Wards To Watch — Surprise Edition

May 22, 2014

There’s a dust up brewing over in Ward 30 Toronto-Danforth where Jane Farrow, the Jane Farrow, former CBC media type, donnybrookformer Executive Director of Jane’s (the other Jane) Walk, former Executive Assistant to Councillor Mary Margaret McMahon and just generally fabulous left of center Jane Farrow registered to run against the incumbent, Paula Fletcher, a well-established, long time left of center councillor who barely squeaked out a victory in 2010 over media celebrity, notably not left of center and back for another run at it, Liz West.

VOTE SPLIT!! was the almost immediate reaction by many City Hall watchers, with the assumption generally being that this automatically paves the way to victory for Ms. West. Each ballot cast for Ms. Farrow would be one less cast for Ms. Fletcher. ptahasdisbandedThat only needed to happen about 250 times and the race would be over.

This is presumptuous on a whole bunch of levels.

To start, Councillor Fletcher hasn’t even registered to run yet. Sure, the election’s still over 5 months away but if she is in the race, she really should signal her intentions. Waiting on the sidelines is kind of oily incumbent behaviour. Keep everybody guessing. Either a bunch of people jump in with the expectation of an open ward, ending up carving up the vote or it keeps everybody on the sidelines, wondering, should they enter, shouldn’t they, until it’s too late to mount a serious campaign.

As I tweeted out when the news broke, since when has incumbency bestowed any sort of squatter’s rights on a ward? kingofthecastleA designated position until either the candidate or voters deign to say otherwise. Until there’s an actual vote splitting scenario, you know, between two actual candidates, maybe we can back off the sturm und drang for a bit.

More annoyingly, who says all progressive, left of center voters are the same, expect the same from candidates? It is hardly a uniform bloc of singular group think. In fact, just the opposite, much to its exploitable electoral detriment.

Maybe it’s time that Councillor Fletcher has her progressive qualifications taken out for a test run, see if they’re still what the residents in Ward 30 are looking for. My guess is, while there is much overlap between the two, she and Ms. Farrow have some very distinct views of what constitute progressive values in Toronto in 2014. allthesameA good airing out of ideas and opinions never hurt any discourse or policy positions in the long run.

Besides, how do we know for a fact that this thing’ll get settled on a left-right split? Sure, Liz West was a Ford-lite sounding waste and efficiency finding vessel and Councillor Fletcher was a high ranking target of the outgoing David Miller administration. While I don’t think she’d achieved a Sandra Bussin level of loathing in the media, Fletcher did make something of a spectacle of herself when she badgered one budget deputant she thought to be a John Tory radio show plant. “Come on down, baby!”

Couldn’t it have been Ms. West just struck Ward 30 residents as the best possible alternative to Fletcher in 2010? She was a two term councillor at the time. Maybe she had just almost worn out her welcome.

What’s not to say that Jane Farrow may present Ward 30 voters as their best alternative come October? toughchoiceIn that case, she may just as well strip votes from Liz West who, to the best of my knowledge, hasn’t spent the time between the last election and this one, working the constituency, establishing herself ready to step up and serve as city councillor. Unless, of course, appearing on Hamilton TV constitutes working the constituency.

Look, I don’t have any beef with Councillor Paula Fletcher. Her voting record over the last 4 years shows a strong resistance to the Ford agenda. The Boys and their crew never missed an opportunity to drag her name out as the prime example of the tax and spenders they were constantly doing battle with in order to be respecting the taxpayers.

But from my perch observing the proceedings at City Hall, she was not one of the go-to bulwark stalwarts against the hurry up offense of the Fords. toughchoice2That grunt work was done more often than not by the likes of councillors Shelley Carroll, Janet Davis, Gord Perks and Adam Vaughan, both at council meetings and with regular appearances as visiting councillors at standing committees where much of the public input happened and policy decisions took shape. A reliable no vote? Sure. But there’s that goes into the sausage making than that.

Perhaps most annoyingly about all this is that we’re still having the same conversation about vote splitting. If there was ever the case to be made for ranked ballots, this would be it. Two candidates, of similar political persuasion, neither would be a terrible choice for councillor. rabitOne speaks to your sensibilities, just a little bit more. That one is # 1. The other, # 2. And let the run off begin.

Unfortunately, we’re still lagging behind on that count. Until such time as we finally step up and embrace ranked ballots (Hello, Queen’s Park!) voters are going to sometimes have to face the unpleasant prospect of vote splitting. We’re not there yet in Ward 30. So let’s take a step back, relax, and enjoy having too many good candidates to choice from rather than too few.

excitedly submitted by Cityslikr


Big Fucking Idiot

April 4, 2014

No, no. This isn’t about that, the term of endearment hurled at Mayor Ford by his crack-buddy, Elena Basso Johnson, and caught for posterity on police wiretap. bfiNo. I was turning the phrase over in my mind while watching the mayor on his feet at city council yesterday during the Great Food Truck Debate of 2014.

Set aside his personal travails. The manner in which he spends his off hours and down time. The affection and loyalty he so clearly engenders, hanging out and just being himself with the drug and gang folks. Pretend for a moment that isn’t what would normally disqualify anyone from continuing to hold public office anywhere in the real democratic world.

Watch Mayor Ford in action (clip via Matt Elliott), ostensibly doing what he was elected to do, what he’s supposedly been doing since 2000 when he first arrived at council. Watch and tell me, within a couple minutes, you don’t sit back in your chair and just think, What a big fucking idiot. Who voted for this guy again?

Look. The mayor’s not even entirely in the wrong on this. I mean, god! Food trucks! Watching this agonizingly prolonged debate, coming at the end of a year and a half process, you’d think we were venturing into uncharted territory here, as if no place else on earth has gone down this road before. It’s like the plastic bag ban or the fight over removing part of an expressway. Careful as she goes, guys! Trailblazing’s tricky!

And given the last big adventure in mobile food slinging, the á La Cart program (spit!), who’s going to disagree with Mayor Ford when he states that he’d “…just like to loosen up the restrictions a bit”? cuttheredtapeIf there’s one thing councillors should’ve learned from that mess of mess providing is that you can be too prescriptive, restrictive, meddlesome and red tape-y.

Fighting all that and the bureaucracy at City Hall is supposed to be his bread and butter. Looking out for the little guy, right? The defender of small businesses and job providers. Scourge of intrusive big government and political man-handling.

Could there be an item before city council more tailor made for Rob Ford to hit out of the park? A bigger and slower softball lobbed tantalizingly into his wheelhouse?

You wouldn’t think so.

Yet, there he was, in typical stumbling and bumbling fashion, unprepared to defend his motion.

foodtruck1If only he’d done even a modicum of homework.

Yeah, yeah. I know. Rob Ford doesn’t do homework. He’s a fly by the seat of his pants, gut feeling, shoot from the hip politician. That’s why the folks love him.

It’s also why he’s a big fucking idiot.

First of all, his motion to delete the proposed stipulation keeping food trucks 50 linear meters from any bricks and mortar restaurant sought to amend an item put forth by his very own Municipal Licensing and Standards Committee chair, Councillor Cesar Palacio. This is a guy loyal to a fault to the mayor, dimming his re-election chances in Ward 17 in the process. As Mayor Ford’s fortunes go, so too will Councillor Palacio’s.

Clearly from the tone of Councillor Palacio’s questions to the mayor, there had been no prior consultation between the two men before the motion was put forth. The councillor asked if the mayor was aware he was amending his item. Mayor Ford shrugged. Councillor Palacio wondered if the mayor knew about the food vending working group that had been hammering out compromises like the linear distance for the past 18 months. cantbebothered
Again, Mayor Ford shrugged.

This followed the same line of reasoning Councillor Raymond Cho pursued when he asked the mayor if he’d attended any of the committee meetings that put the food truck proposals together. The Municipal Licensing and Standards Committee. The Executive Committee (which Mayor Ford is a member of). The mayor shrugged. Attended? Not so much. He assured the councillor, however, that he followed along. He is the mayor of this city after all.

Besides, Mayor Ford met with people about the item. In his busy, busy office. ‘They’ told him what ‘they’ wanted.

Were these people lobbyists, Councillor Paula Fletcher asked. Like it’s up to the mayor to know that! The integrity-challenged mayor then went on to explain the rules to the councillor. “It’s up to them to register,” Mayor Ford said. “It’s not up to me to ask.” goitalone1Apparently, in Mayor Ford’s world, a lot of people get offended when you ask them if they’re lobbyists before you sit down to discuss city business with them.

I told you guys from the beginning, he’s a big fucking idiot.

Besides his lack of collaborative interest or acumen, Mayor Ford also displays a fundamental deficit of attention to details. In moving to delete the 50 linear meter regulation, he just simply proposed a ‘not in front of a restaurant’ rule. Exactly how not in front? A meter on other side? Could you set up shop right around the corner from the restaurant at the side of it, in clear view of the front? How about the parking lot? Could a food truck park in the lot of a restaurant as long as it was at the back?

These kind of details matter. In all likelihood, they were discussed in the working group and various committees that hashed all that out leading up to the council debate. Meetings the mayor may or may not have followed in between appointments with people who may or may not have been lobbyists.howshouldiknow

If he’d spent even an hour checking out how other cities manage the food truck-restaurant dynamic (and it’s not like he has much else to do at this point in his busy, busy schedule), he might’ve come up with more specific ideas instead of his half-baked “This is free enterprise! Let them sell what they want! Let the customer decide” motion that emphasized nothing more than his haphazard, governance in isolation mode that serves no constructive purpose aside from burnishing his lone wolf brand.

Forget his monumental personal failings. This is why he’s unfit to be mayor of this city. This is why he’s a big fucking idiot.

frankly submitted by Cityslikr


Nothing Against Councillor Mary Fragedakis But…

January 19, 2014

There’s a moment in Peter Cook and Dudley Moore’s One Leg Too Few sketch, about a one-legged actor auditioning for the role of Tarzan, where Cook, conducting the audition, tells Moore, the actor, “Your right leg I like. I like your right leg. It’s a very lovely leg for the role. A lovely leg for the role, and I’ve got nothing against your right leg. Unfortunately… neither do you.”

I’ve got nothing against Councillor Mary Fragedakis (Ward 29 Toronto-Danforth). Unfortunately… that’s hardly a rousing ring of approval, is it? That’d be the very definition of damning with faint praise, if I understand the phrase properly.

I should say right here that I truly do try and cut the freshman class of 2010 some slack. Birthed onto council in a fiery tempest of toxic partisanship brought down upon them by a strictly by the book, us-versus-them administration. trialbyfireThey had to make some hard choices, and make them quickly.

They were either with the mayor, ag’in the mayor or ducking for cover in the much derided mush middle. Imagine gazelles, born onto the savannah just as the herd bolts in fear at the approach of a hungry, hunting lion. Get up, junior. Get up! This is no time to learn how to walk. Run! Run!!

It was evident early on where Councillor Fragedakis came down on that spectrum. Despite going along with stripping the city of revenue by eliminating the vehicle registration tax (many, many confirmed anti-Fordists made that mistake), she clearly took a spot hanging out with the non-friends of the mayor.

But she did so with little distinction. She got lost in the crowd. Try as I might, I can’t come up with one thing she took hold of, made her own. Councillor Fragedakis, champion of… ?

It’s not like she sat silent, disappearing Esmeralda-like (ask your parents, kids) into the background. More often than not, the councillor made her opinion known during council meetings. milfordmanIt’s just… it’s just…

Her voice was like an echo, a reverberation of something that had already been said. Nothing particularly offensive to these ears but little to be distinguished from things already stated. Councillor Fragedakis strikes me as the dutiful political daughter of Councillor Paula Fletcher (Ward 30 Toronto-Danforth) and niece of Councillor Pam McConnell. (Ward 28 Toronto Centre-Rosedale).

It could be worse, no doubt. I have nothing against Councillor Mary Fragedakis but…

Again, it’s worth noting that she could be a superb constituent councillor, attentive to the needs and concerns of the residents in her ward. Not everyone elected to council needs to be a firebrand and on the forefront of city wide issues. Councillor Fragedakis may be happily and effectively tucked away, doing the more mundane tasks of municipal governance.

Her re-electability too is something of a mystery. me tooI may be horribly off the mark seeing her as vulnerable. She is just in her first term, so not entrenched as the incumbent. Ward 29 shouldn’t necessarily be seen as some safe, left wing seat. Remember, the long time representative from the area, for like 150 years, was Case Ootes, an old Lastmanite and noted anti-David Miller foe. Unless there’s been a dramatic shift in demographics, this ward can’t be considered a walk for any left of centre candidate.

In the 2010 election, Fragedakis benefitted from a right of centre split between former councillor and 2006 mayoral candidate, Jane Pitfield, and the Rocco Rossi endorsed, Jennifer Wood. Animosity flared up, in fact, involving those two camps, with a member of Ms. Pitfield’s team sending off an email request for Ms. Wood to step down in order that she not take votes away from Pitfield and ‘let an NDP council (candidate) Mary Fragedakis win’. stumpedWood didn’t withdraw and ended up with over 4200 votes. Fragedakis won by almost 2500. So it is conceivable that played a part in the outcome.

So it is conceivable that a single strong right of centre candidate in 2014 could seriously challenge Councillor Fragedakis for Ward 29. If that happens, the question will be has she shored up her incumbent bona fides to stave such a charge off, to increase her percentage of the popular vote? Like many things to do with her time in office, I remain simply stumped for an answer.

confusedly submitted by Cityslikr


Subways It Is

July 18, 2013

Hats off to Toronto city council’s subway warriors, for they won the hearts and minds of a majority of their colleagues and have earned the right to finally deliver more subways to our Scarborough brethren. robfordstreetcarsLet us take a break in the seemingly never-ending transit battles and allow them room to manoeuvre, to bring their subway dreams to fruition. This is, after all, a democracy, and that’s how democracy works.

After 3 years or so of Sisyphean struggles, Mayor Rob Ford can now claim to have delivered on his campaign promise of subways, subways, subways. On paper, at least. The devil, as they say, is in the details and having watched the mayor this week during the transit debate we were reminded that he is not really a details kind of guy.

It’ll also be interesting to see how the mayor attempts to square the circle of higher than promised dedicated property tax increases to pay for his Scarborough subway. Or, to put ‘skin in the game’ as he liked to say over and over and over again. Since the city manager’s report on the LRT-to-subway conversion came out last week, Mayor Ford has held firm on his no more than a .25% increase. rollingrockWell, yesterday he wound up voting in favour of the city manager’s recommendation of anywhere between 1.1 – 2.4% over 3 years, beginning with .5% in next year’s budget.

But as we have seen in the past, the mayor seems unperturbed by logical inconsistencies and operates under the assumption that normal rules of reasoning and accountability don’t really apply to him.

It’s a knack the TTC chair appears to want to hone and develop.

Councillor Karen Stintz, having a Scarborough subway road to Damascus moment sometime during the course of the past year, loved LRTs (after she didn’t) when she pulled the carpet from under the mayor’s bid to build a subway extension on Sheppard Avenue. roadtodamascusShe thought they were just great running along Sheppard, east of the subway. And along Eglinton and Finch avenues.

But apparently not as an extension of the Bloor-Danforth subway line. Why the change of heart? Some chalk it up to mayoral ambitions but there’s no way of knowing that for sure. Until next year’s campaign, at any rate. For now, let’s just take her at her word that there’s a funding plan in place, based on a whole lot of contingencies and variables which, if they don’t all fall neatly into place, we will simply revert back to the original LRT plan.

But no one will be able to accuse Councillor Karen Stintz of denying Scarborough residents their long overdue subway. Especially not Mayor Ford if it just so happens they meet on the 2014 campaign trail.

Ditto Councillor Glenn De Baeremaeker, another late convert to the need for a subway in Scarborough. glenndebaeremaekerLike the TTC chair, he extolled the beauty and sleekness of LRTs during last year’s Sheppard subway debate but now finds them something less than perfect when proposed to run through his neighbourhood. He expertly tapped into the vein of entitlement, resentment and divisiveness in Mayor Ford-like style this week in demanding his residents in Scarborough get the respect and subway they deserve. LRTs may be just fine for other Torontonians but his tribe, well, they actually vote in Councillor De Baeremaeker’s ward.

As a confirmed and noted tax-and-spender, the councillor won’t have to contort and convulse having to explain the billion dollar+ extra expense for building the subway. Unlike some of his more “fiscally conservative” colleagues who gave the project a thumbs-up. Take Councillor Mike Del Grande, for instance. whome1During his time as budget chief in the first few years of the Ford Administration, no one was more vocal about the profligacy of the David Miller regime and its love of taking on debt to buy cupcakes for the widows and orphans.

But for a subway in Scarborough that will actually have little effect for transit users in his ward? Completely different story. Our debt is better than their debt, I guess.

But at least such naked parochial pandering on the part of the mayor, the TTC chair, Councillor De Baeremaeker and a bevy of council fiscal hawks that supported the subway plan could be visible to the jaded eye that chose to look at things through that sort of lens.

How the likes of councillors Joe Mihevc and Paula Fletcher got all caught up in these proceedings is more of a mystery, their motivations more opaque. Was it just to come to the rescue of their fellow leftie colleague from Scarborough? iminchargeIt’s one thing to compromise and juggle your integrity for the sake of your own political career but for another councillor? The nice word for that is loyalty. I’m sure the good people of Scarborough will find that devotion commendable if it amounts to any sort of delay in expanding rapid transit for them.

We have been assured no such thing will happen. Many of the amendments brought to the motion yesterday were safeguards against things like unforeseen delays, lack of funding from other levels of government and a multitude of variables, any of which could amount to an actual decrease in rapid transit expansion throughout the city. There’s even a drop-dead deadline, we’re told, September 30th, for the provincial and federal governments to shit or get off the pot. If this isn’t sorted out in full, all the i’s dotted and t’s crossed, well, then an LRT it would be. No harm, no foul.

I will take them at their word on all that.

I will believe that city council is in full control of the situation, able to negotiate multiple competing agendum and put the brakes on any situation that arises that in any way threatens the plans we already had in place or risks any sort of significant delays in building rapid transit. stayquietThis is what we were told. At this point, I have no reason to not believe it and only my healthy skepticism whispering negatively in my ear.

I’ll try my best to ignore my concerns and take the next few months to think of other things than dismal transit arguments and dubious transit plans. It’s a big city, our Toronto. Plenty of stuff to focus on. Subway advocates won the day. They’ve earned the right to step forward and see this through.

That’ll be me, quietly standing on the sidelines, enjoying the sultry summer.

chill-ly submitted by Cityslikr


Suck It Up, Losers

February 22, 2013

spite

During Wednesday’s city council debate over the Striking Committee’s appointment recommendations to the Executive and Budget Committees, Matt Elliott asked, “What would this administration do if they didn’t have so much spite to fuel them?”

Spite? That sounds absolutely benign compared to what some raging right wingers hurled around council chambers over the course of the past few days. Witness Councillor Mike Del Grande vituperative outburst. The sound a black hole makes when it’s collapsing into itself. (Video clips courtesy of Matt  Elliott).

To the victors go the spoils. Just like Jesus Christ himself said. To which the Romans replied, Hey, guy. You’re a carpenter, right? How be you build us a cross. We’ll bring some extra nails.

While the tone of the councillor’s screed was astounding, the really telling aspect of it was the claim he made early on in his speaking time. “… and we were denied getting on certain committees [during the Miller administration]. And the reason was, the mayor at the time decided who he wanted on and who he didn’t want on, and one of the early criteria was the bridge to the airport. Bridge to the airport. If you weren’t onside with the bridge on the airport, you were automatically discounted. So that was the key. And I remember going to talk to Deputy Mayor Pantalone at the time, and he made it very clear. That vote was important to the mayor, and that’s what differentiated whether you got positions or not.”

In other words, every mayor has an agenda and if you’re not on board, you’re on the outside looking in. So suck it up, lefties. That’s how things have always been done at City Hall.

Except for the fact, well, I’ll let Councillor Gloria Lindsay Luby explain.

“Mayor Miller had an Executive Committee after the City of Toronto Act. I sat on that committee. He knew that I did not support – I mean, I did support the bridge to the city airport. He knew that. But he still asked me to sit on that Executive Committee, even though knowing that I am a conservative and that I would not support him on every vote, and I certainly did not.”

Oops.holdonsec

Now hey, who’s to say that Mayor Miller and his deputy mayor didn’t tell Councillor Del Grande and Speaker Frances Nunziata or Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday — who have both also endlessly complained about how they were sidelined during the previous administration (although, as noted by Councillor Paula Fletcher after Mr. Holyday’s similar themed left out in the cold rant this week that he was, in fact, chair of the Audit Committee under David Miller, just like he is currently) — that there was an anti-bridge litmus test for anyone wanting to get key positions? Maybe it was just a more diplomatic way of going about it. After watching their respective performances while in power over the course of the last couple years, isn’t it quite possible nobody in their right mind would choose to spend any more time than they had to in the company of such flinty, carping, divisive people?

That fact of the matter is, even the most cursory search through the archives of amalgamated Toronto will quickly show that the Ford Administration is by far the most exclusionary administration this city’s ever had. Neither Mel Lastman nor David Miller demanded such blind loyalty based solely along strict ideological lines as Rob Ford has. To argue otherwise is nothing less than to embrace revisionist history. It is perpetuating a basic untruth.

wipeclean

Which brings us to an even more problematic point. The appropriation of rightful anger, resentment and a feeling of exclusion purely for political purposes.

There should be no doubt that far too many residents in this city, entire under-served neighbourhoods and communities, have been excluded, neglected and sidelined in terms of economic development, transit, planning and representation. They have every right to be pissed off and resentful. That tune sung by many of their councillors, none louder and prouder than Rob Ford, hit the right chord for them. It sounded like fellow travellers.

The big difference, however, is that the isolation and bitterness spewed by the likes of Rob Ford, Doug Holyday, Frances Nunziata, Mike Del Grande was entirely self-imposed. Each of them chose to varying degrees not to play along with the previous administration because they did not agree with the agenda. And now they try to propagate a mythology of exclusion that does not hold up even to the slightest push against it. Councillor Del Grande’s is demolished within a minute by Councillor Lindsay Luby.upyours

These hardcore right wing ideologues were angry but not for the same reason many of those voting for them were angry. They frothed the anger in much of the electorate and used it to gain power. Achieving that, it’s all become about settling political scores and getting even while doing absolutely nothing to address the roots of the discontent and isolation that swept them into office.

In no way do any of them reflect the true outsider status many of their constituents actually experience. Taking their cue from Mayor Ford, they merely exploit it. To build walls and divisions that having nothing to do with good governance or positive public service. It’s all about laying waste to their opponents and playing the politics of destruction.

Thinks I’m exaggerating? Ladies and gentlemen, I give you “The Burning Rage of a 1000 Nunziatas”. (phraseology h/t @ManuvSteele).

ragedly submitted by Cityslikr


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