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
The comment I made was in respect to the PSB chair’s belief that my duties on the Police Services Board over-ride my obligations to City Council. They dont. They must be held in balance and one does not super-cede the other. Further some on the board felt that as a local councillor I should not use my seat on the board to advance the concerns of my residents and businesses above and beyond the interests of policng in the city. I am not doing this, I will ensure that the concerns are of a city wide nature I will ensure they are advanced.
As councillors we must constantly seek a balance between city-wide and local issues. To be asked to ignore local impact s issues have, would leave my residents with no voice when issues are debated at the Police Services Board or Council.
I have responsibilities to my ward. I make no apologies. I have city wide duties, I continue to try and find the right balance. It is not an either or situation.
Dear Mr. Vaughan,
Our post was not intended as a broadside to single you out as being negligent in your duties as an elected municipal official to the city as a whole. We were not asking for any apologies. We understand that you were simply doing your job as a councillor in looking out for the best interests of the residents of your ward.
It is this balancing act that you refer to that we were questioning. 44 voices defending the interests of 44 wards on the council will inevitably be louder than the lone voice — that of the mayor — who speaks for the entire city. We need to level that playing field, in our humble opinion, with some variation of a city wide tier of government. While that may fly in the face of the inane anti-government sentiment that is polluting the discourse of the current campaign, we don’t see how a city of this size and complexity can prosper without it.
Thank you for taking the time to explain your position on the matter more fully. Make sure to tell all your friends (and foes) down at City Hall about us here at All Fired Up in the Big Smoke. We’d love to be an online spot for a healthy exchange of ideas between the public and those we elect to do our bidding.