Mayor Obvious

January 31, 2013

So late yesterday afternoon Mayor Ford called a press conference outside his office. Hmmm. Big news perhaps? goodnewseveryoneA new budget chief? A confab with the incoming premier about transit strategies? His Super Bowl pick?

As per usual with this mayoralty, there was to be nothing as mundane as all that.

“Ooh, we are going IN the mayor’s office,” the Toronto Star’s Daniel Dale tweeted. “This is not common.”

Along with the gathered press, TTC chair Karen Stintz had dropped by to see what the mayor had to say. This is not all that unusual at City Hall. Councillors frequently hang back and listen to their colleagues’ scrums with the press, many times with the intention of adding a counterpoint when the cameras and mics turn in their direction.

What transpired yesterday however was unusual.

“Ford’s aide tries to bar Karen Stintz and her assistant from his office,” Dale tweets. “’Mayor’s protocol.’ She just confidently walks past him.”

nogirlsallowed2A short time later, Dale continues:

“Stintz to Ford aide Earl Provost, loudly: ‘What am I doing? I just want to hear what the mayor has to say. I don’t hear from him directly.’”

By all accounts from those present, Mayor Ford eventually appeared with nothing much to say, made a pointed reference to the TTC’s sole-sourced deal, announced he disagrees with three previous mayors who just came out against a casino in Toronto, took some questions and exited. Done in a matter of minutes. Just like that.

NOW magazine’s Ben Spurr basically summed it up: “So that was odd. Mayor calls scrum, has no prepared statement, cuts off questions after 2.5 minutes.”

The antics and naked machinations would be laughably cute if they were coming from a six year-old but from the mayor of Toronto?thisisanoutrage

I mean, C’MON!

All week we’ve been hearing from the mayor and his brother about the sole sourced deal the TTC commission signed off on with current operators, Gateway Newstands, to extend their contract on concession stands throughout the system. “This is what happens from a person in my opinion that has never run a business in the entire lives chairing the TTC,” Councillor Ford bleated. “What happened last week was absolutely appalling if you ask me,” the mayor said. “It’s absolutely an embarrassment.”

He went on to say he’d called the TTC chair to get to the bottom of things. She responded that she’d returned the call and left a message but hadn’t heard back from the mayor. No, she didn’t. Yes, he did. No, he didn’t. Yes, she did.

So like anyone with acute leadership skills would do at this point, Mayor Ford slaps together a press conference just in time for the evening news with the sole intent to publicly blast away at a colleague who also could be a rival for his job next year. Except she shows up to hear what he has to say, kind of cramping his style. So, he doesn’t say much. Certainly nothing that everyone hasn’t already heard from him.

orthebunnygetsitIt’s so much easier to lob grenades at people from the comfort of your own cloistered radio show.

So much for Mayor Ford being humbled by his recent adventure in the courtroom. He’s seized onto an issue that breaks down easily into campaign catch-phrases. Sole sourced deal. Another Tuggs? Corruption and skullduggery. Deliberately creating a rift in perhaps the single most important aspect of the city’s business – transit – at a critical juncture when everyone else is preparing to talk about how to finance a much needed regional expansion solely for his own political future.

That’s cancerous governance, pure and simple.

It seems Mayor Ford knows no other way to conduct himself.

If we haven’t already, we just need to accept that fact and push on without him.

onward-ho-ly submitted by Cityslikr


Don’t Look At Me. It’s Not My Mess.

January 30, 2013

Our premier to be says ungridlocking the GTA by investing in new transit is one of her first priorities. To do that we must generate new revenue streams. madhatter1Our Toronto mayor says he’s not really a tax-and-spend kind of politician. The ROO screams ‘favouritism’. (Seriously. Read through the comments in the linked Toronto Star piece.)

Over at the city’s Parks and Environment Committee, chair Norm Kelly wonders out loud about the expensive necessity of preparing for the fallout of climate change. What if it’s not a thing? Can scientists’ models be trusted? Why the rush to judgement? Besides, if some of the stuff he’s read is to be believed, it could end up being like Tennessee here. How great would that be?! (It should be pointed out to the councillor that climate change alarmist Al Gore hails from Tennessee. Just so the facts are all out there on the table for him.)

It’s days like yesterday when I wonder if it wouldn’t be better for all concerned if we as a species aren’t simply wiped off the face of the earth by one rogue tidal wave created when a big chunk of Arctic ice sheers off and plops into the ocean. Or some mammoth solar flare fries us all to dust. redqueen2Or God simply claps his hands and starts all over again.

I’ve written often of our lack of resolve to tackle important issues that might possibly involve any degree of personal sacrifice. Is that what happens when you see yourself as a consumer or taxpayer instead of an engaged citizen? You can have my money when you take this wallet from my cold, dead hands!

Yes. We’ve become a society of grumpy Charlton Hestons, unwilling to look at the bigger picture beyond our own backyards. Every penny in tax we pay is a penny stolen. Inconvenient truths that threaten our lifestyle need further study. We’re sick of the country asking what we can do for it. What’s it going to do for us for a change?

What have the Romans ever done for us?

Businesses sit on more than half a trillion dollars, yet government boondoggles and outrageous union demands drain our coffers and our patience. There is an easy solution to all our financial and infrastructure problems that don’t involve us giving up anything especially more money because… well, because… eHealth! ORNGE! We already gave at the office, OK?

Build us a casino. One that will pay for everything we need. So simple, it’s a wonder no one’s ever thought of it before.

I don’t want to get too cranky here and sound like some bitter old drunk in a divey bar bending everybody’s ear about the ill-state of the world today. aliceontherun Because in my time, in my time, youngsters, progress has been made on many fronts. Matters of equality in terms of gender, race, sexual orientation have evolved in a positive direction over the past four decades. An African-American president of the United States? A gay, female premier in Ontario? Not during my lifetime, sonny jim. Yet, here we are.

But those are historical inequities and injustices that are far from being leveled and while we’ve been battling on those fronts, new pressing problems have emerged. These are legacy issues as well which will fit nicely under the environmental umbrella. Climate change. Infrastructure to both help cope with the implications of climate change and to mitigate possible worse case scenarios from playing out.

Shrugging it off with pejorative terms like ‘alarmist’ is the easy way out. alfredenewmanAs a late onset boomer, I think my generation’s lasting contribution is fighting to get governments off our backs, to keep taxes as low as possible and minimize our civic engagement. Good for us who got in while the going was good. Not so much for those coming after us. We’re like the anti-social picnickers, enjoying our time out in the sun and leaving all our garbage behind.

We aren’t the first era ever to face seemingly insurmountable challenges. What era has been spared such a dilemma? As of now, we’ve avoided stepping up to accept the responsibility. What, me worry? is our official motto, Alfred E. Neuman our spokeman.

Not sure who that is, kids? Ask your parents. They can tell you.

responsibly submitted by Cityslikr


This Toronto Thing

January 29, 2013

I am not a party person. Although I am a big fan of 24 Hour Party People. But politically speaking, in order to less messily gets things done, I reluctantly and grudgingly 24hourpartypeopleaccept that parties are a necessary evil in a parliamentary system while still maintaining they are also the bastion of highly destructive, poo-flinging partisanship.

So I don’t get all caught up with leadership conventions and the like, choosing instead to maintain a safe distance to watch the parade. An interested observer. A conscientious objector. I’ll examine the entrails when the voting’s done and results announced.

And as a Monday morning quarterback reviewing the outcome of this past weekend’s provincial Liberal leadership race, I will tell you I’m pleasantly surprised. For the first time in about 30 years (nearly my entire voting life), I feel that I’m being offered something to consider from the Liberals. So all you party canvassers out there on vigilant minority government election watch, consider this cowboy in play for a change.

Incoming premier Kathleen Wynne strikes me as frank, funny, down-to-earth, smart as a whip. Obviously, to climb such treacherous career heights, she must possess some political chops but, unlike her predecessor, she does not wear her calculating on her sleeve. courtingcoupleWhat I’ve heard from her so far, I like, and I’m willing to listen to more.

“Can we just get this Toronto thing out of the way…” Kathleen Wynne said during her victory speech on Saturday [at about the 6’40” mark].

This Toronto ‘thing’.

Almost as big an obstacle to winning for Wynne as her sexual orientation.

The provincial Liberals seem to have a thing against electing leaders who call the GTA home. When the only non-GTAer in the field, Sandra Pupatello, raised that warning specter during the campaign, I went back to see when it was a Toronto area based politician led the party. Andy Thompson, way back in the 60s — 1964-66 to be exact — if Wikipedia is to be believed.

That’s a whole lot of non-love toward an area that has provided a strong and vital base of support certainly during the McGuinty era. I mean, what don’t they get about this being the centre of the universe? chocolatetownIt’s almost as if they want to hook up with us every 4 years or so and then pretend like they don’t even know us the rest of the time.

If I didn’t know any better, I’d think the Liberals are using us for our good looks and money.

To be fair, I’d argue that all the provincial political parties over the course of the last 20 years or so have wished Toronto and environs would just be quiet or go away. Leave your votes and tax dollars on the table. Here’s your hat and coat. There’s the door.

Because it seems to be political advantageous to cater to the long held belief outside of the GTA that we’re simply a drain on the well-being of the province, a suck of money and attention. We demand too much and return very little. The generous residents of Not Toronto, Ontario build our subways and feed our homeless.

That’s ‘this Toronto thing’.

A myth based entirely on perception rather than reality.

Unfortunately, a myth eagerly used to exploit divisions. Rural-urban. Suburban-urban. North-south.

Once premier, Kathleen Wynne will be watched closely for any sort of home team advantage. dominoesWhen she speaks of building transit to meet the growing needs of the GTA, she will need to speak of the transit needs of all Ontario municipalities. She won’t be wrong to do so but it would be nice to hear her push the discussion further. That this region’s needs in things like transit are more pressing than those places less dependent on it to function fully. A Toronto bogged down in congestion, bogs down the GTA, bogs down the GTHA. It then reverberates negatively throughout the province as a whole.

By all means, our premier needs to represent and speak for all of Ontario. But it’s time to start speaking truthfully and not out of fear of some parochial regionalism. If you don’t fix what’s ailing Toronto and the GTA, you can’t fix the problems the rest of the province faces. That’s the conversation we’ve been avoiding for a couple decades now. Hopefully, it’s one our incoming premier is up to having and going to an election battle with if need be.

homerly submitted by Cityslikr


No Tears Shed

January 28, 2013

Off line for a couple days, I arrived back to find my various in-boxes filled with condolences over Mayor Ford’s appeal win on Friday.

Thanks for the kind thoughts, everybody, but nobody’s at all sad about the outcome around these parts. condolencesAs we suggested Friday, we think it’ll be far more damaging to his political future if the mayor stays right where he is and continues to make such a hash of things. And nothing he’s said or done since the decision suggests he’s going to be doing anything differently now that he’s been removed from the legal hot seat.

I’m naïve enough to believe that our legal system is a functional one in most cases, and in this particular case it played out properly and objectively. I don’t have the knowledge to argue the nuances of the respective decisions. courtwigIn a Spacing post today, John Lorinc points out some implications to the outcome that definitely should be taken into consideration by both the provincial and municipal levels of government in order to appropriately tighten statutes that will help uphold councillor conduct in the future

It was unfortunate to see supporters of the mayor successfully pollute the discourse with the dubious defense of a removal from office being somehow undemocratic, as if vote totals determined the degree to which a politician had to adhere to the rules and regulations. As if democracy and the law were separate entities. As if the rule of law wasn’t the very basis of democracy. Perhaps some civics lessons might be in order for Team Ford and various opinion makers covering the municipal beat.

But the mayor’s back and I wouldn’t hold my breath about any future court wrangling ousting him, including the long awaited results of his 2010 campaign finances audit, before our next, regularly scheduled election. Which is fine by me. Rather than spend time defending himself in court, I want him defending his record as mayor. thegreatest1After winning his appeal last week, Mayor Ford was big on stating that people are better off now than they were before he was elected. He claimed to be running the city better than any other administration has.

I’m looking forward to him having to back his hyperbole up. As we head into the nuts and bolts of casinos, I want Mayor Ford to explain how hosting one somewhere in the city the province wants to place it will replace other dedicated revenue streams coming into our coffers. Casinos Not Taxes Will Make Toronto Better!

With the new incoming premier, Kathleen Wynne, already talking about possible funding sources for long overdue public transit initiatives, I’m anxious to hear all about Mayor Ford’s “comprehensive transportation strategy”. Surely after more than 2 years in office, preceded by almost a year on the campaign trail, he must have something more than ‘Subways, Subways, Subways’, right? therinkHe can’t seriously believe he’s going to positively participate in the adult conversation going forward if all he’s still got is quotation enclosed catchphrases.

No, I’m very happy to have the mayor’s now where he is. I want him front and centre for the next 20 months or so, as the face of the malignant politics and policies that are anathema to healthy city building. He’s free to try and further his cause rather than be a martyr to it.

So, congratulations and welcome back from the precipice, Mayor Ford. You may find that your time in court proves to be much more of a walk in the park than the rocky road ahead from here to October 27th, 2014.

smilingly submitted by Cityslikr


Let’s Move Along

January 25, 2013

Huh.

Trying to figure out my disappointment at the news that Mayor Ford won his appeal and will keep his job.huh

It wasn’t because I believed that if he’d lost, that would be the end of him. Far from it. Quite possibly, we’d be seeing a whole lot more of him – louder, more bombastic, more defiant — if a by-election followed and a campaign ignited.

Crassly, I think I’m disappointed because I was looking forward to the novelty of what might happen if he’d been tossed from office. Council intrigue and jockeying. Reappointment or by-election. Reappoint who? Who’d run against the mayor in a by-election?

Yeah. On days like today, I do think I am that shallow.

But the wheels of justice turned – gaveland folks, if you embraced the ruling of Judge Hackland, you cannot dismiss the appeal judgement — and Mayor Rob Ford is still the mayor of this city. So, it’s back to business. At least until the release of the report on his campaign finances comes out sometime in the next little while.

Much was made in the lead up to today’s court decision of how, if the mayor was removed from office, we as residents of Toronto would get a chance at an electoral do-over. An opportunity to erase the mistake made just over two years ago. Fresh beginnings.

The same can now be said for Mayor Ford. Today he’s been reprieved. Given a second chance to reclaim the leadership role he’s fumbled so spectacularly over the course of the last year or so. Live and learn, so to speak.

There are two avenues open to him, as I see it. To walk down the nyah, nyah, nyah, nyah, nyah path, thumbing his nose at his opponents as he did when he first took office and went all Don Cherry on our collective asses. Emboldened by nothing more than narrowly avoiding a legal bullet and trumpeting Mandate, Mandate, Mandate. upyoursThe People Gave Me A Mandate.

The same ol’, same ol’ in other words.

The same approach that lost him control of the transit file, the Port Lands, the budget process. Today’s ruling changes none of that. If Mayor Ford sees this as just another day, a mere bump in the road, he will still be very much a patch it together as he goes type of mayor with a fingers crossed and hope for the best approach to governance.

On the other hand, he could jump feet first into the leadership vacuum he’s created by his own behaviour and actually start acting like a mayor who needs to cobble together the solid support of at least 22 of his councillors and not just assume he has it because he’s the man. It doesn’t mean giving up his agenda or bowing down to special interests or vast left wing conspiracies. It simply means doing what has to be done to be a mayor in the city of Toronto.

If you see us here at All Fired Up in the Big Smoke as nothing more than Mayor Ford haters, I know this will sound insincere and pure rationalization. So be it. Although that does make me a little sad. welcomebackBut I’m glad the mayor wasn’t tossed from office today. I treat the news I’m hearing of Clayton Ruby possibly taking this to the Supreme Court with the opposite of relish. Dis-mayo?

This city faces some huge challenges, discussions and decisions in the next little while. A new premier of the province. A casino. The release of Metrolinx’s thoughts on funding our Big Move.

It’d be nice not to have the distraction of a mayor fighting for his job in the middle of that. While some of that is now out of his control, he could still start chipping in productively, as a member of the elected body that oversees the well-being and direction of the city. He could try being an actual mayor of all Toronto for a change, see if it fits.

hopefully submitted by Cityslikr


The Gig’s Up

January 24, 2013

It’s impossible to accurately predict a turning point of an era, let’s call it, while still living in that particular time. seethefutureUnless of course you have planes flying into buildings. That kind of catastrophic plot point writes itself. But in a period of relative normalcy on a scale of one for placid calm and ten for, Run For Your Lives, Jesus Has Returned!, you can never be certain when things have taken a most definite turn.

But allow me to go on record as saying I think yesterday, January 23rd 2013, was a turning point of the Mayor Ford Era here in Toronto. Now, now. I know lots of you will quickly jump in and claim that there have been so many turning points over the course of the last couple years, how could I pick just this one. You would not be wrong. I just think yesterday all the air that remained came out of the hot air balloon that once carried Rob Ford aloft.behindthecurtain2

The prick (ha, ha) that did it?

Matt Elliott at Metro’s Ford For Toronto, Debunking Ford Nation’s favourite budget chart. I will take it one step further. Mr. Elliott’s article debunks the very platform upon which the Ford Nation was constructed. City Hall’s fiscal foundations were crumbling due to out-of-control spending by the Miller Administration. The Gravy Trains must be stopped. Councillor Rob Ford was the man to do it.

It was the flimsiest of canards, and not one used only by then candidate Ford. He just perfected it. Coincidentally, this week is the 3rd anniversary of Rocco Rossi announcing his mayoral run chickenlittle(h/t to the Toronto Star’s David Rider for sending a reminder out). He too was full of municipal spending/debt alarmism based on little more than pronouncements of big, scary numbers. “He [Rossi] is prepared to sell off assets such as Toronto Hydro,” Vanessa Lu wrote, “to put the city on a better financial footing by cutting the city’s debt, now hovering near $2.5 billion.”

George Smitherman wasn’t above such cheap politicking, talking about how the city was nickel and diming residents to death and ‘restoring Toronto’s financial credibility’. Not for nothing, Mayor Ford recently claimed (albeit in typical Fordian hyperbole) that 80% of voters in the 2010 election backed his mandate. Meaning, I guess, everyone who didn’t vote for Joe Pantalone.

And all of it was nonsense, baseless assertions that opened the door for the Ford administration to run amok and slash and burn which was their intention all along, notwithstanding a rock solid pledge that there’d be “No Cuts To Services, Guaranteed”. texaschainsawmassacreAn easy line to follow that fit perfectly on a t-shirt and bumper sticker. It doesn’t have to be true if it’s snappy.

This isn’t to say that all’s pollyannishly well and good. Toronto does face some financial hurdles. Reeling in overspending just doesn’t happen to be one of them. As Matt (and most other reasonable political minds around these parts) has pointed out over and over again, we can’t fix major problems like congestion and crumbling infrastructure by slicing away at our annual operating budgets or attacking unions or contracting out services or selling off assets or a combination of all those things. Those numbers simply don’t add up.

Reducing revenues won’t help out either. This Team Ford’s done by not only getting rid of the Vehicle Registration Tax but by also ensuring we keep our residential property taxes insufficiently low. A clear-eyed examination of the facts will reveal the mayor’s claim of over-zealous tax-and-spending of the previous administration to be outright misinformation based on de-contextualized charts and misleading graphs.

We haven’t been having a truthful conversation about this city’s finances for over three years now. All to our detriment. As we head into more uncertain territory over the next few months – Tnot just in terms of the outcome of Mayor Ford’s legal ups-and-downs but the Metrolinx forthcoming report on future transit funding – we really need to start dealing honestly and in an informed way with our current circumstances.

Hopefully Matt Elliott has finally put a stake through the heart of the Legend of Toronto’s Profligacy. It was never a thing. We need to get past it now and start working on the real problems we’re facing.

frankly submitted by Cityslikr


CasiYES Tops CasiNO

January 23, 2013

“I think this is a slam dunk,” says John Wright, senior vice president of Ipsos Reid in a National Post article yesterday.

This?

A casino in Toronto.

“Unless something incredible happens,” Mr. Wright continues, “the debate for the most part is over.”

In other words, according to the Ipsos Reid poll, for 906 people (presumably residents of Toronto) this has happened:

A Toronto casino will create jobs. How many? Thousands and thousands. Maybe even 10,000. Maybe. What kind of jobs? Full and part time. Maybe even union jobs. How much money in revenue will Toronto get for hosting a casino? Millions and millions. Maybe even $400 million a year according to no robust examination whatsoever. Why not $500 million if we simply float a boat in the lake, claims one pro-casino councillor who shall remain nameless although who else could it be? Where will this casino be? Ummm… What’s your answer first? We got preferences but let’s not decide on such an important factor until we know if a casinos coming or not.

I know this is going to come across as just another anti-casino screed. Truth be told, I am neither here nor there on the concept of casinos. They rarely serve as a destination of choice for me. gamblingThat doesn’t mean I don’t think others should have the opportunity to do so if they wish.

The deleterious effects of gambling as a reason for not building a casino in town leaves me equally cold. It is moralistic in tone and opens up the argument that the government should not be in the business of or profit from any activity that is harmful to a segment of society. Prohibition anyone? How’s that war of drugs been working out for us?

As our friend over on Twitter, @lifeonqueen, said, “…it symbolizes the immorality of using casinos as a tax substitute.” Now we’re getting to the meat of the argument. Governments preying on our more self-indulgent (and worse) natures instead of engaging fully with us about the necessity of proper taxation. Delivering the appearance of getting something for nothing.

And, according to the results of this online poll, a solid majority have bought into it.gambling1

From what I can tell, the city is being pressured into a yes-or-not vote with the details to be worked out later. We all know the devil is in the details, yet we’re essentially willing to sign off on a blank document. Who does that except for the extremely desperate? Why are we so desperate?

My two biggest concerns about this situation are money and location.

How much money, directly and indirectly, will end up in the city’s coffers when this is said and done? So far, the numbers have been vague. Vague, vague, vague. At this point, we’re can’t even be sure if it’ll end up costing the city more to have a casino than what we take in. gambling2That’s, what would you call it? A gamble.

Location is almost as important in this equation. To not have the ultimate say in where a casino would be is really not being an equal partner in the decision. Putting an inward looking edifice which a casino is along the waterfront, bringing cars downtown to fill its 10,000 parking spaces is an absolute deal breaker for me. I can’t see where’d there be any amount of money offered up in return for that.

Now, I would seriously consider a casino up at Woodbine. Remember Woodbine Live? Proof during the 2010 mayoral campaign that Rob Ford knew how to work with the private sector. It was supposed to look like this. In fact, it looks like this.

It’s a prime placement for some serious economic development especially for an automobile-oriented enterprise like this casino’s supposed to be. The decision seems a no-brainer to me if we’re going the casino route, if, when all the facts and figures are in, it makes fiscal sense for the city.gambling3

But we’re so far away from that kind of detailed discussion right now. Yes or No should be just a starting point with more than a few opt out escape hatches built in. No, but… Yes, if… That’s the level of discussion we need to have before getting down to the nitty gritty.

Right now, we’re just being asked to cross our fingers and trust a group of people who in no way has earned that trust that everything’s going to work out just fine for everyone concerned. Win-win-win.

You wouldn’t buy a water heater for you house under those stipulations. Why on earth would we consent to building a casino that way?

odds on-ly submitted by Cityslikr