Early on at yesterday’s Community Development and Recreation Committee meeting, it dawned on me that I wasn’t really that interested in people. Sure, in the abstract, I spend my time thinking about things like transit and budgeting in a (hopefully) people friendly manner but the nuts and bolts of their daily lives? That’s what reality TV’s for. To watch the mundane aspects of real life without actually having to experience it.
Apparently it is an indifference I share with Mayor Ford because the Community Development and Recreation Committee whose task it is to oversee “social cohesion, with a mandate to monitor, and make recommendations to strengthen services to communities and neighbourhoods” may be the most non-Fordian of any of the city’s standing committees. The makeup skews centre to left. Former chair, Councillor Jaye Robinson, was perhaps the most natural ally of the mayor’s and he turfed her because of her outspoken stance on his alleged crack use.
Social cohesion and strengthened services to communities and neighbourhoods is stuff the mayor is prepared to leave up to the lefties on council to sort out. Or, more to the point, stuff he can quash at the Budget or Executive Committees. From his perspective, it’s easy to see CDR as the sandbox he sends the usual suspects off to play in.
Which translates into a very amicable and constructive atmosphere in the committee room. With no vendetta seeking animosity brought to the table by any of the mayor’s remaining allies, the meeting represented the complete antithesis of the dysfunction normally on display at the higher profile meetings like council, budget, public works and infrastructure. Hell, the mayor’s own hand-picked Executive Committee has become more strained and combative than Community Development and Rec.
There’s clearly a shit storm brewing with the continued roll out of full-day kindergarten and the question of before and after school child care. It pits three entities – Queen’s Park, the school boards and the city – against one another with the latter holding the bag when the inevitable shortages appear. The big question is who’s going to provide child care for the newly minted kindergarteners before and after class. Licensed child care businesses were led to believe the schools would, so adjusted their staffing and facilities to reflect that. Many of the schools have not taken up the task. The province just shrugs. Community Development and Rec committee members scramble to figure out how to fill in the void.
Another agenda item, the Toronto Youth Equity Framework is an ongoing part and parcel of “…the development of a Toronto youth equity strategy”, undertaken after the 2008 Review of the Roots of Youth Violence report from Roy McMurty and Alvin Curling, and the provincial Ontario Youth Action Plan that came in response to a couple high profile shootings in Toronto last year. You know, the low hanging fruit our elected officials can easily strike off their To Do list. Inequality. Discrimination. Exclusion.
I will grant Mayor Ford this. He isn’t the first politician to place such matters on the back burner of their administration although few have been as open in their disinterest as this one. There’s not a whole lot of political capital to be gained dealing with issues like poverty and racism especially when you get elected vowing to rein in spending. The axe tends to fall easily on the disenfranchised if it saves the hard-working taxpayers a buck or two.
So the workings of the Community Development and Recreation committee feel like a slog. The type of business only the likes of Councillor Janet Davis could love. Seemingly intractable problems moving in imperceptible slow-motion. Troubles mount quickly. Solutions appear stingily.
There are no easy wins and the steps needed to set things on the right course invariably cost money. That’s a formula to strike fear in the hearts of any but the most intrepid of politicians. The weight of the status quo hangs heavy over the Community Development and Recreation committee.
Councillors taking on this work deserve the utmost respect from us. When all is said and done, they are the faces of the city at ground level, doing the grunt work while lacking the necessary control over the factors that influence what comes before them. It was Queen’s Park who made the decision to institute full-day kindergarten but the implications of it fall on the desk in front of the members of CDR committee.
Judging from the tone of Wednesday’s meeting, they do so with a certain resolve, grace and equanimity. It just so happened to be Councillor Anthony Perruzza’s first meeting as chair and, despite the fact I still question his decision to take the position that pushed aside the last female member of the mayor’s Executive Committee, I thought he did a good job. He was solicitous with all the deputants, accommodating with both visiting councillors and the members of the committee. There was no bombastic oratory. Disappointing to those of us who are a little partial to his bombastic oratory.
Once again, I was left with the feeling that the dysfunction ascribed to City Hall currently flares up only when the mayor or his brother or Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong gets involved. For the most part, at most committee levels work is getting done. Councillors do get along. The business of the city is proceeding apace.
It just doesn’t make for an immediately compelling story.
— applaudingly submitted by Cityslikr