On The Waterfront

August 30, 2011

So it seems the quiet whispers of hope that the federal finance minister and Ford family friend, Jim Flaherty, would exert a (ahem, ahem) moderating influence on the brothers’ irrational hatred of all things Waterfront Toronto were nothing more than wishful thinking. According to the Globe and Mail, “The administration of Mayor Rob Ford is moving to seize control of development on the east side of Toronto Harbour, paving the way for ambitious building plans in the Port Lands at the mouth of the Don River and private-sector investment.” Flaherty appears ready to play ball. Rather, he seems prepared to punt it, along with common sense and years of careful consideration. “With almost $492-million of the $500-million federal investment spent, federal participation is winding down,” the minister’s press secretary told the National Post, “Waterfront Toronto will now work more closely with our provincial and municipal counterparts on the next phases of development.”

Boondoggle, you say? You ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

If we’ve learned nothing else from Team Ford’s previous seizing of a tripartite government agreement and making it its own, we should know this. Do not let them do it until they have a fully realized replacement plan down on paper, costed out to the last dime. Remember Transit City. Declared dead and replaced by Transportation City. All money to be used to bury the Eglinton Avenue LRT. A Sheppard subway line will be built with entirely private sector money. Except maybe not. Hey Queen’s Park. Can you front us a little dough, say, $650 mil to get things up and running?

This is the exact same nonsense. Take a project out of the public sphere – a project, by the way, with very few critics except for the mayor, his brother and those mindlessly parroting their views – with the promise of a miracle from private investment. “We’ve got to get this city booming and tell the rest of the world about it,” [Councillor Ford] said. “This will be the most spectacular development in all of Canada. Your jaw will drop when you see this.” Sounding just like the carnival barker/snake oil salesman he has turned out to be, the councillor seems shockingly oblivious to the fact the waterfront, along with other areas of the city, is already undergoing a healthy redevelopment.

Too slow for the Fords’ liking, apparently.

“[Councillor Ford] expects that with the proposed new arrangement, the revitalization can be completed in five or six years, compared to the 25-year horizon in the current plans.” Holy cow. That is indeed a jaw dropping claim. Surely the councillor has the paper work to back it up, right? He wouldn’t just be pulling numbers out of his ass again, would he? Again?

To show he’s dead serious this time, ixnay alktay about a new stadium to lure his beloved NFL north of the border. Similarly, nary a mention of a monorail. It’s all business now. “The multi-use development [Councillor Ford] envisions,” says the Globe, “would include impressive shopping malls, waterfront hotels, bike paths and possibly…” Wait for it. Wait for it. “…the world’s largest Ferris wheel.”

**sigh**

See, what all you artsy fartsy, fancy pants urban planners with your university edgamacations don’t get, and the likes of Rob and Doug Ford just know instinctively, deep down in their guts, is that what makes cities like London great, what makes them highly desirable for people and investment boils down to one thing, and one thing only. Great big fucking ferris wheels. Bright shiny gadgets, trinkets and gew gaws. Cities as amusement parks, where the well-to-do come down to play and everyone else ekes out a living ensuring that their stay is an enjoyable one.

This is nothing more than a money grab, pure and simple. A bull-headed expropriation of a city asset for a quick sell off in order to plug budget holes created by this administration’s refusal to govern responsibly and realize taxation is a legitimate source of revenue. What’s even more galling is that they are once again trying to float the idea of the private sector sailing in to the rescue, picking up the pace, picking up the tab including hundreds of millions of dollars for flood protection. City Manager Joe Pennachetti is playing along with the mayor’s little charade, citing Waterfront Toronto’s inability to come up with the money for the project.  “Given that the existing governance structure has been in place for ten years and has not produced a viable funding plan for the Port Lands,” Pennachetti writes, “it is timely to explore a new delivery model for this area, including the opportunity for private investment to front-end the implementation of flood protection and other infrastructure requirements thereby reducing reliance on public funds.”

Yeah. We all know how the private sector just loves to hand over cash for infrastructure development. (See paragraph 3.)

While Mayor Ford ran roughshod over Transit City by claiming to have a mandate from the voters to rid the roads of streetcars and build subways, I never heard him promise that if elected he’ll stop all the boondoggling on the waterfront and conduct a fire sale of everything not nailed down there. “We have great expectations for the waterfront,” Councillor Paula Fletcher told the Globe. “It belongs to Toronto. It doesn’t belong to one councillor.”

Or one mayor.

If there was ever a time for council to draw a line in the sand, it would’ve been last December. But it’s never too late to grow some stones and start taking a stand. This one should be easy even for those councillors still frightened of the mayor’s shadow. His plan is half-baked — as usual — based on dubious claims that have already been proven ill-considered on one proposed mega-project. There is plenty of high profile resistance from the public toward any malignant mucking with what are, in fact, slowly coalescing development ideas. The mayor looks to take something and replace it with worse than nothing.

Which seems to be the dominant motif of his administration to date. The question is, how long are we going to let him go on razing things before we encourage the adults to step back in and assume control? The city’s future well-being depends on it happening sooner rather than later.

soggily submitted by Cityslikr