Fool Me Once

October 30, 2013

Let’s just cut to the chase, eliminate the middle man of pretense, and put it right out there killmenowon the table.

The current crop of what we refer to as conservatives (or maybe more fairly, Conservatives… those adhering to contemporary Conservative values) couldn’t give a rat’s ass about public transit. They don’t use it. They think it’s a nuisance, clogging up their roadways and prolonging their daily commute. The only reason they want to put it underground, why they’re all subway champions all of a sudden, is because it’ll be out of their way. Out of sight, out of mind.

Oh, and one other reason.

So they’ll never really have to build it.

whatthehellareyoutalkingaboutWhat other conclusion can you come to reading PC leader Tim Hudak’s lunatic ravings about his party’s public transit policies in last weekend’s Globe and Mail?

“While his preference for subways is well known,” Adrian Morrow writes, “he has never before detailed which extensions he favours or been so explicit that some lines will be on the chopping block. To save money, he will axe parts of the Big Move – the current, $50-billion plan championed by Liberal Premier Kathleen Wynne – which envisions light rail in Mississauga and Hamilton, subway extensions and several dedicated bus corridors across the region.”

Yep. Toss out LRT and dedicated bus ways in the GTHA and build subways instead. Why? Because Mr. Hudak, how did he put it again? “… I do not believe in ripping up existing streets to lay down track.”

Not so fast, says Mississauga mayor and more old school conservative Hazel McCallion. Don’t you be messing with her LRT, Hudak. “We’ve got gridlock in Mississauga and we need the LRT,” she told the Globe and Mail.ohmygod1

But, and I’m postulating here, the opposition leader could care less what Mayor McCallion may want since she’s on her way out of office and there’s a bunch of Mississauga ridings currently Liberal red that could be swung Tory blue if the subway mantra can work its magic in the upcoming provincial election.

World class cities build subways, Hudak will tell Mississaugans. Don’t you want to be world class too, Mississauga? Like Vaughan? Scarborough?

It’s all nonsense, of course. World class cities don’t build subways in places with low density, largely single family dwellings. Why? Because it makes zero sense. It’s prohibitively expensive not only to construct but to operate while being almost impossible to generate the necessary ridership that would actually help reduce congestion on the streets running above them.

On top of which, the idea that you can build such pricey public transit simply by finding efficiencies and not raising revenues is pure fiction. Worse than that, it’s contemptibly bad fiction since it doesn’t even try to pretend it could be real life. If you wanted anything in the world and it didn’t cost a thing, what would it be? waitwhatA subway? Sure, I’ll give you a subway.

So stridently opposed to productively addressing public transit, Tim Hudak appointed newly elected MPP and former mayor of Etobicoke and deputy mayor of Toronto, Doug Holyday, ‘point man’ on the transit file. Holyday, not exactly known as a transit advocate during his days as a municipal politician, is working on the party’s transit plan which, hopefully, will include things like this gem: “It [at-grade light rail] takes away from the road capacity. We’ve got to protect that capacity because there’s no opportunity to build more roads.”

Mr. Holyday is also big on the idea of extending Toronto’s Bloor-Danforth subway westward out to Etobicoke’s border at Sherway Gardens and eventually, fingers crossed, long after most of us are dead presumably, into Mississauga. Why? Ease traffic congestion, of course. lucyandcharliebrownHow? Ummm… WORLD CLASSINESS!!

If they’re not even going to try to have a serious discussion about public transit, why do we even bother listening to them? Given the Progressive Conservative’s track record on this particular issue when they were last in a position of power at Queen’s Park and Tim Hudak was a fresh-faced MPP in the government, they buried subways, cut operating funds to transit organizations like the TTC, you’d think they’d at least be attempting to appear as if they’re taking this matter seriously. But I’m just not seeing it.

Fool me once… etc., etc., etc.

repeatedly submitted by Cityslikr


Standing Up To The Mayor

October 15, 2013

Here’s why I’m not a gambling man.

kennyrogers

Back in the early days of the Ford administration if you’d offered me the longest of long shot odds that Councillor Paul Ainslie would be a likely candidate to publicly break with the mayor, I’dve turned you down flat. Not possible, I’d say. There aren’t odds oddsy enough to make me take that bet.

Well, here we are.

On Friday, Councillor Ainslie not only resigned his chair of the Parks and Recreation committee exitstageright(automatically walking away from the powerful Executive Committee in the process) but he did so in a very loud and public fashion.

According to the councillor, Mayor Ford “ran out of ideas a long time ago” and has a “lack of strategic objectives.”

Ouch.

Councillor Ainslie isn’t the first former ally and Executive Committee member to part ways with the mayor but he might be the noisiest. Both councillors Michelle Berardinetti and Giorgio Mammoliti slipped away gently, citing their own reasons for doing so. Councillor Mammoliti has already crawled back onto the Executive Committee, directly replacing Ainslie.

Only Councillor Jaye Robinson’s departure from the inner sanctum back in June made a similar kind of splash. She was turfed for suggesting in her outside voice that maybe Mayor Ford should take a little time away from his position to deal with any sort of personal issues he might be having. pileonRobinson has not shied away from her break with the administration, weighing in on her colleague’s exit and the subsequent robo-call roll out from the mayor’s office that followed.

“We should be encouraging independent thought at City Hall,” she said in the radio interview and referred to Mayor Ford’s ‘leadership style’ as nothing more than “bluster and intimidation” “The farthest thing from transparent and accountable government.”

Along with Ainslie’s transition from an almost Tommy-like support (deaf, dumb and blind…actually, let’s call it Gary Crawford-like support) at the beginning of this term to a bona fide outspoken maverick of Mayor Ford, Councillor Robinson’s increasingly pointed criticism may well represent the soft support that put the mayor over the top in the 2010 election. It’s now evaporating and that should be of some concern to those dreaming of a second term. tommyThe simple fact of the matter is, there isn’t one without at least some of the mushy middle voting public across the city.

Of course, for some this latest schism with a former ally is no fault of the mayor’s. After Councillor Ainslie’s resignation on Friday, councillor-brother Doug went on full smear alert, chalking it up to Ainslie being miffed for having been overlooked to replace outgoing budget chief, Mike Del Grande (who himself kicked up some dust leaving the position. It didn’t amount to much as he seems to just have retreated into a sullen surliness). Frankly, I’d be pissed too if I’d been passed over for the job by Councillor Frank Di Giorgio. If anything is proof of Councillor Ainslie’s assertion that the mayor lacks strategic objectives, it would be his appointing of Frank Di Giorgio as budget chief.

As with almost everything that comes out of the mouth of councillor-brother Doug, the truth about the rift between Ainslie and the Ford administration is much more robust, let’s call it, beginning a lot earlier and in a far more nuanced way.

While Councillor Ainslie was enabling the mayor to run roughshod through the halls of City Hall, cutting this tax and that service, he was also steadily tinkering as chair of the Government Management Committee. yourefiredHe pushed through small but important things like getting wireless service throughout all of City Hall that helped further citizen engagement to the bigger enchilada on that score: sending a request to Queen’s Park for permission to start using alternative voting methods in forthcoming municipal elections. He was actually helping Mayor Ford keep a campaign promise of delivering a more open and transparent government.

But then things seemed to come unglued with some back stage mayoral shenanigans at the Garrison Ball in March. Ainslie was knocked from his post as Government Management Committee chair a couple months later and served briefly as chairs of the Parks and Recreation Committee until this week.

Until his decision to reject the Scarborough subway on Tuesday and opt for the already in place subway. When he stood up at council to make his case for the LRT, he said that he’d gone into the previous weekend fully intending to vote for the subway. Then he started really reading the staff report and just saw the mounting costs that had no definite end to them. yourefired1He found himself weighing his options between a fully funded LRT, ready to go, with no extra costs lurking in the corners versus a subway proposal dripping with unknowns and a much higher price tag.

However, subways have become so integral to the Team Ford brand that to vote against them and vote against them so overtly couldn’t be seen as anything other than an outright rejection of the administration. Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong, another member of the Executive Committee, also voted against the subway but did so in a more low key fashion, so escaped notice.

Or maybe as a potential rival for the mayor’s job next year, he’s being allowed to keep close relations so he doesn’t have much distance between himself and the mayor if they have to campaign against one another.

Or quite possibly, Councillor Minnan-Wong shares enough of Mayor Ford’s loathing of government and taxes hediditthat he’s allowed a longer leash in order to wreak all the damage he can while the clock’s running down.

That’s not the kind of fiscally conservative politician Councillor Paul Ainslie is, obviously. Plus, he’s from the holy land of folks in Scarborough. So he was expendable. He needed to be made an example of.

It’s nothing personal, according to the mayor, although it seems voting against the Scarborough subway was nothing short of a ‘personal attack’ on Mayor Ford according to Councillor Ford. Go figure. *shrug* It’s about politics and political calculation. Plain and simple. The plan is to ride the subway issue to re-election and anybody seen as standing in the way? Electoral road kill.

This couldn’t come as any sort of surprise to Councillor Ainslie. He too must’ve made some calculations and decided to roll the dice on his political future, prepared to face his constituents as a careful custodian of their tax dollars rather than just another mayoral flunky. Again, I’m no betting man but if I were, I wouldn’t put my money against the councillor on this one.

rollthedice

fingers crossedly submitted by Cityslikr


Suburban? Moi?

October 11, 2013

Just in case you think city council’s Scarborough subway decision put an end to the conversation once and for all, justbeguntofightlet me disabuse you of that flightful bit of fancy. While the LRT plan to replace the aging SRT may’ve had the plug pulled on it, we’ve now moved to which subway are we going to build. That battle’s just begun and, as reported in Spacing yesterday, doesn’t look like it’ll be resolved any time soon.

*sigh*

A more theoretical and interesting discussion cropped up following the subway decision in, of all places, Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly’s Twitter timeline. No, no. That’s no typo. And let me be clear, it was not a conversation intentionally instigated by the long time Scarborough councillor but one, like much of the city business that swirls around his presence at City Hall, grandboulevardhe just occasionally and unwittingly runs smack into.

You see, the deputy mayor like most of the Scarborough subway supporters have embraced the technology almost exclusively for its world classiness. They take every opportunity to point out all the glitzy international destinations that have subways running underneath their grand boulevards. New York. London. Paris. Madrid. Ipso facto, if Toronto truly wants to consider itself world class, it needs to start playing subway catch up.

The fact that many of these same cities are also building LRTs as a part of their transit network is usually greeted by silence when it’s pointed out to the likes of Deputy Mayor Kelly and other subway-philes.

But yesterday, he chimed in with a new counter-argument. whome1“Madrid builds subways in the city,” the deputy mayor tweeted. “Scarborough is IN the city. Madrid builds LRT’s in the suburbs. Our suburbs are in the GTA.”

Wow.

That is either the dumbest assertion I have heard in a while or a stroke of pure ingenuity in rationalization.

Given the source, I’ll assume the former but, probably not coincidentally, it’s a line of reasoning I encountered a few days earlier. Another subway advocate told me he was all for LRTs but “… in the ‘burbs (like Markham, Durham and Oakville)”. Apparently, with the expansion of growth out into the wider GTA, almost exclusively built on a suburban model, the former suburban municipalities that are now part of the legacy city of Toronto should no longer be viewed as suburbs and therefore, need to be treated accordingly.

With subways. Like they have in every other city worth mentioning.

It reminds me of the punch line to a joke never told in Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead. “I’m not Saul. I’m Paul. And this guy’s the Jew.”

Scarborough’s not a suburb. Markham’s a suburb. They should be the ones getting an LRT.suburbandream

You can’t just simply ignore intensive post-war design and development based almost exclusively on private automobile use and single family detached housing by pointing out that newer cities around you are more car dependent and single family house-y. That doesn’t make a place any less that because other places are more so. Inner suburb. Outer suburb. Note the similar word in both those descriptors.

It’s as if grafting a transit mode associated with a densely populated urban core will magically transform the suburban landscape of Scarborough into Manhattan. That’s like me envying a bird and wanting wings sewn to my back so I can fly. It doesn’t work like that. I’m simply not built for flight.

I know this is not your grandpa’s Scarborough. Much has changed over the course of the last four decades. attemptedflightThe demographics. More intensification. A bigger population.

But just a head’s up. Subways aren’t going to make you any less suburban. No one’s going to suddenly mistake you for Madrid. Or downtown Toronto even.

Besides, as long as this kind of stuff keeps happening, any claim that Scarborough has moved from its suburban roots is kind of suspect. In reaction to an application to build 50 townhouses on a vacant lot in his Scarborough East ward, Councillor Ron Moeser said, “I’ve got a single-family community that wants to stay that way.” For the record, Councillor Moeser voted in favour of the Scarborough subway.

This is not to say Scarborough (or Etobicoke or North York) can’t change. That the city’s suburbs shouldn’t endeavour to build healthier communities and neighbourhoods by decreasing their reliance on private vehicles. lookinthemirror1It’s just that there are better approaches that reflect the current reality on the ground than mindlessly demanding a type of transportation designed for an entirely different built form.

Scarborough is now a part of the city of Toronto, a big chunk too, nearly a suburban quarter of it, occupying its eastern boundary. Insisting on more subway stops isn’t going to alter that. Demanding better transit sooner will go a whole lot further in making the entire city more connected, more inclusive and, yes, maybe even a little less suburban.

non-judgementally submitted by Cityslikr


So You Say You Wanted A Subway, Eh?

October 9, 2013

When Scarborourgh city councillor Paul Ainslie stood up yesterday to announce that after much deliberation he had decided to vote for returning to the signed Master Agreement with the province and begin building the LRT extension to the Bloor-Danforth subway line, poodlesit kicked Mayor Ford and his councillor-brother Doug to life and up onto their haunches. Howling indignantly, both men vowed electoral retribution on their colleague for his betrayal of the transit-deprived residents of his and the other 9 wards of Scarborough. Later, on-again, off-again bestest friend of the mayor, Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti attempted to revise history and say that Councillor Ainslie was trying to defy the 2010 mandate given to Mayor Ford who’d been elected almost exclusively on a platform of Subways, Subways, Subways.

He wasn’t.

But no matter.

After the council vote in favour of the Scarborough subway (presumably the council approved one running up the now-dubbed McCowan corridor), I say this time around let’s actually make the Scarborough subway an election issue in 2014. Not in the sense of trying to stop it in its underground tracks. letsdothisNo, no. It’s been voted on. We don’t change transit plans once they get approved, do we.

Instead, we start talking turkey. Just like Councillor Ainslie did when he stood his ground against a wall of nonsense and invective, insisting we make a decision based on facts and evidence. It’s all well and good to blithely promise subways with vague notions of how we don’t have to pay for them. Now we’ve got some concrete numbers, some actual costs we have to talk about. Property tax increases. Debt obligations. Shit we did not have to take on if we’d stuck with the original LRT plan.

Already Mayor Ford is trying to wiggle out from behind the obligation side of the equation, saying he’ll find a way to only bump property taxes .25% next year, half of what was recommended by the city manager. This, despite having had more than 3 years to come up with such magical math. stepbackOffering up some laughable solution, he will attempt to vilify anyone pushing a higher increase than that and prove to be something of an unreliable ally to the 23 councillors who helped deliver him “his” subway.

Or the mayor just might use the recommended .5% increase to argue for a lower overall property tax hike that will result in cuts to programs and services, as well as jeopardizing other capital expenditures the city also faces. Then those 23 other councillors will have to face a very unappealing election year choice of coming out in favour of higher taxes or reductions in services and expenditures. I want to see the likes of Councillor Vincent Crisanti knocking on doors in his ward way up in Rexdale, about as far away from Scarborough as you can get while remaining in the city, and explain to his constituents exactly what they’re getting in return for the subway in Scarborough. Ditto, Councillor Ana Bailao in Ward 18.

I want to see all the subway proponents now have to start selling the nuts and bolts of the Scarborough subway to their constituents. Tell them what it’s going to cost on their tax bills. In terms of the services they may have to do without. The infrastructure needs that may well have to be delayed just that much longer.

Hell’s yeah, let’s make this an election issue. Let’s start talking about fiscal prudence and responsible city building. buttheadsThe subway’s a done deal but the devil’s in the details. Let’s start spelling out those details, what we’re getting, what we’re sacrificing to get it, how much it’s going to cost us to get it.

Led by Mayor Ford this council somehow just committed to a nearly one billion dollar infrastructure investment lacking oh so many of those important details. Now we must insist all those who voted in favour of the subway start filling those details in. We should all pitch in to help them do it. The following 24 said Scarborough wanted subways. Let’s make sure they explain to their voters exactly what they’re getting.

helpfully submitted by Cityslikr


Another Chance To Get It Right

October 8, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

responsibilityjpg

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

pleadingly submitted by Cityslikr


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 209 other followers