King Of The Road

February 28, 2013

A recent Twitter exchange got me a-thinking. (Yes, I am growing comfortable acknowledging the Twitter/thought equation.)


It started with Global News’ Jackson Proskow in conversation with the TTC’s CEO, Andy Byford. They were talking about the news streetcars slated to join the fleet sometime next year. You know the ones the mayor and his team swore were going to break the city’s bank? Or was that the new subway cars? Public transportation is so expensive.

I’ll edit the chat for intelligibility for the non-Twitter types in the audience although you really need to get with the program.godzillafordtorontosun

So tweets Mr. Proskow:

TTC CEO confirms you may have to wait longer for a streetcar once new fleet arrives, but says reliability & capacity will improve.

“There are fewer streetcars but let’s remember they are much bigger” said Andy Byford. “my challenge is to make sure they don’t bunch up”.

Byford on new streetcars “people may have to wait a little bit longer but the actual reliability of the service will be that much better”.

Sometime during this, our friend Matt Elliott chimes in.

How fun would a botched launch of the new streetcars be in 2014, right in the middle of a municipal election?

Oh-oh. People hate streetcars, remember? Gulp!

dedicatedstreetcarlaneCouncillor Gord Perks adds a little fuel to the fun fire.

So the TTC is saying I will be certain that my morning ride will be worse.

Then, all jokes aside, JP Boutros, advisor to the TTC Chair, Karen Stintz, floats a little something-something into the Twittersphere.

Downtown TO politicos, please debate amongst yourselves as to why Giambrone’s Mar2007 504 King [streetcar] idea went nowhere & why it might (not) now.

What’s that, JP? some of us asked. 504 King streetcar idea? Giambrone? Why are you interrupting our laugh fest here?

After a little research, and by research I mean Googling, I came across this report, from way back in 2001, during the Mel Lastman era. A certain David Miller was still a councillor and TTC commissioner. Rob Ford was a council newbie. If there really were robots able to go back in time in order to alter the future, it would be to roughly this period where it would travel to in an attempt to kill our current mayor’s political career in its infancy.

Meeting Date: April 11, 2001 Subject: Dedicated Streetcar Lanes On The 504 King Route

OK, while you finish your fits of laughter, allow me to quote some from the report.


…two of the options under consideration at this time are: i) banning all traffic, except streetcars, taxis, and commercial vehicles, from King Street during the busiest traffic hours; and ii) a full-time, permanent solution, with physical modifications to the street, whereby through traffic would be banned at all times, but vehicles would still be able to access each block..

* * *

Staff tried to create a dedicated streetcar right-of-way on King Street in the past, but the concept failed. In the early 1990’s, general traffic was prohibited from driving on the streetcar tracks on King Street, through the downtown, during peak periods. This was to be effected through the use of overhead signs and pavement markings, some of which are still in place today.

However, this “passive” system of deterrents didn’t work; motorists did, and continue to, ignore it. While this was disappointing, staff learned a valuable lesson from that experience: there is no “low-impact” way of establishing dedicated streetcar lanes on King Street. For dedicated lanes to be effective, there must be a dramatic change in the way in which King Street operates.


*  *  *kingstreetcar1

And in summary,

It is impractical to continue to operate the 504 King streetcar route, with service frequencies as great as every two minutes, in congested mixed traffic conditions. There are a number of initiatives being undertaken by staff to address the variety of problems contributing to the slow and, typically, unreliable service on this route. The most dramatic of these would be the creation of effective, dedicated lanes for the streetcars. TTC staff are working with Toronto ransportation Services and City Planning to identify a design for dedicated streetcar lanes which would fully respect the commercial activities in this corridor. To be effective, any solution will require trade-offs between substantial improvements in the quality of transit service on King Street and auto traffic and on-street parking.

Remember, this was twelve years ago. The King streetcar was already the most heavily used surface route in Toronto, carrying over 50,000 riders a day. (Now close to 57, 000 according to the 2011 stats). kingstreetcarAt peak morning rush hours, the streetcar was carrying almost double the number of people between Spadina and Yonge than were travelling along the route in other vehicles. While the numbers may’ve changed since then, there’s no reason to think the ratio has.

Flash forward six years to 2007. (Or flash back five years from the present.)

David Miller is now mayor. Adam Giambrone is the TTC chair. They’re still trying to do something about the congestion along King Street. Hey! How about a trial restricting vehicular traffic along a stretch of the corridor? See what happens.

Get the cars of King, TTC asks City Hall. TTC Streetcar Proposal for King ‘Madness’.

You can pretty much guess how that all went.

Local residents and businesses get all up in arms, claiming without any substantiation that the plan will kill the area. Without easy access for cars, the strip will shrivel up and die. Even so much as a pilot project will be a death knell.

It’s the exact same argument we’re hearing right now from the owners of Pusateri’s on Bay Street in defense of their ‘lay-by’ cut in to the sidewalk in front of their store that allows cars to temporarily throw out the anchors for easy pickups and drop offs. They’ll live and die by ‘walk in’ traffic (a curious use of wording) only from cars that are able to park right by their doors. kingstreetcar2AS IF NO ONE EVER GETS OFF A BUS OR STREETCAR TO GO TO A RESTAURANT OR GROCERY STORE!

It’s this lethal combination of a white-knuckled grip on the status quo and an overweening sense of entitlement that leaves us stuck in this congestion rut. A War on the Car? Really? As the 2001 TTC report shows, motorists just simply ignore “passive” deterrents to stay off streetcar tracks or make illegal left turns. As a matter of fact, yes, I do own the road.

Show me somewhere that a decrease in private vehicle traffic in densely populated downtown areas adversely affects business. Give me the numbers instead of just scare tactics and dire warnings. What is it that we’re so afraid of if it turns out that in some spots of the city car traffic is really an impediment to better business and quality of life? How could that be a bad thing?

Clearly traffic flow isn’t functioning properly along King Street and hasn’t been for a while now. As the TTC CEO pointed out, our new streetcars aren’t going to fully alleviate the problem. It’s long past time we stop sitting on our hands and try a new approach. Hard to imagine how it could make matters any worse.

wonderingly submitted by Cityslikr

Just Wrapping Up Loose Ends

February 27, 2013

Yesterday I decided to take a break from our perpetual mayoral sorrow and His Worship’s latest justice dust-up governanceand spend some time catching up on the actual running of the city. Drop into a Community Council meeting maybe, witness me some day-to-day governance going on in the shadows of continued misrule. Ask the question: can a chicken really still run with its head cut off?

Entering the City Hall lobby, a sign caught my attention. Chief Planner roundtable…  Our Urban Fabric: Designing and Creating Public Places. Well, look at that, would you. And off I was, my destination changed from Committee Room #1 to Committee Room #2.

I encourage everyone who wasn’t there or didn’t follow along with the live stream to take some time and watch the proceedings. Failing that, read the agenda outline. What the city may lack in political leadership currently, it is made up for by a ferocious intelligence determined to grapple with some of the major issues we’re facing.

On the particular issue of the public realm, it was quite clear from the outset that many on the chief planner’s panel held diametrically opposed views from our administration. publicrealmThat’s not entirely fair. I mean, can anyone express the mayor’s views on the public realm in fifty words or less? Here, let me try. A football field.

The public realm is no one thing, obviously. Building design. Transportation. Green space. Planning and development. Seemingly disparate items but all serving the single notion of liveability and quality of life. Very few of those things has Mayor Ford had much to say about.

Certainly some of the views expressed by some on the panel — made up of urban planners, designers, landscape architects, civil engineers, transportation consultants, market researchers, from both the private and public sectors. And Anne Golden! – would not be those you’d be hearing from Mayor Ford and his allies. According to the city’s General Manager of Transportation Services, Stephen Buckley, his department is “no longer just about moving cars…” I says, what?! Who the hell hired this guy? Denzil! Code Red! lookingthewrongwayRogue city staff! STAT!

(One of the upsides to our mayor’s obsessive focus on every single nickel and returning residents’ phone calls could well be his disengagement with the hiring of senior city staff. Whatever influence his office has on such matters, I can only imagine his involvement in anything that doesn’t directly have to do with dollars and cents is passing at best. Can picture the hiring of Jennifer Keesmaat as chief planner going something along the lines of, Hey, she’s from the private sector! Without looking up, a silent thumbs-up from the mayor as he works his phone.)

Such a disconnect between our highest elected local official and those implementing policy cannot be maintained, of course. Eventually, they have to either coalesce into some sort of coherence or heads are going to roll. Just ask Gary Webster, for instance.

But the ball may not be in the mayor’s court this time out. Not only has he essentially lost control of the agenda at council, he’s also heading into a campaign year. While that may be his strong suit, or at least, stronger than governing, as the incumbent he might not be as free to simply tout meaningless numbers and slogans as he was in 2010. He might have to talk honest-to-god policy ideas.

During yesterday’s panel discussion, the chief planner talked at some length about value. costvalueWhat it is we place value on as residents of the city. It struck me that would be a good place to start asking our politicians as we head into the next campaign. What is it that they value?

We know with almost dead certainty how Mayor Ford would respond to that question. What do you value? Customer service and respect for the taxpayer.

But what does that mean in everyday practical terms?

Returned phone calls and low taxes? What’s the value of those?

It doesn’t deliver us much needed transit. It doesn’t rebuild aging infrastructure. It doesn’t create vibrant public spaces. Outside of our own individual satisfaction there is no value in a phone call from the mayor or not paying the level of taxes necessary to properly maintain our city.

The mayor has no sense of the value of public service. stumped1His values don’t deliver, build or create anything other than divisions, resentment and antagonism.

After Mayor Ford escaped unscathed from the Compliance Audit Committee on Monday, Matt Elliott suggested it was now time for him to get back to the work of governing. “It didn’t escape my notice yesterday,” Elliott wrote, “that when Ford started to listing his mayoral accomplishments in his post-victory speech, virtually none of them came from the last six months of his term.” Sure, we can lay the blame for that on all his legal wranglings but I think the truth of the matter is that Mayor Ford has nothing else to offer because there is nothing else he really values.

Public transit is merely a nuisance to him. There’s only value in it if it’s kept underground, out of sight, out of mind. Of course he’s in favour of a casino wherever it’ll fetch the most money for city coffers and offset some of the revenue his administration has foregone in its War on Taxes.

After that, what does he value? With no values, you can’t govern. And if you can’t govern, what else is there? killingtimeCampaigning for re-election.

“I think a lot of people are already in that election mode,” the mayor told the media, “and just wrapping up a few loose ends and we’re going to be on the campaign trail.”

With about 20 months to go before the next election, Mayor Ford is ‘just wrapping up a few loose ends’. That’s what a politician with no values calls governing.

impatiently submitted by Cityslikr

Salting A Pound Of Flesh

February 25, 2013

Judging from the questions put to her by a number of councillors last week, the city’s Integrity Commissioner Janet Leiper doesn’t owe anyone any apology. notaclue“So, if this guy comes up to me, totally out of the blue and offers me tickets to, I don’t know, the Leafs’ game, am I supposed to say ‘no’ just because he might be a lobbyist?” If that’s not your first instinct in that situation, councillor, I find it surprising you haven’t already been written up by Ms. Leiper yet.

No one more than Councillor Doug Ford – except maybe his brother the mayor – should have been in their seat listening to the Integrity Commissioner’s report to council. Instead, he made his way up to the press gallery to launch an all out media attack on her, demanding satisfaction for the injuries her office inflicted upon the duly elected mayor of this city and his family. You see, folks. The courts proved it was all just one big left wing conspiracy after all.

“Because of the lack of her [Integrity Commissioner Janet Leiper] due diligence,” Councillor Ford’s quoted as saying, titfortat“the results have had major ramifications for my brother, it hurt his family, it hurt him financially, it hurt his kids and most of all, it hurt the city.

“If it was up to me, I’d ask her to step down. She has almost destroyed a family over her lack of due diligence.”

Hopefully, Councillor Ford was just playing politics with such statements because if he wasn’t, if he truly believes that, well then, he’s not only displaying a profound misunderstanding of the conflict of interest legal proceedings his brother just went through but, I’d say, reality itself. Normally, I’d shy away from drawing such an extreme conclusion but it is Doug Ford we’re talking about here. It’s not like he and reality haven’t parted company on previous occasions.

To honestly think that his brother went through what he went through because of the decision the Integrity Commissioner made about then Councillor Rob Ford soliciting donations to his private football foundation using official City of Toronto stationery is to ignore every other stop along the way. pissingmatchThat Ms. Leiper hadn’t sought a multitude of ways to help him back out of the situation before it came to any sort of official sanction. That it is was Rob Ford himself that really kicked off the conflict of interest proceedings by participating in council’s move to quash a previous council’s decision. That a lower court judge had no issue with the penalty the Integrity Commissioner recommended. That the appeal didn’t exonerate Mayor Ford but questioned the penalty that was brought to bear on his actions.

If Councillor Ford is demanding an apology from the Integrity Commissioner in the wake of his brother’s successful appeal, shouldn’t he also be asking for an apology from Charles Hackland, the judge who ruled against the mayor originally? Maybe Judge Hackland ought to resign as well. Good judges who know their shit never have their decisions overturned by a successful appeal.

Councillor Ford does realize that Janet Leiper was not responsible for taking his mayor-brother to court, right? She didn’t force the previous city council to vote in favour of her recommendation against Rob Ford. outoforderHer role in this whole sad spectacle didn’t extend beyond her initial ruling.

You might think the Fords have bigger fish to fry at this point. Best to close the book on this particular chapter and put it behind them. If they can’t bring themselves to bury the hatchet with the city’s Integrity Commissioner, at least they might want to quietly move on and stop reminding everyone that Mayor Ford kept his job by the mere skin of his teeth.

You would think.

But it seems Councillor Ford bears a grudge noisily. By-gones? What by-gones? For a guy who is all about business, he takes his politics awfully personally.

Of course, given these guys’… ummm, unorthodox approach, let’s call it, to governance – laywasteRules? For me? Really? – their dealings with the Integrity Commissioner might not be in the past. Neither Ford has really shown any propensity to learn from previous missteps and reprimands, so it’s not beyond the realm of possibility to imagine their paths crossing again with Janet Leiper before all is said and done. So maybe Councillor Ford is simply conducting some pre-emptive strikes in case there’s anything new brewing. Detonate a little intimidation bomb.

Mounting an offensive in the hopes of fending off the need to defend their council conduct once again.

tit-for-tatly submitted by Cityslikr

Suck It Up, Losers

February 22, 2013


During Wednesday’s city council debate over the Striking Committee’s appointment recommendations to the Executive and Budget Committees, Matt Elliott asked, “What would this administration do if they didn’t have so much spite to fuel them?”

Spite? That sounds absolutely benign compared to what some raging right wingers hurled around council chambers over the course of the past few days. Witness Councillor Mike Del Grande vituperative outburst. The sound a black hole makes when it’s collapsing into itself. (Video clips courtesy of Matt  Elliott).

To the victors go the spoils. Just like Jesus Christ himself said. To which the Romans replied, Hey, guy. You’re a carpenter, right? How be you build us a cross. We’ll bring some extra nails.

While the tone of the councillor’s screed was astounding, the really telling aspect of it was the claim he made early on in his speaking time. “… and we were denied getting on certain committees [during the Miller administration]. And the reason was, the mayor at the time decided who he wanted on and who he didn’t want on, and one of the early criteria was the bridge to the airport. Bridge to the airport. If you weren’t onside with the bridge on the airport, you were automatically discounted. So that was the key. And I remember going to talk to Deputy Mayor Pantalone at the time, and he made it very clear. That vote was important to the mayor, and that’s what differentiated whether you got positions or not.”

In other words, every mayor has an agenda and if you’re not on board, you’re on the outside looking in. So suck it up, lefties. That’s how things have always been done at City Hall.

Except for the fact, well, I’ll let Councillor Gloria Lindsay Luby explain.

“Mayor Miller had an Executive Committee after the City of Toronto Act. I sat on that committee. He knew that I did not support – I mean, I did support the bridge to the city airport. He knew that. But he still asked me to sit on that Executive Committee, even though knowing that I am a conservative and that I would not support him on every vote, and I certainly did not.”


Now hey, who’s to say that Mayor Miller and his deputy mayor didn’t tell Councillor Del Grande and Speaker Frances Nunziata or Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday — who have both also endlessly complained about how they were sidelined during the previous administration (although, as noted by Councillor Paula Fletcher after Mr. Holyday’s similar themed left out in the cold rant this week that he was, in fact, chair of the Audit Committee under David Miller, just like he is currently) — that there was an anti-bridge litmus test for anyone wanting to get key positions? Maybe it was just a more diplomatic way of going about it. After watching their respective performances while in power over the course of the last couple years, isn’t it quite possible nobody in their right mind would choose to spend any more time than they had to in the company of such flinty, carping, divisive people?

That fact of the matter is, even the most cursory search through the archives of amalgamated Toronto will quickly show that the Ford Administration is by far the most exclusionary administration this city’s ever had. Neither Mel Lastman nor David Miller demanded such blind loyalty based solely along strict ideological lines as Rob Ford has. To argue otherwise is nothing less than to embrace revisionist history. It is perpetuating a basic untruth.


Which brings us to an even more problematic point. The appropriation of rightful anger, resentment and a feeling of exclusion purely for political purposes.

There should be no doubt that far too many residents in this city, entire under-served neighbourhoods and communities, have been excluded, neglected and sidelined in terms of economic development, transit, planning and representation. They have every right to be pissed off and resentful. That tune sung by many of their councillors, none louder and prouder than Rob Ford, hit the right chord for them. It sounded like fellow travellers.

The big difference, however, is that the isolation and bitterness spewed by the likes of Rob Ford, Doug Holyday, Frances Nunziata, Mike Del Grande was entirely self-imposed. Each of them chose to varying degrees not to play along with the previous administration because they did not agree with the agenda. And now they try to propagate a mythology of exclusion that does not hold up even to the slightest push against it. Councillor Del Grande’s is demolished within a minute by Councillor Lindsay Luby.upyours

These hardcore right wing ideologues were angry but not for the same reason many of those voting for them were angry. They frothed the anger in much of the electorate and used it to gain power. Achieving that, it’s all become about settling political scores and getting even while doing absolutely nothing to address the roots of the discontent and isolation that swept them into office.

In no way do any of them reflect the true outsider status many of their constituents actually experience. Taking their cue from Mayor Ford, they merely exploit it. To build walls and divisions that having nothing to do with good governance or positive public service. It’s all about laying waste to their opponents and playing the politics of destruction.

Thinks I’m exaggerating? Ladies and gentlemen, I give you “The Burning Rage of a 1000 Nunziatas”. (phraseology h/t @ManuvSteele).

ragedly submitted by Cityslikr

Here’s To You, Councillor Robinson

February 21, 2013

Hopefully Councillor Jaye Robinson wasn’t looking to keep her low profile at City Hall intact. To use some mixed football terminology, Mayor Ford has handed the homelessness ball off to her, called a timeout and left the field to enjoy the halftime show. forrestgumpRun, Robinson! Run!

Only the most obdurate ally of the mayor, at this point, refuses to acknowledge that there may be some question about the numbers city staff is giving in terms of shelter space and beds available to the people living on our streets. The official line is everything’s OK, hunky dory. The supply meets the demand for anyone needing a place to stay. Those using and working in the shelter system disagree. They’ve declared an emergency and point to 8 dead bodies in 2013 as proof.

How to get to the bottom of this quandary? Yesterday twenty-three councillors voted to debate the matter, to get city staff to show that their numbers are valid and that the city is doing all that it can to provide shelter to those who need it. Now. When weather conditions are at their most unforgiving. The mayor and twenty other councillors including Councillor Robinson, believe everything is fine and that the matter will be handled all in due time at next month’s Community Development and Recreation Committee meeting.

Respect the process, people. Mayor Ford is all about respecting the process.

That argument was persuasive, at least coming from Robinson who is the chair of the Community Development and Recreation Committee. stifledebateMore palatable certainly than Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday and Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong waving around staff numbers and accusing their colleagues of crying wolf. Or Councillor Doug Ford’s insisting that the real problem with people out on the street was that they didn’t want to use the shelters. So what could we possibly do about it?

So debate done. A two-thirds majority was not achieved. Everybody, as you were. We’ll talk again in March. Fingers crossed no one else dies in the cold and inclement weather between now and then.

Having provided cover for the mayor on the matter, Councillor Robinson must now realize this is all on her plate. Mayor Ford has washed his hands of it and will continue to tout the numbers he likes in order to maintain everything’s being taken care of, nothing he’s done with the budget (the best budget ever in the city of Toronto) has adversely affected shelters or people living on the streets. His conscience is clean.

But if he’s not right. If with further digging, it’s discovered there is a discrepancy. hotpotatoIf city staff numbers don’t ultimately match up with the facts on the ground, Mayor Ford will shrug and say he only proceeded using the information he was given, so he can hardly be held accountable. What was everybody on the Community Development and Recreation Committee doing? Were they asleep at the wheel?

By managing to quash the emergency debate yesterday, the mayor has put this matter behind him. He was never a big fan of dealing with the homeless and shelters anyway. Ultimately, his core constituency doesn’t have a problem with that. I’m not sure Councillor Robinson has that luxury.

While she helped spearhead the derailment of the mayor’s brother’s Port Lands plans nearly 18 months ago, Councillor Robinson has otherwise quietly stick-handled playing along with Team Ford. She is the remaining female face on his Executive Committee and votes less often along party lines on key issues than any of the other committee members. tworocksSuch independence is going to be put to the test while in the spotlight of a very hot button topic.

In her role as CDR Committee chair, Councillor Robinson is going to have to challenge city staff to show that their data on shelter space and beds is robust without Mayor Ford having her back. He will hold tight onto the numbers we’re being given now because they back his claim that all is well and good. Councillor Robinson will be driving full on into a solid wall of resistance while being pursued by a whole truckload of denial wanting to hear only one answer.

Her reputation as a nonpartisan member of council is at stake. If the information coming from city staff is what they say it is now, Councillor Robinson should walk away unscathed. If there’s any sort of suggestion that all is not what we’re being told, she’s going to have some difficult decisions ahead, starting with a mayor not wanting to hear what she’ll need to say.

But it’s a position she put herself in by standing up and arguing against having a council debate on the question. She assumed full responsibility. Going forward, Councillor Robinson will be the face of City Hall’s response to homelessness in Toronto.

jrobinsonThat’s Councillor Jaye Robinson, Ward 25 Don Valley West.

coo-coo-coo-chooly submitted by Cityslikr

Shrug Off A Thug

February 20, 2013

You have to give Mayor Ford marks for honesty. When asked about the recent spike in shootings of young men in Toronto, he said, “If I had an answer for (gun violence), I’d implement it.” shrugAnd then, “We’re trying everything we can and I just don’t have a magic answer right now and if I did, like I said, I’d be the first one to use it…I’m trying my very, very best and I don’t know really what else I can do.”

He’s right in some ways. Crime is a multi-level governmental problem. As the mayor of the city, his jurisdiction is limited. It’s not as if he can just grab the assailants by the scruff the neck and force them to play football. homersimpsonOr deport them from the city.

He can’t deport them, right?

Besides, former mayor David Miller reacted to a spate of shootings during the infamous Summer of the Gun under his watch, and for what? Seven years on and people are still getting shot and killed. Trying is the first step to failure, as Homer Simpson said. So aside from rolling back initiatives and programs of your predecessor, a mayor can only do so much.

Proaction starts with the same three letters as progressive and a fiscally conservative minded politician like Rob Ford has no time for either concept. There’s only one answer to deal with each and every problem society faces. Cut taxes, cut government and let the free market create jobs and opportunities. hediditFailing that, lock up all criminals and throw away the key.

Looking for any other kind of response from him is futile. He knows no other approach. His lingering appeal lies in the simplicity he brings to even the most complex of problems.

He’s not alone.

Watching Councillor Mike Del Grande at yesterday’s Police Services Board meeting, the same kind of thinking was on display. In response to Eglinton-Lawrence MPP Mike Colle’s deputation [page 9] about the unsolved murders of over 50 men from the Somali community in Alberta and Ontario over the past decade, the recently installed board member intoned the dark spectre of ‘drugs’. “…[news]papers seem to report drug-related causes leading to young people’s deaths”, Councillor Del Grande suggested. As if, unsolved murders, sure. But if we’re talking ‘drug-related causes’, what are you going to do?

Reap what you sow and all that. Just how Jesus would’ve reacted, casting the first stone at any and all sinners. nothingtobedoneOr at least, cast aspersions to absolve yourself of any responsibility.

It’s a collective shrug of indifference from our council’s conservatives. If flat lining spending can’t solve a problem then that problem is simply intractable. Nothing to be done. Certainly talking for five or six hours at council over something like Councillor Josh Matlow’s Taking Action on the Roots of Youth Violence motion won’t solve a thing especially if it leads to any sort of thug hugging.

So stop looking to our mayor and his fellow conservative colleagues to deal with stuff, folks. They’re in over their heads. If they can’t slash and burn their way to a solution, they’re at a loss how to respond. Expect anything more and you simply haven’t been listening to what they’ve been telling us.

matter of factly submitted by Cityslikr

You Have A Better Idea?

February 19, 2013

It seems there are certain ways not to protest homelessness and poverty, judging from some of the reactions to OCAP’s sit-in outside Mayor Ford’s office last Friday while he played with cars at the Auto Show.  MayorinarollsWhy are they doing it?” he asked a reporter when told about the demonstration. “The shelter beds aren’t even full.

Mayor Ford’s bewilderment reflected a wider unease with OCAP’s presence in City Hall. The group’s more confrontational approach to political engagement is controversial regardless of your political orientation, dating back to the June 2000 demonstration at Queen’s Park in reaction to the Mike Harris government’s austerity agenda that targeted tenants, the homeless and featured a 21.5% reduction in welfare payments. Violence ensued and the group’s pugnacious reputation was sealed.

Their view of ‘direct action’ does not sit well even with some who generally share the aim of fighting all aspects of poverty that afflict our society. The argument goes something like: handinhandConfrontation only serves to entrench already strongly held positions, forcing discussion into opposing camps and making consensus or even basic understanding much more difficult. Then names like Martin Luther King and Gandhi are evoked as way of proving that only peaceable means of protest are the way to ensure change.

I don’t know.

That seems to be a selective reading of history, as if more forceful forms of struggle never served to accomplish, or at least, complement societal transformation.

It may be the adolescent teenage boy in me but in the face of continued neglect and intransigence from those in power I think sometimes shit’s just got to be torn up.

And let’s face it, in terms of poverty and homelessness not much has changed over the course of the last 25 years or so. At every level of government, we’ve long since given up on the notion of a Just Society. protestfistIt’s pretty much been an everybody-for-themselves free-for-all, where those most deserving rightly earn comfort and security and those who don’t? Well, that’s on them.

It’s hard to believe that in 2013 those touting the same crackpot theories your crazy uncle used to espouse over Christmas dinner back in 1973 are actually taken seriously and have been given prominent space in prominent media outlets to spout such nonsense. Did you know there’s a ‘Poverty Industry’ made up of those not wanting to eradicate it but to profit from it? A cabal of left-wing politicians and lazy-assed do-gooders who would never make it in the shark infested waters of the private sector perpetuate the cycle of poverty and all its attendant ills for their own selfish benefit.

And you know what else?

There is a cure for cancer but doctors and scientists have collaborated to keep it from going public. Why? So they can keep their jobs.

That’s right.

Perhaps the most pernicious point of view that’s gained mainstream traction is that poverty and homelessness come about as a result of personal choice. stoptalkingpoliticisThat some people are so lazy and shiftless that they would rather live a life of deprivation on the streets and shelters. It’s preferable to toiling away at some minimum wage entry level job and climb out of the self-inflicted cycle of poverty.

A point inevitably followed by some variation on the n of 1 theme of personal perseverance and the pulling of oneself up by one’s bootstraps.  Heroic individualism is all that’s required to overcome obstacles not government handouts. Weaklings depend on others. Poverty is a personal failure. Blaming others is a cop out.

At about which time I want to use the bootstraps to string a few of these motherfuckers up from a lamppost. How did such patently absurd bullshit gain any sort of credibility outside of small circles of cranks and self-satisfied misanthropes? Obviously, there’s no simple answer to that question but allow me to not absolve myself of blame. Maybe there’s been too much emphasis on conducting a reasonable debate, to hearing a diversity of opinions, to thinking change and improvement can be achieved by engaging with those who have no interest in either change or improvement.

I’ve grown complacent (and worse) hoping the proper, acceptable channels will actually deliver the fair and equitable outcome that’s needed. I’ve grown accustomed to sidestepping outstretched hands and clearly distressed people living on our streets, rationalizing that the system is somehow working – however slowly and ponderously – to fix the problem. stillhereIf we just work together a little harder, if we can just figure out a way to agree on the best way forward, if we can just talk this thing through, the right solutions will emerge. If… if… if…

Until we come up with an approach that actually tackles the problem of homelessness, I think it’s a little presumptuous to chastise others who choose different tactics that we’re all not comfortable with. Certainly homelessness has been exacerbated by the withdrawal from and neglect of the issue by both federal and provincial governments, so setting up shop outside the mayor’s office could be seen as letting those truly responsible for the situation off the hook. But since our municipal administration and its supporters are crowing about flat lining the city’s operating budget while claiming services and programs remain robust, I see nothing wrong in letting them know, along with a swath of the broader public a demonstration like OCAP’s might alert, that there remains gaping cracks in which far too many people continue to fall through.

And if it takes making people uncomfortable and indignant even, well, why not? Nothing else seems to be working.

submitted by Cityslikr