The Stintz Appeal

January 22, 2012

Of all the braying defences that sprung forth from the mouths of various Team Ford members during Tuesday’s budget debate against salvaging $15-19 million in cuts by 23 of their councillor colleagues, none angered me more than the words of TTC Chair Karen Stintz. They weren’t the dumbest ones spoken during the day, not by any stretch of the imagination. They weren’t the most offensive either. I mean, come on. Councillor Mammoliti passed up no opportunity to claim both of those titles.

No, what be leaning on my last nerve yo about Councillor Stintz’s speech (aside from the flaming disingenuousness) was its thunderous, flintily passionate, clinically rehearsed call to do absolutely nothing.

We all want to build a better city. We all want to leave it a little stronger than how we found it. We all have goals and aspirations to make Toronto great. It’s just… it’s just… things are a little tight right now. I’d really like to help out but what are you going to do? Look how stridently and keenly I point all this out. It gives the impression that I really care while relieving me of the hard work of actually figuring out how to do all those things I claim I was elected to do.

What seemed to rankle Stintz most about Councillor Josh Colle’s big motion to save some stuff from the chopping block was the fact that she, as a more well-to-do resident of the city, would be receiving a childcare subsidy from the city. “Why should the people who pay property tax in Jane-Finch pay for my daycare?” Councillor Stintz asked. Uhhhh, councillor? That’s kind of how our tax system works. We pool our resources and spread fairness and opportunity around. I mean, since you’re asking, why should people who pay property tax in Jane-Finch pay for roadwork on your street?

The councillor wanted ‘targeted’ subsidies for those who truly need help with daycare costs. Never mind the inefficiency and increased costs of implementing that kind of system but why target just the cost side of city services? What about revenues? If Councillor Stintz is so offended having city subsidies for childcare foisted upon her maybe she can bring forth a motion that proposes anyone who can afford to pay the VRT do so. Tit for tat targeting, as it were.

But like most full-fledged members of Team Ford, the question of taxation came up only in passing during the councillor’s speech. The tale she spun was that after selling off rights to hydro poles and the ground under the science centre, the city secured the right to collect some additional taxes from the province. And then?

After imposing the land transfer tax and the vehicle registration tax and raising property taxes above the rate of inflation, the people stood up and, apparently, said, “What are you going to do now?” What indeed, Councillor Stintz?

She skipped over the first part of the answer, where she joined in to repeal the vehicle registration tax and freeze property taxes, and went directly to the part where the city was out of money and had no choice but to cut services and sell shit off.

Then there was the matter of being the TTC chair.

“You know what, lemme tell you folks, it hasn’t been a fun two years being chair of the TTC where I’m cutting routes and adjusting service.”

You know what, lemme tell you councillor, if the job’s too fucking hard and not, you know, very much fun, step aside and give someone else a chance who might try and come up with real solutions.

The TTC Chair went on to say that she’d love not to have to cut or ‘adjust’ but, unfortunately, we just can’t afford the same level of limousine service that has seen ridership in Toronto increase to record levels. Yep, after slashing general revenues and fending off anything but the smallest of fare increases, the TTC Chair had no alternative but to reduce levels of service. In the realm of rigid right wing thought options are always limited and possibilities left unexplored.

This is a constant refrain coming from many of those still marching in virtual lockstep with Mayor Ford at this point. Their helplessness in the face of what they portray as the inevitable austerity necessary owing to either 1) the previous administration’s profligacy or; 2) global economic uncertainty and bad things happening in Greece. If it weren’t for these, well hey, they would build us grand edifices and subways everywhere. All those nice to haves that the mayor talks about that suddenly include a viable, dynamic public transit system, they’d be ours. Times being what they are, however, we should dampen our expectations. Vote for unexceptional politicians and stop demanding they do anything beneficial for the people they’ve been elected to serve.

With great vigour and studied oratory flair, Councillor Stintz took her 7 minutes to speak on the budget to essentially tell us that she and the 19 other councillors who would ultimately wind up supporting the mayor were not up to the task of grappling with the serious issues we face. There was nothing to be done except attack the easiest targets and make things a little more miserable for everyone. Buses will be fuller and run a little less frequently. Other services the city offers too will be spottier and cost more.

In her bid to “… build a city that protects our values and makes it a place that our children can afford to stay and build their families and their futures”, the councillor urges us to make Toronto a little less liveable, a little less affordable, a little less… better. That way, to the modern conservative mind only capable of counting the dollars and cents right in front of them, we will be able to provide improved services and invest in much needed infrastructure further down the road when it’s more expensive and in more dire need. Or more concisely, we’re saving our money so our children will have to spend theirs.

And when they ask, our children, what we did when the chips were down, when the going got tough, Councillor Stintz and those supporting her and those of us enabling her, we can proudly claim: Us? We stood firm, stuck to our guns and did nothing.

bravely and proudly submitted by Cityslikr