One Is The Loneliest Number

It would be easy to write off the city’s new budget chief, Councillor Frank Di Giorgio as… invisibleman1ineffectual, let’s call it to keep things on a civil level. It’s difficult to point to a single contribution he’s made during his undistinguished time in office. His one stand out quality seems to be posing the most baffling of questions during council meetings. If there’s a current councillor who elicits more “I’m sorry. I’m not sure what you’re asking.” responses one doesn’t immediately spring to mind.

Yet there he is, a North York and Toronto councillor since 1985 save the first term of the amalgamated city. That’s 25 years for those of you counting at home. He’s got to be delivering the goods in some way, doesn’t he? whateverOtherwise, you’d have to conclude that his residents aren’t really paying that much attention to who represents them at City Hall, and their voting habits consist of nothing more than checking off the most recognizable name on the ballot.

Let’s not travel down that cold, bleak road.

Instead we’ll assume that Councillor Di Giorgio is one savvy political survivor. A canny operator who knows what needs to be known, does what needs to be done to continue getting elected to public office.  He has his finger on the pulse of what Ward 12 York South-Weston voters want and expect in a councillor.

Now, after years in the wilderness of obscurity, he has finally ascended the heights of prominence. Clawing his way up over the corpses and cast offs of a once powerful army, he is the last man standing. solesurvivorThe chosen one from the dwindling ranks. The few, the proud, the Team Ford.

Being budget chief is a tough, thankless job at the best of times. Arguably, this is not the best of times. The position kicked the stuffing out of his predecessor, Mike Del Grande who seemed to have coveted the job from the time he was first elected as councillor in 2003. Why would Councillor Di Giorgio want to travel down that same grueling path with a crowd not playing at the top of its game and hardly noted for overt displays of loyalty toward those who’ve offered up their services for the cause?

Surely the councillor’s been around the political block enough times to know that he’s not going to make a lick of difference in the direction the budget takes as long as the mayor’s brother sits to his left as the committee’s vice-chair. Sure, there are five other members on the committee but with hyper-Fordian Councillor Frances Nunziata now one of them, it’s hard to see much of a free flow of ideas happening that don’t carry the imprimatur of the councillor-brother. liontamingIt’s obvious who’s running the show at budget committee in everything but name.

We here at All Fired Up in the Big Smoke were on record for not thinking much of the former budget chief’s job. In our humble opinion, he never fully grasped the nature of public finances, maintaining a very cloistered view that saw debt and taxation as unnecessary profligacies. But Councillor Del Grande was no toady. He possessed an independence of attitude that, more often than not, overlapped with Mayor Ford. When it didn’t? Well, ultimately that’s why he quit the post.

Watching Budget Chief Di Giorgio’s inaugural budget committee meeting as chair last Thursday, independent minded was not the first thing that sprung to mind. He was solicitous and polite and did not commence the meeting with a bang of the gavel. Granted, the meeting was light on business and for the most part, items sailed through with very little fuss or bother. rubberstampNobody set about re-inventing the wheel on this particular day.

And then came the last bit of new business.

An item from the February Government Management Committee meeting to purchase a little over a third of an acre of green space from a surplus TDSB school along Dufferin Street in Ward 15.

For most of the committee members in the room, this was the first they’d heard about the item and understandably wanted to get a little more information before giving it a green light. (Councillor Nunziata took the opportunity for her familiar complaint refrain about not getting the parks in her ward cleaned let alone getting a new park.) Due diligence and all that.

But the budget committee vice-chair took the wariness a couple notches higher.

A million bucks for a park?! Who did the math on this? Fair market value, the budget chief assured him.grandstanding

A park on Dufferin Street?! Who would want their kids playing there? Well, the area is lacking green space, the budget chief told him.

If we buy a park for Ward 15, where’s the park for every other ward in the city? Let’s keep everything at the lowest common denominator, folks. Parks for all or parks for nobody. And it’ll be for nobody since a million dollars for a park is outrageous.

So it went until the committee voted in favour of sending the item onto Executive Committee without recommendation, effectively washing their collective hands of making any decision on it.

While such an excessive outburst is nothing new, this one was something of a head-scratcher even by Councillor Doug Ford standards. Alone among budget committee members, the councillor was not unfamiliar with this particular item. As part of the Government Management committee, not only did Councillor Ford debate the item a month earlier, he actually moved the adoption of the motion.

Now, here he was railing about it.

Whatever was behind such a pronounced flip-flop?

Follow me as I make a wild guess here.

The chair of the Government Management Committee? A certain Councillor Paul Ainslie. pissingmatchWhat happened in the interim between Councillor Ford’s apparent approval of the purchase of the parkland in February and his about face on it a month later? A little accusation of more questionable public behaviour on the part of Mayor Ford at the Garrison Ball earlier this year by – you guessed it – a certain Councillor Ainslie.

Who did the math on this?!

This is the kind of eradicate, sideshow conduct Councillor Di Giorgio has signed up for in taking the position of budget chief. Entirely extraneous, personality driven politics diverting attention from the task at hand of running the city. As the administration wobbly heads into an election year, completely sidelined on most of the important issues on the municipal docket, is this really the kind of increased profile the councillor is looking for? outsidethecircleBudget chief in name only and subject to the turbulence of a populist administration constantly undercut by a lack of realistic policy goals and regular questions about the mayor’s off-field behaviour?

Unsurprisingly, after the conclusion of Thursday’s budget committee meeting, the budget chief was left alone, talking to someone in the public seats as the media chased Councillor Ford out of the room. It’s a scenario Councillor Di Giorgio probably should get used to.

singularly submitted by Cityslikr

3 Responses to One Is The Loneliest Number

  1. Sol says:

    IIRC, FDG (isn’t that efficient? We only have to change one letter for a quick shorthand reference to the city’s budget chief! — ed.) also tried to justify the kneecapping of Gary Webster by arguing that he had a duty to “respect the office of the Mayor.”

    • Sonny says:

      CEO Byford apologizes and gets a break being new whereas Webster had experience.

      P.S. I hope Di Giorgio will advise Ford it’s better to pay a $3,150 fine to payback improper lobbyists donations than to shell out $116,000 to a lawyer who lost then won on a technicality…

  2. Patrick Smyth says:

    “Let’s not travel down that cold, bleak road.” It would be a good road to travel. It would lead to the root of the rot that has stagnated TO Council. It might even branch-off in support of Term Limits.

    While this incident is indicative, and truly we need to acquire as much open space as possible, there is wriggle-room in defence of good stewardship. Small park space is expensive to maintain and the handling of the item is all above-board and democratic.

    The case I outlined in my previous post is far more offensive. Under David Miller the item that eliminated Affordable Housing in my community was surely orchestrated with his approval. His Budget Chief, Shelley Carroll, had voted in favour of the item only 10 days prior. Karen Stintz could not have cheated her constituents and the City without the prior agreement of the NDP on Council.

    BTW, in justifying her elimination of Affordable Housing she has now declared that she was satisfied that lower-than-market units would be made available in the NEON condo building. She must believe that somebody in need to Affordable Housing can afford a condo at Yonge and Eglinton, have enough for a deposit and qualify for a mortgage!

    For her, and 27 other councillors, it’s all water off a duck’s back.

    What’s most startling, and worthy of closer scrutiny, is that the office of the Integrity Commissioner is unable to investigate the matter. Apparently, unless I can identify any monetary exchange for this incident, even as little as $3,000 would do, the IC is barred from proceeding. It’s true – a councillor can mislead Council in the conduct of personal affairs, improperly use the influence of office and the City will do nothing about it. (Kind of puts us in our place, eh?)

    Seems like all we’re doing is behaving like quibbling malcontents who should just wait until the next election. When, no doubt, name-recognition will ensure a repeat of our stinking, corrupt circus we call Council. It’s a farce!

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