Here’s Your Coat…

January 18, 2013

I will admit to a slight glitch of feeling, a tiny moment of near compunction when I heard the news on Wednesday night of Budget Chief Mike Del Grande’s resignation. waitasecHuh? That’s… something, I thought.

Then we proceeded to pop the cork on some bubbly.

I write no note of gratitude or appreciation toward our outgoing budget chief. Like in our post last weekend on Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong, I can find no redeeming qualities in the political life of Councillor Mike Del Grande. There’s nothing to respect or applaud. Even if I were to lie just a little bit.

Given enough time and a couple glasses of wine, I probably could byte a few positive words about Mayor Rob Ford. Probably. In a pinch. But increasingly, I have great difficulty coming up with duly appropriate nods of respect for conservative politicians. thinkingThose propelled into a life of elected office on the wings of anti-government sentiment and the core conviction that it is nothing but a determinant to be neutralized and dismantled.

Michael Del Grande is one of those types of politicians.

Read through yesterday’s perfectly timed feature in The Grid on the then-but-now-ex budget chief and consider this following passage:

“I grew up poor, so I know what it’s like to make a buck. My attitude is, any dime that’s spent out there, I treat it [like] it’s my own.”

There’s no sense of community, no belief in a greater good. I pay my taxes. I expect results. Certifiable, directly benefiting me, bang-for-my-buck results.

It’s almost as if he wanted to become budget chief in order to be able to track every penny he pays in municipal taxes mineminemineand make sure he personally was getting something in return.

Of course, I could just say that being the budget chief of Toronto and overseeing billions of dollars must be one hell of a job, thankless in that you can never please everybody and onerous in terms of demands on your and your family’s time. But I don’t need to. The ex-budget chief reminded us of that fact every time he got in front of a microphone. Here. And here. And here.

Yes. A terrible job which, when push comes to shove, pays a paltry amount. (Owing, ironically, at least in part to the penny-pinching attitude held by the likes of Councillor Del Grande). It is not one for the faint of heart or thin of skin.

But nobody forced him to take or keep the job, did they? If you can’t stand the heat and all of that. It seems nothing short of unanimous and uncritical praise is payment enough for him.

So here goes.

Thanks very much, Councillor Del Grande, theresthedoorfor the sweat and toil you put in coming up with 3 successive budgets I couldn’t agree less with. I thank you. The widows and orphans thank you.

Over-worked and under-appreciated as budget chief, Mike Del Grande still found time to personally respect my tax dollars.

“Del Grande is so committed to efficient service that he occasionally leaves his office to drop in on city employees unannounced. If he catches them slacking off, there’s hell to pay,” writes Rob Duffy in The Grid. “I’m the kind of guy that will call them over, ask them if they know who I am. Most of the time they’ll say no. I tell them who I am, then they crap their pants. And I basically just tell them, Look, the public wants to see value for their money. They’re working for me. I’m the boss. It’s my money.”

No, wait. It gets better.

“My philosophy? You don’t have to fire everybody. You take the biggest bull, the biggest problem, whatever the heck it is, and you gore it publicly. You make it bleed so bad that it scares the shit out of everybody else, to put them in line if things are going bad.”

Not only does he behave that badly, he seems to brag about it, relish it. I mean, it’s like Donald Trump without the bad hair and money. doyouknowwhoiamThese are the words and actions of a petty tyrant not a thoughtful city builder.

“I presented an extraordinary budget, an extraordinary turn around with respect to where the city was going. I’ve done my job, the ship was set in the right direction,” the National Post’s Natalie Alcoba quotes him saying after Wednesday’s vote. “Everybody then wanted to be the budget chair on the floor of council and they extracted their individual peeves.”

The startling self- (*a-hem, a-hem*) -delgrandizing aside, it is the statement of a man seemingly unable to experience the sensation of empathy. Everything he does is selfless, for the betterment of the city. Everyone else? Pet peeves, pet projects.

He is an evidence-based decision maker, as he’d taken to pronouncing in the months leading up to the budget debate and vote, rather than one subject to mere ‘whims and emotions’. Which is a rich claim coming from someone absolutely wrapped up in the frenzied fiction that this city was in some sort of out-of-control dire financial straits before he assumed control of the purse strings. Our debt payments especially compared to other levels of governments and municipalities didn’t indicate that. Our lower than other GTA jurisdictions residential property tax rates suggested otherwise. sailthisshipaloneOnly in the small-minded, small-government views of conservatives was there some sort of monumental problem that needed to be fixed, a ship in need of righting.

A divisive downtown-suburban warrior (such the fiscal hawk, he beat the drum loudly for the financially dubious Scarborough subway), as much a vilifier as the vilified, Council Del Grande represents the absolute worst instincts of this city. As an elected representative he symbolizes all the reasons we don’t build nice things here. I wish I could find one thing about his service to Toronto I might be gracious about. Unfortunately, I’ve come up empty.

nothing nice to sayly submitted by Cityslikr

When Great Budgets Go Bad

January 16, 2013

It was, in the words of Mayor Rob Ford, the greatest budget in the history of budgets, EV-AR! thegreatestForged in the icky cauldron of compromise and consensus, Budget 2013 was without parallel in the annals of city budgeting here in Toronto. A first on almost every level. The firstest, the bestest than all the restest.

So unimpeachable was the document, the third (and perhaps final) budget of this mayoralty, that it withstood the early volleys of tinkerers, looking to mess with perfection. Bids to raise the property tax increases even higher than the reluctantly established 2% were easily brushed aside. Easier still to crush was the motion from former go-to Team Ford QB, Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti, afunnythingto forgo a property tax increase altogether and an invitation to hop aboard his crazy river boat casino scheme that would fill the city’s coffers up yearly to the tune of half a billion dollars.

But something funny happened with that motion. Mayor Ford was only one of four councillors to vote in favour of Mammoliti’s 0% property tax increase. Why? Who knows. Maybe just instinct. Maybe just a not-so-subtle dog whistle to his supporters that he was but a reluctant tax raisers, only forced into it by a renegade council determined to steal his mandate.

Either way, all bets were now off. If the mayor didn’t see fit to toe the line on his own perfect budget, why should anyone else? Whatever support he had went up in smoke. Many regular right-of-centre allies banded together with their more centrist colleagues around the issue of cuts to the fire department (perhaps swayed by the sea of red shirts in the chambers sported by firefighters) and began bringing forth motions to reverse the proposed cuts, adding money back into the budget. Huddles abounded. whathappenedNew plans hatched. Mayor Ford was left on the sidelines, shaking his head and grumbling to an equally grumpy Deputy Mayor.

The final outcome was delayed when council just barely missed snagging the 2/3s majority needed to extend the meeting time in order to finish the budget last night. But it’s probably not going to alter the end result. There will be some additional spending, pulled from the capital side somewhere. And the only real drama will be whether there’s enough to force Budget Chief Del Grande to make good on his promise to quit his post if council defies his edict to keep the purse zipped. Fingers crossed!

Whatever happens, it’s become glaringly apparent that Mayor Ford can’t catch a break. Perfection is not his to have. His only good days at this point in time are the ones that don’t really, really suck.

almost sympathetically submitted by Cityslikr

Taxing My Patience

December 11, 2012

Just a quick slapdash entry after deputations on the 2013 budget wrapped up this afternoon. madhatterHopefully it will appear entirely different from my regular slapdash efforts.

Mike Del Grande. Councillor Mike Del Grande. Budget Chief Mike Del Grande.

Mike Del Grande, Mike DelGrande, MikeDelGrande, mikedelgrande…

Despite listening to over 200 deputants, none of whom I heard demand their taxes be cut, and a litany of the usual suspect downtown lefty councillors suggesting their constituents would prefer a better city over lower taxes, our budget chief doesn’t buy any of that nonsense. People don’t like paying taxes. End of story. Let’s move on.

How does our budget chief know this? By a rigorous examination of a solid, evidence based study, OK? Voluntary repayment of the Vehicle Registration Tax back to the city. All these people, coming down to plead their case in front of the Budget Committee year after year, all the bleeding hearts the likes of Councillor Janet Davis meets in her ward, all saying they would happily pay more in tax. Well? Where are they, the budget chief wonders. Certainly not filling the city coffers out of the goodness of their hearts, let him tell you.

Now, I don’t have a car, thus don’t pay the VRT but if I did and didn’t have to pay the VRT because the Ford Administration is averse to that kind of revenue generation, nothankyouthe last place I would be returning that money saved is to a City Hall run by a gang of far right, anti-government ideologues. All taxes are evil, as far as the likes of Councillor Doug Ford is concerned. Yeah… sure. Here’s my rebate, Mr. Budget Chief. Please do something nice with it, OK?

Instead, I know a couple people who have diligently used the $60 they saved when renewing their car sticker and donated it to places hurt by recent city cuts – i.e. the library. So, the budget chief’s certainty that people don’t like paying taxes based on a lack of returns back to the city is based on, what do you call it, an inadequate sampling? Nonsense? Pure and utter bullshit?

On top of which, taxation really only works as a collective enterprise. Elective participation in handing over one’s hard earned cash doesn’t tend to fill the coffers like a compulsory obligation. It only fully functions if we’re all in it together, contributing. Some more, some less but none voluntarily.

I’d like to think my willingness to pay taxes is based on an absolute selflessness. That I am constitutionally more inclined to help out the ‘widows and orphans’ than our budget chief is. But that wouldn’t be entirely true.taxation

From an unequivocally selfish perspective, I want to pay more for better transit (which I don’t depend on), for fewer people forced to live on the streets (I have a house), for free recreational programs (which I’ve never taken) because it means the lives of other people (mostly who I don’t know but share this city with) are made just a little bit better, a little more liveable, their prospects of a better life just a little brighter. Why does that matter to me? The possibility of them being able to contribute more significantly and positively will make this a better city for me to live in.

And I can’t do that single-handedly, giving back my VRT or making some other voluntary contribution to the likes of Mike Del Grande. Taxation only works en masse. Everybody pitching in what they can.

It’s disheartening that the person in charge of spending billions and billions of dollars annually either doesn’t realize it or doesn’t believe it.

taxingly submitted by Cityslikr

Stop Me If You’ve Heard This Before

December 5, 2012

I have this recurring nightmare.


In my death throes, with no turning back from whatever it is that’s oncoming, infinite nothingness I assume, and the last thing I see, my ultimate mortal vision, a Latin verse or two I so wish I could drop in here, my final rite if I were a god fearing sort of person, the light I would not rush headlong toward is the scowling, sullen, angry face of our current budget chief, Mike Del Grande.

Widows and orphans! At the end of the day! These times we live in. These TIMES we live in. At the end of the day. Widows and orphans. At the end of the day.

The burning resentment of that relative wrapped in a slight whiff of burnt butter that even your politically radioactive father didn’t have the time of day for. I may be nuts, sonny jim, but your Uncle Mike, well, he’s, well, how do I say this nicely, more than a little crazy. trembleNo small talk from your Uncle Mike because it cuts into his time to rail at everything. And we do mean everything.

Do you know how much they want for this loaf of bread? A loaf of bread?! Some flour and water! A loaf of bread?!

Mike Del Grande should not be making any sort of important decisions about the course of this city. He is simply incapable of imagining a place that must spend some $10 billion a year to function even close to properly or fairly. Big numbers overwhelm him and confuse him. Such confusion leads to a perpetual state of surliness.

These numbers must be reduced. They do not compute. My pocket calculator cannot contain them. They do not compute. These numbers must be reduced.

In breath-taking post by Karolyn Coorsh at Town Crier Politics, there’s the following exchange between the budget chief and the city’s Chief Planner, Jennifer Keesmaat.

Keesmaat was quite candid in describing a “honeymoon’s over” moment back in early fall, when she had to defend departmental spending line by line to Budget Chief Mike Del Grande.  

Keesmaat held the line this year, but informed the budget chief that after a previous three years of unilateral cuts, there is no way she’d be able to squeeze or freeze again next year.  

According to Keesmaat, a “hot-under-the-collar” Del Grande responded by saying it’s a pervasive problem he was seeing across departments. “He said, ‘There’s just no money and there’s no fat to trim. We have to find a source of revenue.’

“And I said, ‘Councillor, with all due respect, that’s what property taxes are. They’re a way that residents of this city pay for the services that we provide.’”

“There’s just no money and there’s no fat to trim,” the budget chief laments. “We have to find a source of revenue.”

We had a fucking source of revenue, Mr. Budget Chief! It was called the Vehicle Registration Tax. You and a majority of councillors jettisoned it back in the halcyon days of the city having a spending not a revenue problem. bananastandYou froze property taxes one year and didn’t make up for the resulting revenue shortfall the next.

There are sources of revenues immediately accessible to us. Our budget chief just chooses to ignore them, pretends they don’t exist and then berates anyone who comes before him, asking to be spared the axe. ‘Show me the money,’ is his boringly predictable response. Show him the money.

When someone actually does, pointing to a proper property tax increase, the budget chief just picks a big, unnecessarily large number out of the air. 10%? Is that what you want? 10% Maybe 15. Just say it. Say it!

It would be a lot less galling if he was just honest with us and simply came right out and said that he doesn’t care about the planning department. Widows and orphans? M’eh. Free swimming lessons? Outrageous. In his day, if you couldn’t afford to learn how to swim, you just stayed clear of the water.

Instead, we get this self-pitying tone of a put upon martyr foisted reluctantly into a position in the wrong place at the wrong time. He’d love to help everyone, give out a second helping of gruel to the needy, a chicken in every pot etc., etc. It’s just that, it’s just that his hands are tied, you see. A victim of circumstance and inevitability.

Three years in, the schtick is old and tiresome not to mention detrimental to the well-being of the city and its residents. Budget Chief Del Grande likes to tout how tough it is saying ‘no’. Anybody can say ‘yes’ to every request for money that comes across their desk. texaschainsawmassacreOnly the bold stand their ground, dig in their heels and close their minds.

But if there’s no more fat to trim, as the budget chief apparently admitted, only someone bereft of imagination or spirit would continue to cut away. He just can’t seem to stop. It’s all he knows how to do.

Perhaps it’s time someone takes the knife from his hand before he inflicts any further damage. After all, we don’t expect a butcher to breathe life back into the cow.

slice-and-dicingly submitted by Cityslikr

Oh Yeah. The Budget. We Almost Forgot.

December 3, 2012

Largely lost this week in the most recent mayoral tumult was the release of city staff’s recommended 2013 operating and capital budgets. lostintheshuffleIs there a better manifestation of how the mayor’s ongoing circus sideshow stifles political discussions on any important issue? And no, that is a rhetorical question. This is the inevitable result of electing a maverick candidate with a sketchy history both personally and politically to office.

What also shouldn’t be surprising, given such a tenuous grasp on his job, is how little of an impact Mayor Ford seems to have had on the 2013 budgets. Overall gross expenditure is up, albeit modestly. There’s a slight property tax increase with no sign of any sort of rollback on an item like the Land Transfer Tax. The mayor’s biggest contribution so far seems to be in getting his budget chief, Councillor Mike Del Grande, put on the Toronto Police Services board in order to try and cut away of its numbers.

Which is a necessity this year since balancing the city’s operating budget hinges currently on a $21 million reduction in the police budget. That road already seems somewhat rocky with news that the police union is threatening legal action if budget cuts result in any layoffs. Administrations with much stronger support have difficulty facing off against the TPS. It’s hard to see how such a rudderless one can.

There are, though, Fordian echoes of budgets past in the 2013 documents. woundedpreyThe 0%, across the board freeze edict to all departments acts most certainly as a de facto cut since any sort of inflationary increase will result in less available money this year. And to be sure, there are some notable outright cuts. Staff reductions at Fire Services and a cut to the TCHC subsidy. There’s an increasing reliance on user fees, $30 million in all including the TTC fare hike.

Budget 2013 also maintains the far-right fiscal view Mayor Ford possesses of financing governance mainly through reduction. That is, cutting your way to smaller government. The only real revenue growth to this way of thinking can come through user fees. You want it? You pay for it unless of course we’re talking about road ways as public space.

Like the Ford administration, the city budget abhors debt. Despite the infrastructure needs the city faces, the 2013 budget is driven to reduce the cost of debt Toronto pays out as if somehow this is a fiscally irresponsible course of action only the most desperate or financially dissolute would take. Manageable debt? Never heard of it.

The argument goes something like this: (from the pie chart on page 27 of the Operating Budget) Imagine the services and programs we could save if we eliminated the $415.4 million in debt charges we’ll be racking up next year. Pay down some of that backlog of much needed TCHC repairs. Hire more fire fighters and EMS workers not fewer. Eliminate forever that damned Emerald Ash Boer.

No debt, no problems.

The idea’s so fucking crazy it just might not work.

Because if we don’t take on debt, how are we supposed to deal with all the massive capital costs to build and buy the things we need or to keep the things we already have in a state of good repair? goodebtbadebtEven if we eliminated the hundreds of millions of dollars we spend to service the debt by, well, eliminating the debt we’ve taken on, it’s not enough to cover capital costs. This administration would have you believe a combination of two things. Savings and efficiencies and lowering our expectations will put us over the top, folks. Easy peasy. It’s amazing no one else has ever thought of it before.

The fact is, Toronto’s debt load is not onerous. Despite a recent uptick in capital expenditures owing to TTC expansion, population growth and just old, creaking infrastructure, the city will only nose up close to its arbitrary, self-imposed 15% of property tax levy debt ceiling in around 2017 before heading back down. With rates of borrowing currently at a historic low and no big spikes foreseeable in the near future, why the debt reduction fixation? texaschainsawmassacreIt only sounds fiscally sound.

And that pretty much sums up Team Ford’s approach to governance. The appearance of fiscal prudence while in reality little more than a ruinous attack on healthy city building. If increasing revenues and taking on debt are both ruled out of order, what other options are available? It’s elimination through the process of elimination.

Despite our focus elsewhere on the mayor’s shortcomings, this is the one that’s hurting us most.

discountingly submitted by Cityslikr

The Caretaker

November 29, 2012

Through the window of the cafe in City Hall I spotted Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday standing out in the lunchtime chill in Nathan Phillips Square, patiently being interviewed by a television crew. Since the announcement of Judge Charles Hackland’s ruling in the mayor’s conflict of interest case, the deputy mayor has become the de facto face of the administration, issuing stay calm and proceed alerts as the city deals with an official leadership vacuum for the next couple months or so.  Not Winston Churchill in the face of the blitz but still, strangely assuring.

I have an oddly dichotomous opinion of the councillor from and last mayor of Etobicoke. In person whenever we cross paths, he is extremely courteous and gracious, always nods and exchanges greetings with me. I’m fairly certain he has no idea who I am, what I do or why I’m always hanging around his place of work. But I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t matter if he did. Colleagues of mine who have regular dealings with him and share more of my politics than his tell me the deputy mayor always makes himself available and is gentlemanly and cordial.

But then there is the Grandpa Simpson side of Doug Holyday that makes regular appearances on council floor or in a committee room during heated exchanges. Little Ginny. Remember her? That poor neglected child raised by negligent parents in a downtown high rise, destined to die an early death when she’s relegated to playing in the traffic or shoots off the slide on her roof top playground and plunges 95 stories to a bloodied splat on the ground below.

Why, just this week, under pointed questioning from Councillor Janet Davis about the uniformly male, uniformly suburban make up of the members of the mayor’s two most powerful committees, Executive and Budget, going forward in the terms second half. Look, the deputy mayor responded, he’d welcome more downtown councillors, would love to have more women on the team, if only they could get with the program and set aside any independent thinking.  When asked what his problem with entertaining more diverse opinions and views, he seemed nonplussed. Because… because DAVID MILLER! because BRIAN ASHTON! BRIAN ASHTON!!

In no way, shape or form could the deputy mayor be mistaken as anything other than a hardcore, fiscal conservative. No Red Tory is he. But it does seem that he is a more realistic assessor of the political situation in front of him. You don’t spend 125 years in politics, even politics in Etobicoke, and not know how to adapt to a change in the winds.

This is why I put forward the proposal that if Mayor Ford is really and truly put out to pasture, if his appeal in January to overturn Judge Hackland’s ruling falls upon deaf ears, that instead of plunging into a distracting and noisy by-election, city council designate the deputy mayor the actual mayor for the remainder of the current turn.

Believe me, this goes against every retributive instinct in my body. That scorched earth inclination to raze everything and anything reminiscent of Rob Ford’s time in office. A Northerner demands the South’s destruction not reconstruction.

Deep breath. Inhale. Exhale. Allow cooler heads to prevail.

Hear me out (and forgive me if any or all of the following suggestions contravene any statute of the City Of Toronto Act. I have not read it in its entirety. You see, back in the 1990s, my daddy was…)

There would be some serious stipulations in appointing Doug Holyday mayor. First, he could not run for re-election in 2014, using this appointment as a high profile platform. He might even consider this his municipal politics swan song.

Second, no coaching football or any equivalent activity to occupy his afternoons. Keep those crazy Kiwanis meetings to non-council meeting evenings, sir.

Third, a Mayor Holyday would remove Councillor Frances Nunziata from the Speaker’s chair, replacing her with the current deputy speaker, John Parker. Going forward, it’s important to restore a tone of civility and decorum during council meetings. Councillor Nunziata has proven herself incapable of providing such an environment during her tenure in the chair.

Next, a Mayor Holyday must share the job with council of completely overhauling the Striking Committee, appointing new members not because of their ideological loyalty but to reflect the diversity of council makeup.  In turn, such a Striking Committee would consider other committee appointments based on the same principle of diversity and inclusion. To try and lessen the whole us-versus-them mentality that has laid siege to City Hall.

On many of the committees, I don’t think there’d be the need for major renovations. A tweak here and there. Maybe flip a vice-chair to chair to bring a more bipartisan look to the Executive Committee. Say, a Councillor Chin Lee or Gloria Lindsay Luby replacing Councillor Cesar Palacio as Chair of the Licensing and Standards Committee. Councillor Mary-Margaret McMahon takes over for Councillor Norm Kelly as Chair of the Parks and Environment Committee.

There would be two deal-breaking change of appointments before Doug Holyday could take over as mayor. Both Councillor Mike Del Grande and Denzil Minnan-Wong must be relieved of duty from their respective committees. Along with Speaker Frances Nunziata, they are the most non-Ford divisive and destructive forces at council right now. To go forward with any hope of a constructive 2nd half of the term, these two – the Stadler and Waldorf of Toronto politics – must be relegated to where they belong. The backbenches of braying opposition where they’re only allowed to make noise and not a mess.

The final stipulation for a Mayor Holyday would the necessity of appointing a deputy mayor that was his polar opposite in political view, geography, gender and/or ethnicity. While I love the idea of a Deputy Mayor Janet Davis in a Mayor Doug Holyday regime, I think it would be ultimately unworkable, a sitcom in and of itself. So, how about a Deputy Mayor Pam McConnell? Yes, occasionally a Mayor Holyday’s head would explode in righteous indignation but, let’s be honest here. That’s going to happen regardless.

While the idea of such an unorthodox arrangement might run contrary to everything the straight-laced Holyday stands for, I think he could look upon this as his final and finest contribution to a long if not entirely distinguished career in public service. He could be the one who rose above partisan rancour to help heal the rift of a city divided. A grandfatherly figure dampening the heightened emotions of his unruly brood. Wisdom besting acrimony. Good will trumping ill.

And by reaching out this way, appointing the deputy mayor mayor, those currently in opposition in council would accomplish two things. The administration of a Mayor Holyday would be a tough one for Rob Ford or his brother to rail against during  their 2 years in exile. The inevitable campaign to recapture the mayoralty would lack satisfying target to shoot at.

The move would also acknowledge that the voters’ will from 2010 is not being denied. Doug Holyday was Rob Ford’s choice for deputy Mayor. By making him Ford’s replacement, there is some continuity, a peace offering.

If nothing else, what Toronto needs at this point is a little peace.

honest brokerly submitted by Cityslikr

Striking Out At Striking Committee

November 19, 2012

If anyone’s still patiently waiting for the Ford administration to get its shit together after two years at the helm, you only need to look at Friday’s events to realize that’s probably not ever going to happen. Either through sheer incompetence or simply not giving a fuck, the mayor and his… brain trust, let’s call them, seem content to simply fly by the seat of its collective pants and let the chips fall where they may. No direction. No design. No over-arching bigger picture.

No nothing. Nada. Zip. Zilch.

As Mayor Ford took the stand to defend himself against a case of libel, his Striking Committee settled in to sort out councillor (re)assignments on council’s committees, boards and agencies for the second half of the term. How badly did it go? Well, the mayor did better in court than the Striking Committee did doing its work, and the mayor didn’t do very well. Following along with both events via the Twitter, it wouldn’t be out of line to call it all a two-pronged shit show.

Establishing councillor representation of the city’s ABCs goes a long way to determining how successfully mayors roll out their agenda. Deftly beating out the wrinkles in items and motions at the committee level smooths the ride out for them when they arrive at council meetings. Arguably, good, thorough work done at committees will help lessen the time and length of full council meetings.

Naturally, any mayor wants and should have a majority of like-minded councillors in control of the committees. At least the ones they view as important. (Take a peek at the proposed line-up of the Community Development and Recreation Committee to see what little interest the mayor has with those issues. If the committee gets too big for its britches, he can bury its motions at Executive or Budget Committees.) There has to be an upside to our semi-strong mayoral system. Committees shouldn’t be a quagmire for an administration, the places a mandate goes to die.

That said, committee make-up also needs to reflect the diversity and regional representation of Toronto. From the outset back in 2010, Mayor Ford has shrugged that obligation off, choosing instead to load up the committees he cares about with loyalty first and foremost. Nothing from Friday’s Striking Committee circus suggests he plans on anything different for the second half of his time in office.

His Executive Committee, nine of the thirteen members there “…by virtue of office or having been appointed by the Mayor as a Standing Committee Chair” and the remaining four selected as at-large members are all from the inner suburbs and only one isn’t male. Ditto the Budget Committee. Its six proposed members are all suburban and only one is female. If Councillor Mike Del Grande is re-named chair by the Executive Committee, the rigid and narrow gender, regional and ideological pattern will be reinforced.

Such flagrant disregard of even a semblance of bi-partisanship led to the Striking Committee meeting’s biggest flare up. According to tweets from the Toronto Sun’s Don Peat and Star’s David Rider, Councillor David Shiner appeared to have lost his cool with the proceedings and the mayor’s staff over moves to leave him on the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee and remove Councillor Gord Perks.

“At striking committee where midterm council appointments being hashed out, [Councillor] Shiner is blowing his top,” tweeted Rider. “[Councillor] Shiner now very mad at Mayor Rob Ford’s office staff,” from Peat. Peat again, “”Your boss doesn’t consult, your boss works in a vacuum. The chief of staff doesn’t consult & guess what, you don’t win like that,” from Councillor Shiner. Summarizing, David Rider tweeted, “Backstory to Shiner flipout is he was angry that mayor’s staff want to take uber-knowledgable Cllr Perks off public works.”

So a noted conservative councillor, a regular ally of Mayor Ford (plastic bag ban aside) goes all snake (to paraphrase the mayor) on the mayor’s staff and the Striking Committee process because he feels that they’ve put politics ahead of good governance by moving to replace a qualified but ideologically opposed councillor on the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee with, let’s face it, nothing more than a major mayoral toady, Speaker Frances Nunziata.

And there’s poor Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday seemingly baffled by the kerfuffle.

“I would have thought someone would like the opportunity to serve on executive.” 

Why, when only the most blindly loyal need apply?

No, that’s not entirely true.

The blindly loyal, nakedly political and/or most highly delusional.

After musing out loud earlier this year about leaving the Executive Committee, Councillor Jaye Robinson will be back for another kick at the can. In replacing Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti as the chair of the Community Development and Recreation Committee, she will return to the Executive Committee, the lone female representative. Councillor Michelle Berardinetti has jumped ship, citing a desire to be free of “…intense vote-whipping pressure from Ford’s staff… on even minor issues.”

For her part, Councillor Robinson still believes she can be a “moderating influence” on the Executive Committee. Just like the committee’s newest member, Councillor Josh Colle. “My hope is that I can inject some reason and ration and new ideas into some of those [Executive Committee] discussions,” he said.  “I think I can contribute to that discussion and hopefully some refocusing.”

Well, good luck to them on that front, I say. Both have, at times, been the faces of moderating influence on the Ford Administration. Councillor Robinson led the pushback to the mayor and his brother’s wacky waterfront plans while Councillor Colle announced the proposal to eliminate some proposed cuts in last year’s operating budget. But I would argue that was done at council level where there are actual allies for them to count on.

The Executive Committee?

Aside from the occasional renegade in Councillor Shiner, there’s not a single face of moderation on the committee. Maybe councillors Ainslie, Milczyn or Thompson on particular issues but even then, that’s still a minority in the room. So why would either Colle or Robinson want to waste their time and energy trying to roll that rock up the hill?

If anything, the messy, partisan cock up at Friday’s Striking Committee session should only have emphasized to them that Team Ford remains in highly immoderate mode.

just sayingly submitted by Cityslikr