Oh Happy Days

June 4, 2011

Coming of age in the 1970s as the revolutionary ethos of the previous decade waned, the rearguard, reactionary counter-attack came in the form of a nostalgic, totally manufactured pining for the good ol’ simple days and ways of the 1950s. These Happy Days are yours and mine (oh Happy Days). Culminating, of course, in the election of Ronald Reagan and Morning in America.

More than 30 years on and those forces haven’t budged an inch. I guess that’s the nature of reactionary thinking. Pick a period and stick with it. Talk of change or getting with it is for the kids. Pure heresy. No retreat, no surrender.

This world view manifested itself here in Toronto over the past week or so… actually, since October 25th… with City Hall’s declared war on graffiti. In their righteous march to scrub city walls clean and put on a shiny face, it seems our soldiers of blight removal eradicated a mural out the Junction way that the city had commissioned just a couple years ago. Oops. A mistake of over-zealousness? Perhaps, but there was talk the administration wasn’t crazy about the politics they perceived behind the piece.

Provincial Conservative leader, Tim Hudak, out in campaign mode with his Changebook, then got in on the anti-graffiti act. According to the CBC’s Queen’s Park coverage, in a speech he gave to the Canadian Club earlier this week, Hudak suggested that graffiti is a sign that “gangs rule here”. Yes, people. If you’re wandering around the streets of Toronto and come across any graffiti, immediately call 9-1-1, identify yourself and exact location before heading for the nearest house with a Block Parent sign in the window.

I mean, seriously. How old are these people anyway? It’s like their whole world view has been formed by the 70s movie The Warriors. No, wait. Footloose. Like John Lithgow’s Reverend Shaw Moore, they abhor and condemn anything they don’t agree with or understand. It’s the handiwork of the devil. Or gangs.

Graffiti? Gone. Ad hoc displays of public art? Get it out of here. Street festivals and charity bike rides down expressways? Leads to horseplay and unwanted pregnancies.

We’ve given the keys of power over to the Abe Simpsons amongst us. In my day—zzzzzzzz. Tiresome and irksome in our elders, straight up creepy in those we call contemporaries.

Of course, when it comes to Abe Simpson, none do a better job around these parts than our Deputy Mayor, Doug Holyday. (At least he’s of the same vintage.) Councillor Holyday was at it himself recently, yammering on about the need to clean up the streets of panhandlers and the homeless. To hear him tell it, it’s a veritable obstacle course of filth and aggressive begging out there. “I know that when I’m downtown,” the deputy mayor tells the National Post, “sometimes you have to walk around these people, they’re right in the middle of the sidewalk and you’ll run over them if you don’t pay attention.”

Sometimes we’re actually forced to walk around these people. The indignity of it! We, upstanding citizens and taxpayers, actually have to change our course slightly because people, neither upstanding or taxpayers (probably), have made the choice of living and sleeping right smack dab in the middle of our thoroughfares, and asking us, sometimes forcefully, to pay their way to living the high life on easy street.

What can we do? According to Mr. Holyday “…we’re paying millions of dollars to try to help people…” and what thanks do we get for it? Disrespectfully having our way blocked.

In my day, beggars knew their place. In flophouses located on Skid Row, safely tucked away from where the tourists and thrill seeking suburbanites came and got the wrong impression of us. Where all the buildings were scarred and marred by senseless graffiti which invariably led to senseless criminal behaviour, lewd acts and smoking of the Mary Jane. In my day, if somebody got out of line, some impertinent hobo or reprobate, not knowing their place, made me step over them as they took a little drunk nap during the middle of the day right in the middle of the sidewalk, it wasn’t frowned upon if you gave them a short, sharp boot heel to the ribs. Let them know you didn’t approve of their lifestyle.

“In my day” is how the fearful and unimaginative see the world. The past was perfect. The future dire. The present, a hand basket on route straight to hell. Everything new or different is suspect. A deviation, in all the negative connotations of that word.

With it, we grind to a standstill, missing exciting opportunities when they arise and embracing values and notions that, if they ever really existed in the first place, are probably in need of some serious updating to their software. Like most of us. Try as you might, you can’t simply wipe clean that which you don’t like or understand.Believe me, I know. I’ve been trying to eradicate the last six months or so. No matter how much I scrub or sandblast, it just keeps reappearing in all its ugly, depressing reality.

nostalgically submitted by Urban Sophisticat


100 Days. Where Does The Time Go?

February 4, 2011

Next week Calgary mayor, Naheed Nenshi, comes to Toronto to give a speech to a sold out Canadian Club gathering at the Royal York Hotel and as far as I know he’s not going to be asking for help in retiring his campaign debt. For his part, our mayor took his act on the road a couple weeks back, going to Chicago to attend the NFC championship game. To be fair to Mayor Ford, I think precious few people would be willing to pony up $75 to watch him sweat through a speech about the finer points of civic governance. That’s the kind of thing he’d leave for his brother to do.

Mayor Nenshi has just passed the 100 days in office marker and one of his hometown newspapers decided to give an assessment of the job he’s done so far. It seems a little early to be making conclusions one way or the other. Something you’d do for less demanding jobs like President of the United States. But far be it from me to tell another city how to do things especially a city that elected someone like Naheed Nenshi as their mayor while we… well, we know only to well how that played out.

**sigh**

Guardedly upbeat, I would call the Calgary Herald’s appraisal of Nenshi’s first 3 months as mayor. While suggesting the enthusiasm that swept him into power has been “…tempered by some realities of running the city”, the paper points out “… observers do say Nenshi has achieved a good deal, and is nurturing a sense of optimism in Calgary, with public engagement at the forefront and not an afterthought.” ‘Guardedly upbeat’? That’d be ‘wildly buoyant’ if we were referring to our mayor’s initial days.

Now, again to be fair to Mayor Ford, he’s only officially been in office for 2/3s the time that Mayor Nenshi has so he’s still got over a month before we can really take a measure of the man but ‘nurturing a sense of optimism’ and placing ‘public engagement at the forefront and not an afterthought’ haven’t been trademarks of his administration. So far. But early March is still a long way off if we’re using 100 days as a yardstick. Maybe once Mayor Ford gets this whole pesky budget passed and off his desk, he will get down to the task of engaging with the public and nurturing a sense of optimism.

According to the Herald, the day after being elected “Naheed Nenshi stood outside City Hall and listed four immediate priorities: airport tunnel, securing money for the southeast LRT, getting through the budget and reforming city hall.” To date, he’s only accomplished one of those priorities, the budget which, to our outsider eyes, shouldn’t be a major source of concern. Building an airport tunnel, securing money for a major public transit project and reforming city hall, all seem, I don’t know, more long term.

Our mayor, busy as a beaver adhering to his election pledges, has really only succeeded in digging a bigger budget hole for the city with his cutting and freezing of taxes and, far from trimming some budgetary fat as it seems Mayor Nenshi has done in Calgary, Mayor Ford has proposed increasing both the operating budget and staff at City Hall this year. Mayor Nenshi got his council to increase money for transit. Mayor Ford? Well, not so much. He’s proposed cutting—no wait—re-allocating transit services.

And while Mayor Nenshi has hit a stumbling block in his attempt to secure funding from senior levels of government for a proposed LRT line, our mayor has demanded scrapping an LRT plan that was already in place with oodles of cash from senior levels of government, and to replace it with a subway that would serve far fewer people in fewer communities. Why? Because he doesn’t want to get caught behind a streetcar when he’s driving his SUV to work.

Despite some setbacks or delays in policy implementation, Mayor Nenshi seems to still be enjoying a favourable rapport with friends and foes alike on the Calgary council by reaching out and listening to everyone, even those who stand in opposition on some issues to the mayor. Like Alderman Ray Jones who thinks Nenshi is “a breath of fresh air” and is “not in your face” and “cares what other people think.” “There is far less acrimony on council,” says Duane Bratt, a Mount Royal political analyst.

Now maybe it’s too much to expect that our mayor here in Toronto would be capable of generating less acrimony on council, let alone ‘far less acrimony’ since he ran on the Acrimonious Express during his campaign. In fact, maybe it’s too much to expect anything positive emanating from this administration. If “Nenshi’s problem was he came in with very high expectations,” according to another political analyst at Mount Royal University, David Taras, Mayor Ford’s suffering from the opposite dilemma. Low to no expectations. His was not a victory about “… all the things that could be done” as is attributed to Mayor Nenshi but all the things that couldn’t be done. Not revolution but reactionism. Insular pettiness, small-minded vindictiveness and willfully blind ideology have been the Mayor Ford way. It’s hard to generate much optimism with that kind of approach.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. It’ still early days yet. So we will endeavour not rush to judgment. However, we do think it best that our mayor stick to attending sporting events and steer clear of the lecture circuit for the time being. Maybe keep it a secret from the outside world for as long as we can about the kind of mayor we chose to elect.

covetously submitted by Cityslikr