Cleveland Rocked

June 17, 2013

Driving out of town along Euclid Avenue, referred to as the Most Beautiful Street in the World back in the day with its Millionaire’s Row euclidavenuebut now along this stretch at least – we were at about Hillsboro Road, I believe – symbolic not of urban blight but flight, houses, apartment buildings, small strip malls, all boarded up, a sign on a street light post said: Buy My House. Cheap. Cash Only. We saw a deer.

A fucking deer.

“Was that a fucking deer?” Urban Sophisticat asked, unable to confirm for himself as he was at the wheel of the car.

“Nature reclaiming what man took from Her,” rustbeltchicAcaphelgmic mused from the back seat.

Ahhhh, Cleveland, Ohio. Poster child of American manufacturing decline. No, that’s not true. Detroit is the poster child. Even as a symbol of Rust Belt urban decay Cleveland comes second, the runner-up of also rans, the coulda-been-a-contender of washed up never-beens.

That it’s kind of unofficially embraced its sad-sack second class status is also what makes Cleveland endearing. “Cleveland. It’s Not That Bad. Have a Beer,” says one t-shirt. “Burning River Surf Club,” says another, referring to the 1969 fire on the city’s Cuyahoga River. A river. So full of petrochemicals bursts into flames.

“Burn on, big river. Burn on,” sings Acaphlegmic, on a fairly regular basis during our 3 day visit.

The fact is, as we saw for ourselves firsthand this past weekend, there’s much to like about Cleveland. Its downtown remains full of the grand late-19th/early-20th century buildings that went up during the city’s heyday. (American Civil War buff, Acaphlegmic, was especially taken by the Soldiers and Sailors monument that dominates the Public Square where Euclid Avenue begins.) Many are still office buildings. One has been recast as the Horseshow casino.

The Warehouse District just slightly west of downtown has been undergoing slow renewal since the 1990s. Restaurants and bars have moved in. Buildings once owned by the Rockefellers are now advertised as luxury apartments. Both the baseball field and basketball arena sit, literally steps from downtown, drawing in crowds when events are on. The football stadium is about a 15 minute walk, down on the waterfront not far from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

“The Louvre on Lake Erie,” mumbled Urban Sophisticat, probably stealing the phrase from somebody. “Similarly filled with dead artists.” rockandrollhalloffameNaturally, this precipitated something of a heated debate with Acaphlegmic. He, after all, had joined us on the trip to attend a Fleetwood Mac concert while we took in the Indians-National game at the ballpark formerly known as Jacobs Field. When asked why on earth he’d do such a thing, Acaphlegmic admitted to a lifelong crush on Christine McVie. “Come on,” he responded to our puzzled looks. “Loving Stevie Nicks was easy.” Clearly, he had not read the fine print and met us later on Saturday night, totally outraged as it turns out McVie has not toured with the band since sometime in the late 90s.

Like the one time mega group of the 70s (watch me try and force feed this into a seamless segue), the city of Cleveland’s refurbishment and rejuvenation feels incomplete. (Ouch!)

There are still too many For Lease signs in office windows throughout the business district. More than a handful of buildings remain empty, not only waiting for tenants but entire overhauls. Aside from the draw of sports and cultural venues, the downtown does not buzz with weekend activity. Cleveland has flashes of potential but is pockmarked by disrepair, decay and abandonment.

While I’m in no position to write of the ill-effects of industrial decline on places like Cleveland, urbansprawlI will toss in my own totally biased diagnosis of what ails the place as well as standing in the way of its full re-development.

Fucking car-centricity, man.

For a place its size, Cleveland is stunningly spread out. The eastern suburbs start a street number countdown in the 490s. Much of the downtown waterfront is intersected by freeways. Wide boulevards run through the core designed almost entirely for automobile use. Parking lots take up space everywhere.

The little construction we did see consisted largely of road building and repair. The I-90 east from Cleveland and almost to the Pennsylvania state line was undergoing an extensive upgrade.

“To help facilitate the drive out of or right through northern fucking Ohio,” abandonedhomeUrban Sophisticat said as we made our way out of the state.

The same infrastructure that enabled us to travel the nearly 500 kilimetres from Toronto to Cleveland in an easy day’s drive has also helped drain the life from the many communities along the way. Heading westward, we hugged the south shore of Lake Erie after crossing the border at Buffalo. In town after town, small main street shops were shuttered. Entire strip mall complexes boarded up and their asphalt parking lots poked full of grass and weeds.

By the time we reached Ohio, it was a landscape dotted with deserted homes, full cemeteries and auto related businesses. Checks Cashed and Oil Changed Here! Erie? Try eerie.

Obviously the problems run much, much deeper than just everyone driving everywhere for everything. But it’s hard to imagine how these places return to any sort of vitality while remaining so auto-dependent. clevelandmuseumofartCleveland itself has a downtown trying to revitalize and then, as you travel east, some 50 blocks of urban despair defined strictly along racial and economic lines running into the next 30 blocks of university land that envelops beautiful campus buildings, art galleries, green space and then another, I don’t know, hundred blocks of misery before finally wrapping up in utter suburban affluence as you leave the city.

It’s not an entirely unfamiliar urban form if far more dramatic in its extremes. A prosperous core surrounded by struggling neighbourhoods drawn largely along ethnic and racial lines, both then encircled by outer suburbs, some the most affluent in the region. All connected at least in theory but severely disconnected in many practical and increasingly debilitating senses.

None of it can be fixed with wishful thinking and a wave of the magical wand. One off, glitzy megaprojects like stadiums or casinos aren’t going to solve the problems. City and community building cannot happen in isolation with pockets of success springing up amid block after block after block of continued failure. A fence being only as strong as its weakest link and all that…

“Cleveland may rock,” Acaphlegmic said from the back seat as we crossed back into Ontario, “but only in certain well-defined areas.”

Until that changes, dreams of a prosperous return are going to remain largely unfulfilled.

buckeyedly submitted by Cityslikr

On Activism And The World We Live In

June 13, 2013

The great thing about doing the thing I do, and yes, this is me doing something, aside from getting to trade barbs with former Harris government knobs, goodnewseveryoneis all the smart, engaged people I meet along the way.

Two of the smartest, most engaged people I’ve had the opportunity to meet are Desmond Cole and Dave Meslin. On Tuesday, the two helped roll the rock of voting reform a little bit further up the hill as the Government Management Committee’s Proposed Electoral Reform item made its way through city council, relatively unscathed. Now the questions of permanent resident eligibility to vote municipally, ranked ballots, internet voting and a review of municipal election finance rules are on their way to Queen’s Park to secure the provincial approval needed for any of these initiatives to go forward.

It’s just another step, for sure, with more than a few obstacles still to clear but, pick your own hoary cliché here, a long march is only completed step-by-step.rollingrock

Being an activist can’t be easy.

There are assholes like me, just popping up on the scene, who start yelling and think that’ll make an immediate difference. True, effective activism doesn’t work like that. It’s a slog. A long, tough slog.

Meslin has been stirring up the pot here in Toronto since the last century it seems. Oh. I’m sorry. What? 1998 is the last century. Well then. Meslin has been stirring up the pot here in Toronto since the last century.

Reclaim the Streets. Toronto Public Space Committee. City Idol. Toronto Cyclists Union. RaBIT. He was part of all those movements.

For his part, Desmond Cole’s been around the activist block a time or two himself. A Project Coordinator for I Vote Toronto, he’s been at ground zero for the push to open municipal voting to permanent residents. busyHe was a winning candidate for City Idol back in 2006, running in Ward 20 against Adam Vaughan. As a writer-activist, Cole has also been front and centre covering relations between the Toronto Police Services and the city’s visible minority communities.

The status quo is firmly entrenched. Budging it even just a little takes a lot of time and effort. You’re labeled a special interest or a usual suspect by those who like the status quo just fine, thank you very much, or who can’t see anything past it.

Even those fighting the same fight can turn unfriendly and unhelpful. I’ve witnessed firsthand the internal warfare going on between the camps trying to change our first-past-the-post voting system. Allies fighting for a better way to elect our representatives arrive at loggerheads over the exact method to do it.

Activism is not for the faint of heart. I think that’s especially true in these days of deep cynicism and disconnect to our political system. getbusyMuch easier to throw up your hands and say, well, they’re all corrupt, they all lie, a pox on all their houses than it is to roll up your sleeves, get into the trenches, firm in your conviction of changing this motherfucker up.

So I tip my hat to the likes of Dave Meslin and Desmond Cole, and say thank you. Not only are they fighting the good fight, they do so in such an infectious, enthusiastic way as to make it almost seem like fun. And why not? Civic participation is fun, despite opinions to the contrary.

And it would be remiss of me not to send out a big thumbs-up to Councillor Paul Ainslie as well. As chair of the Government Management Committee, he grabbed hold of the electoral reform issue and saw it through some very choppy waters especially at times due to his own unfriendly committee. His determination to see this through was as dogged and tireless as that of the likes of Meslin and Cole.

We here at All Fired Up in the Big Smoke spend much of our time expressing disappointment in the conduct of our local representatives at City Hall. So it behooves us then to take a moment and acknowledge when they exhibit exemplary behaviour. (Frankly, they do so at a much higher rate than they are ever given credit for.)

At the outset, Paul Ainslie never struck me as a particularly outstanding councillor. Early on in this term, he seemed to be just another right wing lap dog for Mayor Ford, obediently doing the mayor’s bidding and voting along party lines. thumbsup1That started to change for me when he stood up, outraged as the TPL board chair, to respond to then budget chief Mike Del Grande’s dim view of all the non-English language books and videos in the library’s catalogue.

His drift toward independence has continued and, while still too right leaning for my particular tastes, he has come to represent a moderate voice on council. Maybe he always was and it got lost in the ideological thunder that rolled over City Hall in the fall of 2010. He deserves a lot of credit for rising above the partisan tumult and delivering on what could be a real game-changer in terms of local politics.

Not immediately. But soonish. That’s the reality for activists and the politicians responsive to them. We owe both a huge hug of gratitude.

thankfully submitted by Cityslikr

Things They Are A-Changing Back

June 12, 2013

During yesterday’s council session, while debating the mayor’s first key item, Traffic Congestion Management and Traffic Signal Coordination ghosttown(aka Cars Go Fast!), both councillors Gord Perks and Adam Vaughan talked about the positive aspects of a congested city. “I don’t want to live in a ghost town,” Perks said. “I want to live in a vibrant exciting place where I’m meeting people on the street and saying hi.”

Naturally this brought howls of derision from the likes of the Ford Bros. and Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti. “Congestion is not good,” Mammoliti declared, “and if you suggest that it is, blow your nose because it isn’t. Clear yourself.”

The councillor then went on to introduce a mocking item that would revert everywhere south of Davenport back to the 19th-century, complete with dirt roads and period customs. Funny, for sure. Giorgio can be a funny guy at times. carcommercialBut it also revealed a couple other telling aspects about him and the car-centric crowd on council he runs with.

They cannot envision a city that doesn’t prioritize the use of the private automobile. It’s completely alien to them. Without our cars, without giving them easy and unobstructed access to go wherever they want, whenever they want, as quickly as possible with the least amount of hassle, we might as well be living in the pioneer days. Before cars, there were only horses.

Their reaction to the congestion statements by councillors Perks and Vaughan also displayed a fundamental incuriosity to what is a fairly counterintuitive idea. Instead of standing to ask for some sort of clarification – Congestion is good?! What the hell do you mean by that, councillor? How could congestion be good? – they just rolled their eyes and laughed in disbelief. crazytalkCouncillor Mammoliti even suggested that statement would come back to haunt Councillor Perks.

Congestion is good? How stupid is that?

But stop to think about it for a moment.

Councillor Vaughan brought up the image of downtown Detroit. No congestion there, apparently. Drive from one side of the city to the other, free of bumper-to-bumper traffic. The wind in your hair. The wide open road.

Perfect for quickly getting from point A to point B but you wouldn’t want to really live or visit where there’s nobody or nothing going on, right? A ghost town versus human congestion, let’s call it.

Think Manhattan, for example. There’s congestion caused by intense activity of all kinds. Pedestrians, cars, bikes, buses. Working, shopping, playing. Bustling, in other words.

That’s far different than the spectre of congestion Councillor Mammoliti is trying to evoke. busystreetNo one believes the gridlock that has bogged down commuters and the movement of goods throughout the GTAs as something that’s good. To pretend that’s what councillors Perks and Vaughan were suggesting is either deliberately obtuse or pure political calculation.

Or it’s just status quo hugging laziness.

Like Mayor Ford’s reaction yesterday to council giving the go ahead to ask the province to allow permanent residents to vote in municipal elections. “I think we have a good system,” the mayor responded. “It doesn’t make sense. How can someone that’s not a Canadian citizen vote?”

How can someone that’s not a Canadian citizen vote? How can congestion be good? How can anything that isn’t exactly how it is now or is exactly how I think it should be good or an improvement or in any way a positive sort of change?

The mayor, his brother, the likes of councillors Mammoliti, Minnan-Wong, Del Grande, Holyday et al notlistening2cannot understand anything that deviates from their point of view, anything that challenges their perception of how the world works and how it might be made to work better. It’s rigid, ideologically hidebound and fundamentally incapable of arriving at any sort of compromise.

Unsurprising then that this gaggle of reactionaries finds itself occupying a smaller and smaller circle at city council. The backward brotherhood, united in a dislike of and disbelief in anything that smacks of them having to lead their lives in any way different than they always have.

bob robertsly submitted by Cityslikr

Delivering The Goods

June 11, 2013

So, today is day one of the June 2013 city council meeting. strikeaposeI’m wondering if Mayor Ford has been working on his camera poses. Money shots the press will take of him debating, orating, gesticulating majestically. Rob Ford, being mayoral, caught digitally for re-election purposes.

He’ll want some evidence of that, going forward, because I can’t imagine how he’ll pull it off in reality. According to the Toronto Star’s David Rider, as of yesterday, the mayor still hadn’t decided what his key item on the council agenda was going to be. Maybe he’s been too busy breaking in new staff to get his head around matters of governance. Maybe all those PR stunts over the last little while to show it’s business as usual in the mayor’s office have cut into his five hour workday, making it difficult for him to find the time to read through what’s on the meeting’s agenda. pickanumberMaybe, eenie-meenie-minie-mo.

Or just maybe Mayor Ford has long since not given a fuck about the actual running of the city he was elected to lead. All eyes on 2014, folks. Everything between now and then is just campaign fodder.

At least for the next few days, while council meeting is still in session, let’s set aside our attention from the scandals, from the made up budget numbers, from the unbelievably petty and spiteful manner in which colleagues are treated, and change our focus on to how Mayor Ford goes about being mayor. Council is where a mayor delivers the goods, turns a platform into action, gets to don the mayoral apparel, fa-la-la, fa-la-la, la-la-la.

City council is go-to time for any mayor. stumble1And if a mayor can’t go-to there, a mayor can’t go-to anywhere.

But we all know that’s not how this mayor rolls.

Mayor Ford has not had control of city council for a long time now, arguably for more than half his term in office. It’s just easier for him that way. Easier to sideline himself and heckle the proceedings from the cheap seats than to try and forge some sort of consensus based on leadership and compromise. You got to play to your strengths, right? And leadership, consensus building and compromise aren’t really any of this mayor’s strong suits.

Somehow, the mayor’s going to plow ahead and try to convince a plurality of Torontonians that’s OK, that his lack of bona fide qualifications is not a hindrance to the proper running of this city. He’s not the problem. Council is. And if enough voters send enough councillors who are willing to bend to his autocratic tendencies, everything will be fine. donnybrookBusiness as usual.

Since the chances of that happening are almost nil – most winning scenarios have the mayor being re-elected only by a strategic splitting of votes and not with long coattails dragging compliant councillors to victory — watch this council meeting very closely. This is Mayor Ford’s council. He doesn’t possess the tools to run things any other way. Believing it will be different next time, with a different council make-up is as delusional as believing the mayor’s saved this city a billion dollars. It didn’t happen. It won’t happen.

Time to move on from this very nervy experiment in civic politics.

matter of factly submitted by Cityslikr

The Real Tax Bogeyman

June 10, 2013

A local anti-tax advocacy group responded to the news of an updated $248 million surplus as proof that we are ‘very, very over-taxed.’ taxburden1It’s a sentiment that pretty much parrots the thinking of Mayor Ford who saw the surplus as a sign he could begin trimming the Land Transfer Tax in order to make partially good on his campaign promise to eliminate it all together. It wasn’t a promise out of line with most of his opponents. George Smitherman talked of how the city was nickel and diming residents. Joe Pantalone — David Miller’s deputy mayor – hopped aboard the anti-tax boat mid-stream, pledging to ditch the vehicle registration tax he’d helped to usher in.

It’s hard to be a tax-and-spender these days.

Why? BECAUSE IT’S MY MONEY, DAMMIT!! Unlike the streets, the schools, the police, etc., etc. taxationisthefttax money goes to providing for everyone.

This anti-tax pressure is especially acute at the municipal level.

Why? Because municipalities in this province are forced to rely so heavily on one form of taxation as its primary source of revenue. Property taxes.

There’s something really visceral about paying property taxes. It’s like an attack on your home and hearth. An article flagged by Rowan Caister today about the 35th anniversary of California’s Prop 13 which severely restricted the state’s ability to utilize property taxes as a source of revenue suggests to me that it was the source of a generation’s groundswell of anti-taxation fervour. Not to mention an important factor in the steady erosion of California’s economy over the past three+ decades.

(And doesn’t Howard Jarvis, the proposition’s point man, bear the same classic phenotype as almost every other anti-tax, anti-government zealot who has come after him?)


Since property taxes make up such a big slice of Toronto’s revenue pie, it’s intuitive to then assume we’re paying too much or are being gouged. Nearly 40% of the city’s revenues came from property taxes (page 28 of PDF) in the 2013 budget. That’s a lot of taxes we’re paying, right?


Here in Toronto we still pay lower residential property taxes than any other municipality in the GTA. Even factoring in property values, the city winds up right in the middle of the pack. (Check out Joe Drew’s excellent analysis.) taxmanSo when someone claims that we are very, very over-taxed, I have to ask: Compared to… ? Not our municipal neighbours, surely. What then? The 1950s?

This is not a call necessarily to raise our property taxes although I will call bullshit on anyone claiming ours are too high already. Property taxes are not the ideal revenue tool for adapting to changing economic situations. They tend to be years behind reflecting reality. They’re relatively inelastic, I think the economic term is.

We need to diversify how we generate revenue. Consider how other municipalities around the world are equipped to do so. Check out Table 2 in Enid Slack’s  A Report to the London Finance Commission. In addition to property taxes, there are sales taxes, land transfer taxes, hotel taxes, beer and liquor excise taxes, income taxes, payroll taxes. Tokyo even has something called a ‘hunter tax’. taxesareevilA hunter tax?!

Of course, for Mayor Ford and all his acolytes, this has never been about reforming Toronto’s system of taxation. We were heading in that direction with the power bestowed in the City of Toronto Act. The Vehicle Registration and Land Transfer taxes (hardly unique by international comparison) took steps toward revenue diversification but were roundly defeated in the 2010 election campaign.

The only good tax is a dead tax, it seems. And I ain’t talking an estate tax neither. Councillor Doug Ford summed up the ghosts of Howard Jarvis sentiment perfectly last year when he declared all taxes to be evil.

Such short-sighted selfishness has held sway for too long now, and much to the detriment of our crumbling infrastructure and sorry lack of recent transit building. It just isn’t good enough anymore to cross your arms and shake your head no. It doesn’t get subways built or roads paved.


It simply sponges off the sacrifices made by previous generations and stiffs future ones with the bills we were too cheap to pay.

freeloadingly submitted by Cityslikr

Civic Cop Out

June 7, 2013

If there’s one thing growing as tiresome as the latest update of Mayor Ford’s scandals, sodoneit’s the cry for de-amalgamation from many of the mayor’s most vociferous critics. As if somehow having the mayor of Etobicoke allegedly smoking crack would make things alright in York, North York, East York, Scarborough and the old city of Toronto. None of us would have the taint of the hillbilly on us.

I know the de-amalgamation urge goes much further than that. Urbanism versus suburbanism. Reactionary versus progressive politics. Everything was just a-ok hunky dory in my neighbourhood until we had to join with Them.

But the things that plague us as a city, plague us all and were not confined to simply old political boundaries. The lack of proper transit building and other big ticket, aging infrastructure. Growing inequality. Our little civic cocoons were never as cozy and comfy as we may like to believe, back in the good ol’ days.goodolddays

Certainly there is some truth to this political divide we all are currently kvetching over; a divide expertly exploited by the Ford administration and its allies. But let’s not forget that for three straight elections, from 2000-2006, the amalgamated city settled fairly uniformly into a workable co-existence. This apparent divide we now face isn’t entrenched or unbridgeable. It’s simply a convenient narrative.

I found myself yesterday (thanks to Paisley Rae) up in the city’s northwest reaches in Rexdale. We wanted to take in the City Youth Council of Toronto’s Youth Consultation: Recreation and Youth Leadership Programs session at the Elmbank Community Centre. (For a thorough overview of the proceedings, #LetsTalkRecRexdale.)  We arrived early to wander around the area, get some sort of sense of a part of the city I’d never been to before.

Jesus Christ, people.

If we truly believe as a city that Diversity, Our Strength, then our clamoring for de-amalgamation is venal hypocrisy. diversityourstrengthIt’s just an empty motto, something we tout to prove our progressive cred. Watching the kids head home from Henry Carr or sitting having a coffee at the Albion Centre foodcourt and taking in the human flow, there’s our fucking diversity. And because we lost one election, we want to petulantly cut the already tenuous ties with parts of the city that didn’t vote in line with our expectations? We become not a city of neighbourhoods but enclaves.

People live in or come to cities because of the opportunities there. A place thrives through its ability to extend opportunities not restrict them depending on their area code. Let’s stop comforting ourselves with the notion that some politically manufactured ‘nation’ rejected our delicate sensibilities. Instead, let’s admit we failed to strengthen the connections between the various communities that make up this city.

It just so happens that I’ve taken in a number of public meetings over the last few months in Etobicoke. After last night’s, on the 40 minute bus ride back down to Kipling subway station, a thought struck me. angryvotersAt both the Humbertown and Mimico 20/20 sessions, where crowds gathered to have their say about proposed developments in their neighbourhoods, the overarching theme was they wanted to be left alone, they wanted no part of the direction Toronto was headed. Theirs were villages within the city. Exclusion rather than inclusion.

But last night, it was all about wanting in. To be a part of the city. To be included in the political discussions and decision making that was affecting the place they lived and worked. There was a fierce attachment to being from Rexdale but with the recognition Rexdale was a part of Toronto.

As we were leaving the meeting, a gentleman who was a teacher at a nearby school, said to us (and I’m paraphrasing here): lookinthemirrorThis is Rexdale. Not the shit (my word) we’re all reading about.

Not everyone wants to be a part of this experiment we call amalgamation. It is still a democracy. We can’t expect 100% buy in.

The fact is, Toronto is amalgamated, for better and worse, and not just by some provincial edict. It’s up to us to emphasize and work on the better and try to diminish the worst. There’s nothing to be gained in retiring to our own respective corners. Playing up the differences only benefits those looking to make their political fortunes.

angrily submitted by Cityslikr

No Great Expectations

June 6, 2013

I don’t know if you’d call it flop sweat we’re seeing from the mayor this week. flopsweat1You’d need a certain degree of self-awareness about your personal shortcomings and failings to be able to generate the necessary unease that comes from the realization you just might be participating in a grand fiasco. Rob Ford has never struck me as someone possessing that kind of personal insight.

Everything’s fine. Business as usual. Nothing to see here. Everybody move on.

But there is a certain frantic element to his approach this week. At least as frantic as you can get when your workday begins at noonish. In reaction to the crack smoking allegations swirling around him, Mayor Ford and what’s left of his brain trust have come up with a plan to make it look like he’s just going about conducting city business, just like normal, just like he always has. Everything’s fine. Business as usual. Yaddie, yaddie, yaddie.

It’s about optics, folks. And the nakedness of the endeavour is surprising even by the standards of an administration as ham-fisted as this one. bridgetoofarjpgThey just don’t do nuance.

What’s really striking to me, though, is how the activities and events that have made up the mayor’s schedule this week reflect what he perceives to be a mayor’s job. On Tuesday, he led a walkthrough of Toronto Community Housing apartment, vowing to get a few things fixed up with a week’s turnaround. Yesterday, he peered down from the Dufferin Street bridge which has been slated to close for repairs next week. In between, he appeared a Tim Horton’s to kick of Camp Day and stuck a magnet on mural in Scarborough.

Oh, and he did some flat out campaigning while he was at it, taking shots at council colleagues who’d attended the Federation of Canadian Municipalities in Vancouver last weekend and slamming the previous mayor for not investing in infrastructure. handyman“We have filled approximately 200,000 potholes this year,” Mayor Ford told the press gathering on the bridge. “The 2013 budget is an infrastructure budget,” he claimed.

Citizens! May I present to you our mayor of potholes.

None of this struck me as being particularly mayoral. A dedicated effort to reassume control of the city’s agenda. Aside from the PR stuff, staff could’ve accomplished what the mayor did. In terms of the bridge, they already had. This was nothing more than Mayor Ford re-visiting his days as a maverick councillor.

I expect more from the mayor of Toronto. Some sort of overall vision for the city they lead not micromanaging tenants’ complaints and road repairs. Big picture stuff, like transit, planning, economic well being. But Mayor Ford gave up on those kinds of files long ago, sticking to his bread and butter of nitpicking and fault finding. Easier to fit into a five hour workday, I guess.

And maybe that’s the real political divide in Toronto. donothinglistIt isn’t between the downtown versus the suburbs or left versus right. There are those who expect their mayor to personally answer their phone calls and emails, come out to their house to adjudicate a dispute with their neighbour, rescue their cat from a tree, and those who think there’s a process in place to deal with such matters and city staff to sort through them.

A custodian of our city streets versus a custodian of civic aspirations.

That’s an awfully prickly and fundamental divide to try and bridge.


demandingly submitted by Cityslikr