Benign Neglect Is Still Neglect

At a press conference yesterday (a ‘press avail’ in journalese), Mayor Tory announced that progress had been made in reducing the 2016 police budget. mayorjohntoryOf course, when it comes to the police budget, reduced actually means less of an increase. So, an original ask of 5.8% knocked down to 2.76% works out to be a decrease in the police budget. It’s what we call ‘progress’!

The day before, on Monday, the TTC budget committee met, and in discussions about proposed waterfront transit projects, seemed ‘resigned’, in the words of the Globe and Mail’s Transportation writer, Oliver Moore, to some sort of people moving walkway linking Union Station to Queen’s Quay. Yeah, an escalator rather an actual vehicular link like the one that was favoured here, way back in 2013 (h/t Matt Elliot). Why? A serious lack of capital funds. No money.

This is Mayor John Tory’s Toronto, folks. Where police budgets continue to rise despite evidence showing crime statistics declining. nomoneyPublic transit budgets keep growing too but not enough to accommodate the increasing ridership numbers that continue to go up despite a less than optimal service, let’s call it.

Mayor Tory’s Toronto.

To be sure, this isn’t all on him. He’s only officially held the office for some 11 months. Bloated police and insufficient public transit budgets most definitely preceded him.

But the mayor wears this current Police Services Board. The former chair, Alok Mukherjee, left the position before his term was up, and replaced by the mayor’s buddy and former chief of staff, Andy Pringle. Upon assuming office, Mayor Tory dumped the only black member on the TPSB, Councillor Michael Thompson, and took his spot on the board. The new police chief, Mark Saunders, is his choice.

So, yeah. The 2016 police budget belongs to Mayor Tory.

And as the TTC struggles to maintain proper levels of service and plan future transit projects, Mayor Tory has dropped a huge turd into the proceedings, his election campaign ready SmartTrack. whitewashingDraining money and time resources from city and TTC staff, the plan is no less fuzzy and ill-formed than it was when it was pitched for votes some 18 months ago. Reports on it have been delayed. Ridership models adapted to work it. There’s no lid tight enough to contain the stink coming from the project.

None of his gestures toward the TTC, bus service bumped back up to 2011 levels, free transit for the kids, are making any dent in the pressures weighing down on the system. So the ongoing problems facing public transit in this city are now Mayor Tory’s problems.

Is there any reason to believe that he’s up to the task of dealing with them?

His full on commitment to seeing SmartTrack through, regardless, seems nothing but self-serving, an eye solely on re-election in 2018 rather than improving transit for the city. He’s spent much more of his political capital (not to say a lot of the city’s actual capital) catering to the perceived needs of drivers, speeding up repairs on expressways, keeping others elevated for absolutely no reason aside from optics. Being modestly more transit-friendly than the previous administration in no way should be perceived as being any less car-friendly.

On the policing front, Mayor Tory’s wading in to the carding issue was a complete and utter fiasco. He got bailed out temporarily by the province who redirected the focus onto themselves as they figure out how to try and reconfigure regulations. sweepundertherugHis TPSB chair dropped the ball on a KPMG report on police budgeting that’s been on or near the table (depending on who you believe) for nearly a year now. Chair Pringle, in responding to questions about why the report hadn’t been made public yet, referred to it as an ‘internal think document’. “Random suggestions aren’t necessarily something that we report back on,” the chair said.

Mayor Tory has subsequently suggested the KPMG report be made public but not in time to have any impact on this year’s police budget. A budget that will be increasing again despite how the mayor’s office tries to spin it. An increase is an increase no matter how small an increase it is.

Given the current crisis level climate in the city toward its police services, with the laughably light penalty given to the only office convicted of a G20-related crime and the ongoing trial of Constable James Forcillo in the shooting death of Sammy Yatim, Mayor Tory’s not rock the boat approach seems wholly inadequate. The additional strain of his SmartTrack plan on an already over-stressed transit system is the exact opposite. Unnecessarily burdensome in a white elephant kind of way.

This is a mayor completely tone deaf to the reality of the city he was elected to lead. He preaches steady stewardship but practices little of it. whatsthatTimid when he needs to be bold. Heavy-handed when required to be conciliatory. Wanting to be everything to everybody, Mayor Tory is proving to be nothing to anyone.

If the Ford Administration was a reaction to the instability Toronto now faces, brought about by unequal access to income, mobility, opportunity, Mayor Tory’s soothing can-do cheerleading in no way addresses that instability. It doesn’t even provide a band aid. It’s the blank, toothless smile of a nothing to see here sensibility that focuses all its energy looking back over its shoulder instead of at the rocky road ahead.

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Muddling Through Or Is He?

Just 4 days after yet another black man, Andrew Loku, a father of five, a former Sudanese child soldier, living in an apartment building “leased by the Canadian Mental Health Association to provide affordable housing and services for people suffering from mental illness” was shot to death by Toronto police —“Andrew died right in front of me. There was no reason for it.” – just 4 days after the incident, Mayor John Tory, delivering one of his “angrier speeches”, fought to have his friend, not that that was relevant in any way, his friend and 2014 campaign fundraiser and chief of staff when Tory was the provincial leader of the P.C. party, Andy Pringle, re-appointed to the Toronto Police Services Board despite the fact that according to the former vice-chair of the TPSB, Councillor Michael Thompson, the lone black member of city council who the mayor dumped from the TPSB upon assuming office, according to Councillor Thompson, Mr. Pringle provided “a deafening silence on major police issues” and “consistently rubber-stamped police actions…not in the best interest of the community”, “policing was not his finest hour”, waving such criticism off as just politics, Mayor Tory pushed the pro-police carding Mr. Pringle’s appointment through council on what proved to be an easy, lopsided (and possibly whipped) vote, further highlighting that the mayor has no idea what the hell he’s doing on the police file or he knows exactly what he’s up to.

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The Ghosts of John Tory Haunt Us Still

Call me naïve. Call me simple-minded. Call me Pollyanna Pureheart with Starz in Her Eyez but I got to tell you when I see a headline like this:

Tory bigwig Capobianco joins Rossi camp

my blood runs cold, cold, cold.

Officially, no political party colours hang over our municipal politics but the truth of the matter is that the backrooms are awash in them. So far in the early days of campaign 2K10™®© the walls are running Tory blue. And yes, I do mean that as a political double entendre.

Since John Tory’s announcement that he would take a pass on vying for Toronto’s top job, the money chasers (or bagmen, in the common parlance) and strategists have been scrambling to find a candidate to get their hooks into. Self-proclaimed political neophyte and red Tory Liberal #2, Rocco Rossi, has been the beneficiary of much of this backroom booty. Aside from the above mentioned John Capobianco, Rossi has landed the nods of approval from other cloak-and-dagger, Tory-leaners like John Matheson, Vic Gupta, Rod Phillips and Andy Pringle.

For his part, January frontrunner and red Tory Liberal #1, George Smitherman, has bagged the big buck, Bay Street lawyer and all-round mucky muck, Ralph Lean. Lean is a major league kingmaker and it was his very public break with Mayor David Miller in mid-September last year that appears to have struck the fatal blow to any thought Miller may have had about running for a third term. Reading the National Post article in which Lean ticks off the ways in which Mayor Miller had failed him is a little spooky in the paper’s deference to such a shadowy, unelected figure. The fact that Miller announced that he was not running for re-election a mere 10 days after the article was published has to be seen as something more than a mere coincidence and suggests that Lean swings some mighty big pipe.

What Lean, Capobianco and all these other guys (and yes, the majority of these high placed operatives are indeed men) have in common is that they bleed deep Conservative blue and/or were well connected into the insanely dysfunctional Mel Lastman regime. Some also pulled the strings behind the scenes of the Common Sense Revolution of Mike Harris and Ernie Eves. All of which should make Torontonians more than a little nervous as these administrations contributed mightily to bringing the city to its knees.

So when the likes of George Smitherman and Rocco Rossi start waxing on about fiscal housekeeping, selling off Toronto’s assets, privatizing public services and all the other neo-liberal drivel that’s been passed off as “common sense”, know that the words they speak are not their own. It is the voice of the men behind the curtain. Men who, as recent history has shown us, do not have the best interests of the people of Toronto at heart.

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