Oath Of Allegiance

March 31, 2010

Reading where councillor Adam Vaughan may’ve fallen afoul of the code of conduct demanded from members of the Police Services Board when he issued a newsletter to his constituents briefing them with some details about the security and anti-terrorism plans for the upcoming G20 summit this summer. He received a reprimand for breeching the board’s oath of confidentiality but seemed less than contrite in the face of it. His response was quite telling.

“There is no higher calling at city hall than to be an elected representative in a city ward, Vaughan said. “The residents of my ward will get my full and undivided loyalty.”

Here lies the beating heart of the dysfunction that passes for the democratic process at Toronto’s City Hall.

Council consists of 44 councillors and one mayor. Only the mayor is elected city wide and, therefore, only the mayor speaks for all of Toronto. That must compete with 44 individual voices, like Adam Vaughan’s who are concerned first and foremost with their respective wards. It’s like medieval Europe with one king surrounded by rival and feuding duchies. Gridlock prevails and nothing short of all out war will bring about any meaningful solutions.

This is why single tier municipal governments are ultimately ineffective and detrimental to the smooth running of a city especially one the size of Toronto. Outside of the mayor and that one single vote, there is no one unified vision for matters that involve the entire city like transit or new development density. NIMBYism will often rear up and bite well intentioned projects in the ass. Like the construction of the St. Clair LRT, for example, that was disrupted and derided by orchestrated community groups that deemed their convenience to be paramount to a highly functioning transit line.

As much as it pains this true believer in streamlined forms of government to say, another administrative level is needed in Toronto as an advocate for long term planning on a city wide scale. Much like we had back in the pre-amalgamation days with the Metro Council. It was not perfect, no, but it was a voice for the whole of Toronto and wasn’t driven purely by local interests. Right now, the city lurches and convulses to discordant parochial rhythms.

And maybe if the loyalty of councillors like Adam Vaughan is fully and undividedly given to the residents of his ward, he should think about not sitting on the Police Services Board or the Planning and Growth Committee. These duties require a wider overview beyond the interests of just one ward, Vaughan’s ward in this case. His divided sense of loyalty smacks of a conflict of interest to those of us outside his ward and causes us to wonder just how effective his contributions are for the entire city of Toronto.

And shouldn’t a better, stronger city be the ultimate goal of all our elected municipal officials?

admonishingly submitted by Urban Sophisticat

Manifesto Of Independence

March 30, 2010

If it wasn’t abundantly clear to everyone before the McGuinty Liberals handed down their latest budget last week, it certainly should be now. Their interest in the future welfare of Toronto is fleeting and politically mercurial. They do what is expedient not what is right. Continuing to hope and depend on the good graces of the province to look out for our best interests should now be considered pathologically negligent.

So… So… To paraphrase the words of some olde scribes:

When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume…the powers… entitle[d] them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

It has become increasingly apparent that since 1995, successive provincial governments have proven themselves incapable of properly governing this we call Ontario, as it has evolved since its conception some one hundred and forty-three years ago. Now over 13 million people strong with nearly half of those living in what is known as the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) and more than 2.5 million in the city of Toronto itself, this is no longer the Upper Canada of Confederation. We are now a territory of two solitudes; predominantly urban where once we were rural. Ancient rules of rule cannot stand.

As Jesus was quoted saying in Luke 5:37-39: And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the new wine will burst the skins, the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, new wine must be poured into new wineskins. And no one after drinking old wine wants the new, for he says, ‘The old is better.’

Even battered and bruised as it has been with the economic turmoil of the last 18 months, Toronto and the GTA remains the economic engine that drives the province. More money is extracted from it then is returned in goods or services, and while equity throughout the province is a laudable goal, it cannot be achieved to Toronto’s detriment. This has been the situation for the past 15 years but now has become untenable.

When the Liberals swept to power in 2003, they did so with the promise of undoing the fiscal damage inflicted on this city by the Harris-Eves Tories. Over the course of their 7 year reign, they have been slow to imperceptible in doing so. The latest example came with the budget declaration of deferring $4-billion of previously announced support for transit construction. This was the biggest budget cut in what was a lower than expected deficit and amounted to nothing more than one big Fuck You to Toronto and environs.

An already starved transit system is now being further deprived. Despite all sensible advice and opinion, the Liberals are displaying a shameful neglect of a much needed necessity if this region is to continue to grow in a manner that benefits all and compete successfully at an international level. By reneging on their previous commitment to build a better transit system in this city, the provincial government has once more abdicated their authority to govern us.

And what did the major contenders for Toronto’s top job say about this matter when they gathered together last night for the first official mayoral debate? Rob Ford wants to save the city a few thousand dollars by eliminating free rides on the TTC for councillors. George Smitherman demanded the resignation of TTC chair, Adam Giambrone.

These people are campaigning to be nothing more than mere window dressers. Errand boys and girl Friday bidding to do the dirty work of cutting, burning and slashing as demanded by their provincial evil overlords. Rather than pushing back, they are meekly bending over.

We here at All Fired Up in the Big Smoke are now looking for candidates who recognize the lay of the land and know what needs to be done. The process of separation must now begin. Pure and simply Toronto, and any of the contiguous region that wants to be a part of it, should demand provincial status. Those who now occupy Queen’s Park on a part time basis, representing an electorate outside of the 416/905 area codes are to be rejected and replaced by a legislative body who’s primary concern is Toronto. There is no other way to properly ensure our interests.

While it may be too late for this campaign, a caucus of candidates (not a party, you understand, because that’s forbidden at a municipal level by the provincial government) needs to begin to coalesce around the idea of an independent Toronto province. A Block Toronto, if you will, to push the agenda into the public consciousness. To argue persuasively about its viability. Toronto First, Toronto United!!™©®

When our elected officials refuse to listen and willfully ignore our requests, what alternative do we have? Sitting on our hands and only speaking when spoken to is no longer an option.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the a united States of America Toronto…do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these this Colonies city, solemnly publish and declare, That these this United Colonies are city is, and of Right ought to be Free and an Independent States province; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown Ontario government, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain province of Ontario, is and ought to be totally dissolved… blah, blah, blah.

Toronto First, Toronto United!!©™®

patriotically submitted by Cityslikr

Rob Ford Reconsidered

March 29, 2010

I do have to chime in here with some sort of counterweight to my colleague’s anti-Rob Ford screed from a couple days ago. Not that I’m offering up any sort of endorsement or advocating serious consideration of the man’s candidacy which is simple-minded, reactionary and astoundingly misguided, to say the least. A Mayor Ford administration would be nothing short of catastrophic for this city as he stands looking back into a never-was past while Toronto stumbles and bumbles toward an uncertain future.

Contradiction and ignorance lie at the heart of his nascent campaign platform. His vow to start the process of cutting the number of councillors at City Hall in half speaks volumes about his lack of understanding toward governance. Toronto is already highly under-represented in terms of elected representatives per resident at every level of government. Ford’s proposal would put us into the stratosphere, far, far beyond the pale with one councillor representing over 113 thousand residents. And he’s going to guarantee councillors will return promptly return residents phone calls?!?

Furthermore, there’s no evidence to show that cutting the number of elected officials would result in a corresponding drop in financial savings for the city. Exactly the opposite, in fact, proved to be the case here during amalgamation. Far fewer councillors represent the “new” city of Toronto than there had been when each of the 6 municipalities functioned alone (106 then; 44 now.) In order to effectively deal with the increased work load, more staff had to be hired and the bureaucracy grew. No savings have been registered.

Despite this, Ford wants to slice the number of councillors even further? All they will be doing with their time is answering calls from their constituents, leaving the business of the city grinding to a halt. Now, this may be how Councillor Ford operated in his fiefdom of Etobicoke North but as a mayor of a city of 2.5 million people… I can only weep at the prospect.

Still, the man and his skewed, dysfunctional politics cannot be simply wished away, I’m afraid. He has tapped into the anger and resentment that is brewing in a sizeable portion of the population. An anger and resentment he and other mayoral candidates like George Smitherman, Rocco Rossi and Giorgio Mammoliti have helped foment certainly. As irrational, misplaced and manufactured as it may be, it has to be directly addressed by candidates on the other side of the political divide.

Candidate Rob Ford should not and cannot be ignored as simply a fringe candidate. His views have to be challenged head on. His proposed policies need to exposed and eviscerated for the divisive and destructive ideas that they surely are. The anger and antipathy to government that he represents has to be answered and not shrugged off.

We write Rob Ford off as a clown (though a clown he may be) at our peril.

cautionarily submitted by Urban Sophisticat

Lazy Sunday

March 28, 2010

Dragging our asses through an overcast and rainy Sunday, wallowing in the winnowing down to the Final Four teams in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament although we have no stake in it anymore, having long since been blown out of the pool. Who knew Wofford wouldn’t be making it through to Indianapolis? We have decided to redirect, let’s call it, rather than create anew.

On Friday’s New Rules segment of Real Time with Bill Maher, the host closed out his show with a blistering attack on the idea of any retreat back to passivity on the part of Democrats after their victory in the U.S. health care reform battle. While it was directed specifically at the American political scene, I think the point should be expanded to a wider arena. All progressives should take to heart Maher’s point and set aside the notion of accommodation and cooperation when no hand is being extended from the other side.

Let’s stop allowing the right to frame the debate, from economic and foreign policy to getting tough on crime. Do not react to bully boy bluster with meekness, acceptance and a turning of the other cheek. Pound our points like a power forward does the paint (had to use at least one basketball analogy), fearlessly and with elbows poised. As Maher said in his diatribe, The Democrats need to push the rest of their agenda while their boot is on the neck of the greedy, poisonous old reptile. Ditto those on the left side of the spectrum here. We need to stop counterpunching and acquiescing and take the fight directly to the forces of regressive ideology that are threatening our city, province and country.

Here is a full transcript of Bill Maher’s segment. A link to the video follows. And now back to Tennessee and Michigan State.

New Rule: You can’t use the statement “there will be no cooperation for the rest of the year” as a threat if there was no cooperation in the first half of the year. Here’s a word the president should take out of his teleprompter: bipartisanship. People only care about that in theory, not in practice. The best thing that’s happened this year is when President Obama finally realized this and said, “Kiss my black ass, we’re going it alone, George W. Bush style.”

Two months ago, conservative Fred Barnes wrote, “The health care bill is dead with not the slightest prospect of resurrection.” Well, if it’s dead, you just got your ass kicked by a zombie named Nancy Pelosi. Seriously, the last time a Democrat showed balls like that John Edwards’ girlfriend was filming it. Make all the botox jokes and she-shops-too-much jokes you want, but this is the biggest political victory a woman has ever achieved in America. Yes, Nancy Pelosi likes nice clothes. So does Sarah Palin. The difference is Nancy Pelosi pays for hers.

But even before the Democrats got to take a single victory lap they were already being warned not to get used to the feeling, and not to get drunk with power. I disagree. All you Democrats: do a shot, and then do another. Get drunk on this feeling of not backing down and doing what you came to Washington to do.

Democrats should not listen to the people who are now saying they shouldn’t attempt anything else big for a while because health care was such a bruising battle. Wrong — because I learned something watching the lying bullies of the Right lose this one: when they’re losing, they squeal like a pig. They kept saying things like, the bill was being “shoved down our throats” or the Democrats were “ramming it through.” The bill was so big they couldn’t take it all at once!

And I realized listening to this rhetoric that it reminded me of something: Tiger Woods’ text messages to his mistress that were made public last week, where he said, and I quote, “I want to treat you rough, throw you around, spank and slap you and make you sore. I want to hold you down and choke you while I fuck that ass that I own. Then I’m going to tell you to shut the fuck up while I slap your face and pull your hair for making noise.” Unquote.

And this, I believe, perfectly represents the attitude Democrats should now have in their dealings with the Republican Party: “Shut the fuck up while I slap your face for making noise — now pass a cap-and-trade law, you stupid bitch, and repeat after me: ‘global warming is real!'”

The Democrats need to push the rest of their agenda while their boot is on the neck of the greedy, poisonous old reptile. Who cares if a cap-and-trade bill isn’t popular, neither was health care. Your poll numbers may have descended a bit, but so did your testicles.

So don’t stop: we need to regulate the banks, we need to overhaul immigration, we need to end corporate welfare including at the Pentagon, we need to bring troops home from… everywhere, we need to end the drug war, and we need to put terrorists and other human rights violators on trial in civilian courts, starting with Dick Cheney.

Democrats in America were put on earth to do one thing: drag the ignorant hillbilly half of this country into the next century, which in their case is the 19th — and by passing health care, the Democrats saved their brand. A few months ago, Sarah Palin mockingly asked them, “How’s that hopey-changey thing working out for ya?” Great, actually. Thanks for asking. And how’s that whole Hooked on Phonics thing working out for you?

New Rules: Bipartisanship

stridently submitted by Cityslikr

Ford Tough. We Laugh.

March 27, 2010

When news broke about councillor Rob Ford’s entry into Toronto’s mayoral race, well, let’s just say that pandemonium broke out here in the editorial space of All Fired Up in the Big Smoke. “I want to write the post!” “No, I want to write the post!!” No, I want to write the post!!!” “No, I do!!!!” “No, I do!!!!!”

You get the picture. But I eventually won out because this is my site. I call the shots. If somebody else wants to step up and start contributing a little more than doodles on cocktail napkins or even.. just anything, every now and then. I mean, we still haven’t caught up with Acaphlegmic since he pulled the Houdini act in Niagara Falls last week. If you’re out there, buddy, how about just a quick note to let us know everything’s cool?

Anyway, Rob Ford’s now running for mayor and we’re even more excited than Sue-Ann Levy. He represents everything we hate in today’s “grassroots” right wing political thought. The bogus claim of populism. Long since discredited Common Sense that is anything but. Fiscal prudence masking nothing more than a miserly mean-spiritedness. The man’s demeanour smacks of pure I got mine, Jack, and you can go fuck yourself.

He’s a politician that hates politicians leaving you unsure why he ever ran for public office in the first place aside from protecting his and his own. Now he wants to be the head of the 6th largest government in the country?! And we couldn’t be happier about that even if we were Sue-Ann Levy. (Sorry. Couldn’t resist another look. Is the lady honing her skills for a crack at a spot on Fox News or what?)

Some of our joy springs from a tactical place. Ford’s entry into the race crowds an already crowded right of centre spectrum and promises to divvy up conservative votes. It will force the others who have pledged fidelity to reactionary policies to differentiate themselves from the hard core values that Ford brings to the table. Rocco Rossi has already attempted the repositioning tango when he declared last week that he was not nor had he ever been a right winger. There’s little sense now in courting Rob Ford voters now that the real deal’s arrived at the dance.

But mostly it’s the theatrical shenanigans that Ford will bring to the campaign that has us over the moon. There is the very serious possibility of some retro-Lastmanesque buffoonery that brings on a wave of oxygen-inducing giddiness. A dash of unscripted, wacky remarks mixed with a soupçon of belligerent outbursts topped off with heaping cups of bluster and blather that is the Fordian trademark. His is a horn of plenty candidacy that will never leave those dabbling in political commentary empty of meaty material to run with.

If this sounds like little more than a hasty dismissal of Rob Ford for Mayor, it is. Although we did likewise when Mel Lastman threw his hat into the ring back in the day and much egg wound up on our faces. But this is different (fingers crossed.) Lastman was alone on the right side of center when he faced off against Barbara Hall. Ford is sharing those digs with others who have, at least so far in the campaign, been treated as viable candidates.

We also heartily welcome Rob Ford into the race because it places everything that he stands for on a much wider stage than he’s had as merely a councillor from Etobicoke. Now a far bigger audience will be given the opportunity to plug into his preposterous anti-politics politics. The soap box is that much higher for him to bellow out to the heavens explaining how exactly he would run a city by spending less, taxing less and basically doing less. Governing by not governing.

Call us naïve. Call us cock-eyed optimists but we still think a majority of Torontonians have heard that siren call before and witnessed the havoc it wreaks on the common welfare of this city and aren’t prepared to get fooled again.

So welcome to the circus, Councillor Ford. We’ve been waiting for the clown act to appear.

gleefully submitted by Cityslikr

Meet A Mayoral Candidate — Part VI

March 26, 2010

It’s the last Friday in March so we are going out like a lion with our next installment of Meet A Mayoral Candidate!

This week: Kevin Clarke For Mayor.

For those who’ve been following politics on the local scene here in Toronto over the last 15 years or so, you’re probably familiar with Kevin Clarke. He’s been running for office at every level of government since the mid-90s. 2010 is his 4th stab at becoming mayor of the city.

Is he any more likely to secure the job this time around? Hardly, but that’s not the point. More than any other candidate that we’ve profiled so far, Mr. Clarke is running on what might be called a one issue platform. Although it is a Hydra-like multi-headed, nasty-assed one issue to be sure that is best (or worst) summed up in one word: poverty.

In its simplest form, Kevin Clarke is an advocate for the homeless but his presence in the race is representative of so much more than that. He gives voice to the voiceless; those who have the least stake in the political proceedings and yet who suffer the most dire consequences from the choices that are made. His candidacy seeks to make concrete what many of us only see and deal with in the abstract.

At least, that’s the hope. The reality’s a little more complicated. There are times when Mr. Clarke’s advocacy for the down-and-out of our society comes across as merely political stunting, antics that make him and his fight seem even less relevant. Does getting forcibly removed from a candidates’ debate as he has been help or hinder the cause? Watching some of the impressive amount of footage that exists of Kevin Clarke – he’s even the subject of a recent documentary, Man on a Mission – it’s hard not to think that he`s as much of a self-promoter as he is an activist for the homeless.

Even his biography smacks of a certain manufactured quality. He’s a school teacher turned businessman in the auto sector who wound up spending some 7 years on the streets. So well spoken it strikes you as impossible that this guy couldn’t get his act together and pull himself up and back into being a contributing member of society again. If Kevin Clarke is so hard done by, how does he keep coming up with the $200 needed to run for mayor of the city?

It is at this point that you realize just how firmly ingrained our biases are toward the homeless, the destitute and the sea of misfortune that exists all around us. When forced to face it as we are when someone like Kevin Clarke is on the campaign trail, our shittiest instincts can be revealed. That default switch we’ve developed in order to deal with seemingly intractable social problems: it’s their fault not ours.

Whatever actually motivates him, it`s good that Kevin Clarke’s back at it this time round especially given the heavy tilt to the right that the campaign’s endured so far. The fight`s been almost exclusively about the numbers. Who`s going to cut and save more of them. Who`s going to spend less. Kevin Clarke is in the race to put a human face to those numbers.  Answering our insipid question we`ve posing to all the mayoral candidates, If the present mayor would like his legacy to be that of the Transit Mayor, how would a Mayor Clarke like to see his legacy written?, we put the words into Kevin Clarke’s mouth. A Mayor Kevin Clarke would make Toronto a better place for all.

— dutifully submitted by Cityslikr

Parking Invalidated

March 25, 2010

Taking my trash and recycling to the curb the other night, I noticed a little white car parked outside the house, smack dab in front of a fire hydrant. I might not have even given it a second thought had the same car not been in that exact spot a few hours earlier upon my return home from the daily excursion to the market. Now, I suppose it could’ve gone and come back, finding the same spot open, what with it being next to a fire hydrant, and I just so happened to be outside both times. Or it could be a different car of the same make and model. I guess.

But if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck…

I bring this up because it follows on the heels of a parking enforcement officer getting punched in the face after giving a driver a ticket over the past weekend. It strikes me that drivers in this city have such an extraordinary sense of entitlement. They own a car therefore the roads are theirs; rules and bylaws apply to suckers and amount to nothing more than a government cash grab. In a letter to the editor of a local weekly newspaper, I read the indignation of a driver who received a ticket while waiting to pick up his wife from church. In a no parking/stopping zone but he was in the car, waiting which isn’t really stopping or parking. For his wife to finish up at church no less.

People, like the greatest ever TV detective was fond of saying: don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time. We’ve all got a thousand reasons why we need to stop right here, right now to run a little errand. It’ll just be a minute. There’s hardly any traffic. It’s not like there’s a bike using the bike lane at the moment.

Rationalize it anyway you want but if you get nailed, suck it up. You tooks yer chances, nows ye pays the piper. And hey, if you’re in the right, fight the power. Yeah, it’s a pain in the ass and very likely not worth the time and effort aside from the principle of the thing. But the alternative? Punching the dude who hands out tickets? That’s going to be a lot more expensive, time consuming and complicated to explain away in court.

How be you drive less? I think there’s probably a direct relationship between the amount one drives and the number of tickets one receives. Or, if you insist on driving, park where you’re supposed to and pay what you have to. That way chances are the tickets you receive will be few and far between.

And that’s the name of that tune.

Barettaly submitted by Urban Sophisticat