Why We Don’t Have Nice Things

September 1, 2015

Allow me, if you will, to make this a Rob Ford story, while he plays a cameo in it, the familiar part of “former Toronto mayor…allegedly smoking crack” basketball1(Allegedly? The man’s admitted it already!), there are, admittedly, much bigger, wider, deeper issues at play.

Courting controversy: Push for public basketball courts runs up against misguided fears,” is the last in a 4 part series in the Globe and Mail “examining support programs and services for lower-income residents in Mississauga, Brampton and Caledon – the cities and towns of Peel Region more known for their affluent middle and upper classes than a growing population who live in poverty.” Once more we are faced with our “veiled racism”, as a young Tristen Mason generously sees it in the article, in continuing opposition to building and operating basketball courts throughout the GTA.

“Veiled racism”? What’s the kid talking about? What’s racist about opposing basketball courts?

Let me ask you this.

When I say, Fill in the blank in the following statement: basketballBasketball is a game played mostly by _______, what’s your first response?

Yeah. Exactly. And then follow that through with the usual equating of basketball to drugs and gangs and gun play. Like I said. Mr. Mason’s talk of ‘veiled racism’ is generous indeed.

Such sentiments are ham-fistedly stoked by local knuckleheads like longtime Ward 7 York West city councillor, Giorgio Mammoliti, who features prominently in Dakshana Bascaramurty’s piece. “We don’t welcome the concept, at all, of gang bangers…selling drugs on outdoor basketball courts,” he once said. Basketball courts, and all their yelling and screaming and fights and guns! Having changed one over to a place for ball hockey instead, I mean, what’s more Canadian white bread than ball hockey, Mammoliti claimed police told him crime dropped ‘dramatically’. Of course, the police claimed no such thing.

The councillor was at it again, late last municipal campaign where, probably not coincidentally one of his opponents, Keegan Henry-Mathieu, just so happened to be black. fanningtheflamesWhen Mammoliti was asked about his dim view of basketball courts, he pretty much replayed the dog whistle tune. “For one reason or another, [basketball hoops] seem to attract the wrong crowd outside. What I’ve heard loud and clear is that nobody is playing outdoor basketball any more, they seem to be selling drugs.”

That’s always a distinct possibility when you actively neglect a public space into dereliction.

Which brings me back to the subject of Rob Ford.

One of the dilapidated basketball courts that went untended and disregarded had originally been built with the proceeds from a foundation of one-time Toronto Raptor superstar, Vince Carter. The “Rolls-Royce of outdoor basketball courts,” the Globe and Mail called it. Now?

These days, the backboards are rusted. One rim has no net; the other is torn-up and ratty: like a once-voluminous coif thinned to a comb-over. Empty water bottles, McDonald’s cups and even an old 3.8-litre bleach container are scattered over the grass around the court. For a stretch, even the rims were taken down, effectively rendering the city-owned court useless.

Here’s the kicker.

Our friend over at Marshall’s Musings, Sean Marshall, pointed out that this one time ‘Rolls Royce of outdoor basketball courts’ is located right smack dab in Ward 2 Etobicoke North, fiefdom of the Ford clan, Rob-then Doug-then Rob again. basketball2Of course it is. Irony or poetic injustice demands it.

While serving as councillors/mayors, rarely was any opportunity passed up by the brothers Ford to squawk about private section participation in the running of the city. Want to build a subway? (And who doesn’t?) The private sector’ll pay for it. (Still waiting.) Want to host a splashy international event? (Don’t we all?) Corporate sponorship’ll foot the bill. (Honest.) Yaddie, yaddie, yaddie. Blah, blah, blah.

Here we have a perfect example of such a model. The private sector, through a private donation, builds the ‘Rolls Royce of outdoor basketball courts’ for the city, serving it up on a platter for the Boys of Ward 2 to make political hay with, and what happens? They let it go to shit. “Nobody has done more for black people than me,” Rob Ford crowed during the 2010 mayoral race. And by ‘more’, obviously he meant more, as in, more to promote drugs, guns and violence through underfunding services and programs and undermining the marginalized community he’s represented, in one way or another, for more than a decade now.

This is the absolute and abysmal hollowness that forms the core of the Ford brand of fake populism. pretendpopulismTalk a big game about looking out for the little guy, assure them there are easy ways to serve their best interests and when the chips are down, when it comes to putting money where their mouths are? M.I.A.

Worse yet, go missing and then blame the failure on everybody else. Bloated and misdirected spending at City Hall. The suburbs never getting anything. Thugs that they don’t hug.

What we really ought to do is post signs around the abandoned basketball court, pointing out the reality of continuing to fall for the politics of the Fords. This basketball court, brought to you by Vince Carter. This basketball court, destroyed by Rob and Doug Ford.

suggestingly submitted by Cityslikr


Fablication

April 3, 2013

fablication

Last week Ivor Tossell wrote about the then latest brouhaha — it was nearly 5 days ago, plenty of time for even newer brouhahas — swirling around our mayor, Rob Ford. In the article, Mr. Tossell summarized the mayor’s approach to the truth, governing and reality.

This is Rob Ford’s truth. The facts will be decided not by reality, but by the people, on election day… It’s a schoolyard view of the world, in which truth flows from popularity and power. He’s used it to run his administration like a radio phone-in show, talking to just one crowd with a mix of pandering and fabulism…

Fabulism.fablication5

What a fantastic word to describe what we’ve been living through for the past three years since Rob Ford became a serious contender for the office of mayor. Fabulism. Fabulist.

Might I offer up a new word for general usage, especially in honour Ivor Tossell’s own contribution to the political lexicon in Toronto, Uncompetence.

The word* is: Fablication.

The generation of a world where whatever you say, if you’re the right thinking kind of person, is treated as hard, cold fact. Where a statement can contradict a previous statement and both statements can still be taken seriously. Fablication creates a magical place that emphasizes simple-mindedness not simplicity. fablication2Where rigour is not de rigueur.

Rob Ford’s fantasy political world is nothing but pure fablication. In it, there are never any negative consequences to your actions. Government has a spending problem not a revenue problem, and any extra dough that might be needed to build a subway (and subways only because streetcars are the root cause of traffic congestion) will flow effusively from a potent combination of a casino and the private sector.

Who wouldn’t want to live in such a land of enchantment?

In the 2010 municipal election, 47% of Toronto voters believed such a locale actually existed. All you needed was to stop a mythical gravy train and hop aboard a boat load of respect for the taxpayer. No fuss, no bother. Only those suffering from an engorged sense of entitlement and just the mildest sense of irony would feel any pain. fablication1Those symptoms largely inflicted denizens living in the old city of Toronto and in East York.

Even today, a solid chunk of those supporters continue to clap their hands in the hopes of keeping that dream alive, encouraging Mayor Ford to further dig in his heels. And he does. As Metrolinx ratchets up the real world conversation about viable revenue options to fund a long overdue transit expansion and the city’s chief planner chairs a roundtable, the Next Generation Suburbs, the mayor talks about graffiti and fake vomits (with accompanying video track) at the idea of new taxes and tolls.

Surely we can build more transit by cutting further finding efficiencies, rolling back public sector wages and benefits, stopping boondoggles. Where the hell do all the gas taxes go? asks a former PC MPP, apparently with a straight face. Stop demanding money, folks. We can just fablicate new transit.

Fablication built Ford Nation.

Listen to it in action every Sunday between 1 and 3 p.m. on 1010 Talk Radio. fablication4Or, for a quick hit, read David Hains’ synopsis of the show. (Check out 2:32 in Monday’s post for what I’m talking about when I talk about fablication.)

While the mayor is a very good practitioner of fablication, his brother is a master.

Witness Councillor Ford’s performance last week at Ryerson’s inappropriately named Law, Business, Politics – The Real World class. (Don’t know if it’s just my internet connection but the video is very, very choppy.) It was an hour and a half of outright fablication, punctuated by moments of actual serious discussion from co-panellist, Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam.

You see, the duly elected councillor is not a politician. He’s a businessman. He and his brother-mayor (elected with the largest mandate in Canadian history [≈ 1’10”] and the most accessible politician in the country, in North America who fields 80-90 phone calls a day and doesn’t spend his time behind a big desk, talking to bureaucrats [≈ 54.30”]) have already saved the taxpayers of Toronto a billion dollars [≈ 57.30”]. fablication3When the councillor hosts visitors to the city, he’s always having to answer the same question. “What is there to do in Toronto, Doug?” [1’1”]. So that’s why we need to build a casino because, while the councillor doesn’t want to throw around wild numbers, he will anyway. Build a casino on city owned property and that’s $30 million in tax revenues, plus $30 million in a land lease agreement and we’re only getting started. Which is why we don’t taxes to build subways, folks. Casino revenue and the private sector who will tunnel across the city for us [1’17”]. apparently, in order to help alleviate our congestion woes.

And on and on it goes in the view of a fablicuist. (Trying on new words to see how they fit). Strawberry fields for-ever.

Why make up a word when there’s already one that might fit the bill? Fabulism. Fabulist. Fabler.

In the traditional definition, fables are supposed to have a meaning, an ‘edifying or cautionary point’. There’s nothing edifying or cautionary in fablication. Fablication is all about self-interest. fablication6Opinion, especially of the uniformed type, passes for truth. Facts are figments of a fablicateur’s imagination. Anything goes, in the world of fablication. Up is down. Black is white. Everything’s relative. The truth is somewhere in the middle. We’ll just have to agree to disagree.

Fablication is the tool used by those on the wrong side of every issue. It is the creation of a reality unencumbered by the necessity to adhere to any notion of the truth. It’s undemanding, free-floating, amorphous and subject to change at a moment’s notice. Eventually a fablicated world will collapse into itself, but the key for everyone living outside its bubble is to limit the damage inflicted before it does.

* as far as I know ‘fablication’ was first coined by Catherine Soplet

studiously submitted by Cityslikr


Supplementary Reading

February 25, 2012

Since I’m sure the Ford Bros. are busily prepping for their co-hosting radio debut on The City, it’s probably good that we do too. Bone up on some facts and figures to counteract the less fact-y figures that’ll surely be flying fast and furious tomorrow afternoon. Write up a long check list of things that the mayor and his councillor brother don’t quite get right.

We’ll probably be hearing a lot about transit during their first show. The whole subways versus LRT (just fancy streetcars) debate. Jim, calling from an Oshawa Tim Horton’s, will regale listeners with that time he drove in downtown Toronto and was stuck for miles behind 9 streetcars that had nobody on them, his surroundings a dilapidated urban jungle.

Because you’ll probably be hearing much of the disastrous St. Clair right of way construction from the Ford Bros. tomorrow (I’m betting at least half a dozen times), take some time between now and then, if you haven’t already, to read James Bow‘s masterful blow by blow account of what actually happened. Full of intrigue and heroism, you will be pleasantly surprised to learn that it didn’t turn out to be quite the mess you’ll be hearing nor were the problems that surfaced due in any way to building streetcars in the middle of the road.

It’ll serve as a nice antidote.

 Hyperbole and Axes To Grind on St. Clair Avenue.

helpfully submitted by Cityslikr


Permanent Campaigning

February 23, 2012

Having lost his once iron clad control of city council – and no mayor should lose an iron clad control of city council this early into a first term, at least, and not still be able to claim to have a ‘mandate’ – it looks like Mayor Ford has moved into outright permanent campaign mode. Yep. Fuck governing. That’s for egg-headed losers. We’re heading back out to the hustings where the mayor is most at home, amongst… I’m sorry… among the little guys and mall folk.

So the Brothers Ford make a weekly pilgrimage out to shopping centres in Scarborough where not 90%, not 99%, but 100% of shoppers who very likely drove to their destination want subways. Today the mayor’s opining (press releasing?) in the pages of the Globe and Mail. Whoah! The Globe? That’s some latté reading material there. Thought for sure that’d be news more fit for the Sun. No need, Your Worship. We’ve got your back. Here, here and here. (And that’s not even tapping the official Ford stenographer, Sue Ann Levy.)

Then, comes the big news. Bumping one-time centrist and now arch-enemy, Councillor Josh Matlow, from the airwaves, the mayor and his councillor brother will take over as co-hosts (co-mayors why not co-hosts) of 1010 talk radio’s Sunday afternoon political gabfest, The City. “This is our first opportunity ever to get our message out,” Councillor Ford told the Sun.

[Insert typeface here, denoting peels of belly laughter, followed by tears of mirth and ending with convulsive dry heaves from laughing so long and hard. What would that be, Franklin Gothic Book? Gill Sans MT?]

Aside from the stunningly delusional aspect of that statement, I mean, has there been a first term councillor who has received as much press, been offered up as many media platforms and opportunities to get the message out as Councillor Ford? I know out-going host Councillor Matlow has been accused by many of being a media hound but the real newcomer to council headline stealer is surely the mayor’s brother. How could it not be?

But note too the hint of victimization in the councillor’s assertion. The ‘first opportunity’? Really? Never mind as a sitting councillor back in the day, Rob Ford was a regular guest on John Oakley’s talk show but is Councillor Ford really trying to convince anyone that his brother, as the mayor of Toronto for nearly 18 months, has been ignored, his message kept boxed up?

On the Jerry Agar show this morning to announce their new role as radio guys, the councillor elaborated on that thought. “You’re not going to have the media twisting it around like they have the last year and a half.” Oh, my. Can I get you a little whine with that bitter greens salad, monsieur? How about a soother with that double double, councillor?

It constantly amazes me how these bully boy, tough guy conservative politicians get away with this damsels in distress schtick. Don’t their fanboys cringe just a little? What kind of cognitive dissonance do you need to operate with to buy into the notion that the sissy, downtown effete elite of the mainstream media are always picking on poor little Robbie and never letting him play and always twisting his words around?

Don’t we encourage our children to learn how to take responsibility for their actions and the outcomes that result because of them? It’s a little embarrassing to hear grown men constantly complain about always being taken out of context or having their word twisted. Or blaming other people for their failures.

And fail the Ford Brothers have. After a year plus of successfully pushing their agenda through city council, repealing taxes, reducing budgets, cutting and outsourcing services, they have lost control of the vehicle after hitting a bumpy patch on the road. It was inevitable. Not because of who they are but because that just happens when you’re in power especially at a non-party affiliated municipal level. Everything doesn’t just go your way with a wave of the hand and a loud proclamation.

You have to govern. You have to orchestrate a consensus. You have to lead and make a majority of your elected colleagues want to follow you, sometimes because it’s the right thing to do but other times because it’s the smart political thing to do.

Team Ford has given up on governing and simply kicked off its re-election campaign. It’s just easier. Whistle-stopping in front of welcoming crowds rather than debating with hostile councillors. Taking (screened) friendly calls from radio listeners instead of having to pretend to listen to opposing opinions from the usual suspect that line up to give public deputations. Running a city is hard. Running a campaign, well, any idiot can do that.

While the mayor and his brother are out on the stump, trying to revive the awesomeness of Ford Nation and get it into fighting shape once more in order to scare councillors back into the fold, council needs to just go about the business it was elected to do and, you know, govern the city. We’ve said it before but it bears repeating, Mayor Ford and Councillor Ford are only 2 votes. Yes, the power of the mayor’s office allows the two of them to gum up the works and grind things to a halt if they decide they don’t want to play along nicely or even collegially if their version (I will not say ‘vision’) of Toronto is the only one they’re willing to work for.

So be it.

In two and a half years’ time, one of two outcomes will be facing the mayor when he goes to the voters asking for their support again. Very little’s happened during his tenure as mayor and people are asking if they are better off than they were four years earlier. Mayor Ford’s ‘landslide’ victory in 2010 wasn’t so landslide-y that he could afford to have very many of his supporters answer that question negatively.

Or, the city’s humming along fine, transit is being built, services have been maintained at acceptable levels, people are generally happier than they were the last time they went to the polls, all while Mayor Ford has been on the outside, campaigning about just how bad it is at City Hall and regularly on the wrong side of every vote. Unable to claim much credit for any sort of turnaround, he’ll be running on essentially a platform of 4 More Years Of Contributing Nothing!

That’s a far cry from stopping the gravy train and reminds me of the old adage about lightning not striking the same place twice.

abdicatingly submitted by Cityslikr


The Weather Up There

August 16, 2011

I spent the last few days trying to pull numbers from my ass. It’s not nearly as easy as it looks but it wasn’t entirely a waste of time either. I did find a couple mismatched socks that I’d long ago written off as hostages taken by my cantankerous dryer.

What really baffles me however is just how easily and often conservative politicians, pundits and thinkers pull off this feat. They are perpetually pulling numbers from their ass and using them as ‘proof positive’ of their various arguments and pet peeves. Why, just last week the mayor went deep and came up with a threatened 35% property tax increase if we don’t get down to some serious slashing and burning of city services and assets. Where’d he get that number? He didn’t pass along any footnotes or references, so we can only assume it came from where the sun don’t shine. Just like the 80% labour costs he tells us that that make up our annual operating budget. Or the 6% attrition rate of city staff that occurs every year. (Actual numbers point to less than 3%.)

Mystical, magical numbers that suit whatever situation the mayor’s railing against, thrown up against the wall to see how long they stick. That one’s done. That’s done. Oh. That one may need a little more cooking.

To be fair to the mayor, the 35% property tax increase number probably didn’t originate from up his ass. It seems to be a figure pulled out from the keister of one Matthew McGuire of the Toronto Taxpayers Coalition. 34% + 1 for good measure. Always round up when looking to scare people. Round down if you need to mitigate the increase to the police salaries you just agreed to.

Where did Mr. McGuire come up with his numbers? Well, I don’t have an MBA from the Rotman School of Business but it looks to me as if he just took the already arbitrary figure of $774 million Team Ford has been using to bludgeon us into submission and calculated what hike in property taxes would be needed to cover that cost. If we did nothing else. As happened every year David Miller was in power. Spend more money. Raise property taxes. Repeat. Years 2003-2010.

(Hey. I just pulled that from my ass. Maybe I am getting the hang of it.)

McGuire floated that number a week or so ago and it was immediately picked up by CityTV news and the receptacle of all things pulled from right wingers asses, talk radio. Stop the presses! Somebody just said something really loopy. Get that man a microphone! City council is a haven for communists? Print it!

Of course, it’s mostly a one-way street on that account. If I were to float something equally as questionable, chances are the press wouldn’t be knocking down my door unless maybe the mayor flipped me off or if I issued death threats. But in terms of policy like, say, Matt Elliott did about budget alternatives. I’m not sure our local mainstream media would be as a quick to set up an interview. Have you been interviewed yet, Matt, on your budget thoughts?

Right wingers float whatever ideas that emanate from their gut and the press is all ears. Nothing is ever too crazy or cracked to pass by unnoticed. It’s just put out there as a starting point for future discussion. Of course a 34 or 35% property tax increase would never happen under any administration but especially our current one. It’s just where the goal posts are planted. Negotiations begin from there. Don’t want a 35% property tax increase? Fine.

Where do we start cutting? Libraries? Grants? Sidewalk snow removal? No wait. That one’s off the table.

In our Matlovian manner, we then desperately search for the middle ground, playing on the field where the lines have just been redrawn. No, no, no. Nobody wants a 35% property tax increase. So let’s settle on the rate of inflation and begin cutting from there. Maybe we can sell off some of our assets instead? The mayor’s heavy lifting has been done for him and all he needed to do was negotiate in bad faith, using dubious numbers he pulled from his ass.

Why don’t we call his bluff? No, no, no. A 35% property tax increase is out of the question. We’re happy with 30%. Of course, the response will inevitably be, are you nuts? To which we respond, are you? You suggested a 35% increase. What? You mean you weren’t serious?

All of which takes me to the clip I’ve been watching over and over again since I first saw it on the season ender of Real Time with Bill Maher. New Rules. The Donner Party. In short, we who don’t adhere to radical right wing ideology need to start bringing the crazy. By playing nice and trying to be reasonable and always searching to find the ‘truth’ somewhere in the mushy middle, we’ve already given up the game. If you try fighting crazy fire with the coolness of logic, you succeed only in moving closer to the crazy not coming to a logical compromise.

HiMY SYeD had it right in his deputation to the Executive Committee last month. Rather than settle for cuts to some libraries, he demanded that we double the number of branches in the city. Why? Mr. SYeD claims libraries increase property values and increased property values increases revenue to the city. Libraries are a creative city’s DNA and engine driving innovation. (A sidenote: The book Mr. SYeD holds up for Councillor Kelly is The Warhol Economy.) Of course, if he were really playing by the crazy rules, Mr. SYeD wouldn’t have offered up any plausible explanations for his reasoning other than, just because or I pulled the number from my ass.

From that starting point, I can envision the conversation going something like: We can’t afford more libraries. Yes but, we can’t afford fewer libraries. That would be the start of some meaningful negotiations.

So let’s all start putting on our crazy dresses and Mr. Peanut tophats and make our demands heard loud and clear. Let’s stop reaching out to find a compromise with half-baked notions and patently false assertions. Let’s be ‘… a dog that can bark at a pine cone for 9 days and not get tired.’

insanely submitted by Cityslikr