Challengers To Watch V

July 10, 2014

“Neglect”.

That’s the one word answer I got from Lekan Olawoye when I asked him what it was he was hearing from people in Ward 12 York-South Weston while out canvassing. lekanNot complaints about high property taxes. Nothing about subways versus LRTs. Just plain old “neglect.”

In fact, he’d met a resident living in the ward for 50 years who told him that he was the first municipal candidate ever to come knocking on her door.

It might come as a surprise to many of us who live in Toronto’s politically vigorous areas, let’s call them, where town halls and community meetings draw big crowds. Where our local representatives show up at our doors on a regular basis or respond quickly to our questions and concerns. Neglect? Wouldn’t be the word we’d use.

But take a walk along forlorn sections of Eglinton Ave West, around Keele Street and see what happens when the representative at City Hall isn’t particularly mindful of building thriving neighbourhoods. Empty storefronts. Little street life. Just a thoroughfare people buzz past on their way to someplace else.

This part of the city is the left behind section. Once a solid middle class area with good, well paying jobs not all that far away from home. ward12yorksouthwestonNow a place with much “untapped human resource”, as one Olawoye campaign volunteer and long time Ward 12er told me. Untapped for many reasons, many of those beyond a city’s control, but certainly for some that come down to local representation that just doesn’t get it, doesn’t know how to respond. It’s just there, shrugging obliviously.

So the simple fact of the matter is, in Ward 12, like many of the other inner suburb wards, engagement comes down to basic retail politics. Being available. Acting quickly on very specific, very local needs. Potholes. Basement flooding. Street parking. Serving as a conduit to help negotiate communication between residents and city departments and services.

Lekan Olawoye seems to get that. His pitch is simple. What can I do to make your life easier and better? I’m here to help.

It smacked a little to me of the current administration’s obsession with ‘customer service’. I asked him for more details about his pledge for ‘better transit, support for families, reduced poverty, safer streets and healthier communities.’ All of which any candidate will inevitably tout. These are the whats. Tell me a little bit more about the hows.

That’s not there yet, the nitty gritty details of exactly how you plan to transform systemic problems. ringbellWorking with the TTC to sort out bunching of buses followed by long waits has stumped many a well-intentioned people. Lofty goals need thoughtful and innovative approaches to stay afloat.

But here’s what I’m only beginning to understand about municipal politics. Voters need to really believe that a candidate is there to work for their sometimes very personal interests. They want to know you will be available to help sort out the most basic, mundane of everyday problems and situations they face. If that kind of trust and engagement is not present, they’ll walk back and demand nothing more than just keeping their taxes low and their streets clean.

That’s the hill Lekan is climbing in Ward 12. Years, decades even, of neglect, in his words, by the councillors it sends to City Hall have made it difficult for new voices to convince people that it can actually be different, better. City Hall doesn’t have to be this foreign place, an hour or so trip, off and away downtown.

The situation also leaves lots of room for hope, though.

And Lekan does deliver a lot of hope and enthusiasm.strangeratthedoor

He works the doors of the canvass smoothly and charmingly. While this is his first campaign as a candidate, you wouldn’t know it to see him interact with people during the canvass. He’s personable, friendly and outgoing. At one point of time I watched him actually engage a soccer fan for a quick introduction and chat during the penalty kicks of last night’s Argentina-Netherlands World Cup semi-final.

He has been at this almost since the very beginning of the campaign in January. So he’s getting good at what any candidate needs to get good at. Meet and greet. Meet and greet. Lekan’s also no stranger to the wider world of politics and community involvement. He is currently the Executive of For Youth Initiative, a local non-profit that provides services and programs to youth who live in a part of the city severely under-serviced. Lekan was also the first chair of the Premier’s Council on Youth Opportunities.

He has what appears to be a well-oiled campaign machine, bursting with eager volunteers who fan out across the street as the two of us stand, chatting. That’s going to be absolutely necessary as he’s taking on an entrenched incumbent in Councillor Frank Di Giorgio. From my view point, it should be cinch. Councillor Di Giorgio ranks near the very bottom on my list of terrible, terrible municipal representatives. lekan1As Mayor Ford’s second budget chief, he constantly seemed out of his depth. As a local councillor, he comes across as simply disinterested in doing the job.

Unfortunately, politics at the city level seldom work out that way. Name recognition plays a big factor in determining the outcome. Challengers have to be relentless in getting themselves out there, getting their faces known, convincing voters in the ward that taking a risk on change will be worth it.

Lekan Olawoye appears to be making that kind of dent in Ward 12. On Tuesday night, he had 3 of the tires on his car slashed in his driveway. What? That’s like movie shit, says me, the political neophyte. But Lekan chose to see the upside in it.

“Somebody knows we’re here,” he said.

I guess so. I’ll take the candidate’s word for it. It’s a good sign.

optimistically submitted by Cityslikr


It’s Why He’s Called Dorg

June 22, 2014

Here’s how I saw it.perspective

At Friday’s Budget Committee meeting, during the discussion of the final 2013 operating variance report, which contained a $168.1 million dollar surplus, Councillor Doug Ford had a plan. But first he had to actually read the report, skim it maybe.

From where I sat in the room, he hadn’t. This is the vice-chair of the committee, wanting to play with the numbers, who appeared not to have done his homework. He scrambled to find the pages, assisted by the city’s Chief Financial Officer, Robert Rossini, sitting beside him. The item located, the councillor flipped through it. You could almost hear him mumbling the words as he read them.

Now, if I’m wrong in these observations, I’ll happily retract them. It just struck me as a very on-the-fly process, heightened by the fact, Councillor Ford began scribbling out what would be a motion to amend the item. totallyunpreparedHe urged other committee members to take the opportunity to speak to give him time to finish writing his motion. Everyone waited. Staff. His colleagues at the table.

“This one’s going to flatten the City Manager,” Councillor Ford warned, glibly. Or something to that affect. Here comes a patented Fordian haymaker, folks.

Nothing like blind-siding the city’s top bureaucrat as a stable and judicious form of governance. Hey, Joe. Watch this. I’m going completely fuck with the city’s budget and established protocol. That’s how we roll in the private sector.

It isn’t, of course. One would hope Councillor Ford’s cavalier approach to monkeying around with the budget numbers is anything but sound business practice. I’m just spitballing here, folks. Haven’t put a lick of thought into this but what do you think about…

His motion?

Use 20% of the surplus to give a tax refund to the taxpayers. “It’s their money not ours,” the councillor said breezily, outoftheblueas if it made any kind of sense whatsoever. Put a little less money in the rainy day reserve funds. Pay down a little less of the capital debt. Give people back their money. It’s not as if the city has any pressing need for it.

Unsurprisingly, Councillor Ford’s motion was ruled out of order by the Budget Committee chair, Frank Di Giorgio. Any tax refund would change the property tax rate set by city council earlier this year. Only city council could re-open that matter. It couldn’t be done at the committee level.

“Just cut everybody a cheque,” Councillor Frances Nunziata chimed in, as if the room wasn’t already filled to bursting with the dumb.

Councillor Ford was having none of it. He challenged the ruling of the chair. A majority of the committee members voted against the challenge.

“I’d rather see the money go to filling in potholes,” Councillor Nunziata said as she voted along with Councillor Ford, bullinachinashopchallenging the chair’s ruling.

Well, why are you voting in favour of the challenge in order to bring about a motion that would refund some of the surplus, councillor, rather than have it go back into filling those pot–oh, never mind.

It’s not so much the crass, disruptive grandstanding from Councillor Ford that’s so tiresome and predictable. The tax refund motion was simply a variation of his peeling off $20 bills to give to strangers. It’s the sheer laziness of it.

The year-end variance came as no surprise to anyone who pays even the scantest of attention to city operation. Amounts differ. Some years the surplus is bigger than others. fordnation1But you can always count on some sort of surplus.

Councillor Ford has seen it happen during his time at City Hall four straight times yet he bulls into the meeting as if it’s some sort of newsflash, as if he’s too busy toiling away on other parts of his job to have had the time to read through the report, jot a few ideas down. Neither one of those possibilities is true. Councillor Ford is a half-assed municipal politician whose ignorance of how the city functions is only surpassed by his refusal to take the time to actually learn about it.

The blind leads the willful into a state of total incompetence.

In one sentence, pretty much summing up the Ford administration.

— repeatedly submitted by Cityslikr


It All Depends On How You Define ‘Respect’

April 24, 2014

This isn’t about Rob Ford (although he’ll think this post is about him, about him). At least, not directly, it isn’t. dimmenIt’s about how we’ve slipped into his skin, donned his way of thinking, his attitude toward government.

Following along yesterday to the monthly proceedings of the Executive Committee, the committee the mayor no longer chairs but remains part of only out of legislative necessity – everyone elected to city council must serve on one standing committee – it all felt so petty and small-minded. Bereft of heft. Lacking in rigour. These are the tiny men of a big institution.

It’s no surprise, really. They all were picked to be there by the mayor before his tumble from the seat of power. Not one to challenge his own preconceptions or belief systems, unLincolnian in assembling a team of rivals, the mayor sought nothing more than to surround himself with fellow boobs and yes-men. The worst and the dimmest.

During the debate over somehow commemorating the 1915 Armenian genocide at the hands of the Ottoman Empire, Councillor Frank Di Giorgio presented a muddled view of history where the Holocaust was fact but South African apartheid was still contested. Or something. badhistoryCouncillor Peter Leon referred to the Armenian genocide as an ‘unfortunate mishap’ which he later upgraded to a ‘horrible atrocity’.

Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti moaned about not being paid to have to deal with international issues like European history. He was elected to fill potholes and cut grass, he told the room. If only you would stick to that, Councillor Mammoliti. If only.

Councillor Anthony Perruzza mentioned prosciutto.

But where that item, tabled late in the afternoon when many members of the Executive Committee might’ve been passed their nap time, brought out the dumb, fizzleit was a couple matters earlier in the morning that really saw the collective sparkle fizzle.

A proposed council pay increase, council office budgets and city travel expenses, all the mayor’s bread and butter, led to not so much a healthy debate as regular opportunities to politically grandstand. Protestations of We Are Not Worthy (which is true for many in that room) mixed with talk of gravy and the need for more oversight and micromanaging. Apparently, our city councillors aren’t paid enough to sort out matters on an international scale but don’t make so much money that they can’t waste time looking through colour swatches to find just the right colour at the right price for their office walls.

Of course, there was no way this committee was going to push forward the 12.9% pay increase for council members recommended by the OCG Strategy and Organization Consulting company after surveying 16 Canadian municipalities. puntDespite the fact that, comparatively speaking, our mayor and city councillors are not in the upper echelon of renumeration in terms of their fellow municipal representatives, this is an election year. Nobody’s dumb enough or brazen enough to face the voting public after giving themselves a substantial pay hike.

OK. Maybe Giorgio Mammoliti is. And Frank Di Giorgio might push the wrong button when it came to casting his vote.

It would also be monumentally hypocritical for this group of men to give themselves a raise after nearly 4 years of preaching the gospel of austerity and penny-pinching. What’s good for the goose and all that. They kind of painted themselves into a fiscal corner on this one.

“We can all agree we are well compensated for the job we do,” declared the mayor, mindful I’m sure of his own financial situation as the scion of a wealthy family. In his case, it’s true. Given the job he does, the time he puts into it, I’d argue Mayor Rob Ford is amply compensated, as are many of his colleagues sitting on Executive Committee with him.

livinglargeHow much should the going rate be for bad representation at City Hall?

How much should the going rate be for good representation at City Hall?

I’ve seen how much work the diligent and dedicated city councillors put in on a daily basis. Forget your notions of any 40 hour work week. Double that. On call 7 days a week most weeks of the year. You break their 6 figure salaries down to an hourly rate and I think you’d find a much more modest pay rate.

But because we’ve assumed the anti-public sector stance that the mayor believes so passionately in, any amount is too much. It’s our taxes that pay their bills, we trumpet. Respect, we demand. Why should they be entitled to anything more that we are?miniscule

We’ve willing agreed to travel down the deceptive road of misconception, believing that somehow the taxes we pay at a local level don’t go toward paying for all the useful things we use on a daily basis. We hear that this councillor makes $100, 000 a year in salary, plus perks, and imagine, well, there goes all my money. Straight into the councillor’s already stuffed pocket, so they can jaunt off to some all-expenses trip to somewhere they have absolutely no need to be going to, somewhere I’ll never get to go.

In actual fact, the operations of city council costs us collectively around $20 million a year. Throw in the mayor’s office along with the city clerk, and I’ll generously round it up to $30 million. $30 million, in a $10 billion operating budget. Do that math. .003 Every municipal tax dollar you submit, missthepoint.3% of that goes to our elected officials, and the general operations of their offices and meetings.

So, if you pay $5000 a year in property tax about $15 of that is used for your mayor and city councillor to do their respective jobs. Do that math. $1.25 a month. Less than a nickel a day.

So when the mayor goes on some outraged tirade about all that gravy, pointing to $150,000 in councillor travel expenses (.00000015 of the operating budget, I think) or the not quite $6 million in city staff travel expenses, reach into your pocket and pull out all the change. We no longer use the denomination small enough needed to pay for your portion of that. And then stop to think about how we’re paying someone $170+K a year to fussily focus on saving us that amount of next to nothing.

Then honestly tell me who exactly it is respecting the taxpayers?

generously submitted by Cityslikr


Loyal To Whom? (Who? Whom?)

February 27, 2014

In the inevitable sitcom that will arise from the ashes of the 2010-14 term at City Hall, we’ll have Gordon Pinsent playing the rich, misanthropic suburban council with a taste for certain vices but an earthy ability to mouth catchy populist platitudes.sitcom Leah Pinsent will portray his wily and ruthless campaign manager/chief of staff who’s the only one her father (both on and off the set…I’m so meta) is truly afraid of, and who keeps the mayor on message if not always on the straight and narrow. Ron James is the shouty and long suffering, left wing east side city councillor, fighting a losing battle against the creeping gentrification of his working class ward. Peter Keleghan, the oleaginous senior city staffer with the silky savvy to tell his elected overseers exactly what they want to hear without saying a single thing that makes a lick of sense.

And in the role of the bumbling, know-nothing but generally amiable councillor with a propensity for nodding off during meetings, and who keeps getting returned to City Hall, election after election despite never making any sort of contribution there? Sean Cullen? Andy Jones?

Who’d you pick for your Councillor Frank Di Giorgio (Ward 12 York-South Weston)?scorchedearth1

Because, let’s face it, the man’s a walking, talking, living, breathing sitcom character of a city councillor. Our very own Inspector Clouseau, making a hash of things up the ladder of municipal politics since 2000, and for 12 years before that as a North York city councillor, until he winds all the way up to the lofty position of budget chief. The budget chief, people. For a city of over 2.5 million. Frank Di Giorgio. Budget chief.

Granted, we have been experiencing a type of political event horizon for the past 4 years. Anything is possible, including a Budget Chief Frank Di Giorgio scenario. It probably says more about the Ford administration, that all it had in its quiver after the resignation of the previous budget chief, the loathsome Mike Del Grande, was the not loathsome Frank Di Giorgio.

Still.

I say it again.

clouseauBudget Chief Frank Di Giorgio.

Undistinguished is how I would best summarize my perception of Frank Di Giorgio. Undistinguished with a passing note of incompetence. Again, as with all these profiles we’re doing, I have to admit that the man could be a crackerjack constituent councillor, doing a bang up job for his residents. After being in elected office for 25 of the last 28 years, he must be doing something other than just putting his name out there, right? Right, Ward 12?

I’d easily rate him up there in the top 3 of city councillors to ask questions of staff and their colleagues that elicit the most baffled of responses. I’m sorry, Councillor Di Giorgio. Could you repeat your answer? I didn’t quite understand what you were asking me.

There was that time, back during deputations for the 2012 budget when the councillor did his funky mash-up of social housing and ghettos. You know, poor people. Living together in one building. We all watched Good Times, didn’t we? It was funny but…at the end of the day, wouldn’t you rather be The Jeffersons?

I’m sorry, Councillor Di Giorgio. I didn’t quite understand what you’re getting at.goodtimes

I don’t think of him as the malicious sort, like his predecessor in the budget chair, nor intentionally destructive. It’s more a question of being out of his depth. Why strive for anything more than keeping taxes low and the streets paved and plowed? Does it have to be more complicated than that?

I will give Councillor Frank Di Giorgio full marks for loyalty though. When tapped for the job of budget chief by the Fords, the man did his utmost to deliver what his bosses wanted, up to and beyond defying the laws of physics* and sound economic policy. Yeah, Mr. Mayor. We probably can push down that property tax hike a bit while still making room for money to build your Scarborough subway. Yeah, why not. Let’s see if we can trim that Land Transfer Tax, yet another source of revenue, just a hair. fiercelyloyalCouncillor Di Giorgio even went along for a bit of a joy ride on Mayor Ford’s budget day wild goose chase, tracking down millions of dollars in cuts nobody would even notice.

Cut $7 million from this year’s planned tree planting? Why not. Council’s general business and travel accounts? Who needs them. $2 million in program increases in the operating budget? Gone. Gone, gone, gonzo.

But perhaps Councillor Di Giorgio’s most important vote happened a couple months prior to this year’s budget.

Back in November, he was one of the few councillors that voted against stripping Mayor Ford of his procedural powers after the crack video scandal broke wide. The councillor didn’t even want the mayor to apologize for lying about the whole crack smoking business. Now, that’s loyalty, folks. Forgive and forget. Let’s just move on.

Such a display of loyalty earned Councillor Di Giorgio high props from Mayor Ford who named him one of the very few councillors, a handful really, that he thought worthy enough to be voted back on to council in this upcoming election. As the mayor’s made abundantly clear over the last few days, he doesn’t work with just anybody down there at City Hall. tickletickletickleIt takes a special breed to earn that kind of… respect, I’d guess you could call it, from someone who doesn’t make work friends easily.

So congratulations, Ward 12. Your long time councillor has dutifully earned himself an elite spot on Mayor Rob Ford’s thumbs-up roster, those who supported the mayor ‘when times were tough’. (Episode 2: Ford Nation). The few. The proud. The easily cowed.

Councillor Frank Di Giorgio. Certified member of the tattered remains of the once triumphant Team Ford.

dutifully submitted by Cityslikr

* Not actually defying the law of physics. Added purely for emphasis of the ludicrousness of the mayor’s budgetary expectations.


From Afar With Frozen Pipes

January 30, 2014

If you take nothing else away from the first day of the 2014 budget debate, let it be this:todayslesson

From City Manager Joe Pennachetti, we have about reached cap level in finding savings for the city through efficiencies. There’s no more fat on the bone. Any further efficiencies will result in service and program cuts.

Also from the city manager, any continuation of raising property taxes at less than the rate of inflation (at least without some other source of revenue to fill the gap) is not sustainable. It is not fiscally responsible. It will lead to further reductions in services and programs in the long run.

Beware the city politician who now comes to you and says we can maintain all the services and programs we want, need and must provide through finding efficiencies and keeping tax increases unsustainably low.cuttothebone

Uh-uh.

They are selling you a bill of goods.

That’s what you need to take away from Wednesday.

Oh, and Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti is a douche. A malignant force on the political life of this city. A do-nothing elected representative unable to grasp even the most basic concepts of municipal governance.

Remember that.

And about efficiencies and low taxes.

And another thing. Councillor David Shiner is intent on further gutting the ability of the city to deliver the services and programs it is obligated to. texaschainsawmassacreHe sees gaps in job vacancies at City Hall and its inability to fill them as needed as some sort of failure to deliver those services and programs to the public. He demands a refund. Starve it and kill it.

And Councillor Doug Ford. See, Mammoliti, Giorgio above.

And one more thing. Budget Chief Frank Di Giorgio has absolutely no place being budget chief. He understands the numbers less than I do. And I’m not budget chief.

Remember all that as we go forward. Remember, all these councillors either don’t care or don’t know that the policies they’re pursuing are hindering the city’s ability to deal with the growth it’s experiencing in any sort of fair, healthy or sustainable manner. They all claim to respect the taxpayer, to be looking out for the taxpayer yet don’t seem to give a toss about the financial burnittothegroundwherewithal of the city they’re elected to represent to manage and its ability to deal with the future.

Remember all that going forward.

That, and Mayor Ford is in legal trouble again. Again.

It is days like these I am amazed these arsonists have not yet managed to burn this place to the ground.

icily submitted by Cityslikr


There’s Always A But

December 11, 2013

“I love the trees but…”ilovetrees

Councillor Doug Ford statement started yesterday at day one of the budget committee’s 2014 program review. It echoed similar sentiments that Councillor Vincent Crisanti made earlier in the meeting when he asked city staff when all the tree planting was going to end.

I love the trees but… I love nutritional programs for the kids but… I love extended library hours but…

It’s what follows the but (and my inner 10 year-old boy snickers) that’s important here. I love [fill in your program or service of preference here] but I don’t want to pay for it. Having stuff in the city is all fine and dandy but, please, stop reaching into my pocket where I keep my hard-earned dollars.

This, I think, is what’s referred to as the tragedy of the commons. The demand and use of public services and programs minus a willingness to pay for them. Or, the belief that, in fact, you more than pay your fair share. You want something else? It’s on your dime.

Which explains why, while the budget committee members are relatively comfortable (short a few notable exceptions) with a below the rate of inflation increase in property tax, minemineminethey’re totally cool about user fee increases far exceeding it. A whopping 6% (inflation plus 3.75%) in fact, on the various user fees discussed yesterday. We’re becoming a pay as you go city, folks. That’s respect for the tax not fee payers.

And, you know, if that’s your particular bent, so be it. I’d just say let’s be fair and apply that reasoning across the board. So we can bring back that vehicle registrations tax fee, right? Nickel and diming. Nickel and diming.

As it stands, the proposed budget is pretty much status quo given the last 3 years. Very few enhanced or new services and continued attrition and reductions around the horn. Certainly no noticeable overall improvements and the corrosion continues at an almost imperceptible pace.

Still that’s not enough for some on city council. The mayor and his brother have been very adamant about only wanting a 1.75% property tax increase as opposed to staff’s 2.5%. Seemingly out of the blue, budget committee member Councillor Ron Moeser wanted staff to go back and give him the numbers for a 2% property tax increase. texaschainsawmassacreTo his credit, Budget Chief Frank Di Giorgio gently guided his colleague away from that line of questioning by pointing out, that staff had worked very, very hard for many, many months on this particular budget. The time for that kind of drastic ask had passed.

This was the same budget chief, however, who a little while later took a break from the meeting to meet with the mayor in front of the cameras to announce he’d be introducing a motion later on to reduce the Land Transfer Tax by 5% this year. That’s something like $17 million in lost revenue – poof! – just like that. Sorry about that hard working staff. Maybe we need to rethink that $14 million in new and enhanced services.

Because, technically speaking, cutting eliminating not introducing new or enhanced services is not a cut which this administration guaranteed it would not do. candyfromababyWe all love the new and enhanced services but…

For a group of people who spent an inordinate amount of time trying to ferret out the profligacy of providing breakfast and nutritional programs to children who may not actually need it, it’s obvious the only thing a majority of this particular budget committee really love is paying as little money as possible into the pot that we use to build a stronger, more vibrant, equitable and healthy city. The public good is for suckers. You want to make things better? Don’t look at me. I’ll just come along for the ride.

selfishly submitted by Cityslikr


Shut It Down Frank

December 3, 2013

There was a certain lack of urgency in the air in committee room 1 for the public deputations ahead of the 2014 budget, grityourteetchandcarryonboth perplexing as well as unsurprising.

Clearly there’s a crush of need in many sectors of city services and programs after years of cutbacks, flat lining and neglect by all three levels of government. Where that fact was on stark display these past two days was in child care and children’s nutritional programs. Oh, and the TTC. Always the TTC.

It is astounding to me the number of people out there filling in the gaps left by governments that, regardless of political stripe, seem to believe we are taxed enough. You can’t get blood from a stone, we’re told. Don’t look at us to be the heavies here. DIY. Do it yourself.

Many do, setting up things like breakfast programs with and/or without assistance from both the public and private sectors along with a healthy dose of volunteerism. And then they manage to take the time to come down to City Hall to express (almost exclusively) a discontent, let’s call it, with the contributions city council is making. For at least some 150 people or so who signed up to make deputations over the last couple days, democracy is much more than simply voting on election day.

I’m hoping what I perceived to be the deputants’ collective tone of quiet resolve wasn’t instead resignation in the face of just 3 years of constant beat down. admirationIt might be a product of sideshow freak fatigue, civic efforts in the face of a leaderless political entity trying to get back to business as usual. Who is it I’m addressing here?

Perhaps (and I could very well be projecting my own views onto this) there’s a sense out there that this is also very much a do nothing drastic, it’s an election year budget. Don’t rock the boat with any sudden change in direction and just get on with campaigning. Grit your teeth. Grin and bear it. Register your concern but no outrage. Next year will be an entirely different year.

The lack of, I don’t know, pressing engagement also might have been the result of the prevailing attitude from the budget committee members. With the exception of Councillor Michelle Berardinetti, it felt like the whole deputation process was an imposition upon the rest of them. disengagedAfter quickly passing a motion to reduce speaking time to 3 minutes, they followed up with a 1 minute limit for councillor’s questions that succeeded in impeding any sort of actual dialogue between residents and their elected representatives.

Then, the committee wanted to cut short Monday’s meeting back from its 930 p.m. scheduled end to 6 p.m., effectively eliminating any possibility for those who couldn’t make it to the meeting during work hours from deputing. Councillor Berardinetti initially beat back the motion but Councillor Doug Ford managed to have it pushed through later in the afternoon. Talk about your customer service.

Say what you will about former budget chief Mike Del Grande (and we said a lot, almost none of which was positive) but he at least seemed to revel in rubbing his opponents’ nose in the fact he was in charge of the city’s purse strings. Cupcake this, widows and orphans and he’d bang the gavel with relish. foghornleghornI want to listen to you beg and make a point of ignoring you.

This gang (again, I exclude Councillor Berardinetti from this broadside) couldn’t even bother mustering the pretense of interest. Councillor Ford, flitting in and out of the meeting, started almost every ‘question’ to deputants with a “Do you realize that…” before launching into whatever dubious claim or numbers he thought appropriate. Private sector this, find efficiencies that. Unsurprisingly, it was the lack of outdoor skating rinks IN SCARBOROUGH that grabbed his attention the most.

As for Councillor Frances Nunziata, if there is a more contemptible, less respectful councillor currently representing residents of Toronto, their name is Mike Del Grande and, well, see above. Nunziata wears a permanent sneer and spent more time on Monday watching the clock than listening to the deputations. “Frank! Frank!” she’d snap at the committee chair when he absent-mindedly or graciously allowed deputants to wrap up beyond the 3 minute mark. Her only interaction with the speakers who’d made the effort to come out was to ask if they’d looked elsewhere for help.

h/t Paisley Rae

h/t Paisley Rae

But there’d be problems with the deputation process even with a more crowd friendly committee. Unless you’re among the first 10 or so listed deputants, there’s too much uncertainty in your timing. People need to be assigned a block of time in which they know they’ll be speaking and the committee needs to stick to that. Otherwise, people just drift off, having to get back to work, to home, to pick up their kids from school. This usually precipitates a run of no-shows, leading to more no-shows by people who had been following along but hadn’t expected to be called on so soon.

More than that, the public needs to be invited to take part in the budget making decisions much earlier in the process. It’s hard not to conclude, as it works right now, that once we get to the staff proposed budget release it’s all a done deal. Months in the works, behind closed doors, it’s delivered up. A fait accompli. Here it is, boys and girls. What do you think of it?

In quick succession, just before Christmas, the public is offered a glimpse of what to expect, nowrunalonghave their say over the course of a couple days, and then it’s off to council to be voted on in late-January. Thanks for playing along. See you next year.

It gives the impression that we’re offered the chance to be heard but not listened to. This budget committee, this week, simply made what was a matter of fact painfully obvious.

openly submitted by Cityslikr