Back To School

It’s difficult to stay positive or upbeat toward our political process after witnessing the latest twist and turn in our perpetually twisting and turning transit file here in Toronto. byzantinemazeOnce more politics trumped good planning. Too many of our elected representatives put personal electoral advantage (or fear of electoral retribution) above the best interests of this city, and called it the democratic process.

Subways love a leadership vacuum, it seems.

Although dispiriting, the outcome as it stands right now is hardly surprising. Any sort of rational discussion was short-circuited from the get-go with the entirely unwarranted vilification of LRTs and the framing of subways as somehow world class. Technology porn. No one in any high profile position of power stepped up to battle what was purely spin.

Not two premiers. Not x number of Transportation Ministers. No opposition leaders or sitting MPPs. deniesMost certainly not the city’s TTC chair and the very friendly commissioners city council bestowed upon her after the battle to wrest control from the mayor.

To stand up against any of the proposed subway plans for Scarborough that emerged over the course of the last 3 years wasn’t perceived as defending a better plan or good governance. It was smeared as simply anti-mayor or anti-suburb. Facts and data figured little into the debate, easily brushed aside by emotion and resentment.

So it goes.

This is not new. I shouldn’t be surprised. Yet still I am.

schooledIs there any way we can stop such madness from continually infecting political discourse and, ultimately, governance?

While sifting through the dying embers of my political positivity, searching for some good news, I came across a two-week old article by John Lorinc and Josh Fullan, How to make civics class matter to kids. Kids?, I think. Why not make civics class matter to everyone?

Among other things, Josh Fullan is the creator of Maximum City, “a program for high school students that partners experts with teachers in the development and delivery of curriculum in urban design, youth engagement, and civic sustainability.” The idea is to get them interested in local politics (and I’m using that word as broadly as possible) early in order to hook them into a lifetime of engagement and awareness of the issues that will affect their daily lives.

Which would’ve come in handy if more of us had been exposed to the proper functioning of our local government and what it takes for a city to operate properly, equitably and healthily. puttingoutfiresInstead, once again, we were susceptible to the wall of misinformation that tore through the heart of the transit debate. No, LRTs are not simply glorified streetcars. No, speed should not be the key requirement of what type of transit you build. No, your neck of the woods doesn’t deserve one type of transit simply, well, because.

More importantly, an increased civics awareness enables people to get out in front of an issue rather than always fighting a rearguard battle. Knowledge allows people to define ideas and approaches. It’s proactive not reactive.

And let’s face it, this city has been reacting to an all out attack on its institutions since 2010. Defenders have been sluggish, always back on their heels, only counter-punching. Too few of us have the necessary vocabulary to battle what is nothing more than gut appeals and the most basic grunts of parochialism.

That’s something we only have ourselves to blame for. We can rail about the stupidity and willful ignorance of some but it’s on us to figure out how to start making a better case for proper city building. noresponsibilityTo do that, we have to know exactly how to go about achieving that.

Using this ‘city as a classroom’, as the article by John Lorinc and Josh Fullan suggests, may be something we don’t just establish for students. It’s time to head back to school for everybody who finds themselves increasingly despondent about the current turn of events in Toronto. Clearly, we’re all a little rusty when it comes to civics.

keenly submitted by Cityslikr

4 Responses to Back To School

  1. Sonny says:

    Ford made the Subway promise without funding! The City plan is short $440 million to $1.14 billion depending on the yet to be done Environmental Assessment of their July 2013 plan…

    The Province has allocated money. Though $85 million would be wasted on scrapping the LRT thanks to Ford.

    Murray is the new Ford!

    A.H. Apr. 30, 2013 – 88,152

  2. Patrick Smyth says:

    “This is not new. I shouldn’t be surprised. Yet still I am.”

    Of course you are surprised! You thought all that time you and your councillor-friends spent stalking and harrying Ford was productive. Getting Ford motivated you, but it blinded you at the same.

    What to do?

    Well, in my case, I try to do as you wanted done on the transit file – I speak up. For example, I spoke up about the behaviour of Council with respect to the affordable housing issue in my community. I speak up about the sorry state of planning. I rail against subsidizing developers’ profits. I speak up about pandering to tiny communities that curries favour for re-election.

    What will the folks at AFUITBS do now?

  3. thomaus says:

    Council agreed to at least taking on $400,000,000 in raised property taxes.The Harper Government has now committed over $600,000,000 out of their pool of income tax, GST and what-not.

    So for everybody in Toronto and Canada who is not within walking distance of one of these potential subway stations will pay at least an extra billion ($1,000,000,000) so the 40,000 average weekday SRT users won’t have to change trains at Kennedy station.

    Could we not make some sort of deal?

    How about build the LRT, save the billion dollars, and just let those 40,000 get on the LRT for free? It would be a shorter walk to their station, and the rest of the disrespected taxpayers would save money. One free trip a day for 40,000 allegedly disrespected Scarborough transit riders would take over 20 years at $3 a ride to equal what the Mayor, the Province, The Harper Government and a majority of council appear ready to waste.

    • Sonny says:

      Ford should go back to school because his proposed .25% property tax increase over 4 years(2015-18) will bring in only $40 million. The wording of Council’s motion is that if there is not complete funding they would revert to the fully funded LRT.

      Note: Wynne/Murray AND Ford are taking credit for the Feds potentially allocating in $660 mil

      Whereas Miller GOT McGuinty/Sorbara to designate $1.8 billion to transit located in Scarborough…

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