Trist And Zara

Take a newspaper.
Take some scissors.
Choose from this paper an article the length you want to make your poem.
Cut out the article.
Next carefully cut out each of the words that make up this article and put them all in a bag.
Shake gently.
Next take out each cutting one after the other.
Copy conscientiously in the order in which they left the bag.
The poem will resemble you.
And there you are — an infinitely original author of charming sensibility, even though unappreciated by the vulgar herd.

To Make A Dadist Poem


Dada – I’ll let Wikipedia explain it if you aren’t already familiar with the concept, Wikipedia lifting a snippet on the topic from a book by Dona Budd, The Language of Art Knowledge – “… was born out of negative reaction to the horrors of World War I … Dada rejected reason and logic, prizing nonsense, irrationality and intuition.”

I thought of Dada as I sat watching the mayor and his councillor-brother perform at yesterday’s launch to the 2014 city budget. Definitely a rejection of reason and logic. Lots of irrationality and nonsense.

Their whole scatter-shot outrage seemed created, Dada-style, campaign slogans and rhetoric, picked out randomly from different pockets and blown out through a megaphone. dadaGravy Train! Tax and Spend! Respect For Taxpayers! For Gravy! Taxpayers Spend Tax! Train and Respect!

None of it has to make any sense. It just has to be loud and repeated, repeatedly. Add any context and almost everything that came out of the two brothers’ mouths was little more than monkey babble.

As was quickly pointed out by the media, the 2.5% (oh, I’m sorry) the 2.52% staff proposed property tax increase that the mayor/brother cited as proof that the tax-and-spend floodgates had opened wide without his/their oversight that council stripped away last week is almost exactly the same as the 2.5% property tax increase the mayor himself oversaw and approved just two budgets ago.

Let me write that out in capital letters so no one misses the glaring inconsistency and blatant hypocrisy in the fast one Mayor Ford is trying to pull off.


The math hasn’t changed. Each number in the equation has the same value in 2014 as it did in 2012. dada2Team Ford was for a 2.5% property tax increase before they were against it.

On top of which, this year’s 2.5% comes with money for the Scarborough subway the mayor so vigorously championed and was so quick to claim credit for when city council approved it last summer. So, in effect, the 2012 Mayor Ford was the kind of gravy loving tax and spender the 2014 Mayor Ford is off railing about and campaigning against.

But consistency is not your goal when you’re simply pulling ideas from your pockets, hat or ass. Or, at least, consistency of thought isn’t. To give him credit, the mayor has maintained his consistency of performance for the past 3 years. Always the outsider. Always looking out for the little guy. Always angry.

And always, always wrong.

One thing that seems to go largely unnoticed during these budget debates is that residents of the city of Toronto (as of this year’s proposed budget) pay nearly $1100 less in property taxes [page 14]  than the GTA average. dada3Yes, there are matters of mill rates and property values. Property taxes aren’t the only funds we hand over to live in the city. But to stagger around, beating your chest and bellow how over-taxed we taxpayers of Toronto are displays a certain detachment from reality.

(I hesitate to present further data that might not give all the salient factors but graph two here would suggest that even compared to 7 other Canadian jurisdictions, Toronto has not been in the grips of crazed tax lovers intent on picking every last nickel from our pockets.)

Especially if you take a look at the admittedly hard to make out picture on page 34 of the city manager’s Strengthening Toronto’s Fiscal Health, Investing for the Future report and see what we get in return for the taxes and fees we give to the city. You’d just have to hate the very notion of government, of a collective sense that some things are worth paying for and are cheaper to pay for if we all chip in, to look at the picture and not conclude that we’re getting pretty good bang for the buck here in Toronto. There’s nothing rational or logical in thinking otherwise.

That’s what makes the Fords and their followers political Dadaists. They react negatively to what they see as the horrors of government and the murderous demands others make upon them. Unable to combat such expectations with sound reasoning and thoughtful opinion, they resort to utter nonsense and incoherent gibberish.


It doesn’t have to make sense. Just noise. Incomprehensible, disordered, absurd noise.

artfully submitted by Cityslikr

The Big Freeze

Good news, Toronto!

Looks like the city’s not going to face a what-the-hell-let’s-just-go-for-a 10% cut across the board in fiscal year 2013. Nope. Things are looking up. We’re just going to have to deal with a 0% budget freeze. So already put upon departments, services and programs will merely grind to a further halt through attrition and more sprung leaks rather than amputations and major blood loss.

Along with a spending freeze, the Globe and Mail reports that city manager Joe Pennachetti has also called for ‘a ban on new service initiatives’. So, it’s all stand pat and hope for the best. We just can’t be too sure how big our surplus is going to be next year.

It’s difficult to keep your head above fiscal choppy waters when you insist on swimming with only one arm. Mayor Ford’s proposed 1.75% property tax increase barely covers the rate of inflation, never mind any of the wage settlements various city workers are scheduled to receive. Instead of exploring other sources to generate more revenue, it’s all about further reducing services until…

Well, that’s the $123 billion infrastructure deficit question.

You see, fiscal conservatives on council will tell you that we need to reduce the $400+ million spent annually on paying down our debt principle and interest. When we get rid of that, well then, the sky’s the limit. We can start dishing out for all those nice-to-haves everybody loves so much but doesn’t really want to pay for.

Like a properly operating public transit system. Serviceable roads. Bridges that don’t fall down in chunks. Libraries with computers and books other than trade paperbacks.

Until such time when this city is debt free, we’ll all have to just get by. Make do with less. Show the kind of discipline the likes of Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong is so proud of when he votes to cut everything Mayor Ford says needs to be cut.

Discipline and courage.

“I am doing this for everybody’s future,” fiscal warrior and city budget chief, Mike Del Grande proclaimed. “Unfortunately, they want me to be the bad guy.”

No, that’s not true, councillor. What we really want you to be is a better budget chief. One who realizes that miserly penny-pinching and refusing to have a sensible discussion about the true costs of maintaining a healthy city now doesn’t in the least leave a prosperous future for the coming generations. It just leaves a mess that they have to clean up and you don’t have to pay for.

In reality, it’s kind of the exact opposite of courage and discipline.

I don’t know how much latitude senior bureaucrats like Mr. Pennachetti have with the elected official they deal with. Certainly the fate of Gary Webster must serve as a cautionary tale about dealing with the Ford administration. But this budget freeze/no new service initiatives mode he’s adopted for the upcoming year is at odds with the city manager I saw speak at the Institute on Municipal Finance and Governance this spring about Toronto’s fiscal health. He boasted about our double-A credit rating. He suggested there was probably no more than $100 million still to find through efficiencies. Further cutting wasn’t going to solve any looming crisis that may be waiting up ahead for us.

And make no mistake, Mr. Pennachetti is now proposing further cuts to departments and agencies that he has already taken a knife to in the past couple years. Zero increases mean less money. Even our current budget chief can do the simple math from that.

As long as the city manager insists on making these kinds of austerity demands, he continues to play accomplice to those who aren’t really all that interested in being fiscally responsible. He offers cover to their claims of being brave and disciplined. He’s insisting on further hardship for those already hard hit by previous cutbacks for the sake of those operating under the faulty premise that they’re hard done by.

Our city manager’s already done much dirty work for Mayor Ford. It’s time he starts looking out for the best interests of those who’ve paid a hefty price for their collaboration.

impatiently submitted by Cityslikr

Budget Chief No

As we head into today’s abbreviated budget committee meeting with news of a $90 million surplus for the first 3 months of 2012, Budget Chief Mike Del Grande announces what any good, prudent, sane fiscal manager would. Hey, everybody! It’s party time! Let’s roll us back some sources of revenue. Woo-hoo!!

Or, as Elizabeth Church in the Globe and Mail phrases it: “He [budget chief] plans to push for a reduction of the land transfer tax in 5-per-cent increments beginning next year.”



Could you elaborate a little further, Mr. Budget Chief?

“He [budget chief] plans to push for a reduction of the land transfer tax in 5-per-cent increments beginning next year, arguing that the city cannot continue to rely on a revenue source that is tied to the fortunes of the real estate market…Mr. Del Grande says the city’s continued reliance on the tax will leave a ‘massive shortfall’ in its budget when the real estate market cools. ‘The land transfer tax is giving us a false sense of security’.”

O… K… Let me see if I follow the budget chief – who is a chartered accountant, don’t you know – follow his logic here. Because Toronto is experiencing a particularly hot real estate market, despite all the fear-mongering that the land transfer tax would kill people’s ability to buy a house, and is thus generating higher than expected revenues for city coffers, we need to start eliminating the source of revenue in order to wean ourselves off the LTT bounty in preparation for the time when we’re making less when the market cools? Sort of a voluntary reduction before the inevitable enforced one sets in?


We really need to question Budget Chief Del Grande’s motivations. Or his competency.

Regardless of your position in life, whether a public sector budget chief, a private sector financial controller, an individual homeowner, in gazing into the future and spying a possible economic downturn on the horizon, who reacts with the suggestion to cut revenues? Batten down the hatches everyone! We need to start making less money now in order to be used to making less money later!

It makes no sense.

Don’t believe me?

Ask the city manager, Joe Pennachetti, himself a chartered accountant although, evidently, he secured his credentials at an entirely different school (of thought). In a talk delivered a couple weeks ago at the Munk School’s Institute on Municipal Finance and Governance and one we wrote about here and here, and Matt Elliott wrote here (yes, I do think it’s an important enough point to flog over and over until everyone knows it by rote), Mr. Pennachetti suggested that, while there were still efficiencies to be found, it was revenue generation that we needed to be talking about going forward. City building, whether infrastructure, transit, couldn’t be done through cuts or further efficiencies. Toronto, like every other city in this province, country, continent, needs new sources of revenue.

Of course, city building is not part of our current budget chief’s vernacular. I don’t think it too off the mark to suggest he’s more of the Grover Norquist/starve the beast type of politician. Taxation is bad. Therefore government spending is bad. Widows and orphans be damned.

Only hardcore right wing ideologues would suggest that, in this age of austerity, government look to reduce revenues.

Even if the budget chief demanded that any surplus be used to pay down capital debt, he’d gain some traction as trying to have a reasonable argument although not much of one. The city’s debt level is just fine, thank you very much. Credit rating agency Moody’s thinks so. The city manager thinks so (with one caveat: our social housing repair backlog). Any attempt to compare our situation to that of Greece automatically disqualifies you as a serious participant in this discussion.

Instead, Budget Chief Del Grande only raises the spectre of our capital investment debt to argue against both government revenue and spending. This year it’s: “Councillors who want to spend the surplus are forgetting the huge capital costs facing the city,” he [Del Grande] said, “including the multimillion-dollar tab for refurbishing the crumbling Gardiner Expressway.” Last year we had to cut services and programs in order to pay down the debt.

The budget chief needs to start coming clean with us and simply admit that he doesn’t think government should be in the business of governing. That way, we could cease pretending to have a rational debate on this point with him and get on with what we really should be discussing. Mike Del Grande’s unfitness to be overseeing our city’s finances.

fit of piquely submitted by Cityslikr