Proper Usage

May 17, 2011

Yesterday @GraphicMatt Elliott over at Ford For Toronto linked to the comment section of Luca De Franco’s Spacing article about the battle over the proposed Fort York pedestrian/cyclist bridge. One particular comment quoted an email response from the city’s budget chief, Mike Del Grande. The above linked piece at Ford For Toronto covers the gist of Councillor Del Grande’s response much more thoroughly than we will here but one sentence caught our attention.

“This bridge will cost 22 [million] + the opportunity to gain 25 million from proper usage of the site,” the budget chief wrote. “So it will really cost 47 million at the end of the day. Sorry, that is very poor use of limited funds the City has.”

‘Proper usage’? You know once someone starts spouting euphemisms they aren’t willing to come right out and say what they really mean. What kind of ‘proper usage’ would net the city $25 million? Not many things outside of parceling off a prime piece of real estate, I’m thinking. So to Councillor Del Grande’s mind it’s not just about saving money and building a cheaper bridge. It’s about selling off city assets – I mean, ‘monetizing’ the city’s assets — to deal with an impending, tsunami-sized budget hole next year.

So it begins. Under the banner of sound fiscal discipline or whatever other business-speak blather the budget chief spews forth, it’s nothing more than a fire sale. One-off transactions that may plug a temporary hole but could end up costing the city more in the long run, if not in direct financial terms but in the ability to control development, plan neighbourhoods, create livable public space. Councillor Del Grande is simply waving the white flag of surrender and admitting that he’s out of his depth. The best he can come up with in the face of a budget crunch is to sell, outsource and privatize everything that’s not nailed down.

There’s. No. More. Money. Everything’s. On. The. Table. Everything. Must. Go.

The Waterfront. Toronto Hydro. Toronto Parking Authority. Unload it all. Cash for control. It’ll look good for the annual bottom line. Until next year, of course, when all that revenue dries up and there’s another shortfall. Rinse and repeat.

“Bridge yes but not at any cost,” Budget Chief also notes. “But… does not carry the day. This kind of thinking has caused a great financial problem for the City.”

That he remains firm in this belief that reckless spending is the source of Toronto’s current money woes speaks to either a fundamental lack of understanding of the budget process or just plain ol’ willful ideology. The city could cut its discretionary spending to the very finest of cores and still find itself in a pinch due to the mandated services it must provide. Maybe that’s the path Councillor Del Grande wants to travel down. But I’d respect him more if he had the courage of his convictions to admit it was a choice and not a necessity foisted on him by the profligacy of the previous administration.

repeatedly submitted by Cityslikr