Tough To See The Bigger Picture When You’re Always Looking For Change On The Floor

I imagine when Councillor Josh Matlow begins canvassing for re-election in earnest around his Ward 22 St. Paul’s, polishhe will present himself as a relentless fighter for sensible transit planning. A consensus seeker who went to City Hall and bravely sought the middle way in a toxic environment of hard, harsh partisanship. A uniter not a divider.

But I think the councillor’s first term in office is more aptly summed up by a little ditty of an amendment he pushed through yesterday at city council, divesting the proposed Photo Laureate post put forth by Councillor Joe Mihevc of any monetary value. Photo Laureate. What a great idea. As long as it doesn’t cost anything. Essentially establishing, as pointed out by a number of people after the amended motion passed, an official City of Toronto unpaid internship.

We’ve come to expect such penury of spirit from the likes of Councillors Mike Del Grande, original holder of the item, and Denzil Minnan-Wong, the item’s mocker in chief. A Photo Laureate, he peeped. execrableWhat next? An Instagram Laureate? A Twitter Laureate?

(Back in the olden days, there’d be a picture of the councillor hung on the walls in the halls of power, painted by the Portrait Laureate. At the bottom, it would read: Denzil the Execrable.)

Such use of public money is inconceivable to the likes of Mike Del Grande and Denzil Minnan-Wong. Their paucity of imagination and civic verve is so stunted, so atrophied that they cannot possibly see past the $10,000 price tag attached to the position to grasp any kind of positive contribution it could make to the well-being of the city. $10,000! Ten thousand dollars!!

To put that into perspective, again, as we always have to do with these things, it’s like having $10 in your pocket and agonizing over purchasing this little trinket you’ve come across that will bring you so much joy. But the cost, you fret. The cost, you agonize. If you buy it, you will only have $9.999999 left over.

Let’s ignore for the moment the crass economic calculation of 44 councillors, each making $400 a day, spending an hour to debate a $10,000 item and cut right to the inevitable rebuttal. $10,000 here. waste$10,000 there. And all of a sudden you’ve built yourself a great big shiny gravy train. You want a Photo Laureate? No problem. When there are no more potholes to fill. When we have subways running underneath all our avenues.

The zero sum game. As long as there’s a need for this, we cannot spend money on that. Haven’t you heard? We’re living in austerity city, baby.

In Austerity City, the roads are always smooth and clear. The garbage always gets picked up. And all those nice to haves you want, the private sector provides, paid for out of your own pocket.

We know all this from the Del Grandes and Minnan-Wongs on council. The Fords. The Shiners. The cost of everything and the value of nothing.

But what’s Councillor Matlow’s deal here? Why would he spend even a moment of his time crafting an amendment like this? miserlySurely he’s smart enough, or at least isn’t soulless enough, to realize any city worth its salt is more than the total of all its filled potholes. That out of a position like a Photo Laureate might burst a little ray of civic pride or engagement. The Toronto Story told in pictures.

I can only think of two explanations for this.

One, the old cynical Matlow has resurfaced, the suck and blow at the same time, the truth is always somewhere in the middle guy. Hey. Photo Laureate! That sounds like a great idea. $10 000?! How about a little respect for the taxpayers. Here’s a thought. A Photo Laureate. For Free. A win-win for everybody. Except maybe, the Photo Laureate.

Or, and probably worse, Councillor Matlow is just one of those guys. He can’t make a case for a funded Photo Laureate because, well, he doesn’t have one. He, in fact, like councillors Del Grande and Minnan-Wong, can’t think of one reason why we would want or need such a thing. potholerepairmanThe thought of having to explain to one of his residents what benefit it would be to them, this post of Photo Laureate, that cost them, this single taxpayer, almost but not even a penny, was simply too daunting to contemplate. It’s a good idea but hardly worth investing in.

There remain potholes to be filled.

Yesterday Councillor Matlow proved he is nothing, if not a filler of potholes.

profligately submitted by Cityslikr

8 Responses to Tough To See The Bigger Picture When You’re Always Looking For Change On The Floor

  1. Gilmore David says:

    Let us crowd source then. I will donate to pay the Photographer.

  2. Ron Wm. Hurlbut says:

    Two words: Gravy Laureate.

  3. Simon Says says:

    If you made it a competition, there would be more than enough people willing to compete for the title and to build a portfolio of work under the Photo Laureate title.

    I won’t mind the Twitter Laureate title. I can use it to update my LinkedIN and Facebook profiles.

  4. GW says:

    The fact that bunny suits and espresso machines and, yes, Photo Laureates add up to only a small part of the city’s overall budget does not in any way justify these expenditures. Imagine someone who embezzled from a corporation saying as a defense “Hey, it was only 0.0003% of their annual revenues. No big deal, right?”

    Seeing the “bigger picture” doesn’t mean ignoring the details. And so-called “visionaries” are useless unless they (or those working under them) have the basic managerial competence to realize the vision in an efficient and cost-effective manner. And in a political environment, perceptions of managerial competence are as important as the reality.

    That having been said, the problem with having a “Photo Laureate” isn’t the $10,000. It’s that it’s frivolous and pretentious. It smacks of this whole “world class” social-climbing mentality that too many Torontonians are caught up in. Yes, that $10,000 would be better spent filling potholes.

    • Sonny says:

      The bunny suit was for a ward where they have an Easter Parade! The espresso machine is also good value given that councillor has so much growth in his ward; the visits to his office is more than worth it.

      A Photo Laureate is a great idea to engage the visual arts community and $5,000 would have been a good compromise to pay for marketing & materials. You will still have potholes to be filled by an understaffed City caused by drivers for drivers…

      In 2010, just before the Council cut the Office Budget. Matlow was the top one to max out his Dec. 1 – 31, 2010 proportion.

      In 2003, Josh was acclaimed as a TDSB Trustee and is currently running for reelection unopposed.as is Mihevc

      • GW says:

        I realize the mistake I made in referring to pothole-fixing as an alternative use for the money. I forgot that there are some of you who would gladly expend public funds to make roads *less* usable by motorists, never mind making the experience less unpleasant.

        Easy fix though. Pretend that instead of saying “filling potholes”, I said “building social housing or a community centre” in my last sentence of my previous post..

      • Sonny says:

        You are just changing the focus. The money would pay for a closet. Do you know that the City spends $10,000 on a Poet Laureate. How do propose we see the photos? The City will seek sponsorship…

      • Simon Says says:

        And again, we have to subsidize someone’s career choice. People should do the Laureate position out of civil duty and skip the payment.

        When people have to budget their money. What is the first thing they do? Cut the small expenses.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: