Emperotory

September 11, 2015

Let me run this one up the flagpole for you.alcaponedeaddeaddead

Regardless of where he lands in terms of a 2024 Olympic bid for Toronto, after his agonizing to watch, behind-the-scenes deliberations, the only firm conclusion you can come to is Mayor John Tory has arrived at his Rob Ford ‘Transit City is Dead’ moment.

You remember that one, right? On the day of his swearing in as mayor back in 2010, Ford stepped up to the microphones and unilaterally declared that the previous administration’s massive transit plan, one of the projects already well underway, was dead, finished, over and out. Just like that. No debate with his council colleagues. Rob Ford was now the mayor, the big cheese. What he said, goes. End of discussion.

Of course, it wasn’t. That particular discussion was far from over, is far from over. 1984pigsIt lingers on still.

But Rob Ford, in that single utterance, made with no consultation outside of his small gang of vandals, drew a line in the sand, daring anyone to cross. Few did, initially, at least. For about 18 months or so after that, Rob Ford’s primacy as city council alpha went unchallenged.

Now listen to Mayor Tory’s most recent utterances about a possible Olympic bid less than a week before the deadline for making a decision.

I’m engaged in a very extensive consultative process with groups and individuals and I continue to do that. I will make what I hope will be a considered decision — that people will respect as being considered — when the time comes.

What groups or individuals? We’re only getting dribs and drabs of that information. But we can be pretty much assured it doesn’t include many other members of city council. Mayor Tory has brushed aside a request from Councillor Anthony Perruzza for a special council meeting to discuss the city putting in a bid letter next Tuesday.

I just felt in the circumstances that the decision as to whether to even send a letter or not expressing interest was one that I could make, in consultation with my colleagues and a lot of other people. So I’ll be held accountable for that decision.

“I just felt…the decision…was one that I could make.”

Like Rob Ford, this mayor single-handedly feels he can make a monumental decision on his own. Don’t get side-tracked by his weasel assurances that this is just a letter ‘expressing interest’ in a bid. igotthisThere’s no evidence anywhere that I can find that next Tuesday’s deadline is anything other than a ‘commitment to bid’. It says so right in the International Olympic Committee’s very own 2024 bid document, page 20 to be exact.

As for Mayor Tory being ‘held accountable’ for the decision he makes on this? I say, sure, starting right now. Let’s hold him accountable for his arrogant disregard for our local democratic process. If the Rob Ford years taught us nothing else, we should be well aware of what happens when one man and his small coterie of advisors and hangers-on tries to steamroll city council, and city council allows itself to get rolled over. Nothing good.

And if your response to that statement is to jump to John Tory’s defense, to point out that he’s no crackhead, that he shows up to work on time, that he’s no dummy like his predecessor, that he’s reasonable, sensible, prudent, you’re missing the bigger point. He shares Rob Ford’s point of view that as mayor he gets to call the shots, and city council’s backing simply comes with the territory. A mayor is just one vote but it’s the only vote that counts.

You like your mayors strong, if not in statute, in practice. I don’t. illgetbacktoyouI think a mayor of Toronto has as much power as he needs, and if he’s unable to use it to push an agenda through city council, that’s on him not the system.

As the clock clicks down to the bid decision deadline next Tuesday, and more and more information leaks out about the backroom maneuvers that have been going on – through Freedom of Information access to e-mails, the mayor’s been forced to admit there’s an unofficial bid ‘working group’ operating to assist him in “planning his consultations” – and the names of the people he’s been consulting with, largely unelected names – revealed, city council should realize that its authority is being usurped by the mayor’s office. He ignored a request for a council meeting to debate a possible bid. He has not been forthcoming in providing information to the public about how any decision is being made.

Whatever decision Mayor Tory makes next week, the city council cannot let this moment pass without making some sort of stand. That’ll be easier, obviously, if he decides to proceed with a commitment to bid and needs council approval for any money the city might need to come up with (and there will be money needed). royalsealBut even if the mayor declines to proceed, city council needs to make it clear, in the strongest way possible, that this was never a mayor’s decision to make alone, that all the behind-the-scenes, Freedom of Information access only deliberations were unacceptable and undemocratic. If Mayor Tory’s doing all that on an Olympic bid, what else is going on back there?

City council needs to nip this mayor’s imperious inclinations in the bud now. It needs to show the mayor exactly who the boss is here. Like Rob Ford before him, Mayor Tory seems to have claimed a mayoral mandate as some sort of executive fiat. He’ll keep thinking that until city council shows him otherwise.

advisingly submitted by Cityslikr


Building A True Sense Of Community

August 20, 2014

On Friday Metro Morning’s Matt Galloway interviewed Roger Cattell about the slow down campaign that emerged in response to slowdown3last month’s death of Georgia Walsh, a 7 year-old who was struck and killed by a car in the Leaside area of the city.

If you haven’t heard the entire interview, I suggest you click on the above link. For the purposes of this post, I just want to excerpt a few quotes from Mr. Cattell (except where noted), hopefully without de-contextualizing them.

You’ll find a community that’s ready to engage in a conversation, not just about what should be done but what could be done and how they can help…

I’m not a social activist. I’m a dad. I’m a husband. I’m a neighbour, and I’m a guy who was affected by events that, in retrospect, maybe I could’ve been more active in my neighbourhood making sure something like this never happened in the first place…

There’s great conversation and great dialogue in the neighbourhood. Out of that can only come good things…

We’re seeing local businesses come together. We’re seeing the principal in our school engage with politicians in ways they haven’t before…

I’m not fully prepared to comment on that only because I do find local politics a bit too embedded in administrivia. Things become motions and ideas become things. But nothing ever seems to get done. I know there’s a process…but until these become tangible changes they remain good ideas…

Matt Galloway: This has come out of something terrible, and yet has led to a larger conversation, and a sense of true community in this neighbourhood.

We would always finish our statements when complaining about traffic and complaining about things with What’s It Going To Take? This is our What’s It Going To Take moment…

Now’s the time to do something about it…

This shouldn’t be seen as any sort of criticism of the grassroots activism that seems to be emerging from this incident, particularly with Roger Cattell and his neighbours. slowdown2It’s more of an instructive assessment, let’s call it. In the hopes that it won’t take another terrible situation to spur more of us into civic action.

“I’m not a social activist,” says Mr. Cattell. “… I’m a guy who was affected by events that, in retrospect, maybe I could’ve been more active… making sure something like this never happened in the first place…”

We really need to cease designating people for the role of ‘social activists’. In a vibrant democracy, all of us would be ‘social activists’. That’s not to say everyone needs to get involved with every issue that arises. But for this issues that truly matter to you? Don’t expect someone else to do the legwork for you, including your elected representatives.

The fact is, Toronto’s Board of Health raised the issue of reducing speed limits a couple years ago, receiving something of a chilly reception to the idea from the likes of Mayor Ford and Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong. Their report took a backseat, if you’ll pardon the pun. What might happen to it if a group of determined ‘social activists’ started making noise and demanding action?

“… I do find local politics a bit too embedded in administrivia,” Mr. Cattell states later. What exactly is ‘administrivia’? slowdown1I mean, I get it, a funny little made-up word that denotes boring and useless tasks of administration. But city government is nothing if not ‘adminstrivia’. It is about the mundane, day-to-day slog of trying to make sure the city functions properly, including the determination of speed limits on city streets. It ain’t pretty but somebody’s got to do it.

“But nothing ever seems to get done.”

This is where I’ll take the most exception to Mr. Cattell. Flush your toilet, step out your door, hop in your car and drive to work. None of this is possible if nothing gets done. Much gets done, each and every day. We just sometimes stop noticing because we take many of those things for granted.

“Things become motions and ideas become things…but until these become tangible changes they remain good ideas…”slowdown

Politicians, especially local ones, do not operate in a vacuum. It is their job to try and keep as many people as happy as possible. Some of it is self-serving. Happy residents make for content voters. But it’s also the nature of democracy, creating a consensus based on competing interests and the best evidence available.

If you remain on the sidelines, finding the ‘social activist’ dress ill-fitting, you forgo any influence. A voice heard only every four years is listened to only that often.

From the large buffet of damage done to governance in Toronto by Rob Ford, the customer service item is a pretty hefty one. This idea of voting for a politician and then only getting involved with a phone call when something’s not working for you is a smiley face on dysfunctional civic engagement. It’s reactive democracy, a one-stop runt of resident participation.

You got a problem, folks? Give me a call. I’ll pretend to sort it out and we can all pretend that’s how democracy is supposed to work.

“This is our What’s It Going To Take moment…Now’s the time to do something about it…”getinvolved

If we all took that challenge and accepted the responsibility on matters that are really important to us, there’d no longer be any distinction between social activists and, I don’t know, hard working taxpayers. We’d all be social activists. None of us would be social activists.  We’d have in the words of Matt Galloway, ‘a sense of true community.’

helpfully and hopefully submitted by Cityslikr


Standing Up To The Mayor

October 15, 2013

Here’s why I’m not a gambling man.

kennyrogers

Back in the early days of the Ford administration if you’d offered me the longest of long shot odds that Councillor Paul Ainslie would be a likely candidate to publicly break with the mayor, I’dve turned you down flat. Not possible, I’d say. There aren’t odds oddsy enough to make me take that bet.

Well, here we are.

On Friday, Councillor Ainslie not only resigned his chair of the Parks and Recreation committee exitstageright(automatically walking away from the powerful Executive Committee in the process) but he did so in a very loud and public fashion.

According to the councillor, Mayor Ford “ran out of ideas a long time ago” and has a “lack of strategic objectives.”

Ouch.

Councillor Ainslie isn’t the first former ally and Executive Committee member to part ways with the mayor but he might be the noisiest. Both councillors Michelle Berardinetti and Giorgio Mammoliti slipped away gently, citing their own reasons for doing so. Councillor Mammoliti has already crawled back onto the Executive Committee, directly replacing Ainslie.

Only Councillor Jaye Robinson’s departure from the inner sanctum back in June made a similar kind of splash. She was turfed for suggesting in her outside voice that maybe Mayor Ford should take a little time away from his position to deal with any sort of personal issues he might be having. pileonRobinson has not shied away from her break with the administration, weighing in on her colleague’s exit and the subsequent robo-call roll out from the mayor’s office that followed.

“We should be encouraging independent thought at City Hall,” she said in the radio interview and referred to Mayor Ford’s ‘leadership style’ as nothing more than “bluster and intimidation” “The farthest thing from transparent and accountable government.”

Along with Ainslie’s transition from an almost Tommy-like support (deaf, dumb and blind…actually, let’s call it Gary Crawford-like support) at the beginning of this term to a bona fide outspoken maverick of Mayor Ford, Councillor Robinson’s increasingly pointed criticism may well represent the soft support that put the mayor over the top in the 2010 election. It’s now evaporating and that should be of some concern to those dreaming of a second term. tommyThe simple fact of the matter is, there isn’t one without at least some of the mushy middle voting public across the city.

Of course, for some this latest schism with a former ally is no fault of the mayor’s. After Councillor Ainslie’s resignation on Friday, councillor-brother Doug went on full smear alert, chalking it up to Ainslie being miffed for having been overlooked to replace outgoing budget chief, Mike Del Grande (who himself kicked up some dust leaving the position. It didn’t amount to much as he seems to just have retreated into a sullen surliness). Frankly, I’d be pissed too if I’d been passed over for the job by Councillor Frank Di Giorgio. If anything is proof of Councillor Ainslie’s assertion that the mayor lacks strategic objectives, it would be his appointing of Frank Di Giorgio as budget chief.

As with almost everything that comes out of the mouth of councillor-brother Doug, the truth about the rift between Ainslie and the Ford administration is much more robust, let’s call it, beginning a lot earlier and in a far more nuanced way.

While Councillor Ainslie was enabling the mayor to run roughshod through the halls of City Hall, cutting this tax and that service, he was also steadily tinkering as chair of the Government Management Committee. yourefiredHe pushed through small but important things like getting wireless service throughout all of City Hall that helped further citizen engagement to the bigger enchilada on that score: sending a request to Queen’s Park for permission to start using alternative voting methods in forthcoming municipal elections. He was actually helping Mayor Ford keep a campaign promise of delivering a more open and transparent government.

But then things seemed to come unglued with some back stage mayoral shenanigans at the Garrison Ball in March. Ainslie was knocked from his post as Government Management Committee chair a couple months later and served briefly as chairs of the Parks and Recreation Committee until this week.

Until his decision to reject the Scarborough subway on Tuesday and opt for the already in place subway. When he stood up at council to make his case for the LRT, he said that he’d gone into the previous weekend fully intending to vote for the subway. Then he started really reading the staff report and just saw the mounting costs that had no definite end to them. yourefired1He found himself weighing his options between a fully funded LRT, ready to go, with no extra costs lurking in the corners versus a subway proposal dripping with unknowns and a much higher price tag.

However, subways have become so integral to the Team Ford brand that to vote against them and vote against them so overtly couldn’t be seen as anything other than an outright rejection of the administration. Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong, another member of the Executive Committee, also voted against the subway but did so in a more low key fashion, so escaped notice.

Or maybe as a potential rival for the mayor’s job next year, he’s being allowed to keep close relations so he doesn’t have much distance between himself and the mayor if they have to campaign against one another.

Or quite possibly, Councillor Minnan-Wong shares enough of Mayor Ford’s loathing of government and taxes hediditthat he’s allowed a longer leash in order to wreak all the damage he can while the clock’s running down.

That’s not the kind of fiscally conservative politician Councillor Paul Ainslie is, obviously. Plus, he’s from the holy land of folks in Scarborough. So he was expendable. He needed to be made an example of.

It’s nothing personal, according to the mayor, although it seems voting against the Scarborough subway was nothing short of a ‘personal attack’ on Mayor Ford according to Councillor Ford. Go figure. *shrug* It’s about politics and political calculation. Plain and simple. The plan is to ride the subway issue to re-election and anybody seen as standing in the way? Electoral road kill.

This couldn’t come as any sort of surprise to Councillor Ainslie. He too must’ve made some calculations and decided to roll the dice on his political future, prepared to face his constituents as a careful custodian of their tax dollars rather than just another mayoral flunky. Again, I’m no betting man but if I were, I wouldn’t put my money against the councillor on this one.

rollthedice

fingers crossedly submitted by Cityslikr


The Gig’s Up

January 24, 2013

It’s impossible to accurately predict a turning point of an era, let’s call it, while still living in that particular time. seethefutureUnless of course you have planes flying into buildings. That kind of catastrophic plot point writes itself. But in a period of relative normalcy on a scale of one for placid calm and ten for, Run For Your Lives, Jesus Has Returned!, you can never be certain when things have taken a most definite turn.

But allow me to go on record as saying I think yesterday, January 23rd 2013, was a turning point of the Mayor Ford Era here in Toronto. Now, now. I know lots of you will quickly jump in and claim that there have been so many turning points over the course of the last couple years, how could I pick just this one. You would not be wrong. I just think yesterday all the air that remained came out of the hot air balloon that once carried Rob Ford aloft.behindthecurtain2

The prick (ha, ha) that did it?

Matt Elliott at Metro’s Ford For Toronto, Debunking Ford Nation’s favourite budget chart. I will take it one step further. Mr. Elliott’s article debunks the very platform upon which the Ford Nation was constructed. City Hall’s fiscal foundations were crumbling due to out-of-control spending by the Miller Administration. The Gravy Trains must be stopped. Councillor Rob Ford was the man to do it.

It was the flimsiest of canards, and not one used only by then candidate Ford. He just perfected it. Coincidentally, this week is the 3rd anniversary of Rocco Rossi announcing his mayoral run chickenlittle(h/t to the Toronto Star’s David Rider for sending a reminder out). He too was full of municipal spending/debt alarmism based on little more than pronouncements of big, scary numbers. “He [Rossi] is prepared to sell off assets such as Toronto Hydro,” Vanessa Lu wrote, “to put the city on a better financial footing by cutting the city’s debt, now hovering near $2.5 billion.”

George Smitherman wasn’t above such cheap politicking, talking about how the city was nickel and diming residents to death and ‘restoring Toronto’s financial credibility’. Not for nothing, Mayor Ford recently claimed (albeit in typical Fordian hyperbole) that 80% of voters in the 2010 election backed his mandate. Meaning, I guess, everyone who didn’t vote for Joe Pantalone.

And all of it was nonsense, baseless assertions that opened the door for the Ford administration to run amok and slash and burn which was their intention all along, notwithstanding a rock solid pledge that there’d be “No Cuts To Services, Guaranteed”. texaschainsawmassacreAn easy line to follow that fit perfectly on a t-shirt and bumper sticker. It doesn’t have to be true if it’s snappy.

This isn’t to say that all’s pollyannishly well and good. Toronto does face some financial hurdles. Reeling in overspending just doesn’t happen to be one of them. As Matt (and most other reasonable political minds around these parts) has pointed out over and over again, we can’t fix major problems like congestion and crumbling infrastructure by slicing away at our annual operating budgets or attacking unions or contracting out services or selling off assets or a combination of all those things. Those numbers simply don’t add up.

Reducing revenues won’t help out either. This Team Ford’s done by not only getting rid of the Vehicle Registration Tax but by also ensuring we keep our residential property taxes insufficiently low. A clear-eyed examination of the facts will reveal the mayor’s claim of over-zealous tax-and-spending of the previous administration to be outright misinformation based on de-contextualized charts and misleading graphs.

We haven’t been having a truthful conversation about this city’s finances for over three years now. All to our detriment. As we head into more uncertain territory over the next few months – Tnot just in terms of the outcome of Mayor Ford’s legal ups-and-downs but the Metrolinx forthcoming report on future transit funding – we really need to start dealing honestly and in an informed way with our current circumstances.

Hopefully Matt Elliott has finally put a stake through the heart of the Legend of Toronto’s Profligacy. It was never a thing. We need to get past it now and start working on the real problems we’re facing.

frankly submitted by Cityslikr


Here’s Your Coat…

January 18, 2013

I will admit to a slight glitch of feeling, a tiny moment of near compunction when I heard the news on Wednesday night of Budget Chief Mike Del Grande’s resignation. waitasecHuh? That’s… something, I thought.

Then we proceeded to pop the cork on some bubbly.

I write no note of gratitude or appreciation toward our outgoing budget chief. Like in our post last weekend on Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong, I can find no redeeming qualities in the political life of Councillor Mike Del Grande. There’s nothing to respect or applaud. Even if I were to lie just a little bit.

Given enough time and a couple glasses of wine, I probably could byte a few positive words about Mayor Rob Ford. Probably. In a pinch. But increasingly, I have great difficulty coming up with duly appropriate nods of respect for conservative politicians. thinkingThose propelled into a life of elected office on the wings of anti-government sentiment and the core conviction that it is nothing but a determinant to be neutralized and dismantled.

Michael Del Grande is one of those types of politicians.

Read through yesterday’s perfectly timed feature in The Grid on the then-but-now-ex budget chief and consider this following passage:

“I grew up poor, so I know what it’s like to make a buck. My attitude is, any dime that’s spent out there, I treat it [like] it’s my own.”

There’s no sense of community, no belief in a greater good. I pay my taxes. I expect results. Certifiable, directly benefiting me, bang-for-my-buck results.

It’s almost as if he wanted to become budget chief in order to be able to track every penny he pays in municipal taxes mineminemineand make sure he personally was getting something in return.

Of course, I could just say that being the budget chief of Toronto and overseeing billions of dollars must be one hell of a job, thankless in that you can never please everybody and onerous in terms of demands on your and your family’s time. But I don’t need to. The ex-budget chief reminded us of that fact every time he got in front of a microphone. Here. And here. And here.

Yes. A terrible job which, when push comes to shove, pays a paltry amount. (Owing, ironically, at least in part to the penny-pinching attitude held by the likes of Councillor Del Grande). It is not one for the faint of heart or thin of skin.

But nobody forced him to take or keep the job, did they? If you can’t stand the heat and all of that. It seems nothing short of unanimous and uncritical praise is payment enough for him.

So here goes.

Thanks very much, Councillor Del Grande, theresthedoorfor the sweat and toil you put in coming up with 3 successive budgets I couldn’t agree less with. I thank you. The widows and orphans thank you.

Over-worked and under-appreciated as budget chief, Mike Del Grande still found time to personally respect my tax dollars.

“Del Grande is so committed to efficient service that he occasionally leaves his office to drop in on city employees unannounced. If he catches them slacking off, there’s hell to pay,” writes Rob Duffy in The Grid. “I’m the kind of guy that will call them over, ask them if they know who I am. Most of the time they’ll say no. I tell them who I am, then they crap their pants. And I basically just tell them, Look, the public wants to see value for their money. They’re working for me. I’m the boss. It’s my money.”

No, wait. It gets better.

“My philosophy? You don’t have to fire everybody. You take the biggest bull, the biggest problem, whatever the heck it is, and you gore it publicly. You make it bleed so bad that it scares the shit out of everybody else, to put them in line if things are going bad.”

Not only does he behave that badly, he seems to brag about it, relish it. I mean, it’s like Donald Trump without the bad hair and money. doyouknowwhoiamThese are the words and actions of a petty tyrant not a thoughtful city builder.

“I presented an extraordinary budget, an extraordinary turn around with respect to where the city was going. I’ve done my job, the ship was set in the right direction,” the National Post’s Natalie Alcoba quotes him saying after Wednesday’s vote. “Everybody then wanted to be the budget chair on the floor of council and they extracted their individual peeves.”

The startling self- (*a-hem, a-hem*) -delgrandizing aside, it is the statement of a man seemingly unable to experience the sensation of empathy. Everything he does is selfless, for the betterment of the city. Everyone else? Pet peeves, pet projects.

He is an evidence-based decision maker, as he’d taken to pronouncing in the months leading up to the budget debate and vote, rather than one subject to mere ‘whims and emotions’. Which is a rich claim coming from someone absolutely wrapped up in the frenzied fiction that this city was in some sort of out-of-control dire financial straits before he assumed control of the purse strings. Our debt payments especially compared to other levels of governments and municipalities didn’t indicate that. Our lower than other GTA jurisdictions residential property tax rates suggested otherwise. sailthisshipaloneOnly in the small-minded, small-government views of conservatives was there some sort of monumental problem that needed to be fixed, a ship in need of righting.

A divisive downtown-suburban warrior (such the fiscal hawk, he beat the drum loudly for the financially dubious Scarborough subway), as much a vilifier as the vilified, Council Del Grande represents the absolute worst instincts of this city. As an elected representative he symbolizes all the reasons we don’t build nice things here. I wish I could find one thing about his service to Toronto I might be gracious about. Unfortunately, I’ve come up empty.

nothing nice to sayly submitted by Cityslikr