Early on in Charles Montgomery’s Happy City (page 6 to be exact), the author quotes former Bogotá mayor Enrique Peñalosa, speaking at the 2006 World Urban Forum:
“If we defined our success just in terms of income per capita, we would have to accept ourselves as second or third-rate societies – as a bunch of losers,” he said. No, the city needed a new goal. Peñalosa promised neither a car in every garage nor a socialist revolution. His promise was simple. He was going to make Bogotans happier.
“And what are our needs for happiness?” he asked. “We need to walk, just as birds need to fly. We need to be around other people. We need beauty. We need contact with nature. And most of all, we need not to be excluded. We need to feel some sort of equality.”
Over the past 3+ years, there has been plenty of head-scratching and analysis over and of this thing that has been labelled Ford Nation. Much of it has been very good (most recently from Naheed Mustafa in The Atlantic – h/t @GerardDiTrolio for the link and Marco Chown Oved in The Toronto Star – h/t @CTBNFG for that link).
But if I may be so bold, allow me to put it all under one big umbrella, using Enrique Peñalosa’s words. “We need not to be excluded. We need to feel some sort of equality.”
Being part of Ford Nation, from a political standpoint, could be viewed as an exercise in inclusion. For the first time in at least seven years, if not since amalgamation, hundreds of thousands of residents, mainly in the surrounding former suburban municipalities of Toronto, felt there was somewhere they had a voice, exerted some power. Rob Ford was their mayor. David Miller was our mayor. It was their turn now. Equality.
Never mind, for the moment, that many of the policies Team Ford would pursue once in power ran contrary to some of the issues that exacerbated the sense of isolation and exclusion, i.e. cutbacks in programs and services, reductions in public transit. Pocketbook politics are strong. For over 3 decades now, conservatives have sold us a bill of goods that more money in our pockets was all we needed to make our lives better. It’s a tough rhetorical nut to crack. To paraphrase a wise politico, sometimes that elderly lady has to start wondering why her bus taking her to church on a Sunday morning now comes every half hour when it used to be only 15 minutes before you can convince her that freezing property taxes does have an effect aside from simply saving a bit of pocket change.
Ford Nation is the face of people wanting in, wanting to be heard if not wanting to directly participate in the civic life of the city where they live.
It’s not enough to simply tsk, tsk, tsk, rant in an alleyway and slap our foreheads in wonder at how these people can support a guy who’s clearly not acting in their best interests. Ford Nation is a vehicle for both a collective frustration and, I hope and think, a demand for inclusion in the decision making of this city. Forget the reckless driver who’s behind the wheel. That’s ultimately unimportant. It’s the vehicle we need to take notice of.
If we’re truly concerned about the direction our city’s going, of the well-being of all its residents, we have to recognize what the members of Ford Nation saw back in 2010. The status quo is not working. We need to figure out why that is and how to go about trying to address it.
That calls for a positive reassessment not finger-wagging, blame-naming and nay-saying. We need a bus load of ideas, big and small, with a wide open door policy where anybody who wants to, contributes. Point the thing in the direction we want to go, along the surest route we think will get us there, aware that there’s always going to be detours ahead, and invite everybody who’s interested aboard.
It’s time we started talking about what we want from the city we live in not with everything we don’t like about it. Can’t, won’t, no no no, is the language of division and exclusion. Here’s what I’d like to see. How about you? is the way we talk when we’re seeking other opinions, when we want to be inclusive, when we actually care what other people think, even those we think we know better than.
Toronto won’t work unless it works for everybody. There’s no easy fix for that. Consensus building is the only way forward to that goal. True consensus can only happen when everyone’s voice is heard and treated equally. That’s where solutions start.
— happily submitted by Cityslikr
What if we changed the electoral system so that most people got their first choice for councillor? Not a panacea but it should help.
@Jrootham, council’s already voted to request the province to amend legislation to adopt ranked ballot instead of first past the post. http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/toronto/toronto-council-backs-electoral-reform/article12489136/
Good step but it doesn’t really address the us vs. them attitude prevalent in this city.
Ranked ballot is a con. It is a strategy designed to avoid real reform. Note that it does not meet the target I suggested above. To do that requires multi-member wards with a proportional electoral system.
Ford supporters are angry lot & express their outrage on AM talk radio likely after reading commentary in the SUN