More Of The Mayor’s Magical Musings

January 24, 2011

“To be a world class city, at least a North American world class city, we need an NFL team.”

– Councillor Doug Ford, older, allegedly smarter brother of Mayor Rob Ford.

If there’s another statement that would better reveal this administration’s horrifying ignorance about what makes a city vibrant, livable, “world class”, it would have to be grunted by a speaker who’s covered in their own feces. Assuming the mayor agrees with his brother’s view (a fair one to make, I think, given the cover of the newspaper the story appeared in), we bear witness to yet another dimension in the realm of the mayor’s magical thinking. You can cut taxes and not cut services. If you absolutely have to have public transit, subways are always better than any alternative. Professional sports franchise equals civic health.

Look down there at Detroit. After decades of on-field futility, their Lions showed signs of life this past season. Can recovery be far behind for the city?

It seems the mayor and his brother headed off to Chicago this weekend on a fact-finding mission to take in the NFC conference championship game. Because, it stands to reason, that if a world class city needs an NFL franchise, having a winning franchise will make a city even more world classier. Why, winning the Super Bowl just last year, turned every Hurricane Katrina induced disaster around for the city of New Orleans.

Hopefully while in The Windy City, the mayor and his brother managed to find time to take in some other sights outside of Soldier Field that contribute to Chicago’s vitality. Just down the lake from where they would’ve seen the Packers defeat the hometown Bears, there’s the Art Institute. A little further from AIC, there’s Millennium Park with its Frank Gehry Pritzker Pavilion, built on former industrial railroad land. It’s all part of a renovated waterfront that reclaimed the lake. A familiar sounding problem, Mayor Ford?

Or maybe the mayor and his brother rode around for a bit on the Chicago transit system, just to see how other cities of comparable size move their people around. Not being knowledgeable enough myself to know how it matches up to ours, I’ll assume neither is the mayor. It’d be nice to think that he took the opportunity to help enlighten himself further on the pressing issue of public transit.

And while they were at it, I wonder if the mayor and his brother sought the advice of anyone who could give them a hands-on account of how the privatization of parking in Chicago has worked out. Since his budget chief has mused publicly about the necessity of the city being in the parking business, the mayor certainly needs to take some time to weigh the issue fully to see if other places benefited from such a move. Some due diligence done on either side of a football game.

On the other hand, maybe this whole call for an NFL team was simply a dog whistle that only the mayor’s supporters could hear. After a week of sometimes bruising public consultations over the proposed budget where it became crystal clear that the mayor wouldn’t be able to maintain his campaign promise of holding the line on taxes without cutting services, they needed a diversionary tactic. Hey! Look over here! The NFL! Remember? The mayor loves football. Just like you and me.

As cynical as that would be, it’d still beat the mayor and his brother actually believing that having an NFL team in Toronto puts us on the road to world classiness. The simple-mindedness of that is a little too much to bear on a cold Monday morning after a weekend where the Raptors lost their 7th game in a row, the Leafs further mired themselves out of playoff contention and the Blue Jays traded away their center fielder in what was little more than a salary dump. By professional sports franchise standards, Toronto’s sitting on the corner of Shithole & Crack  Alley, smack dab in the middle of Nowhere’s Ville on a rail line that no longer stops here on its way to Classy Town.

abracadabraly submitted by Cityslikr


Another Thought on Toronto’s Governance

September 18, 2010

Just in case anyone thinks it’s Cityslikr who does all the heavy lifting/seminar going around this office, I too was in attendance at Tuesday’s Rethinking Toronto’s Governance session at U of T’s Institute on Municipal Finance and Governance. Simply because he doesn’t have a life and rushes home to immediately put fingertips to keyboard, doesn’t mean he’s the only one who has thoughts on the event. Some like to allow time for percolation and reflection before popping off. Coffee and thinking. Coffee and thinking.

One interesting angle from the session which my colleague did not touch upon was a statement Paul Bedford made about a visiting urban thinker to Toronto. (I don’t take notes. Check the IMFG website when the webcast is posted for exact details.) After a walk throughout the city, this particular individual told Mr. Bedford (and I’m paraphrasing here) that while Toronto was most definitely a city of neighbourhoods, there was no overall cohesive whole.

What?! But that’s the kind of city we are! A city of neighbourhoods. Please don’t call our identity into question.

It’s an interesting observation even if perhaps apocryphal, given how well it aligned with the gist of Mr. Bedford’s talk especially when taken with Kyle Rae’s view that council remains ward-centric and many citizens refuse to let go of ‘old’ Toronto (and Etobiocoke and North York et al) and embrace the amalgamated entirety. How do you build one city from six? Is it possible to unite around a place called Toronto when many of its components (Etobicoke and North York et al) resent and dislike the very name of it unless it precedes the words `Maple Leafs’?

The Board of Trade’s Richard Joy was pessimistic that it could be done. Saying that it was strictly his opinion and not that of the TOB and refusing to use the word ‘de-amalgamation’ (there are precedents for that sort of thing, ie Montreal), he did wonder if the megacity was a failed experiment. In a peculiar twist from that thought, he expressed more interest in a region wide approach to governance. 416 and 905. Big and small. Small and big.

These are interesting times, here in Toronto. Living in a city that isn’t comfortable in its own skin. Factional about urban planning. Jealous like siblings over how our resources are spent. And now preyed upon and exploited by mayoral candidates who campaign within the fault lines while vowing to lead us, followed, of course, by a disingenuously heart-felt I Love My City coda.

This divide we’re dealing with is, like the supposed red state-blue state division expounded upon endlessly in the U.S., what I think is called a heuristic technique. (At least I hope so because the other word that comes to mind is `hirsute’ and that puts a different spin on the matter, entirely.) I’m quoting E. Barbara Phillips here, heuristic: “a model, assumption or device that is not necessarily scientifically true but is a useful tool to aid in the discovery of new relationships.”

Or perhaps in the case of our mayoral campaign, a model, assumption or device not necessarily scientifically true but useful to divide and conquer.

Are there differences between the downtown core and the inner suburbs? No doubt. Some are desirable; the unique cogs that make up this thing we call diversity. But what about those differences that are less positive? Can they be overcome? Well, that’s the 11.6 billion dollar question. They certainly can’t be if whatever inequities and imbalances do exist aren’t addressed directly by those wanting to be our next mayor instead of being used as a wedge to drive the two solitudes further apart merely for electoral gain.

If we can’t outgrow this largely mental divide — that there’s a war on cars, that downtown elites are dining on caviar harvested from the sweat of toil of hardworking suburban regular Joes, that Scarberians only want to be left alone to sit in their underwear eating BBQ on their John Deeres – we should just call it a day, cut our losses and go our separate ways. After asking permission from the province, of course. It isn’t possible to coalesce into a more unified entity when our fledgling leaders endeavour to lead by promoting disharmony.

That’s what we call a lack of vision, and the absolute last thing Toronto can endure at this juncture in its existence. We need to see what it is that makes us one city. Those commonalities unique to this place that differentiates us not from each other but from other places, other cities, other regions. The civic glue holding Toronto together in good times and bad.

Is there any aside from following professional sports teams that suck? If not, well then, these municipal elections amount to little more than futile exercises that occur every four years, serving only to get everyone’s hackles up before we all retreat back into our 44 little enclaves, telling each other to stay the hell off our lawn.

neighbourly submitted by Urban Sophisticat


We Don’t Know Hockey But Know Somebody Who Does

September 9, 2010

(Just in case you’re getting tired of hearing the same old nat-nat-nattering from these quarters, we thought it’d be good to change it up a bit today. So, ladies and gentlemen, we bring you a guest commentator…)

*  *  *

This week in Eye Weekly, Shawn Micallef wrote a perspicacious open letter to George Smitherman, urging the Toronto mayoral candidate to be more like Wendel Clark than Tie Domi. Although I am not a Maple Leaf fan, I’ve watched the team for decades and inevitably started wondering what Leafs our former mayors most resemble:

* David Crombie = Ted Kennedy

Okay, I never saw Kennedy play—I’m not that old—but many hockey historians consider him the greatest Leaf ever. Captain for eight years, “Teeder” helped the team win the Stanley Cup five times and was the last Leaf to win the Hart Memorial Trophy as the league’s most valuable player. Mayor from 1972 to 1978, Crombie led a reform council that left a legacy the city has coasted on for decades. We still remember him fondly as Toronto’s Tiny Perfect Mayor.

* John Sewell = Frank Mahovlich

A big, supremely talented player, the Big M helped the Leafs win the Stanley Cup four times. And yet, management mistreated him and fans booed him. Sewell had been a smart and scrappy activist alderman, but after he had the temerity to suggest Toronto cops were anything less than tops, he lasted just one term as a bike-riding, rights-defending mayor. Pearls before swine, I guess.

* Art Eggleton = Inge Hammerstrom

An ineffectual player, Hammerstrom could, according to owner Harold Ballard, “go into the corners with eggs in his pockets and not break one of them.” Eggleton was equally ineffectual. Unfortunately, he lasted longer as mayor than the Swedish winger lasted as a Leaf—and a lot of things broke in Toronto while he was in office.

The Other Swede

* June Rowlands = Tie Domi

A classic NHL goon, Domi served as Leaf enforcer. Rowlands ran for mayor on a law and order platform, but is best remembered for banning the Barenaked Ladies, an innocuous Scarborough pop group, from performing at Nathan Phillips Square. While both Domi and Rowlands were embarrassing, the big difference between the two was that Domi was, inexplicably, wildly popular in Toronto.

* Barbara Hall = Mats Sundin

The only Swedish player to score 500 NHL goals, the talented Sundin was a rare likable player on a team full of unlikable ones (Tie Domi, Darcy Tucker, Shayne Corson). Hall was mayor during Premier Mike Harris’s war on the city. Like Sundin, she served with class during a difficult era.

* Mel Lastman = Tiger Williams

A notorious bad boy, Williams remains the NHL’s all-time penalty leader. Some hockey fans thought he was a goof; others found him entertaining. Ditto for Lastman.

* David Miller = David Keon

When I was a kid, the hockey magazines I devoured regularly referred to the small, skillful Keon as “pound for pound the best player in the NHL.” Although he was one of the greatest players to ever don a Leaf sweater, his relationship with the team eventually soured and he split. As mayor, Miller had smarts, skill and vision—and was equally underappreciated. But many of the mayor’s supporters have a nagging suspicion that, like Keon, who won the Lady Byng Memorial Trophy as the league’s most gentlemanly player, the mayor would have been even more effective if he’d had Gordie Howe’s elbows.

skates strapped on-edly submitted by Tim Falconer, author of Drive: A Road Trip through Our Complicated Affair with the Automobile


Angry Rant #2 (He Said #2. Hee, hee. Hee, hee.)

July 11, 2010

(In a bid to be seen as less partisan and as fair and balanced as the next guy, we here at All Fired Up in the Big Smoke periodically hand over blog space to some Angry Torontonian who has something to vent about. We take no responsibility for the content of said rants and look upon it like a public service on our part. You’re welcome, Toronto.)

OK, so how many ways to Sunday do we have to be told here in Toronto that we suck?

First by God with an earthquake and then a monsoon rain and then a blistering heat wave you normally have to go someplace like the tropics to get. Next comes the politicians and police from all over the country and the world, strutting into town and kicking some serious butt and showing them who’s who and what’s what. Take that, you protesting hippie freaks. (And don’t kid yourself, every one of you involved in protesting. You’re all hippie freaks to us right thinking, meat and potatoes, hardworking, ‘other’ Torontonians who have better things to do than ‘protest’ like keep down a job. As our man said, the police were too nice.)

Finally, another overpaid American superstar jock has told us to get lost. He’s taking his act down to the Heat of Miami where he plans on winning himself a boatload of championship titles. Totally his right but it’s at times like these when I wish I believed in the whole global warming garbage. The oceans would rise and wash away all those players’ mansions in south Florida and they would come running back here, begging to play where it’s nice and cozy and dry.

But it could be worse, Toronto. It could always be worse if you lived in Cleveland.

Personally speaking, I’ve stopped watching sports. Why bother? The Leafs haven’t won a Cup since before my dad was born. The Jays play in a warehouse not a baseball diamond. Toronto FC just flat out scares me because, I mean, how can all those people get so excited about a game like that? Hasn’t the World Cup taught us anything? Soccer’s boring!

And forget basketball. Why? Just because of this whole Chris Bosh thing. Another example of the fact that good American basketball players come up here to play only if they absolutely have to or if we pay them way too much. And if good American basketball players won’t play up here we don’t have a hope in hell of ever winning anything aside from high placed lottery picks who all just piss off at the first opportunity. It’s what they call a ‘vicious circle’.

Of course, that means European players love to play basketball in Toronto because there’s no pressure on them to try and win. They’re just in it for the love of the game (or to get away from whatever backwater hellhole they call home). They all look pretty but don’t want to get their hands dirty in the messy business of winning in the NBA. Another case of a ‘vicious circle’ where we can’t win because we can’t keep players who want to win and anybody who wants to play here wants to play here because they don’t have to win.

So I say, why bother? If everybody on the playing field is only looking out for #1, why shouldn’t we? Besides, it’s not as if any of them actually come from here anyways. This is their office. They’re just doing their jobs. We shouldn’t judge ourselves by what our sports’ teams are doing. Just because they’re losers, doesn’t mean that we’re losers.

I mean, we are losers but not because our teams suck but because a lot of us suck. Like most of our politicians who show us taxpayers no respect. They throw themselves retirement parties and expect us to pay the bill! Those people suck. And do nothing unions suck who think it’s their right to pick up our garbage whenever they want. Or drive our buses while loaded. Or fall asleep at the ticket counter. No wonder they can’t keep on schedule. All union members suck.

People who ride bikes everywhere suck. Grow up and get your license already. Police haters suck. You can only hate the police because they let you hate the police. If the police didn’t let you hate them then you’d be living in someplace like Chile or wherever you can’t criticize anybody without going to jail. So you police haters suck.

Gay people suck, and I don’t mean it like that. We shouldn’t be giving them all that money so they can march and prove to everybody they’re gay. Yeah, we get it, OK? Where’s my money so I can parade around and tell everybody I’m not gay aside from that one year at summer camp? In fact, I tried to do that just the other day and the Shriners told me to take a hike. So the Shriners suck.

So you see, Toronto. It’s not that you don’t suck. You do. It’s just that you don’t suck because all your sports’ teams suck. That’s got nothing to do with it so you should just stop worrying about it. There’s plenty of other suck in the city to go around. We don’t need to go out and find more reasons why we do.

So let’s all stop crying over being jilted or whatever by Chris Bosh. Toronto sucked before he came along. Hell, we sucked before the Raptors came along. We will continue to suck long after he’s retired from basketball with all his money and championship rings. Stop blaming other people for why we suck. As my crazy aunt used to say, it’s all so downright undignified.

angrily submitted by an Angry Torontonian


You May Say That He’s A Dreamer…

February 2, 2010

Adam Giambrone has a huge set of balls. They must be so big that he has to leave one at home anytime he goes out because it would be impossible to cart around both at the same time for fearing of falling forward onto this face. We’re talking major league cojones.

How else to explain his declaration yesterday to run for mayor of Toronto? Adam Giambrone 2010. It’s a suicide mission. A World War I-like lurch up and out of the trenches onto the muddy, bloody, barbed wire fields of gore where the only realistic expectation is to be cut down in your prime. Giambrone is either deluded, blindly full of himself, youthfully idealistic or ambitious beyond the pale. Quite possibly, it’s a combination of all of the above.

Most rational politicians in his position would scan the political landscape in front of them and decide to sit this one out. There is anti-incumbency in the air; howls for the heads of any elected official held responsible for the abysmal shape of things. Look outside your windows, people! Crime is rampant. Roads are clogged and filled with rage. Rats have overrun the subways cars. And the Leafs, oh the Leafs.

Somebody’s got to pay. So if Giambrone were smart, he’d keep his head low, his ward 18 constituents happy and settle back into council this fall as one of the progressive headliners, standing up to the reactionary element that’s been beating its chest in these early days of the campaign. He bears a double burden this election. As chairman of the TTC, Giambrone is the poster boy for all that’s wrong in the eyes of the media with our public transportation system. A coddler of evil unions, he’s also portrayed as one of Mayor Miller’s minions which is a bad space to be occupying presently.

Yet, there he was in front of a raucous crowd that was packed to the rafters in a bar in Little Italy, going public with his preposterously unlikely bid. So unlikely that cynics have suggested he is simply raising his profile and will retreat back to his ward race by September. That doesn’t make a whole lot of sense as Giambrone’s got a fairly high profile as it is albeit largely negative if our daily papers are to be believed. If he is using this now as a profile raiser it would be for an all out run at the job in 4 years time after he steps away from the partisan rancor of City Hall and is seen to be doing good deeds in a social agency or the private sector. Or with an eye toward provincial or federal elections in the near future, what with the French and Arabic he was throwing around during his speech.

(proof author was present last night)

Although judging from that speech last night, Giambrone seemed to be in this thing to win. He was passionate, articulate and spelled out the reasons why he wanted to be mayor. Yes, much of it was filled with broad generalities and pep rally platitudes (Better Tomorrows, Brighter Futures and all that). Still, I got a sense of the kind of city he wanted to build. Prosperous, of course, but with an emphasis on an equality of opportunity for everyone living here and not just us downtown fat cats and upscale suburban types. But even for those toiling away in Scarborough!

While short on details, he laid out in broad strokes how he wanted to do this. Ease of access on multiple levels. Opening voting to landed immigrants who have a stake in the city. Continued intensification of community policing in order to not only make neighbourhoods safer but to reduce a siege mentality that has descended on some places. And rather than run and hide from his TTC ties, Giambrone feistily embraced it, fully behind the idea of Transit City, explaining that making it easy to get to work and back home and to all places in between will ultimately connect and bind people, neighbourhoods and communities.

So a full All Fired Up in the Big Smoke endorsement, you ask? Hardly. While impressed certainly, the devil will be in the details. Among other things, we most certainly will want to hear from AG, how he’s going to deal with the constant fiscal shortfalls that the city faces and the seemingly intractable approach City Hall has in coming up with solutions to that pressing problem.

That said, Giambrone projected a positive, can-do spirit as he entered the race, stating that Toronto is a good place to live. As mayor, he just wants to help make it better. A welcome relief from his opponents who are big on the cut, slash, cracking heads, general all round panic rhetoric that makes great headlines but seldom improves lives. That’s what running for public office should be about, right?

cautiously optimistically submitted by Cityslikr


Military On Ice

January 31, 2010

So there I was, minding my own business, having popped in from the cold to play some pool (badly), down some drinks (goodly), clog the arteries with some deep fried goodness (high blood pressuredly). I was quietly rocking out to an anti-John Hughes 80s soundtrack punctuated by the occasional Beatles song which may be the perfect way to listen to The Beatles. One song at a time surrounded by a bunch of music that you actually enjoy. Deep in the background on a massive TV the CBC’s Hockey Day in Canada droned on, mutedly.

Then it happened. Pre-Leafs-Canucks game, our waiter turns up the volume on the television. On it, military personnel start appearing and a Hummer pulls up outside an arena in Stratford, Ontario (host to this year’s HDC). Out steps Ron McLean, a garishly dressed Don Cherry (natch) and a similarly attired kid (ghastly). They make their way into the rink and onto the red carpet where they blather on about the Canadianess of the game of hockey, Our Game®©™. Our servicemen (and women) fill up the cutaway shots.

Jump to the ACC in Toronto where the awesome display of martialistic jingoism continues. Members of the army, navy, air force (we have an air force, don’t we?) fill the screen. Some guy who looks like Tom Cochrane in fatigues but isn’t sings some lame Canada is Hockey, Hockey is Canada, And We Love Our Fightin’ Force Who Is Keeping Us Strong And Free song. By which time, I am completely flummoxed. Who handed over pageantry planning to the dunderheaded Don Cherry?!  (Tip of the hat goes to Christine B. for that notion.)

Just when I thought it couldn’t get worse, it did. Spectacularly. Down from the rafters, a figure in full battle regalia awkwardly rappels toward centre ice. Safely landing, it is revealed to be former Leaf great, 85 year-old Johnny Bower. YEAAAAAHHHHHH! YEAAAAHHHHHH FUCKING YEAAAHHHHHH!!!!!!! Johnny Bower in army gear! YEAAAAHHHHHH!!! Wearing a fucking helmet! YEAAAHHHHHHH!!!! What’s next? The dug up remains of Tim Horton and Conn Smythe shot out of a canon? YEAAAHHHHH!!!!!

What the fuck happened to us? When did we officially become American? Isn’t hockey smash your face, beat your chest macho enough without introducing a dick swinging, I love a man in uniform element to it?

A few years back, I was wandering around Melbourne, Australia, taking in the sights. Now, Australia’s a county that shares much in common with Canada although, unfortunately, not the climate. But on the flipside, we don’t have snakes here that can kill you if you even so much as look into their dark, soulless eyes. Both countries were “founded” by European stock who barbarously de-populated their respective lands of its aboriginal inhabitants. We came of age on the international scene by offering our young men up as fodder in the completely senseless slaughter of World War I. Something in which we take a huge amount of historical pride.

In Melbourne, that pride is on display in the form of numerous cenotaphs and statues throughout the city. It struck me when I was there, how quiet Canadians were in terms of trumpeting our military past. Sure, we’ve got our Vimy monument and tomb of the unknown soldier but we always seemed humble in our acknowledgement.

That seems to have all changed now. Fight fear. Fight chaos. Fight distress. Fight. Fight! FIGHT! FIGHT!! FIGHT!!! YEAAAHHHHHHH!!!! Jack Bauer?! Fuck that. We got Johnny Bower! In fatigues! Dangling from a rope, high above centre ice!

And spare me, the whole support our troops trope. If that’s all you got, then you’ve ceded rational discourse to the lame ass, simple-minded sloganeering of George W. Bush, Don Cherry and Rick Hillier. War should only be used as a last, desperate measure and not wielded as some cheap, easy to score PR stunt. I watch hockey to watch the Leafs lose not to bear witness to our fidelity to the fighting men and women in uniform. That’s what the History Channel’s for.

testily submitted by Cityslikr


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