Let’s Go Over This One More Time.

April 8, 2015

It’s inconceivable to me that this discussion still has to happen, that a reporter for a local news station feels compelled to shoot a segment on such an obvious topic. saigonshitToronto needs a property tax hike to pay for crumbling infrastructure. Yet, there it is.

As the video shows, a wall of bricks showers down from a community housing building, concrete chunks off a major thoroughfare, subway closures occur frequently due to fires and floods, water mains rupture, roads sinkhole. Splice the visuals together with appropriate smash cuts and you’re left with the impression of a crumbling city, apocalypse now. Toronto. Shit.

Everybody’s got an opinion about why this situation has come to be. A bloated, fat cat bureaucracy, gorging itself on big fat bonuses while the most vulnerable residents live in slum-like conditions. Out-of-control spending on public works projects, over-budget, heavily delayed. Nathan Phillips Square revitalization. The Yonge-University-Spadina subway extension. Pick your favourite bugaboo. Pink umbrellas and boulders from northern Ontario.pointingfingers

None of these complaints are wrong, necessarily — except for the pink umbrellas and rocks down at Sugar Beach which only reveals a myopic inattention to the bigger picture. Public spending should be heavily scrutinized.  Misspending and misappropriation only heightens an already suspicious belief out there in the public sector. It’s a negative feedback loop, feeding into an always ready to pounce anti-government sentiment.

Yet, do the math and in the scheme of things, added all together, none of these projects or particular bones to pick will make even a dent on the infrastructure needs this city faces. Sure, every little bit counts but every little bit is just that, a little bit, and they don’t count for much, maybe millions when we’re taking billions. We face a far deeper crisis than the easy nickel and dime solutions offered up by the apostles of outrage. We’ve grown content living on the cheap, and living off the hard decisions and sense of community obligation by previous generations.

Amidst all the tales of infrastructure decline and dissolution in Avery Haines’ news segment came the stark fact that we’re paying, in real inflationary adjusted dollars, less in property taxes now than we did back in 2000. That’s right. Less. In 2000, 3 years after amalgamation, 3 years in which there was a property tax rate freeze. hillofbeansWe’re still paying less than that.

Toronto residents pay less in property taxes than many of the GTA’s other municipalities, in some cases significantly less. This is not particularly news to anyone disinclined to think any property tax is too much property tax. During this year’s budget debate Councillor Gord Perks wrote in the Toronto Star that owing to inflation, this city has effectively cut property taxes by 12.4% since amalgamation. Inflation keeps inflating. City council keeps on not keeping up to it. Even all of those ‘through the roof’ over-the-rate-of-inflation property tax rate increases by the profligate David Miller couldn’t help the city’s coffers keep pace.

And Boom! goes the Gardiner. Boom! the brick façade of a TCHC building. Gush! goes the water spout from the busted water main.

And our new-ish mayor, John Tory, shrugs. He was elected by the voters of Toronto to keep property taxes below the rate of inflation. Why? Because he told them anything more than that would be unnecessary. sweepundertherugPlenty of money in the efficiency banana stand, I guess.

“The property taxpayers of Toronto should not be asked to bear those expenses and investments on their own,” Tory said yesterday. “The property tax was never meant to do that.” The mayor’s not wrong. In referring to downloaded social costs like housing and major infrastructure investment in things like public transit, municipalities with their limited revenue gathering base largely on property taxes aren’t supposed to be expected to pay for those big ticket items. Here in Toronto, up until 1995, the provincial government even paid for half of the TTC’s annual operating costs. In 2015, the city is putting nearly $480 million up for that cost. That’s almost one-quarter of a billion dollars that should, in a properly function system, be coming from Queen’s Park. Multiply that by 20 years and, yeah, no wonder our transit system is barely limping into the future, let alone all the other infrastructure needs the city has.

So we can get all pissed off about city council’s quick decision to step up with $90 million to cover shortfalls with the Spadina subway extension, as Ari Goldkind does today in the Star, but it misses the larger debate. cheshirecatThe city shouldn’t be paying for any part of a major transit build. It shouldn’t be contributing anything to the Union-Pearson airport link. Why are we putting up money to renovate a regional transportation route like the Gardiner Expressway?

The province has walked away from its traditional obligations, leaving cities to pick up the slack. That’s what we should really be angry about. That’s the fight we need to be engaged in.

But then we allow the province (along with the federal government to a lesser extent) off the hook, we provide them with their one bit of buckshot of ammunition when we campaign and govern on under-taxation. We’ve given you these revenue tools to deal with the added responsibilities, the province tells Toronto. Why not use them instead of always coming to us for money?

Disingenuous, accompanied with a Cheshire cat grin? You betcha. Download both the obligations and the taxing powers so loathed by the public. citybuildingThank you very much.

Like it or not, that’s where we’re at. By standing idly by, talking about moral and business cases for more investment by the senior levels of government, while deliberately chocking off your own sources of revenue even those not part of the property tax base, is simply being an accomplice to the crumbling of the city. You know there are ways to help, at least, bolster the state of disrepair. They won’t be immediately popular (made even less so by irresponsible campaign pledges that helped get you elected). The alternative, however, is untenable. Unless, of course, you’re comfortable overseeing a city that will continue to decline.

repeatedly submitted by Cityslikr


Our Mayoral Endorsement

October 24, 2014

It just shouldn’t be this difficult writing an endorsement.hardclimb

After such a tumultuous 4 years at City Hall, the melodrama, the outright assault on civility and common sense, the ripped from the crime fiction pages, you’d think choosing an alternative would be easy. The bar has been set so incredibly low. How couldn’t you find a candidate to be enthusiastic about?

Yet. Here we are.

Doug Ford is a non-starter. I hardly need to explain that statement, right? The only positive aspect I can say about the prospect of a Doug Ford mayoralty is that it would be a lonely one for him. He’d be an isolated figure from the outset, nothing more than an irritable object to be worked around. But that’s not going to be a problem because Doug Ford isn’t going to be mayor of this city. Despite what many supporters of John Tory want you to believe as you go to cast your ballot.

John Tory’s entire pitch, the all-in roll of his dice this second time around running for mayor is that only he can defeat Rob Doug Ford. That’s it. himormeOnce he was able to push past Olivia Chow in the polls during the summer, all he set out to do was convince enough middle-ground, centrist voters that the only thing that mattered this election was the defeat of a Ford and the only one who could do that was John Tory.

John Tory the candidate trotted out John Tory the civic-minded patron as proof of his progressive bona fides. Remember the John Tory who talked about genuine revenue tools as the only way to build transit? Remember CivicAction John Tory’s support of diversity and inclusion? Vote John Tory!

The fact John Tory the candidate never did more than talk about progressive issues didn’t seem to phase those who gravitated into his camp. emptypromiseAs our friend MookieG77 pointed out over on Twitter, John Tory has committed $0 to social programs in his campaign platform. Instead he’s emphasized the need to find more efficiencies, weed out more waste and played up the role of the private sector and tapping the senior levels of government for more money as ways of paying for our services and programs.

Sound familiar? It should. It’s been the Ford mantra for the last 4 years.

Factor in Tory’s only less laughable than the Fords’ transit plans, his SmartTrack, a smartly designed graphic with fundamental construction flaws and purely magical funding mechanism, and essentially what’s on offer is a smiley, functional happy face on the Ford agenda. An agenda John Tory openly supported until Rob Ford’s personal demons politically neutered him. An agenda John Tory in no way repudiated during this campaign.

Arguably the most interesting candidacy was that of former city councillor and budget chief, David Soknacki. A wonk’s dream, it pitched itself on the notion of substance of style. If the politics of personality got us into this mess, maybe an issues oriented campaign could get us out.policy

Platform ideas flowed freely over the course of the 7 months Soknacki was in the race, many of them good, almost all of them worthy of discussion. He was unafraid to tackle controversial subjects like the ever-expanding police budget and unabashedly told us that if we wanted things, we had to figure out realistic ways to pay for them. He injected a passion for reason and rationality into the campaign.

The Soknacki team either miscalculated the electorate’s desire for serious discourse or, perhaps, David Soknacki wasn’t the right candidate to capture the public’s imagination. Too wonky? Too nerdy? Certainly the direction the campaign’s taken suggests the problem wasn’t the messenger but the message itself.

Ari Goldkind, a newcomer on the political scene, certainly tried to push the idea of an issues campaign. newsherrifA criminal lawyer by trade, he was more dynamic a candidate than Soknacki but he ran into a very familiar wall anyone faces when they’re coming at it from the outside. Who are you and why should we give you an opportunity to speak? He got himself into a few debates, established some credibility, getting himself on the wrong side of Doug Ford in the process, but never caught enough of the popular imagination to make himself a serious contender in the wider public’s eyes.

Goldkind did shape a platform that most closely aligned with my politics. The irony here though is, his style ultimately trumped his substance for me. As I told him in our couple conversations we had just after he got into the race, I wasn’t looking for a white knight to swoop in and solve our civic crisis. I’ve been at this, following municipal politics closely for nearly 5 years now, and I feel unqualified to run for mayor. It takes a lot more than good ideas and good will to generate good governance although it’s a pretty good start.

If Ari Goldkind sticks around for the next 4 years, reaches out and begins working with and contributing to the wider civic-minded group that’s emerged since 2010, I’d say he’s laid out an intriguing and extensive platform for another run at the mayor’s job in 2018.

endorsement2Which leaves me with Olivia Chow.

I have complete faith in the fact Chow would make a much better mayor than she has a candidate. Unlike either of her two main opponents, she actually has a history of collaboration with colleagues as an elected official. Always smoothly? No, but that’s a little unreasonable to expect from someone who’s served in public office for 30 years or so.

When Chow finally got around to playing to her strengths as a politician (more on that in a second), she brought the issues that really sit at the heart of building a better city to the fore. Equality, fairness, opportunity, inclusion. This is Olivia Chow’s bread and butter. After 4 years of the Ford administration’s assault on all those things, out of the gate she should’ve been trumpeting them, establishing them as the go-to themes of this election.

Why that didn’t happen is one of the reasons I hesitate to endorse Olivia. It could be seen as endorsing her terrible, terrible campaign. Those in charge of it should never be allowed to run a campaign again. Olivia’s strengths were downplayed for fear of attacks from her opponents. The campaign emphasized her fiscal “common sense” and held back on the notion of investment in our neighbourhoods, communities and city. Rather than humming and hawing about property tax increases ‘around or about the rate of inflation’, Olivia should’ve boldly stated she’d do whatever was necessary to make sure this city functioned well and functioned fairly.smash

If we’ve learned nothing else from this campaign, it should be this. Unless you’re white and male, never run a campaign as if you’re a frontrunner. Clearly you’re not.

My other brief hesitation is that, whatever happens on Monday, we need to have a long, hard discussion about who determines who is a progressive candidate around here. However we’ve been doing it for the past two elections has not worked out. The blame for that I place squarely on the political party machines that are in play in the background and on the sidelines at the municipal level.

We need to bust these fucking things up. They serve one thing and one thing only, the party. Having watched this campaign closely, I feel confident in stating that if city council fails to shift in a progressive direction, it will be because political parties put their interests first. A slew of interesting and exciting candidates, politically unaffiliated many of them, cropped up all over the city and many were left to their own devices while parties put their resources toward their own and other parties put their resources to stopping their opponents from being elected.

endorsement1

So I endorse Olivia Chow for mayor, in spite of her political affiliation not because of it.

I endorse Olivia Chow because she reflects the kind of city I want to live in and be a part of. I endorse Olivia Chow because she represents our best ideals. An immigrant to this country as a young woman, growing up, if not poor, at least scrambling to get by, who took hold of the opportunities offered to her. I endorse Olivia Chow because she then dedicated her life to public service, a public service dedicated to helping others who faced similar obstacles she had along the way, a public service dedicated to fighting for those things that make us better, make our city better. Equality, fairness, opportunity, inclusion.

That’s why I endorse Olivia Chow for mayor of Toronto.

guardedly submitted by Cityslikr


It’s All In The Presentation

October 17, 2014

Last night, as an October’s worth of rain fell around the city, CBC hosted its mayoral debate. Streets, a subway station flood, power outages here and there. heavyrainFor what? The third time in over just a year, if not a storm of the century, an outburst of weather that Toronto clearly is not up to handling.

Yes, we have an infrastructure deficit. One that’s only going to get bigger unless we deal with it, head on.

Yes, we have a child-care deficit. One that’s only going to get bigger unless we deal with it, head on.

Yes, we have an affordable housing deficit, a looming crisis really. One that’s only going to get bigger unless we deal with it, head on.

Yes, we have a transit deficit. (I don’t really have to link this one, do I?) One that’s only going to get bigger unless we deal with it, head on.problems

And yet, here we are, just over 9 months into the campaign and none of these things are we talking about dealing with head on. At least the mayoral front runners are doing anything but. Olivia Chow has been talking the issues up lately. Long shot candidate Ari Goldkind’s built a platform around them. Long gone candidate David Soknacki built a campaign on the platform people wanted to talk about these issues head on.

He miscalculated.

What we want, evidently, from this election is to restore our respectability in the eyes of the world, by chasing all the buffoonery, malice and low-brow spectacle from the mayor’s office, clear out of City Hall. Toronto is tired of being embarrassed. Toronto yearns once more to be world class, with a world class mayor.

Whoever promises to do that for us, well, they’ve got our vote for mayor. No other questions asked. Certainly not answered.

As for the rest of it? M’eh. What are you gonna do? personalitycontestAs long as we have a mayor in place who isn’t smoking crack, it’s all good. Baby steps, eager pants. Baby steps.

Very adroitly, the John Tory team framed this election as one about personalities not issues. Conveniently so too since he really had no issues to run on despite his self-proclaimed years as a civic advocate for the city. That infrastructure deficit? Don’t worry. Property tax increases at or below the rate of inflation will fix that. Child-care? Provincial government’s problem. Affordable housing deficit? Let the feds take care of it. Youth unemployment and a growing inequality gap? Good jobs. Private sector. Sobeys. My rolodex.

But his real doozy comes in response to our transit deficit.

SmartTrack.

A totally unworkable, unfunded piece of transit planning sorcery rivalling the slogan-heavy and equally laughable Subways! Subways! Subways! from the Ford Brothers.brushitoff

It’s not that our new emperor has no clothes. It’s that, as the Torontoist referred to John Tory, he’s “…just Rob or Doug Ford in a better suit.”

If the polls are to be believed, a plurality of Torontonians are OK with that. In fact, polls suggest over 70% of voters in Toronto are fine and dandy with the Ford policies dressed up in John Tory’s button-down, Bay Street attire. Some will protest and tell you, hey, it’s not that they’re voting Tory because they like him, it’s that he’s the only one who can beat Doug Ford. They’ll keep insisting on that even though the likelihood of a Doug Ford victory dims with each day we get closer to the election.

If this all comes to pass and the election plays out as we’re told it’s going to, there’s no reason to think these things that actually matter, transit and congestion, welldressedmancrumbling infrastructure, affordable housing crunch, increased inequality, will be addressed in any sort of substantive manner. Why should we expect they would? John Tory has shown he doesn’t actually give a toss about any of that. He just wants you to know he’s not Doug Ford and that’s all that really matters.

We seem shallow enough to be poised to agree with him and make John Tory our next mayor.

frankly submitted by Cityslikr


Our Very Own Cody Jarretts

October 12, 2014

There’s just one culprit here, guys.

That somehow the conversation deviated from that this, and finger-pointing elsewhere prevailed, whiteheat2suggests that we’ve allowed the bad guys, the political thugs, to dictate our political reality here in Toronto.

Doug Ford, once more, tried to manhandle a situation and tilt it in his favour. As we should all know by now, that’s what the Fords do. There is no rule they won’t ignore. No sense of decorum they won’t take a dump on. They are The Entitled who walk amongst us. The dudes don’t abide.

So when Doug Ford decided to lean on Friday night’s Inner City Union debate organizers and force them to dis-invite another candidate because, well, Doug didn’t want to be on stage with him that was the only bullshit move that needed to be called out. The rest of it? whiteheat4The who should’ve done what and when in reaction, and by not doing what when, yaddie, yaddie, was nothing more than pure partisan, reactive opportunism.

It simply validated Ford’s political game-playing. That it’s all just game-playing. There are no rules to adhere to. It’s a free-for-all. Tit-for-bloody-tat. A blood sport, just like Doug Ford had predicted months ago.

Once again, Doug Ford tried to kick the shit out of democracy and, once more, too many of us joined in, taking our boots to the battered and bruised body.

The Fords and their dwindling number of fervent supporters are thugs. Straight up. They have no regard for process, little inclination to pay any attention to simple courtesy. Respect? Respect this.

I may be naïve but I’m not naïve enough to believe the other mayoral camps didn’t weigh their reactions to the Ford foot stomping on a political scale. whiteheat3Neither John Tory nor Olivia Chow are served particularly well by having a second nothing-to-lose candidate up on stage, debating them, especially one as articulate and pointed as Ari Goldkind. It’s not hard to imagine either one figuring out how to massage the situation to their best advantage.

But frankly that doesn’t matter and is utterly beside the point.

Doug Ford, the Fords, are the Cody Jarretts of our local politics. They’ve climbed to the top of the world and they’ll blow the fucker up before they’d contemplate gracefully stepping down. It does not matter to them, the mess they leave behind. In fact, the messier, the better. It only proves their point. Government, right? No good can come of it.

Doug Ford is the bad guy in this situation.whiteheat

Let’s stop forgetting that.

And let’s stop being afraid of the Fords, afraid of calling them out, so afraid of them that we’ll even think about voting against our best interests in order to be rid of them. The best way to get rid of the Fords and everyone still in their corner? Continue to stand up to them.

sick and tiredly submitted by Cityslikr


The Tory Brand

August 5, 2014

John Tory is a terrible candidate for mayor. Just awful. rottenthingtosayIf he goes on to win in October, and governs like he’s campaigning, he’ll be a terrible mayor.

Here’s how he responded last week to fellow mayoral candidate Ari Goldkind’s proposal to reinstate the Vehcle Registration Tax:

I’m trying to make the city more affordable and I hear every day from people about the taxation overall that they face and I plan to keep property taxes at or below the rate of inflation. I think I’m not going to be doing anybody a favour in terms of the struggle the taxpayers are facing if I were to bring back or bring in any tax like that.

Throw in a couple folks’s there and exclaim some Respect for Taxpayers, and it might as well be Rob Ford talking.

These are not the words of John Tory CivicAction city-builder. fordnationIt is a.m. radio talk show host John Tory speaking, getting all faux-populist, anti-tax, Rob Ford like. `… I plan to keep property taxes at or below the rate of inflation…not doing anybody a favour…if I were to bring back or bring in any tax like that.’

Taxation as a burden. The city does not have a revenue problem. Investment in services and programs will in no way help struggling taxpayers.

What exactly is John Tory putting on the table for anyone to rally around and champion?

Oh. He doesn’t smoke crack and he’ll attend pride events. questionmarkSlow clap. Bravo.

Not that he was alone among the mayoral frontrunners in rejecting the idea of re-introducing the VRT out of hand. “…under no circumstances,” declared Karen Stintz. A VRT is not part of David Soknacki’s budget plan. Rob Ford? See John Tory’s response.

Most disappointingly (at least from my personal political standpoint) is Olivia Chow, once more skittish about casting any shadow from the left. ‘…councillors have already made a decision on the car tax and she wouldn’t bring it back.’ So while Ms. Chow seems perfectly comfortable revisiting the Scarborough subway decision city council has already made, it’s hands off the VRT.

It might’ve been nice to see the Chow campaign use this opportunity to show she isn’t as reflexively anti-tax as the next candidate to her right. In theory, at least, all the main contenders are to Olivia Chow’s right. scaredofhisownshadow“While the VRT may have been poorly implemented,” the Chow camp could’ve said, “and unfairly targeted car drivers for an annual infusion into the city’s general revenue, I think we cannot ideologically reject the city’s need for additional revenue as almost all of my opponents seem to be doing.”

But that’s a conversation the Chow campaign seems hell bent on avoiding, lest it open itself up to a tax-and-spend, NDP candidate attack from the right and, once more, falling into the trap left-of-centre candidates regular fall into of allowing themselves to be defined by their opponents. It concedes ground without putting up a fight. Yeah, you’re right. Taxes are a burden, never giving back anything in return.johntorycricket1

It puts no daylight between Olivia Chow and John Tory, allowing him to undeservedly claim territory he has no right to claim. I can be disappointed in the Chow campaign so far, but that in no way confers on John Tory the status of viable, progressive alternative. He’s done little to distinguish himself from his political past; the distant, as an unofficial advisor in the Mel Lastman administration in the early days of amalgamation, to the very recent past, with his full-throated and open wallet support of Team Ford.

The problems Toronto faces very much have John Tory’s fingerprints all over them. He’s offered no real solutions in addressing them, only more of the same tired rhetoric. johntorycricketLow taxes, finding efficiencies and almost every other chapter from the Rob Ford campaign handbook, slightly warmed-over and spit-polished to give it a fresh sheen of respectability and thoughtfulness.

John Tory seems to think the message is fine. The only problem’s been the messenger. He’ll get lots of support, campaigning that way. Just let’s not pretend he represents anything other than that. Don’t allow him to get away professing he’s something or someone he’s not.

unimpressedly submitted by Cityslikr


The Results Are Not All In

July 18, 2014

I’d love to vote for him but he’s not going to win.

This was said, more than a few times, about Mayoral candidate David Soknacki after what was, apparently, lostcausea very strong debate performance (I didn’t see it) on Tuesday night.

It’s July. The election’s still more than 3 months away. This is what you would call a self-fulfilling prophecy.

More embarrassingly, I think of it as a very passive participation in the democratic process.

You have an incumbent. You have a former high profile city councillor and a federal M.P. until just recently. You have a frequent candidate for office, a former leader of a provincial party and a long time A.M. talk radio show host.

The fact that these 3 candidates sit atop every poll taken should hardly be a surprise to anyone. While not purely a recognition factor (if it was, the mayor would be sitting at 98%), these are all recognizable names to even the most casual of political observers of City Hall. manoflamanchaWho would I vote for? Yeah. I’m going with the one there I’ve never, ever heard of.

“If a few of the people lamenting the fact that Soknacki can’t win started telling pollsters they intend to vote for him…” John McGrath suggested, post-debate.

Maybe if I just clap a little harder, for a little longer, the Soknacki campaign won’t die. Cross my fingers. Pray. Send it my mental best wishes.

A successful candidacy doesn’t simply materialize as if by magic or run the race fueled by good ideas and noble intentions. It takes work. Lots of it by lots of people over a long period of time.

I’ve written about this in terms of city council races but it’s equally true at the mayoral level.

By reputation or experience or a good network or access to a shitload of money (maybe all of them together), favourites for the mayor’s office quickly emerge in any race. They are granted or have gained a certain degree of institutional support. This gets them even more exposure, more air time and print space. People see them as serious contenders. wishfulthinkingSo they then lend their support, money, time, resources.

It’s a closed, feedback loop that is very, very difficult to break into if you don’t gain access quickly. Soon, the ‘fringe’ label sticks and you get deemed unelectable. I love your ideas and your platform but, really, voting for you will just be throwing my ballot away.

But we’ve been down this road before, people. Democracy is about much more than voting. To sit and observe, and then stew about the choices you’re being given is unproductive and lazy. Agitate. Make noise beyond your Twitter bubble. Get a campaign going to harass broadcasters to include the candidate of your choice in the next debate it’s hosting.

Better yet. Organize your own mayoral debate. Find a free space somewhere in your neighbourhood. Print off a few flyers. Invite the candidates you want to see to come out and debate. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the turnout.

If that’s too grandiose, host a BBQ for 20 or 30 friends. Invite the candidate to come over and speak for a few minutes, introduce themselves. highhopesThen pass the hat around for some campaign donations.

It’s what makes municipal politics so accessible and user-friendly. You can have a direct impact on the outcome far and above just your one vote. (Two if you count mayor and your local councillor. Three, actually. Mayor, councillor, school board trustee.) But you have to get active.

It’s at this point in the post where I have to obligatorily write about how, back in 2003, David Miller was still polling in the single digits on Labour Day, less than two months before that election. It was just assumed to be a two-way race between John Tory and Barbara Hall.

During Tuesday’s debate, the fact was being bandied about that at this time in July of 2010, a no-name candidate, Naheed Nenshi, found himself sitting at about 2% in the polls for the Calgary’s mayor’s office. 6impossiblethingsThe very same Naheed Nenshi who got re-elected mayor last year with about 74% of the popular vote.

So can we stop with the tortured anguish of entrapment to pre-determined election outcomes already? Those leading the pack in the summer don’t always cross the finish line first in the fall. It’s anybody’s race still to win, and anybody’s to lose too.

You want to vote for David Soknacki as the next mayor of Toronto, and want him to be in a position to do so in order to vote for him? Chip in. Do something about it. Donate. Volunteer some of your time. Ditto Morgan Baskin. Ari Goldkind. Richard Underhill. Robb Johannes.

Election victories don’t emerge from best wishes and wishful thinking. Hard work, long hours and, frankly, something of an indomitable spirit are all that matter really. That, and a boatload of volunteers who are prepared to put some effort into the campaign beyond remarking and complaining from the sidelines about how all the good candidates don’t have a hope in hell of winning.

chidingly submitted by Cityslikr


Still Plenty Of Room On The Stage

May 21, 2014

Such is the voter’s dilemma, living in a first past the post electoral world.

snowballchanceinhell

You come across a candidate who hits all the right notes and you think to yourself, yeah, I can get behind this one at about the exact time you realize, yeah, they don’t have a hope in hell of winning.

That’s me and Ari Goldkind right now.

Running as he is for mayor in a town that doesn’t take kindly to electing strangers to that position, calling his campaign a long shot is being generous. donquixoteAt this juncture, Mr. Goldkind sits with about 52 other candidates out on the fringes of the race, Don Quixote’s all of them, tilting at a seemingly impregnable windmill.

Anyone who has followed us here at All Fired Up in the Big Smoke from the beginning knows that we spent a lot of time and bytes during the 2010 election writing about the fringe candidates for mayor. Hell, we even ended up endorsing one of them. We have a certain fondness for the outsiders especially when the slate of endorsed insiders can be so patently uninspiring.

The fact of the matter, however, is that 95% of those relegated to the fringes are fringe candidates. Madmen, publicity seekers, stunt takers and single issue candidates. offtheradarFew have any sort of grasp of the full breadth of issues this city faces. What makes them run is anyone’s guess but even in a campaign as long as our municipal one is, there’s not enough time to spend offering up a wider platform to them.

After attending Ari Goldkind’s campaign launch last Wednesday, I can confidently say that we would be doing ourselves a huge disservice if we continue to think of him as unelectable and not worth our time listening to. Yes, the odds remain high against him. Until he can get himself on the radar of the mainstream media, he will continue to be an unknown. Toronto does not have a history of throwing caution to the wind and electing a complete outsider like Naheed Nenshi, say.

Am I comparing Goldkind to Nenshi? No. But I think any progressive voter should take a moment or two to look through his campaign literature and the issues he is talking about.

Most impressively for me is his boldness in talking upfront about the necessity for more taxes, tolls and other revenue streams. “Toronto Needs the Truth” his campaign flyer insists. arigoldkindHe’s also not afraid to talk about one of the city’s biggest budgetary bugaboos: the Toronto Police Services.

As a proud, self-proclaimed outsider to municipal politics, I have some concerns Mr. Goldkind hasn’t fully brushed up on all the nuances of municipal powers and the always thorny matter of city-province jurisdiction. It won’t be as easy as just declaring an intention to toll. The city currently doesn’t have the power to collect any HST. Queen’s Park hangs protectively over all such decisions.

But, hell, if that lack of knowledge disqualified every candidate from running for office, there would never have been a Mayor Rob Ford.

More worrisome for me is Ari Goldkind’s lone wolf/anti-career politician campaign rhetoric. (h/t to @judemacdonald for this particular conversation.) While he sits diametrically opposed to everything Rob Ford represents, the two men share a certain seeming disdain for a collaborative approach that city council depends on to function. lonewolfOf this mayor’s many colossal failures, perhaps the most damaging in terms of governance was his go-it alone, my way or the highway approach. A mayor unable to work with those not always sharing the same opinion or ideology is a mayor unable to lead the city.

At this point, however, I will give Ari Goldkind the benefit of the doubt. Inclusion is not necessarily the language of the outsider, long shot candidate. Certainly the speech he gave at his campaign launch was much less combative, as he spoke of surrounding himself with smart people with differing opinions.

As voters, we will do ourselves a huge disservice if we don’t insist on Ari Goldkind getting a shot on stage to debate the other mayoral candidates. With the news that Sarah Thomson will get the fill-in spot in Rob Ford’s absence at next week’s National Ethnic Press mayoral debate round table discussion, obviously the definition of ‘fringe candidate’ is somewhat elastic. Sure, sure. She ran in 2010 and gained almost no traction before dropping out late in the race. Nothing she’s done subsequently lends any credence to the notion she’ll fare better this time around.

givehimthemicrophone

If we can’t even dream a little at this point of time in the municipal campaign and insist that all credible candidates get an opportunity to be heard, what chances are there that we can move beyond accepted conventional wisdom in building a better city? Ari Goldkind has, I think, proven to be a credible candidate for mayor. He has a small but committed and enthusiastic organization behind him. His platform is one many progressive voters can get excited about. There is no downside that I can see to this campaign if he moves from the fringe and joins the always unofficial rank of serious contender.

Let’s see to it that happens. Let’s demand that it happens.

pushily submitted by Cityslikr