Designed For Power Not To Rule

May 31, 2013

As the blood continues to ooze from under the door of Mayor Ford’s office at City Hall, bloodtheshingand the already small circle gets even smaller, it’s still difficult to get your head around the notion of a post-Ford Toronto. All those trees being on fire makes it really hard to see the forest. One can hope and one can dream but visualizing it takes a lot of effort.

There’s no telling how this latest… I don’t have the necessary vocabulary to describe the state of mayoral politics in Toronto at the moment… something something … will play out. An early exit? Certainly not by his own volition, it seems. Stay the course! Everything’s fine! First name on the ballot in the next election!

Removal by ‘external forces’, let’s call them. Your guess is as good as mine. They would have to be extraordinary circumstances, even by these already extraordinary circumstances, to turf the mayor before the next scheduled election. Around these parts mayors appear to be immoveable objects once installed into office.

Thing is, though, time marches on regardless of Mayor Ford’s status. The business of the city is being tended to whether he thinks he’s at the helm or not. handofgodTry and look away from the ongoing political wreckage and focus on the bigger picture. Stop squirming while the international audience looks on at us in wide eyed amazement. We all saw that coming, didn’t we? It’s only surprising it took this long.

One way or the other, this will pass. We must be ready to move on. In preparation, it’s good to remind ourselves of two important points that were brought up earlier this week.

Matt Elliott’s Challenge Accepted and Edward Keenan’s The trouble with Dougie’s people taking over. If you haven’t already read them yet, do it right now. I can wait. In fact, I’ll just switch over to my Twitter feed and see if the mayor’s staff has shrunk any further.

Go ahead. We’ll meet back here when you’re done.

wait

 

OK. First, Mr. Elliott.

“False. Absolutely, definitely false.”

We’ve seen it happening already. What’s left of this administration is trying to shrug off accusations about alleged personal failings by pumping up its governance cred. We said we’d stop the gravy train, and we have. We’ve kept your taxes low. We’ve cut wasteful spending. We’ve turned this fiscal ship of state around in the right direction.

Forgive us our trespasses, folks. But we’ve rocked our campaign promises. pickanumber1Boo-yeah!

“False. Absolutely, definitely false.”

They make up magic numbers. They claim credit for things they really had no hand in. What little policy initiatives they have managed to implement don’t amount to much more than a hill of beans in the scheme of things and have only truly accomplished making things just a little bit worse around the city. Fewer buses running more infrequently and more crowded. Park grass cut and streets cleaned a little less often. Smaller selection of books to borrow from the libraries.

And with no noticeable savings of tax dollars in our pockets. As Mr. Elliott shows, despite flatlining our gross operating budget, our property taxes have still gone up. So have user fees like transit fares. We’re paying more than we did in 2010 but are getting less.

Pretty much the exact opposite of Team Ford’s primary campaign pledge.

Pretty much the exact opposite of what any politician who steps into the fray and attempts to champion those very policy ideas and sideline the mayor. Beware any candidate trying to convince you that the message was sound. It was just delivered by the wrong messenger. pinocchio1The direction city council took early on in this term was misguided, no matter who was leading it.

“Confront. Attack. Repeat.”

This is the second point I want to make, cherry-picked from Edward Keenan’s post in The Grid on Wednesday.

The Ford Administration doesn’t have a leg to stand on at this point. Its very legitimacy is being questioned, and not just by the usual suspects who’ve been skeptical of it from the outset. Once obedient councillors are outspoken in their criticism. James Pasternak. John Parker. Jaye Robinson. The loyalist of the loyal simply keep their heads low.

Staff are jumping ship at a dizzying rate. Two yesterday. Five since the crack allegations surfaced. Some now sit on the sidelines, playfully sniping at the administration they once dutifully served.

How does the mayor and his dwindling number of defenders react?

“Confront. Attack. Repeat.”

inyourfaceI might add Deny to that list of Mr. Keenan’s. Deny. Confront. Attack. Repeat.

It goes something like this:

None of this situation – if there was a situation and there’s definitely not a situation – is our fault. It’s all just lies and rumours spread by our enemies. Enemies like the Toronto Star and all the social elite subscribers to that rag who’ve been out to get us since day one. Put up or shut up, folks. Where’s the video? Do you know the kind of pain you’re causing our families? How would you like it if we went after you like you’re going after us? Huh? Maybe I’ll just follow your wife and kids all around the place. How would you like that, huh? Get your own house in order before sticking your nose in our business. Disgruntled ex-employees. Put up or shut up. Put up or shut up.

They are the words of those who are never willing to accept responsibility for any negative consequences of their actions. It’s always someone else’s fault. Question them and their motives and the response is always to push back, to challenge, never to answer or explain. Accuse me? Accuse you.

It’s worked for them so far because up until now the other side has blinked. Turned away and moved on to try and work around them. playingchickenjpgBacking down is an understandable instinct when confronted with such aggressive certainty. Nobody can be that sure of themselves and be so willfully wrong, can they?

Yes they can.

We’ve saved the taxpayers a billion dollars, folks.

An entirely fictitious number Team Ford has picked out of thin air to repeat over and over in response to any and all allegations that are fired at it. Part of an incantation of nebulous claims invoked to help ward of the inevitable reality of it all. A billion dollars. The unelected premier. Social elites who’ve run this city for 50 years. Stir in an eye of newt, click your heels twice and poof, everything’s fine, everything’s good, the wolves are no longer at the door.

“False. Absolutely, definitely false.” “Confront. Attack. Repeat.”

It’s the political calculus that has worked like a charm. It’s transformed a fringe city councillor into an unlikely mayor, and his even fringier brother into a bullying power broker. Unfortunately, it’s also ground the wheels of governance of a big, vibrant, progressive city to a near halt.

Mayor Ford and those choosing to remain defiantly in his camp can continue believing that everything’s fine, everything’s hunky dory, and that all the problems that exist are because of other people. Why wouldn’t they? It’s got them this far.

therewillbeblood

But everybody else at City Hall needs to start operating outside of the mayor’s crank circle. Leave them to burn their little playhouse down. It was inevitable they would anyway. Ford Nation was built for little else.

—  exasperatedly submitted by Cityslikr


A Mess Of Our Own Making

May 29, 2013

boss

Holy hell, Toronto. Go away for 10 days and it’s like returning to the set of Kelsey Grammer’s Boss. Fuck.

The crack video story broke the day before I left and blossomed into a full blown tale of intrigue of drug dealing, murder, mass staff resignations and one dramatic haircut, all before my return. That’s some serious narrative escalation. Highly improbable even coming from such a highly improbable administration.

At this juncture nothing should surprise us yet it continues to do just that.

A few scandals back, I honestly can’t remember which one, I became convinced that Mayor Ford’s political demise would be a quiet one. insurmountableodds(And take this with a full grain of salt, coming as it does from someone who refused to accept the possibility of Rob Ford victory as late as October of 2010.) Supporters keep touting, even as recently as today, how the mayor’s approval numbers barely nudge much regardless of the shit he gets accused, convicted and acquitted of. But it seemed to me that an appearance of a reasonable right-of-centre candidate would immediately deflate those numbers to non-recoverable levels. Only some mad scrabble on the left from a host of candidates could possibly reconfigure the race into a winnable one for Mayor Ford.

In my mind, despite his apparent stubbornness, the mayor would recognize the almost hopeless chances he had at securing re-election in 2014 and fold up his campaign tent early, citing health or family concerns. No fuss, no bother. With a whimper not a bang.

If this continues along its current trajectory, however, we’re looking at some Cody Jarrett White Heat/DePalma Scarface flameout. Look at me, ma! On top of the world!! dyepackThe mayor’s exit even more spectacularly implausible than his entrance. They said it couldn’t be done, but he did it.

As appealing as that might be to the writer in me – you don’t have to do anything more than transcribe, really – the fallout from such a dizzying end would have negative repercussions far beyond just the mayor’s office. It already has, with questions about the proper functioning of the city coming from Queen’s Park and investors. “People are literally re-examining their stability projections of Toronto,” tweets James Aldersley. “Let that sink in.” (h/t to Edward Keenan for pointing that one out in his article today in The Grid.)

A quiet renunciation of our 2010 mayoral choice might bestow upon us as a city a certain air of somber reflection. Yup. We made a bad decision. Who hasn’t? Time to turn the page on that sorry chapter.

The way this is going, though, we all end up with egg on our faces, a little bit of the Ford on our collective sleeves. A mad experiment in self-loathing that blew up in our hands like a concealed red ink dye pack in a bag full of stolen cash. That kind of stain takes a long time to wipe clean.

dirtily submitted by Cityslikr


Catalan State Of Mind

May 23, 2013

I can’t speak to the current state of affairs here in Barcelona, but from purely an aesthetic perspective, it’s hard not to admire the civic bravery of the place. Maybe bravery is too big a word. Let’s call it chutzpah.

gaudidream
It’s as if they allowed their collective imagination to run wild. You want to do what? With those curlicues and the bendy spires? Sure. Why not? Go nuts.

I’m talking Antoni Gaudí of course. An early starchitect practitioner. His creations don’t so much dot the cityscape as they dominate it. La Pedrera apartments. La Sagrada Familia church. Parc Guell.

But these weren’t simply one-offs. Gaudi was part of — albeit a very large part of — the Modernista movement of the late-19th and early-20th centuries. An artistic expression of Catalan nationalism that endeavoured to distinguish the region and the people from the geographic and political borders that bound it.

parcguell
What’s remarkable to me is that not only was it allowed to happen on such a scale but it was allowed to happen at all. I just cannot fathom such acceptance of so radical a transformation at an official level. Good god, we can’t even get on the same page to build much needed transit. Never mind unleashing a Gaudí to run amok throughout the city.

It’s not about the individual buildings. We have those. It’s more to do with the bigger idea of defining the place where you live. Beyond just how it looks, but how it works.

It’s interesting to be in a place like Barcelona as the casino debate in Toronto winds up in an outright rejection of the idea. A casino was never about anything less mundane than money. In terms of actual city building, it was a dud, a non-starter. Nothing more than a dedication to individual interest and entertainment. A terrible, terrible way to forge any sense of community or civic-mindedness.

gaudi
The trick will be to put something in its place that does that. To use the reprieve from the onslaught of special interests as an opportunity to create something really special. We need to go a little Gaudí, not so much in actual design but in an adventuresomeness of spirit.

gaudily submitted by Cityslikr


Moving On

May 19, 2013

At least the timing works.

Heading off on a little jaunt and, as always, passingly sad about missing any City Hall doings. The special casino meeting called for Tuesday, for example. You don’t have to be out of the city for too many days to be assured of something of interest happening in your absence. Blink and you’ll miss it.

And then Thursday happened.

In a matters of hours, the casino debate collapsed, followed by a massive bloodletting at the OLG. That lip smacking turn of events quickly overshadowed by allegations of more mayoral misbehaviour. Never, ever a dull moment.

I was trying to finish off a couple posts before checking out but they just sort of sagged under the weight of accumulating baggage. Every sentence and point needing some caveat. In normal times, this would apply… All things being equal…

It would be, I don’t know, novel if this was an exceptional circumstance. Who doesn’t like a little salacious gossip with their politics? Problem is, here in Toronto, it’s all become boringly routine. Not weekly but certainly monthly wouldn’t be much of an exaggeration. The circus has come to town and refuses to leave.

As hard as it may be to believe, none of this brings me much pleasure or glee. I abhor everything Rob Ford stands for as a politician. Doesn’t mean I wish him ill as a person. My preference would be to see him run out of town because of his woefully misguided policies and inability to push forward anything resembling a coherent agenda, not whatever demons may be haunting him personally.

Either way you look at this, it is a clusterfuck of monumental proportions. A dynamic that hangs over every bit of city business. It isn’t a leadership vacuum. It’s a leadership black hole, sucking all light and matter into it.

If the defenders of the mayor are right and this is just the latest in a long line of conspiracies perpetrated by people who refuse to acknowledge the legitimacy of his election, holy shit, we are sad, sad lot, all adherence to the democratic process null and void. With each passing incident, however, this concept of dark forces aligned against him stretches credulity ever thinner. And if the video proves to be legitimate, and Mayor Ford actually did what he did, said what he said on it, well, it’s hard to see a way he gets past this even with his infamous Houdini skills of slipping out of tight spots that finish off the careers of other, mere mortal politicians.

Either way, his mayoralty has become an increasing liability to the proper running of this city. He is the millstone hanging heavily around the neck of good governance, the source of dysfunction at City Hall. If his colleagues at City Hall hope to salvage this term as anything more than some freak show oddity, a footnote that future generations will simply laugh and shake their heads at, they now have to step forward and past the mayor’s office to take charge of the agenda and act as if he’s no longer a contributing member of council. He’s become that much of a distraction.

— espanaly submitted par Cityslikr


The Cost Of Doing Business

May 17, 2013

On Wednesday over at the Toronto Standard, writer Jeff Halperin interviewed Josh Hjartarson, 2BillionQuestionvice president of policy and government relations at the Ontario Chamber of Commerce, talking about the organization’s report this week, The $2 Billion Question. Business’s perspective on, you guessed it, funding Metrolinx’s The Big Move. Both are interesting reads and lead to some wider questions.

The first is kind of tangential to the matter of transit itself but one that jumped out at me immediately. In the OCC report [pages 1 & 3, if you’re following along], it was pointed out that for ‘every $100 million invested in public infrastructure, 1670 jobs are created’. The total number of jobs created between 2012-2031 with The Big Move would be in the neighbourhood of 800-900 K. 800,000-900,000 new jobs over the next 19 years.

Remember, these numbers are cited by the Chamber of Commerce, folks. Not a group you normally associate with promoting public sector spending. Numbers that would’ve come in handy during the transit funding debate last week at city council. I’ll give your grossly inflated $1000/year/household in new taxes, Mr. Mayor, and see you some one million jobs created. They shouldn’t be the only ones allowed to round up in their favour.

When talking up the merits of a casino or runway expansion, it’s all about the jobs. Jobs, jobs, jobs. justsaynototaxesTen thousand of them, apparently, if the casino were to be taken off life-support.

But the jobs created investing in public infrastructure? Not it if means any sort of tax increase. Any whatsoever. No New Taxes trumps Jobs, Jobs, Jobs every time.

Another question is what role businesses as a whole have in contributing financially to the public infrastructure that helps them operate. From the public education that provides a functioning pool of workers to the roads and rails that bring both employees and goods to their doorstep, what should the cost be of doing business? Does the business community pay its share for carrying the freight, so to speak, of the public sphere that it relies on to exist?

The quality of local infrastructure is key to attracting international investment and talent. Effective transit and transportation grows the potential pool of workers which businesses can draw from and the customers that businesses can sell to. Efficient transit reduces the number of cars on the roads, which enables goods to flow faster and more reliably.

Better transit makes for a better business environment, according to these words from the Chamber of Commerce report. If that’s the case, as a group they should be more than willing to do their part and pony up. Yet, that’s not the vibe I’m getting from the report.

Of the 11 revenue tools put forth by Metrolinx and considered by the OCC, only three directly impact businesses – commercial parking levy, land value capture and development charges – and most of the costs of those could and probably would be passed on to consumers. taxationistheftRight out of the gate, an employer payroll tax was deemed a ‘Non-starter’. “The tool would be a drag on competitiveness and job creation…”, the report states, “… the tax would be a disincentive to invest in the GTHA… concerned that there is no direct connection between the input (revenue) and the output (improved transportation).”

There’s a disconnect here between the emphasis on the importance of infrastructure in ‘attracting investment and talent’ and the concern that a payroll tax would ‘be a drag on competitiveness and job creation’. We need solid infrastructure like transit as long as someone else pays for it. Sound familiar?

How is there ‘no direct connection’ between an employer payroll tax and ‘improved transportation’? The ease with which employees get to and from work would surely be related to their overall productivity. Why should it be the employees alone, through transit fares or road tolls, paying for something that will also benefit their employers?

Like the revenue tools debate at city council, there’s too much stress put on the disincentive side of taxation for transit funding. It will chase businesses out of the GTHA.crumblinginfrastructure It’s a job killer.

Where are the voices touting this is a long overdue investment? Certainly the Toronto Board of Trade needs to be commended for its tireless work in keeping this conversation going while all levels of government dither. But there needs to be a buy in from the wider business community like those taking part in the Chamber of Commerce report that revenue tools shouldn’t be seen as a burden but a necessary course of action for our future well-being and economic competitiveness.

For decades, governments of all stripes have under-invested in the GTHA’s transportation infrastructure, the OCC report states. That much is undeniable. The question is why?

Jurisdictional disputes, starting with a near absence of the federal government on the transit file. The cities alone incapable of raising the amount of money needed and a province either not inclined to spend money building transit or overly concerned with being seen focussing on just one locality. Fear of the Toronto Premier knock.crumblinginfrastructure1

But we also can’t ignore the fact that the senior levels of government have been creating huge holes in their respective revenue streams, accepting the common sense ‘wisdom’ that lower taxes translates into a better economy. Personal income taxes cut. Sales tax reduction. Corporate taxes cut.

We can hardly be considered antagonistic to business interests in this country, according to a Pricewaterhouse Coopers study last year. Maybe the timing’s just a coincidence that as governments willingly forgo revenue, investment in the public domain has also gone underfunded. You can try blaming inefficiencies and spending scandals for the lack of money to spend but all told, it’s a drop in the bucket compared to income lost by tax cuts.

That’s not to suggest business pick up the entire tab for The Big Move. crumblinginfrastructure2But I’m not sure why they should get a pass either. Corporate taxes were never put on the table for consideration by Metrolinx or the Board of Trade. The Ontario Chamber of Commerce worries about ‘economic competitiveness’ as much as it does fairness in its consideration of the various revenue tools.

What could be more fair than everyone chipping in, including businesses? Everyone has a reason why they shouldn’t have to pay. Now is the time for someone to step up and say, here’s my x%. Let’s get this thing done.

curiously submitted by Cityslikr


Change Isn’t Always Worse Than The Alternative

May 16, 2013

You know what the scariest word in English just might be? No, not anesthetist. pickawordThat’s the hardest word in English to pronounce but not the scariest. Unless, of course, you’re going in for surgery imminently.

Change.

That’s the scariest word.

People are averse – averse? adverse? averse? Again, tricky words. Not necessarily scary ones — to change. Even those most likely to benefit from a particular change are reticent.. reticent? hesitant? I’ve clearly thrown myself off here. Pick a word and run with it.

Change ain’t easy.

Our penchant is to view change warily, assuming it’s always going to be for the worse. This despite the fact that we are where we are, doing what we’re doing in relative comfort because of change and our ability to adapt to it. adaptchangeI mean, we could still be creatures flopping around in mucky goo, trying to figure how to breathe oxygen in through these things called lungs not gills.

This is not to say all change is beneficial and that we should simply embrace any new fad that comes our way. Change for change’s sake and other interior decorating maxims. I need a change, while usually indicating a desire to move in a positive direction, doesn’t automatically signal improvement. It could be a phrase uttered by a guy in a bar who’s been drinking rye-and-cokes all afternoon and he just wants to change to, I don’t know, rum-and-cokes.

It’s not about blind acceptance but the moderating measured space between that and an open hostility to any notion of change.

Speaking out against the proposed First Capital Realty development for the Humbertown strip mall on Tuesday, Mayor Ford clearly falls in the latter camp.

“Time equals change,” the mayor said in his speech at Tuesday’s Etobicoke-York Community Council meeting, “we have to move on but…” But what? Gradually? In a thoughtful manner? Earlier on in his speech the mayor stated that “we have to maintain these strip malls in Etobicoke”. So we have to move on to what?

We Have To Move On But is the trademark phrase of the bonafide, heels-dug-in intransigent. Frankly, Etobicoke seems to be populated by such types. Look at their representation at City Hall currently. driveinrestaurantFrom the Fords to councillors Doug Holyday and Gloria Lindsay Luby, part of a historical lineage of obstructionist and obdurate municipal politicians fighting tooth and nail against the slow march of time’s encroachment into their neighbourhoods and pocketbooks.

Read Jamie Bradburn’s Historicist piece last week in Torontoist about the city’s west end politicians battling the building of a subway in the late 1950s. All the way to the Supreme Court! ‘Bamboozled’ is a familiar phrase to modern ears, a kissing cousin to boondoggle, and one used in reference to subway plans. “I am afraid these taxes [to fund subway construction] will tie people up so tightly it will make them move out of here,” said Long Branch Reeve, Marie Curtis, “the same as some of us moved from the city.”

“Don’t be misled by visionaries who would lead you to believe they see things the rest of us don’t,” decried York Reeve Chris Tonks.

That’s not an unreasonable statement if you’re talking about visionaries touting contact with occupants not named Hatfield of interplanetary crafts. overmydeadbodyBut it was 1958. Subways weren’t some new fangled technology about to be foisted upon an unsuspecting population. Cities had been building them for about century by that time. It was a question of figuring out how to pay for an established mode of public transit and putting it in the right place.

Intensification runs along a similar line of thinking.

Sprawl is no longer sustainable. These kinds of strip malls Humbertown represents are relics of a past that was guided by the idea of unlimited space and cheap fuels to get us to these far flung places. As a form of land use, they no longer make sense.

Defenders of the status quo proclaim that this isn’t downtown Toronto we’re talking about, but Etobicoke. But this isn’t Etobicoke we’re talking about, not the one of 40, 50 years ago in its leafy-streeted isolation from the hustle and bustle of downtown. Now a fully functioning inner suburb, its quaint dreams of a pleasant village life located miles and miles past the outer suburbs to the west and north that push it closer to the downtown many of the residents are trying to keep at a distance.

I don’t think it a coincidence this heavy resistance to such change comes from the mayor’s own backyard. I think it’s a sentiment deeply rooted in the notion of Ford Nation. leftbehindThe city of Toronto has been undergoing demographic, cultural and economic shifts, accelerated by amalgamation. None of it particularly easy or cheap. But the face of the city is going to change with or without our participation. Probably not for the better if we simply choose to stand on the sidelines hoping it all passes us by without altering and costing us too much.

In 2010, a plurality of Torontonians, a healthy majority of those living in the inner suburbs and experiencing some of the biggest changes, decided to stand pat and with fingers crossed wait things out. Rearranging the furniture and painting the walls instead of undertaking a major renovation. Hopefully, no one gets too attached to the colour of the room.

adaptedly submitted by Cityslikr


Mayor Nimby

May 15, 2013

For three years now, ever since then-councillor Rob Ford announced his run for mayor, we’ve been clubbed over the head with the urban-suburban divide.fordnation The narrative of downtown elites hoarding all the goodness that is living in Toronto, leaving their suburban counterparts with nothing more than the crumbs and scraps. Get out of your cars so we can have bike lanes! No subways for you! Your taxes spent on us.

Rob Ford rode such resentment into office, and the continued suburban support maintains his not impossible chances for re-election next year. He is the self-proclaimed champion of the little guy in places like Scarborough, basing his entire transit policy around getting a new subway out there. Nobody rails about and profits from deriding the self-satisfied, special interest insularity of downtowners like the mayor and the rest of Team Ford.

An accusation I’ve tried to take to heart. Get out there, learn what makes these suburban types tick, their likes, dislikes, their pet peeves, their pet causes. haughtyTry and find out why they’re so mad at us and how politicians like Mayor Ford so easily tap into that vein of anger.

The latest leg of that journey outside of my south of Bloor/west of the Don Valley comfort zone took me to the Scarborough Civic Centre yesterday for their monthly Community Council meeting. Here you can see the local councillors and their constituents at work far from the spotlight of City Hall, not dwelling on the Us-versus-Them but instead focusing on pure Scarborough time (or North York or Etobicoke-York or Toronto-East York time depending on which community council meeting you’re attending). Community council concentrates on the minutiae of local governance.

As the agenda for the Scarborough meeting showed, this is the time spent adjudicating neighbours’ fence heights, debating the need for a stop sign or traffic lights, the removal of tree from private property, parking, always parking. toilIt isn’t glorious or sexy. Just the nuts and bolts of the political process at the municipal level.

Perhaps the most charged item I witnessed yesterday was over the fate of the wading pool just outside of the civic centre. Apparently it was a community hub for the forty years of the building’s existence but last summer the This Is Not A Wading Pool sign went up due to the lack of funding to pay for a lifeguard. Scarborough councillors set out to try and rectify that situation.

Most of the time, big ticket, highly contentious, city wide items don’t dominate community council meetings. A casino, tall tower complex or the island airport runway expansion rarely find their way to be debated at North York or Scarborough community councils. The majority of those end up for discussion at Toronto-East York community council.

And Etobicoke-York, apparently.

For the last two months the west-end community council has had to conduct additional meeting time to deal with the public reaction to two developments that are being proposed in their catchment area. In April, there was an evening session at the Etobicoke Civic Centre over the proposed waterfront development in Ward 6, Mimico 20/20. nonono1And yesterday for six hours, the public came out to express their unanimous opposition to First Capital Realty’s intention to convert the Humbertown shopping plaza into a mixed up residential-commercial space.

This one was a biggie. As David Hains writes in the Grid, it was held in a 3,200 seat church on the Queensway, was broadcast on TV and streamed online and brought out much of the media as well as the big gun politicians like the mayor and his councillor-brother. (As a member of the Etobicoke-York community council, it’s not unusual that Councillor Ford was in attendance although, it is worth noting that he was absent for the Mimico meeting last month, choosing instead to attend a provincial Progressive Conservative fundraiser.)

Now, I don’t know if the Humbertown development is a good one or not. Certainly the community’s concerns over the increase in traffic caught my attention. It didn’t strike me as the disaster-in-waiting almost every speaker to person claimed it would turn out to be. villagesquireThere are voices living in the area that even think it’s a positive thing for the area.

What I will tell you, however, is that I didn’t care for the tone I heard from the development’s opponents. Like many who spoke out against the Mimico 20/20 plans, we were told the Humber Valley neighbourhood was like a village wrapped inside a big city. A place for families to thrive and grow, away from big city concerns. People were born in Humber Valley. They went to school in Humber Valley. They got married in Humber Valley. They have children of their own who they want to raise in the same Humber Valley they grew up in.

After a couple hours of this, I couldn’t help but think if these people really wanted the village life, they should maybe move to an actual village. Somewhere, I don’t know, in Amish country. Or maybe on the edge of the moors in south-west England. A village village.

Not a pretend one of their imagination, situated 1500 metres from a major east-west subway line. No, what these people want is to enjoy all the amenities a big city offers while keeping the messier aspects like intensification and underground parking (really, underground parking) at bay. usversusthemThis is a wealthy enclave with the time and resources which, as my friend Paisley Rae said, should not determine the outcome of the civic process, trying to keep the 21st-century from their front door.

And the real kicker is that these are our populist mayor and brother’s people not the poor schlubs having to endure a cold winters rid on the Scarborough SRT or even those living further north in Etobicoke, up in Rexdale. This development is right in both the Fords’ backyards and the little guys they’re looking out for are those who can afford to hire their own architect to draw up alternate plans and find the concept of shopping on a second floor inconceivable. I suppose you’re going to tell me that you’ve invented a moving staircase in which to ascend us to ladies wear.

“We cannot let these developers come in and bully us,” said the mayor who’s all in pushing a waterfront casino. He vowed to fight the Humbertown development ‘tooth and nail’. “Let’s go to the board (Ontario Municipal Board),” he urged if First Capital Realty didn’t back down, presumably with money from the city he often tries to stop at council when other communities faced with unwanted development face appeals at the OMB. Everything Mayor Ford purports to be got completely turned on its head with his strident opposition to the Humbertown development.

Not in my backyard.humbertown

The fact is, Mayor Ford doesn’t really represent the aspirations or alienation of suburban Toronto. At least not those of the hard-working little guys in large portions of Scarborough or Etobicoke. It’s a very select few he will go to the mat for, the ones who essentially live in his own neighbourhood. The overwhelming majority of suburban residents are nothing more than votes to him.

nimbly submitted by Cityslikr