Stuck In The Middle With Josh

October 28, 2011

As even the most casual reader (and we really do insist no ties or business pants suits be worn while reading here) of this site will know, we here at All Fired Up in the Big Smoke aren’t Mayor Ford’s biggest fans. There’s a political and social gulf between us. I know who Mary Walsh is. He doesn’t.  He thinks you can gut a city back to health. I don’t.

But while we fret about the very real possibility of the mayor and his team burning down the place in their misguided attempt to fix it, we also secretly harbour a sense of satisfaction that the more matches they light, the more they discredit and undercut their extreme small government, radical neoconservative ideology. Shhh. Don’t tell anyone. We might come across as a little two-faced.

Speaking of two-faced and the awkward segues that spring from such clumsy transitions, there is an equally insidious force at work at City Hall. One just as destructive as the mayor’s hatchet and chainsaw and perhaps even more dangerous. It enables the dismantling under the guise of bipartisanship. It puts a smiley face emoticon on the snarl of right wing nastiness.  It has a name: faux-centrism. Its face? Councillor Josh Matlow.

We have written indignantly about this previously (for example, here and here) but it all got stuck in my craw again when I stumbled across this little puff piece, “Newbie councillor trying to rise above it all”, in My Toronto Today.ca. Note the accompanying picture, a non-buttoned down Matlow, standing in the long grass of City Hall’s green roof. It’s just one Nehru jacket away from looking like the cover of a 1970s album.

I found the article particularly grating having watched him at work during this week’s council meeting especially during the debate over contracting out waste collection west of Yonge Street. Councillor Matlow voted in favour. No biggie. So did 24 other councillors. But his reason for doing so were all, pure Matlovian.

He questioned staff about the, well, questionable numbers, the dubious claims to enormous savings. He rooted his snout through the dirt like a pig hunting for truffles, desperately searching for the elusive middle. They’re saying one thing but they’re saying another. The truth must be somewhere in between.

(No, no. Again, councillor. If one side touts debatable numbers and the other side puts up a more realistic set of numbers, the truth isn’t lurking near some imagined mid-point. Allow me this analogy. I go to the fair and decide to give the Guess My Weight guy a whirl. He thinks I come in at 185 pounds – it’s an American touring show, they don’t know from metric. I say, not even close. I’m 155 pounds soaking wet. Using your method, that probably means I’m about 170 pounds, right smack dab in the middle. But I step on the scale and reveal myself to actually be 225 pounds, winning a stuffed animal because the guessing guy was more than 5 pounds off but it in no way means that I weigh 170 pounds.)

After the usual huffing and puffing about the loneliness of the moderate voice these days at City Hall, Councillor Matlow casts his vote in favour of the mayor’s demand to contract out collection. Why? It’s a beaut. The councillor isn’t at all sure about the savings for taxpayers or if the low bid company GFL is even up to the task but still, still, people remain angry about the strike back in 2009. We have to cater to that anger or risk generating even angrier voters. By exercising the democratic right to strike, the city union put poor Councillor Josh Matlow on the spot and he just had to vote to contract out their jobs.

And he’s at it again in the My Toronto Today article, shifting blame onto someone else for his decision to vote in favour of getting rid of the revenue generating Vehicle Registration Tax. “I think it was done too hastily,” Matlow said. “I believe there should have been a stronger argument from the city manager as to how it would impact the 2012 budget.” I was just brand new. How was I supposed to figure out that taking millions and millions of dollars from the city’s coffers was going to adversely affect future budgets? I wasn’t aware that basic math applied to City Hall.

“Though he’s been vocal in his questioning of Ford’s leadership, Matlow says he agrees with many of the mayor’s initiatives, including a review of Toronto services.”

“What I strongly disagree with is the method he’s gone about implementing those ideas,” he said. “I would have liked to see a more thoughtful and mature process.”

But to the mind of Councillor Josh Matlow, Mayor Ford isn’t entirely to blame for this. And certainly the newbie councillor isn’t either. You want to know whose fault it is? David Miller’s, that’s who.

“The biggest surprise for me is how much influence the mayor’s office has over the agenda at city hall,” Matlow says. “And it’s ironic that it’s the left-wing and the Millerites themselves that created the stronger mayor system that they’re now subject to.

“Ford has taken advantage of the very house that Miller built.”

You see, none of the current divisions running rampant through City Hall, none of the bad decisions that get made are Councillor Matlow’s fault. He’s a centrist, after all. The rarest of rare birds. A condor of consensus. An ivory-billed woodpecker of moderation. He’s not on the mayor’s team. He’s not on the opposition left’s team. He’s a free agent, available to either side when the time is right and the situation is favourable.

For Councillor Matlow, there’s no ‘I’ in team but there’s certainly one almost smack dab in the middle of expediency.

divisively submitted by Cityslikr