the full out push to take this opportunity to cut the council numbers in half for both the paltry (if any) financial gains and in some misguided belief that fewer councillors will bring more order to the proceedings. As if the rancour and tumult we’ve seen over the past 4 years is due only to having too many cooks in the governance kitchen as opposed to the result of simply the rancour and tumult going on throughout the entire city. If we just turn down the noise a bit, maybe it’ll seem more orderly.

So yeah, much is at stake through this ward boundary review, nothing less than how we’re governed in Toronto. We all need to start paying attention. drawthelines(Next public meeting, tomorrow at 9 a.m.) Leaving it to others to decide simply passes on the chance to help redefine this city, and begin dismantling parochial attitudes and micro-regional attachments that no longer reflect the current reality of this city. (I mean, really. Does Victoria Park Ave. represent anything other than a historical boundary these days?) Read up. Turn out. Chime in.

Maybe if you start making some noise, our city councillors might start to notice.

chidingly submitted by Cityslikr


All So Depressingly Familiar

June 2, 2014

Sadly, none of it comes as much of a surprise. For anyone following along with the disaster of a transit debate since about 2010, screaminginfrustrationsince the then newly elected mayor of Toronto declared Transit City dead, little of John Lorinc’s Spacing series seems at all revelatory or shockingly improbable. But seeing more of the gory details, right there in black and white bytes, makes for some seriously disheartening and infuriating reading.

The sheer arrogance of the principals involved in the Scarborough subway/LRT debate is nothing short of monstrous. From Premier Kathleen Wynne, her Transportation and Infrastructure Minister, Glen Murrary, to councillors Karen Stintz and Glenn De Baeremaeker, all seemed to operate under the presumption that their own personal political survival or advancement trumped good transit planning. Expert advice was ignored or buried. Numbers, in terms of projected costs and ridership, were massaged. shellgameSound arguments and reasoned decision making replaced by stoking the fires of regional resentment.

“It will be over my dead body that Scarborough goes wanting for high speed, rapid transit,” Glen Murray said last summer. Subways, folks. People want subways, subways, subways.

While transit activists and government appointed commissions did their upmost to promote a rational discussion about transit building in this city, elected officials at both Queen’s Park and at Toronto City Hall undercut all that work and goodwill by quietly scheming behind the scenes to push a Scarborough subway plan that made absolutely no sense except for trying to ensure some electoral advantage. friendlyfireIt’s one thing to fight a fight against a known enemy. It’s an entirely different matter when you’re knee-capped from behind by supposedly friendly-fire.

This is the root of political apathy. When good governance is sacrificed at the altar of electoral expediency. It’s not leadership. It’s not public service. It’s the very reason so many people are fed up with politics.

Perhaps what’s most appalling about this entire clusterfuck is how those many of us hoped would stand opposed to the popular fiction that arose around this post-Transit City debate — that the only worthwhile form of transit to build is the underground kind of transit which is nothing more than a car driver’s fantasy – not only cowered in the face of it but did their best to help propagate it. For a by-election seat here, a mayoral run there, in reaction to robo-calls from a spent political force, a city’s desperate and long overdue need for an infusion of public transit has been jeopardized. whackamoleBecause if Scarborough deserves a subway, what about residents along Finch Avenue West or Sheppard Avenue East? Why should they suffer under the ignominy of 2nd-class transit?

Once you pull that thread, you wind up now having to contend with the likes of the Sheppard Subway Action Coalition (h/t CodeRedTO), another campaign spreading false and misleading information about transit choices many of us had thought already decided on. It’s policy whack-a-mole. A game played not just by hack politicians like Rob Ford but every politician prioritizing their career over judicious, fact-based governance.

Back in 2009, the provincial government restructured the regional transit planning body, Metrolinx, fictionalicejpgbooting elected officials from the board in order to rid regional transit planning of any whiff of politics. It was a laudable goal in intention made laughable in implementation. Over the past 4 years, transit planning in Toronto has been about nothing but politics. Bad, craven, self-serving politics, at that.

If that old maxim is true, that we get the politicians we deserve, unfortunately what seems to follow, is we also get the transit we deserve. Remember that, the next time you’re waiting for what seems like forever for the next bus or crammed tightly into that subway car. There’s nobody else to blame for that than ourselves.

indignantly 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


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