Toronto, Order Must Be Restored, Our Strength

October 19, 2014

If nothing else good comes out of this 2014 municipal election (and yes, I assume nothing good will come out of it as it’s just easier to deal with the crushing disappointment that way), diversityourstrengthI hope that we will finally lower that torn and frayed Toronto the Good, Diversity, Our Strength flag, bundle it off, put a frame around it and hang it somewhere in the basement of City Hall with a placard: Historical Curio, and underneath: We Really Thought That?

Yes, apparently we did.

And yet…

The latest burp of racist indigestion during the campaign appeared in a Globe and Mail article written by David Hains on the race in Ward 7 York West, the long time domain of Giorgio Mammoliti. It appears Giorgio Mammoliti has a problem with outdoor basketball.

“Some kind of sports just need a bit of supervision, and I think basketball” {blackpeople}* “is one of them,” the councillor said.

“For one reason or another, [basketball hoops] seem to attract the wrong crowd” {blackpeople}* “outside,” Mr. Mammoliti said in a telephone interview.

“What I’ve heard loud and clear is that nobody is playing outdoor basketball” {blackpeople}* “any more, they seem to be selling drugs” {blackpeople}*, Mr. Mammoliti said – a claim, he added, that he heard from the local police division.

He said that at least one of the basketball courts {blackpeople}* has been replaced with outdoor ball hockey {whitepeople}*, which has made it safer for families {whitepeople}*.

*italics ours.

This after news of a candidate in Ward 2 Etobicoke North, Munira Abukar, having her election signs defaced with Go Back Home and mayoral candidate Olivia Chow also told to Go Back To China. dogwhistleWe heard too that another mayoral candidate, Doug Ford, is not in the least bit anti-Semitic. Why some of the best lawyers/doctors/accountants he knows are Jewish.

Isolated incidents, signifying little more than outlying racism, you think? Nothing to see here except for a handful of bully bigots? There’s no such thing as “white privilege”, says a third mayoral candidate although he’s revised that thinking. “There are people who are not treated fairly based on the colour of their skin,” John Tory later told Daniel Dale.

The first step to dealing with a problem is admitting there’s a problem to be dealt with.

Royson James’ sprawling, troubling and problematic epic of a column pretty much lays out Toronto — politically, socially, geographically – here in 2014. It comes on the heels of last week’s Real City Matters, Can’t We All Just Get Along? 3citiesThe city isn’t so much Good as it is divided. Along racial, economic, social, cultural and geographic lines. Divisions easily exploited by self-serving and havoc-wreaking politicians like the Fords and their ilk.

We can hide behind all the indices we want, the world’s 4th best city to live or do business in or whatever. But we can no longer pretend that such bounty applies to everyone city-wide. Access to opportunity is not equally spread. It is dictated by income and geography which both in Toronto of 2014 run very much in parallel to race.

Look hard at our race for mayor.

Two white men, millionaires both, battle it out for the hearts and minds of our diverse city, assuring all of us they understand what it’s like not to be white, male and worth millions. whiteguymillionairePeople just need a hand up not a hand out, you’ll hear both of them say, like the generous benefactors they tell us they are and will continue to be.

In 3rd place now is a woman, a non-white woman, who entered the race as the presumptive favourite. Lord knows, she’s run a terrible, terrible campaign. We’ve talked about it in these very pages. She ran away from her strengths out of fear for being called out on those very strengths. She took her base for granted, and it wandered off in search of a more edifying candidate long enough for her to drop down in the polls and hand one millionaire man the opportunity to claim that only he could defeat the other millionaire man which was really the only thing this city was pretty much agreed upon.

But aside from championing the Stop the Ford Family movement, how good a campaign has John Tory run? He’s offering nothing of substance on any of Toronto’s most pressing problems. respectableoldetymePoverty, housing, childcare, infrastructure. Just more low taxes and finding efficiencies.

And his transit plan, SmartTrack? Fanciful lines on a map funded by a whole boatload of wishful thinking. Sound familiar, folks?

Issues, however, were never really a part of this campaign. It all boiled down to one thing. Character, and the strength of it.

After 4 years of international embarrassment, only John Tory, we’re told, will restore respectability back to the office of mayor of Toronto. John Tory, a leader in the business community. John Tory, community leader. John Tory, leader.

Toronto the Good re-established under the symbol of a white male millionaire who’s only different from the previous white male millionaire in matters of style and presentation.

elephantintheroom2

Diversity, Our Strength? We’ll just have to go along pretending that’s a thing for a little bit longer.

subdudely submitted by Cityslikr


It’s All In The Presentation

October 17, 2014

Last night, as an October’s worth of rain fell around the city, CBC hosted its mayoral debate. Streets, a subway station flood, power outages here and there. heavyrainFor what? The third time in over just a year, if not a storm of the century, an outburst of weather that Toronto clearly is not up to handling.

Yes, we have an infrastructure deficit. One that’s only going to get bigger unless we deal with it, head on.

Yes, we have a child-care deficit. One that’s only going to get bigger unless we deal with it, head on.

Yes, we have an affordable housing deficit, a looming crisis really. One that’s only going to get bigger unless we deal with it, head on.

Yes, we have a transit deficit. (I don’t really have to link this one, do I?) One that’s only going to get bigger unless we deal with it, head on.problems

And yet, here we are, just over 9 months into the campaign and none of these things are we talking about dealing with head on. At least the mayoral front runners are doing anything but. Olivia Chow has been talking the issues up lately. Long shot candidate Ari Goldkind’s built a platform around them. Long gone candidate David Soknacki built a campaign on the platform people wanted to talk about these issues head on.

He miscalculated.

What we want, evidently, from this election is to restore our respectability in the eyes of the world, by chasing all the buffoonery, malice and low-brow spectacle from the mayor’s office, clear out of City Hall. Toronto is tired of being embarrassed. Toronto yearns once more to be world class, with a world class mayor.

Whoever promises to do that for us, well, they’ve got our vote for mayor. No other questions asked. Certainly not answered.

As for the rest of it? M’eh. What are you gonna do? personalitycontestAs long as we have a mayor in place who isn’t smoking crack, it’s all good. Baby steps, eager pants. Baby steps.

Very adroitly, the John Tory team framed this election as one about personalities not issues. Conveniently so too since he really had no issues to run on despite his self-proclaimed years as a civic advocate for the city. That infrastructure deficit? Don’t worry. Property tax increases at or below the rate of inflation will fix that. Child-care? Provincial government’s problem. Affordable housing deficit? Let the feds take care of it. Youth unemployment and a growing inequality gap? Good jobs. Private sector. Sobeys. My rolodex.

But his real doozy comes in response to our transit deficit.

SmartTrack.

A totally unworkable, unfunded piece of transit planning sorcery rivalling the slogan-heavy and equally laughable Subways! Subways! Subways! from the Ford Brothers.brushitoff

It’s not that our new emperor has no clothes. It’s that, as the Torontoist referred to John Tory, he’s “…just Rob or Doug Ford in a better suit.”

If the polls are to be believed, a plurality of Torontonians are OK with that. In fact, polls suggest over 70% of voters in Toronto are fine and dandy with the Ford policies dressed up in John Tory’s button-down, Bay Street attire. Some will protest and tell you, hey, it’s not that they’re voting Tory because they like him, it’s that he’s the only one who can beat Doug Ford. They’ll keep insisting on that even though the likelihood of a Doug Ford victory dims with each day we get closer to the election.

If this all comes to pass and the election plays out as we’re told it’s going to, there’s no reason to think these things that actually matter, transit and congestion, welldressedmancrumbling infrastructure, affordable housing crunch, increased inequality, will be addressed in any sort of substantive manner. Why should we expect they would? John Tory has shown he doesn’t actually give a toss about any of that. He just wants you to know he’s not Doug Ford and that’s all that really matters.

We seem shallow enough to be poised to agree with him and make John Tory our next mayor.

frankly submitted by Cityslikr


A Promising Start

October 16, 2014

So it seems (based on the first day of advance polling, at least) that voters in Toronto are rip-roaring to get out there and cast a ballot in this year’s municipal election. crowdThe city clerk informed us that the one-day turnout on Tuesday nearly doubled 2010’s 6 weekday totals, some 28,000+ to the previous 16 K. The single day turnout came in at over one-third of 2010’s total advance voter numbers.

The tea leaves were quickly read. Tory supporters of all stripes getting out there to fend off the Ford horde. Chow voters quickly casting their ballot before giving over to the fear induced Anyone But Ford stampede. People just getting into line because they heard it was for Ford bobbleheads.

Actually, no. I didn’t hear anyone make the claim.

The conventional wisdom seems to suggest that increased voter turnout doesn’t tend to augur well for the incumbent, if there’s an incumbent, and yes, there’s an incumbent. A betting man might see the advance poll numbers and lay down large on Doug Ford not winning this thing, maybe not even placing. kickthebumsoutIf there’s one thing a rock solid majority of Torontonians can agree on at this point, it’s that we don’t want to see another Ford sitting in the mayor’s office come October 28th (or whenever it is the next council is officially sworn in.)

Let me just take the opportunity to say, if that’s the case, if the Ford era days are numbered, our job here is not done. No, no, no, my pretties. It has just begun.

As we have learned over the course of the past 4 years, the notion that simply voting as your one act of civic duty is insufficient to the proper maintenance of local democracy. Regardless of who becomes our next mayor, we can no longer sit back, grab a drink and hope for the best. Chasing one bad politician from office will not magically make the city’s problems disappear. rollingrockTo declare the war won is to sweep everything under the carpet. Out of sight, out of mind.

Engagement is ongoing. Vote with hope but work for results. We cannot leave the future well-being of Toronto in the hands of our politicians. As a group they’ve shown not always to have the best interests of the city or its residents at heart. It is up to us to continue working with our politicians (and against them, if need be) to keep reminding them of who it is they’ve actually been elected to represent.

enthusiastically submitted by Cityslikr


Racist Profile

October 15, 2014

I am a racist.

I am racist.

Note the nuanced difference between the two statements. Racist, in the first, as a noun. Racist, in the second, an adjective. The first acts upon those racist inclinations. racistThe second simply possesses the qualities of racism.

A subtle, perhaps meaningless distinction.

At last night’s 3rd installment of the Real City Matters series, this one called, Can’t We All Just Get Along? How do we talk about—or fail to talk about—race, class, and geography in a sprawling and diverse megacity? And how can we learn to talk about those things better?, panelist Linda Gibbs responded to the question from forum moderator, Desmond Cole, on why we have such a hard time discussing racism. “We’re afraid of our own racism.”

Racist? Who me?! Come on. Rob Ford’s a racist! I’m not a racist.

And the denial spreads.

Toronto is not a racist place. Sure, there are racist individuals living here who occasionally let fly with their disgusting behaviour (Go Back to China! Just Go Back Home!). But they’re anomalies, exceptions proving the rule. Diversity, Our Strength, remember?racist2

And then we find ourselves living in a city that’s more and more delineated along the lines of poverty, opportunity, class with one inextricable link running through them all. Race.

I wouldn’t dare speak for all white people but I’m going out on a limb to offer a broad generalization here. Few of us, of my vintage and from where I grew up, could claim not to be racist. We learned life through a very narrow lens. Our history, as they say, was written by the victors.

So, you know, black people, they can dance, am I right? They’re fantastic athletes but aren’t so good at learning. The Indians (our Indians), if only they could handle their liquor better. The Asians, on the other hand, industrious and driven to succeed. Maybe they could just take a little more time and figure out how to drive better. Oh, and stop eating cats.

It would take a person far more single-minded and strong-willed than I am not to have internalized that prevailing social prejudice. That’s not where the problem lies however. The problem lies in our inability to accept the fact we’ve internalized such racism, to ignore it, to pretend it doesn’t exist.racist1

The racist is guided by those internalized values. Someone acknowledging their internalized racism is always on guard to make sure their opinions or attitudes don’t reflect that racism. Racism doesn’t stand up to ‘political correctness’. A racist does.

A racist would say something like, Yeah well, Toronto might have some race problems, but it’s not Ferguson, Missouri.

Say that to a black person living in Toronto. Tell them Toronto’s not as bad as Ferguson, Missouri. Say that and watch their reaction.

It is not lost on me that, after nearly 5 years of obsessively watching and writing about municipal politics in Toronto that I’ve planted my flag firmly in the transit file. It’s safe. It’s theoretical. It’s about a thing not people. A thing moving people.

Sure, there’s a hint of social justice to it. I’ve wrapped myself in that warm blanket. racist3Getting reliable, fast transit to those neighbourhoods and communities that are under-served and dependent on it. I can argue it as a piece of the opportunity puzzle. Hey! I’m doing my part in making the city a fairer, more equitable place to live.

What more do these people want?

And there’s the thing. That’s what you’d call ‘privilege’. I get to sit here and concentrate on the one aspect of life in the city that, I don’t know, interests me, catches my fancy, affects me, more or less, when I choose to take transit. It isn’t necessarily white privilege but it certainly has to do with income, class, geography which is very much reflected by my whiteness.

To imagine otherwise, to think I am where I am, I am who I am, through no connection at all to the colour of my skin is, aside from pure fantasy, simply racist. It’s to pretend race no longer factors into whose voices get heard up on the stage of public discourse, who gets what job, which apartment, racism4who gets stopped by the police for no other reason than where they happen to be. It’s awarding myself a meritless merit badge for a job well done.

It absolves me of any responsibility for the direction this city is going in. If neither racism nor privilege are a thing, then there’s a more acceptable rationalization for our growing income gap, our increasingly segregated communities, our ease accepting the divisions throughout the city.

Claiming racism is a cop out. There just has to be a better explanation. There has to be or otherwise, I might have to re-think my whole way of looking at the world.

confessingly submitted by Cityslikr


My Lunch With Andray

October 14, 2014

We’ve been writing much here at All Fired Up in the Big Smoke during our conversations with city council candidates about the battle many of them face with a lack of nurtured, encouraged civic engagement. disengagedThis has been especially noticeable to me in the former municipalities of the so-called inner suburbs. Etobicoke. York. North York. Scarborough.

And then there’s ‘enforced disengagement’.

This was a topic of discussion I had last week with Ward 2 Etobicoke North council candidate, Andray Domise. We endorsed Mr. Domise a couple weeks back but hadn’t actually talked to him in person save a couple quick handshakes at a few public functions where our paths had crossed. I quickly realized that the subject of civic engagement was, I don’t know, a theoretical one for me while for Domise and the other candidates running in Ward 2, it was very, very real.muniraabukar

Most of us have heard by now of the sign wars going on up in the ward. Fellow Ward 2 candidate Munira Abukar was nastily instructed to ‘Go Back Home’ on her signs, part of a disturbing racist outburst that has occurred during the later part of the campaign. Domise too has had sign battles, defaced and replaced in a concerted effort to keep his campaign team otherwise occupied.

We can try and shrug it off as the usual electioneering antics and tactics but it’s hard not to see it as having a chilling effect on both candidates and residents alike. Who wants to put their name forward or speak out publicly if the reaction you’re going to get is based on nothing more than your skin colour or ethnicity? Go back home. You’re not wanted here. Your opinions don’t count.

Neither does your vote.

Hardly the environment to cultivate civic engagement.

Making matters worse, of course, is that Ward 2 is the Ford family’s playground. You only had to look at this campaign to realize just how entitled they feel they are to it. wardbossDoug Ford, one-term councillor, announces he’s had enough of municipal politics and will be leaving. In his place they attempt to prop up 20-something nephew, Mikey, and keep him away from any and all media. Rob, the mayor and former councillor, gets sick, decides instead to run for his old position in Ward 2 without really campaigning, bumps nephew Mikey to local school trustee candidate, Doug runs for mayor.

All this after Doug parachutes into town in 2010 to claim the Ward 2 council seat, trouncing local activist and 2006 runner-up, Cadigia Ali, by 10,000 votes. “Hope in Ford country”? Don’t think so.

Add in a degree of fatalistic inevitability – the Fords rule this roost – to the sense of racist unwelcoming, only further fuels that ‘enforced disengagement’.

On top of all of this, life for many residents in Ward 2 has not noticeably changed for the better under the 14 year misrule of the Fords. Follow along with Domise’s Twitter feed to see just how little improvement there’s been, how little engagement, interaction even, especially during Doug Ford’s time in office. justanotherpoliticianWhat’s the use of getting involved if the politicians who are going to win anyway do nothing for you? And when you do, when you throw you hat into the political ring, you’re viewed as just another say-anything-do-nothing politician.

Hostility, inevitability, ham-fisted ineptness = apathy, indifference, disengagement.

Yet, despite all this, the council race in Ward 2 has 3 viable candidates challenging the Ford legacy, with the breakout star being Andray Domise. That in itself should be cause for great joy and celebration. I think those of us who’ve never put their names forward for political office, who live in areas of the city not dominated by zero-tolerance for inclusion and engagement, under-estimate just how much courage that takes.

But you can’t simply flick on wider civic engagement like a switch. It doesn’t pop up from fallow ground. There has to be a history to build on. The Fords claim to speak for the people without ever actually having listened to them or actively attempted to let them speak for themselves.civicengagement3

The Ward 2 city council race will be something of a bellwether for the rest of the city indicating just how far along we are down the path of engaged democracy. Andray Domise has emerged as a new voice in support of that civic undertaking and in opposition to our traditional complacent boss politics. This election represents only the beginning of that change. We all will need to pitch in to continue pushing the concept forward.

submitted by Cityslikr


Our Very Own Cody Jarretts

October 12, 2014

There’s just one culprit here, guys.

That somehow the conversation deviated from that this, and finger-pointing elsewhere prevailed, whiteheat2suggests that we’ve allowed the bad guys, the political thugs, to dictate our political reality here in Toronto.

Doug Ford, once more, tried to manhandle a situation and tilt it in his favour. As we should all know by now, that’s what the Fords do. There is no rule they won’t ignore. No sense of decorum they won’t take a dump on. They are The Entitled who walk amongst us. The dudes don’t abide.

So when Doug Ford decided to lean on Friday night’s Inner City Union debate organizers and force them to dis-invite another candidate because, well, Doug didn’t want to be on stage with him that was the only bullshit move that needed to be called out. The rest of it? whiteheat4The who should’ve done what and when in reaction, and by not doing what when, yaddie, yaddie, was nothing more than pure partisan, reactive opportunism.

It simply validated Ford’s political game-playing. That it’s all just game-playing. There are no rules to adhere to. It’s a free-for-all. Tit-for-bloody-tat. A blood sport, just like Doug Ford had predicted months ago.

Once again, Doug Ford tried to kick the shit out of democracy and, once more, too many of us joined in, taking our boots to the battered and bruised body.

The Fords and their dwindling number of fervent supporters are thugs. Straight up. They have no regard for process, little inclination to pay any attention to simple courtesy. Respect? Respect this.

I may be naïve but I’m not naïve enough to believe the other mayoral camps didn’t weigh their reactions to the Ford foot stomping on a political scale. whiteheat3Neither John Tory nor Olivia Chow are served particularly well by having a second nothing-to-lose candidate up on stage, debating them, especially one as articulate and pointed as Ari Goldkind. It’s not hard to imagine either one figuring out how to massage the situation to their best advantage.

But frankly that doesn’t matter and is utterly beside the point.

Doug Ford, the Fords, are the Cody Jarretts of our local politics. They’ve climbed to the top of the world and they’ll blow the fucker up before they’d contemplate gracefully stepping down. It does not matter to them, the mess they leave behind. In fact, the messier, the better. It only proves their point. Government, right? No good can come of it.

Doug Ford is the bad guy in this situation.whiteheat

Let’s stop forgetting that.

And let’s stop being afraid of the Fords, afraid of calling them out, so afraid of them that we’ll even think about voting against our best interests in order to be rid of them. The best way to get rid of the Fords and everyone still in their corner? Continue to stand up to them.

sick and tiredly submitted by Cityslikr


The Four Sures — Council Challenger Endorsements VIII

October 10, 2014

So we come to the end of our official endorsements for the upcoming municipal election (although we won’t rule out maybe a surprise one or two here or there. Don’t quote me on that though.) bootsonthegroundWe want to remind everybody reading along that even more so than the mayor’s race, these council races really, really matter. In the end, despite some additional legislative powers, the mayor is just one vote. City council is many.

Moreover, council races can be determined by the 10s, 100s of votes. Even the slightest uptick in votes or turnout can flip a race. In 2010, 13 wards were determined by an average of 347 votes. Five of those the eventual winners were elected by less than one-third of the popular vote.

It’s now 17 days until the election. That’s plenty of time to get out there, donate some time or money to the candidate(s) of your choice, the ones you think will do a great job in advancing the interests of every resident of this city. This is when your help’s needed. This is what they call crunch time.

endorsement1

Ward 16 Eglinton-Lawrence

I feel I have to state this upfront. I am a friend of J.P. Boutros. I mean, not a close enough friend to know that he was planning a run for the open Ward 16 before the fact. Still. I have broken bread with J.P. I have had drinks with J.P.

In his role as assistant to the then TTC chair, Karen Stintz, he was frank and fair with me in discussions during the very heated and seemingly ongoing transit debates that consumed last term. As frank as one could be, I think, when it’s your job to adhere to the boss’ plan of action. That’s just the nature of the relationship.

With those cards on the table, let me state unreservedly J.P. Boutros will make one dynamite city councillor.

The least I can say of a possible Councillor Boutros is that he will be one hell of a step forward from his predecessor. The whole transit file aside, don’t forget that Karen Stintz was an unabashed right winger and supporter of much of Mayor Ford’s agenda. Boutros will not be that vote.

His adamant stand against the Scarborough subway during this campaign shows an independence that will be immediately tested if John Tory is elected mayor. Similarly, his outspoken opposition to the island airport expansion. He is a smart growth proponent which too will be subject to a quick study as the Eglinton Crosstown makes its way into the ward.

We think J.P. Boutros is more than up to the task.

We here at All Fired Up in the Big Smoke endorse J.P. Boutros for city council in Ward 16 Eglinton-Lawrence.

endorsement2

Ward 30 Toronto-Danforth

In what should be something of celebratory campaign (as much as any campaign, aside from the winning one, can be celebratory), with 3 women vying for a council seat, there is instead much consternation, driven by fear of vote-splitting and demands for strategic voting, blah, blah, blah.

Look, I have no particular beef with the ward’s incumbent, Paula Fletcher. Point to her absolute anti-Ford voting record as proof of her solid credentials. Tell me how we shouldn’t let our desire for the great threaten getting the good.

But the fact of the matter is, Jane Farrow may be the finest non-incumbent running for city council this time out. Forget great. I’m telling you spectacular.

I cannot rave enough about the new sensibility she would bring to city council, a new approach to governance that has at its core heightened civic engagement. She gets it. She encourages it. Jane Farrow represents a fundamental shift in how business would get done in this city. Ward 30 is being offered the opportunity to make a huge difference in Toronto’s politics.

Hopefully voters there won’t kill their chances at great for fear of the bad. There’s too much of that going on these days.

We here at All Fired Up in the Big Smoke endorse Jane Farrow for city council in Ward 30 Toronto-Danforth.

helpfully, hopefully submitted by Cityslikr


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