Nobody Really Wins

February 28, 2014

Pause for a second before gleefully (or maybe it’s just wearily) putting your hands together and praying for the arrest of Mayor Rob Ford. holduponthecelebrationsPause to think about the optics.

Now, I’m not suggesting for a minute that people in powerful positions should be treated any differently than anyone else. If laws have been broken and arrests warranted, lower the boom regardless of social status or political ranking. That I even need to write that is an indictment of the fact that isn’t always the case.

But no one is really the better for it when an elected official is led away in handcuffs or similarly chased from office outside of an election night loss. At least, the office and the governmental body represented sags a little under such a perp walk. It seems to me democracy in America has never really recovered from the Watergate scandal. There was a loss of faith in the system and the void was filled by heavily orchestrated partisanship and big money.

The arrest of an elected representative needs to be carefully considered and conducted with extreme judiciousness. perpwalkThey are not a private citizen. They are a public servant. The reverberations are different and far more widespread.

Now, the argument could be made that any official who’s pushed things to the point of being arrested has already soiled the position they were elected into, reverberations already felt. Lord knows, the likes of Rob Ford and his councillor-brother have inflicted more than enough damage on the office of the mayor of Toronto. A possible arrest, nothing but a fillip, a dollop of icing on a cratered cake.

Still.

I’m just empty postulating but there could be all sorts of things at work here that haven’t bubbled up to the surface yet. All this could be little more than a fishing expedition (so to speak) on the part of the Toronto police. They don’t have anything stickable to the mayor. So they’re just shaking the tree to see what may fall out.

He could be very correct in suggesting they’ve got nothing on him which is a far cry from his claim to have done nothing wrong. The man’s admitted to smoking crack. His hands are far from clean.

It could also be a scenario where the police have just fired a warning shot across Mayor Ford’s bow. Let him know that the gig’s up and it’s time to walk away as they’d expect any reasonable, rational person to do, caught in as many compromising and unbecoming situations as he has been. stewThe chain of office will protect him from any further police investigation. Just step aside and do the honourable thing.

HaHaHa. And **sigh**.

Of course, there could be much deeper implications at work, matters that have only been hinted at and whispered about until now. Things we may never discover. But suffice it to say that we have come a long way from those innocent days of the 2010 campaign when Rob Ford was recorded over the phone agreeing to try and secure some oxycontin for Dieter Doneit-Henderson.

When the news broke, Ford claimed he “said what I needed to say to get the person off the phone without provoking him” and that he did so because he feared for his family. (Note the familiar pattern of turning a gaffe into a point of victimization. One Rob Ford has used extensively throughout his career, up to and including the current morass with the Toronto police.)

Many of us shrugged the whole thing off and actually bought Ford’s explanation. “I’ll try. I’ll try,” Ford was heard telling Mr Doneit-Henderson. “I don’t know this s–t [oxycontin] but I’ll try to f—–g [fucking] find it.”

Of course, he doesn’t know anything about oxycontin. The guy drinks some. Does a little weed. Who doesn’t? saladdaysIt’s not like he knows anything about harder drugs, right? Right??

HaHaHa. And **sigh**

(As the campaign staff scrambled to salvage his candidacy over this, you have to wonder, with nearly some 4 years of hindsight, how many of them knew the true extent of Rob Ford’s drug problems. How many knew and looked the other way. That’d be a conversation I’d like to have.)

You know, I could forgive the mayor his drug use and hard partying ways. Actually, scratch that. I could care less about the mayor’s drug use and hard partying ways outside of their deleterious effect on his job performance.

No.

At issue right now is Rob Ford’s adamant refusal to accept responsibility for his deplorable behaviour, and the attempts to paint what’s happening as some sort of political vendetta. foodfightHaving taken a dump in the mayor’s office and used the city’s flag to wipe his ass, he and his brother are on an all out smear campaign to paint anybody standing opposed shit brown. If he hasn’t done so already, he’s proving with every utterance he or his councillor-brother makes, every unsubstantiated allegation they hurl, his supreme unfitness for the office, let alone any re-election consideration.

Of course, this is not news to a solid majority of Toronto residents.

It doesn’t, however, make the prospect of his possible arrest any more appealing or satisfying. Nobody really wins in that scenario.

reluctantly submitted by Cityslikr


Loyal To Whom? (Who? Whom?)

February 27, 2014

In the inevitable sitcom that will arise from the ashes of the 2010-14 term at City Hall, we’ll have Gordon Pinsent playing the rich, misanthropic suburban council with a taste for certain vices but an earthy ability to mouth catchy populist platitudes.sitcom Leah Pinsent will portray his wily and ruthless campaign manager/chief of staff who’s the only one her father (both on and off the set…I’m so meta) is truly afraid of, and who keeps the mayor on message if not always on the straight and narrow. Ron James is the shouty and long suffering, left wing east side city councillor, fighting a losing battle against the creeping gentrification of his working class ward. Peter Keleghan, the oleaginous senior city staffer with the silky savvy to tell his elected overseers exactly what they want to hear without saying a single thing that makes a lick of sense.

And in the role of the bumbling, know-nothing but generally amiable councillor with a propensity for nodding off during meetings, and who keeps getting returned to City Hall, election after election despite never making any sort of contribution there? Sean Cullen? Andy Jones?

Who’d you pick for your Councillor Frank Di Giorgio (Ward 12 York-South Weston)?scorchedearth1

Because, let’s face it, the man’s a walking, talking, living, breathing sitcom character of a city councillor. Our very own Inspector Clouseau, making a hash of things up the ladder of municipal politics since 2000, and for 12 years before that as a North York city councillor, until he winds all the way up to the lofty position of budget chief. The budget chief, people. For a city of over 2.5 million. Frank Di Giorgio. Budget chief.

Granted, we have been experiencing a type of political event horizon for the past 4 years. Anything is possible, including a Budget Chief Frank Di Giorgio scenario. It probably says more about the Ford administration, that all it had in its quiver after the resignation of the previous budget chief, the loathsome Mike Del Grande, was the not loathsome Frank Di Giorgio.

Still.

I say it again.

clouseauBudget Chief Frank Di Giorgio.

Undistinguished is how I would best summarize my perception of Frank Di Giorgio. Undistinguished with a passing note of incompetence. Again, as with all these profiles we’re doing, I have to admit that the man could be a crackerjack constituent councillor, doing a bang up job for his residents. After being in elected office for 25 of the last 28 years, he must be doing something other than just putting his name out there, right? Right, Ward 12?

I’d easily rate him up there in the top 3 of city councillors to ask questions of staff and their colleagues that elicit the most baffled of responses. I’m sorry, Councillor Di Giorgio. Could you repeat your answer? I didn’t quite understand what you were asking me.

There was that time, back during deputations for the 2012 budget when the councillor did his funky mash-up of social housing and ghettos. You know, poor people. Living together in one building. We all watched Good Times, didn’t we? It was funny but…at the end of the day, wouldn’t you rather be The Jeffersons?

I’m sorry, Councillor Di Giorgio. I didn’t quite understand what you’re getting at.goodtimes

I don’t think of him as the malicious sort, like his predecessor in the budget chair, nor intentionally destructive. It’s more a question of being out of his depth. Why strive for anything more than keeping taxes low and the streets paved and plowed? Does it have to be more complicated than that?

I will give Councillor Frank Di Giorgio full marks for loyalty though. When tapped for the job of budget chief by the Fords, the man did his utmost to deliver what his bosses wanted, up to and beyond defying the laws of physics* and sound economic policy. Yeah, Mr. Mayor. We probably can push down that property tax hike a bit while still making room for money to build your Scarborough subway. Yeah, why not. Let’s see if we can trim that Land Transfer Tax, yet another source of revenue, just a hair. fiercelyloyalCouncillor Di Giorgio even went along for a bit of a joy ride on Mayor Ford’s budget day wild goose chase, tracking down millions of dollars in cuts nobody would even notice.

Cut $7 million from this year’s planned tree planting? Why not. Council’s general business and travel accounts? Who needs them. $2 million in program increases in the operating budget? Gone. Gone, gone, gonzo.

But perhaps Councillor Di Giorgio’s most important vote happened a couple months prior to this year’s budget.

Back in November, he was one of the few councillors that voted against stripping Mayor Ford of his procedural powers after the crack video scandal broke wide. The councillor didn’t even want the mayor to apologize for lying about the whole crack smoking business. Now, that’s loyalty, folks. Forgive and forget. Let’s just move on.

Such a display of loyalty earned Councillor Di Giorgio high props from Mayor Ford who named him one of the very few councillors, a handful really, that he thought worthy enough to be voted back on to council in this upcoming election. As the mayor’s made abundantly clear over the last few days, he doesn’t work with just anybody down there at City Hall. tickletickletickleIt takes a special breed to earn that kind of… respect, I’d guess you could call it, from someone who doesn’t make work friends easily.

So congratulations, Ward 12. Your long time councillor has dutifully earned himself an elite spot on Mayor Rob Ford’s thumbs-up roster, those who supported the mayor ‘when times were tough’. (Episode 2: Ford Nation). The few. The proud. The easily cowed.

Councillor Frank Di Giorgio. Certified member of the tattered remains of the once triumphant Team Ford.

dutifully submitted by Cityslikr

* Not actually defying the law of physics. Added purely for emphasis of the ludicrousness of the mayor’s budgetary expectations.


Give Us The Business… Plan

February 26, 2014

Point 9.

(Here’s point 8, point 7, point 6 and points 1-5).

This is a tough one. It’s not my strong suit.unsteady

Business.

Municipal candidates need a business plan. A roadmap to chart out strategy for maintaining prosperity and spreading the wealth. Some fiscal nuts and bolts, to use the terminology of those clutching at straws on this particular issue.

One of the problems facing local politicians when it comes to steering the economic ship of state is that they’re really only able to operate at the micro level. All the macro tools like interest and currency rates, money supply, trade agreements, immigration policy are in the hands of the higher orders of government. Even the powers of specific, targeted taxation to generate predictable, sustainable flows of revenue aren’t at the easy disposal of most municipalities.

Toronto does have a little more access that way with the increased taxing powers granted it with the City of Toronto Act back in 2006. whatcanidoBut as we have seen over the course of the past 4 years or so, a majority of members of our city council have been loath to exercise this authority, repealing the Vehicle Registration Tax almost right out of the gate in 2010 and another, the Land Transfer Tax under regular siege. And thoughts on revenue tools to build transit? Yeah, we’ll just nudge the property tax rate up a bit. Go with what we know.

Keeping taxes low is not really a robust economic action plan, to steal a phrase from a gang of low tax lovers. Maintaining competitive levels of taxation especially on a regional scale is probably part of a smart approach to municipal fiscal well-being but it’s really just a single aspect. It can’t be the alpha and omega, the be-all and end-all, the whole enchilada.

I pledge to keep taxes low.

That is all.outofideas

Anything else?

Problem is, you have to pay for stuff.

It’s like any enterprise. Money comes in. Money goes out. More of the former than the latter is necessary for any sort of long term sustainability.

So with limited financial tools on hand, municipal politicians must have innovative and strategic ideas about revenue generation. If that’s a dirty phrase to you, revenue generation or revenue tools, you don’t really understand the nature of governance. Tax and spending is exactly what a government does.

It’s just a matter of, to steal a line from a budget committee deputation late last year, taxing fairly and spending wisely.

And it has to go beyond simply arguments of this tax or that tax, increase one, eliminate another. How do you grow a tax/revenue base to match the expanding needs for infrastructure, services and programs which come with the growth of a city? Too often it’s only about approving almost exclusively residential development, in the form of condo towers downtown and sprawl in the outer suburban ring, for an immediate (relatively speaking) hit of tax returns and section 37 money. easymoneyIt’s basic math. More households = more tax revenue.

The inevitable magic of the free market, am I right?

Beware the charlatans pitching you the everlasting miracle of unfettered free markets.

What happens, and I don’t know the proper business jargon for it, but it comes down to too much of a good thing. A land rush. Residential housing going up everywhere. It offers the best return on investment to developers and cash up front to local governments. Win/Win.

But then suddenly, you’ve built a city where lots of people live and with no place to work. At least, no place nearby to work. Leading you into the morass of long commutes and travel times. Congestion. Lost productivity. Low liveability indexes.

From a planning perspective, the dreaded single-use communities that urban minds are desperately trying to fix and overcome.

It’s playing out right now in Toronto at the former location of Mr. Christie’s in south Etobicoke. Industrial land sitting smack dab on prime real estate under pressure to join its immediate surroundings in condo fever. If You Lived Here, You’d Be Home By Now, the inevitable billboard on the side of the nearby Gardiner Expressway might boast. complexproblemsUnless, of course, your job is in Milton or Kitchener or Alabama.

This goes beyond questions of zoning and land-use policy, out of the reach of local politicians. We are being abandoned by much of our manufacturing sector, lured away by the low costs of production opened up over the last 25 years by international trade liberalization. A mayor or city councillor can’t do a whole lot about that. We’ve seen very limited success with tax slashing approaches in efforts to compete on a global scale.

Fortunately, Toronto is home to a more diverse economy than just its manufacturing base. It has all the ingredients that make up both the so-called knowledge economy and service sectors. The country’s beating financial heart. A multitude of internationally regarded post-secondary education institutions and research hubs. People. People, people, people. Who come here looking for the opportunity to prosper and thrive.

To believe, however, that all governments have to do in this situation is to sit back and watch it all work out, just keep taxes low and cut the red tape is some sort of political wishful thinking. createopportunityLazy libertarianism that reveals a deep vein of sociopathy. If you can’t prosper and thrive in these conditions, you’re just not trying hard enough.

Run government like a business, we’re told by too many of our elected representatives. OK well, businesses invest in order to create a successful business climate, don’t they? Councillor Doug Ford crows about taking the bull by the horns and investing his time and money in opening up the Chicago branch of his family’s Deco Labels and Tags business, doesn’t he?

Well, a city too has to invest to create opportunity and positive conditions for its shareholders (everybody who lives there) to succeed. That means investing in ways to move people quickly and efficiently.emptyslogans It means creating conditions for all kinds of work places to be close to home. It means ensuring people can afford to live throughout the city so they don’t have to spend unhealthy amounts of time getting to where they need and want to be.

It means having a plan. Keeping taxes low is not a plan. It’s a fucking slogan. And as we’ve all witnessed over the past 4 years, a slogan doesn’t get transit or affordable housing built. It doesn’t bring jobs to the city. It only serves to get do-nothing politicians elected to office.

We don’t deserve better. We need better.

all businessly submitted by Cityslikr


On Your Right

February 25, 2014

Imagine this.ptahasdisbanded

Councillors Shelley Carroll, Adam Vaughan, Kristyn Wong-Tam all join Olivia Chow as candidates for mayor of Toronto in 2014.

OMG! would come the anguished cry from anyone and everybody on the centre-left of the political spectrum. They’re splitting the vote! This’ll guarantee [fill in your right of centre candidate of choice here] the mayor’s office. Catastrophe!

Yet here we are, two high profile conservative candidates, Councillor Karen Stintz and John Tory, entered the mayoral race yesterday in a bid against ultra-right wing Mayor Rob Ford, joining self-declared moderate right wing candidate David Soknacki in what has become a very, very crowded field on the right.

Where are the alarm bells from the respective conservative camps?

crowdedfieldI’m trying to run the numbers here and I just don’t get it.

In 2010, Rob Ford was the only credible (and I’m using that word very specifically in this situation) conservative candidate still operational at the finish line, and he garnered 47% of the vote. Meanwhile, I think it’s safe to say, few on the left were truly content with their options but yet, between the two of them, George Smitherman and Joe Pantalone, they came in with over 46%. The slightest of cracks on the right and this thing’s wide open. What we’re looking at now is more like multiple fractures.

Not only does one of these candidates need to get a solid majority of conservative voters in under their tent but they have to do so while attracting at least a chunk of progressive voters. Moderate, will be the pose in the hopes that enough people are tired of the turmoil that’s come with the current administration. Crackless conservatism, let’s call it.

Still.

What’s the calculation for the percentage of crazy plus the power of incumbency Mayor Ford will have going for him? fordnationGiven the kind of name recognition the mayor possesses, not necessarily all favourable, what’s the number you write off as unassailably Ford? Just how potent is Ford Nation?

Disregard the 42% he’s regularly clocked in at Forum Research polls. Favourability does not equate into reliable voter intention. 30%? 25%? 20%?

Any of those types of numbers from Mayor Ford this time around dooms the conservative cause. Even at the low end, that would mean Soknacki, Stintz or Tory would have to take the rest of the right of centre vote and nearly all of Smitherman’s numbers from last time out in the hopes of winning it all. So a collapse of conservative votes into two uneven camps and scooping every centrist and soft left supporter to boot. Not undoable but certainly a tall order.

Traditionally, mayoral elections in Toronto have ultimately come down to two candidate races. Over the long haul of 10 months, the field gets winnowed down, attrition takes its toll. slicingupthepieIt wouldn’t be surprising to see something like the 2010 campaign pattern emerge again this year. The third place finisher, say Mayor Ford, holding on to his 10-20% rabid followers. The top two, one, a redder shade of blue, the other, deep, deep red, vying for the remaining, 75-85% of voters.

But this time around, we got some big names duking it out, much bigger names than four years ago. More money behind them. Better organizations. I’d argue that even the truly unknown candidate, David Soknacki, has a higher name recognition than 2010’s two fall by the waysiders, Rocco Rossi and Sarah Thompson. Looking for an early knockout may not be a sound strategy.

So in the early stages of this campaign, every declared candidate needs to stake out their conservative ground and then paint their opponents who aren’t Rob Ford as further left than they are (and I’ll exclude David Soknacki from that assertion as he seems busy just defining who he is as a candidate). splitvoteSo Karen Stintz and John Tory immediately state their subway preferences (because true conservatives believe in only subways as a viable form of public transit) and their adherence to the low taxes that will magically pay to build them. Expressing otherwise is pretty much Bolshevism.

“Karen Stintz says she’s worried about pendulum swing back to NDP government,” CTV’s Natalie Johnson tweeted after the councillor had registered to run. “Says Toronto has had enough of that.”

“There is no such thing as right of centre,” Mayor Ford told the press later in the day. Only the mayor and everybody else who is two steps left of Stalin. Right is not right. Right is right, if you get what the mayor’s trying to get at.

Nothing to see here, folks. Just a bunch of mayoral candidates, touting conservative values. If we are all right of centre, then right of centre ceases to be a defined position. It simply is the place from which everyone campaigns from.

Of course, the possibility exists that once a truly progressive candidate emerges, and if only one emerges, the optics of everyone together on stage or in a television studio might be that they are the odd one out. badnumbers1Four right of centre candidates versus one from the left. The power of numbers, suggesting, giving more legitimacy to the majority view. The left of centre pushed out to the fringes, not to be taking seriously.

Even if that were to happen, the scenario still exists of four candidates vying for enough of the electoral slice of the pie to put one of them over the top. Vote splitting, in other words. There are only so many conservative votes to go around. The real battle this year might not be for the mayor’s office but for a workable slice of the 383,501 votes Rob Ford had all to himself in 2010.

You do the math.

by the numbersly submitted by Cityslikr


Olympic Ideals?

February 24, 2014

Can we move along now?

After more than 2 weeks I have tried, Lord knows I have tried, to keep quiet out here in public with my disinterest and disdain of the 2014 Winter Olympics. zipitIt’s only 17 days, I said. (Not counting the year long media blitz leading up to it). Head down, eyes averted. It’ll all be over quicker than a polar vortex cold snap.

I don’t remember always being this Grinch-like when it comes to the Olympics although, over dinner a couple nights ago, I was reminded otherwise. Maybe that’s true. All the chest-thumping nationalism makes me a little queasy. It’s something Americans did.

Of course, perhaps that had more to do with sour grapes. Americans always had something to thump their chests about. 1980. Lake Placid. A ragtag bunch of U.S. college level hockey players and NHL rejects stunned the mighty U.S.S.R. Red Army team. The team Canada stewed over since it was obvious they were clearly made up of professional players. And it was the Americans who beat them.

Canada, well. It always felt like moral victories, pride in unexpected 2nd place finishes. Greg Joy. Elizabeth Manley. Ben Johnson. corporatenationalismKudos for just showing up and doing your best. That was the Olympic spirit, right?

But I have to tell you, since we went and joined the elite, at least in terms of winter athletics, with the whole Own the Podium and We Are Winter, the nationalism is just as creepy. CA-NA-DA! CA-NA-DA! doesn’t sound a whole lot sweeter than U.S.A! U.S.A! A tribal chant is a tribal chant is a tribal chant.

National identity defined by the prowess of a select few athletes. Hey world. Bow down before us. We Are Winter, don’t you know.

Sure. But then again, we aren’t Sparta. And the outcome of the Peloponnesian War does not depend on the fitness of our warriors.

Perspective, people.

It’s a bunch of games played in the snow and ice. Fun to watch for a bit but hardly worth pinning our national pride on.sparta

Wouldn’t it be great if we showed such enthusiasm, if governments and corporations showered the same kind of attention and cash on solving our looming environmental crisis, our homeless crisis or growing income inequality crisis. Infrastructure. African debt. Worldwide poverty.

Etc., etc.

I know. I know. I find it trite to even be writing this. Apples to oranges. Can’t something just exist, free from politics? Let us just enjoy this for what it is. Uncomplicated, easy-to-follow and pick sides, us-versus-them, root, root, root for the home team. Just for two weeks, every other year.

But…But…None of this is free from politics, is it. Nationalism never is. Especially this time around. If the Sochi Olympics weren’t driven by politics, then the word politics is meaningless.

We all know this by now.

The growing authoritarian regime in Russia. lookawayTheir anti-gay legislation and detaining of activist protesting against it. The suppression of dissent in general there.

And, of course, the Ukraine, and Russia’s indirect involvement in the chaos and killing going on there. While we are celebrating golden days at the Olympics, people are getting gunned down in the streets in Kiev. So shocking that it even managed to push Olympic news from the headlines or at the top of the TV news hour. For a couple minutes or paragraphs. Then it’s Back to Sochi for the ice dancing competition!

We have somehow miraculously separated one type of nationalism from another. You can root for Canada. You can root against Russia when they compete against Canada. But do not meddle in the politics between the two. Do not impose your non-sports opinion into this particular arena.

We’ve arrived at a point where people, influential people will state with a straight face that politics has no place in an international sporting event like the Olympics. With a straight face. It’s all about the athletes. It’s not about politics.blackpower

The Olympics have rarely been devoid of politics. Twenty-two African countries boycotted the 1976 summer Olympics in Montreal to protest the inclusion of New Zealand in the games after their rugby team had toured apartheid-era South Africa earlier in the year. An apartheid-era South Africa that had been banned from participating in the Olympics because, well, apartheid. The U.S. led boycott of the 1980 summer games in Moscow to protest Russia’s invasion of Afghanistan. The so-called Black Power salute by American sprinters Tommie Smith and John Carlos on the podium in Mexico City, 1968. Jesse Owens in Munich, 1936.

Exactly, right! Jesse Owens goes over to Germany, wins a bunch of medals, giving the finger to the Nazis’ Aryan ideals of some master race. Up yours, Herr Hitler!

Yeah well, what the fuck did we just show Vladimir Putin by showing up in Sochi? (Check out Andrew Wheeler’s Hitler Had A Circus and You Bought A Balloon for a much more thorough analysis of that point.) jesseowensBy giving him an international stage to smooth out the jagged edges of his growing totalitarianism and return to Soviet-style repression. What notice did we just finish giving the world? Hey everybody! There are absolutely no repercussions to any of the actions you take, no matter how brutal or anti-democratic. At least as far as the IOC and medal loving people everywhere are concerned.

The Games must go on!

What about the athletes, often goes the argument. What of their tireless efforts and determination in becoming the best that they can be, and their desire to compete with the world? Why should they be punished because of our political differences?

That’s like attempts to paint critics of a war as somehow being against the troops. Direct the focus to only one aspect of a much bigger issue in order to shut down that larger, more divisive discussion.

We’re told the Olympics encompass more than just sports, aren’t we? Our drive to amass medals and stand atop the podium to hear our national anthem played stands for something greater and higher than simply being the best at hockey or going fastest down a hill, doesn’t it? brokenolympicringsOtherwise, it hardly seems worth the rah-rah we put into it. The glory fleeting and limited, the need to defend it the only lasting thing four years hence.

I thought Olympic athletes were supposed to represent all aspects of a country’s ideals and aspirations not just the fun, sports side. What’s that say about us that we simply shrug off any political implication of sending our delegates, our sports ambassadors to perform for tyrants, despots and thugs without so much as a word of dissent? Core values? What core values?

Owning the podium doesn’t mean much if you can’t even claim to own a conscience.

self-righteously submitted by Cityslikr


3 Wards To Really Watch Now

February 21, 2014

We interrupt the regular Wards To Watch program to bring you this breaking ward-related, election 2014 news:

weinterruptthisprogram

Already early into the 2014 municipal campaign (yes, it really is still early despite the feeling that we’ve been at this since about 2011), 3 wards have come open, the incumbents declaring, for some reason or the other – one, boredom; two, spite; three, bigger fish to fry — they would not be seeking re-election. These are wards that, I think it safe to say, if said incumbents decided to run again, they probably would coast to victory. While none of the announcements came out of the blue, it does suddenly throw a little unexpected uncertainty into the possible make-up of the next city council.

All 3, Ward 2 Etobicoke North, Ward 16 Eglinton-Lawrence and Ward 39 Scarborough-Agincourt, as geographically dispersed as they may be, are crowded under their current local representation together at the far right end of the political spectrum. callitadayIn Ward 2’s Councillor Doug Ford and Ward 39’s Councillor Mike Del Grande, you can’t really veer further to the right unless you’re prepared to run into Mayor Ford.

And don’t let Ward 16’s Councillor Karen Stintz’s fall out with the mayor over transportation plans and her mayoral aspirations fool you. She’s pretty much as tax-cutting (except for certain transit projects in Scarborough), program and service slashing, bike-lane ripping up as any conservative politician on council. Remember, she was a bona fide part of the Responsible Government Group, standing in stark opposition to then mayor David Miller, even contemplating a run against him in 2006.

The question is, are these wards as hardcore conservative as the councillors who’ve been representing them?

Ward 2 has been a Ford folks fiefdom since 2000. They probably believe they could run a family pet there and get it elected. Since electoral rules would forbid that, there’s been chatter of throwing up a daughter or nephew as version 3.0. Just how Ford friendly can the ward be?

In our fondless farewell last weekend to Mike Del Grande, we checked out the demographics of Ward 39 and discovered that it contains a larger proportion of old people than the citywide average. leanrightNow, I don’t want to get too ageist here, some of my best friends are old people who aren’t conservative, but the cohort does skew right and it does also tend to be dedicated more to voting than the younger whippersnappers. So maybe Ward 39 isn’t inherently conservative. Maybe its conservative voters just simply get out to vote.

Ward 16 looks like an entirely different can of worms. Before Councillor Stintz, it was represented by the not unprogressive Anne Johnston. In fact, the story goes that Stintz responded to an ad taken out by residents, unhappy with Johnston’s approval of a high rise development in the ward. She unseated the incumbent in 2003, bringing a much different political tone to city council than her predecessor did.

So, is Ward 16 a conservative leaning ward with a preference for conservative councillors or is the current representative simply conservative? The same goes for wards 2 and 39. Are they just empty right wing tip shoes waiting to be filled by the appropriately right wing candidate?

I would imagine that in 2 and 39, conservative candidates have a leg up. There is an established base there for their votes. cleanslateMuch less so in Ward 16.

Even in the absence of an incumbent (or maybe because of that), name recognition will also play as an important factor as political stripe. In 2010, a handful of school board trustees filled council vacancies, some in exceedingly close races. Having a known brand is a big plus at the municipal level.

That said, these are 3 wards that over the past decade have been lockdown, very right wing seats for the conservative contingent at City Hall. It’s difficult to imagine them swinging further that way this year. That’d be like, I don’t know, Mississippi, Alabama and Kansas going deeper red in the United States.

It’s an opportunity for more moderate voices to step forward, to shift things to the centre a little bit, perhaps even dampen down the heated rhetoric some. If you were contemplating a run in these wards in the hopes of doing just that but were put off by the prospect of mounting an uphill battle against an entrenched incumbent there, that obstacle has been cleared out of your way. Now’s your chance. Seize it. In municipal politics, that only seems to happen every decade or so.whatareyouwaitingfor

hopefully submitted by Cityslikr


It’s All About Social Justice

February 20, 2014

Point 8.

(A recap of points 1-5 here. Points 6 & 7 here & here.)

socialjusticeSocial justice.

Fairness. Equity. No one getting left behind.

Call it what you want but without it, without an underlying sense of social justice, all these previous points I’ve taken the time to write out are worthless. If they aren’t in the service of delivering social justice, then the whole lot is nothing more than window dressing. Hobbies and pastimes for those with a roof over their heads and food on their plates.

A city without social justice is a city rotting from the inside.

What do I mean by social justice, you might ask. It’s a pretty broad notion, encompassing a wide spectrum of ideas. Housing. Food. Health. Education. Work. Inspiring public spaces.

Where do you start?

How about this.weakestlink

Social justice means equal access to opportunity and freedom from precariousness.

The best coverage we can provide together for everybody from the vagaries of life.

That’s my idea of social justice.

Some specifics.

Housing. Without a safe place to offer up shelter and comfort, nothing good or positive will happen very easily. If a city does not endeavour to adequately house every one of its residents, that city has failed to deliver equal access to opportunity and a freedom from precariousness.

Food. A city endowed with social justice is a place not riddled with food deserts. Residents left to fend for themselves and their families with little more than fast food and convenience store supplies do not have equal access to opportunity. They are not free from precariousness.

A truly public realm. A city that places more importance on private space than it does public space exhibits little interest in social justice. shelterEveryone, as they move around the city, should have equal access to the opportunity of doing so in vibrant, welcoming public spaces. That ability, that fundamental right, promotes an environment of inclusion. It lessens a sense of isolation and instills a feeling of mutuality. Freedom from precariousness.

Fill in your concept of social justice here but without it, in whatever form it takes, a city becomes a hostile place. An everyone-for-themselves, grabbing and stashing of self-interest. What’s in it for me? How do I get what I need and want at the lowest cost possible?

The city as a shopping mall.

Of course, as it stands, cities themselves do not possess an equal access to opportunity and are subject to all sorts of precariousness. Even intent on pursuing a mandate of social justice, cities do not have all the tools at their disposal to do so. Higher orders of government used to recognize this and showed interest in the well-being of cities. Social housing was part of their purview. Public transit. Matters of good health and education remain files of provincial and federal governments. civicresponsiblityCities however are subject to the unpredictable degree of interest those truly holding the purse strings show in such matters.

The impulse by some elected local representatives is to simply throw up their hands in defeat, blame others for the inaction and say, what are we going to do? Our hands are tied. We’d really like to help but…

Unfortunately, whoever’s fault it may be, the resulting mess of neglect always lands right at the city’s feet. Where are the homeless homeless? Where does the crime happen when people are desperate and frightened? Where do the roads get clogged and buses packed to the hilt when there’s not enough money for public transit to operate properly?

Cities.

A lack of social justice manifests itself mostly where the people are. The people are in the cities. More and more so.

Happy City author, Charles Montgomery, tweeted out a link to an article yesterday, quoting a line from it. happycity“For if the city is not for everyone, it benefits no one.”

That is the essential core of social justice. Any candidate seeking public office in order to represent the needs of every resident of their city who does not have that line written somewhere in their campaign literature (and backing it up with policy ideas to bring that impulse to reality) really needs to consider why it is they’re running in the first place. And voters, considering such candidates, really have to wonder just whose interests it is they’re looking to serve.

helpfully submitted by Cityslikr