Or a tale of two Roysons.
Over the course of 12 days, the Toronto Star columnist wrote two pieces so diametrically dissimilar (with another one of surprisingly readable quality between them) that it’s almost as if there is at least two of him. If that’s the case, would the reasonable Royson James keep writing while the insufferable one… well frankly, I don’t care what he does as long as he stops contributing to the paper.
It was the best of James and the worst of James.
On January 12th, James’s column, TTC choking on its own success came across as, if not sympathetic, let’s call it understanding of the role ‘underused’ bus routes play in ‘city-building’. He was all over Councillor Maria Augimeri’s assertion that “the city is not a business…Rather, transit service is social service.” It’s not always about money when it comes to running a city. Is that what you’re suggesting, Mr. James?
Less than two weeks later, Royson had clearly spent some time in the lab, knocked back a concoction or two, and was singing a different tune. “How many of those 48 bus routes really need to go because ridership levels are woefully low and will always be unsustainable?” Wait, what? Remember when you talked about public transit as a ‘social service’, Mr. James? Now, it’s all ‘woefully low’, eternally ‘unsustainable’ ‘ridership levels’? We’re not asking for brilliance from you, sir, and even mere adequacy may be out of the question but how about just a little consistency?
That wasn’t even the worst of it. In a piece that could’ve come straight from the mayor’s media team, James paints all those who are standing in opposition to the proposed budget as ‘lefties’ merely bleeding ‘over “minor” cuts.’ Minor cuts? Like those 48 unsustainable bus routes with woefully low ridership levels that will merely affect only about 250,000 people (just under 10% of the city’s population) according to the TTC GM, Gary Webster? Where’s the dividing line between ‘major’ and ‘minor’ in terms of cuts, Royson? If not affecting 10% of Torontonians, what’s the number? 15% A quarter?
Worse still, not only does James label all the mayor’s opponents lefties but, to his eyes, they are only motivated by politics. Don’t believe him? “Council Shelley Carroll admits the strategy is to force the new administration to face up to every proposed cut, however small.” Then he goes on to read between the lines of what he’s quoted Councillor Carroll of admitting. “The unspoken message is: “We’ll fight you to the death on what you see as small cuts; so imagine the uproar next year when the real big cuts arrive.”” Neat trick, James employs there, putting in quotes something he imagines Carroll thinking so that it actually looks like the councillor said that out loud.
Even worser than all that (as if it could get much worse but it does), James shrugs off the effects of the proposed service cuts (bus routes excluded) as not ‘calamitous’ since ‘the truth on these services is so elusive.’ I says what?! The vacuity of that claim is as monumental as its callousness. Adding dismissive insult to that injury, James claims “… the city voted for a mayor who promised cuts, so many citizens are hunkering down, expecting a guillotine and thanking their stars that the damage isn’t worse.”
Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa. Imma stop right there, Royson. You watched as many of the mayoral debates as I did, probably more. You must’ve heard our mayor, upon being pilloried by his opponents for having a hidden agenda of service cuts to meet all the tax cutting, Gravy Train stopping pledges he was making, guarantee there’d be no cuts. Guaranteed, Mr. James.
So no, ‘the city’ did not vote ‘for a mayor who promised cuts’. In fact, he promised just the opposite which makes him a lying sack of shit and you’re now covering for him, picking up the narrative of No Cuts, Guaranteed now becoming No Major Cuts, and anyone who opposes them as ‘lefties merely bleeding over minor cuts’. This just days after writing a moderately thoughtful piece about politicians (not just the lefties) playing, well, politics with the different service needs in different parts of the city. (h/t to @goldsbie for drawing attention to all three articles)
Is it just simply an example of Royson James attempting to be some sort of objective reporter? Never taking one side without responding in kind from the other regardless of an issue’s merit? Or has he just grown tired of the city beat, unable to muster the enthusiasm anymore to mount a sustained argument? He gets up in the morning and flips a coin to see who he’s going to heap derision on in his next column. Nothing more than a whole lot of tit for tat and he said, she said, contributing only unhelpful clutter to the ongoing civic dialogue.
Paraphrasing Stephen Colbert from the 2006 White House Correspondents Dinner, maybe you should take some time, Royson, finish that novel you’ve always wanted to write. The one about that intrepid newspaper columnist, covering City Hall for the country’s largest newspaper, keeping politicians honest, speaking truth to power and standing up for the little guy.
— plagiarizingly submitted by Cityslikr
My theory is that at this point “Royson James” is just a pen name used by various city hall reporters at the Toronto Star. Like Franklin W. Dixon with the Hardy Boys.
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Royson James is a real person! I think his “tough love” comes from his seventh day adventist thought. The notion of centrists being dismissed as lefties OR bicycle riders pinkos is non sense. The deputations are heavily in favour of services aside from the ones given by TREB, BoT or the “taxpayers coalition.” The vice chair: Doug Ford is more biased to the emails from people who want cuts rather than those who made the effort to speak in detail to the Budget. 2012 will have a $600 million pressure, which will be used to justify major cuts. I am just wondering what the fordites think of the slowness of Ford keeping all his campaign promises of cutting staff and so called efficiencies not being done in a rushed budget?
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I’m surprised that the writer hiding under the cloak of anonymity should attack a writer who is reporting and interpreting the evolving dynamics of the newpolitik on deploy in City Hall.
While some believe the scope of City spending should be limitless, perhaps because they rent and don’t pay the tax bill, there are those who believe its scope should have limits and less government means more freedom. Lower spending on wants allows better spending on needs, including permanent underground transportation infrastructure which successive councils haven’t done.
Royson has done a good job in interpratation and picture painting. Meanwhile, Gee still tilts at windmills, and pretends blights aren’t…
Dear Mr. Cummings,
A couple points we here at All Fired Up in the Big Smoke would like to make.
“Lower spending on wants allows better spending on needs”? The city ‘needs’ a `permanent underground transportation infrastructure’ (by which you mean subways, we’re guessing)? Subways cost more and the one our fiscally prudent mayor is proposing would deliver less transit to fewer people. How is that more cost-effective? Successive councils haven’t really spiked subways plans, have they? Wasn’t that the provincial government back in 1995 that filled in the hole along Eglinton?
And your sweeping generalization about renters not paying tax bills? While true that they don’t technically hand money directly to City Hall in terms of say, property taxes, data suggests that they pay far more percentage wise than those who own property. Here’s one link that points you in that direction.
The way I’ve heard it, James was in Mayor Lastman’s good books and got preferred access that was cut off when Miller came to power. In a fit of pique, he dedicated the next 7 years to attacking the mayor’s office. Now he’s probably trying to figure out which way the wind blows.
James is in a tough place — he helped Ford get elected by attacking everything Miller stood for, but Ford is refusing to deal with the Star. James will have a difficult time doing a full reversal to start challenging the Ford regime but he has little choice.