Old School

September 13, 2014

It’s not like I haven’t been rendered speechless before by the antics, let’s call them, at City Hall over the course of the past 4 years. dumbstruckI mean, crack smoking and having more than enough to eat at home? And those two just immediately spring to mind.

But yesterday at candidate registration/withdraw deadline day, it was just, well, wow. Just wow.

As you’ll probably know by now, an ailing Rob Ford declared himself unfit to seek re-election as mayor of Toronto but healthy enough to try and reclaim his old council seat in Ward 2 Etobicoke North. His brother Doug, having declared his intention not to seek re-election in the ward he’d inherited from his brother back in 2010 and an overwhelming desire to get the fuck away from City Hall, decided to stick around and run in his brother’s place for mayor instead. Nephew Mikey who had mutely held down the Ward 2 fort as city council candidate while his uncle(s) worked all the logistics was moved into the local school board trustee race.musicalchairs1

Yeah. A Ford running for school board trustee and somehow that’s not even the most redonkulous of this campaign’s ridiculousness.

Frankly, the whole fucking day felt like a setback. A setback and a rollback, a throwback to an earlier era. Not only are we now facing the prospect of a return to Councillor Rob Ford (a much more likely scenario than a Mayor Doug Ford regardless of how ill or incapacitated Rob may be at this point) but look at the artefacts who joined various council races yesterday.

Chris Stockwell, Ward 4 Etobicoke Center. (Last in municipal politics 1988.) John Nunziata, Ward 12 York South-Weston. (Last in municipal politics with an unsuccessful mayoral race in 2003.) Toss in Doug Holyday’s sound-a-like son, Stephen, recently registered to run in Ward 3 Etobicoke Centre, and, you know, we can start partying like it’s 1999.turnbacktheclock

Councillor Ron Moeser, mostly absent and/or devoid of contribution to city council for the entire last term decided, why not give it another kick at the can in Ward 44, deliver another 4 years of little more than confusing questions to staff and grumpy outbursts about ice cream trucks.

I don’t want to sound alarmist at this juncture. Name recognition and incumbency doesn’t guarantee victory come election but both certainly offer an advantageous leg up on the competition. Even the notion of any of these candidates becoming city councillors (or remaining one in Moeser’s case) sends chills down my spine however. They represent the political zombification of the 2014 municipal campaign.

I don’t think I’m too far off the mark to say this represents a crisis of governance.

Toronto’s at something of a crossroads. Having done little more than tread water (at best) for the past 4 years, problems have continued to pile up. Transit and congestion. State of good repair for a lot of our infrastructure needs, not least of which Toronto Community Housing. badolddaysDeep, deep political divisions.

The last thing this city needs going forward is a bunch of past timers, good ol’ boys talking and acting like it’s the good ol’ days. Old men (in spirit if not in age) with old ideas. The very ideas that got us into our current civic state.

What’s really frustrating is that there are a lot of interesting and exciting new voices out there already campaigning. The likes of a possible Councillor Rob Ford or Stockwell or Nunziata, another fucking Nunziata, Holyday the Younger, Moeser just smacks of regression and retrenchment. Yet another step back when we need to be looking forward.

If it wasn’t clear to everybody before Friday, this is not a campaign anybody should sit out and watch from the sidelines. deadwoodThis is going to take everything the city has to try and staunch the flow of reactionism that appears to be gathering steam. There’s all sorts of dead wood already occupying space in council chambers. We don’t need to be adding to that burn pile.

As the campaign now kicks into high gear, I implore you. Get out there, knock on doors, pick up the phone, donate some cash. The zombies are on the move and they want to eat our civic brains.

frightfully submitted by Cityslikr


Endorsing Chris Stockwell

October 2, 2013

For me the really interesting aspect of yesterday’s Etobicoke-York Community Council’s nomination process starstruckfor its preferred candidate to replace Doug Holyday as city councillor for Ward 3 was just how predictable it all was. Much is made of how name recognition plays a major factor in voting at the municipal level. Well, it seems even our elected representatives are more than a little star struck when it comes to making their selections.

In the end it was all about the names. Chris Stockwell. John Nunziata. Even Agnes Potts, for those watching Etobicoke politics over the last 20 years, had a certain name recognition as a former school board trustee and pre-amalgamation councillor.

It makes sense. Savvy political operators take 5 minutes to wow the crowd with a rousing stump speech, outlining all the positive ways they will contribute to the community they’ve been appointed to represent. unimpressiveWhat’s a neophyte outsider to do in the face of that?

Yet, aside from Ms. Potts who stressed her work in the community over the time she spent as an elected official, the frontrunners fizzled at the mic. Never mind the forgettable performances of non-pols like Holyday’s choice, Peter Leon, or the Ford blessed Ross Vaughan. John Nunziata did little more than read off his CV and pledge not to run in Ward 3 in next year’s general election.

The community council’s eventual nominee, Chris Stockwell, was hardly more inspired. In what amounted to an extended shrug, Stockwell said, “I’m simply coming here saying, if you want someone who can hit the ground running and knows how politics works, I’m available.”

Certainly there’s something to that. With barely over a year left in the term, all a complete newcomer to City Hall would be able to accomplish is keeping their head above the water, what with the rope learning they’d be doing. shrugA place holder in every sense of the word.

But aside from his experience — over 20 years in fact, first as an Etobicoke city councillor, then a Metro councillor before moving on to Queen’s Park — there was little talk from Stockwell about stepping forward as a public service. When asked why he wanted the job, his response? After 10 years as a private citizen, he ‘missed it’.

You’d think that kind of statement alone would disqualify him in the eyes of someone like Councillor Doug Ford who hates career politicians. Just another fat cat coming for one last slurp at the trough. Where’s your business sense, Stockwell? Your talk of Lean Six Sigma?

But Councillor Ford had other things on his mind during this whole process.

Along with his mayor-brother and newly re-allied Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti, the councillor was still smarting from the grave injustice done to them Ward 3 by city council in voting against a by-election to replace Holyday. suspiciousLeftists at City Hall were just itching to further deny them Ward 3 their rightful representation and were all probably gathering together in their coven, looking to impose their will on them Ward 3 with a downtown pinko elite cyclist appointee.

So deep was their suspicion that Councillor Mammoliti tried pushing through a referral motion until they could secure a guarantee that the Etobicoke-York Community Council’s decision would be supreme. Much of the motion was ruled out of order by city staff and the Ford Brothers reluctantly agreed that they had to push on with council’s July mandate in selecting a replacement, regardless of the ultimate will of the people to have a by-election. It was just yet another sad example of how downtown was sticking it to the suburbs.

Nothing would serve this narrative better than if council ignored the recommendation of Etobicoke-York Community Council and appointed someone other than Chris Stockwell as the new Ward 3 councillor. dareyouA narrative, coincidentally, the Fords seem to be pushing a lot in the run up to next year’s election campaign. For 4 years, Mayor Ford has been trying to serve the folks of Toronto to the best of his abilities but city council just keeps getting in the way. Not appointing Chris Stockwell would be a perfect illustration of this and give the mayor plenty of ammunition.

And who better to get the downtown lefties’ collective backs up than a former muckie-muck in the Mike Harris government that killed the Eglinton subway and forced amalgamation on Toronto? My guess is, the Ford faction didn’t give a shit about Stockwell’s qualifications or the reasons he wanted the gig. He provided the best opportunity for council to do their bidding and appoint someone else.

Which it shouldn’t, of course. If precedent has it that city council essentially rubber stamps a community council’s choice for appointment, that’s what should happen next week with Chris Stockwell. Not only for the crass reasons of denying Mayor Ford his perfect talking points going forward but because this particular by-election/appointment situation was highly contentious, its outcome rife with questions and concerns of Ward 3 residents as merely after-thoughts in the battle between the mayor and council. chrisstockwell1This won’t be the last time an appointment process will occur. Council should endeavour to keep it as orderly and grounded in rules as possible.

Besides, I think it’ll be interesting to see Stockwell in action again. By all accounts he was as funny and engaging as he was pugnacious. It’s not as if he can be any more right-leaning and mayor-friendly than the man he would be replacing. It’ll be fun watching someone who was part of the team that created so many of the problems this city faces now try and chip in with some solutions.

positively submitted by Cityslikr


Our Real Democratic Deficit

August 27, 2013

To argue yesterday’s city council vote was some sort of subversion or denial of democracy is ohpleasesimply a frank admission that you haven’t really thought much about the issue past headlines and rhetoric. An appointment decided by city council is as valid a process as a by-election, according to the rules. Appointments have happened seven times previously versus two by-elections. Timing is the key, and since no firm rules are in place about that, this remains a grey area.

Initially, protocol and precedent suggested for me that a by-election to fill Ward 3 Etobicoke Centre, vacated by Doug Holyday in his winning bid for a provincial seat, was the way to go. As the staff presentation pointed out, traditionally if a ward was declared vacant before November 30th a year before the next general municipal election, a by-election was called. After that date, an appointment was made in order to avoid having two elections so close to one another.

Ward 3 was declared vacant yesterday, August 26th. So, a by-election it should be. questionsThat was my opinion going into the council meeting.

But it was Councillor Chin Lee who threw a little wrinkle into the proceedings. During his questions to the staff, he pointed out that the city hasn’t faced this situation since moving to a four year term. All the protocol and precedent was based on three years terms. A one year appointment was 33% of the total term. One third of council and committee meetings.

Now? A one year appointment is 25% of the term. If a by-election had been voted on, the new councillor would’ve been present for 8 council meetings. That’s about 16% of the 2010-2014 term council meetings (including the additional special meetings called).

Things aren’t so clear cut, are they?unsure

Still, I would’ve been happy to see a by-election called with the promise to re-visit this matter again in order to recalibrate the parameters for a four year council term. But I’ll leave it to the likes of Councillor Lee to explain the outcome of the vote to any outraged voters. I’m just going to revel in witnessing the appointment process, especially since the likes of former mayoral candidate John Nunziata and former Harris cabinet minister and Doug Ford Sr. bester, Chris Stockwell already expressing interest in the position.

For his part, Mayor Ford did little to help the by-election cause at yesterday’s meeting. He’d been stumping for one almost as soon as it became obvious that an Etobicoke ward was going to be open come August 1st  with two members of Toronto council vying for one provincial seat. It’s really the only thing he’s talked about over the summer.

But he wasn’t prepared to defend his preference beyond anything other than his standard slogans – You Can’t Put A Price On Democracy! – and stunt populism. The people of ward 3 want a by-election. He was simply doing their bidding, he told council over and over. democracydeniedNor would he step back from a hands-on involvement in the by-election if one was called, fueling speculation that this was simply about him getting his election chops in fighting shape for 2014.

Unsurprisingly, the mayor displayed a complete lack of sway in the outcome of the vote.

The easy explanation is that he didn’t really care how the vote went. A vote for a by-election would be trumpeted as a victory for him democracy no, for him democracy. A loss, and council appointing a councillor for ward 3? Just a cudgel he could use during his official re-election campaign next year to beat the drum about the dysfunctional council undermining him and the democratic will of the people. bullhornVote Ford and more Ford friendly councillors so the mayor can really get the job done!

At no time yesterday did you get the sense the mayor’s staff was working the room for votes. There appeared to be no behind the scenes arm-twisting or horse-trading. As I noted last week, aside from a couple official appearances and the community meeting he called about this issue, Mayor Ford was largely absent, certainly not stalking the corridors of City Hall in an attempt to win the vote at special meeting he himself called to deal with this matter.

Maybe that’s also because Mayor Ford has simply lost any ability whatsoever to influence council. He’s become a lame duck, in other words, with more than a year still to go in his first term. He bellows. The majority of councillors (comprising every point on the political spectrum, left-right, suburban-downtown) just shrug. There is no need to fear or even listen to him anymore.

shrugThink about that for a second.

A mayor calls a special meeting of city council to deal with a key item he seems to hold especially dear and doesn’t come close to winning the vote?

He either doesn’t care or is singularly inept at doing his job.

That’s really the take-away from council’s decision to appoint a successor to Doug Holyday in ward 3 rather than hold a by-election. “The worst thing for democracy”? How about a complete abandonment of leadership by the city’s elected leader.

alternatively submitted by Cityslikr


Me And Chris Stockwell

July 24, 2013

Yesterday I wrote a post about the current plight of Detroit specifically, and of North American cities in general. chrisstockwellWithin minutes of sending out a link to the piece, I received this feedback on the Twitter from Chris Stockwell, former Progressive Conservative MPP, minister and Speaker of the Assembly under then-premiers Mike Harris and Ernie Eves:

So the Dems have won every election in Detroit for last 60 years and they go bankrupt and it is the GOP’s fault…. wow

For those of you who read the post indulge me while I point out to those who haven’t that I suggested nothing of the sort. In fact, I pretty much wrote the exact opposite. That Detroit found itself now on the verge of bankruptcy for myriad of complex reasons that stretched back over nearly 70 years. “… as with any complex situation,” to quote my exact words, georgebell“there are no easy conclusions to draw, no simple answers.”

Yet Mr. Stockwell saw that I’d mentioned three conservative politicians, his former boss at Queen’s Park, the governor of Michigan and the mayor of Toronto, and formed an opinion that I was blaming the Republican Party for Detroit’s financial problems. I responded, saying I’d also mentioned the 1987 Toronto Blue Jays in the post. Maybe they were culpable of killing Detroit too?

I mention all this not to prove how thin-skinned I am. To paraphrase our late Prime Minister, Pierre Trudeau, I’ve been criticized more harshly by better people. But I do think it’s important to note because of its adverse affect on public/political/civic discourse.

We can and should have disagreements. Criticism is a necessary element to a properly functioning democracy. echochamberQuestions need to be asked. Answers given.

Opinions must be informed opinions based on all available facts at hand.

Nothing can be accomplished, however, if we’re just hurling invectives at things we imagined another person said. Reinterpreting what someone else says through a lens of personal bias just leads to a conversation with yourself. The proverbial echo chamber.

Our politics here at All Fired Up in the Big Smoke are pretty upfront. We believe that after three decades of neoliberal governance throughout this continent and much of the developed world, the chicks are coming home to roost. The results are showing up at the extremes in distressed places like Detroit and other municipalities facing insolvency but also in every city groaning under the dead weight of aging and decrepit infrastructure. becauseIsaidsoOur public realm has been starved for the sake of private interest.

In a zero sum game, more theoretical money in the taxpayers’ jeans means fewer new lines of transit. That’s just basic math.

We’re willing to be convinced otherwise but that can’t happen if you insist on debating words we didn’t write and argue with ideas we don’t have.

patiently submitted by Cityslikr


Fablication

April 3, 2013

fablication

Last week Ivor Tossell wrote about the then latest brouhaha — it was nearly 5 days ago, plenty of time for even newer brouhahas — swirling around our mayor, Rob Ford. In the article, Mr. Tossell summarized the mayor’s approach to the truth, governing and reality.

This is Rob Ford’s truth. The facts will be decided not by reality, but by the people, on election day… It’s a schoolyard view of the world, in which truth flows from popularity and power. He’s used it to run his administration like a radio phone-in show, talking to just one crowd with a mix of pandering and fabulism…

Fabulism.fablication5

What a fantastic word to describe what we’ve been living through for the past three years since Rob Ford became a serious contender for the office of mayor. Fabulism. Fabulist.

Might I offer up a new word for general usage, especially in honour Ivor Tossell’s own contribution to the political lexicon in Toronto, Uncompetence.

The word* is: Fablication.

The generation of a world where whatever you say, if you’re the right thinking kind of person, is treated as hard, cold fact. Where a statement can contradict a previous statement and both statements can still be taken seriously. Fablication creates a magical place that emphasizes simple-mindedness not simplicity. fablication2Where rigour is not de rigueur.

Rob Ford’s fantasy political world is nothing but pure fablication. In it, there are never any negative consequences to your actions. Government has a spending problem not a revenue problem, and any extra dough that might be needed to build a subway (and subways only because streetcars are the root cause of traffic congestion) will flow effusively from a potent combination of a casino and the private sector.

Who wouldn’t want to live in such a land of enchantment?

In the 2010 municipal election, 47% of Toronto voters believed such a locale actually existed. All you needed was to stop a mythical gravy train and hop aboard a boat load of respect for the taxpayer. No fuss, no bother. Only those suffering from an engorged sense of entitlement and just the mildest sense of irony would feel any pain. fablication1Those symptoms largely inflicted denizens living in the old city of Toronto and in East York.

Even today, a solid chunk of those supporters continue to clap their hands in the hopes of keeping that dream alive, encouraging Mayor Ford to further dig in his heels. And he does. As Metrolinx ratchets up the real world conversation about viable revenue options to fund a long overdue transit expansion and the city’s chief planner chairs a roundtable, the Next Generation Suburbs, the mayor talks about graffiti and fake vomits (with accompanying video track) at the idea of new taxes and tolls.

Surely we can build more transit by cutting further finding efficiencies, rolling back public sector wages and benefits, stopping boondoggles. Where the hell do all the gas taxes go? asks a former PC MPP, apparently with a straight face. Stop demanding money, folks. We can just fablicate new transit.

Fablication built Ford Nation.

Listen to it in action every Sunday between 1 and 3 p.m. on 1010 Talk Radio. fablication4Or, for a quick hit, read David Hains’ synopsis of the show. (Check out 2:32 in Monday’s post for what I’m talking about when I talk about fablication.)

While the mayor is a very good practitioner of fablication, his brother is a master.

Witness Councillor Ford’s performance last week at Ryerson’s inappropriately named Law, Business, Politics – The Real World class. (Don’t know if it’s just my internet connection but the video is very, very choppy.) It was an hour and a half of outright fablication, punctuated by moments of actual serious discussion from co-panellist, Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam.

You see, the duly elected councillor is not a politician. He’s a businessman. He and his brother-mayor (elected with the largest mandate in Canadian history [≈ 1’10”] and the most accessible politician in the country, in North America who fields 80-90 phone calls a day and doesn’t spend his time behind a big desk, talking to bureaucrats [≈ 54.30”]) have already saved the taxpayers of Toronto a billion dollars [≈ 57.30”]. fablication3When the councillor hosts visitors to the city, he’s always having to answer the same question. “What is there to do in Toronto, Doug?” [1’1”]. So that’s why we need to build a casino because, while the councillor doesn’t want to throw around wild numbers, he will anyway. Build a casino on city owned property and that’s $30 million in tax revenues, plus $30 million in a land lease agreement and we’re only getting started. Which is why we don’t taxes to build subways, folks. Casino revenue and the private sector who will tunnel across the city for us [1’17”]. apparently, in order to help alleviate our congestion woes.

And on and on it goes in the view of a fablicuist. (Trying on new words to see how they fit). Strawberry fields for-ever.

Why make up a word when there’s already one that might fit the bill? Fabulism. Fabulist. Fabler.

In the traditional definition, fables are supposed to have a meaning, an ‘edifying or cautionary point’. There’s nothing edifying or cautionary in fablication. Fablication is all about self-interest. fablication6Opinion, especially of the uniformed type, passes for truth. Facts are figments of a fablicateur’s imagination. Anything goes, in the world of fablication. Up is down. Black is white. Everything’s relative. The truth is somewhere in the middle. We’ll just have to agree to disagree.

Fablication is the tool used by those on the wrong side of every issue. It is the creation of a reality unencumbered by the necessity to adhere to any notion of the truth. It’s undemanding, free-floating, amorphous and subject to change at a moment’s notice. Eventually a fablicated world will collapse into itself, but the key for everyone living outside its bubble is to limit the damage inflicted before it does.

* as far as I know ‘fablication’ was first coined by Catherine Soplet

studiously submitted by Cityslikr