Time To Talk Transit Turkey

October 9, 2012

If Mayor Ford really wanted to turn the page on the nasty car accident that’s been his last year in office or so, he could do worse than to enthusiastically adopt the city CFO’s report on transit funding strategies at Executive Committee meeting today. Instead of spending his time and political capital trying to eradicate any and all evidence that David Miller was ever mayor of Toronto, he could now simply absorb what was his predecessor’s most cherished legacy. Out transit the one time Transit Mayor. You want transit? I’ll give you transit, folks.

Of course, no such thing is going to happen.

The initial response coming from the mayor’s office to Cam Weldon’s report is pretty much par for the course for an administration that’s only viewed the transit file as a potential wedge issue. Private sector this from Councillor Doug Ford, senior levels of government that from the mayor. Any talk of new sources of revenue dedicated to building transit is just a whole lot of tax-and-spending in disguise. Team Ford, no can do.

Instead, Mayor Ford seems intent on keeping to the tried and true path of obsessing and trying to exploit inconsequential matters in the hope of righting the ship. Over on Twitter last Friday, the mayor’s former campaign director and one of his ex-chiefs of staff, Nick Kouvalis suggested 70% of suburban Toronto was unhappy with the plastic bag ban and he predicted Mayor Ford could win re-election on that issue alone. Hyperbole aside (and noting Mr. Kouvalis doesn’t officially speak for the mayor at this juncture), it does point to some skewed priorities from those in the mayor’s corner. They seem unwilling, uninterested and/or unable to cope with the more pressing concerns the city faces.

So what happens when one of those pressing concerns comes before the mayor’s Executive Committee for its consideration?

I imagine Mayor Ford will try to bury the CFO’s report under procedural manoeuvrings. Out of sight, out of mind; defer it in order to keep it from council’s hands for a wider debate. The city’s got bigger fish to fry than contributing to a region wide debate on transit building. Those plastic bags aren’t going to unban themselves, people.

In other words, the mayor’s probably looking to excuse himself from the discussion and hoping to sideline the city along with him. Go on ahead without us. We’ll just stay here and roll up into a ball of irrelevancy.

How many members of his Executive Committee are willing to stick their heads in the sand along with the mayor? This isn’t just some left-right, downtown-suburban issue we’re talking about here. Toronto’s Board of Trade is pushing this discussion. The bigwigs of the region’s post-secondary school institutes are demanding action. John Tory’s Greater Toronto CivicAction Alliance group will be rolling out their attempt to kick start the debate this week.

But the mayor of the largest city in the entire GTHA wants to take a pass on participating?

Enabling such a craven approach will not reflect well on those who do so. Transit is too important an item to continue playing politics with it. We’ve avoided having this conversation for at least a generation now. Any elected official once more endeavouring to push it off onto someone else’s plate needs to seriously question why it was they sought public office in the first place. And voters need to question why it was they supported them.

ominously submitted by Cityslikr


A Mayor In Major Minor

October 2, 2012

Today marks the start of what is, I believe, the 4000th city council meeting Mayor Rob Ford has presided over since taking office back in 2010. (I use the mayor’s own arithmetical tools to arrive at that number.) Looking through the meeting’s agenda the thing that immediately jumps out at me is the complete and utter lack of positive input coming from the mayor and his Executive Committee. It’s almost as if he’s mayor in title only.

Where are the major initiatives? The bold going-forwards that will set out directions to deal with the city’s pressing problems? Mayor Ford? Oh right. It’s high school football season.

Anyone else? Councillor Ford? Deputy Mayor? QB Mammoliti? Anyone, anyone? Bueller?

Instead, this is what’s shaping up to be the defining moment of this week’s council meeting. “When Toronto city council kicks off its fall session this week,” Kelly Grant wrote in the Globe and Mail yesterday, “Mayor Rob Ford will have a real shot at a real win on a real issue. If the mayor’s allies succeed in postponing or reversing a plastic-bag ban that Mr. Ford has derided as ‘outright stupid,’ he will have something to celebrate after this summer’s gaffes.”

That, folks, is what you call setting the bar really, really low.

Reversing a vote which was the result of a vote that should’ve never happened in the first place as the key to rebuilding Mayor Ford’s relevance? Halting a ban on single-use plastic bags after successfully nixing the 5 cent fee that had been imposed and which many major retailers still charge can really be classified as ‘a real win on a real issue’? What next, maestro? Watch as our mayor drinks a glass of water while his dummy talks.

Read a list of the examples Mayor Ford will cite as his administration’s major accomplishments to date – cutting councillors’ office budgets, removing the VRT, contracting out waste collection, getting the TTC deemed an essential service, setting city workers’ contracts and avoiding any threat of a strike for 4 years – a pattern emerges. Under the guise of restoring fiscal sanity and respecting the taxpayers, it’s all been about cutting, reducing, eliminating. Getting government out of the business of governing.

I Cut, Therefore I Am.

Of course, none of this comes as much of surprise to anyone who watched Rob Ford during the decade he spent as a city councillor or crunched the numbers he casually tossed around as part of his mayoral election campaign platform. However else he tried to couch it in terms palatable enough to lure a plurality of Toronto voters to back him in 2010, it was always just about less. Less government. Less spending. Less taxes.

Then he ran smack dab into the hard, cold reality of municipal governance as set out in KPMG’s Core Services Review. It wasn’t really all that gravy laden down at City Hall. Efficiencies could be found certainly but nowhere near enough to offset the loss in revenues that Mayor Ford demanded in tax cuts and freezes. No matter how many different ways you tried to do the math, the answer was always the same.

Now comes the report from the outgoing Deputy City Manager and CFO, Cam Weldon, outlining a transit funding strategy. Requested in March by city council, it is chock full of ideas on revenue generation to pay for the massive investment in public transit that the city and region must undertake, and undertake ASAP. ‘Revenue generation’ you say? You mean, taxes!

Yep. It’s going to take a whole lot more than reversing the plastic bag ban for Mayor Ford to become relevant again. Transit is but the tip of the iceberg of infrastructure investment cities are facing. Ducking your head and clutching your wallet is no longer a viable option. More is the new less, and being the mayor of small things won’t be worth one lousy nickel.

generously submitted by Cityslikr