Sifting For A Sign Through The Garbage Entrails

March 19, 2015

As symbolism goes, garbage packs a pretty potent wallop. The outside workers’ strike of aught-nine, with its mountains of festering garbage piling up in city parks, is often seen as a symbol of the beginning of the end of the David Miller regime. garbageIn too deep with the unions, handed them the key to the vault, kick the bums out!

The veracity of that interpretation of events is contestable but the effect the strike had on the election seems pretty straightforward. Garbage stinks. As a politician, don’t put yourself in a position where you could be covered with garbage, even figuratively.

So how to take the news that garbage clean up in the city costs us about $25 million annually, according to staff? Here we are, always eagle-eyed about how City Hall spends our hard-earned tax money, literally (litterly?) throwing millions of dollars onto our streets every year. “If nobody littered in the city, that’s potentially $25 million in savings,” claims Robert Orpin, the director of collection operations.

$25 million? That’s more than double the amount we’re told we save from having contracted out waste collection in the western half of the city in 2011. Simply by not just throwing trash on the ground.

Which, as the snow recedes from our sidewalks and curbsides, reveals we do a lot.

I am of the vintage who remembers firsthand the PR push to get people to stop littering. Give a hoot! Don’t pollute! giveahootOr the tear-shedding Native American, Keep American Beautiful! We laugh now at the Mad Men episode where the Drapers just shake their picnic blanket free of debris onto the park grass. Ron Burgundy and friends tossing their fast food wrappers on the ground as they stroll down the street.

That was a thing we might’ve thought had been relegated to the… ahem, ahem… the dustbin of history. Evidently not, judging by the flotsam and jetsom strewn about the place, manifesting itself most every spring. When did we stop giving a hoot?

There’s more to it, obviously, then just people littering. Anyone walking around the city, especially at the end of a weekend, can tell you about inadequate receptacles along the street, the ones you do encounter, stuffed already to overflowing. Or broken bins. Mr. Orpin claims that bins are serviced once a week although all it takes is a few hours of non-functioning along a busy stretch of street and garbage has become unsightly litter.

On Tuesday, Mayor Tory suggested the city should be “collecting things more often” and was going to look into it. That’s fine, as far as it goes, but ultimately comes down to spending more money. cigarettebuttAnd we don’t like spending more money now, do we.

So here’s the thing. We, as residents, could actively contribute to reducing spending by not throwing our shit on the ground as we move around the city. Relying on by-law enforcement passes the buck. What’s the cost-benefit ratio to having enough officers in place to be able to catch people in the act of littering? We could park one outside every bar and restaurant in town and put an end to cigarette butt flinging in a minute but would it be a good way to spend money?

Never mind the cigarette butts but how many of us have seen someone walk out of a convenience store with a new pack of smokes, unwrap the cellophane and fling it aside like nobody’s business? And gum? Who the fuck just spits out their gum on the ground when it loses its flavor? What are you, 4 years-old?

Ultimately, what’s it symbolize about us as citizens that we complain loudly of paying taxes for the general upkeep of our city but, apparently, don’t have much of an issue with making the city clean up after us because we’re too lazy or distracted to take care of our own garbage?

filthily submitted by Cityslikr


Leadership Starts From The Ground Up

July 25, 2014

4 out of 4 transit experts agree. Toronto needs to start building the [fill in your preferred first name here] Relief Line now yesterday! expertsagreeWhile we can, should talk about other transit modes i.e. GO electrification, the only one that is going to take pressure off our already too tightly squeezed subway system is another subway line moving people to and from the downtown core, “… the fastest growing part of the entire GTA.”

There’s a reason we’ve been talking about a relief line for 30 years now. The necessity for it has been known for that long. It’s not new or news.

The problem is, it will be a messy, disruptive, expensive undertaking. Building a “new subway through the core — underground and with truly urban station frequency” can’t be anything but. subwayconstructionEven if crews started digging today, many of us wouldn’t be around to see the fruits of the labour and money. And, of course, it will be a project assailed on all fronts by parochial interests, convinced that downtowners, once more, are getting more than their fair share of public money and attention.

Despite all that, a Relief Line remains, in the words of our subway loving mayor, a Need to Have rather than a Nice to Have. Unlike say, the Scarborough subway extension?

A couple weeks ago in CityLab, this article headline appeared: “NYC Can’t Afford to Build the Second Avenue Subway, and It Can’t Afford Not To”. Read through the article and replace 2nd Avenue subway with DRL and Toronto and New York are pretty much having the same conversation right except for the fact, New York has at least started building their vital subway.

And yet, the Second Avenue line DRL has become a beacon for New York Toronto’s future and a symbol of the numerous challenges facing a global city that must, in light of massive costs and slow build-outs, expand its transit network to stay competitive. Ask anyone who has to ride the 4, 5, or 6 trains into Manhattan south of 60th Street Yonge Street line during a morning rush hour, and the need for a Second Avenue line DRL becomes clear. These trains aren’t just crowded, they’re packed to the gills. Very often, riders standing on a subway platform…have to let multiple trains go by before they can squeeze on board.

Even the cowering reaction by New York politicians to the enormity of building a needed subway has familiar echoes of leaders here in Toronto and at Queen’s Park.

As a knee-jerk reaction to the issues, leaders have begun to think small. They propose ferries, with ridership that tops a few hundred per day, as opposed to a few hundred thousand per day for a full-length Second Avenue subway. They urge bus rapid transit as a lower-cost option, without discussing how lower costs inevitably lead to lower capacity. Only subway lines can sustain New York’s projected growth, but New York can’t sustain multi-billion-dollar subway lines.

Ringing any bells? Ferries? Where did I hear about ferries recently?

“Thinking big — building more than 750 miles of track in five boroughs,” the CityLab article concludes, 2ndavenuesubway“made this city great, and to keep it great, New Yorkers will have to remember how to think big.”

And in Toronto’s case, ‘thinking big’ doesn’t just mean big projects like a subway. It means planning beyond simply local asks or demands, and looking at the proverbial bigger picture. The city in its entirety. The GTA region as a whole.

Unfortunately, we’re not seeing much of that from our elected officials. The non-political make-up of the regional transit planning body, Metrolinx, has been hijacked for political purposes by the Liberal government. The only major mayoral candidate really talking serious nuts-and-bolts about transit so far in this campaign is David Soknacki, and he remains stuck in single digit numbers of voter preference.fullfinchbus

So we remain crammed onto subway and streetcars, buses and on the roads while the best possible solutions are picked clean to the bones by opportunistic and do-nothing politicians, driven by their own agendas and the tax-and-spend aversion that has gripped residents.

The end result is not at all surprising.

Allow me a metaphor to point how this all winds up, if indeed it is a metaphor. I’ll have to confirm it with Doug Ford and get back to you.

“Faulty towers: The hidden dangers of low condo maintenance fees” is the headline for a Globe and Mail real estate article back from 2011.

The lack of interest [in a condo unit up for sale] has nothing to do with market conditions, and everything to do with a 30-year history of indifference by the residents who were content to keep condo fees low at the expense of necessary maintenance.

Hmmm. Do go on, Mr. Ladurantaye.

“This is a coming crisis that nobody is talking about”, said Chris Jaglowitz, a lawyer who specializes in condo law for Gardiner Miller Arnold LLP and a member of the Condominium Managers of Ontario. “You have all of these older buildings, and someone needs to pay for long-neglected repairs. And many people won’t be able to cover their share.”

That’s because condo buildings are owned collectively by the residents, and all repair bills are shared equally. Condo boards are able to levy special assessments in addition to condo fees to pay for projects. But the boards are made up of residents, who are sometimes motivated to keep fees low. And they serve short terms, which means long-term planning is often difficult.

Not just condos, is my point here.

thinkbigInfrastructure, transit, the city as a whole, all left in a serious state of disrepair and neglect because we residents, to paraphrase the article, have been content to keep our taxes low at the expense of necessary maintenance and needed expansion to keep up with the continued growth of the population. We’ve come to expect easy (and cheap) solutions to complex (and expensive) problems, succeeding only in making the solutions more complex, more expensive.

But hey. Not on us. Not on our dime.

That’s how you get an infrastructure deficit. That’s how, years, decades later, we find ourselves precipitously and willfully under-served by even the most basic of the necessary amenities. Housing, roads, public transit, all inadequate in dealing with the ever increasing numbers of people choosing to live here.headinsand

That’s the legacy we’ve already passed on to our kids with little expectation it won’t be even worse for our grandchildren. Unless we choose to step up right now and say, enough is enough. It’s time to start accepting a little responsibility and stop clutching our pocket books and narrow self-interest and leaving future generations to make even tougher decisions.

buck stoppingly submitted by Cityslikr


Rules Are For Others

April 23, 2014

Let’s suppose for a moment that the Toronto Community Housing Corporation is a big steaming pile of a mess. fierybuildingsThere is evidence to support such a supposition. Hundreds of millions of dollars in state of good repair needed. An impossibly long waiting list of prospective tenants. Tales of cockroaches, bed bugs and fire inducing hoarding.

Let’s also suppose that the fault for all this lies solely with TCHC management. The rot starts at the head, it is said. There is less evidence to support such an assumption but go with me on this for a bit. There were all those chocolates a few years ago. Spa retreats. Yaddie, yaddie.

Something stinks here. Something’s broken. All the king’s men and all the king’s horses…

So obviously, what the TCHC needs is a good shake-up. An ol’ fashion ass-kickin’. Names will be taken later but right now, all bets are off. These HR rules and regulations are what got us into this pickle in the first place, creating a cushy culture of complacency and cosy comfort. Time to bring the pain. Hello, culture of fear.

We don’t need no stinkin’ badges!yosemitesam

Terminate with extreme prejudice.

Even if we’d arrived at such a situation, even if such measures of disregard for protocol and standard operating procedure that the Ombudsman uncovered under TCHC CEO Gene Jones were effective outside of the movies or a flagging sports franchise (and listening to the interview with Schulich School of Business professor Alan Middleton on Metro Morning, it seems highly dubious they are), even if you adhere to some variation of the ends justifying means, what exactly were the ends? Surely Mr. Jones and other members of the TCHC board had a plan, an and then what. We shake this shit up and then..?

If there was some kind of strategy, some method to the madness, to the culture of fear, it hasn’t seemed to have surfaced. The logical follow up to the untendered hirings and firings without cause has yet to make itself evident. shakeitupWe await the appearance of the omelette after the breaking of all those eggs.

Order needs to be restored. Otherwise this just seems like summary executions for the sake of giving the appearance of something being done. Filling the depleted ranks with loyalists and call it The New Team, Under New Management. Fine. So, now what?

Besides, if such a purge was necessary to get the TCHC house in order, as they say, why ignore the rules that were in place to do it? If you have to fire people without cause, maybe you should take a moment to think about it first. Just because is another way of saying without cause. Just because is a pretty flimsy foundation. It’s awfully close to just because I can.

Unless Gene Jones can stand up to public scrutiny and explain why he did what he did since taking over the TCHC, citybuildingand what exactly his plans are going forward because of the course of action he has taken, this simply smacks of petty tyrant shit. A man with no plan except to show up, terrorize the staff into submission, surround himself with loyalists he doesn’t even have the confidence in to subject them to normal hiring practices. Because… well, because… that’s what he was hired to do.

If Gene Jones has no plan other than to wreak havoc on the TCHC, it is simply the sad reflection of the man who remains in his corner, defiantly. Let’s face it. Mayor Rob Ford’s approach to governance is no more extensive or involved than just that. Wreak havoc. Instill a culture of fear and intimidation. Surround himself with friends, allies and toadies to help him out in his righteous indignation with government. The Ford way.

The mayor’s never made much pretense in his attitude toward social housing and City Hall’s involvement in it. Privatize. Sell it off. Vouchers for tenants to contend out there in the free market. Governtexaschainsawmassacrement shouldn’t be in the business of…

You’ve heard that song and dance before.

I imagine in Mayor Ford’s eyes, Gene Jones did absolutely nothing wrong. He’s a doer not a talker. He gets things done, shakes it up a little. And if there’s a mess left behind, it’s hardly the fault of Gene Jones. It’s just further proof that anything government gets involved in just turns to shit. That’s what governments do best. Gene Jones, not unlike the mayor, is simply another victim to the ruinous presence of government in our lives.

obligingly submitted by Cityslikr


You Don’t Have To Be Crazy To Live Here But…

April 10, 2014

Ever since our inception, we here at All Fired Up in the Big Smoke have found ourselves in a regular state of civic suspension of disbelief. crazysquirrelI know this isn’t actually happening but… but it seems so real. I know it’s just some crazy made-up shit but… but it’s so compelling, so engrossing to follow along with, you know?

Not coincidentally, our appearance came about during the rise of Rob Ford from that goofy, malevolent but largely impotent politician every local government has to contend with to becoming mayor of the largest city in the country. Of course things were going to get nutty. Toronto had elected Rob Ford as its mayor.

Nearly four years on, it has proven to be more than some prolonged nightmare of Dali/Buñuel, eye-slicing proportions. Not even a deranged Truman Show explanation suffices where we’re just the game pieces for a God-like producer with an eye only on the TV ratings. Our story’s taken on biblical dimensions, frankly. The political book of Job. Pushed beyond any sort of reasonable limits, we cry out in anguish. Why, Lord? jobWhy are you doing this? Who can deliver us from your hands? And from the whirlwind comes the response. I don’t have to explain myself to you.

If you’re reading this, I don’t have to recount the whole sad, sordid tale, the multitude of ways we’ve traveled down through the rabbit hole. Municipal governance gone wild! You’d think what with everything that’s gone on, we’d be one and done, talking about what comes next. But no. Our disgraced, discredited mayor cannot be discounted from possibly securing himself another term in office.

Which naturally, as this kind of thing must, can only lead to further fantasy sequences, more outbursts of the bizarre. If his first kick at the can embraced the improbable, the second go-round will be all about the unimaginable. You think that was weird, folks? You ain’t seen nothing yet.

unchienandalouBringing us to two days this week that best encapsulate the thick sticky freakiness we find ourselves in.

The mayor holds a press conference to announce that Ben Johnson and an actor from the TV series/movie franchise The Trailer Park Boys are joining the campaign team in some capacity. What capacity? Nobody’s quite sure. It will all become clear in due time. Or it won’t since forethought and strategic planning are not really what these guys are about. They’re more instinctual than that.

When you think Ben Johnson, what’s the first thing that comes to mind?

Right. Drugs. Steroids. Gold medal and record setting stripping steroids.

Seems an odd choice then, doesn’t it, for a mayor dogged by stories of personal drug use and outrageous drug-induced behaviour. We’re all mavericks and outlaws here, folks. The all-star Team Nobody’s Perfect. Are you?

But wait, it gets better. It always gets better with these guys. A bottomless pit of ¿¡WTF?!

The Toronto Star’s Daniel Dale reported today that the Trailer Park Boy the mayor introduced yesterday, Sam Tarasco, hosts an internet pot smoking show called High Fuckers. That’s right. High Fuckers. druglifeYou pay $4.20 a month to watch guys get high and shoot the shit. High Fuckers.

So instead of trying to distance itself from the heavy cloud of drugs and the drug life, Team Ford seems to be embracing it. Yeah, we do drugs. Yeah, we know people who do drugs. We’re not perfect. Are you?

Counterintuitive? That doesn’t even begin to describe it. Like much of the way they operate, there just isn’t an English word to do it justice. It’s post-verbal.

While all this… whatever you want to call it… was happening, there was also much excitement over the new edition of Mayor Ford bobbleheads. $100 a pop and bearing almost no resemblance to the man himself, we’re told proceeds would be going into the mayor’s campaign war chest. Hmmm, we wondered. Would those purchasing a bobblehead be eligible for the 75% candidate donation rebate the city offers? If so, they’d be a steal at just $25. You could easily make a healthy return on that with an eBay sale.

Talk about your retail politician. Everybody makes a buck when Rob Ford is out on the campaign trail. bobbleheadWin-win-win-win-win!

In case you thought there was no bread with this circus, the mayor took time out of his celebrity tour to announce some serious policy yesterday. Or I should say, to re-announce some serious policy, telling the media that, if re-elected, he will start to phase out streetcar service in Toronto. Just like he promised back in 2010 and immediately didn’t pursue upon taking office. Promises made, promises forgotten.

But this time, he means it, man.

“I know one thing. I won’t get on a streetcar,” the mayor told the press. “If I have an option to drive or take a streetcar, I’m going to get in my car.”

Forget the sheer lunacy of the idea. Buses could never make up the capacity without causing even more congestion that the mayor is supposedly fighting with his no-streetcar idea. And the subways he keeps touting will never be built. Not in his lifetime. Not in his children’s lifetime.

Like the sad spectacle of fluffing a campaign team with D-list celebrities, the streetcar announcement was an empty gesture, intended only to inflame the urban-suburban divide on which the mayor exists. mayordrivingA petulant outburst from a confirmed non-transit user who views the world entirely through his car windows. It doesn’t make any sense because it doesn’t have to. It’s meant solely to excite those unable or unwilling to see through it. Governance based on Dada rules.

The only internal logic to it, probably not even grasped entirely by the mayor or his campaign manager-brother, came through in tweet sent out by the CBC’s Jamie Strashin in the wake of the mayor’s out-with-streetcars declaration. “When someone says, ‘oh I’m going to resolve the issue of gridlock’,” the mayor said. “You’re not going to resolve the problem with gridlock.”

Solve this problem? Are you kidding me? You can’t solve this problem. Just keep on gridlocking. Keep on keeping on.

So deeply held are his anti-government views, so engrained in his sensibilities, Mayor Ford can’t even begin to imagine actually any way anyone could solve a problem like gridlock. Government’s the problem, remember? Never the solution. So, of course he doesn’t take his role as mayor at all seriously. Why would he? It wouldn’t make things better. mayorfordbenderIn fact, it would make things worse.

Government’s a joke, and an expensive joke at that. Acting responsible in his role as mayor, coming up with ideas to help run the city and surrounding himself with people who have even a trace of good will toward public service, would mean Rob Ford might have to take the job seriously. We know he doesn’t. He proves it almost every day when he seems to take delight only in pissing on the carpets.

The joke is on us if we think for even a second that he’s ever going to change.

insanely submitted by Cityslikr


Speaking Truthfully

March 28, 2014

Much post-1st debate chatter yesterday (well, at least in the circles I run in), topics including: postmortemWho won? What the hell was that I just watched? Was that a hologram of Gord Martineau?

Perhaps there was no subject bigger than Mayor Ford’s liberal use of facts and figures. Yes, that will be the only time you can use the word ‘liberal’ in a sentence with Rob Ford unless it is followed by ‘hater’. He was free-wheeling and free-styling, tossing out numbers every which way, proving to everyone following along that he was Toronto’s greatest mayor ever, and without him, this city would be the hellish shithole it was prior to November 1st 2010.

This is nothing new. Unfortunately, the format of the CityNews debate was such that claims made by candidates couldn’t really be isolated and nailed down for further examination. It was just a whole lot of throwing stuff at the wall to see what stuck.

One that did was the mayor’s often heard boast of saving the city a billion dollars during his time in office. This is something that’s been, if not debunked, hotly contested. Matt Elliott took it on back last May. Daniel Dale wrestled with the figures again in November. factcheck1The city manager himself, Joe Pennachetti, seemed to put the matter to rest, raising a bureaucratic eyebrow at the number and suggesting, well, not quite.

But inexplicably, into the mix of yesterday’s discussion, the city’s CFO sent out a memo to councillors, essentially confirming Mayor Ford’s $1 billion assertion.
$972 million if you don’t count the $200 million or so in lost revenue savings from the repeal of the Vehicle Registration Tax. Yeah, so let’s call it a billion. The memo was the source the mayor used to back up the claim during his interview earlier today on Metro Morning.

In a hastily called press conference yesterday afternoon, the city manager tried to pull the reins back on the horse that had already left the barn. “They are not $1-billion of tax savings,” Mr. Pennachetti told the press. “If he calls it budget savings, he’s correct. If he calls it expenditure cuts only, that’s not correct.”factcheck

“Budgeting in the city is very complicated,” the city manager said.

Proving once more, in the words of Mark Twain, “A lie can travel half way around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.”

The Fords go around banging the drum about their billion dollar savings, a billion dollars, a billion dollars, a billion dollars, which is clearly untrue, but to refute it means a more detailed analysis, some nuance. You say it was a billion dollars, Mr. Mayor, but here on line 22 of the CFO’s memo, under reduced capital financing, you have—ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ!

It is the triumph of jingoistic, slogan-driven politics. Say something loud enough and often enough, something everybody can sing along to, and it becomes its own beast. This creature with legs that just cannot be killed.

I was mulling all this over yesterday afternoon when Councillor Shelley Carroll began tweeting out some of the savings that made up the mayor’s one billion dollars. texaschainsawmassacre$75 million cut from the TTC. ($80 million if you include WheelTrans.) Nearly $14 million in Children Services. Over $15 million for roads. $13 million in Employment Services.

Planning department, cut. Shelter, Support and Housing, cut. Long Term Care and Services, cut. The Intergrity Commissioner, cut. The Lobbyist Registrar, cut. Toronto Public Health, cut. Toronto Public Library, cut. Toronto Zoo, cut.

Cut, cut, cut.

So I’m thinking, what the hell, give the lying motherfucker his one billion dollars, immediately followed by, You guaranteed us no services cuts. What are you lying about? Saving taxpayers money or no services cuts? You can’t have both. It’s right here in the CFO’s memo.

Matt Galloway pursued that angle in his interview with the mayor, forcing Ford to stray into the weeds of weasel words. Not cuts, Matt. Efficiencies. Efficiencies aren’t cuts.factcheck4

Well, tell that to everybody waiting longer for their bus or crammed onto a rush hour subway. Drivers carefully navigating the roads to avoid potholes. Residents with flooded basements.

They’re not cuts. They’re efficiencies.

And this is where you can tie in Mayor Ford’s personal problems with his job performance. You lied about not smoking crack, Mr. Mayor. You lied about a reporter taking pictures of your children. So why should we believe you’re not lying about these numbers?

The mayor will then wave the memo around and accuse you of calling the CFO a liar. No, you respond, I believe the CFO when he says the TTC was cut by $75 million dollars. You, Mayor Ford, say you haven’t cut the TTC one dime. Are you lying again, Mr. Mayor? You have a track record of lying.

Liar, liar, liar.

It’s difficult. As grown-ups we don’t tend to go around calling people names even when those names are appropriate. factcheck2Think about it. When was the last time you stood up and called somebody a liar who wasn’t a family member or co-worker? Most of us were raised better than that. Normally, we politely disengage and change subjects.

But then again, how many of us have to deal with the likes of Mayor Ford and his brother, two men who lie as easily as they breathe? They count on others behaving reasonably and not pushing back hard. When someone does, they cry foul and start working the referee. It gives them the edge.

Treading softly and attempting to stay above the fray has not worked. There is little other recourse at this point other than resorting to the truth. The truth is our mayor is a liar. All he does is lie. Keep it simple and to the point.

killpinocchio

There you go again, Mr. Mayor, telling lies and taking us for fools.

factually submitted by Cityslikr


A Debatable Debate

March 27, 2014

The less said about yesterday’s CityNews mayoral debate, the better. Having said that, let me just say…

spinaltap

If the intent of CityNews’ debate organizing braintrust was to make an already raucous, harsh, boisterous campaign even more so, to up the volume from an 11 a couple notches louder, well, well done. Slow clap. Bravo. Kudos. Author! Author!

No, seriously. I want to know what fucking fucknut was behind the idea of opening up the floor for 3 entire minutes to 5 candidates vying for elected office. Who in their right fucking mind thought that was a good idea?

I can just hear the conversation.

You know what would be awesome? Just letting everybody talk at the same time. For 3 minutes. No interruptions. No rules. It’d be like a debate ultimate cage match. anotherfinemessWouldn’t that be great! It’s never been done before.

And you know why that is? Because it’s fucking insane. What did they expect to happen in that scenario? Anything other than what did? Five grown-ups trying to get a word in edge-wise, trying to spit out sound bites, trying to get digs in at their opponents.

Of course Rob Ford excelled in that format. How could he not? He was in his element.

As was pointed out this morning on Twitter, “unconstrained by fact” frees you to just let fly with any old talking point you’re trying to deliver. Any counter to that, any sort of rebuttal comes across as nothing but additional noise. Moreover, being unconstrained by the normal rules of civil discourse as we know the mayor is — he yells at and badgers people all the time – of course, he looked at ease, right at home.

Anybody, I don’t know, with a even a passing modicum of civility or graciousness, probably found themselves a little hamstrung by politeness in that particular arena of combat. This ain’t Marquis of Queensbury rules, folks. The floor is now open, competitors. marquisofqueensburyHave at it.

That said, I think the mayor’s opponents are going to have to come to terms with the fact that they will be sharing the stage with a man who shamelessly and relentlessly spouts lies and mistruths. If allowed to go uncontested, he will fill whatever room they are in with a dense fog of fabrication, blanketing the debate in an alternate reality where he is a fiscally prudent manager of taxpayers’ money and a repentant addict well on the road to recovery. Or that his personal issues have had no affect on his performance as mayor.

None of it is true. He must be continually called on to the carpet for trying to pretend it is. The man loves his catchphrases and snappy slogans, short bursts of uncomplicated communication. Well, how about this.

You lied about not smoking crack, Mr. Mayor.

You lied about a newspaper reporter talking pictures of your children in your backyard.

You lied about how much money you saved the city.

You lied about cuts to services.

You are a proven liar, Mr. Mayor. You cannot be trusted. You’re a liar. Lie, lie, lie.

killpinocchio

Hit that note again and again and again. Establish over and over that anything the mayor says should be considered suspect, in all likelihood more fiction than fact. He’s that unhinged guy on the street corner yelling about alien invasions and a United Nations conspiracy. Truth is not part of his vernacular.

A more rigorous debate format should help facilitate that. Clearly, CityNews had little interest in anything more than stirring up the pot and promoting a bare-knuckled brawl. That favours no one except a brawler. One thing we know for sure about Mayor Rob Ford is that he loves to brawl.

I will give CityNews credit for one thing. Their hosting of ‘fringe’ mayoral candidates on their livestream during TV commercial breaks. freakshowFor those so inclined, you could click over and see what they had to say about the issues being discussed by the big 5. It wasn’t much, mere snippets really, but enough to know that the likes of Morgan Baskin, Robb Johannes and Richard Underhill were worth continuing to listen to.

It also proved that CityNews should stick to what it’s good at it. Working out on the fringe. It has no place operating in the mainstream, pretending to be a responsible provider of news and information. Unfortunately, with last night’s debate, it only succeeded in bringing everybody involved down to its sad, sorry level.

still in shockingly submitted by Cityslikr


A Mayoral Catch-22

March 20, 2014

I was mulling over Edward Keenan’s piece in The Grid yesterday about, well, fringe mayoral candidates, thinkinganddrinkinglet’s call them for lack of a better heuristic when, don’t you just know it, up pops the news that former candidate Sarah Thomson is planning another run at the mayor’s office.

You know Ms. Thomson. Barely cracked double digits in the 2010 race before throwing her lightweight weight behind the eventual 2nd place finisher, George Smitherman. Then ran something of a spirited campaign for the Liberals in the 2011 provincial in the riding of Trinity-Spadina, giving the long time incumbent Rosario Marchese a bit of a scare. Sarah “Transit” Thomson who basically took her one good idea from 2010 – road tolls – and built a platform of self-promotion around it. Yeah. That Sarah Thomson.

As I write this, Thomson showed up at City Hall this morning in a horse drawn red wagon to register. Whatever. But it does provide me a nice little segue into a larger discussion about fringe candidates.

Next Wednesday CityNews will be holding the first televised mayoral debate of the 2014 campaign. cinderellaAll 5 “major” candidates have signed on to participate, according to the announcement. Olivia Chow. Rob Ford. David Soknacki. Karen Stintz. John Tory.

Will a 6th podium be added now for Sarah Thomson? If so, why? Because she ran previously? Because she organized events around regional transit problems? Because she owns a publication? Because all this combines to give her public standing?

On the other hand, if CityNews doesn’t extend an invitation to the debate to Ms. Thomson, why not? Why do they get to make that decision? Who determines which candidacy sits beyond the fringe and which one doesn’t?

Mr. Keenan seems to suggest that’s it’s kind of an organic process. “As with any job — in this case, the CEO of a $10 billion-a-year organization responsible for millions of peoples’ daily necessities,” Keenan writes, cv“the hiring criteria includes significant experience and demonstrated abilities as much as anything else.”

There’s certainly some truth to that. In Toronto, it’s been the case for pretty much forever that the only way to the mayor’s job is through city council. Mayoral hopefuls have traditionally put in time as councillors first. No outsiders need apply.

“Putting together a successful campaign is actually a pretty good proxy for many of the attributes you need to govern,” Keenan continues, “managing a staff and volunteers, inspiring people to work on your behalf, raising funds, and engaging in a public debate that convinces citizens to put their trust in you and your plan. The press will pay close attention to candidates who show they can do that on a citywide scale. And so will voters.”

Again, certainly true, but for me, really only half of the equation. “Managing a staff and volunteers…raising funds…engaging in a public debate” are essential but none of it just appears out of the blue. All that’s easier said than done. Without an established name or easy access to money to buy yourself one, outside candidates have to work doubly hard (at least) to get their name and ideas out there. backroomI am troubled by that notion.

What I see is a slate of candidates that is presented to voters on the basis of money and influence. Prominent, backroom donors, well-worn campaign strategists, political party apparatchiks, all cajoling, tempting and eventually signing on to work for candidates they deem acceptable to run for mayor. These are your candidates, Toronto. Now, vote as you see fit.

And the media, especially media outlets that wind up hosting mayoral debates and forums, are complicit in this heavy-handed winnowing of the field. Only candidates from the given slate are invited to participate. Why? Well, because these are the ones voters want to hear from? Why is that? How does the media determine that? Look at the polling numbers, we’re told. Numbers derived from polls featuring only the non-fringe candidates’ names.

It’s a pre-determined, closed loop. An iterative process with only a handful of appointed variables, ultimately ending up with the choice from pick one of the above. closedopensystemNone of the above is never presented as a viable alternative.

Look. The 2014 campaign is about two and a half months old. Candidates have been registered since January 2nd. Yet, only after Olivia Chow — who everybody knew was running — officially entered the race last week were we informed that the official debates would begin. I’m not alone in finding the timing a little fishy, am I? It feels like the fix is in.

Instead of hashing and rehashing the will he or won’t he/when will she narrative and pursuing the HMS Destructive tour of the current incumbent, maybe a little time could’ve been devoted to listening to some of the other candidates for mayor, suss out their fitness for the job. In early February the U of T Scarborough student union held a mayoral forum that featured the mayor, David Soknacki and 3 of the fringe candidates. footinthedoorThe Toronto Star’s Daniel Dale covered it and, in his opinion, declared that one of the 3, Robb Johannes just might’ve won the debate.

So why hasn’t Mr. Johannes been invited to participate in the CityNews’ debate? Based on the observation of an experienced City Hall reporter giving his candidacy some legitimacy, what must he do to be given a shot at proving himself worthy of further consideration?

In 2010, we here at All Fired Up in the Big Smoke ran some 30 or so Meet A Mayoral Candidate posts throughout the campaign. Admittedly, most, a high percentage of them, rightfully deserved the fringe label. Remember, anybody with $200 to spare can run for mayor. It was hard to tell why many were in the race. A lark. Mere attention seeking. Misguided sense of direction.

But a handful of them were thoughtful, interesting and dedicated to giving their time and energy to the city. Hell, we ended up endorsing one for mayor when all was said and done. Not every fringe candidate should be viewed fringe simply because they don’t yet have money, resources or influence.musicalchairs

And I would argue that this time around, there are even more potentially serious fringe candidates then in 2010. The subject of Mr. Keenan’s article, Ari Goldkind, immediately strikes me as somebody worth listening to. Matt Mernagh. Jeff Billard. Richard Underhill. Morgan Baskin. The above mentioned Robb Johannes.

Are any of these credible mayoral candidates? I don’t know. But who the fuck am I to blithely brush them off before giving them a chance to hear what they have to say, deliver their plans and ideas to a wider audience?

“You don’t need the press to legitimize your candidacy,” Keenan informs the fringers. “Only your campaign can do that.”

That sentiment seems hopelessly and impossibly pollyannish or unaware on Keenan’s part; neither adjective I’d normally attach to him. Yes, we can all look to Calgary’s Naheed Nenshi as living, breathing proof that an unknown entity can come out of seemingly nowhere to score an improbable victory. ignoreOutsider candidates should look to Nenshi to see how exactly he and his team pulled that off. But to point to that very, very rare example and conclude it’s all about a little innovative DIY, and that somehow the media’s exclusionary practices to all but the few anointed candidates doesn’t play into the fringe determination of the many, that only truly viable candidates will earn a place in the spotlight, I think ignores just how a vast majority of the voting public gets their information and processes it in determining what way their support is going to go.

disappointingly submitted by Cityslikr