The 1st Day Of Christmas

January 6, 2012

And on the 1st day of Christmas… only now do I realize that I’ve done this all backward, the last being the 12th day not the 1st but then I wanted to get all countdown-y like so I flipped it… anyway, the final instalment of our 12 Councillors of Christmas and the partridge in the pear tear is—

Councillor Chin Lee, Ward 41 Scarborough-Rouge River

Behold, ye Torontonians. If our fair city is to fend off the worst destructive, anti-urban tendencies of the Ford Administration we should turn our collective hopeful gaze to the likes of Councillor Lee. With two entrenched factions at City Hall, the left and far right, there’s been much talk of the true seat of power residing in the so-called Mushy Middle. There the focus has been concentrated on a handful of rookie councillor, largely consisting of the two Joshes, Ana Bailão, Jaye Robinson, Michelle Berardinetti, Mary-Margaret McMahon. Win them over on an issue and your cause will triumph.

Now, I’d argue that at least in the case of Councillors Berardinetti, Colle, Matlow and Robinson, their mushiness oftentimes is reflected more in their principles than the politics, doing the expedient thing rather than the right thing. With Councillor Lee, what we have is one of those rare and, at times, seemingly near extinct species called the moderate conservative. Now into his 2nd term at council, no one would accuse him of being a former Millerite. He was part of the Responsible Government Group that formed in 2009 in the spirit of an unofficial opposition to Mayor Miller. In his pre-politician days, much of his community activism was spent fighting for decreases in property taxes and pay for elected officials.

And to be sure, he boned up on those fiscal hawk credentials early on under Mayor Ford’s reign (rein?), voting in line to repeal the VRT, freeze property taxes, reducing councillors’ office budget, etc., etc. He gave the thumbs up to contract out waste collection west of Yonge Street. Councillor Lee also was part of the financially dubious and entirely War on the Car driven decision to rip up the Jarvis Street bike lanes.

But there has been a drift of late away from the mayor and his team. I noticed it first during the shark fin ban debate. Not the most powerful of orators, Councillor Lee stood up and essentially slapped down Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti who had just finished up blathering on about how a ban would be an attack on Chinese culture. Of Chinese descent, Lee dismissed Mammoliti’s overtly political concerns as nonsense. After the ban passed, Councillor Lee sat alone in his council seat, not joining in the celebration.

Which is a place the councillor is finding himself more and more lately. Watching him at budget committee meetings has been quite instructive. He apparently picked the short straw and found himself plunked down beside the committee’s vice-chair, Councillor Doug Ford. Councillor Lee spends much of the time with his seat turned from his colleague, facing away as if in the hope that it’s all a bad, bad, terrible dream. Or as if he’s simply offended at having to be in the presence of such a know-nothing blowhard who has absconded with the conservative label and soiled it beyond repair or recognition.

It’s a realization much of Toronto is beginning to face up to, and if this city is to survive the onslaught of such radical anti-government ideology falsely calling itself conservative, we have to follow Councillor Chin Lee’s lead and turn our backs on it.

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The Second Day Of Christmas

January 3, 2012

On the 2nd day of Christmas—Yes, people. Christmas isn’t over for everyone. Think about the Turtle Doves. The Turtle Doves! And, of course…

Councillor Gord Perks, Ward 14 Parkdale-High Park

On a purely vote counting basis, no one on city council is as ideologically opposed to Mayor Rob Ford as Councillor Gord Perks. And while he does draw fire from the administration (and certainly from the mayor’s more rabid supporters in the media), it rarely seems as vociferous or vituperative as that rained down upon the likes of Councillors Carroll, Vaughan and Davis. Although oftentimes lumped in as part of the perceived evil, union-fronted, taxpayer draining CarrollDavisPerksVaughan kape, Perks seldom gets a glove laid on him in the public arena.

Strange, that.

Could it be that Team Ford doesn’t consider him a threat to their reign of error a couple years down the road? His name is not one that pops up as someone with mayoral aspirations. So perhaps, it’s deemed a waste of energy and time attempting to cut him down to size. Just let him flail away in defence of his Ford unfriendly downtown ward that many of the mayor’s Etobicoke tribe only are aware of because they have to drive through it on their way to work at City Hall.

Or maybe it’s simply a fool’s errand for Mayor Ford or any of his brain trust to try and tangle outright with Councillor Perks as none of them possess the necessary intellectual capacity, breadth of knowledge of how the city works or the passion for it to work well and equitably that he does. It’s even worse than bringing a knife to a gunfight. It’s one of those dull butter knives with a plastic handle that snap if you leave the chunk of butter in the fridge before trying to cut it.

Why bother?

So Councillor Perks chugs away at council meetings and as a regular visiting councillor at various committee meetings, beating back the faulty talking points being spouted about gravy, inefficiencies and the need for cuts. His commitment is to build a vibrant and just city for citizens and not just taxpayers. That is, essentially, the wide, unbreachable gap between he and the mayor. It’s almost as if they speak two different languages.

Because ‘looking out for the little guy’ so clearly means something diametrically different to Councillor Perks than it does Mayor Ford.

dovingly submitted by Cityslikr

The 3rd Day Of Christmas

December 30, 2011

On the 3rd day of Christmas if you find there’s not a chicken small enough to complete your holiday turducken, use a French hen instead. It’ll give the dish a certain je ne sais quoi.

Councillor Janet Davis, Ward 31 Beaches-East York

There’s nothing more deliciously delightful and despairing at City Hall than watching Councillor Davis drop her head back with an audible groan of frustration at what latest idiocy has issued forth from the mouth of a Team Ford member. It is both comforting to know you’re not alone in disbelieving what you’ve just seen or witnessed as well as entirely dispiriting that such folly passes as governance in Toronto circa 2011. Rest assured Councillor Davis shares your pain and incredulity.

In fact, watching her in action, it’s safe to assume that the councillor not only feels our pain and incredulity at what’s going on at City Hall but raises it a couple fold. The Ford Administration is an affront to everything Davis stands for, an abomination of what a municipal government should be doing for its citizens. If there’s one word I had to use to describe Councillor Davis in 2011, it would be indignant.

She does not suffer fools gladly which — surprise, surprise – finds her oftentimes at loggerheads with the daftest of the mayor’s coterie, Councillors Mammoliti and Ford, and Speaker Frances Nunziata. None of whom can hope to match up which leaves her looking arrogant and disdainful at times. That downtown elitist badge further burnished onto her.

Which is not to say Councillor Davis is incapable of playing nice with her colleagues. As a member of the Community Development and Recreation Committee, she has fended off the mad rush to divest the city of its child care obligations led by committee chair, Councillor Mammoliti. The process has been slowed to at least wait until hearing from the provincial government later this winter about its plans for child care funding levels in the wake of the move to full day kindergarten. Councillor Davis has also been able to marshal enough opposition on the TPL board in order to blunt the axe being taken to the city’s libraries. At least so far but it has shown her ability to work with the more reasonable members of Team Ford like Councillor Jaye Robinson.

That’s a hopeful sign for this season of hope, a shimmer of light in these darkest of days. Maybe there will be fewer reasons for Councillor Janet Davis to be indignant in 2012, fewer times for her to hang her head in despair and uttering words of disbelief.

here’s hopingly submitted by Cityslikr

The 4th Day Of Christmas

December 29, 2011

On the 4th day of Christmas I discovered it’s Colly Birds not Calling Birds. Colly Bird is just another name for a blackbird, a species of true thrush. In case you were wondering. Anyway…

Councillor Shelley Carroll, Ward 33 Don Valley East

As a former budget chief of Mayor David Miller, Councillor Carroll is the very face of the alleged out of control spending at City Hall that swept Rob Ford into power. She must defend her actions every time she opens her mouth, every time she asks a question or makes an assertion. There’s the profligate witch! Burn her! Burn her!

That the criticism of her often descends into personal attacks and manifests itself in the most bizarre of ways – remember that time Deputy Speaker John Parker tried to deny her an extension of speaking time under the pretence she’d strayed off topic? – suggests a couple things. First, the administration can’t really go toe-to-toe with her over the numbers. She defends hers passionately, tirelessly and with hard facts to back them up. They just sort of pull whatever’s convenient out of their collective asses.

Perhaps more significantly, the visceral nature of the animosity hurled at her is as if Councillor Carroll is a traitor to their cause. No left wing, downtown loonie she, Carroll is a big L liberal representing a suburban ward surrounded on all sides by members of the mayor’s Executive Committee. How could she think the things she does, say the things she does? Who does she think she is?

Taking us right to the heart of the matter.

If Mayor Ford really intends on running for re-election in 2014, you got to believe he sees Councillor Carroll as his most dangerous opponent. Aside from her connection to David Miller, she represents nothing he can easily shoehorn into the strawman he’ll need to successfully defend his administration. She’s plain spoken with an ease for explaining more complicated aspects of municipal governance. She’s hardnosed and will not be at all intimidated. She works a room like nobody’s business. And more to the point, Councillor Shelley Carroll clearly loves the city she lives in, from the suburbs to the downtown core. Something we’re not at all convinced can be said about the mayor.

So expect the battles to get testier, the attacks on Councillor Carroll uglier and more personal over the next couple years. The Ford Administration will attempt to run against her record because it sure as hell won’t want to be running on theirs.

prognosticatingly submitted by Cityslikr

The 5th Day Of Christmas

December 27, 2011

And Five Golden Rings!!

Councillor Adam Vaughan, Ward 20 Trinity-Spadina

I will confess to a personal bias on this one.

Councillor Vaughan is my favourite councillor to watch in action as he battles Team Ford. He is everything they aren’t. Smart and articulate with a positive vision how to build the city equitably.

For those reasons and many more, they can’t stand him.

Which is why Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti flashed him a middle finger during a council vote, and mused out loud about how Vaughan was just like the kids in high school he used to beat up. Vaughan is very successful in getting under this administration’s skin and is able to bring out its inner bully.

He serves as the opposition’s lightning rod, taking direct hits as the example of everything’s that’s wrong with City Hall culture in Mayor Ford’s view. He’s too downtown-y. An elitist. Completely out of touch with the real, hard working Torontonians the mayor is always running into at Tim Horton’s.

There is mileage in that, certainly. Some traction in helping to exploit the supposed urban-suburban divide the Ford administration so thrives on. During this month’s 2012 budget committee session, Councillor Vaughan lashed out during an argument with Councillor Doug Ford, referring to Ward 2 as ‘an industrial park’. He later apologized and clarified but couldn’t fend off the notion in the press that he was, in fact, a downtown elitist with no understanding of what goes on in the suburbs.

The thing is, neither does Councillor Ford. During the verbal tussle with Vaughan, Ford revealed his complete ignorance of his own ward, claiming there were no wading pools there (there are) as well as a misguided view of money matters at City Hall, suggesting money only flows in a one way fashion from the suburbs to downtown (it doesn’t). Councillor Vaughan lost the PR battle on that one but continued to build a case that the mayor and all his proxies are unfit to govern a city this big, this complex.

Councillor Vaughan is neither the furthest left of those standing in opposition to the mayor nor is he incapable of working with Team Ford when a compromise is possible. Being perhaps their most outspoken critic, however, makes him public enemy #1. It’s a role he seems to relish and is suited for, and one that is ultimately vital in the long run as it helps expose the radically anti-urban agenda Mayor Ford is seeking to impose on the city.

strikingly submitted by Cityslikr

The 6th Day Of Christmas

December 23, 2011

On the 6th day of Christmas and I could go for the easy goose egg joke on this one but it’s all about being Xmas-y positive, right?

Jaye Robinson, Ward 25 Don Valley West

This one I write, torn, as Councillor Robinson could just as easily be on the 2011 Most Disappointing Councillor List if such a thing existed which it doesn’t because, well, it’s Christmas and that would just be mean. Appointed as an at-large member of Mayor Ford’s powerful Executive Committee along with fellow rookie councillor Michelle Berardinetti, there was some hope of the two bringing a moderating voice to the otherwise largely hard right boys club. While, given recent events, Councillor Berardinetti has gone all in with the mayor, Robinson has remained an infuriating fence sitter.

A long time city bureaucrat, Councillor Robinson unseated a right of centre incumbent, Cliff Jenkins, in the 2010 election on a vaguely Fordish platform of fiscal efficiency and accountability. Yet she was part of a department that brought Nuit Blanche to life, showing that the public and private sectors could work together in a positive fashion that benefitted the city. Jaye Robinson wasn’t one of those conservatives whose sole interest in governing was to destroy government.

But she stood by silently as the Ford administration did its best to inflict grievous damage on Toronto. Rarely speaking up, Councillor Robinson even made a habit of ducking out of votes in order to not be attached to them while helping to enable their passage. Principled in her lack of guiding principles.

Then came the Ford Brothers’attempted waterfront land grab. Robinson found her voice. Leading the charge from the Executive Committee, she spoke out passionately and loudly in defence of the current plans in progress for the area, signalling to the mayor that he simply would not have the votes to pull of the coup. A consensus was quickly found, covering the mayor’s tactical retreat.

Councillor Robinson is also helping to fend off the mayor’s axe wielding on the Toronto Public Library system. Along with another rookie councillor, Sarah Doucette, Robinson has helped stiffen the backbone of the mayor’s handpicked board and may well find herself back in the spotlight in the new year as the budget chief has vowed to enact the 10% cut Mayor Ford has demanded. It could be a defining moment in her relationship with this administration.

That is the bright light of hope I latch onto. In 2012, Councillor Jaye Robinson will find her way as a voice of reason and compromise at city council and establish the tone for what it is to be a moderate conservative.

shining starly submitted by Cityslikr

The 7th Day of Christmas

December 22, 2011

On the 7th day of Christmas, the swans were a-swooning for…

Councillor Sarah Doucette, Ward 13, Parkdale-High Park

Do not let the prim and proper British accent with a Julie Andrews flourish fool you. Residents of Ward 13 have elected a representative to City Hall with steely resolve. Pip, pip and all that, what?

Inheriting the same stomping grounds that the then outgoing and supposedly vilified mayor, David Miller, once strode as city councillor, Doucette ousted incumbent Bill Saundercook by nearly 11% with 47% of the popular vote. Those numbers sound vaguely familiar. Where have I heard them before? Oh yeah. Rob Ford elected as mayor in a landslide with a huge mandate.

Upon assuming her council seat, Doucette was the lone rookie councillor, and only one of 6 councillors in total to vote against repealing the vehicle registration tax. So a year on, with the city and its supposed no revenue problem now desperately searching for revenue, nary a peep of woeful contrition comes from Councillor Doucette. Taking a principled stands means never having to say you’re sorry.

Perhaps Mayor Ford was unaware of the councillor’s steadfastness when he put her on the board of the Toronto Public Library, bamboozled by her accent into thinking she’d maintain a stiff upper lip when he commenced his assault on it. It’s been just the opposite, in fact. Doucette has been a tireless defender against the completely arbitrary 10% the administration seems determined to inflict upon the organization which has led to a looming showdown with Team Ford as the budget process gets down to brass tacks in the new year. The budget chief’s vow to extract the cuts from the TPL suggests he too is underestimating who he’s running up against in Councillor Doucette.

While still finding her sea legs in the rough and tumble of the council chambers, she does yeoman’s duty at the committee level. She is especially effective during public deputations, serving up a calm and reassuring presence to oftentimes nervous members of the public. During this month’s budget deputations, Councillor Doucette provided some childcare duty to a single mom who was there to speak to the committee, holding her baby while she spoke. “I have one question,” the councillor asked the deputant afterwards. “Can I keep her?”

So disarmingly civil. Just don’t mistake it for being a pushover.

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