Delivering Low Expectations

February 19, 2014

Don’t look…Don’t look…Don’t look…And if you have to look, don’t look directly into his eyes. Whatever you do! Do not look directly into the man’s eyes!

blankstare

I looked.

I know I shouldn’t have. But I did. I even looked directly into that man’s eyes and saw what I can only assume to be is the eternal abyss of nothingness, swirling deep down inside of them.

Worse, against Ed Keenan’s sage advice, I’m now talking about what I saw when I looked, giving them a free bump, an additional bit of publicity, such as we can offer here at All Fired Up in the Big Smoke.cableaccess

Ford Nation on YouTube.

Exactly why the good Lord in His infinite wisdom created scientists, so they could create the Internetz.

Ford Nation on YouTube.

Having burned all their bridges to access of uncritical and unthinking media platforms, save maybe Sue-Ann Levy and Joe Warmington, including every newspaper in town, AM talk radio, Sun TV – Sun TV, folks! – the Fords, Mayor Rob and Councillor Doug, have turned their mostly undivided attention to the internet for getting their message out to their unswerving supporters and snickering adversaries. No bias there except the good kind of bias. No difficult questions to answer. Not even those squishy-hard ones always lobbed their way by the likes of CP24’s Stephen LeDrew.

The web. The free range domain of conspiracy theorists, rational denialists and amateur political punditry (yeah, I beat you to it) since 1997. internetzI’m pretty sure that’s when the internet was invented.

There’s really no need to offer up any sort of analysis here. Others are doing it more thoroughly and entertainingly. And besides, any evaluation of the merits or lack thereof in the videos, anything that might smack of treasonous disagreement with what’s being said, is simply brushed off as the self-satisfied smugness of a downtown latte sipping elitist dipper leftie subway and Scarborough hater.

Did I leave anything out?

Oh, right. Bike riding, anti-car cyclist. Repetition entirely intentional.

Because if Rob Ford or Doug Ford or any other member of Ford Nation never has to be right, can just make shit up all the live long day, spout nonsense every time they open their mouths without immediately stuffing it with food or drink, why is anyone else held to a higher standard?upyours

Ford Nation is this hermetically sealed place where rational discourse and civil debate are smothered in their cribs. Every number when added together comes out to a billion. The private sector builds a healthy public realm out of the goodness of its own heart. Demands that the mayor do his job and stand up for everyone he was elected to represent, that’s called bullying. War declared on anyone who dared to sanction the mayor for his deplorable behaviour both on and off the clock. Half day, part time work weeks are of no concern to any serious minded denizen of Ford Nation.

Ford Nation on You Tube is amateurish and hackneyed because anything else would come across as slick and too professional and unRob Ford. I mean, frankly, I don’t think at this point Team Ford such as it is could produce anything else. The operations are amateurish and hackneyed. But you go with what you know.

Low production values and low rent drivel is what Team Ford thinks Ford Nation wants to hear. It’s the mark of the non-politician, don’t you know. Sure the mayor fibs every time he’s caught in a lie. Who doesn’t? suaveandsophisticatedYeah, the mayor’s math may be bad but only egg-headed accountants should be expected to get such big numbers right. Of course, the Fords appear awkward and tongue-tied on camera. Who know who isn’t? Actors. Any politician who doesn’t lie, who can do complex math, who looks and talks good on camera is nothing but an actor.

Rob Ford is the real deal. I mean, look at him. He’s just like I would be if I ran this city. I wouldn’t be able to produce some polished, contrived video either. He’s the mayor of Toronto, folks. Not James Cameron.

How exactly we arrived at this juncture, where fumble-assed, know-nothingness with a solid dose of reprobate conduct passes as more than enough qualifications to oversee a city of 2.5+ million people, I’m not exactly sure. We’re told it’s because of the aloofness and disconnect of downtowners to the plight of those living in the inner suburbs. It’s the snark of privilege. We’re out of touch with the needs of the little guy and hard-working taxpayers. They don’t expect much from the city they live in, maybe a returned phone call and occasional visit. Mayor Rob Ford delivers them exactly that and nothing more.

Bargain basement governance, sold as is. The campaign pitch delivered with all the razzamatazz of a late-night informerical. ShamWow, Ford Nation!

insane

It’s the intersection of little effort and low expectations. Even if they were capable of delivering something better, something more informative, something beyond Wayne and Garth in the basement, Team Ford wouldn’t. It’s not their style. Their rock solid supporters wouldn’t recognize them if they did.

It wouldn’t be Ford Nation on You Tube.

under-whelmingly submitted by Cityslikr


Do We Really Have To Talk About This?

January 20, 2014

Point 4. (Following, of course, points 1, 2 and 3.)

Taxes.makingalist1

Ughh.

You know, we’d probably be happier with our governments if they just stopped asking us for money and, instead, concentrated their efforts on delivering the services we demand.

“It’s always the same issue,” Ehtisham Waqar told Jane Gerster of the Toronto Star (h/t David Hains for pointing me in the direction of the article). “Quality of life needs to increase and I think the only way to do that is to decrease taxes.”

Just like anything in life. You want more of it, at a better quality, pay less for it. It’s common business sense.

We seemed to have reached a fundamental divide these days between looking for practical solutions and wishful thinking. Goaded on by politicians of, increasingly, every stripe, we have convinced our collective selves that we pay too much in taxes to our governments and get too little in return. taxburdenWe pay too much or somebody else is paying too little. The point is, from a taxpayers’ perspective, we’re getting a raw deal with this arrangement.

How anti-tax minded have we become? The federal leader of the left-wing party in this country, those supposed tax-and-spenders, Thomas Mulcair sees any individual tax rate over 50% (I guess he’s talking marginal rates here) as confiscatory. Confiscatory, at 50%, which would be on the low side if we look back over the past 50 years or so, and which nowhere in the country do we sit at currently. But never mind. Out of the question. According to our silly socialists.

If we can’t get our loonie left to talk about the benefits and necessity of appropriate taxation applied fairly, then the anti-tax crusaders have won the battle. ducttaperepairOur public sphere will continue to be chronically under-funded, services and programs deemed increasingly inadequate and, having fenced off any talk of increasing revenue in the form of taxation as nothing short of extremism, our only response will be that of the above Mr. Waqar. Everything’s a mess. Cut taxes.

I’m not the first person to say this but I urge anyone who thinks we’re not receiving a good deal on the taxes we pay to go out and stand on a street corner, at a busy intersection and have a look around. Take a moment. Look hard.

If you don’t see, I don’t know, at least 5 services and pieces of infrastructure in place and paid for by your tax dollars that make the difference between living in a relatively accessible urban landscape instead of some ramshackle hut on a dirt road with outdoor plumbing, you’re not trying hard enough. And that’s just at a municipal level. Forget that school up the street or the hospital around the corner. What we get in return for the taxes we pay to City Hall happens all around us every day. badmathmanPerhaps we simply take it for granted.

Four years ago we bought, hook, line and sinker, the very fanciful notion of a confirmed tax hater that we were taxed too much (“The city doesn’t have a revenue problem.”) and all that was really needed was some fiscal discipline (“The city has a spending problem”). We could reduce spending by 5, 10% and not feel a lick of difference. Guaranteed.

Well, how’s that working for you, Mr. Waqar? All those potholes every block or so on the streets you drive. What about you, Mr. Generic Taxpayer? That tree limb that came crashing down in your yard during December’s ice storm, taking out the electricity and leaving you in the dark for 3 days over Christmas. Been cleaned up and collected yet? You been compensated for the food in your freezer that went off when the power took forever to be restored. Your basement now all spic-and-span after the July storm flooded it?

How’s it been, waiting for the Dufferin bus lately, Ms. Generic Taxpayer? Then cramming into the 4th subway car at Yonge and Bloor every rush hour. Imagine how paying even less taxes would greatly speed up your commute.badmath3

Anyone campaigning in 2014 on a flimsy platform built on Rob Ford’s fiscal agenda minus the scandals is doing nothing more than promising you exactly the same minus the scandals. That is, more potholes, less public transit, further weakening of infrastructure, increased user fees. A dirtier, more ragged, more congested city.

That is what’s happened since 2010. A general decline in the quality of life on the streets and in the communities of this city. And here’s the kicker. Spending has gone up with this administration as have property taxes. Sure, we got rid of one new source of revenue, the vehicle registration, which has only put further stress on others including the land transfer tax that the mayor also wants to do away with. We haven’t decreased overall spending or property taxes.

You know why?

Because we can’t.

It costs money to run this city, and no manner of magical thinking or mathematics can change that. You can’t even make do with less let alone do more with less. texaschainsawmassacreThe numbers simply don’t add up.

You certainly can choose to run the city on the cheap. That’s what we’ve been doing since 2010 but, as they say, you get what you pay for. A cheap city. A cheap city doesn’t thrive. It struggles and falters.

Toronto has been struggling and faltering. Doing more of the same, running the city on the cheap, can’t possibly turn things around for the better. It defies logic and common sense to believe otherwise.

So when a politician comes knocking at your door this campaign season and tells you our taxes are too high, ask them compared to what. The answer they give you will pretty much tell you if they’re fit to lead this city. The answer you want to hear will pretty much tell you if you’re serious about living in a vibrant, equitable city.

taxingly submitted by Cityslikr


That Time In The Election Cycle Already?

October 28, 2013

In yesterday’s news some yesterday’s news grabbed some Sunday headlines. Karen Stintz to run for Mayor.

You don’t say.theresasurprise

Nobody didn’t see that coming.

So a full year to the very day, the 2014 municipal mayoral campaign unofficially officially began for someone other than Mayor Ford who’s basically been campaigning since about 2012. I mean, for someone other than David Soknacki who publicly announced his probable intentions to run for the mayor’s office but isn’t actually being treated as a someone just yet. Of course, Olivia Chow’s in the mix too but humbly demurs at any mention of a possible bid next year despite, apparently, having lined up some big guns to run her nonexistent campaign team.

So the chattering has begun, playing out various scenarios about tactics, vote splits, blood sport, dirty pool. And, of course, the months and months and months of tiresome will he/won’t he speculation about the possibility of John Tory entering the race. crystalballNo Toronto mayoral campaign would be complete without it.

The thing is – and I say this with all due respect to those already knee deep in conjecture and theoretical electoral guesswork including yours truly – in the, I don’t know, 363 days or so between today and the election, there’s a very high probability the ground will have shifted dramatically. If history is anything to go by, the terrain will be nearly unrecognizable. Ask George Smitherman how much the fall of 2010 looked like it would back when he was organizing his run in 2009. Ditto John Tory in the lead up to the 2003 campaign.

And let’s face it, there’s never really been this degree of unknowns going into an election as there are right now especially with an incumbent in place and so raring to go. As much as we might despair/rejoice about the seeming Teflon nature of Mayor Ford, to think there aren’t more land mines just waiting to detonate around him before now and next October just seems implausible. A year out, rushing in with the view of Mayor Ford being your main opponent could be a huge waste of political capital and time.

Besides, it just plays right into the mayor’s wheelhouse of all campaigning, all the time. That’s what he does. That’s what he’s good at. downanddirtyWhy extend an already prolonged campaign period that Mayor Ford has been trying to stretch out for more than a year now?

Get down there in the muck and goo and start to mix it up so we can divert our attention from more important issues that constitute matters of good governance. That yucky policy stuff that the mayor and his staff so assiduously avoid dealing with. We’ve known since 2010, and the administration has missed no opportunity to remind us, that democracy is about nothing more than elections. Win it and the ball is yours for the next 4 years to play with however you see fit.

A mandate, folks. It’s never too early to start demanding a mandate.

As usual, such fireworks will hog the spotlight. Election dogfights are much easier to follow and analyse than, say, matters of policy. hohum2So, the sooner, the better, am I right? To use the mayor’s analogy, no time like the present to “… jump over the boards and drop the gloves to fight.”

So, you know what?

Let them go at it but let’s stop immediately jumping up in gleeful excitement at each big campaign 2014 announcement, every blow that’s landed and then trying to read the tea leaves about what it all means. Those gearing up for the grind have to be preparing already. Let them. It doesn’t mean we have to follow along with every twist and turn. There’s going to be a lot of twists and turns over the next 12 months.

In the meantime, there’s still a city to run.

 – disinterestedly submitted by Cityslikr


Another Chance To Get It Right

October 8, 2013

As difficult as it may be to imagine, given the… surreal? wacky? cartoonish? crazy1I’ve truly run out of adjectives to describe the performance of this current city council over the course of the last three years… this week’s meeting could well turn out to represent the… pinnacle? nadir? defining moment? of its entire term.

Check out Neville Park’s cheat sheet if you haven’t already for a most excellent and entertaining overview of what will be going on over the course of the next 3 or 4 days. As always, there’s a boat load of important matters to be dealt with including the appointment of the replacement for Doug Holyday as councillor for Ward 3. His letter to his former colleagues insisting they tap his choice of Peter Leon who was ignored last week by Etobicoke-York Community Council when they opted for Chris Stockwell should make that debate more intriguing than it really should be.

That item, of course, along with every other one on council’s agenda will be overshadowed once more by the topic of transit. backfromthedeadMore specifically the ongoing, drawn out, forever and forever until perpetuity fight over a Scarborough subway. The serial killer of our political scene that just cannot be dispatched.

Yep. It’s back. Just two short weeks ago it seemed like a sure thing too, resuscitated by an infusion of federal cash. But now, with a provincial short fall and the city manager laying out the barest minimum of property tax increases that will be needed for the city to pony up its piece of the funding pie (for a more realistic picture of what we could be paying to build the Scarborough subway, check out David Hains and Hamutal Dotan at Torontoist), not to mention its biggest booster in an ever steepening pot of brewing scandal, a slight pall has been cast over the subway celebrations.

The kicker is, after all the discussion we’ve had on the topic, the monotonous, endless back-and-forth since 2010, there’s still no rational, compelling reason to replace the proposed Scarborough LRT with a subway in either of its current alignments. youcanbeseriousThe case to do so has remained in its under-developed embryonic state.  An a priori argument, of sorts, stating a subway is the best option for Scarborough because, well, subways are the best. World class. First class.

It’s a heaping dose of head shake, bulging with a bloated sense of entitlement and misplaced resentment, encouraged mightily by excruciating political calculation at all three levels of government.

As Matt Elliott pointed out in his column yesterday, the cost of building this Scarborough subway is going to put an undue strain on the city’s budget for decades to come, threatening other programs and services as well as other transit infrastructure builds, many of them a much higher priority than a subway in Scarborough. Any member of city council who votes in favour of proceeding with this project is doing so out of nothing more than pure self-interest. They are signalling a willingness to jeopardize the city’s best interests for the sake of scoring cheap political points.

responsibilityjpg

That’s what this vote comes down to. It will define their term in office. Let’s be sure to judge them accordingly.

pleadingly submitted by Cityslikr


Mayor Nimby

May 15, 2013

For three years now, ever since then-councillor Rob Ford announced his run for mayor, we’ve been clubbed over the head with the urban-suburban divide.fordnation The narrative of downtown elites hoarding all the goodness that is living in Toronto, leaving their suburban counterparts with nothing more than the crumbs and scraps. Get out of your cars so we can have bike lanes! No subways for you! Your taxes spent on us.

Rob Ford rode such resentment into office, and the continued suburban support maintains his not impossible chances for re-election next year. He is the self-proclaimed champion of the little guy in places like Scarborough, basing his entire transit policy around getting a new subway out there. Nobody rails about and profits from deriding the self-satisfied, special interest insularity of downtowners like the mayor and the rest of Team Ford.

An accusation I’ve tried to take to heart. Get out there, learn what makes these suburban types tick, their likes, dislikes, their pet peeves, their pet causes. haughtyTry and find out why they’re so mad at us and how politicians like Mayor Ford so easily tap into that vein of anger.

The latest leg of that journey outside of my south of Bloor/west of the Don Valley comfort zone took me to the Scarborough Civic Centre yesterday for their monthly Community Council meeting. Here you can see the local councillors and their constituents at work far from the spotlight of City Hall, not dwelling on the Us-versus-Them but instead focusing on pure Scarborough time (or North York or Etobicoke-York or Toronto-East York time depending on which community council meeting you’re attending). Community council concentrates on the minutiae of local governance.

As the agenda for the Scarborough meeting showed, this is the time spent adjudicating neighbours’ fence heights, debating the need for a stop sign or traffic lights, the removal of tree from private property, parking, always parking. toilIt isn’t glorious or sexy. Just the nuts and bolts of the political process at the municipal level.

Perhaps the most charged item I witnessed yesterday was over the fate of the wading pool just outside of the civic centre. Apparently it was a community hub for the forty years of the building’s existence but last summer the This Is Not A Wading Pool sign went up due to the lack of funding to pay for a lifeguard. Scarborough councillors set out to try and rectify that situation.

Most of the time, big ticket, highly contentious, city wide items don’t dominate community council meetings. A casino, tall tower complex or the island airport runway expansion rarely find their way to be debated at North York or Scarborough community councils. The majority of those end up for discussion at Toronto-East York community council.

And Etobicoke-York, apparently.

For the last two months the west-end community council has had to conduct additional meeting time to deal with the public reaction to two developments that are being proposed in their catchment area. In April, there was an evening session at the Etobicoke Civic Centre over the proposed waterfront development in Ward 6, Mimico 20/20. nonono1And yesterday for six hours, the public came out to express their unanimous opposition to First Capital Realty’s intention to convert the Humbertown shopping plaza into a mixed up residential-commercial space.

This one was a biggie. As David Hains writes in the Grid, it was held in a 3,200 seat church on the Queensway, was broadcast on TV and streamed online and brought out much of the media as well as the big gun politicians like the mayor and his councillor-brother. (As a member of the Etobicoke-York community council, it’s not unusual that Councillor Ford was in attendance although, it is worth noting that he was absent for the Mimico meeting last month, choosing instead to attend a provincial Progressive Conservative fundraiser.)

Now, I don’t know if the Humbertown development is a good one or not. Certainly the community’s concerns over the increase in traffic caught my attention. It didn’t strike me as the disaster-in-waiting almost every speaker to person claimed it would turn out to be. villagesquireThere are voices living in the area that even think it’s a positive thing for the area.

What I will tell you, however, is that I didn’t care for the tone I heard from the development’s opponents. Like many who spoke out against the Mimico 20/20 plans, we were told the Humber Valley neighbourhood was like a village wrapped inside a big city. A place for families to thrive and grow, away from big city concerns. People were born in Humber Valley. They went to school in Humber Valley. They got married in Humber Valley. They have children of their own who they want to raise in the same Humber Valley they grew up in.

After a couple hours of this, I couldn’t help but think if these people really wanted the village life, they should maybe move to an actual village. Somewhere, I don’t know, in Amish country. Or maybe on the edge of the moors in south-west England. A village village.

Not a pretend one of their imagination, situated 1500 metres from a major east-west subway line. No, what these people want is to enjoy all the amenities a big city offers while keeping the messier aspects like intensification and underground parking (really, underground parking) at bay. usversusthemThis is a wealthy enclave with the time and resources which, as my friend Paisley Rae said, should not determine the outcome of the civic process, trying to keep the 21st-century from their front door.

And the real kicker is that these are our populist mayor and brother’s people not the poor schlubs having to endure a cold winters rid on the Scarborough SRT or even those living further north in Etobicoke, up in Rexdale. This development is right in both the Fords’ backyards and the little guys they’re looking out for are those who can afford to hire their own architect to draw up alternate plans and find the concept of shopping on a second floor inconceivable. I suppose you’re going to tell me that you’ve invented a moving staircase in which to ascend us to ladies wear.

“We cannot let these developers come in and bully us,” said the mayor who’s all in pushing a waterfront casino. He vowed to fight the Humbertown development ‘tooth and nail’. “Let’s go to the board (Ontario Municipal Board),” he urged if First Capital Realty didn’t back down, presumably with money from the city he often tries to stop at council when other communities faced with unwanted development face appeals at the OMB. Everything Mayor Ford purports to be got completely turned on its head with his strident opposition to the Humbertown development.

Not in my backyard.humbertown

The fact is, Mayor Ford doesn’t really represent the aspirations or alienation of suburban Toronto. At least not those of the hard-working little guys in large portions of Scarborough or Etobicoke. It’s a very select few he will go to the mat for, the ones who essentially live in his own neighbourhood. The overwhelming majority of suburban residents are nothing more than votes to him.

nimbly submitted by Cityslikr


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 209 other followers