A Profile In Courage

April 20, 2015

God bless the politician who stands up for the downtrodden, gives voice to the voiceless, goes to bat for the tiny, puny, infinitesimal, often overlooked 3%. godoggoYou are a testament to daring and guts. A folks hero.

“Minnan-Wong vows to save the Gardiner Expressway” states the headline of Don Peat’s Toronto Sun article from last week.

“I did not get elected to increase congestion, I did not,” the deputy mayor speechified. (He also doesn’t like your hat.) “I was elected to solve congestion problems.”

“Cars are a fundamental reality.”

Finally.

Somebody representing the beleaguered car drivers of this city and beyond.

The proposed downing of a 2.4 kilometre stretch of the easternmost portion of the Gardiner Expressway must not stand. No attempted buying off with a 6 to 8 lane replacement boulevard will suffice. A boulevard?! What is that exactly? Sounds like something the French promenade down.

And as everyone knows, our deputy mayor isn’t really a Renault man. dmw1He’s more a Porsche guy, a Beemer type although, owing to family obligations, he’s now quite content in his Subaru Forester. Driving in from North York, watching the sun glint off those downtown towers, more of which there’d be if the eastern bit of the Gardiner Expressway came down and opened up acres and acres and hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars in new development opportunities.

Ahhh, irony.

Car enthusiasts are clearly too distracted by shiny objects to appreciate stuff like irony.

What’s getting lost in all these high-minded (and high-handed) plans for the future of Toronto is the convenience of drivers to get around this city. If this part of the Gardiner is brought down, the unlucky 3% of commuters who currently use it during the morning rush hour can expect as much as a 5 minute increase in their commute times. 5 minutes!? Do these politician not realize just how important a car drivers’ time is? You’ve read the numbers. Billions and billions of dollars of productivity lost annually in the GTA due to congestion. Only by continuing to do what we’ve been doing for 50 years now – making room and time for private automobiles – can we start to turn things around.

And if this part of the Gardiner is brought down, where will it end? What happens if the traffic chaos and heavy congestion doesn’t materialize? What if everything works out just fine or, heaven forbid, gets even better? The rest of the Gardiner will not be safe. The radical anti-car types will start agitating for more of its destruction. dmw2A city cannot survive such a grievous assault on its urban expressways.

This is a slippery slope, folks, and all that stands between us and such an unimaginable future are politicians like Deputy Mayor Denzil Minnan-Wong.

And please, don’t talk to him about the higher cost of building his beloved hybrid replacement option. Can you really put a price on freedom… to drive? Even if you can, even if you say, sure, in this particular case it’s that number between $919 million and $461 million, should you? In the end, it’s only money.

“Our (total) capital budget over 100 years is somewhere around $300 billion,” the deputy mayor said. What’s a half billion or so within that sort of time frame? Chump change.

Unlike those $12,000 umbrellas at Sugar Beach, located not far from the shadows cast by the Gardiner. That’s a spending outrage. $12,000. For an umbrella. Take a moment and let that sink in.

For car loving warriors like Deputy Mayor Denzil Minnan-Wong, the only public space we should throw insane and unconscionable amounts of cash at are those that allow cars to drive on or over or park on. dmwAs it’s always been (since the 1950s anyway), so it must always be. Everything else is just gravy, to use the parlance of the time.

This issue is of such vital importance to the deputy mayor that back a few years ago, in his then role as chair of the Public Work and Infrastructure Committee, serving under fellow automobile zealot, Rob Ford, he felt the need to sit on the city council requested environmental assessment looking at future options for the Gardiner Expressway, delaying its release until finally this past week, to the tune of some $20 million. Money that would have probably gone to other useless public realm projects. (Denzil Minnan-Wong Googles: How many $12,000 pink umbrellas would $20 million buy?) Now that the EA has been released, there is only one viable option. Build that hybrid! Build that hybrid!

Sure, building the hybrid option of the eastern portion of the Gardiner Expressway will lock out hundreds of millions of dollars in potential development and future property tax income for the city but should the well-being for an overwhelming majority of Torontonians bulldoze the right to drive for the vulnerable 3%? dmw3Somebody’s got to stand up for the minority. Deputy Mayor Denzil Minnan-Wong has a long and established track record of public service doing just that.

Remember that time he… ummm…. did that thing where he definitely defended the… uhhh… boldly fighting for their right to, you know… ummm…

Well anyway, resistance to change and pandering to car drivers has to start somewhere. It’s a thankless task, far from the spotlight and reactionary applause a civic leader like Minnan-Wong normally prefers to operate in. Agree with him or not, you can’t ignore the fact that he is a principled politician representing the best interests of the entire city with every decision he makes.

totally admiringly submitted by Cityslikr


Who’s Your Dada?

April 5, 2015

whosaskingIn this year’s Easter edition of Answering Questions No Reader Asked, we respond to the non-query, What Is Dada and What the Hell Were You Talking About Earlier This Week? Making Up Stories. What the hell was that? Some kind of April’s Fool thing?

Yeah so, about that.

As the week wore on, it struck me that the post felt like an incomplete thought or, at least, there’s was more to say on the subject. Let’s sum it up as right wing faux populism as a form of Dada expression. None of it has to make any sense exactly because that’s the point, to not make any sense.

We need to stop looking for explanations in their actions, in the things they say, the positions they pronounce. Logical consistency is absent not through any inability to reason logically but because there’s no need for it. Reductio ad absurdum. See? This whole government thing is ridiculous because, well, look at me. Look at what I do, what I say, the shenanigans I wind up performing.

If there really was anything to this idea of the usefulness of City Hall, surely politicians like we are wouldn’t be elected, time and time again, time after time. How could it not be a circus and clown show when clowns and carnies perform key roles? absurdDon’t take what they do seriously because they sure don’t.

And I’m not just talking the Ford Brothers Travelling Shit Show, their little fiefdom of folly. Or Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti and His Flickering House of Mirrors. Add to that extremity of lunacy, new councillor and long time Member of Parliament, Jim Karygiannis, defining defiling the Liberal brand for a generation now.

Consider the more ‘serious’ acts. Deputy Mayor Denzil Minnan-Wong, at perpetual war with anything and everything he deems to be excessive public spending, and most public spending is excessive in the Deputy Mayor’s eyes except when it comes to clearing the way for his much beloved Subaru. How about the chair of Planning and Growth Management and self-proclaimed pro-Spadina Expressway protester back in the day, Councillor David Shiner? Planning and growth? In somebody else’s backyard please with a helping of subway, if you don’t mind.

Councillor Ron Moeser, some 30 years a city councillor and still operating in a state of constant confusion. nonsenseDitto Councillor Frank Di Giorgio who, in addition, isn’t a big fan of the City of Toronto Act and all its proposed responsibilities for municipal politicians. Who needs that, am I right?

Elected public servants with a dim view of the efficacy of public service, dedicating much of their respective adult lives to actively diminishing it. You don’t actually take this stuff seriously, do you? Nobody really thinks we can make much of a difference, do they? If they did, they might pay a little more attention to the people they send to City Hall to represent their interests.

It’s a political negative feedback loop.

“I refuse to join any club that would have me as a member,” Groucho Marx said.

City Hall’s a joke, right? Let’s not waste any time doing anything productive. We’ll just play down to the non-expectations everyone has of the place. dadafairPoint of order, Madam Speaker! Or maybe it’s a point of privilege. I never did understand the difference between those two. Whatever. Blah, blah, blah, blah…

And then an earnest do-gooder arrives at the place, one sharing a similarly askance view of it. After all, he once thought Rob Ford would be a suitable mayor of the city. Taking in the spectacle for a few months, he shakes his head. It only confirms his bias. “I thought (Wednesday) was an example where there were probably four or five hours just wasted on stuff that was sort of interesting maybe to a few people but it really wasn’t advancing the public interest,” Mayor John Tory said. Democracy, eh? Just a bunch of people wasting hours and hours, talking about stuff that was sort of interesting to them but to what end? We need to streamline this. Less chatter, less grandstanding, more doing.

Clowns to the left of him, jokers to the right. Mayor Tory’s stuck in the middle with democracy. shirtlessSurely there must be a more productive way to get things done around here. I mean, what the hell does Giorgio Mammoliti have to offer anyway?

Exactly.

Councillor Mammoliti and his ilk have been striving to prove that point for years now, decades even. This whole thing’s a joke and he’s a clown prince. You’d be an idiot to think otherwise. If you just stopped caring (like he has), then maybe the place would just shrivel up and disappear. I mean, what the hell does City Hall have to offer for us anyhow?

ridiculously submitted by Cityslikr


Day 101

March 10, 2015

So sometime this week (I’m predicting Wednesday but not ruling out Thursday), city council will approve the 2015 operating, capital and rate support budgets. It is at that point when the 2014 municipal campaign will officially close.keystothecar John Tory actually takes over, full on, as mayor of Toronto.

What?! you say. But John Tory’s been mayor since December 1st of last year when he was sworn in. He’s got the chain of office to prove it.

True. But since the 2015 budget process kicked into gear in December, we’ve been told that this was an election year budget, cobbled together by city staff and assembled in a short time frame with the minimal of input from city council. Normally a year long process scrunched down into 4 months or so.

I don’t reject the notion out of hand. New mayor, new council (sort of), with lots of things to do post-election. To hit the ground running, from a budget perspective may be a little too much to expect without much guidance and input from staff. Continuity favours the bureaucracy once every 4 budget cycles. This one’s it.

To a point, of course.

That below the rate of inflation property tax increase was a major campaign plank for John Tory. Ditto SmarTrack dough. And I find it a bit hard to believe that staff thought it a great idea to add $443 million to the capital budget to expedite the Gardiner repairs. whispersI’m not saying the mayor had anything to do with it but his Deputy Mayor of choice, Denzil Minnan-Wong, sure does love him his car.

Still, tradition has it we cut the mayor some slack on the very first budget after being elected to office. A mayoral mulligan, if you will. Sort of a, he did what he could but his hands were tied by previous decisions, kind of thing. Next year, though. Next year.

Starting on the first day after the 2015 budget is passed, Mayor Tory has stated work begins on the 2016 budget. That one will be his baby, the one that will start to shape his legacy. 2015 was tying up loose ends left behind by the previous administration or two. (In theory, at any rate.) 2016, well, that’s Tory time. While he’s offered up hints of the direction he wants to take the city in, when budget 2015 wraps up, the buck starts stopping on his desk. There will be no one else to blame, no more before his time talk. John Tory will be master of his own fate.

Within the confines of being a mayor, that is, a position we all know to be limited in the powers of both the purse and jurisdiction. trainingwheelsActually, now that I think about it, there are plenty of receptacles for mayoral excuse-making when it comes right down to it. An uncooperative and unruly city council. Neglectful senior levels of government. Overzealous accountability officers! A culture of non-accountability rife in the ranks of city staff.

So scratch that. There’s no end to blame gaming at a mayor’s disposal. It’s just, going forward, we no longer have to indulge John Tory that opportunity.

blamelessly submitted by Cityslikr