Politics Is A Blood Sport Not A Blood Oath

No disrespect intended to Nick Kouvalis, he is undoubtedly a master of the dark arts, a wizard of manipulating the message and twisting patently absurd notions into winning political ideas, an alchemist, turning leaden dead weights into electoral gold. I do not doubt his marketing prowess. It’s his wise guy-like approach to the working dynamics at City Hall that I find a little unsettling.

Via Ford For Toronto I read this piece on TTC Chair Karen Stintz in the Toronto Star yesterday (thatz howz wez rollz on the interwebz). Detailing the course of the councillor’s very public break up with the mayor over the city’s transit file, the first crack in the relationship showed up with the proposed cuts to bus service. “[Nick] Kouvalis said the bus motion was a `test’ to see which TTC commissioners would fall in line and which were ‘wet noodles.’ Stintz was a noodle, he says.

My advice was: Get rid of her, right there on the spot, Kouvalis says.

He recently reiterated that point to Ford, he adds. She’s committed the biggest sin in politics, which is disloyalty, he charges.”

Holy cow. That’s like some serious gangsta shit. Yeah, we’re gonna cut 48 bus routes just to see if anybody here’s, like, a snitch or working undercover. ‘Cause, that’s how we roll.

I mean, why stop there? If they truly wanted to see who was with them for reals, they shoulda got a gun, handed it to Stintz and told her to prove her loyalty by popping, I don’t know, former TTC vice-chair, Joe Mihevc. The previous chair had already been summarily dispatched. Besides, with that last name, he could well have been a made guy.

Now I get that politics is a rough and tumble sport, a place where few angels dare tread. But this you’re either with us or against, part of the inner circle or our mortal enemy crap? It strikes me as highly unproductive and, ultimately, self-defeating. Something Team Ford just might be realizing at this juncture.

Wouldn’t it have been easier if the mayor, upon being elected, put out a call for names of councillors who wanted to chair the TTC, discarded the ones with any taint of that funky smelling Miller odour, and sat down with the remainder and laid out his expectations for the TTC and the person who led it. “Look, [fill in councillor name of your choice]. I could give a shit about public transit except that there’s going to be no more streetcars blocking up traffic under my watch, k? And when it comes to saving a buck versus a bus route running on some god forsaken street in a nowhere corner of Scarborough, the dollar’s going to win out every time. You cool with that?”

Just put it out there, straight up, in plain enough language that even Councillor Frank Di Giorgio will understand. If they sign up, fine, only later on to claim that, hey, I didn’t agree to this, that’s a different kettle of fish. Brian Ashton territory, even.

But some loyalty litmus test to prove you’re a team player? And using people’s livelihoods that depend on public transit as a prop? That’s some disregard for the notion of public service. Not wanting to sound all Pollyannish/Mr. Smith Goes To Washington but shouldn’t a politician’s first loyalty be to the constituents who elected them to the office? Then, maybe second before fealty to the team, a loyalty to building a better city?

Again, I know there are practical realities to successfully surfing a political career. To some degree one has to go along to get along as they once said back in the golden, less hyper-partisan days. But the beauty of the party-less municipal system is that it doesn’t need to be so rigidly adhered to. The idea that there are simply two camps, right-left, is both laughable and, ultimately, destructive. Even the view that there are only radical conservatives, Stalinist commies and the mushy middle seems designed merely for easy digestion rather than a reflection of reality.

As much as it may pain the architects of Rob Ford’s mayoral victory to remember, he was elected on a platform of guaranteeing no service cuts in his drive to stop the gravy train. It’s hardly a surprise then, that his TTC chair wavered in the face of bus routes cuts although, I am right in stating that, in fact, bus routes were ultimately cut, aren’t I? So it isn’t like Councillor Stintz actually defied the mayor on that point.

In fact from my perspective the TTC chair has been almost slavish in her attempts to help Mayor Ford extricate himself from the corner he’s painted himself into without getting too much on the bottom of his shoes. It’s been his ‘disloyalty’ to the greater good of the city he was elected to lead in refusing to compromise on the Eglinton LRT-Sheppard subway plans that’s undercut his authority. The black and white, with us or against us view of the world that served him so well on the campaign trail has now become a hindrance to him as mayor.

Nick Kouvalis should take note and stick to what he does best: putting people into office. That’s a different skill set than day-to-day governance which requires a lighter touch. Mr. Kouvalis has many talents but nuance, subtlety and gentle persuasion aren’t really his strong suit.

nice to Nickly submitted by Cityslikr

11 thoughts on “Politics Is A Blood Sport Not A Blood Oath

  1. Next time Nick and the boys design a loyalty test, I hope it won’t once again involve making service cuts to the bus route that my 90 year old father takes to get to church. Quite often the bus doesn’t stop for him as it is already too full. The only solace I get from this sad state of affairs is that Nick’s arrogance overrode his intelligence to the point that he brought this story to light by bragging about it. Does he really think this is not going to come back to bite Ford in 2014? If he should live so long, my Dad will make sure it does. As will I.

  2. I really think this Kouvalis as political genius idea needs to be put to rest.
    he helped win ONE election against a directionless and basically unelectable candidate (smitherman) – a genius this does not require or make.
    I think the proof of Kouvalis’s ineffectiveness is pretty much EVERY SINGLE move the ford administration has made since coming to office.
    And, I love the fact that the PC’s have now jumped on board by hiring Kouvalis’s partner as party president (I’m not even going to bother looking up his name). This move has guaranteed the PC’s will not be winning the next election.

  3. With all due respect to you and your father, those service reductions were brought forward by the TTC Staff themselves.

    It was budget time and they were being asked to find efficiencies (as the were under Miller regime, every year)

    They do it every time you ask them to find money in their budget. City Management asks for efficiencies and TTC Staff comes back with service reductions as the only solution.

    Instead of caving in (which is what usually happens), and interfering with the Commision, I let these cuts (proposed by TTC staff) stand and wanted to see how Commssioners would react.

    Considering some of the budget battles that were ahead of the Mayor, I was attempting to gauge how strong those Councillors on the Commission (Recommended by the Mayor and appointed by Council) were, and were they tough enough to withstand the political pressure put on them.

    I expected the Chair, to support these cuts as she decides the agenda. She supported Gary Webster in bringing them forward (to my surprise). When the vote came: She “abstained”. Didn’t have the guts to vote for the cuts and didn’t have the guts to vote against the cuts either – She played the game, the game that Taxpayers had said in the last election that they had enough of. She let the “other” Councillors vote against them. And she told them to vote against them – but told me and others that those Councillors decided to vote against them on their own.

    I cleared up the confusion by pulling all Councillors involved into the Mayors office and getting to the bottom of it. Karen Lied. Period. She told those Councillors to vote against them and they took her word that she had the approval of the Mayor. She did not. The Mayor stayed out of it – and let the Commission decide.

    This is what everyone is screaming about – letting the commission do its work? The Mayor did. And it was the Mayor who fought to keep TTC rates in 2011 Budget flat, while TTC Staff was recommending a 10 cent increase.

    Its not that she did or didn’t support the cuts – its that when it came to providing the leadership we thought she would – she failed. She through her colleagues under the bus.

    This was the first sign that Karen only cared about Karen and would through people under the bus and then lie instead of fessing up.

    As for the rest of the Councillors, I learned that the road ahead was going to be very difficult for the Mayor and his agenda.

    If you don’t learn from every meeting and every vote – then everyone loses.

    Nothing but difficult choices everyday at City Hall.

    • Dear Mr. Kouvalis,

      I had to stop up right at the first sentence of your comment.”… those service reductions were brought forward by the TTC Staff themselves.” Weren’t they just following the mayor’s directive of a 10% departmental cut? A reduction they achieved, in part, by cutting bus service? And if memory serves here at All Fired Up in the Big Smoke, wasn’t the mayor elected on a promise of ‘no service cuts, guaranteed’?

      It’s hard to take a whole lot of the rest of your comments at face value when they start on such a dodgy premise.

      • To your point, this was early in January of 2011 and the bus service cuts proposed were for 2011 not 2012 Budget.

        The 2011 Budget had no major service cuts (I know that’s debatable) and I am not responsible for what happened in the 2012 budget process.

        I’m saying that staff, whether in the Mayors Office, Councillors Offices and even Karens Office are all trying to do the best they can and provide the best advice – while trying to decipher all the things that happen around them.

        Not an easy job.

        I am partisan, during the campaign and after I left, but I worked very well with “most” Councillors and their staff when I was there.

        I didn’t suffer BS and that is why Karen and her staff don’t like me.

        I wasn’t there to be liked, I was there to move as much of the Mayors agenda as possible within the overall constraint of a majority of votes on Council.

        I’m not going to get into it here, but there were many more things that the Mayor wanted done but because we didn’t have the votes or because we may have had the votes but it would of hurt our future prospects we did not proceed.

        Look forward to seeing you on the battle field again sometime.

      • Dear Mr. Kouvalis,

        Thanks for correcting us. We here at All Fired Up in the Big Smoke absolutely misrepresented your time at City Hall, conflating it with the 2012 10% budget reduction request. Our apologies.

        We do still contend that in 2011 the TTC was dealing with budget constraints, its operating subsidy reduced by about $17 million from the previous year. Major cuts were staved off due to nearly $60 million remaining from the 2010 budget. All of which points to a continual fiscal squeeze and perpetual search for ‘efficiencies’, ‘service readjustments’, ‘cuts’. Whatever phrase you want to use. So to suggest that any proposed cuts came from TTC management is a little slippery. Of course it’s coming from the TTC management. How else do they deal with less money? Aside from a fare increase which was off the table in 2011.

        But to the bigger picture, how does one push forward the mayor’s agenda by alienating potential allies who disagree on various issues? You were pretty front and centre on the Twitter, castigating Karen Stintz for turning on the mayor, you accused her of lying in a previous comment here. While I know you don’t work for the mayor now, you were not alone in this tactic. What happens now? Do councillors Milczyn and Parker become objects of ridicule for not voting to turf Gary Webster?

        If so, doesn’t that leave the mayor with a dwindling number of rag tag supporters on council, less and less able to defend his agenda? Or, is that the plan being concocted? To deliberately marginalize the mayor so that he can run for re-election in 2014, railing at City Hall despite being the mayor for the previous 4 years?

  4. NK has put things into plain words – Stintz lied and stabbed her boss in the back. Only craven political wannabees could ignore that fact. And, before you too start chasing after her skirt, have you considered her recorded voting history? You applaud the lack of political parties at CH yet trumpet Stintz’s ‘big move’ like some sort of “crossing the floor”.

    You ask, “shouldn’t a politician’s first loyalty be to the constituents who elected them to the office?”. Karen Stintz long ago abandoned those who facilitated her election. Ever since she got beyond herself she has demonstrated that her loyalty is fickle at best and strongest only in support of the profits of developers.

    How’s that going to fit with the agenda of the lefties, pinkos and the elite? Will Shelley Carrol move aside for Stintz to run for mayor? What does Adam Vaughan think of getting behind ‘Stintz Nation’? How long can Josh Matlow tolerate basking only in her shadows?

    Talk plainly man!

  5. “Its not that she did or didn’t support the cuts – its that when it came to providing the leadership we thought she would – she failed. She through her colleagues under the bus.

    This was the first sign that Karen only cared about Karen and would through people under the bus and then lie instead of fessing up.”

    I think the first indication that Nick Kouvalis is opposite of genius is the fact he can’t spell the words “throw” or “threw”

    • Let me guess, I bet you are sure John Parker is a genius because he can quote Shakespeare? NK is a political operative, not a downtown pinko elite. And, remember, downtown TO is not the centre of the universe. (How’s my spelling?)

  6. So, on the issue of less bus service (some call them cuts, others call them service adjustments) for 2011:

    I would agree that less service in 2011 than in 2010 is actually a service cut. We can debate “minor’ vs “major” but nonetheless a cut.

    2 things on this:

    1. The issue here is that the “service cuts” were brought forward from the TTC (and I agree, they shouldn’t come from anyone else) but someone did suggest that they were imposed by the Mayor – they were not. I wanted to clear that up.

    2. We learned from that vote that Karen didn’t have the guts to take a side, instead she had other Councillors convinced that they should defer cuts and she surprisingly “abstained” from the vote.

    She was not a team player by throwing her colleagues under the bus, getting them to do the dirty work.

    She was not honest when she was caught, by blaming the other commisioners (to me) for going rogue on her.

    She then tried to lie and say that she never blamed the other commissioners (to me) but Doug Ford was around the corner and he heard her tell me it was rogue commisioners without her knowledge.

    She had nothing to say when those other councillors were brought in and told the Mayor that she gave them direction to vote against the cuts.

    For me, the writing was on the wall at this point (early Jan 2011).

    On your more important question re: Bigger Picture – I am not going to comment at this time other than to say that I hope to see some positive changes in the near future.


    • Your style is too crude, and worse is the fact that you talk about it freely.

      Do you have any principles at all? What do you stand for?

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