Didn’t You Use To Be… ?

January 31, 2014

The final budget of the Ford administration has now been signed and sealed, marking a full circle for the mayor. Full circle? Half circle?

He came in like a lion and went out like a lamb, is what I’m trying to say. tickletickletickleA bleating, scruffy, possibly orf ridden lamb. Nothing you’d want to cuddle up to (unless, of course, you’re Budget Chief Frank Di Giorgio) or use the wool to make a hat and scarf set with, but generally harmless.

However, don’t let the mayor convince you he had nothing to do with the 2014 budget. His mutton smeared fingerprints are all over it, evidence of a time not long ago when he was fearsome enough a force to… a-hem, a-hem… ram his will through that of city council. Echoes of days gone by when he was a man with a mandate.

This is a budget still with lower than needed property tax increases (or other revenue sources) to meet the demands of growth in Toronto. This is a budget still where the soft services like youth initiatives, student nutritional programs, shelter, support and housing, all vie for the crumbs left behind after the big ticket items such as the TPS and TTC have had their fill of the shrinking pie. scarceThis is a budget where tax revenue starts being diverted to build a Scarborough subway.

Let’s call budget 2014 a Ford-lite document. Not too tax-y and with a slight hint, a whiff really, of compassion. Something, if not for everyone, only the zealots and numerically challenged could be indignant about. A true election year budget, living as we are in the Ford era.

(I highly recommend you link over to Social Planning Toronto for a much more thorough analysis of the budget fallout than I could possibly give.)

Getting there was not without its bumps and outbursts and histrionic hissy fits. Mostly from the usual suspects. The mayor. His councillor-brother. Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti. Oh, Giorgio. Knucklehead, knuckle-dragger, numbskull and the scourge of good governance everywhere.

After all his time as the local representative, it’s amazing frankly that Ward 7 is anything but a crater in the ground. To hear Councillor Mammoliti bitch and moan, it may well be. A crater filled with impoverished senior citizens, transport trucks and a flag pole. clownshowHe got his ward that flag pole, right?

Despite his best efforts to be the biggest bane of reasonable, civil debate over the course of the last couple days, I can honestly tell you that at about 6 p.m. last night he was upstaged in spectacular fashion. Nope. Not by the mayor. Not by Councillor Ford. Not even by Councillor David Shiner’s Bullshit Bag.

Nope.

All that paled in comparison to the real warrior of division, newly minted in the intense heat of battle known as the struggle for a Scarborough subway.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Councillor Glenn De Baeremaeker, Ward 38 Scarborough Centre (courtesy of Graphic Matt):

No, but wait. It gets better. From March 2012, less than 2 years ago. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Councillor Glenn De Baeremaeker, Ward 38 Scarborough Centre (courtesy of Himy Syed):

I don’t know the language but I’m beginning to think De Baeremaeker is Dutch for ‘fucking hypocrite’.

Set aside the craven 180 performed in just over a year. What politician hasn’t done an utter about-face when they think it politically expedient? In the face of a fearsome Ford Nation back in 2010, how many councillors voted to eliminate a source of revenue with the Vehicle Registration Tax, only to openly regret it a couple budget cycles later?

What about fellow Scarborough councillor Paul Ainslie Ward 43 Scarborough East? nopledgeDuring the great transit debate of 2012, the one where Councillor De Baeremaeker spoke so lovingly of LRTs, Councillor Ainslie was all about subways, burying the Eglinton crosstown for the entire route. Even in the early stages of the latest Scarborough subway skirmish, while De Baeremaeker was tucking his tail between his legs, worrying about some Ford Nation backlash that would turf him from office in 2014, Ainslie appeared to be falling in line with the otherwise unanimous demand of the other 9 councillors from Scarborough for a subway extension of the Bloor-Danforth line.

But he didn’t. Instead, he stood up at council last year and said that after examining all the facts available to him, he’d decided on both fiscal and transit planning grounds, an LRT was the way to go.

How did Councillor De Baeremaeker explain his conversion in the opposite direction?

Deserve.

Deserve.mineminemine

Scarborough deserves a subway. Anything less, including those sleek, iPad-esque LRTs, would be an insult. A slap in the face of Scarborough residents who’d been waiting out in the cold for too long, waiting for their fair share of 1st-class, world class transit technology.

Deserve.

It’s the last refuge of scoundrels. At least when it comes to transit planning.

When you don’t have the numbers, when the facts and figures really don’t make a case for your demands, reach back into the bag of resentment, deep down into that parochial pit and left fly with the sword of petulant division. You have one! Why don’t we? It’s unfair! We pay and pay and pay, and get nothing in return. We deserve a subway!

Or else.

We’ll de-amalgamate. We’ll take our ball and go home. principledWe’ll hold our breath until we turn blue and get our way.

This kind of divisive, two year-old temper tantrum approach to politics I expect from the Fords. It is, after all, their bread and butter. Consensus is not part of their repertoire. Divisiveness is all they have.

But honestly, there’s a kind of unprincipled principled…ness to how the Ford’s go about doing their business. Everybody knows what they’re doing. They know what they’re doing in sowing the seeds of division throughout the city in the hopes of manufacturing enough of an us-versus-them base to keep them in power. Most of the time, I actually think they believe what comes out of their mouths.

The likes of Councillor Glenn De Baeremaeker? Not so much. He apparently has no principles past getting himself re-elected. That’s pure Giorgio Mammoliti territory. Remember how much he hated Rob Ford before it became apparent he was going to be Mayor Rob Ford? Now, they’re inseparable, attached at the thumb almost.

Whichever way the wind’s blowing, right?hollowman

Councillor Glenn De Baeremaeker has become a hollow politician. A destructive shell of a councillor who is putting his own interests before those of the city he was elected to represent. The whole city not just Scarborough, not just Ward 38.

Scarborough doesn’t deserve a subway. It deserves better representation than the likes of Glenn De Baeremaeker.

indignantly submitted by Cityslikr


From Afar With Frozen Pipes

January 30, 2014

If you take nothing else away from the first day of the 2014 budget debate, let it be this:todayslesson

From City Manager Joe Pennachetti, we have about reached cap level in finding savings for the city through efficiencies. There’s no more fat on the bone. Any further efficiencies will result in service and program cuts.

Also from the city manager, any continuation of raising property taxes at less than the rate of inflation (at least without some other source of revenue to fill the gap) is not sustainable. It is not fiscally responsible. It will lead to further reductions in services and programs in the long run.

Beware the city politician who now comes to you and says we can maintain all the services and programs we want, need and must provide through finding efficiencies and keeping tax increases unsustainably low.cuttothebone

Uh-uh.

They are selling you a bill of goods.

That’s what you need to take away from Wednesday.

Oh, and Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti is a douche. A malignant force on the political life of this city. A do-nothing elected representative unable to grasp even the most basic concepts of municipal governance.

Remember that.

And about efficiencies and low taxes.

And another thing. Councillor David Shiner is intent on further gutting the ability of the city to deliver the services and programs it is obligated to. texaschainsawmassacreHe sees gaps in job vacancies at City Hall and its inability to fill them as needed as some sort of failure to deliver those services and programs to the public. He demands a refund. Starve it and kill it.

And Councillor Doug Ford. See, Mammoliti, Giorgio above.

And one more thing. Budget Chief Frank Di Giorgio has absolutely no place being budget chief. He understands the numbers less than I do. And I’m not budget chief.

Remember all that as we go forward. Remember, all these councillors either don’t care or don’t know that the policies they’re pursuing are hindering the city’s ability to deal with the growth it’s experiencing in any sort of fair, healthy or sustainable manner. They all claim to respect the taxpayer, to be looking out for the taxpayer yet don’t seem to give a toss about the financial burnittothegroundwherewithal of the city they’re elected to represent to manage and its ability to deal with the future.

Remember all that going forward.

That, and Mayor Ford is in legal trouble again. Again.

It is days like these I am amazed these arsonists have not yet managed to burn this place to the ground.

icily submitted by Cityslikr


Not A Showdown So Much As A Show Off

January 29, 2014

The 2014 budget city council meets this week to iron out is shaping up to be the most madcap one yet under the Ford administration. madcapAnd that’s saying something, given last year, I believe it was, when Mayor Ford voted against his own budget, following the always reasonable Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti down the rabbit hole of a property tax freeze.

This ain’t a budget debate, Chuck! It’s college hijinx!

No doubt the extra splash of wacky sauce comes, in part, from the fact that it’s a campaign year budget. Nobody wants to be seen as a tax-and-non-spender. You’re going to wind up pissing off some constituency and handing a flaming torch to a willing challenger. Best to try and go unnoticed, quietly not upsetting the status quo.

Not possible, of course, with our very own raging bull, the braying mayor, Rob Ford, doing his very unleveled best to ring the alarm bells about the budget debate. This time around, he’s an absolute free agent when it comes to the budget process. It’s not his budget, he’ll tell anyone still willing to listen to him with any degree seriousness. bullinachinashopHe was stripped of all his powers back in November for no good and probably illegal reason. Stabbed in the back by both friend and foe alike.

Budget 2014 is all on these traitors. Mayor Ford’s hands are clean. Neutered as he was from reining in their tax-and-spend inclinations, this is what happens when he’s not allowed to single-handedly watch over every single dime.

Which is all kind of weird when you start looking more closely at it.

The proposed budget limped out of the Executive Committee with a 2.23% property tax increase attached, roughly the same as the Budget Committee had recommended earlier. Both were down from the 2.75% city staff had advised. Both were roundly criticized by the mayor.

The worst budget ever!” he bellowed.

exactlythesameHere’s the thing.

In 2012, when Mayor Ford was still in (never quite) full control of the budget process, he signed off on a 2.5% property tax hike. In line with this worst one ever but not including a .5% bump dedicated to the first stage of building a new subway. Or, as the mayor likes to claim, an already built subway.

So the mayor’s deriding a budget that, give or take a few million over nearly $10 billion in total, is essentially the same as one he was on board with two years earlier, but now with some new subway attached to it.

You can’t make this shit up, folks.

Making matters even more… what’s a word for nut job zany?… Mayor Ford insists he’s going to move motions that will amount to the tune of some $50 million in savings, therefore removing the need for over 2% of that property tax hike. Without… wait for it…wait for it…affecting services and programs enough that anyone will notice. Easy. Guaranteed.

What kind of cost savings is the mayor proposing? It’s a secret, he says. nottellingStrategically kept from all those back-stabbers who are just waiting to tear his motions to shreds. But don’t get too tied up in knots over his approach. Mayor Ford is sure everything he puts forward will get defeated. So it’ll be like the whole thing never happened.

The Budget and Executive Committees didn’t help the cause in fending off the mayor’s magical budget thinking, ignoring staff recommendations on both the revenue and spending sides of the ledger. In the end, the document going to full city council today reduced the property tax hike while adding additional expenditures, counting on a higher amount of revenue from the Land Transfer Tax than staff estimated. That darned staff. Always keeping their projections low. Fingers crossed, the good times keep on rolling!

As it stands, the members of the Executive Committee attempted a tricky optical manoeuvre, sucking-and-blowing at the same time, only less so than the mayor (although as of this writing, Councillor David Shiner is now singing the praises of yet another cheap stunt property tax freeze, going full out MammoFordie), insaneand we’re now facing what staff has called an unbalanced budget. An unbalanced operating budget is unnatural at the municipal level, unnatural and illegal by provincial statute.

So by the end of this, by hook or by crook, and likely with a little razzle dazzle and smoke and mirrors, someone has to step up and balance the books. But I’m sensing before we arrive at that place, unbalanced will be the order of the day(s). Unbalanced. Unhinged. Unglued.

That’s just how we roll these days.

maniacally submitted by Cityslikr


A Recap

January 28, 2014

letsrecapEarlier this month, near the start of the 2014 municipal election campaign, we set off on a bid to lay out a 10 point (give or take) platform we’d like to see candidates out promoting as they sought public office. Something more than simply slogans or tribal chants. Substantive. City-zen focussed not taxpayer obsessive.

Here’s what we’ve come up with so far (in no particular order save from first to last):

magnacarta

1) Residents of Toronto are more than taxpayers. We live here. We work here. We play here. We raise families here. The taxes and user fees we pay are simply the cost of doing all these things.

Living in a city, being part of the life that goes on around you, should be tabulated by more than what it costs. Referred to as merely a taxpayer ignores the grander social element of being a city-zen. As Charles Montgomery writes in Happy City, “The city is ultimately a shared project…a place where we can fashion a common good that we simply cannot build alone.”

publicrealm1

2) A city is only as good as its public realm. The post-war flight from the public good to private interest has undercut a sense of shared experience in city life. Detached, single family homes, dispersed on big lots, the automobile, shopping malls all represent an elevation of the individual good, a buffer against a collective enterprise.

Take the car (please!) for example.

Huge swaths of public space is designed, built and maintained exclusively for the movement of single individuals driving in their cars. Suggest a more equitable arrangement for other ways to get around, and somehow it’s declared a war. Find somewhere else to go. This is ours.

Again, Charles Montgomery in Happy City: “Rome rose as its wealth was poured into the common good of aqueducts and roads [not just for chariots – me.], then declined as it was hoarded in private villas and palaces.”

gettingfromatob

3) Ease of mobility. The title of Human Transit’s Jarrett Walker’s transit talk last week? Abundant Access: Public Transit As An Instrument of Freedom.

Disproportionately favouring one mode of how we move around this city puts people who don’t need to, want to or can’t afford to use that mode as their primary source of transportation at a disadvantage. Especially if that mode is the least efficient way of moving the most amount of people around the city. It carves out public space in favour of private use.

The only rational, civic-minded approach a municipal candidate can take in terms of transportation policy is a pledge to re-arrange the priorities that have been in place for decades and decades and decades now. It’s been said many times by many people but the goal should be about moving people not cars. Candidates need to be saying it louder and more often.

taxation

4) Taxation. Ugghhh. It’s time we stopped referring to taxes as a burden and recognize them for what they are. The only way we build a better city, with a better public realm and provide the most opportunities for the most people.

There’s no other way, folks. Anyone who tries to convince you otherwise, that there’s some magical way out there that we can get everything we want without paying for it is either lying or delusional. Maybe both.

I heard it said at a recent deputation at City Hall, a request to ‘tax us fairly, spend wisely’. We can debate until the cows come home on the concepts of ‘fairly’ and ‘wisely’ but we need to move on past this silly, selfish idea that taxes are bad, a burden. Harkening back again to Charles Montgomery, “The city is a shared project…a place where we can fashion a common good that we simply cannot build alone.” And in the words of one former mayor (more or less), a great city, a prosperous city, a fair city does not come for free.

urbansuburbandivide

5) The urban-suburban divide. Governing this city does not have to be a zero-sum game. I mean, it does if you’re trying to promote divisiveness as a political strategy. We are not complete aliens to one another, we Torontonians. Many have grown up in the suburbs and moved to the inner core. Others the reverse.

Of course, some of the challenges we face are different and need different solutions, depending where we live, where we work, where we go to school. One size does not, cannot fit all. But any approach to fixing the problems that currently plague us as a city shouldn’t come at the expense of others. It needs to come at the expense to us all.

Sure, we face some problems arising out of built form. There are no easy fixes. We’re talking culture changes.

That’s a tough nut to crack. It’s much easier to disengage and retreat to our respective corners. Blame other people and pine for the old days, the good old days.

Well, to quote (no, not Charles Montgomery this time) The Libertines, there were no good old days. These are the good old days. And we’re in it together to make sure of just that. These are the good old days.

To be continued.

hopefully submitted by Cityslikr


Can We Have A Conversation About Buses?

January 27, 2014

“Toronto may need to have an urgent conversation about its bus system.”

humantransit

So said Human Transit’s Jarrett Walker at last Thursday’s transit session, Abundant Access: Public Transit As An Instrument of Freedom.

Of course, Toronto won’t, at least, not in the near future. Too caught up are we in the bright and shiny lure of technology porn, parochial resentment and world-classism. It’s a subway or no way in every corner of the city. Scarborough. Finch Avenue West. Some ludicrously titled, the North York Relief Line (Councillor James Pasternak Ward 10 York Centre, take a bow!)

Even those who should know so much better like Councillor Glenn De Baeremaeker (Ward 38 Scarborough Centre) set the debate back with his own late to the subway conversion, insisting that residents of Scarborough were somehow entitled to a subway. willywonka1Entitled! As if transit planning is based on nothing more than goodie dealing and score settling. For such a poisonous contribution to what Mr. Walker referred to as a ‘transit toxic landscape’, Councillor De Baeremaeker deserves a serious run for his money in this year’s municipal campaign from someone who challenges his misguided transit priorities.

It’s hard to imagine how a segment of the population who sniffed at LRTs as nothing more than glorified streetcars would be open to any talk of enhancing our bus system. Buses have never really had much cache when it comes to being seen as an acceptable transit alternative. Chopped liver in a environment where people are demanding filet mignon.

But as Mr. Walker suggests, a revamped bus system could provide relatively inexpensive, short term relief to some of the congestion woes we’re are currently face. While we tussle with the logistics of financing and building the big ticket items like a subway or the Eglinton Crosstown, solutions for 5, 10, 20 years down the road, we could also be easily implementing quick fixes right now. All it would take is some paint, road signs and a whole bunch of political will.

The public transit renaissance now happening in the least public transit oriented city in popular imagination, Los Angeles, was kick-started by improvements in its bus networks. anotherwayBy providing more frequency and connectivity with less waiting times, enhanced bus service helped create a positive atmosphere for the idea of real public transit in an oppressively car-oriented region. Remove the theoretical by providing the practical. It doesn’t need to take decades and billions and billions of dollars.

Noted public transit advocate, Councillor Doug Ford, suggested a couple weeks back that we replace the crammed packed King Street streetcars with buses. To which I say, fine. Let’s do that along with providing rush hour bus only lanes while removing on-street parking and left turns during that time. Do we have a deal?

How about along Finch Avenue? Why don’t we give over a lane going in each direction over to buses, create an actual rapid transit lane for that well used route(s)? It wouldn’t cost the city very much money and we could have it up and going over night.

The unpleasant but entirely necessary fact of the matter is, much of the suburban core of this city wasn’t built or designed to support higher order of public transit beyond a bus network. brtSo be it. That’s not something we can change with a flick of a switch to power up a subway extension. But we can provide a better bus service. We should provide a better bus service.

That can only be accomplished though if we stop rating modes of public transit based on how fast it goes or the kind of technology it uses to get there. We also need to establish public transit on a par with the private automobile, and accept the fact that, given an equal footing, it could deliver more people to more place more reliably in many neighbourhoods and communities than cars can.

We could start doing it almost immediately and at a fraction of the cost we’re talking about now with subways and LRTs. We’d have to grow up a little bit for that to actually happen, however. Right now I just don’t see it happening.

At a Ward 10 town hall meeting a couple weeks back, the above mentioned Councillor James Pasternak just shook his head at a suggestion by a resident that maybe a lane of traffic be given over to the Bathurst 7 bus during rush hour gifthorseinthemouth(a trip that took me over an hour to make north from the Bathurst subway station during rush hour to get me to the meeting). It wouldn’t happen, the councillor assured his resident. Impractical. Not even worth considering.

But a North York Relief subway? Now, you’re talking.

We can hardly be expected to have an urgent conservation about our bus network when we continue to be distracted and transfixed by pie in the sky transit planning.

bus(t)-a-movely submitted by Cityslikr


A Change Has Got To Come

January 25, 2014

I was going to declare Ward 44 Scarborough East an open ward in the 2014 municipal campaign since it’s largely been vacant since 2010. yougottobekiddingThere was no reason to think the current incumbent, Councillor Ron Moeser, would be running for re-election since there’s been some question about his health from the start of this term. He missed much of the first two years owing to illness and, while he’s returned on a more regular basis in the last year, I wouldn’t consider him exactly in the pink.

Still, there’s been rumblings lately he might seek another term, and certainly no definitive announcement that he’s thinking of retiring. He even has his own Twitter account now! (No, not that one. This one.) So… I guess we’ll consider this a non-vacant ward to watch.

Which is unfortunate because, I think, if Councillor Moeser does intend to run again, he will really need to clear the air about just how physically capable he is to do the job. He went down early after winning the 2010 election, almost right off the bat. So quickly, in fact, that people probably should’ve been asking whether he was up to even running in the first place. questionsquestionsquestionsI don’t think it unkind or out of place to say that he’s been essentially an absentee councillor for most of the past 3 years.

Councillor Moeser really needs to put that issue to rest, front and centre, if he plans to keep going on city council.

For me though, perhaps even a bigger factor is his performance when he is on the job. As the mayor’s circle of willing allies shrunk to nearly unworkable levels, Councillor Moeser was foisted onto the budget committee upon his return to work, more or less full time. He seemed out of his depth. And on a committee featuring councillors Frances Nunziata, Vincent Crisanti, Doug Ford and Frank Di Giorgio sitting as chair, that’s saying something.

During this past budget season, Councillor Moeser seemed focussed purely on getting the staff recommended property tax increase down but singularly unable to come up with any suggestions on how to do that, where to find the necessary cuts. Granted, Mayor Ford exhibits similar difficulties with this concept but we shouldn’t really be setting the bar for other council members based on that lowly standard.

Now maybe this has nothing to do with Councillor Moeser’s health. Maybe he’s always been an anti-tax warrior with a tenuous grasp on city budgeting. overwhelmedIf so, who needs any more of those on city council?

Frankly put, Councillor Moeser has looked lost for most of the time I’ve been watching him. At budget committee, at city council meetings, he comes across as largely distracted, often times asking questions that others have already asked and had answered, or just putting forth plain, outright incomprehensibility. He’s tied in my mind with Councillor Vincent Crisanti (Ward 1 Etobicoke North) for having staff respond to his questions most often with, “I’m sorry, councillor. I don’t understand what you’re asking me.”

He’s been at this municipal government thing for a long time. Over 25 years now, dating back to his time on the city of Scarborough council minus the 3 years he sat out after being defeated in 2003. That’s a long time and, at this point, it doesn’t appear as if Councillor Moeser’s adapted to the massive changes this city has underground. He comes across as a grumpy old guy, more comfortable in those bucolic days when Scarborough was just some sleepy commuter burg where the biggest troublemakers were those loveable scamps, Wayne and Garth.

Councillor Ron Moeser has not had an easy time keeping Ward 44 since the 2000 election. He always involved in a tight electoral fight. gonegolfingThe last couple he defeated Diana Hall by a combined 350 votes.

If he’s not willing to accept the fact he’s no longer up to the task of representing his ward, it may be time for voters to give him more than just a scare in October. They need to give him a push. On your way, councillor. Thanks for your years of dedication to public service but it’s long since time for a change.

hopefully submitted by Cityslikr


There’s No Getting Around The Urban-Suburban Divide

January 24, 2014

Point 5*.

We come in peace.wecomeinpeace

Despite the many concrete challenges Toronto faces — transit building negligence, aging infrastructure, affordable housing crisis – I think there’s a much less tangible but more powerful force at work on the politics of this city. Existential even. Existential? Perhaps. It’s a slippery word, that.

The urban-suburban divide.

Perhaps more than anything else, the urban-suburban divide has been shaping how, why and what things get done here. These past 3 years have certainly heightened the divisive dynamic but it’s been there, lurking in the shadows pretty much since amalgamation in 1997. We have been a city at war with itself.

The best thing a candidate could do in this year’s election campaign is to undertake a study, getting to the bottom of a favourite whosafraidofvirginiawolftrope of many current members of city council that in this uneasy alliance between the inner and outer cores, downtown gets everything. Former suburban municipalities point to some new gleaming edifice or piece of green space downtown and scream, Why isn’t there one of those in my ward?! Of course, this overlooks what everyone takes for granted. The difference in road space, the amount of additional infrastructure needed to service more dispersed communities.

Etc., etc.

I’m not saying there isn’t a discrepancy between how money, services and programs are doled out across the city. It’s just that nobody seems to know the answer to that. Wouldn’t it be good to sort that out, one way or the other, so we could begin to address any possible disparity based on some sort of fact based debate instead of just unfounded emotional outbursts?

The amalgamated city lurches from one decision to the next, one policy pursuit to another based almost exclusively on unfounded emotional outbursts.metoo

Downtowners are imposing their LRTs and bike lane lifestyles on the suburbs! Surburbanites are inflicting their car-centricity on the downtown! Low taxes before everything else! Keep your user fees to yourself!

We are frozen to almost the point of petrifaction, unable to push forward for fear of somebody yelling and stomping their feet in disagreement. But what about me! Why am I paying for something you get?!

No better example exists than the 3 year fight we’ve had over that fucking Scarborough subway.

Oh, look! Petty downtowner doesn’t like it when the suburbs get what he’s already got. Unfair much?

It was a debate based on parochial resentment and irrationality. One equating fairness and equality to sameness. mineminemineIf you have one, why don’t we?

Because we’re not the same. Our built forms are entirely different, our needs in terms of infrastructure distinct. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to running a city like Toronto.

Now, I’d argue that the challenges we face in terms of growing and evolving as a city come down harder on those living in the inner suburbs. No doubt the onus to adapt weighs more heavily on those parts than it does on downtown. We here are used to intensification, with more than a few head-shaking exceptions. We have more choices in terms of how we move around the city. But this is the way it’s playing out in most cities across the globe. We are being squeezed in closer and closer with increasing demand for more public spaces not less.

So naturally it feels like the suburban lifestyle is under attack. It is under attack if it remains resistant to anything other than a 1950s version of it. changeaheadThat doesn’t mean the suburbs have to become like downtown. They can’t. They just can’t remain the suburbs of our childhood memories.

This would still be the case if Toronto had remained un-amalgamated. These pressures to change and adapt aren’t coming from some nefarious downtown elite cabal. It’s simply necessity, simply economic and demographic necessity.

Friend of the site, Himy Syed, gave us a theory of municipal governance a while back about the real damage inflicted upon the 416 by amalgamation. Before that time, every former municipality had a similar target of derision when they were unhappy with how the big ticket items like transit were being run. Metro Hall. Metro Council. Damn you! cursed Etobicoke. Why I oughta! threatened Scarborough. Up yours! shouted East York.

With amalgamation, the metro level of government was gone, removed. In its place? City Hall. Downtown.

As the new whipping boy, it was exploited for cheap political gain by those with nothing else to offer but division and antagonism. deathstar1For sure, too many residents throughout this city were being ignored, left out and overlooked. But that was happening long before amalgamation and by players far bigger than those at City Hall at Queen’s Park and in Ottawa.

That’s not an excuse or rationalization. It’s just candidates running for local office need to explain that City Hall isn’t the enemy. That downtowners aren’t living large at the expense of hardworking suburban taxpayers. That suburbanites aren’t unrepentant anti-urbanists only wanting to pave over everything so they can park their cars everywhere.

We need municipal leaders who see City Hall as a unifying force not some death star that must be blown from space.

Wring our hands and nash our teeth all we want over this:

2010electoralmap

Not that very long ago, the picture went like this:

2006electoralmap

Ignore the colours. This is the map anyone running for city council this year must endeavour to bring about. They’ll certainly have my vote.

* Points 1, 2, 3 and 4.

numerically submitted by Cityslikr