Civic Audacity

February 13, 2014

Point 7.

happycity(Points 1-5 summarized here. Point 6 here.)

I’m just going to come right out and lift it from Charles Montgomery’s Happy City. I couldn’t phrase it any better or more succinctly.

Civic audacity. [page 105]

What Toronto needs now is a whole lot of civic audacity.

Not the kind of audacity we’ve been exposed to over the last three years or so. To re-coin another author’s turn of phrase, that’s The Audacity of No Hope. Toronto as some sort of Get Off My Lawn, Grumpy Old Man. Oh, no we can’t. It’s too expensive. Keep it down, kids. Can’t you see we’re in one of our drunken stupors.

The audacity of mendacity, let’s call it.

No. I’m talking about boldness now. A certain daring-do and courage to step up and say, I’ve got an idea. I’ve got an idea that’s so crazy it just might work.dipmytoein

This may be a little too much to expect. Even discounting the current reactionary regime at City Hall, it’s been some time since the city as a whole has embraced audacity or boldness. Radical initiatives aren’t really in our DNA. We’re toe-dippers, averse to changing what isn’t working right now because it used to work before.

And I fear after the tumult in the wake of the Ford administration that all we’re really going to be looking for is a little peace and quiet. We’re tired of turmoil and embarrassment. Could you dial down the tomfoolery a notch and just get on with governing. Gently. Without kicking up too much of a fuss.

I guess, everything else being equal, it wouldn’t be an unreasonable request. This city has been put through an emotional wringer, a theme park roller coaster that simply will not end. timeoutSince 2010, it hasn’t been about governance but pitched battle.

Makes perfect sense to want a little respite. A break from the non-stop action. Hey! We’ve all got lives to live here.

The thing is…

This is no time to fall back to sleep at the switch. There’s too much to be done. We’ve avoided tough choices and necessary action for too long. While the city grows, it has begun to groan and creak under the weight of neglect and indecision. These past three years have been little more than simply fending off further damaging destabilization.

Breathing a big sigh of relief and letting down your guard at this point of time is nothing short of the Coyote opening up an umbrella to protect himself from the falling boulder. coyoteumbrellaAn empty gesture. Futile, even.

In the face of such an open attack on the proper state of affairs of this city, what we need now is a spirited, forceful pushback. “A grand experiment”, in the further words of Charles Montgomery, requiring “grander rhetoric”. We don’t want measured. We don’t want milquetoast. We don’t want a bringer of calm.

We want boldness. We want inspiration. We want audacity.

For instance?

OK. Take the matter of the recent staff report on the future of the eastern portion of the Gardiner Expressway, for instance.

The easy thing to do (if not exactly the fiscally responsible thing) would be to maintain the status quo. Throw a billion dollars or so (rounding off in a Ford manner) at it and leave everything as is. Steady as she goes. Doesn’t upset the applecart that’s already pretty much been overturned for some time now.

Or… or… we could tear it down and open up a whole new host of possibilities and opportunities in its place. Yes, some car commuters are going to be inconvenienced, time added on both going to and coming home from work. bebold1But you know what? It’s not 1954 anymore. We won’t be the first place that’s started to re-jig our transportation priorities.

Or how about the matter of public transit?

This is an area obviously ripe for audacity, nerve, zazz and more than a little chutzpah. A bold vision, if you will, outlining how this city’s going to get around over the next 25, 30 years. A view that looks beyond vote-generating pet projects and lays out a plan for an entire network and system. Enough of the technology porn already. Tell us how you’re going to get people from point A to point B, quickly, seamlessly and, yes, enjoyably. And not just some people. Every resident of the city.

Pick a thread of our municipal fabric and pitch us as to how exactly you’ll stop it from further unravelling. Affordable housing. Community development. Neighbourhood planning.reachforthesky

Wow us. Don’t underwhelm us. Tell us what we can do not what we can’t. Set the bar higher. Stop diminishing our expectations.

Give the city and its residents something to aspire toward rather shrink away from. Challenge us instead of placating us. Appeal to our better angels. Stop inflaming our worst instincts.

Be bold. We’ve tried brazen. Only later did we realize there’s a big difference between the two.

upliftingly submitted by Cityslikr