Project 23 Update

September 14, 2011

I know you’ve been prepped for some exciting news from us today, all thanks to a certain Mr. David Hains. The reality, I fear, will hardly live up to such hype. You’ve been warned.

In short, the idea for Project 23 has not gone dormant, friends. Yes, we recognize that the clock is ticking, the cuts and crazy plans just keep on a-coming. Time is of the essence.

Some of us have been at work on the idea, not in any exclusionary way, just to establish a basic template from which to open it to a wider participation. But, summer being summer and people wanting to take some ‘time off’, progress has been slower than hoped. Besides, Team Ford did not rest through the month of August which kept many of us distracted from concentrating on Project 23.

Fear not, folks. Unleashing time is nigh. A web presence is near up and going (complete with a little rebrand tweak). A larger force is mobilizing this coming weekend. Our initial public offering is very, very close. As I am hardly the brains behind this operation, I cannot tell you the exact date but I don’t think sometime next week should be ruled out. (Could I be anymore non-committal? Not even if I tried. Like I said, I am not the brains at work here.)

Just rest assured, all of you. Work is being done. Plans are being made. Project 23 is about to come into being.

Thanks to everyone for keeping the idea alive and to the many of you who’ve begun doing their own thing in getting involved, contacting councillors and generally serving notice that Torontonians are not just taxpayers. We are active, engaged citizens who aren’t going to roll over in the face of this administration’s outrageous assault on everything that makes our city great.

Keep the faith. Keep your ears to the ground. Don’t Stop Believing.

dutifully submitted by Cityslikr


Getting The Ball Rolling On Project 23

August 5, 2011

Glorious monuments and grand architecture do not make great cities although they certainly give them a certain air of grandeur. No. What makes cities great is the positive civic life they nourish and build. Accessible and affordable public transit for all neighbourhoods. Inviting public spaces that draw you into them. An open environment that enables an engaged interaction between people from all walks of life.

(Shawn Micallef writes about this much better than I can. Go read him. You’ll see what I’m trying to get at.)

Such civic mindedness in Toronto is now under attack by Mayor Rob Ford and a cadre of determined anti-urbanists and rigid ideologues. For them, running a city is nothing more than the bottom line. Making do with paying less (unless of course user fees are factored in). Their view of city life comes from out behind a car window or over the fences of their backyards. In their eyes, the role of municipal government boils down to just two things: personal safety and clean, drivable roads. End of discussion.

This should come as no surprise from the mayor. He’s said it over and over again, and voted that way over and over again during his 10 years as councillor. His anti-government views have been right there in the shop window for all to see.

Views we need to stop thinking will ever change no matter how reasonable an argument or passionate a deputation Mayor Ford’s forced to sit through. No more wasting our time and energy attempting to do so. Here’s some descriptors that immediately come to mind when writing about the mayor: intransigent, incurious, indefatigable in the certainty of his cause.

So far, the Mayor Rob Ford has surprisingly managed to corral 25 councillors to his city demolition cause at least 50% of the time on important votes (as I read Matt Elliott’s scorecard over at Ford For Toronto). Some have been easy to sway as they share a similarly hidebound neo-conservative orthodoxy. Others have been cowed into following marching orders through the use of bully tactics while another segment are simply political opportunists, basking in the glow of power or blowing with the political winds. Then there are those councillors who have left no lasting impression as to why they’ve signed on to the mayor’s agenda. Could you speak up a little, councillors Crawford, Crisanti and Grimes? We can’t hear you.

This Legion of Doom has wielded power very, very effectively although small cracks in the alliance are beginning to show. Ford diehards like Speaker Nunziata, TTC Chair Stintz and Councillor Pasternak have openly disagreed with the mayor on different matters recently. None, however, have defied his wishes much when it’s come to council votes.

Yet it may point to the fact that Mayor Ford’s council support is soft. Remember, he needs 22 councillors to push through his agenda, and 25 is razor thin. All it would take is a slight nudge here, a little cajole there and suddenly the mayor’s on the losing side of votes.

Thus, let me get the ball rolling here on Project 23.

Too often, it seems to me, councillors are able to operate under the radar. Of course there are those who seek a higher profile because they are good at it, media savvy or have their eye on a bigger prize than just being a mere councillor. We all know who they are. But hands up those of you who aren’t City Hall junkies who have heard of the following names (aside from this post): Ana Bailão, Michelle Berardinetti, Josh Colle, Gary Crawford, Vincent Crisanti, Frank Di Giorgio, Mark Grimes, Norm Kelly, Chin Lee, Gloria Lindsay Luby, Ron Moeser, Cesar Palacio, John Parker (not including Twittergate and helping to kill the Jarvis bike lanes), Jaye Robinson?

Some of these folks are brand new to the job and are still finding their political legs. Others are the strong, silent constituent type who stick close to home and work diligently for their ward. Not everyone can be a council superstar.

But some go about their business happily out of the spotlight in order to avoid scrutiny. It’s hard to keep tabs on what they’re doing, how they’re voting and, most assuredly, why they’re voting the way they’re voting. In such self-imposed darkness they are able to avoid being held responsible when the chips are down, to support something one time and vote against it two years later without having to justify their change of heart.

There are a lot of wards out there to hide in, far from the media glare. Even during election campaigns if you’re seeking to duck coverage it can be done. The resources aren’t there to thoroughly cover all 44 ward races plus a mayoral campaign. This is one reason incumbency and name recognition means so much at the municipal level.

With Project 23 I want to start attaching faces to names on all our councillors. To leave no stone unturned or murky corner for any councillor to skulk silently in. We want each and every councillor to be held accountable for the decisions they make, the votes they take. We’ll be watching you.

How can this be done, given even big media conglomerates have trouble staying on top of every ward and councillor in the city? Well, that’s where it gets tricky. I barely manage to keep content a-rolling here even with what little assistance I receive from a couple layabout contributors. On top of which, I sometimes can’t remember how to turn the computer on in the morning. Technology is not my forte.

But I envision a website, a little spot of cyberspace, with the working title, Project 23: Council Watch. There we will have information on every councillor in every ward of the city. What’s happening with each one at City Hall. How a councillor voted and why. (I’m thinking of what Matt Elliot is doing at Ford For Toronto when he presents video coverage of the deputations at last week’s Executive Committee meeting. We can show councillors speaking at council meetings about why they’re voting the way they’re voting. Or if they speak up for themselves at all.)

Interactivity will be key for Project 23. It has to be a place where people in each of the city’s wards can report what’s going on where they live and how the decisions their respective councillors make are affecting them. Many of those who signed on to the vaunted Ford Nation are only now realizing exactly what the mayor and his wrecking crew mean when the talk about respect for the taxpayers and ending the Gravy Train. Project 23 should be a place where they can have their say.

That is the thrust of Project 23. Making sure everyone who we elected to city council is aware of the fact that their decisions will be known, will have consequences. They will have to answer for them come 2014.

Consider this. Vincent Crisanti won Ward 1 by just over 500 votes. Gloria Lindsay Luby won Ward 4 by just over 300 votes. Peter Milczyn won Ward 5 by just over 100 votes. Anthony Perruzza won Ward 8 by just under 400 votes. Maria Augimeri won Ward 9 by 89 votes. James Pasternak won Ward 10 with just 19.2% of the popular vote. Frank Di Giorgio won Ward 12 with just over 27% of the popular vote. Jaye Robinson won Ward 25 by just over 500 votes. John Parker won Ward 26 by just over 500 votes. Kristyn Wong-Tam won Ward 27 with 28.3% of the popular vote. Paula Fletcher won Ward 30 by just over 200 votes. Gary Crawford won Ward 36 by just over 400 votes and with 25.2% of the popular vote. Ron Moeser won Ward 44 by under 200 votes. Even Team Ford’s quarterback, Giorgio Mammoliti, only garnered 43.8% of the popular vote in Ward 7 even after his high profile, unsuccessful campaign for mayor.

Many close votes, an awful lot of just unders and just overs, my friends. Many sitting councillors are not sitting pretty. Twenty of the council seats as well as the mayoralty were won by margins of less than 50% of the popular vote. Any little shift in public opinion will force them to sit up and take notice. Let’s start making them sit up and take notice.

That is my goal with Project 23. So let’s begin making firm plans via the interwebs and in-person get-togethers during the month of August. Let’s aim to have things up and going come fall when Team Ford attempts to get down to the business of eviscerating the civic life of Toronto. We need to assist those councillors who will be fighting to defend the city and, perhaps more importantly, make it known to those intending to travel down the mayor’s path that we’ll be watching them.

In the words of Flavor Flav, let’s get this party started right.

feistily submitted by Cityslikr


Weekend Retreat

July 29, 2011

If you’re reading this it means that we have retreated to the woods. Our annual-ish withdrawal to the primitive, sleeping in hollowed out logs and defecating in holes of our own making. Replace the grit of the city with nature’s more perfect grime.

But it’s not going to be all rest and relaxation, running naked through the trees, dancing in the moonlight. We will be settling down in earnest to begin beating out our thoughts and aspirations about a little something we’ve been kicking around in our heads. Project 23.

Judging from what I’ve read about the marathon Executive Committee meeting at City Hall yesterday/last night/this morning, actual hands-on democracy has woken up from its slumber in this city. People are afraid. People are angry. People are speaking out. While it may be for the most unfortunate of reasons (the mayor and his gang’s attack on the city they were elected to serve), any up tick in citizen participation can only be a good thing.

We want to be a part of that, to help sustain, to make it impossible for Mayor Ford and his cronies to simply continue to shrug off people’s voices as coming from ‘special interests’ or all ‘union backed’. So over the next few days, we’re going to be brainstorming, fleshing out ideas, writing them down in the dirt at our feet in order to bring them back to begin a wider discussion with anyone interested in protecting everything we love about this city from those who appear to not like very much about it all.

So rest up. Take a deep breath and get ready to keep on keepin’ on. This fight we now have on our hands has only begun.

Until next week.

beat at retreatedly submitted by Cityslikr


Hand Off

July 20, 2011

Yes, I know this is going to look like I’m just shirking here, feet up, ass in cold mashed potatoes, sangria in hand, lapping up the heat and humidity… OK, I’m doing all that but I do think it necessary to direct you elsewhere for your municipal political reading today.

During some banter about the idea of Project 23 that we’ve been mulling over, we found ourselves over at Mike Smith’s Linebreaks. Full disclosure. We know Mike. We’ve had drinks with Mike. We like Mike. And in the post we are about to demand you read, he mentions us.

All that aside, if you are interested in municipal politics (and you must be or you wouldn’t be reading this), click fast — don’t just click — on the link below and start reading. The Long Game is absolutely essential if you want to truly understand how things work at City Hall. And not just Toronto’s City Hall. City Hall’s everywhere.

This is a thoroughly engaging, funny, and absolutely insightful look at how things get done around here by someone who knows his shit. Unlike some dilettantes, sitting around, already half-snapped and wondering why their asses are in mashed potatoes. Too keep cool, right?

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you, The Long Game by Mike Smith.

Go.

mushily submitted by Cityslikr


Project 23

July 13, 2011

I should be back at City Hall taking in the rest of council business today. There is other business for sure aside from the new bike lane plan. A plan, by the way, that is now in the hands of non-biking riding suburban councillors. Step one? Remove many existing bike lanes in their respective wards.

It’s all a little dispiriting right now, I will admit. A musty smell of the 1950s fills the chambers. Kind of like Aramis or the odd odour your grandparents give off.

Team Ford won a convincing victory in the bike lane debate today. We’re assured those on Jarvis Street won’t be removed until the protected lanes on Sherbourne are up and going although no definitive commitment was made of that if the money for the Sherbourne bike lanes gets lost in the Great Budget Crisis of 2012 or some other technical glitch pops up. Plans are already afoot to bring back the reversible middle lane with nary a peep about the pedestrianized plan that set this all in motion.

Just trust us, we’re told. Our best interests will be taken to heart.

You’ll have to excuse me if I don’t hold my breath, waiting.

But I think it makes the timing right for my unofficial announcement for what I’ve been calling Project 23. An idea in its infancy with the intention of turning up the heat on councillors who are currently enabling the mayor and his crew to do the damage they seem intent on inflicting on the city. As we here at All Fired Up in the Big Smoke have written previously, Mayor Ford is an unmovable force, incapable it seems of compromise or lacking any interest in seeking a broader consensus. There’s little use expending energy trying to change that.

He has his ideological brethren who will not deviate from his position on important or close votes. They too aren’t worth much further consideration. And there are those now luxuriating in the aura of power, a power they could not possibly achieve on their own. Step up and take a bow, Councillor Mammoliti. I’m figuring they are a lost cause. At least until the power begins to dissipate.

Instead, we need to concentrate on those in the so-called mushy middle. Let’s call it the vulnerable middle. Councillors, both new and old, who are regularly siding with the mayor out of either fear of the mayor’s tactical pressure or plain old political expediency. The going’s good now and they are aware of fallout if they are seen to be bucking Ford Nation. So they’re skulking in the shadows, hoping no one notices them and that come election 2014, they’ll be able to continue under the radar of their own ward races.

Let’s start informing them that that’s not going to happen. They will have to answer to their voters if they continue their craven allegiance to this administration. If they think there’s a price to be paid not being a Team Ford player, notice needs to be served there’s going to be no free ride for such slavish devotion.

I’m thinking the likes of the hypocritical Councillor Gary Crawford (Ward 36). A silent Ford yes man, he managed to get bike lanes in his ward pulled from the new plan for further community consultation and then proceeded to vote against every other motion for further consultation some of his colleagues had put forth. Take that for bipartisanship.

There’s Councillor James Pasternak (Ward 10) who gave a rambling, incoherent defence of his support for the mayor’s bike plan. To Councillor Pasternak’s mind, cyclists aren’t parents or business owners. Both he and Councillor Crawford were elected last fall by the slimmest of majorities, propelled mainly on name recognition as school board trustees. In 2014, they will be labeled as nothing more than Ford men.

Executive Committee members Michelle Berardinetti (Ward 35) and Jaye Robinson (Ward 25) have been largely silent Ford loyalists, doing the mayor’s bidding and rarely standing up to defend their position. Councillor Berardinetti did get feisty today, flashing the Mammoliti thumbs down in order to remove bike lanes from her ward. Why? Because she lives in the suburbs and the suburbs weren’t designed for bike lanes.

Councillors Josh Colle and Ana Bailão, wards 15 and 18 respectively, lined up in favour of the new bike lane plan and have consistently voted with Mayor Ford on important issues. It’s not entirely certain why yet although one does have to wonder about the mayor’s hold on the Lawrence Heights development in Councillor Colle’s ward until after the bike plan vote. This may be the tactical pressure both rookie councillors tend to wilt under.

And then there’s the other Josh, Councillor Josh Matlow (Ward 22). Josh, Josh, Josh. Councillor, Councillor, Councillor. I don’t have the vote results in front of me and will state right now I will retract anything I say if I’m wrong but, once more, he seemed to talk a big game of seeking partisanship, deciding on the facts and the facts alone and then proceeding to vote along the lines of supporting the mayor when the chips were down and then voting against him when it didn’t matter. Soon he has to learn that it is not acceptable to talk like a progressive and vote without principles in the hopes that no one notices. We’ve noticed, Councillor Matlow.

We cannot forget council’s perennial deadweights either. Councillors Frank DiGiorgio (Ward 12), Mark Grimes (Ward 6), Norm Kelly (Ward 40), Peter Milczyn (Ward 5) and Cesar Palacio (Ward 17), all of whom voted to install the Jarvis bike lanes in 2009 and then to remove them 2 years later (What about the taxpayers, councillors?) Each had their tortured reasons. None were convincing. Yes, we too know which way the political winds are blowing, councillors.

But the winds will change direction because that’s what political winds do. We can help speed that process along by focusing on these malleable councillors. All we need is to get 6 or 7 of them to start seriously weighing their options every time they press their vote button in favour of the Team Ford agenda. They need to know that there will be repercussions. That they will not be able to operate in obscurity. Their actions will have consequences.

Thus, Project 23. Further details to come. Stay tuned.

Courage!

determinedly submitted by Cityslikr


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