You’re Going To Have To Trust Me On This One

May 8, 2014

dougfordmayor

It’s hard to imagine, given the wholly frightening ride we’ve been on for nearly 4 years now, that you could pinpoint one particularly monstrous moment that so clearly and frankly epitomizes the entire era, let’s call it. But there is. This is it. Doug Ford, Mayor.

I cannot even begin to speculate on such dark family dynamics. The mayor, allegedly off cleaning up, getting his life together somewhere. His brother-councillor, occupying the seat of power, his name in a child-like scribble on a piece of paper, taped over the mayor’s. Just joshing, y’all. It was mad Giorgio’s idea. baroqueI couldn’t possibly comment on questions of running for mayor if my younger brother proves unable to work out his problems. I’m just glad he’s finally getting the help he needs.

Being no psychologist, not even of the amateur kind, little I might opine on this matter would be of any value. But I will say this. We as a city have been dragged, half willingly, half kicking and screaming, into this baroque psychodrama which has leeched into every nook and cranny of our politics. Nothing but grand bombast and unrelenting duplicity. We’ve come to expect it, demand it. Anything less is just boring.

We’re on the hostage side of a certain Stockholm Syndrome, growing empathetic with our captors. Their demands no longer seem outrageous. roughpatchEverything they say sounds reasonable. We’ve been locked up with them long enough that no transgression they commit, no grievous harm they inflict, strikes us unnatural.

Hey. That’s just how city council operates, isn’t it? It’s the nature of the beast.

We can only hope the damage isn’t lasting. It was just a rough patch we’ve hit like in any sort of relationship. A few lost years given over to petty vindictiveness and destructive frivolity. mybadIt all seemed to make so much twisted sense at the time.

I’m not the first to say it but I think it bears repeating. We have been swept up into a cult, a very definite cult of personality. Look at us right now. He takes a leave of absence, voluntarily removing himself from the political stage, and all we’ve done since is chase his trail. Where’s the mayor? Is he here? Is he there? It seems our mayor is everywhere!

Take a break. It seems we need as much of a time out as he did. Let’s embrace our separation. Try and remember what it was like before all this craziness, before we became consumed by one man’s battle with his demons, his councillor-brother’s hack Machiavellian antics.

Focus on what’s really happening in his absence, the slow, sure crumbling of his legacy. The now not so good news about one of his signature accomplishments, contracting out garbage. The squalid tale of his Muzik ties. The renewed misgivings in the operations of the TCHC.

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Time to de-program, folks. Accept that we made a terrible mistake and got mixed up with the wrong crowd. It happens. Like the mayor said, nobody’s perfect. Let’s just move on. There’s a bit of a mess that needs cleaning up.

hopefully submitted by Cityslikr


A Mayoral Catch-22

March 20, 2014

I was mulling over Edward Keenan’s piece in The Grid yesterday about, well, fringe mayoral candidates, thinkinganddrinkinglet’s call them for lack of a better heuristic when, don’t you just know it, up pops the news that former candidate Sarah Thomson is planning another run at the mayor’s office.

You know Ms. Thomson. Barely cracked double digits in the 2010 race before throwing her lightweight weight behind the eventual 2nd place finisher, George Smitherman. Then ran something of a spirited campaign for the Liberals in the 2011 provincial in the riding of Trinity-Spadina, giving the long time incumbent Rosario Marchese a bit of a scare. Sarah “Transit” Thomson who basically took her one good idea from 2010 – road tolls – and built a platform of self-promotion around it. Yeah. That Sarah Thomson.

As I write this, Thomson showed up at City Hall this morning in a horse drawn red wagon to register. Whatever. But it does provide me a nice little segue into a larger discussion about fringe candidates.

Next Wednesday CityNews will be holding the first televised mayoral debate of the 2014 campaign. cinderellaAll 5 “major” candidates have signed on to participate, according to the announcement. Olivia Chow. Rob Ford. David Soknacki. Karen Stintz. John Tory.

Will a 6th podium be added now for Sarah Thomson? If so, why? Because she ran previously? Because she organized events around regional transit problems? Because she owns a publication? Because all this combines to give her public standing?

On the other hand, if CityNews doesn’t extend an invitation to the debate to Ms. Thomson, why not? Why do they get to make that decision? Who determines which candidacy sits beyond the fringe and which one doesn’t?

Mr. Keenan seems to suggest that’s it’s kind of an organic process. “As with any job — in this case, the CEO of a $10 billion-a-year organization responsible for millions of peoples’ daily necessities,” Keenan writes, cv“the hiring criteria includes significant experience and demonstrated abilities as much as anything else.”

There’s certainly some truth to that. In Toronto, it’s been the case for pretty much forever that the only way to the mayor’s job is through city council. Mayoral hopefuls have traditionally put in time as councillors first. No outsiders need apply.

“Putting together a successful campaign is actually a pretty good proxy for many of the attributes you need to govern,” Keenan continues, “managing a staff and volunteers, inspiring people to work on your behalf, raising funds, and engaging in a public debate that convinces citizens to put their trust in you and your plan. The press will pay close attention to candidates who show they can do that on a citywide scale. And so will voters.”

Again, certainly true, but for me, really only half of the equation. “Managing a staff and volunteers…raising funds…engaging in a public debate” are essential but none of it just appears out of the blue. All that’s easier said than done. Without an established name or easy access to money to buy yourself one, outside candidates have to work doubly hard (at least) to get their name and ideas out there. backroomI am troubled by that notion.

What I see is a slate of candidates that is presented to voters on the basis of money and influence. Prominent, backroom donors, well-worn campaign strategists, political party apparatchiks, all cajoling, tempting and eventually signing on to work for candidates they deem acceptable to run for mayor. These are your candidates, Toronto. Now, vote as you see fit.

And the media, especially media outlets that wind up hosting mayoral debates and forums, are complicit in this heavy-handed winnowing of the field. Only candidates from the given slate are invited to participate. Why? Well, because these are the ones voters want to hear from? Why is that? How does the media determine that? Look at the polling numbers, we’re told. Numbers derived from polls featuring only the non-fringe candidates’ names.

It’s a pre-determined, closed loop. An iterative process with only a handful of appointed variables, ultimately ending up with the choice from pick one of the above. closedopensystemNone of the above is never presented as a viable alternative.

Look. The 2014 campaign is about two and a half months old. Candidates have been registered since January 2nd. Yet, only after Olivia Chow — who everybody knew was running — officially entered the race last week were we informed that the official debates would begin. I’m not alone in finding the timing a little fishy, am I? It feels like the fix is in.

Instead of hashing and rehashing the will he or won’t he/when will she narrative and pursuing the HMS Destructive tour of the current incumbent, maybe a little time could’ve been devoted to listening to some of the other candidates for mayor, suss out their fitness for the job. In early February the U of T Scarborough student union held a mayoral forum that featured the mayor, David Soknacki and 3 of the fringe candidates. footinthedoorThe Toronto Star’s Daniel Dale covered it and, in his opinion, declared that one of the 3, Robb Johannes just might’ve won the debate.

So why hasn’t Mr. Johannes been invited to participate in the CityNews’ debate? Based on the observation of an experienced City Hall reporter giving his candidacy some legitimacy, what must he do to be given a shot at proving himself worthy of further consideration?

In 2010, we here at All Fired Up in the Big Smoke ran some 30 or so Meet A Mayoral Candidate posts throughout the campaign. Admittedly, most, a high percentage of them, rightfully deserved the fringe label. Remember, anybody with $200 to spare can run for mayor. It was hard to tell why many were in the race. A lark. Mere attention seeking. Misguided sense of direction.

But a handful of them were thoughtful, interesting and dedicated to giving their time and energy to the city. Hell, we ended up endorsing one for mayor when all was said and done. Not every fringe candidate should be viewed fringe simply because they don’t yet have money, resources or influence.musicalchairs

And I would argue that this time around, there are even more potentially serious fringe candidates then in 2010. The subject of Mr. Keenan’s article, Ari Goldkind, immediately strikes me as somebody worth listening to. Matt Mernagh. Jeff Billard. Richard Underhill. Morgan Baskin. The above mentioned Robb Johannes.

Are any of these credible mayoral candidates? I don’t know. But who the fuck am I to blithely brush them off before giving them a chance to hear what they have to say, deliver their plans and ideas to a wider audience?

“You don’t need the press to legitimize your candidacy,” Keenan informs the fringers. “Only your campaign can do that.”

That sentiment seems hopelessly and impossibly pollyannish or unaware on Keenan’s part; neither adjective I’d normally attach to him. Yes, we can all look to Calgary’s Naheed Nenshi as living, breathing proof that an unknown entity can come out of seemingly nowhere to score an improbable victory. ignoreOutsider candidates should look to Nenshi to see how exactly he and his team pulled that off. But to point to that very, very rare example and conclude it’s all about a little innovative DIY, and that somehow the media’s exclusionary practices to all but the few anointed candidates doesn’t play into the fringe determination of the many, that only truly viable candidates will earn a place in the spotlight, I think ignores just how a vast majority of the voting public gets their information and processes it in determining what way their support is going to go.

disappointingly submitted by Cityslikr


Municipal Governance Election Manual

March 16, 2014

boxofideas

Last week in The Grid, Edward Keenan laid out an extensive campaign platform, urging municipal candidates to steal it from him. Since the official start to the race on January 2nd, we here at All Fired Up in the Big Smoke have been thinking similar thoughts, building a 10 point policy proposal of our own in the hopes that it might help contribute to the election conversation. Our Municipal Governance Election Manual, we’ve dubbed it and, like Mr. Keenan, we too advocate for any and all candidates to shamelessly pilfer from it, picking and choosing the elements they like and agree with, and hopefully, expanding on them, fluffing them out to reveal a beautiful and beguiling plumage.

The manual lacks the specifics of Mr. Keenan’s platform. It could be because we’re less exacting and fundamentally lazier than he is. But we’d like to think it has to do with wanting to keep it more general in order to encourage interested candidates to adopt and make them their own. Fill in the particulars. Personalize it.

Today for the first time, we’re listing our ideas all in one post to spare everybody the hassle of clicking through all the annoying links and keeping all those tabs open (although we have kept links to each of the 10 points if you want to read about them in more detail). You’re welcome, Toronto.

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So, here it is, All Fired Up in the Big Smoke Municipal Governance Election Manual:

1) Residents of Toronto are more than taxpayers. We live here. We work here. We play here. We raise families here. The taxes and user fees we pay are simply the cost of doing all these things.

Living in a city, being part of the life that goes on around you, should be tabulated by more than what it costs. Referred to as merely a taxpayer ignores the grander social element of being a city-zen. As Charles Montgomery writes in Happy City, “The city is ultimately a shared project…a place where we can fashion a common good that we simply cannot build alone.”

2) A city is only as good as its public realm. The post-war flight from the public good to private interest has undercut a sense of shared experience in city life. Detached, single family homes, dispersed on big lots, the automobile, shopping malls all represent an elevation of the individual good, a buffer against a collective enterprise.

Take the car (please!) for example.

Huge swaths of public space is designed, built and maintained exclusively for the movement of single individuals driving in their cars. Suggest a more equitable arrangement for other ways to get around, and somehow it’s declared a war. Find somewhere else to go. This is ours.

Again, Charles Montgomery in Happy City: “Rome rose as its wealth was poured into the common good of aqueducts and roads [not just for chariots – me.], then declined as it was hoarded in private villas and palaces.”

community

3) Ease of mobility. Human Transit’s Jarrett Walker’s gave a transit talk a couple months back called Abundant Access: Public Transit As An Instrument of Freedom.

Disproportionately favouring one mode of how we move around this city puts people who don’t need to, want to or can’t afford to use that mode as their primary source of transportation at a disadvantage. Especially if that mode is the least efficient way of moving the most amount of people around the city. It carves out public space in favour of private use.

The only rational, civic-minded approach a municipal candidate can take in terms of transportation policy is a pledge to re-arrange the priorities that have been in place for decades and decades and decades now. It’s been said many times by many people but the goal should be about moving people not cars. Candidates need to be saying it louder and more often.

4) Taxation. Ugghhh. It’s time we stopped referring to taxes as a burden and recognize them for what they are. The only way we build a better city, with a better public realm and provide the most opportunities for the most people.

There’s no other way, folks. Anyone who tries to convince you otherwise, that there’s some magical way out there that we can get everything we want without paying for it is either lying or delusional. Maybe both.

I heard it said at a recent deputation at City Hall, a request to ‘tax us fairly, spend wisely’. We can debate until the cows come home on the concepts of ‘fairly’ and ‘wisely’ but we need to move on past this silly, selfish idea that taxes are bad, a burden. Harkening back again to Charles Montgomery, “The city is a shared project…a place where we can fashion a common good that we simply cannot build alone.” And in the words of one former mayor (more or less), a great city, a prosperous city, a fair city does not come for free.

civicresponsiblity

5) The urban-suburban divide. Governing this city does not have to be a zero-sum game. I mean, it does if you’re trying to promote divisiveness as a political strategy. We are not complete aliens to one another, we Torontonians. Many have grown up in the suburbs and moved to the inner core. Others the reverse.

Of course, some of the challenges we face are different and need different solutions, depending where we live, where we work, where we go to school. One size does not, cannot fit all. But any approach to fixing the problems that currently plague us as a city shouldn’t come at the expense of others. It needs to come at the expense to us all.

6) Civic engagement. It’s more than just voting every 4 years. It’s more than paying taxes. It’s about encouraging participation. It’s about listening to disparate voices beyond those on AM talk radio and in Tim Horton’s line-ups. It’s about opening up decision making beyond just at election day.

7) Civic audacity. Cities, communities, neighbourhoods, streets aren’t built or created on a foundation of no. Aiming higher will yield better results than lowering expectations and demanding little. We need a sense of daring in the face of things that aren’t working. Accepting a broken status quo because that’s the way things have always been done is the surest way to perpetuate both a sense of decline as well as decline itself.

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8) Social justice. If you’re not interested in working for a city that improves the lives and opportunities of everyone living in it, your motives for running for municipal office are suspect. A city pockmarked by inequity, poverty and the daily grind of precariousness is not a place utilizing its greatest resource: the people choosing to live there. Social justice cannot be an abstraction, delivered with an empty slogan. It must be the cornerstone – the policy initiative core — of any municipal politician’s campaign platform.

9) Business plan. Live, play, work. A healthy city must provide all those opportunities for all its residents. None of the three can function properly if any of them aren’t.

Like so many other cities in developed nations, Toronto is undergoing a fundamental workplace change. The manufacturing base has collapsed. Fortunately, the local economy is a diverse one with a firm foothold in both the information and service sectors.

With limited tools at their disposal, municipal politicians must make the best of what they have. Their business strategy has to be more than just promising low taxes, however. They must lay out ideas how to make the city a more attractive place to not only invest in but to work in. Good business instincts aren’t exclusively about saving money.

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10) Rave don’t rage. In many ways, this one’s just a summary of our summary. Using elements of the previous 9 points, our local representatives have to endeavour to make the city sing. We hear talk of wanting to attract the best talent in all walks of life to the city, the best and the brightest, the most innovative and hardest working. You do that by building a city that nobody could imagine living anywhere but there. A place people believe will best provide the necessary conditions for them to flourish, to find fulfilling relationships, raise a family, grow old in.

The city entices because it is enticing.

You want a city people want to live in not one they wind up living in reluctantly, because they have to. In order to do that, you have to show the place a little love, endeavour to do the impossible, stop short-changing it. You need to turn the level of expectation up to 11.

Let me add a final point to this already lengthy post.

bloodsport

11) This doesn’t have to be a blood sport. Sure, elections are tough, sometimes unruly affairs. They are a competition after all.

They don’t have to be cutthroat, however. Fierce is different than vicious. Winning ugly tends not to translate into governing pretty.

Convince us why we should vote for you, why your ideas are better than the other candidates. We can assess your opponents on our own, thank you very much. We don’t need your help in discovering their weaknesses and flaws. Travelling down that path only really makes you look petty and insecure, unfit for public office.

helpfully submitted by Cityslikr


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!

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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!

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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


What Are We Willing To Pay For?

December 16, 2013

At this week’s 2013 final gathering of the tribe, one of the items on city council’s agenda will be boringmeetingthe rate supported budget for next year. This is separate from the operating and capital budgets the budget committee has been publicly wrangling with since late-November, covering water, waste and parking. As ‘rate supported’, technically, these items aren’t funded from the tax base but are maintained by users of the services. Pretty much pay as you go and pretty much by everybody living and/or working in this city.

I won’t get into the details because, well, they’re so bo-o-o-o-r-r-r-r-r-r-ing, except to say that this is the model some members of council would like to see spread through more of the city budget. Taxpayers only paying for those services and programs that they use. During the staff presentations at budget committee last week, certain user fees were recommended to be hiked as high as 6% (2.25% inflationary plus 3.75% additional). devilsinthedetailsOn Friday on Twitter, The Grid’s Edward Keenan pointed out that the ratio between property taxes and user fees that make up the city’s budget jumped from 2.5:1 in 2000 to 1.2:1 in 2014.

We all know the property tax base is not the sharpest tool to use in generating revenue for governments. Property taxes rarely reflect the reality of the current economic climate nor do they always represent accurately those with the best (and worst) ability to pay. It makes sense for a municipality to try to diversify its portfolio of revenue streams.

And, in some ways, the blunt force of something like a consumption tax which, I’d argue water and waste rates based on usage are – the more you use, the more you pay and vice versa – goes toward modifying behaviour. Who doesn’t want to reduce the amount of water we use or how many landfills we fill? In the long run, such measures will prove to be economically beneficial.

But…But… And here’s the tricky part. Should the onus for such an approach fall disproportionately on those most susceptible to changes in cost? waterChances are that if you live someplace with 4 bathrooms (3 of them full) and a extensive sprinkler system in the lawn, you’re going to be less sensitive to increases in water rates than somebody living with their family in 900 square feet and one bathroom. Conservation is simply an economic decision.

We’re also very selective at this point about which users pay more fully for the services and programs they want. You want to use a city run sports field? That’s going to cost you more this year. Drive on the roads? Hell no! We won’t pay!

Next month when council debates the 2014 operating budget we’ll hear much yelling about reducing the Land Transfer Tax. This, we will be told, dampens the market for home buying and selling, although little proof will be offered to back up that claim. nickelanddimeMoreover, the LTT is a burden on those desperately struggling to put together the last few thousand dollars in order to purchase their first home and to seniors, ready to sell their family home and downsize into smaller digs.

I’m not insensitive to those arguments but I’ll just say that it is a concern we should extend to other aspects of living in this city. An individual’s ability to pay for a service or program versus the collective good of that service or program. It’s always a delicate balancing act and one that seems to be trending toward a more pay as you go kind of city. Let’s have that discussion and make sure if that’s the direction we decide to go, it’s applied evenly and fairly so that everyone is paying properly for everything the city provides for them.

monetizingly submitted by Cityslikr


Under The Microscope

December 10, 2013

Today the city begins the next stage of the 2014 budget with 4 days of program and service reviews. microscopeBasically a line by line breakdown of what and how City Hall is spending our money. Our hard-earned tax dollars.

The mayor, in his official capacity as visiting councillor, and his brother, the vice-chair of the budget committee, should both be present if for no other reason than to fully explain how they plan to cut the proposed staff budget in order to deliver on their 1.75% property tax increase (including a .5% for their beloved Scarborough subway). Exactly where is all this gravy that’s been leaking back onto the scene since council stripped the mayor of his power to find efficiencies and respect the taxpayers? Show us your work, gentlemen.

The chances of that happening, of course, are remote. Instead, any appearances the Fords may make will be intermittent at best with periods of heavy grandstanding. $18 million! robbingpeterSurely in a budget of nearly $10 billion we can find .0018 in efficiencies!

No doubt we could but the question this time around should be, should we, and if we do, how be we call them what they really are, cuts.

That’s the reality of even a 2.5% property tax increase with that half percent dedicated to the subway. Another budget below the rate of inflation, so there’s really no new money over all. Just a whole lot of robbing from Peter to pay Paul. For three years now, we’ve been running, grinding really, to a standstill. As this week will show, there really is no more meat to pick from the bones without threatening the vital organs.

Last week, deputant after deputant talked about the inadequacy of the city’s child care and nutritional programs. Our social housing portfolio has shown few signs of improvement. And transit. Well, transit.

It should be clear to anyone that we are not funding our city properly. We cannot, as some have claimed, cut back our way to prosperity. The rollback and freezing of revenues has resulted in reductions of services and programs the city provides. miserly(Ed Keenan shows just a few of the holes Mayor Ford has shot through his laughable 2010 campaign guarantee of no service cuts.)

And hey. If that’s the city you want to live in, where it’s pretty much everybody pay as they go with everything? Have it. Come clean and be up front about it.

I do not want to pay for that.

That should be a campaign platform, frankly.

I’m Not Paying For That.

Actually, that was pretty much what we heard in 2010. I’m not paying for retirement parties, bunny suits, councillor snacks or having plants watered. All stuff that didn’t amount to jack shit except for bad optics. Getting rid of it made no dent in anyone’s tax bills but it sure felt good. We showed those fat cats.

Let’s stop pretending it did anything other than that, however.

badmath1We have stalled in our ability to meet the city’s growing needs, both in terms of population and keeping pace with operational costs. Simply put, there are more of us and the cost of providing the services and programs we want has increased. We are not improving the quality of life for the average resident in Toronto. While there are always tough choices that need to be made, proper city building isn’t a zero sum game.

That should be the theme of this week’s budget program review. How we’re making do with less and somehow expecting better. The numbers simply don’t add up. You can’t have what you’re not willing to pay for. The question going forward is what is you’re willing to pay for?

profligately submitted by Cityslikr


Trapped In An Endless Loop

July 4, 2013

After spending the better part of 13 hours or so in a committee room, I don’t think it unreasonable to expect some sort of return on that investment. dalieyeA little nugget of wisdom. A soupcon of insight. I’d even settle for just one witty bon mot.

Yesterday’s beyond lengthy Executive Committee delivered on all that and more. Without resorting to any Doug Fordian detached from reality over-statement or hyperbole here but I think I can safely say that, by meeting’s end, I had caught a glimpse into Toronto’s troubled, tortured soul.

Yeah OK. I could still be a little fuzzily delusion. It was a long day.

On the one hand we’re like this place itching to be taken seriously as a world-class city. And world-class cities have subways-subways-subways, ferris wheels, casinos and an airport on the waterfront. But in the same breath, if the debate turns to something like the struggles of BIXI with an analysis of how similar bike-sharing programs are working in places like Paris and New York, the response is always, well, we’re not Paris or New York burtlancaster(or London or Chicago), are we.

Small town minds with big city dreams, as Burt Lancaster might’ve said in some movie from the 1950s. In fact, he probably did and I’m lifting it.

So the sense you get is a dog chasing its own tail, going in circles, believing something will be different this time around. Hours and hours Wednesday were taken up on stuff we’ve been rehashing for years. The island airport. Another report on the possibility of extending a subway further into Scarborough. Repealing a tax instituted in 2008.

Governance of the undead. Issues never die. They just lumber forward in search of brains.

Which is exactly why we’re still talking about a Scarborough subway instead of having one, or an LRT that was good to go five years ago. Volumes have been written about our lack of nerve in building needed transit since about, oh I don’t know, when Bill Davis was premier of the province. scroogeLack of nerve combined with a tightness of wallets might be a fairer assessment of the situation.

We are witnessing that inclination to the extreme currently at City Hall. The Executive Committee, the mayor’s handpicked cabinet of sorts, represents the most radical example of this city’s penchant for both fiscal and policy penury. We got great plans, folks. As long as it doesn’t cost us a dime.

Translation? We’re not going to do anything much other than keep everybody’s taxes detrimentally low.

Many of these guys made their mark railing at any and all the initiatives of the previous administration of David Miller and have essentially spent the better part of the last 3 years ripping them to shreds, regardless of the economic consequences or setbacks. Canines — when not chasing their tails — marking their territory and ruining the carpet in the process. Doesn’t matter to them. holdonsecThey can’t smell anything anyway, having cut off their noses and all that.

But it was interesting to note, that when the subject of reducing the Land Transfer Tax came up deep into the evening, there was far from unanimity in the crowd. Mayor Ford’s Executive Committee hasn’t exactly been a band of brothers for some time now (although it most certainly is a bunch of bros at the moment), and it appears as if it’s not regrouping for him on what was a key election issue back in 2010. He promised to get rid of the LTT and has since scaled back on that, eyeing a gradual elimination, starting with 10% next year.

Not so fast, said some key members of his Executive including, and arguably most vocally, councillors Denzil Minnan-Wong and David Shiner. Councillor Minnan-Wong pointed out that, while understanding the mayor’s ‘enthusiasm’ to start repealing the LTT, it wasn’t a campaign promise he had made. Any loss of revenue from the land transfer tax was probably going to have to be made up with higher property tax increases which the councillor was dead set against.

Councillor Shiner was even more adamant in his opposition. He’d spent much of the meeting thundering about the need to find a way to start building transit. canttouchthis“Subways, subways, subways? Where’s the money, money, money?”

We cannot any longer sit on our bottoms and do nothing,” Shiner said during the LTT debate.

While the item was eventually passed along to the budget committee for its deliberation, it’s really, really hard to see it with much of a life expectancy.

Of course, 2014 election watchers will see that and begin to worry about how Mayor Ford will happily use the rejection of any sort of reduction of the Land Transfer Tax as a campaign cudgel. Any loss is a win at this point. Over at The Grid yesterday, Edward Keenan scared the bejesus out of everyone with an article mulling over the very real possibility of Mayor Ford’s re-election next year. Nothing seems to dampen the man’s rock solid base with polls having him at exactly the 47% approval rating he won with in 2010.

But I see some real problems brewing for the mayor going forward.

While he most certainly will hold any defeat of his push to reduce the LTT aloft and blame city council for ignoring his mandate and blocking the will of the people, Mayor Ford won’t be able to just paint City Hall with a simple tax-and-spend brushstroke. armyofoneLast time out, I think fellow conservative travellers like councillors Minnan-Wong and Shiner sat back and let their colleague do his thing in the hopes he’d clear the stink of Millerism out of the place. They’d happily assume positions of power that had been denied them since 2003 or so.

This time out they might not be so quiet.

If conservative councillors like Denzil Minnan-Wong and David Shiner vote against any reduction of the LTT, I imagine they’ll be very forthright explaining to their constituents why. The city can’t afford to lose the revenue especially if it’s actually serious about building public transit. The scenario will be such that conservative councillors in suburban ridings the mayor needs to win will be campaigning against the mayor’s agenda.

Who will Mayor Ford be running against then? Everybody. dejavuAnd that’s a mighty high hill to climb even for an incumbent starting from a solid base of support.

Before embracing what might be a little glimmer of hope, however, it would do well to remember that our city does have a tendency to turn on itself. If history is anything to go by, we could be back having this exact conversation a year, two years, five years, a decade down the road.

repeatedly submitted by Cityslikr

 


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