Earlier this year I attended a Ward 10 York Centre community town hall meeting hosted by Councillor James Pasternak. It was just pre-2014 city budget and post-ugly holiday season ice storm. Despite the timing, the atmosphere wasn’t hostile or toxic, at least, not initially.
Unsurprisingly, the hot topic was the storm clean-up which, like in many parts of the city, wasn’t happening quickly enough for most folks in the room. Even more than 3 weeks after the weather bomb, swaths of the local area remained unnavigable because of fallen and uncollected foliage. Some branches still hung dangerously from trees.
Transit, traffic and congestion ran a close second, however. While not evenly split certainly, there was a respectful representation from among the attendees of those asking thoughtful and reasonable questions about public transit. Frequency, capacity and route ideas were part of the discussion. These were offset, of course, by demands to widen Bathurst Street for another lane of cars or the possibility of opening a local cemetery road to make it a neighbourhood thoroughfare.
But things didn’t really get out and out zany until about hour three. No elected official should be expected to endure a 3 hour Q and A session. None of us are made of such hardy stuff. It’s too much. Too, too much.
A lady, who earlier in the evening had been gently subdued after her time at the microphone, waving a 3 year old issue of NOW magazine with a nearly nude Rob Ford Photoshopped on its cover, regained control of the floor and began reading from the provincial health act, I believe it was. I’m sure there was a reason for it but it slips my mind at the moment. Suffice to say, it was beyond the jurisdiction of Councillor Pasternak.
That just kicked open the door to crazy. Without the aid of the mic, a gentleman began berating the councillor, accusing him of hording TTC tokens before a fare increase. The man had been fairly aggressive in questioning Councillor Pasternak a couple hours prior but this was just flat out lunacy, as he ended up yelling at anybody approaching him until a poor young staff member of the community centre had to guide him to the exit. “Don’t touch me! Don’t touch me or I’ll have you charged!!”
The meeting petered out after that. I felt compelled to approach the councillor to shake his hand and offer condolences of a sort. Before you run around slagging a city councillor, you really should go to a town hall meeting they hold, see what they have to put up with.
Three things stand out for from his time at City Hall since 2010. None of them particularly good or inspiring.
One: re-opening (and opening again) the whole Queers United Against Israeli Apartheid marching at Pride hullaballo. Not only was the councillor on the wrong side of a free speech issue, city staff had firmly held that there was nothing hate speech-y involved in the expression and nothing wrong with the group participating in Pride, he helped provide cover for the homophobia the new mayor and the likes of Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti like to indulge in. Why do you want to defund Pride? Because QUAIA. Why won’t you march in the Pride parade? Because QUAIA (and other things).
Two: He possesses a remarkable tone deafness and ward-ccentric view of public transit. What about the North York Relief Line he asked again, just last week. Wondering why everyone running for mayor was stumping for the DRL. What about the North York Relief Line?
What about it, councillor? I don’t even know what it is. Oh right. Connecting the under-used Sheppard subway, from the Yonge Line west to the University-Spadina line. Nobody else thinks it’s necessary at this time, councillor. It’s a parochial distraction. Stop it.
And thirdly, Councillor Pasternak is awfully demanding of city services and programs while towing a fairly fiscal conservative line. By ‘fiscal conservative’, I mean Ford fiscal conservative. Keeping revenues down, low property taxes, eliminate other streams like the VRT, requesting a report for reducing the Land Transfer Tax, all the while not being averse to spending money, most times on very admirable and necessary items. The councillor recently expressed displeasure at possibly losing a priority designation for a neighbourhood in his ward in the proposed staff reshuffling of newly designated Neighbourhood Improvement Areas. “This is not a time to cut back, when you make certain headway,” the councillor said. “You keep the funding to make sure there’s no sliding back.”
You gotta pay for the things you want, Councillor Pasternak. A strong city isn’t built on the cheap.
I guess it’s going to depend on what residents of Ward 10 prioritize in the upcoming election that will determine Councillor Paternak’s political fate in October. He was in one of the tightest races in 2010 in an open ward to replace long time council member, Mike Feldman, winning by under 400 votes with less than 20% of the popular vote. Will voters see his name as a tax fighter or a protector of services and programs they want in their neighbourhoods?
A jaded eye might view the councillor as making sure all the bases were covered. You have to wonder if that’s spread him out too thinly, made him not enough of anything to really have made much of a lasting impression.
– gruelly submitted by Cityslikr