Ooops! We Did It Again

March 31, 2014

Our bad.ooopsdiditagain

After months and months and months, maybe even a year or so, of harping on about ignoring the mayor’s office as anything to do with the actual governance of this city — Boom! – there we were, right back at it. A full slate of “major” candidates now established, a couple of debates this past week under our belts, and it’s like March 2014 us doesn’t even recognize March 2013 us. It’s now all about the mayor’s race. How did candidate X respond to the accusations made about them by candidate Y? Why is what candidate Z saying now so radically different from what they said 3 months ago?

Yaddie, yaddie, yaddie, am I right?

Don’t get me wrong. The race for mayor is important. Much of how it plays out over the next 7 months will be an indication of where voters are sitting on bigger picture matters. It’ll serve as a civic temperature gauge. Is it still red hot with anger and resentment like it was back in 2010 or has the outlook cooled some, less volatile, making us more open to a larger discussion?

Following the mayoral campaigns is easy, pretty straight forward. It’s focused. distracted1Coloured coded to help all those of us playing along at home.

But as the likes of Jude MacDonald and Paisley Rae patiently continue to point out, that’s not where the big change is ripe for the picking. If we have learned nothing else from the ongoing saga of Rob Ford, the one take away should be, the office of the mayor can be reduced to little more than a figurehead. Without the will of 22 councillors, the mayor is impotent. Sure, the mayor remains capable of stealing the spotlight, having their views echoed by those paid to cover them. That’s it. Any other influence on the actual running of the city is minimal unless they are leading a team consisting of at least half of the 44 councillors.

In many ways, who will be elected mayor of Toronto in October is now largely out of our hands. All the frontrunners, from which we will almost assuredly be choosing one of come election day, have their teams in place, their organizational structure is up and running. Many resources have fallen into place in order to ultimately secure one vote of forty-five in the next term of city council. eyesontheprizeAn important vote to be sure, one that will be given a head-start to influence the debate and set an agenda. But one vote just the same.

It could be argued that your time and effort would be better spent ensuring that your local voice on council best reflects your views and opinions, your civic values. When it comes down to the votes at city council at every meeting, your councillor’s counts equally with the mayor’s. After all the horse-trading and jockeying that goes on leading up to any vote, your councillor is just as likely to influence the outcome as the mayor is.

You put an x on the ballot for mayor to choose a direction you want to see the city go in. You make your choice for city councillor to see that direction is actually implemented. The first vote is a gesture. The second, a directive.

This goes beyond any sort of partisanship.

If you endorse the direction Mayor Ford wants to take the city, with a continued emphasis on low taxes and small government, make sure you have a councillor that’s fighting in that direction. changetacticsOtherwise, they’re working at cross purposes, one vote pretty much cancelling out the other. The flipside of that is your councillor can serve as a bulwark if a mayor starts galloping off on a course you’re not happy with.

Ultimately, you elect a councillor to serve your interests not the interests of the mayor.

The thing about ward level campaigns is that even the slightest change can alter the result. Thirteen of the council races in 2010, nearly a quarter of them, were determined by just a few hundred votes. Twenty councillors were sent to City Hall with less than half their ward’s popular vote.

A slight uptick in turnout or switch in voter preference might’ve meant a different outcome. Residents in one building or on one block coming out to vote or changing who they voted for could well have tipped the balance at City Hall in another direction. Municipal elections are as close to direct democracy as we have right now. It’s a pity we tend to squander the opportunity through disinterest and disengagement.

Even Mayor Ford recognizes the importance of council’s make-up. He’s predicting big changes come October, a sweeping out of councillors not part of his Ford Nation. workingtogetherWhile his motives are entirely self-interested and woefully misguided – he had control of city council throughout the first year of his term; he squandered it through misrule and an errant belief that holding such sway came with the territory, was bestowed not earned – he knows of which he speaks. It would be unfortunate and unwise of us to disregard his words.

Changing the mayor (or re-electing the one we have currently) is only a part of what we should be looking to do in 2014, and a small part at that. If what you really want to do is transform the dynamic or the culture of behaviour at City Hall, it can be done one councillor, one ward at a time. Get involved with a local race. Start here at Dammit Janet!, with a primer of what your councillor’s been up to for the past 3+ years. getinvolved1Then, pick up the phone or click on the volunteer button to find out how you can pitch in and help elect the representative who you believe will best act for, speak for, stand for the things that are most important to you.

A few hours here and there of your time over the next 7 months might just ensure the city runs more smoothly, and moves ahead more enthusiastically with things that need to be done over the course of the next 4 years.

voluntarily submitted by Cityslikr


A Better Business Model

March 30, 2014

Toronto is not, nor should we try to be, the location with the lowest cost. Instead, we must strive to be the location providing the highest value.

moneytimevalue

Thus spoke (actually, wrote) mayoral hopeful David Soknacki, a week or so back during his Reddit AMA. (Embarrassingly, I had to Google to find out what AMA stood for. Ask Me Anything, in case you’re still wondering.) It’s a quiet but very important point that needs emphasis in this municipal era of finding waste and efficiencies, cutting taxes and generally trying to get by with less. It is a statement that warrants continued consideration of the Soknacki campaign.

I am not a business guy. In fact, you might even consider me hostile to the veneration of business as the building block of society. Or is that even a thing? Certainly, simply because someone has excelled in the business-y private sector in no way translates for me into an immediate assumption of possessing a capable hand for governance. creatingvalueIn fact, history throws up plenty of examples of just the opposite being true.

Government in no way operates like a business. Just as I’d imagine business in no way operates like a government. They serve different purposes and provide different needs. The skill sets necessary to function properly within each entity have to be distinct, complimentary perhaps, but not exact.

This does not mean the two should be adversarial. In fact, I’d argue there needs to be more intersection and interaction between the institutions of government and the private sector beyond players in either camp switching sides every now and then. Does that make any sense? Like I said, writing about business feels like I’m skating out on thin ice.

It is my belief that we have operated for too long under the business-friendly mantra of governments just needing to get out of the way and let business do its thing, unencumbered by red tape, regulation and onerous tax rates. We have taken for granted the contributions governments make in order to create business friendly conditions. Governments educate us. Governments endeavour to keep us healthy. betterservicelowercostGovernments pay for the infrastructure that eases the mobility of people and goods in such a way that business is given opportunities to flourish.

Does it always do any of this in the most efficient or best way possible? No. Nobody here’s saying government is perfect. Not even close. There should be constant vigilance in making sure government works to the optimum for the greatest number of people.

We cannot expect that to happen while starving it of its ability to do so.

That’s why taxes are not fundamentally evil. That’s why having the lowest taxes doesn’t automatically translate into the best business environment. Lower taxes will not inevitably lead to a city being more affordable, liveable or functional. Value isn’t determined solely by opting for the guaranteed bargain basement price.

Nobody makes even the most basic decisions based on one variable, do they? You don’t go to a restaurant just because it’s the cheapest, do you? Who buys only remainder bin books? Even the data plan for you phone isn’t determined purely on the price, is it?

So who moves to a city, as an individual or business, for the sole reason that it has the lowest taxes?attraction

Aren’t there a bundle of factors that figure into the calculation? How easy is it to get to where you need to go? How good are the schools? Are there fun things to do within close proximity? Is it, at the end of the day, a positive experience living and/or doing business in a particular city?

Taxes are but a part of that equation.

Or, in the words of David Soknacki, we must strive to be the location providing the highest value. Value, like taxes, shouldn’t be a dirty word.

In the 30 seconds he was given to inspire the city at the end of Tuesday’s Metro Morning, David Soknacki summed up his vision like this:

I want to reform City Hall where we’re going to be making decisions based on consensus and on facts, and make it representative of our voices and priorities. That in turn will enhance our prosperity, and that in turn will enhance our quality of life.

I’m always a little leery of those putting prosperity before the idea of quality of life. I get it. I’m not a complete idiot. You can’t build anything positive with only good intentions and rainbow hopes. Money makes the world go around.

But isn’t it also possible to strive for prosperity by improving our quality of life first? By any measure you take, Toronto is a rich city. Investing now in infrastructure and other fundamentals of the public realm will invariably enhance our quality of life, as Mr. Soknacki wants to do, and attract more people and businesses and investment here, all vital to enhancing our prosperity.

alexanderdumas

A prosperity that isn’t just about having more money in our wallets. A richness more encompassing than adding up the dollars and cents. A value that goes beyond being respected as a taxpayer and puts as least as much emphasis on a way of life as it does a way of doing business.

business friendly-ly submitted by Cityslikr


Speaking Truthfully

March 28, 2014

Much post-1st debate chatter yesterday (well, at least in the circles I run in), topics including: postmortemWho won? What the hell was that I just watched? Was that a hologram of Gord Martineau?

Perhaps there was no subject bigger than Mayor Ford’s liberal use of facts and figures. Yes, that will be the only time you can use the word ‘liberal’ in a sentence with Rob Ford unless it is followed by ‘hater’. He was free-wheeling and free-styling, tossing out numbers every which way, proving to everyone following along that he was Toronto’s greatest mayor ever, and without him, this city would be the hellish shithole it was prior to November 1st 2010.

This is nothing new. Unfortunately, the format of the CityNews debate was such that claims made by candidates couldn’t really be isolated and nailed down for further examination. It was just a whole lot of throwing stuff at the wall to see what stuck.

One that did was the mayor’s often heard boast of saving the city a billion dollars during his time in office. This is something that’s been, if not debunked, hotly contested. Matt Elliott took it on back last May. Daniel Dale wrestled with the figures again in November. factcheck1The city manager himself, Joe Pennachetti, seemed to put the matter to rest, raising a bureaucratic eyebrow at the number and suggesting, well, not quite.

But inexplicably, into the mix of yesterday’s discussion, the city’s CFO sent out a memo to councillors, essentially confirming Mayor Ford’s $1 billion assertion.
$972 million if you don’t count the $200 million or so in lost revenue savings from the repeal of the Vehicle Registration Tax. Yeah, so let’s call it a billion. The memo was the source the mayor used to back up the claim during his interview earlier today on Metro Morning.

In a hastily called press conference yesterday afternoon, the city manager tried to pull the reins back on the horse that had already left the barn. “They are not $1-billion of tax savings,” Mr. Pennachetti told the press. “If he calls it budget savings, he’s correct. If he calls it expenditure cuts only, that’s not correct.”factcheck

“Budgeting in the city is very complicated,” the city manager said.

Proving once more, in the words of Mark Twain, “A lie can travel half way around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.”

The Fords go around banging the drum about their billion dollar savings, a billion dollars, a billion dollars, a billion dollars, which is clearly untrue, but to refute it means a more detailed analysis, some nuance. You say it was a billion dollars, Mr. Mayor, but here on line 22 of the CFO’s memo, under reduced capital financing, you have—ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ!

It is the triumph of jingoistic, slogan-driven politics. Say something loud enough and often enough, something everybody can sing along to, and it becomes its own beast. This creature with legs that just cannot be killed.

I was mulling all this over yesterday afternoon when Councillor Shelley Carroll began tweeting out some of the savings that made up the mayor’s one billion dollars. texaschainsawmassacre$75 million cut from the TTC. ($80 million if you include WheelTrans.) Nearly $14 million in Children Services. Over $15 million for roads. $13 million in Employment Services.

Planning department, cut. Shelter, Support and Housing, cut. Long Term Care and Services, cut. The Intergrity Commissioner, cut. The Lobbyist Registrar, cut. Toronto Public Health, cut. Toronto Public Library, cut. Toronto Zoo, cut.

Cut, cut, cut.

So I’m thinking, what the hell, give the lying motherfucker his one billion dollars, immediately followed by, You guaranteed us no services cuts. What are you lying about? Saving taxpayers money or no services cuts? You can’t have both. It’s right here in the CFO’s memo.

Matt Galloway pursued that angle in his interview with the mayor, forcing Ford to stray into the weeds of weasel words. Not cuts, Matt. Efficiencies. Efficiencies aren’t cuts.factcheck4

Well, tell that to everybody waiting longer for their bus or crammed onto a rush hour subway. Drivers carefully navigating the roads to avoid potholes. Residents with flooded basements.

They’re not cuts. They’re efficiencies.

And this is where you can tie in Mayor Ford’s personal problems with his job performance. You lied about not smoking crack, Mr. Mayor. You lied about a reporter taking pictures of your children. So why should we believe you’re not lying about these numbers?

The mayor will then wave the memo around and accuse you of calling the CFO a liar. No, you respond, I believe the CFO when he says the TTC was cut by $75 million dollars. You, Mayor Ford, say you haven’t cut the TTC one dime. Are you lying again, Mr. Mayor? You have a track record of lying.

Liar, liar, liar.

It’s difficult. As grown-ups we don’t tend to go around calling people names even when those names are appropriate. factcheck2Think about it. When was the last time you stood up and called somebody a liar who wasn’t a family member or co-worker? Most of us were raised better than that. Normally, we politely disengage and change subjects.

But then again, how many of us have to deal with the likes of Mayor Ford and his brother, two men who lie as easily as they breathe? They count on others behaving reasonably and not pushing back hard. When someone does, they cry foul and start working the referee. It gives them the edge.

Treading softly and attempting to stay above the fray has not worked. There is little other recourse at this point other than resorting to the truth. The truth is our mayor is a liar. All he does is lie. Keep it simple and to the point.

killpinocchio

There you go again, Mr. Mayor, telling lies and taking us for fools.

factually submitted by Cityslikr


A Debatable Debate

March 27, 2014

The less said about yesterday’s CityNews mayoral debate, the better. Having said that, let me just say…

spinaltap

If the intent of CityNews’ debate organizing braintrust was to make an already raucous, harsh, boisterous campaign even more so, to up the volume from an 11 a couple notches louder, well, well done. Slow clap. Bravo. Kudos. Author! Author!

No, seriously. I want to know what fucking fucknut was behind the idea of opening up the floor for 3 entire minutes to 5 candidates vying for elected office. Who in their right fucking mind thought that was a good idea?

I can just hear the conversation.

You know what would be awesome? Just letting everybody talk at the same time. For 3 minutes. No interruptions. No rules. It’d be like a debate ultimate cage match. anotherfinemessWouldn’t that be great! It’s never been done before.

And you know why that is? Because it’s fucking insane. What did they expect to happen in that scenario? Anything other than what did? Five grown-ups trying to get a word in edge-wise, trying to spit out sound bites, trying to get digs in at their opponents.

Of course Rob Ford excelled in that format. How could he not? He was in his element.

As was pointed out this morning on Twitter, “unconstrained by fact” frees you to just let fly with any old talking point you’re trying to deliver. Any counter to that, any sort of rebuttal comes across as nothing but additional noise. Moreover, being unconstrained by the normal rules of civil discourse as we know the mayor is — he yells at and badgers people all the time – of course, he looked at ease, right at home.

Anybody, I don’t know, with a even a passing modicum of civility or graciousness, probably found themselves a little hamstrung by politeness in that particular arena of combat. This ain’t Marquis of Queensbury rules, folks. The floor is now open, competitors. marquisofqueensburyHave at it.

That said, I think the mayor’s opponents are going to have to come to terms with the fact that they will be sharing the stage with a man who shamelessly and relentlessly spouts lies and mistruths. If allowed to go uncontested, he will fill whatever room they are in with a dense fog of fabrication, blanketing the debate in an alternate reality where he is a fiscally prudent manager of taxpayers’ money and a repentant addict well on the road to recovery. Or that his personal issues have had no affect on his performance as mayor.

None of it is true. He must be continually called on to the carpet for trying to pretend it is. The man loves his catchphrases and snappy slogans, short bursts of uncomplicated communication. Well, how about this.

You lied about not smoking crack, Mr. Mayor.

You lied about a newspaper reporter talking pictures of your children in your backyard.

You lied about how much money you saved the city.

You lied about cuts to services.

You are a proven liar, Mr. Mayor. You cannot be trusted. You’re a liar. Lie, lie, lie.

killpinocchio

Hit that note again and again and again. Establish over and over that anything the mayor says should be considered suspect, in all likelihood more fiction than fact. He’s that unhinged guy on the street corner yelling about alien invasions and a United Nations conspiracy. Truth is not part of his vernacular.

A more rigorous debate format should help facilitate that. Clearly, CityNews had little interest in anything more than stirring up the pot and promoting a bare-knuckled brawl. That favours no one except a brawler. One thing we know for sure about Mayor Rob Ford is that he loves to brawl.

I will give CityNews credit for one thing. Their hosting of ‘fringe’ mayoral candidates on their livestream during TV commercial breaks. freakshowFor those so inclined, you could click over and see what they had to say about the issues being discussed by the big 5. It wasn’t much, mere snippets really, but enough to know that the likes of Morgan Baskin, Robb Johannes and Richard Underhill were worth continuing to listen to.

It also proved that CityNews should stick to what it’s good at it. Working out on the fringe. It has no place operating in the mainstream, pretending to be a responsible provider of news and information. Unfortunately, with last night’s debate, it only succeeded in bringing everybody involved down to its sad, sorry level.

still in shockingly submitted by Cityslikr


Whose Tune Are We Dancing To?

March 26, 2014

Set aside the back and forth debate on any and all ramifications of the island airport expansion and possibility of jets flying in and out of there. reasonablepersonThis is not about that. I have opinions for sure. But that’s not what this is about.

Trying not to invoke the language of hyperbole associated with this issue, that’s always seemed to be a part of the discussion surrounding the island airport, I’m searching for more moderate words, less combative declarations and judgments. To state it fair-mindedly and even-handedly. It seems to me… blah, blah, blah Steve Paikin not Christopher Hume sounding.

So, here goes.

It seems to me that at the heart of the island expansion and Porter desire to fly jets out of it debate is nothing less than the hijacking by a small gaggle of special interests of our entire democratic system of governance.

Hmmm….cutloose

“The clock is ticking for Porter Airlines to get a decision on jets at Toronto’s island airport,” Vanessa Lu wrote in the Toronto Star last Friday, “because the airline must soon put down non-refundable deposits on its Bombardier CSeries order.”

How soon, you might ask?

“Porter was originally scheduled to make non-refundable payments on its conditional order for 12 of Bombardier’s new CSeries jets in December,” Lu answers, “but won an extension to April.”

April, you say. Like this April? The month that starts next week with, well, wouldn’t you know it, a city council meeting where this item will figure prominently on the agenda?

Why, one might wonder, is the city working to a private company’s timetable? Supporters will point to all the new jobs and wonderful boost to the economy a jet flying, expanded island airport would bring to the city. Unfortunately, those claims are as hard to pin down as most of the others. In his interview with Metro Morning this morning, mayoral candidate John Tory manyunansweredquestions(who assured host Matt Galloway and the CBC audience that he had read the staff report) said there were 45 questions he needed to have answered before he’d give the plan the go-ahead.

45 different unanswered questions!

None more important to my mind than the design of the extended runway that would be needed to accommodate the jets. A runway extension right smack dab in the harbour. How would it affect other users of the public space? Boaters, waterfront residents and visitors. How would the new extended runway and the takeoff and landing of the jets affect the water front development further east along the donlands?

Maybe not at all. Maybe we wouldn’t even notice. But how can we decide about these things with so many open-ended questions still to be answered?

What’s the rush?

Well, we know the rush. Porter has to start putting serious cash down on the table, non-refundable cash for its order placed on 12 jets under the assumption, I guess, the airport expansion was a mere formality. Seems there might’ve been some misjudgement of the situation. rushWhy is that the city’s problem?

Under questioning from members of the Executive Committee last night, Deputy City Manager John Livey was as upfront as a bureaucrat can be expressing his view why the city should simply defer the question until next year when a whole bunch of the unanswered questions, including the new proposed runway design, might be available. Don’t do it. “It would be a very big mistake.”

“I lose leverage, I believe, in the negotiations,” the deputy city manager told the committee. “It would be a very big mistake to do a conditional approval. I think you, as council, would regret having made that decision.”

Yet those pushing hardest for the conditional approval are some of the biggest self-proclaimed fiscal conservatives on city council including Mayor Ford. Looking after every single taxpayer dime, he tells us ad nauseum, but there he was, pushing a motion calling for a conditional approval now. Let’s do this thing. Get `er done!

How exactly is putting the city in a weaker negotiating position going forward in any way fiscally prudent or deemed to be minding the store? porterairYou give a conditional approval, Porter hands over money to Bombardier it can no longer get back, come the time when a decision needs to be made and you don’t like the answers you’ve been giving and turn it down, Porter cries foul! But you said yes!

They’re then out millions and millions of dollars. Who are they looking to make reparations? The city’s been down that road before, has had to uncross that bridge, so to speak.

On top of which, as Councillor Peter Milczyn (the lone dissenter on the Executive Committee from pressing forward with the airport discussion) said on Metro Morning earlier today, there could be as much as $300 million worth of infrastructure upgrades required around the airport terminal at Bathurst and Lakeshore intersection in order to accommodate the airport expansion. bugsbunnysquaredanceThe Toronto Port Authority has already asked senior levels of government for up to $100 million of that.

$100 million that could be spent elsewhere. $100 million the city would put toward more pressing infrastructure needs. $100 million to service Porter’s needs, not Toronto’s.

Why would any city councillor put the interests of one private business ahead of those of the city they were elected to represent? That’s what this debate should be about. The rest of it is just shiny baubles and misdirection, intended to deflect from the real and, quite frankly, disturbing reason we’re having this debate at all.

curiously submitted by Cityslikr


A New Generation Of Suburban Resentment

March 25, 2014

How would you best sum up Councillor Michelle Berardinetti’s (Ward 35 Scarborough Southwest) first term in office? is a question nobody’s asked me until now.surprisedbythequestion

Hmmm. Councillor Berardinetti, huh? Ward 35 Scarborough Southwest, eh?

Elephants, bike lane hatred and other terribly misguided public transit views.

Yeah. That about sums it up.

As to the elephants, I can’t offer up much in the way of analysis. Something about moving them from an unhealthy environment at the Toronto Zoo to a nicer place more conducive to the elephant lifestyle. How best to do that. Bob Barker. Different coloured t-shirts in the council chamber.

I remember Councillor Berardinetti being all up in that debate. No judgement from me about it. Wasn’t high on my list of things to be concerned about. bobbarkerKudos to the councillor for making it one of hers.

While she seemed to love the elephants, Councillor Berardinetti had little time for bike lanes. During the 2010 campaign, she claimed that some residents living along Pharmacy Avenue had moved because they could not “get out of their own driveway”, and within a year of taking over as councillor in Ward 35 had the damn bike lanes torn up along with those on Jarvis Street. In fact, run through this list of council votes from July 2011. Councillor Berardinetti pretty much came out against every pro-biking measure.

We get it, councillor. You represent a suburban ward. Everybody likes to drive there. Bikes have no place in your vision of how a city moves people around.

Or LRTs, for that matter.

Between she and Councillor Glenn De Baeremaeker (Ward 38 Scarborough Centre), they played point for the 7 other Scarborough councillors who eventually helped then TTC Chair Karen Stintz flip the planned Bloor-Danforth LRT extension to a subway. crybabiesNot so much good cop-bad cop, the two traded off on being perpetually outraged and indignant. World class transit! Scarborough is owed! Selfish downtowners!

“You can’t go to residents with revenue tools and not even deliver a subway,” Councillor Berardinetti pronounced. Subways are the only mode of transit worth paying for. Nothing for nothing. Something for subways.

Yeah so, pretty much stamp their feet, whine loudly and hold their collective breath until they got their way.

To give her full marks, at least Councillor Berardinetti had been consistent in her opinion that Scarborough deserved a subway, any subway. She went along with Mayor Ford when he sought to bury the Eglinton crosstown and agreed that his Sheppard subway folly didn’t need any of the Dr. Gordon Chong suggested revenue tools to proceed. The councillor was an early and eager adopter of the Scarborough LRT/subway swap, even voting for an additional property tax increase to fund it, waitingforasubwayan inclination she didn’t show a lot of on almost any other issue so far during her time at City Hall.

Throughout much of this term, Councillor Michelle Berardinetti has proven herself comfortably in line with Mayor Rob Ford, especially on fiscal matters. She’s voted to keep taxes low, freezing and eliminating important sources of revenue. Just this year, as a member of the Budget Committee, she pushed a motion to ignore the staff recommended property tax increase, lowering it by .25% and making up the difference with any surpluses from the projected Land Transfer Tax revenue. Credit where credit’s due, the councillor didn’t then turn around and vote in favour of a report looking at any possible reduction in the LTT rate.

She pretty much reflects the arc of the city council story during the Ford era. As an original member of his powerful Executive Committee, Councillor Berardinetti enabled all his destructive instincts early on. But as he pissed away his power to influence the agenda, she slowly changed course, jumping from the Executive Committee during the mid-term shuffle. berardinettifordShe had also left the Budget Committee for a while from March 2012 until January of the following year. A trendsetter, let’s call her. Totally comfortable with his policies but unhappy with his politicking.

Maybe this might play well for her constituents.

In 2010, she handily beat incumbent Adrian Heaps, concluding a bitter struggle that had gone back to the 2006 election that resulted in lawsuits and all sorts of legal wrangling. Ward 35 went strongly pro-Rob Ford in that election, so maybe she’s tapped into a certain ambivalence toward the mayor amongst her residence, loving the message, just not the messenger. If that’s the case, she may be hard to unseat.

But if anybody were to run against her based on her record, take her to task for her habit of underfunding the city’s ability to pay for programs and services, call her out on her subway love taking priority over common fiscal (not to mention transit) sense, Councillor Berardinetti would have a lot to answer for. She’s been very much at the epicentre of a couple of the city’s most divisive debates over the last three years, nutcrackerand has not provided a particularly cooperative voice, opting instead for the us-versus-them, suburban-versus-downtown tone of anger and resentment that has plagued Toronto since amalgamation. Having been put into a couple positions of leadership as a first time councillor, with an opportunity to change that tone, she failed to provide much leadership at all.

It’s hard to imagine she’ll grow into the role going forward, having adopted the familiar position of Scarborough councillor with a chip on their shoulder that seems to be the commonplace feature with many. Why change? It’s an approach that’s been working since long before Councillor Berardinetti came to Toronto City Hall.

unimpressedly submitted by Cityslikr


Missed Opportunity

March 24, 2014

It started out on a shaky note and didn’t get a whole lot better from there.

droppedball

“What was the moment in which you decided to run for mayor?” Metro Morning host Matt Galloway asked candidate Olivia Chow.

“…ummm, it’s not that one moment…”

Oh, god. *sigh*

That is the one question any candidate needs to have a pat answer down for. Why do you want to be mayor? stumped2Why should people vote for you? What was the moment you decided to run for mayor?

Campaign school 101.

I was fighting desperately to give Ms. Chow the benefit of the doubt since she was the first one in the series that will be playing throughout the week, featuring the 5 leading mayoral candidates. It’s a tough slog, right out of the gate. Breaking trail. New ground.

She recovered when asked about her pledge to re-institute the long planned Scarborough LRT instead of the new fangled subway council approved last summer. Four more stops in four less years for a lot less money. A nice, precise sound bite that is hard to refute especially by those touting their fiscal cred and business acumen.

And then Mr. Galloway teed one up for her at which point I realized, no, going first could actually work to Chow’s advantage. She’d be able to establish the terms of the debate, at least as far as this one happening this week on Metro Morning. Her answers and responses would serve as the scale by which her opponents’ performances might be measured.

inthewheelhouse“Do you think tax has become a four letter word?” Galloway asked Chow.

“Of course it has, Matt. To the detriment of this city. We cannot even begin to talk about the things we need, the infrastructure, both physical and social, the services, the programs, without having a rational discussion about taxes. About taxes, user fees and other sources of revenue Toronto needs to access if we hope to build the liveable, affordable, functional city one of my opponents claims to want.”

No, no. That wasn’t what she said at all.

Just a bunch of humming and hawing, refusing to budge any further than her already stated claim of property tax increases of ‘around inflation’.

Galloway even threw her a lifeline, pointing out that the city manager, Joe Pennachetti has gone on record as saying that Toronto cannot hope to continue growing in any sort of healthy fashion without serious consideration of more revenue. duckandhideWe do not have a spending problem. We have a revenue problem. Cover has been provided for all you closeted tax-and-spending politicians.

But Chow didn’t take that path, choosing instead to circle back to the savings that would come from putting the brakes on the Scarborough subway plan. That’s all it’s going to take, Matt. Just better decision making, smart investment, a modest inflationary annual property tax increase and together, we can build a better city.

We know how this movie unfolds.

Olivia Chow plays it safe into the mayor’s office, inevitably to be confronted with worse looking books than the outgoing council will ever admit to. We know they’re going to be worse, worse certainly than the $350 million operating budget surplus the supposed fiscally reckless David Miller administration bequeathed Rob Ford as a mayoral-warming gift. Having just scratched the surface dealing with last year’s announcement from the province that it was shortening the time frame in which it was going to cease its Toronto Pooling Compensation support of social services in the city, the bulk of the nearly $150 million loss is going to be faced by the new council.

herewegoagainAnd that’s just one example.

Oops, our new mayor will say. We didn’t see this coming. (We did.) We’re going to have to raise taxes more than I pledged in order to deal with this unexpected turn of events.

All followed by cries of ‘I told you so’, ‘tax-and-spender’, and everybody retreats back to their ideological corners. Myths and misconceptions reinforced. She wasn’t given a mandate by the voters of Toronto to raise taxes.

And they’ll be right. By not tackling this issue head-on now, the Olivia Chow team is simply delaying the inevitable battle they will have to have if their candidate is elected in October. Their short term gain will lead to a longer, extended battle that will invariably create fertile ground for another Rob Ford-like assault on the governance of Toronto. Proper, healthy city-building will come under threat once again.missedopportunity

The Chow campaign has ceded ground right off the bat to the anti-taxers, giving more credence to the mindless incantations from the likes of John Tory’s Nick Kouvalis. It is defensively reacting to the terms of the debate laid down by the mayor and all the right wing contenders for his job. There was an opportunity to seize control this morning, redefine the framing. They fumbled it.

It is a long campaign. Plenty of time to re-shape the messaging as you go along. It just gets harder if you pass up chances Olivia Chow was given today to set the agenda in her favour.

frustratingly submitted by Cityslikr