It’s Miller Time! Again!


*** sigh. ***

Yes, we here at All Fired Up in the Big Smoke will admit to getting caught up in the hype and conjecture surrounding Mayor Miller’s Big Announcement this morning. Hopes were raised. Dreams dared to dream once more. The big dog was getting back in the race.

All for nought.

On the surface, what we were given amounted to nothing more than a budget update. Since last week, it seems, revised numbers uncovered an additional $100 million in the city coffers, some of which would be used to lower proposed property tax increases for the upcoming year. Another chunk of it would be set aside as a ‘property tax stabilization’ fund for use in future years to keep increases reasonable.

Most importantly for the mayor, what this meant was that not only did his administration deliver a balanced budget for Toronto this year but the opportunity was now in place for a balanced budget again next year as well. The contingency for that to happen is the province reassuming the obligation to pay its portion of the TTC operating cost which, to hear Premier McGuinty aka Dalton Empty Pockets, is not a done deal. But that’s a fight for the next mayor and council to engage in.

The response to Mayor Miller’s Big Announcement split into two camps. One: he told us to bring our satellite truck out for this? Two: another surplus after the first surplus they ‘discovered’ during the initial budgeting process? Clearly, an indication of massive financial mismanagement. (Prediction? Read all about it in Sue-Ann Levy’s next Toronto Sun column. And maybe Royson James in the Star as well.) How can you just ‘discover’ $100 million dollars?!

Let’s put that number into a little perspective. If my Google assisted math is correct, $100 million in terms of an overall $9.2 billion operating budget works out to about 1.1%. To put that in more tangible terms, that would be like you budgeting to make a $9 purchase and ‘discovering’ an extra dime in your pocket. As the mayor said in the press conference, every level of government revises their numbers regularly. Hell, businesses do it too. I was still receiving financial statements from companies last June, a full two months after my taxes were due.

Which takes us back to the first camp. What’s the big deal? Why all the fuss? So what?

Well, I think Mayor Miller hyped the proceedings in the hopes of going wide with this shot across the bow of the campaigns of the two men vying to succeed him. Combined with his pugnacious column in last week’s NOW magazine, Miller stepped into the void on the progressive side of electoral ledger, defending his legacy from the slings and arrows of the Smitherman and Rossi camps.

He defiantly challenged their numbers, claims and promises of solutions. During the press conference he trumpeted this as the start of a multi-year budget planning process (a demand of candidate Rocco Rossi, see Amanda Belzowski). The mayor stated simply that the city’s fiscal condition was in robust enough condition that there would be absolutely no reason to sell off any of Toronto’s assets. For the next mayor to do that would be a choice rather than a necessity.

While it’s great that finally somebody is standing up to the right wing, reactionary bluster of Smitherman and Rossi, it’s unfortunate that it’s the outgoing mayor who’s doing it. Clearly the left wing hasn’t recovered from the Adam Giambrone flameout. He appears to have been the anointed one and no one was prepared to step in and take his place. Deputy Mayor Joe Pantalone, who has spent much of his campaign so far trying to distance himself for the current administration, has been meek in his response to the Chicken Little antics coming from the front runners. Perhaps now Mayor Miller has paved the way for Pantalone to be more aggressive. Or maybe, he’s cleared the deck for another candidate to step up to the plate and proudly bear the flag. Budget Chief Shelley Carroll wasn’t too far from the podium at this morning’s press conference…

Either way, hopefully the Big Annoucement has altered the playing field of the campaign and made it that much more difficult for Smitherman and Rossi and all the other neo-conservative hysterics to tell us the place is going to hell in a handbasket. The bad news is, it won’t be Mayor David Miller capitalizing on that shift. For some of us, that was the news we were really hoping to hear.

somewhat dejectedly submitted by Cityslikr

Rossi Rocks The TBT

I know what you’re thinking, Rossi. Is it enough? Can a Board of Trade/Empire Club-Toronto Sun coalition deliver you the mayor’s chair in October? To tell you the truth, I’m not sure myself. It’s kind of hard to keep tabs, what with the high-pitched oinking and squealing noises coming from all your shameless pandering. But the question you have to ask yourself is.. do you feel lucky? Well, do you, Rossi?

Because frankly, I don’t see much growth potential in terms of the proverbial Big Tent for the Rocco Rossi campaign, given that to date he’s pitched little more than a two person pup job. There’s room enough for the increasingly strident neo-conservative Toronto Board of Trade along with the Toronto Sun editorial team. Who else is going to join them inside especially if it means having to squeeze up that close to Sue-Ann Levy?

There is the tough to measure anti-incumbent factor swirling around out there that both Rossi and George Smitherman are hoping to cash in on and, not surprisingly, are helping to foment. In case you haven’t heard, Rocco Rossi is not a career politician although he certainly sounds like one every time he brings up the tale of his friend Amanda Belzowski who runs a lemonade stand to raise funds for the Heart and Stroke Foundation. “She has a multi-year plan and she isn’t even a teenager yet!”

Rocco Rossi wants us to know that he hasn’t run for office before because he’s been busy running things in both the private and not-for-profit sectors while professional politicians at City Hall have run things into the ground. You got it? Rocco Rossi’s not a professional politician. Vote for Rocco Rossi!

It’s tough to say how deeply that’s going to resonate with the general electorate outside of the hardcore, non-sports page Toronto Sun readers. But where else is Rossi going to pull in votes? He’s sided with drivers in the War on Cars, the myth of which he’s helped perpetuate. He wants to keep bike lanes off main arterial roads and take back the 5th lane of Jarvis Street from bikers. This may endear him to the mid-and-uptown crowd who drive into the core everyday but they’re probably already on Board (of Trade, The).

His views on public transit are all over the place. He castigates the present city council for not having multi-year plans (see Amanda Belzowski, above) which would help bring the provincial and federal governments with their big purses to the table but has vowed to stop Transit City which comes loaded up with both federal and provincial funds. Citing cost and time overruns on the St. Clair LRT as the reason for such a rethink, Rossi lays the blame on TTC and council mismanagement, ignoring an independent report that pointed out both the provincial government and local residents also contributed to the problems. It went on to state that mistakes and miscalculations made on St. Clair would be lessons learned and could help future projects run more smoothly.

But never no mind all that chatter for Rocco Rossi. Transit was the last mayor’s thing, therefore it must be bad. Everything about the previous administration must be bad or else Rocco Rossi’s flag doesn’t fly.

Which it was at full mast with his speech to the Board of Trade earlier this week. Full of empty platitudes, simple-minded solutions and tough talk against easy targets, Rossi did little to build on what is now merely a reactionary platform. Even a wannabe supporter like Sue-Ann Levy was reserved in her accolades.

“While Rossi’s bones may need some more meat…,” Levy wrote in the Sun after the speech, “…and some of his assumptions a tad naive, at least he’s delivering some meat to citizens…”. Ignoring the creepy sexual undercurrents of the statement, it seems Rossi failed to fully win over even the likes of Sue-Ann Levy. Maybe Sue-Ann was a little put out at not fully understanding what Rossi was saying as she pointed out his language was “somewhat erudite”. If you want Sue-Ann in your corner, you better dumb it down, buster!

And if you don’t have Sue-Ann Levy, you don’t have the crazy vote. If Rocco Rossi doesn’t have the crazy vote, he remains merely a fringe player albeit a heavily media hyped fringe player. Despite surrounding himself with much of the crowd that brought us the honorary Mayor of Crazytown, Mel Lastman, Rossi lacks one quality that made Lastman a viable candidate: big name recognition. If you’ll excuse the grammar because I’m going for the joke, nobody didn’t know who Mel Lastman was. Nooooooo-body!! Without that, Rossi’s just another candidate trolling for votes among deeply deluded conservatives, the demented and disaffected. Is that enough to propel him into City Hall? For the sweet sake of our city and children, let’s hope not.

sanely submitted by Cityslikr