Our Rose-Coloured Glasses

April 14, 2011

Having taken the last few days off and away from the local scene, I’ve returned with a new thing in mind. Instead of reacting to every seemingly insane utterance and idea that emerges from the mayor, his kin or administration’s various mouthpieces with immediate shock, dismay and/or heart-stopping rage, I’m going to look for the silver lining. My assumption is not going to reactively be: what the fuck is he/they thinking/doing!? No. I’ll take a deep breath, set down the rock in my hand and careful weight the pros and cons of the matter at hand. Serenity Now.

For instance, yesterday’s news about a recommendation to shut down 21 of the 23 citizen advisory committees. My old self would’ve immediately sprang up in outrage and pointed out that this was just another example of Mayor Ford reneging on a campaign promise of more openness and transparency, showing absolute no respect for the taxpayer whatsoever. How could eliminating citizen access to city staff be in any way, shape or form transparent or open?

That would be the old me. The new me however spots a subtle sign of genius in it. A boldly counter-intuitive move not to simply increase citizen/taxpayer/customer/stakeholder input but to foist responsibility entirely onto their laps. You want to talk cycling strategy? Go ahead. Talk amongst yourselves. City Hall’s no longer in the listening business.

The previous administration was accused of only pretending to listen to its citizens. It would go through the motions of openness and transparency before proceeding with whatever it was intending on doing in the first place. Mayor Ford and his team are proposing to do away with that middle step altogether. They’re going to drop the pretense. Save everyone the time and aggravation.

So citizens can get together, draw up plans and strategies, all without the bother of talking to City Hall first. Instead, and I’m a little fuzzy on how this next step will work, they assemble some sort of package, let’s call it a business plan as that’s more in line with the current administrations thinking on things, and… call the mayor? “Hey, Your Honour. A few of us taxpayers met up, hashed out some details and we’ve got this thing we’d like to talk over with you. You said we could call anytime, day or night.”

Or maybe, and here’s where the genius in the mayor’s scheme may lie, citizens/taxpayers/customers/stakeholders wouldn’t have to talk to anyone at City Hall at all in the future. If you look at the plan of eliminating citizen advisory committees from a different angle, it’s all about complete freedom. Not only is the Ford administration offering to do away with government consultation, perhaps it’s thinking of eliminating government entirely. Just do it. Don’t talk about it. Don’t advise. Just. Do. It. Democracy unfettered by oppressive government intervention.

This isn’t neo-conservatism, folks. Hell, it’s even moved beyond Ayn Randian Libertarianism. We’re talking Anarchy, with a capital A.

This line of thinking would certainly be in synch with brother Doug’s musings on waterfront development. “You don’t subsidize the most valuable property in Canada to the tune of $10-million an acre,” Councillor Ford said. “You let the private sector buy it and let them develop it. We can control it. We can say we want a round building here and a square one here. We can control it but we don’t spend 1.5 billion dollars in tax dollars when everyone’s feeling pressure. It’s just common sense.”

Common sense, indeed. We all remember how great the waterfront was pre-Waterfront Toronto 2001, before the government went and got its nose in how the private sector was so ably and magnificently doing business down there. Let’s relive the 1980s glory days.

Replace ‘private sector’ with ‘private citizen/taxpayer/customer/stakeholder’ and you get the same general gist of how things would work without the unnecessary bureaucracy of advisory committees. Have citizens/taxpayers/customers/stakeholders come up with ideas about bike paths, say, or a youth program or public art installation on their own and all the city says is ‘make it round’ or ‘make it ‘square’. Done and done, and we’re off to the races.

In trying to see the world through the mayor’s eyes, I’m starting to realize that the only thing standing between an active and inactive citizenry is government itself. Its intrusive presence is nothing but an impediment to our participation in how things are done around here. The less we depend on government, the more freedom we will experience. Let’s not stop at eliminating just citizen advisory committees. Dream bigger. Imagine the freedom we’d have if we got rid of City Hall itself.

look at me I’m Sandra Deely submitted by Cityslikr