Of the many adjectives you might attach to Toronto’s last municipal campaign in 2010, ‘aspirational’ would not be one of them. In fact, it was pretty much the exact opposite. Petty. Mean-spirited. Divisive. Exclusive.
The anti-JFK, paraphrased.
Ask what your city can do for you, ask not what you can do for your city.
It was nearly a year long orgy of lowering expectations while raising the bar of outrage. City Hall successfully portrayed as this lumbering, predatory beast, only interested in picking the pockets of hard working families and delivering nothing back in return. Respect For Taxpayers! became the winning battle cry/catch-phrase.
As has been noted by many people in many debates during the ensuing three years, being a taxpayer is not particularly inspiring or aspirational. It just sort of comes with the territory, living in any type of organized social grouping. It’s simply transactional. Taxpayer. Customer. Two dimensional. I pay. I receive.
It’s all so blasé an approach to democracy. There’s no responsibility attached to it. You pays your money. You gets your services. End stop.
This time around I want candidates coming to my door striving for more than that, demanding more from me as a voter citizen resident. Hitting on another nub of the problem that has also been much discussed. How exactly do you refer to someone who endeavours to be more than just a taxpayer? Voter lacks a similarly multifaceted aspect. Citizen excludes too many people who contribute everything to the welfare of the place they call home except voting.
Resident is soft, so passive. I don’t even live here. I reside here.
The absence of a proper word to offset the persuasive power of taxpayer is unsettling as we head into the 2014 campaign. In his book Happy City, Charles Montgomery quotes National University of Colombia urbanist, Ricardo Montezuma: … Because in a big way a city is really just the sum of what people think about it. The city is a subjective thing. For those of us who rankle at the bumper sticker notion of being only taxpayers, what is the word that defines us? What is our subjective interpretation of the city we live in?
Over the last few weeks, I’ve been mulling over the notion of a 10 point campaign manifesto. Why 10 points? I don’t know. It’s the metric in me, I guess. I’d be happy with 5. Anything less seems flimsy. 7 or 8 would also work. 6 or 9 are out. I find them to be slippery numbers. More than 10, while ambitious, may be too unwieldy.
And while we’re at it, let’s call it something other than a manifesto. That smacks of you know what, and is easily dismissed by the more literal minded. How about a creed. A 10 point campaign creed for non-taxpayers. No, no. Strike that. A 10 point campaign creed for taxpaying non-Taxpayers [working title].
We are more than taxpayers.
Don’t tell us how much money you’re going to save us. Tell us what you’re going to do with the money you spend. How you’re going to use it to build a better city. A better city? Yes. A more equitable city that offers more opportunity for more people. Opportunity? Yes. Opportunity to live safely and securely. Opportunity to prosper. Opportunity to move freely around the city in whatever mode you want that benefits the greatest number of people. Opportunity to truly believe that there is a healthy, sustainable, thriving future for you and your children and your grandchildren.
None of that is possible with a sole emphasis on keeping taxes low. We know this from the previous 3 years experience. Respect For Taxpayers has translated into neglect of the city and everyone who lives, works, plays in it.
You see, there’s no one word for that.
We are more than taxpayers. Those seeking office in 2014 need to address the broader issues that encompass the governance of a city that is home to over 2.5 million inhabitants. Anything less. Why are you even bothering?
— apolloly submitted by Cityslikr