The World Series

October 31, 2013

As a Toronto Blue Jays fan, which I assume you are if you’re reading this since we here at All Fired Up in the Big Smoke are the numero uno spot for the latest news, redsoxwinrumours and analysis of all things Jays, last night’s conclusion to the 2013 Major League Baseball season was nothing short of the worst case scenario imaginable way back in the heady days of April.

The much hyped 2013 edition of the Blue Jays were free of any playoff consideration by August, quite possibly earlier if you were really being honest with yourself. The dream of October games for the first time in 20 years once more put to bed early and in brutally ugly fashion. Again, if we’re being totally honest.

The eventual World Series champions turned out to be the much detested Boston Red Sox, facepalmled by a first year manager whose name shall not be mentioned by us here today but who toiled away in Toronto for the previous two years, managing this team almost disinterestedly while waiting, it turns out, for the first opportunity to take his ‘dream job’ in Boston. We were going to show him, that disrespectful so-and-so, with our superstar line-up and big-assed payroll (still less than that of the Red Sox, if that’s any sort of consolation in this dark, dark time).

Well, yes.

The best laid plans of mice and sports fans, eh?

If we learn nothing else from following the endeavours of professional athletes, and arguably we shouldn’t, no more than we should learn anything from watching movies, it’s all just empty spectacle at the end of the day, let it be a heaping dose of humility. In any given season, there can only be one winner. saddugoutIn any given sport, there are an awful lot of people cheering for their respective teams, sides, clubs. You do the math but it pretty much works out to a shitload of disappointment.

I think (and as a baseball fan I’ll admit to some bias in this claim) that his is especially true in baseball. Starting in late-March/early-April and going through until the end of September, teams play almost every day, 162 games in 180 days, give or take. That’s not much down time in between the wins and the losses, the balls and strikes, the hits and the outs. You have to pace yourself. An 8 game losing streak in May isn’t usually as tough to endure as one in September especially if you win a lot of games in between the two.

So the best approach to keeping an even keel is a cautious optimism weighted down with a heavy dose of foreboding. drunkgrandmaExpect the worst and hope for the best, as your grandmother might’ve said, blurry-eyed from her fourth rye-and-ginger. If your team can win an average of 6 out of every 10 games during the course of a 162 game schedule, hey, you just might be on your way to (probable) agonizing heartache over post-season baseball in October. Ten teams in. One team wins.

Why the fuck am I talking about this, you just might be asking, especially with all that’s been going on today a little closer to home?

Humility.

It’s a great philosophy to try and adopt not only as a sports fan but as a way to lead much of our lives.

There are going to be bad days, some of them very, very bad. There are going to be good days, some of them very, very good. Never ever assume any of them are going to stretch on, uninterrupted, forever.

And learn to hit the breaking ball because there’s always going to be the breaking balls. hittingthecurveballOr least, get good at fouling them off until a pitch is thrown that you can turn on.

And there will always be next season — until that one time when there isn’t but that’s an entirely different matter – when the prospects for a better run seem brighter. A season when the bad guys don’t win and when hard work and nose-to-the-grindstonedness finally pays off after years, decades of misfortune and frustration. That one shining moment you will want to never end. But, of course, it will, and then it’ll be back to the same routine of winning some and losing some, trying to keep the record closer to .600 than .500.

A sense of equilibrium is what I’m getting at. Not getting too caught up in either the highs or the lows. Just learn to keep your eyes focused on the long game. Everybody’s winning streak eventually comes to an end.

And now we take you back to our regular schedule programming…

equilibriumevenly submitted by Cityslikr


Fool Me Once

October 30, 2013

Let’s just cut to the chase, eliminate the middle man of pretense, and put it right out there killmenowon the table.

The current crop of what we refer to as conservatives (or maybe more fairly, Conservatives… those adhering to contemporary Conservative values) couldn’t give a rat’s ass about public transit. They don’t use it. They think it’s a nuisance, clogging up their roadways and prolonging their daily commute. The only reason they want to put it underground, why they’re all subway champions all of a sudden, is because it’ll be out of their way. Out of sight, out of mind.

Oh, and one other reason.

So they’ll never really have to build it.

whatthehellareyoutalkingaboutWhat other conclusion can you come to reading PC leader Tim Hudak’s lunatic ravings about his party’s public transit policies in last weekend’s Globe and Mail?

“While his preference for subways is well known,” Adrian Morrow writes, “he has never before detailed which extensions he favours or been so explicit that some lines will be on the chopping block. To save money, he will axe parts of the Big Move – the current, $50-billion plan championed by Liberal Premier Kathleen Wynne – which envisions light rail in Mississauga and Hamilton, subway extensions and several dedicated bus corridors across the region.”

Yep. Toss out LRT and dedicated bus ways in the GTHA and build subways instead. Why? Because Mr. Hudak, how did he put it again? “… I do not believe in ripping up existing streets to lay down track.”

Not so fast, says Mississauga mayor and more old school conservative Hazel McCallion. Don’t you be messing with her LRT, Hudak. “We’ve got gridlock in Mississauga and we need the LRT,” she told the Globe and Mail.ohmygod1

But, and I’m postulating here, the opposition leader could care less what Mayor McCallion may want since she’s on her way out of office and there’s a bunch of Mississauga ridings currently Liberal red that could be swung Tory blue if the subway mantra can work its magic in the upcoming provincial election.

World class cities build subways, Hudak will tell Mississaugans. Don’t you want to be world class too, Mississauga? Like Vaughan? Scarborough?

It’s all nonsense, of course. World class cities don’t build subways in places with low density, largely single family dwellings. Why? Because it makes zero sense. It’s prohibitively expensive not only to construct but to operate while being almost impossible to generate the necessary ridership that would actually help reduce congestion on the streets running above them.

On top of which, the idea that you can build such pricey public transit simply by finding efficiencies and not raising revenues is pure fiction. Worse than that, it’s contemptibly bad fiction since it doesn’t even try to pretend it could be real life. If you wanted anything in the world and it didn’t cost a thing, what would it be? waitwhatA subway? Sure, I’ll give you a subway.

So stridently opposed to productively addressing public transit, Tim Hudak appointed newly elected MPP and former mayor of Etobicoke and deputy mayor of Toronto, Doug Holyday, ‘point man’ on the transit file. Holyday, not exactly known as a transit advocate during his days as a municipal politician, is working on the party’s transit plan which, hopefully, will include things like this gem: “It [at-grade light rail] takes away from the road capacity. We’ve got to protect that capacity because there’s no opportunity to build more roads.”

Mr. Holyday is also big on the idea of extending Toronto’s Bloor-Danforth subway westward out to Etobicoke’s border at Sherway Gardens and eventually, fingers crossed, long after most of us are dead presumably, into Mississauga. Why? Ease traffic congestion, of course. lucyandcharliebrownHow? Ummm… WORLD CLASSINESS!!

If they’re not even going to try to have a serious discussion about public transit, why do we even bother listening to them? Given the Progressive Conservative’s track record on this particular issue when they were last in a position of power at Queen’s Park and Tim Hudak was a fresh-faced MPP in the government, they buried subways, cut operating funds to transit organizations like the TTC, you’d think they’d at least be attempting to appear as if they’re taking this matter seriously. But I’m just not seeing it.

Fool me once… etc., etc., etc.

repeatedly submitted by Cityslikr


Behind Blue Eyes

October 29, 2013

You’d think that after nearly 4 years of watching Rob Ford full time, saywhat1I’d be immune to the charms, let’s call them, of his presentation, let’s call it. His inability to put together any sort of coherent thought that hasn’t been drilled into his consciousness by simple word messaging. His monumental awkwardness under the spotlight that he so obviously craves. His childlike wonder at childlike things.

“The haunted house is the best. It’s the best!”

Yet I am.

Or at least, I am captivated by the continued appeal the mayor has on what remains a rock solid base of voters in Toronto. What do they see and approve of when they watch Mayor Ford in action at yesterday’s press conference outside his haunted office? When I watch him verbally fumble and mumble, bouncing from one cliché to another, playing fast and loose with the truth, I see someone in way over his head, glistening in flop sweat. lookinthemirror4What do those who still think he’s there looking out for the little guy, uncomfortable speaking publicly because he’s not a professional politician although he’s been one for the past 13 years see?

Themselves reflected in him, all honourable intentions but with the rough edges that prove his lack of affectation?

If that’s the case, do they share the same point of view about politics and democracy as the mayor does? That it’s all nothing more than a game, a little rough and tumble, a blood sport that’s only about winners and losers. Keep your head up and my taxes low, yo.

Facing his first official, big name opponent (sorry David Soknacki, you’re not a big name yet) for next year’s election campaign, all the mayor could spout was sports vernacular, and not just sports but heavy duty contact sports. No thrust and parry of the foppy French for Mayor Ford, no siree. It was all about clearing the bench, dropping the puck and dropping the gloves and keeping your chin strap tight.

In fact, sports had very little to do with it. It was all about combat, pure and simple. Rock `em, sock `em politics. Keep your head up and elbows sharp, boys. There Will Be Blood.

It’s the triumph of brawn over brains. A battle of ideas?! Fuck that. That’s for eggheads. marquisofqueensburyMan up, grow a pair and get into the ring, motherfuckers.

I get the visceral appeal, I do. I was a 14 year old boy once too. Full of raging testosterone and a passionate desire (if limited ability) to pummel opponents and smite my perceived enemies. Lay waste to all who stood in my way.

Eventually, my teenage years behind me, I realized that I wasn’t ever going to be a professional athlete. Maintaining such a pugnacious approach might just be counter-productive in regular society. Seeing the world through such an us-versus-them, with me or against me, Manichean lens would be ultimately limiting.

Now, I’m not Pollyannish enough to believe that politics has ever been played by Marquis of Queensberry rules, wearing kids’ gloves. It is not for the faint of heart. I get it. The object is to win in order to be able to deliver up your ideas and platform in the service of bettering the lives of those you get elected to represent.lookinthemirror3

That’s different than simply winning for winning’s sake. It’s one thing to be competitive. An another thing entirely wanting nothing less than to obliterate your opponents – no, enemies – to destroy them, to slash their throats, steal their wallets and leave them bleeding in the gutter.

That’s not competitive. That’s sociopathic. Or psychopathic. I’m never sure what the difference is between those two. Either one is not good, not healthy for politics or democracy.

There’s nothing wrong with backing a winning candidate, in seeing your interests represented by them in office. It’s just a little dispiriting to think that a significant bloc of Torontonians are drawn into the process out of some sense of blood lust and a desire to inflict damage on those who don’t agree with them. Take No Prisoners may be a great motivating battle cry in a locker room during half time but it leaves civic life a little ragged, mean-spirited and unproductive.

the Wholly submitted by Cityslikr


That Time In The Election Cycle Already?

October 28, 2013

In yesterday’s news some yesterday’s news grabbed some Sunday headlines. Karen Stintz to run for Mayor.

You don’t say.theresasurprise

Nobody didn’t see that coming.

So a full year to the very day, the 2014 municipal mayoral campaign unofficially officially began for someone other than Mayor Ford who’s basically been campaigning since about 2012. I mean, for someone other than David Soknacki who publicly announced his probable intentions to run for the mayor’s office but isn’t actually being treated as a someone just yet. Of course, Olivia Chow’s in the mix too but humbly demurs at any mention of a possible bid next year despite, apparently, having lined up some big guns to run her nonexistent campaign team.

So the chattering has begun, playing out various scenarios about tactics, vote splits, blood sport, dirty pool. And, of course, the months and months and months of tiresome will he/won’t he speculation about the possibility of John Tory entering the race. crystalballNo Toronto mayoral campaign would be complete without it.

The thing is – and I say this with all due respect to those already knee deep in conjecture and theoretical electoral guesswork including yours truly – in the, I don’t know, 363 days or so between today and the election, there’s a very high probability the ground will have shifted dramatically. If history is anything to go by, the terrain will be nearly unrecognizable. Ask George Smitherman how much the fall of 2010 looked like it would back when he was organizing his run in 2009. Ditto John Tory in the lead up to the 2003 campaign.

And let’s face it, there’s never really been this degree of unknowns going into an election as there are right now especially with an incumbent in place and so raring to go. As much as we might despair/rejoice about the seeming Teflon nature of Mayor Ford, to think there aren’t more land mines just waiting to detonate around him before now and next October just seems implausible. A year out, rushing in with the view of Mayor Ford being your main opponent could be a huge waste of political capital and time.

Besides, it just plays right into the mayor’s wheelhouse of all campaigning, all the time. That’s what he does. That’s what he’s good at. downanddirtyWhy extend an already prolonged campaign period that Mayor Ford has been trying to stretch out for more than a year now?

Get down there in the muck and goo and start to mix it up so we can divert our attention from more important issues that constitute matters of good governance. That yucky policy stuff that the mayor and his staff so assiduously avoid dealing with. We’ve known since 2010, and the administration has missed no opportunity to remind us, that democracy is about nothing more than elections. Win it and the ball is yours for the next 4 years to play with however you see fit.

A mandate, folks. It’s never too early to start demanding a mandate.

As usual, such fireworks will hog the spotlight. Election dogfights are much easier to follow and analyse than, say, matters of policy. hohum2So, the sooner, the better, am I right? To use the mayor’s analogy, no time like the present to “… jump over the boards and drop the gloves to fight.”

So, you know what?

Let them go at it but let’s stop immediately jumping up in gleeful excitement at each big campaign 2014 announcement, every blow that’s landed and then trying to read the tea leaves about what it all means. Those gearing up for the grind have to be preparing already. Let them. It doesn’t mean we have to follow along with every twist and turn. There’s going to be a lot of twists and turns over the next 12 months.

In the meantime, there’s still a city to run.

 — disinterestedly submitted by Cityslikr


The Thing About Shakespeare…

October 20, 2013

(Admittedly, we were a few drinks in. Former All Fired Up in the Big Smoke contributor Urban Sophisticat had dropped by, bearing libations and hummus – it’s always hummus with him. I was catching him up on what had been going on around these parts since he’d steadfastly refused to follow along, largely checking out in 2010. What follows is as close to the actual truth as I could possibly be expected to remember.)

urbansophisticat

*  *  *

Urban Sophisticat [heretofore, US]: (reciting)

I know you all, and will awhile uphold
The unyok’d humour of your idleness.
Yet herein will I imitate the Sun,
Who doth permit the base contagious clouds
To smother up his beauty from the world,
That, when he please again to be himself,
Being wanted, he may be more wonder’d at,
By breaking through the foul and ugly mists
Of vapours that did seem to strangle him.
If all the year were playing holidays,
To sport would be as tedious as to work;
But, when they seldom come, they wish’d-for come,
And nothing pleaseth but rare accidents.
So when this loose behaviour I throw off,
And pay the debt I never promised,
By how much better than my word I am,
By so much shall I falsify men’s hopes;
And, like bright metal on a sullen ground,
My reformation, glitt’ring o’er my fault,
Shall show more goodly and attract more eyes
Than that which hath no foil to set it off.
I’ll so offend to make offense a skill,
Redeeming time when men think least I will.

And scene! (bows and sits back down). Do you see what I mean?

performingprincehenry

Cityslikr [heretofore, CS]: (cocks his head, squints his eyes; clearly not knowing what he means)

US: It’s all an act, man. Dampen expectations and then wow them with greatness.

CS: This is what you think the mayor is doing.

US: Just like Prince Hal in Henry the Fourth, yes. All degenerate reprobate and then – BOOM! – Hank Cinq. Once more unto the breach, dear friends! Once more. St. Crispin… crispian… crisp, crisp, crisp.

CS: (pouring more drinks) I don’t know. That’s all too premeditated for this crew. Smacks of forward thinking and planning. Not exactly their strong suit.

US: But what’s the alternative?

CS: To what?

US: Alternative explanation. Nobody could be this… this… bumbling and openly incompetent, could they? This blatantly oblivious to possible repercussions to their actions, can they?

CS: You really haven’t been following along with this, have you?

US: Clearly not.

dialogue1

CS: The mayor has lived a life free of repercussions. There are no consequences to his actions. He is impervious to cause and effect.

US: But you don’t write a letter of support of a friend who’s facing charges of uttering death threats when you’re the mayor! Even a very close friend

CS: A friend you drop by to see four times a week for minutes at a time, you do. You can’t teach loyalty, remember?

US: (shakes his head; clearly he doesn’t remember) Do you know what Hal said to Falstaff when it became obvious their friendship was no longer tenable?

CS: Falstaff! Now we’re talking.

US: Presume not that I am the thing I was/For God doth know, so shall the world perceive/That I have turn’d away my former self/So will I those that kept me company.

CS: Friends don’t throw friends under the bus, buddy. That’s what differentiates our mayor from some toffy king. Hal was one of those greasy, conniving, say one thing, do another political types. That’s not the mayor’s style.

US: But he defeated France!

falstaffandhal

CS: Big deal. Mayor Ford rid our land of the vehicle registration tax. No, dude. If we’re getting all literary pretentious here, Mayor Ford is Toronto’s Falstaff, a popular rapscallion, so beloved by those who love their rapscallions that he just might get himself a sequel. The Merry Wives of Etobicoke.

US: (eyeing CS suspiciously for a long time before speaking) You’re fucking with me, right? You don’t actually believe that, do you?

(CS refills their glasses, finishing another bottle)

CS: (drinks; leans back in his chair) You know, the thing about Shakespeare, there was a certain kind of order in his universe, you know what I’m saying? His characters kind of got what they had coming to them. A comeuppance or… whatever the opposite of comeuppance is.

US: Just desserts.

CS: You think?

US: Sure.

CS: I mean, desserts make it sound like a positive thing but, you know, you usually hear it like, Well, that shithead got his just desserts. Not, Well that uplifting, positive person got their just desserts. I don’t think anyone actually wants their just desserts, do they?

emptybottles

US: Some people really have quite a sweet tooth, is all I’m saying.

(CS pauses to mull that statement over. He drinks. He leans back in his chair)

CS: So you’re saying that maybe somebody like the mayor is looking to get his just desserts? That all the astoundingly reprehensible shit he’s both allegedly and not so allegedly engaged in is him looking for a comeuppance? It’s actually just some scream for help. Help Me! Get Me Out of Here! I Hate This Job!

US: (thinking about it for a moment) That’s good. I don’t think that’s what I was getting at but, you know, who knows. Maybe subconsciously.

CS: Maybe subconsciously who? You or the mayor?

US: Maybe all of us.

(CS finishes off the last of the hummus with his finger. He then reaches into one of his desk drawers, pulls out another bottle and opens it. Carefully pours another drink just for himself)

CS: I think you’ve had enough.

elizabethanworldview

US: The thing about Shakespeare, to continue your thought, and just desserts and comeuppances and what have you—

CS: (raising his glass) Here’s to what have yous.

US: Who gets what and what gets done to whom… who… whom? who? whom?

CS: Don’t ask me. I got a friend Mikk who… whom… who? whom? who? answers that one for me.

US: In Shakespeare, who gets to be king and who gets to be murdered in the Tower of London depends entirely on whether or not it’s a tragedy or a comedy. The wheel turns and all is as it should be when the final curtain comes down. So the question you have to ask yourself is—

CS: Do ya fell lucky? Well, do ya? Punk. Dirty Harry Act 1, scene 1.

US: And again in the last act.

dirtyharry

CS: What can I tell you. Don Siegel was my Shakespeare.

US: And Clint Eastwood your Richard Burbage?

CS: I’m guessing some Elizabethan actor?

US: Just let me finish here. This is important. I think. (taps his drink for a refill)

CS: (pouring a drink) Important? We’re just players, strutting and fretting and blah, blah, blah…

US: How this thing plays out is going to depend on what exactly we’re dealing with here. Is it a comedy or is it a tragedy?

(US sits back in his chair and takes a sip of his drink, leaving CS waiting for more. But nothing)

CS: That’s it?

US: Consider me exeunt!

johncassavetes

CS: That was hardly worth waiting for.

US: Don’t blame me. Blame Shakespeare.

CS: No, I’m not going to blame Shakespeare. Even he knew it wasn’t all just tragedy or comedy. Life wasn’t that clear cut. I mean, some of those later plays he wrote. They were tragicomedies. Your Wintertales and Tempests. I mean, look. John Cassavetes and Molly Ringwald. All serious meets light and fluffy. Just like life.

US: Technically, those plays are known as a romances.

CS: Point is, mighty eruditee, things don’t always turn out like you expect they should. Sometimes idiots prosper. Sometimes those most deserving of getting their just desserts don’t because everything’s loaded in their favour and they run roughshod over every rule of proper narrative structure. The story simply doesn’t unfold according to the poetics of Aristotle. Play the string out long enough, there’s going to be as many setbacks as there are steps forward. If you’re lucky.

US: So we’re due for a step forward, is what you’re saying.

CS: Nope. Who knows? Maybe. I don’t have a crystal ball. What I do know. What I do know is I that I have an absolute belief in the fundamentals of science. And eventually, a critical mass will be reached, heavy with bad behaviour, worse choices, overweening entitlement, monumental arrogance and hubris, all collapsing into one another until the whole fucking shit show event horizons into a big gaping black hole.

blackhole

US: (waiting for the rest of the story) … and then?

CS: Then what?

US: After the black hole.

CS: I said I believed in the fundamentals of science. Didn’t say I understood them. Does anybody know what happens after a black hole? Everything not sucked down into it goes back about its interstellar business, I guess. Doing their best to avoid the gravitational pull over their shoulder and pretending that life as they it know just barely avoided a cataclysmic end. How do you think black holes end?

(US pours a drink, sits back in his seat)

US: I think I prefer Shakespeare to science.

(CS pours a drink, sits back in his seat)

CS: Yeah well, don’t we all wish life was sung in iambic pentameter and Hamlet killed his uncle and became king and Beatrice married Titania and they all lived happily ever after.

US: You haven’t read much Shakespeare, have you.

CS: Just enough to get it all fucked up. That’s more than enough to qualify you for positions of great power in these parts.

(They lean in toward one another and clink their glasses just because it seems like they should)takeabow

AND, SCENE!

recreatively submitted by Cityslikr


Yes, Virginia. There Are Still Back Room Boys.

October 18, 2013

I’m not one who goes in for the dark, smoky backroom conspiracies, where doughy white guys meet up to plot their evil plans and machinations to control every aspect of our lives. backroomTammany Hall’s a historic relic, smashed to bits by forces of reform and enlightenment. It’s the 21st-century, baby. Everything’s on the up-and-up. One person, one vote.

So you’ll have to excuse me if I gave short-shrift to this bit of backroom, doughy white guy display of sheer entitlement earlier this year in Calgary. As Lisa Geddes of Global News describes it, “Cal Wenzel, the founder of Shane Homes, presents developers and home builders with his plan to control city council by backing development-friendly candidates.” Damn you, liberal elite, nanny staters and your no-smoking laws! The ambiance demanded to be smoke-filled!

The secretly videoed speech caught people’s attention and subsequently mired the supposedly non-partisan Manning Institute in some icky political goo. But even the most cursory of glances at the news about next Monday’s municipal election in Calgary shows that the back room musings of a small group of men have become front-and-centre campaign issues despite the controversy. tammanhall1The man himself, Preston Manning, hasn’t exactly shied away from displaying how his bread got buttered.

From a non-Calgarian perspective, there are a couple real eye-poppers from this situation that we best pay attention to.

For starters, smaller council numbers are much more susceptible to capture by special interests, let’s call it. It’s just basic math. As Mr. Wenzel pointed out in the video, on a 15 member city council (including the mayor), you just need 8 votes to have your way. That’s a lot fewer campaigns you have to pitch in and help on, a much lighter stress on the pocket book.

Regardless of your political bent, picture Toronto, a city more than twice the size of Calgary, with 24 or 25 councillors. You’d need 13 to control the agenda. That’s basically the mayor’s Executive Committee. For those leaning right, David Miller’s Executive Committee. Those on the left? Rob Ford’s Executive Committee.

The future of 2.6 million people in the hands of 13 elected representatives and, perhaps, a shadowy group, organized enough with enough money to have put them in that position of power. It may seem all cleanly governable but hardly very accountable to the wider voting public.

Mull that over for a bit, and then tell me you still want to cut the number of city councillors in half. tammanyhallI just might have to suspect your democratic impulses.

While his interest in the subject might be for reasons diametrically opposite to mine, Cal Wenzel’s observations on the nature of municipal government I can certainly get behind, and it’s something I’ve been saying for a while now. Ultimately, the position of mayor doesn’t matter in terms of managing the policy direction council decides to follow. A mayor can set the table and write out place cards. A mayor can demand people sit where they’re supposed to sit. But a mayor can’t make anyone eat what’s been put in front of them.

The buck stops with council and whether or not a mayor gets behind the majority of his/her colleagues is inconsequential to the proper functioning of local government. It’s the key wards in any city that will determine the ultimate outcome of a municipal election. moneybagmanPiece together a working coalition and it will not matter who is wearing the chain of the mayor’s office. The blueprint has already been established.

That’s easier said than done, of course. Even easier with access to ready money and influential voices, especially those working around a singular, self-interested cause like pro-development. How do you unite around candidates representing a bigger, broader, more inclusive mandate?

Well, I would start by seeking out people who don’t use or respond well to this kind of language and thinking. “On our side or not…” “Done a really good job for us.” “There are some at city council who are totally out of control.” “As long as we have votes swinging our way…” “Unless we get somebody in there that’s on our side …”

It smacks of empire building not city building. A circling of the wagons and shrinking of consensus. Stunted democracy.

We need candidates not vetted in back rooms. Candidates who are well known in community centres and as part of tenants, residents, neighbourhood and business associations. widercommunityWe need candidates who represent communities not individuals or individual interests.

They’re out there. We have to start looking, and we have to start looking soon. Our election is just over a year away. Rest assured and rest uneasily that there’s already meetings like Cal Wenzel’s happening around the city. The 2014 election is being plotted and many of us remain on the sidelines.

alarmedly submitted by Cityslikr


Where The Rubber Meets The Road

October 17, 2013

If you’re reading this, chances are you already know my rather strong views on private automobiles. carhateBluntly, I can’t stand them. I fucking loathe them, in fact. At my most vituperative, I see them as the root cause of all that’s blighted cities and social connectivity since World War II.

Yes, I can be unreasonable on this particular issue.

My car-hatred is much more nuanced than that, hopefully at least. I’ve had some of my greatest travel moments on road trips, seen stuff I’d probably never have the time to see otherwise. In fact, I came across this little gem over the Thanksgiving weekend just north of the shores of Lake Erie. Never would’ve happened without being behind the wheel of a car.

But as a form of commuting on a daily basis? And designing and building cities around that form of transportation? An unmitigated disaster in terms of, not only liveability, but pressures it puts on the public purse.

You see, the conventional wisdom holds that to build, maintain and operate the road network needed to accommodate private vehicle use costs much more than the revenue brought in by users of that system. In short, we subsidize lifestyles based around car use. roadtripThose dependent on their vehicles to get around aren’t paying their fair share.

Of course, by ‘conventional wisdom’, I mean people like me who are trying to imagine a post-car city which is not a city without cars but one where they’re down the hierarchy of how people get from point A to point B. Those who don’t necessarily share my views may see things another way. They will point to all the money they hand over to operate their vehicles. Gas taxes. Licensing and registration fees. Insurance. Parking. Parking tickets.

The problem is, there’s not enough actual data to point to in order to settle the argument and, more importantly, set good public policy. There are dribs and drabs, fragmentary information here and there that only really ever seem to back up one’s particular point of view. That’s what makes the Conference Board of Canada’s report, Where the Rubber Meets the Road: How Much Motorists Pay For Road Infrastructure, so important.

It starts to put some meat on the bones of this debate.notenoughinformation

Now whether or not it’s grade A, prime cut meat, that’s for another day. I haven’t read the report thoroughly enough to pass judgement on the methodology (and not entirely sure I could even if I wanted to). I’m just so happy it’s out there, ready to be talked about.

A couple things jumped out at me.

“The report finds that road users in Ontario cover a significant portion of road infrastructure costs…”

To my mind, ‘a significant portion’ is not the full portion. So that the costs associated with building and maintaining our road networks are more than the revenues generated from those using the networks. In other words, drivers are being subsidized.

“…  and that cost recovery [revenues through taxes, fees and fines etc.] in the GTHA is higher than it is for the province as a whole.”

As Tess Kalinowski writes in the Toronto Star, “… Toronto-area drivers paid about $3.7 billion in fuel excise taxes, licensing fees, fines and other expenses, wimpycompared with $2.7 billion that governments spent on building, policing and maintaining the region’s roads” while in Ontario as a whole, “…drivers generate about $7.7 billion in revenue and the province and municipalities spend between $10 billion and $13 billion on roads.”

That suggests while drivers in the GTHA are more than covering the costs of roads they use, they’re subsidizing drivers in the rest of Ontario for their roads. In other words, we’re being short-changed here. Leading to this future exchange when Metrolinx starts talking about revenue tools for the Big Move: Why should I be paying for transit in Toronto? I don’t know. Why is Toronto paying for your roads in Petawawa?

Again, let me repeat, these are all numbers that haven’t been widely vetted and in no way should be treated as set in stone. The conversation has just begun.

For me though, the real eye-opening number in the report is the cost of owning a vehicle. Over $10, 000 per household in 2011. That is a whole whack of cash and highlights why many drivers honestly believe they are more than paying their way. How couldn’t they be? 10K a year! And now we want more from them?

It’s not enough to just respond with a shrug and say, If you don’t like it. Get rid of your car. This entire region outside of a small portion of the downtown core has been built on the promise that you can get to wherever it is you want to go, cheaply and quickly, in the comfort of your own private vehicle. roadrage3Maybe that was once true. Turns out not to be the case anymore.

We have to offer better alternatives before demanding everybody leave their cars behind. We can only do that if we honestly start calculating the full costs of how we get around this city, this region, this province. I suspect Where the Rubber Meets the Road doesn’t do that to everyone’s satisfaction but it’s a start. That’s what every journey begins with, right? A start.

hopefully submitted by Cityslikr