Vision Quest IV

October 8, 2010

The Thanksgiving edition.

Up this week: Rocco Rossi For Mayor!

Honestly, I thought this post was going to be more of an obituary than an actual write up of a candidate who had any bearing left on the campaign. As recently as earlier this week, rumours were swirling about major Rossi staffers jumping ship and swimming over to the Rob Ford compound. Polling in the double digits was a distant memory. A sense of inevitable disappointment hung over the whole enterprise, manifesting itself by the forced buoyancy of Rossi supporters throughout the various levels of social media.

But he gathered positive notices upon the release of his policy platform book, Together We Can. (No, Barack Obama’s stump line, Yes We Can, did not immediately spring to mind.) Then, he turned in a solid performance at the CBC mayoral debate on Tuesday night. By Wednesday, there seemed to be a little bounce back in the Rossi campaign step.

If it turns into anything resembling even a modicum of momentum, it might change the dynamics of the race. For the past couple weeks or so, we’ve been told that it’s basically down to two candidates and we better start thinking strategically in terms of voting. A Rossi uptick, however, would probably come at the expense mostly of Rob Ford which would open things up a little wider, possibly making it a very unpredictable, four man campaign for the final three-and-a-half weeks.

Here’s hoping!

Otherwise frankly, I could give a shit about Rocco Rossi. No candidate shoulders more of the blame for the negative tone of this campaign than he does. Lacking a track record since he wasn’t a “career politician” (the openly elected kind at any rate), Rossi came out of the gate determined to smear everyone and anyone who was. How? Start screaming about the mess the city found itself in. Fiscal insolvency! Beholden to unions! Constant road construction! (Every announcement/pronouncement emanating from Rossi camp needs to exclamatized©™®!!! owing to the shrillness of tone.)

And, oh yes, the War on Cars! Thank you very much for that divisive addition to the campaign, Mr. Rossi. Create a rift where none existed, all to give a shine to your uptown appeal.

I guess it made sense in the early days of the campaign, to stake out the right of centre spot on the spectrum, and box George Smitherman in toward the… centre.. ? I guess. Really? Actually no. It makes no sense. Which is why I’ve never been able to fully grasp what the Rocco Rossi campaign’s been all about.

Neither had it, evidently. Having trail blazed the anti-City Hall/anti-incumbent path, Rossi got caught off guard when Rob Ford tore out ahead of him (and who amongst wasn’t), rightfully claiming the issue as his own. Why wouldn’t he? It’s been Ford’s schtick for the past 10 years.

But instead of righting the ship that had been swamped by the Rob Ford rogue wave, and ceding the far right, libertarian ground to it with a sensible move slightly toward the centre, Rossi tried keeping pace in the reactionary race. Who advising him thought he could win that one? Why not take the opportunity to point out what everyone except his most ardent supporters knew – that Ford was little more than a blustery blowhole and most everything he stood for was based on faulty premises, logic and out right lies – and gain some traction as the reasonable right wing candidate?

Nope. What we got was Spadina Expressway II: The Tunnel. (Remember, there’s a War on Cars going on, people.) The Goodfellas ads. The Rocco Rossi-Sue-Ann Levy danse macabre pas de deux.By all rights, the Rocco Rossi campaign deserves to be dead and buried. His performance has been erratic enough that it should scare off Liberal Party organizers sizing him up for a federal run, if that’s what this whole sad farce has been about. And it must’ve been about something other than actually winning the mayoralty of Toronto, right? Because if that was the intent, well, Rocco Rossi certainly had us fooled.

dutifully submitted by Cityslikr


The President’s Man Goes Local

October 5, 2010

So Rahm Emanuel resigned his post as chief of staff to the most powerful position on the planet (after, that is, the top 5 places within the Chinese government structure) to run for the mayoralty of Chicago. This is a guy who served for three terms in the House of Representatives. He’s now running to be mayor of Chicago. A power broker inside the D.C. Beltway packs it in for what looks to be a rough ride of an election in the 3rd biggest city in America.

Does that strike anyone else as a step down a rung or two of the success ladder?

I mean, aren’t mayor positions simply consolation prizes for those without the goods to make it big at state/province or federal levels of government? It certainly seems to be the case here in Toronto during this particular campaign cycle. Also-rans and not-quite-good-enoughs battle it out for ultimate supremacy of this backwater burg we call home.

Yet, here’s arguably the meanest, nastiest and most successful backroom Democrat in recent memory heading out of Washington to try his luck running for the lowly position of mayor. Obviously it’s some sort of punishment being meted out for the crime of pushing President Obama too far to the middle. Yeah, thanks for all your help, Rahm. How be you just run along now and try your hand at local politics?

Or, maybe this is a case of an extremely motivated politician realizing just which way the wind is blowing, where the action really is. Cities are where it’s at, baby. In this globalized world of increasing urbanization that we’re living in, cities are assuming control of the agenda, the engine driving innovation, sustainability, diversification. What politician with an elevated sense of self-importance (one can posses that trait in a good way) wouldn’t want to be at the forefront of all that?

Gazillionaire Michael Bloomberg, touted as a possible independent candidate to run for the presidency of the United States, takes a pass, opting instead to stay as mayor of New York City. In Los Angeles, Antonio Villaraigosa dabbled for a time in California state politics before moving into the municipal arena, first as a council member and then mayor. Portland Oregon mayor Sam Adams has burst onto the national scene as a leading advocate for building environmentally sound cities. So famous has he become that a beer has been named in his honour.

But over the course of Toronto’s dreary 9 month campaign so far, we’ve been told it’s just about filling potholes and fixing street lights. After 7 years of tentatively stepping toward the future, all we’re hearing now is what we can’t do, not what’s possible. Voters are cowering in the face of necessary and exciting change; their fears and worst instincts catered to by unimaginative candidates who seem oblivious to the shifting sands of where power is headed. We imperil our ability to adapt to what’s coming and thrive in the possibilities that will arise if we hand over the levers of power to someone incapable of seeing past nickels and dimes.

Rahm Emanuel seems to understand this. He’s angling to take the reins of a great but deeply troubled city. Much more troubled than even the worst case scenario being painted about Toronto by the hysterics contending for the mayor’s position. Chicago’s money woes are significantly worse than ours. Allegations of actual corruption and cronyism have stuck to some of the outgoing city officials. Crime is a significant problem there and not just a convenient bogeyman being shaken around in order to frighten voters.

Despite all of that, Rahm Emanuel wants to be the mayor of Chicago. There’s an element of flight, certainly, from an administration looking to take a hit in next month’s midterm elections. If it does happen, there’ll be plenty of fingers pointing at Emanuel as a prime architect of Obama’s fall from grace. But he could run toward a much more lucrative spot in the private sector, assuming such a thing exists anymore which also might explain the President’s low approval ratings.

Emanuel’s decision to follow in the footsteps of Richard M. Daley bespeaks of how important cities have become on the political landscape. Those accepting that new reality have begun to assume responsibility for proper future planning, at times defying upper levels of governments by setting more stringent environmental targets and broadening personal rights and freedoms. In the vacuum created by the divestment of powers by successive federal and provincial/state governments as a way to balance their books, forward thinking cities have assumed the responsibilities and set out on a course to not only remake themselves in a 21st-century fashion but the regions and countries that they are part of as well. Savvy politicians like Rahm Emanuel recognize that and are jumping at the chance to get involved.

It’s unfortunate Toronto has been hijacked by mayoral candidates more content to wallow in petty grievances and almost tribal hostility instead of generating ideas about how best to move into a future where cities will be at the forefront of policy decisions and societal change. If the next mayor doesn’t understand that and seize upon it, all the advantages we as a city have presently (and we have many) will be for naught. Our enviable position cannot be translated into expanded opportunity by merely filling potholes and fixing streetlights. We need to stop shying away from thinking bigger.

civically submitted by Urban Sophisticat


Do Not Forsake Us, John Tory

June 3, 2010

Draft John Tory for Mayor?

So asks Royson James in Tuesday’s Toronto Star.

Draft John Tory for Mayor??

Apparently the tongues have been wagging about it for months now in the mouths of “unnamed armchair quarterbacks, radio talk show hosts” (of which John Tory is one) and “political pundits” (of which Royson James is one). “Average citizens and king-makers regularly fill Tory’s ears and stroke his ego by pleading that he run,” so James claims. I’m assuming that the “average citizens” are regular listeners of Tory’s radio show who, once vetted, are allowed on air to plead for Tory to reconsider his decision not to run for mayor. The “king-makers”? Step out from behind that curtain, Royson James. You’re just referring to yourself in the third person again, aren’t you.

In the impolite circles I run in, there’s been very little begging, pleading or praying for John Tory to get into the race and claim his rightful crown. And, as has been stated in the early pages of this site, I was a John Tory supporter back in `03. So there’s no overt hostility toward the man. It’s just that, nothing he did in the political arena subsequent to that instilled in me any fervor to see the man as mayor of Toronto. What have others seen that I’ve missed?

Have the candidates who are running proven to be so underwhelming that we are left to merely clutch at straws in the hope of becoming more excited and energized about the race? Even Mayor Miller who, by the time last summer’s garbage strike finally wound up was thought to be so unelectable that even someone like George Smitherman would defeat him, is now thought of having a good chance of keeping the mayor’s chair if he had another election fight in him. It’s an appealing prospect if for no other reason than to watch both Royson James and Sue Ann Levy’s heads explode, Scanners style, if that were to occur.

Instead of hitching our hopes to ultimately disappointing ain’t-gonna-happen wagons, however, maybe we need to reconsider why voters aren’t rushing en masse to embrace any of the mayoral candidates. Much has been made about the lack of a unifying, invigorating figure from the left of centre since David Miller’s announcement last fall that he would not be running for re-election, and again after Councillor Adam Giambrone’s implosion earlier this year. There’s been a stampede of candidates to the right. Yet, voters remain under-wowed.

Could it be that the problem isn’t so much the messengers as it is with the message itself? After nearly 6 months of campaigning and listening to an unrelenting stream of anti-incumbent, anti-government rhetoric from 5 of the 6 front running candidates, maybe the song just isn’t resonating with a majority of voters. If conservatives are really honest with themselves, they would have to admit that the dilemma they’re facing right now is that Councillor Rob Ford is the one candidate that is saying out loud what they’d all like to be saying: too much taxing, too much spending, too much government. That’s their message coming from the wrong messenger and, to paraphrase Barack Obama, no amount of lipstick on the pig, either with Rossi, Thomson, Mammoliti or Smitherman, can mask it. It seems that regardless of how fed-up everyone insists that the electorate is with the present state of things, not enough of them are willing to chant the conservative mantra.

So how exactly is bringing in another centre-right candidate with a dearth of new ideas going to change that fact? As opposition to the exiting Miller regime begins to soften and his Deputy Mayor, Joe Pantalone’s campaign begins to find its sea legs, maybe right wing candidates need to realize that the political ground isn’t as fertile for them as they had originally hoped, no matter how hard they plough or the number of farmers there are willing to pitch in and help toil in the field.

hopefully helpfully submitted by Urban Sophisticat