“A different world cannot be built by indifferent people.”
— attributed to Horace Mann, American educational reformer, among other things.
Point 6. (A recap of points 1-5)
We have been reduced in the democratic equation of late to two points of civic participation. Paying taxes and voting every 4 years (or whenever governments of the day deem absolutely necessary). Outside of that, it’s all, keep on moving, folks. Nothing to see here.
Just such an attitude has been on ample display in Toronto since 2010 where all we’ve heard about is the ‘mandate’. Through divisive service and programs cuts and subway debates to crack and drunken stupor scandals, we’ve been told a certain someone was given a mandate. You can’t challenge the mandate! Not until the next election. Decisions are only made at election time. You don’t like what’s going on in the interim? Vote your displeasure next election.
To contest the mandate is to be a usual suspect. Some sort of elitist, still bitter over losing in 2010, with no job and lots of free time to hang around City Hall, getting all snarky. Hard working tax payers know their place when it comes to governance. In the polling booth. Every 4 years.
If I’m trying to be even-handed here, such disengagement is not specific to this administration. Too many of us (save a band of dedicated city advocates) during the Miller era were lazy, with our heads buried or looking the other way. We assumed Toronto was in good hands and stood on the sidelines instead of pitching in and contributing. It left some of the accomplishments vulnerable to a tax-and-spend counter-attack. Exhibit A, Transit City.
In 2014, candidates need to encourage people not only to help elect them but to continue on in helping them govern once elected. Victory (or defeat for that matter) should not end at the ballot box. What you hear in line at Tim Horton’s does not constitute civic engagement.
Much more than the other two levels of government, the municipal level offers up a grand opportunity for more hands-on involvement by city-zens with the actual running of the city they live in. Anyone who wants to can get in there, get their hands dirty with governance. Attend meetings. Make deputations. Badger your local councillor directly. Mayor Ford has said he is accessible 24/7, right?
Municipal government is where the rubber hits the road, as they say, they being people I can’t bother looking up to properly cite saying it.
Of course, much could be done to further strengthen and deepen civic engagement. There’s a grassroots movement afoot for something called participatory budgeting. Small slivers of a city’s budget portioned off to be decided upon and spent directly at the community level. “Creating a more educated platform of voters overall,” says PGP volunteer facilitator, Christine Petro. “So I think this can only be good for the big project of democracy.”
Perhaps more radical still would be an idea to empower citizens at the community council level. Give them more than simply input. Make people decide on and be responsible for certain local issues throughout the city. Instead of simple an advisory position make room for actual governing.
That’s what elections are for, pallie. The people decide who governs them. Then we go home, watch the Leafs and do it all over again in 4 years time. Anything more than that would be pure… chaos.
But even if that were the case, it would be preferable to the democratic somnolence that has crept up on the citizenry at every level of government. The trend with voter turnout continues to point downward. Disengagement smacks of disillusionment.
That void is then filled with real special interests, not the pretend ones imagined by politicians who see any opposition as undemocratic and unsavoury. Participation and engagement beyond simply voting and tax paying amounts to vigilance. No one politician should be expected to keep democracy healthy and vibrant. Nor 45 for that matter, for a city of over 2.5 million residents with a multitude of needs and opinions.
For nearly 4 years now, Toronto has been bludgeoned with this idea of a manufactured ‘Nation’ that manifested its will back in 2010 and will do so again this October if need be.
My question is, where exactly has that ‘Nation’ been when every single decision has been made affecting them, every month at every council meeting? Where are they when matters are getting hashed out at committee meetings? Where is that nation when the heavy lifting of daily governance is going on?
Politicians only looking for civic engagement every four years aren’t really comfortable with democracy. Their preference is for more of a don’t call us, we’ll call you kind of arrangement. Give us power, stand back and we’ll take it from here.
That’s not engagement so much as it is honorary ceremonial status. The flag waver at a car race. The bottle smasher at a boat launch.
If you’re only expected to pay attention once every four years, it’s ultimately difficult to muster much enthusiasm for it.
— hopefully submitted by Cityslikr