(Mis)Governed

April 22, 2014

I’ve been mulling over our state of governance these days. Spurred on by the news of Councillor Adam Vaughan’s planned departure for federal politics, ponderingI kept wondering why anybody would make that particular jump. Sure, there’s the clout and prestige. In theory, the real levers of power are operated from Ottawa.

In theory.

Reading through John Lorinc’s piece today about Vaughan and the role the federal government plays in the running of cities, I have my doubts about the efficacy of delivering effective municipal policies from the federal level. You can offer up money, maybe even ideas. But hands-on tools to contribute directly? That’s a little more complicated.

According to a document that’s nearly 150 years old and a handful of court rulings during that time span, municipalities are nothing more than “creatures of the province” and “exist only if provincial legislation so provides…” dustydocumentCities fall in that place of dark matter between federal and provincial jurisdiction. To propose any sort of strategy, say housing or transit, for municipalities, Ottawa could be seen to be stepping on provincial toes. Why risk antagonism if you can just ignore these issues instead. We’d really love to help but our hands are constitutionally tied.

There have been attempts, for sure. The Liberal government’s New Deal For Cities Municipalities Communities (or whatever it wound up being called) under Paul Martin delivered increased funding that remains in place but little in terms of clarity. Nearly a decade on, cities remain without any sort of national housing or transit strategy. According to the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM), cities face more than a $200 billion infrastructure deficit.

Frankly, it’s hard to imagine how a change in government in Ottawa is going to reverse that. powerlessAt least, not in the short term.

I was boring family and friends over the long weekend, talking about this particular challenge of governance. Citing a certain Paisley Rae who had paraphrased Calgary mayor Naheed Nenshi for me, talking about the importance of the various levels of government in our lives. (If I get this wrong, it’s all on me). Imagine if just out of the blue our federal government disappeared. Poof! Suddenly gone. How long would it take you to notice a real impact on your life? A month? Do the similar thought experiment with the provincial government. Poof! Gone. You’d notice in about a week? Now your elected representatives at City Hall. Vanished into thin air. Almost as soon as you step out the door, their absence would be evident.

Of course, it wouldn’t be that simple. It would depend entirely on where you lived and other circumstances. There’s much more overlap than that.

Still.

I think the role of our municipal level of government is highly under-valued and egregiously under-funded. oldendays1They are expected to do things that they have no jurisdictional command of or the fiscal tools to deal with. As the above article points out, the FCM claims that Canadian cities receive only 8% of the country’s tax revenues but are responsible for 60% of the infrastructure.

I’ve long contended that this political mismatch between the responsibilities demanded and the lack of capacity to deal with them has resulted in an increased presence of buffoonery at the local level of representation. Of course, we can elect somebody like Rob Ford because, in the end, it doesn’t matter. There’s no real power invested in that office. When we do dare to elect somebody with ambitious ideas for our cities, David Miller for example, they are destined to disappoint us because, in the end, they lack the real power to fully enact their plans.

What is clearly needed at this point of time is a complete constitutional overhaul. This isn’t 1867. Much, much has changed including where the majority of people live in this country. kickupafussCities. The hierarchy of revenue and power needs to be shuffled and rearranged.

Of course, that isn’t going to happen any time soon. So politicians like Adam Vaughan with ambition and big ideas gravitate to where positive change is possible even if it hasn’t been much in evidence, well, during our lifetime. All we can do is cross our fingers, wish him well in his endeavours and look for new politicians to represent us at City Hall who aren’t content with the severe limitations that will be placed on them, and who have their own plans to shake up the status quo that serves fewer and fewer of us.

hopefully submitted by Cityslikr


Vaughan Gone

April 19, 2014

We should’ve known something was up when the eye glasses changed, became more bookish.

Aside from the news that Rob Ford had been elected mayor of Toronto, professorpeabodyhearing that Councillor Adam Vaughan was opting for a run at a federal seat comes a close second in terms of a bummer municipal politics turn of events. He provided much of the spark and lightness during this dark term at City Hall, sparing no opportunity to skewer and eviscerate the bumbling, destructive exploits of the Ford administration. Nothing could lift your spirits like an indignant broadside from Vaughan directed at the latest boneheaded malignancy the wrecking crew had cooked up.

He was the poster boy of anti-Fordism, held up as the example of everything that was wrong with the forces of downtown elitism at City Hall. Whippet smart, tart tongued, dismissive and derisive, his detractors, those preferring their politicians dumb and willfully ignorant, labelled Vaughan smug, pompous and arrogant. There’s certainly some truth to that. At times he came across as prickly, impatient with those not keeping up with him. catandmouseThe proverbial inability to suffer fools gladly.

But if his critics were truly honest with themselves they’d admit that what galls them most about Adam Vaughan is that he was right about this mayor and the administration he misruled. Incompetence above all else. How would you say that in Latin? Imperitiam, quod super omnia. The motto emblazoned on the Team Ford crest. Vaughan called them on it regularly and, many times, ill-manneredly.

Should he have been more temperate in his engagement? Maybe. Except, at this juncture, knowing all that we know now, given all that we’ve seen, what would that have accomplished? The Fords brooked no opposition, sought no compromise with anyone who disagreed with them or called them on their bullshit.

It seldom pays to concede to bullies and thugs. Next to incompetence, what the Fords did best was to play the thug card. Councillor Vaughan stood up to that, many times encouraged it, bringing it out into the open for everyone to see.clownthug

During one particularly heated debate, I forget exactly which one of the too many to commit to memory, Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti leaning back in his chair and yapping down the aisle at Vaughan. I used to beat up guys like you in high school. Yes, we’re sure you did, Giorgio. We’re sure you did.

Over the past 3 years or so, I was fortunate enough to have some conversations with the councillor outside of the political arena, beyond the political melodrama, to talk about building a city. He knew his shit, and his enthusiasm for transforming streets, neighbourhoods and communities was infectious. It challenged me to try and better understand the nature of what makes cities successfully tick.

I imagine when Councillor Vaughan gets asked what he sees as his biggest accomplishment from his time at City Hall, he will point to the redevelopment of Alexandra Park that is just getting under way. Both in private and publicly, I heard him boast about the process and how it hinged on the input from the residents of the community. This was not going to be his redevelopment or the city’s, but theirs, those who lived there.

manoflamanchaWhich makes his jump to federal politics all the more puzzling.

I get the impetus. Any city councillor worth their salt is going to feel the limitations of municipal governance. There isn’t access to all the necessary tools, especially the fiscal ones, to get the job done on major issues like transit, child care and housing. t must be head-bangingly frustrating to care about these items and know there’s only so much you can do, to battle with colleagues who view such shortcomings as a way not to deal with them.

Councillor Vaughan says he wants to go to Ottawa to finally deliver a national strategy on housing for cities. I truly wish him good luck with that but, frankly, these days, Ottawa is where good intentions and direct, hands on democracy go to die. Olivia Chow, whose vacant federal seat Vaughan is seeking to fill, became an MP with similar purpose in mind, and Jack Layton before her. It’s been some time since the federal government paid much attention to the needs of this country’s cities. Maybe Adam Vaughan can turn that around. I won’t hold my breath in anticipation.

I’m guessing the past four years have been a study in frustration for Vaughan. Time spent mostly trying to push against the reactionary, roll back impulses of the Fords and their ilk. He’s done his hitch. robfordbellicoseWhile I’d hoped he’d be around to help pick up the broken pieces of what gets left behind after this messy weather passes through town, he won’t. It’s going to be a pretty big hole that needs to be filled.

When this term is up, Adam Vaughan will have served at City Hall for nearly 8 years. Rob Ford’s time in office there? 14 years. If you are ever trying to figure out why Toronto faces the problems it does, engages in the kind of politics it does, that’s as a good a place to start as any. Fixing that sort of discrepancy will go a long way to sorting our problems out.

sadly submitted by Cityslikr


A Better Bathurst

March 6, 2014

Anybody who’s spent much time in Toronto has at least heard of Bathurst Street. The nearly 60 kilometre stretch of road, bathurststreetrunning from the island airport ferry terminal on Lake Ontario, all the way north up to Holland Marsh. (If Wikipedia is to be trusted.) It demarcates the western edge of the official downtown area of Toronto.

To many, Bathurst Street is probably loathed more than it is loved. But for some of us who cross it daily, we see it as the thinking man’s Spadina Avenue. We do. Trust me.

In actual fact, Bathurst Street is pretty much nothing more than a big line on a map. It offers space to get people to where they’re going. There’s little else it offers up, frankly.

And to tell you the truth, it doesn’t do that very effectively. It’s not much fun to walk. It’s a bit of a terror to cycle and I’m not even referring to the Davenport hill. Congestion frequently clogs it, making it joyless to travel by car, bus or streetcar.

On top of which, Bathurst Street is regularly undergoing massive road work. Regularly. Like I’m talking 2, 3 times a season.

Poor ol’ Bathurst Street.bathurstbus

So when news came last year that the city had brought in a development moratorium along a 3 kilometre portion of the street from Dupont down to Queen in order to conduct a built form and land use study, it was welcome news to many. Hoo-rah! Maybe we can make something of this ratty, tatty, rag tag strip of pavement.

The timing wasn’t coincidental to the fact that plans were already in the works for the former site of Kromer Radio on the west side of Bathurst between College and Dundas. A big box store development that had caught the unhappy attention of nearby residents and businesses including those in Kensington Market a few blocks to the east. There were also rumblings of the sale (now done) and eventual redevelopment of the iconic Honest Ed’s at the corner of Bathurst and Bloor Street.

It’s also worth noting that south of the study area, south of Queen on Bathurst, zoning permits building heights of 50 metres, I believe I heard. Towers are rising there. bathurststreet1This study was intended to set rules in place that would help keep that kind of scale from creeping north into substantially more residential parts of the street.

On Monday night, there was a community meeting held (the fourth, I believe) to discuss the plan as it was to date, and to give a staff report including a third-party retail report. The chairs were mostly full. I’m never good at these estimations but there had to be 17 million people in attendance. (For all you Father Ted fans out there.) I don’t know, a couple hundred? A hundred and fifty? A hundred.

A healthy number, let’s just say on a cold Monday night. The tone, as with most of these kinds of meetings dealing with development, was politely tense. Maybe not tense. Edgy? Suspicious?

Politely tight in a non-alcoholic way although somebody had the nerve to bring in their dinner from Harbord Fish and Chips. Seriously. dougalIf you don’t have enough to share with the entire room. That’s going to fray some nerves.

Councillor Adam Vaughan, whose Ward 20 is bordered on its west by much of the Bathurst study area, stressed that what he was looking for was a street defined by the communities living on either side of it. That sounds good in theory, very participatory and all democracy in action, but also might endorse a little of some not in my back door-ism. Intensification, like an increase use of public transit, always seems like a very good idea for other places, other people.

Although, to be fair, there was not a whole lot of that in evidence at this meeting. People, by and large, seemed curious is a very cautious way, asking questions largely about very specific ideas put forth by city staff. Overt antagonism only manifested itself a couple times. There were none of the aggressive outbursts I’ve witnessed at similar community consultation meetings. This is a part of town not entirely alien to the notion of intensification.

It is early in the process, however.

One bothersome note for me, though, was the subtle framing of the question: “How do we protect our neighbourhood?” The underlying implication of that is a place under siege by change. bathurststreet2There was no feeling of embracing the positive possibilities that might come with an attempt to alter the current streetscape of Bathurst. Of course, things could be made worse along the street. But how exactly, proposed increases in building height in some places to 6 stories from current practice of 3 to 4 on most of this strip would do that is beyond me at this point.

OK. There’s one that springs immediately to mine. A lack of thorough transit studies to accompany these reports might prove to be problematic in the long run. I, for one, was somewhat shocked that there was little to no money set aside as part of this study. How can you do a proper built form and land use study without a full traffic impact analysis?

Anyone who travels or lives anywhere near the study area (I’m a block west from the Kromer radio site where it looks to be the most intense spot of redevelopment) knows what a traffic nightmare that stretch of Bathurst can be throughout much of the day. bathurststreetcarAmidst all the seeming non-stop construction, it’s a mixed use mess of cars, trucks, streetcars and buses, non-advanced left turns, parking, parking and more parking. A combination that leaves little space for bikes or even peaceful strolls.

Whatever manner you use to negotiate Bathurst it’s ultimately just a case of head down and gettin’ `er done and over with.

To talk about further intensification without a proper and vigorous traffic study seems to me to relegate the whole exercise meaningless. More people, more businesses that only succeed in bringing more traffic in the form of cars will in no way make that portion of Bathurst any more desirable a setting to traverse than it is now.

During the great Walmart debate on the Kromer Radio location, there was much chatter about NIMBY elitism with a measure of class conflict thrown in for good measure. My opposition to the proposal, which bore no direct imposition on my dwelling, was more aesthetic and concerned about the effect on the surrounding street life. cmonIt represented a huge failure of imagination from my perspective.

Big box store developments don’t tend to enhance the neighbourhood, especially if they abide by outdated parking requirements. The initial traffic study for the proposal was laughable. Three hundred+ parking spots, underground, with only one entrance that would also serve for deliveries? In an already congested point on the road? Along a route where a streetcar runs and two more lines to the north and south, both less than a 5 minute walk?

I mean, C’MON!

Look, with all the access to public transit in this study area — 4 streetcar lines, 2 bus routes, 1 subway stop – it is a place ripe for further intensification. bathurstcondoIt is a place already undergoing intensification. There is much to like in the report so far.

But if we don’t get the traffic flow right, if we continue to adhere to outdated ideas of planning in terms of what transportation modes are given priority, we’re just going to succeed in making a mess even messier. Let’s not have to endure Bathurst Street any more than we already do.

hopefully submitted by Cityslikr


Ford More Years In The Wilderness

January 13, 2014

(While we here at All Fired Up in the Smoke have vowed to spend less time and effort on the 2014 mayoral race, that doesn’t mean we can’t provide space to those who do have that inclination. For example, our fully endorsed 2010 candidate for mayor of Toronto, Himy Syed.)

*  *  *

Toronto City Hall 8:15 a.m. January 2, 2014

Rob Ford walks past The Colin Vaughan Press Gallery, along a corridor it shares with Toronto’s Election and Lottery office.

Named for late City Hall Reporter, Colin Vaughan, who previously served as Alderman representing The Annex. His son, Adam, today represents Ward 20 Trinity-Spadina.

Three years before Toronto City Councillors began turning their backs each time Mayor Rob Ford rose to speak, Adam Vaughan was first to do so. He turned his back as Rob Ford was being sworn in; he faced The Public during Ford’s inauguration speech.

December 2010: turning your back on the Mayor appears petulant.

December 2013: it looks prescient.

Rob Ford and Adam Vaughan have been and remain each other’s true Council Nemeses.

*  *  *

Mark Cidade stood waiting for City Hall to open at 7:30 a.m.

Once inside, Cidade found Election staff setting up the rope line. Somehow, Bruce Baker beat Cidade to the Pole Position. Baker intended to be first to file for Ward 36 Councillor. No matter. Cidade being second in line would become 2014’s first Mayoral Candidate.

Third in line? Al Gore.

45 minutes later, Bruce Baker permitted Rob Ford to stand in front of him after Cidade and Gore each denied Ford a spot ahead of them.

Rob Ford began his Re-Election Campaign… by budding in line.

Filing Nomination Papers

Two pieces of ID, signatures, several gigabytes of video and still images, and $200.00 later… Rob Ford begins his Re-Election Campaign.

“Ford More Years…?” What does that even mean?

Before abandoning his first media scrum of the 2014 Toronto Election, leaving his City Councillor brother and just announced Campaign Manager Doug to wax damage control to Cameras, Mics, and BlackBerries… Rob Ford lied five times:

Declared Council’s best attendance record: he’s actually 15th worse out of 45; missing 1/6 of Council votes this term; Claimed tax increases under 1.75% for four years: rise was 2.5% in 2012 and 2% per last year; Claimed unemployment dropped from 11% upon assuming office to 7% today: actually it bumped up from 9.4% at end of 2010 to 9.8% in last quarter 2013; Claimed City “started spending like drunken sailors” after November when Council transferred numerous of his powers to the Deputy Mayor: thus far, the upcoming 2014 budget remains responsible; Repeated the fiction he alone saved “A Billion Dollars.”

Why did Rob Ford start his Re-Election Campaign with complete inaccuracies?

By “Complete Inaccuracies,” I mean “Lies”. Full Stop.

There’s a word for that.

Sociopath.

This word was said to me by a former Ford Loyalist City Councillor who voted to strip away The Mayor’s power. This Councillor’s last straw was Ford’s admission of Drinking and Driving after repeated denials. Out of sheer curiosity the Councillor looked up “sociopath”. It described Rob Ford to a T.

I asked how voting against the Mayor felt?

“Dirty.”

Ford More Lies?

A sociopath is typically defined as someone who lies incessantly to get their way and does so with little concern for others.  A sociopath is often goal-oriented (i.e., lying is focused – it is done to get one’s way).  Sociopaths have little regard or respect for the rights and feelings of others.  Sociopaths are often charming and charismatic, but they use their talented social skills in manipulative and self-centered ways.

— TruthAboutDeception.com

Sound familiar?

Fundamental error of The Press Gallery is engaging Ford on being “right” or “wrong.”

Sociopaths don’t really believe there is such thing as being right or wrong, there is only more or less powerful.

— Sociopath World

Moreover:

What do John Edwards, Bob Barr, Rod Blagjevich, John Ensign, Eliot Spitzer, Mark Sanford, William Jefferson, William Jefferson Clinton, David Vitter, James McGreevy, Tom DeLay, Charles Rangel, Newt Gingrich, and David Paterson have in common?

Obviously, they’re all politicians who’ve been caught doing something illegal, unethical, mind-bogglingly self-destructive, or all of the above.

But what also binds them is that none of them seem to believe they really did anything wrong, in spite of vast evidence to the contrary. When they finally have no option but to appear contrite, their apologies feel stilted, scripted and anything but heartfelt.

— Tony Schwartz, Huffington Post

Mayor Rob Ford’s goal is to be Re-Elected.

Why?

Power.

If the Press Gallery continues attempting to keep proving Rob Ford wrong after each and every utterance that he is right; If challenger Mayoral Candidates’ ultimate street cred at the ballot box is that only they are uniquely “The Best NOT Rob Ford”; If the wider electorate doesn’t exercise its own power by voting For Something rather than Against Someone (Rob Ford); Then Election Day October 27 2014 will be reduced to being either a Referendum on Rob Ford or his Re-Election by an enabling “Ford Nation”.

What is Ford Nation? Why is Rob leading it?

Usually sociopaths hide themselves behind a pretense of being able to feel what the rest of us feel. Their very survival depends on being able to blend in, by imitating what they see around them, but cannot themselves feel, ever. Those most successful are those who con us best.

— Gene Messick, OpEdNews.com

During 2010, the above was condensed into three words: Respect For Taxpayers.

For 2014, three syllables: Ford More Years.

It is said that Every Pharaoh has his Moses.

And Every Moses has his Nation.

If this election remains all but a Referendum on Rob Ford, as the first few hours of media attention and challenger candidates’
behaviour reveal, Ford Nation will Re-Elect their Moses.

But instead of Rob parting the Red Sea and delivering his people from Pharaoh, a re-elected Rob Ford will start from Sinai and
walk back to Egypt, taking Ford Nation, and the rest of us, along with him… For Four More Years.

Respect for Taxpayers. Been there. Done that. And got the Bobblehead to prove it. (Both of them.)

Time the Electorate stand up to the Sociopath Mayor by budding in the front of the line, getting ahead of the Press Gallery, turning their backs to the traditional media echo chambers with their narrative, and begin demanding a Post-Rob Ford Vision for the City Region of Toronto and How We Get There without mentioning nor referring to the incumbent mayor.

himysyed

thoughtfully submitted by Himy Syed


Things They Are A-Changing Back

June 12, 2013

During yesterday’s council session, while debating the mayor’s first key item, Traffic Congestion Management and Traffic Signal Coordination ghosttown(aka Cars Go Fast!), both councillors Gord Perks and Adam Vaughan talked about the positive aspects of a congested city. “I don’t want to live in a ghost town,” Perks said. “I want to live in a vibrant exciting place where I’m meeting people on the street and saying hi.”

Naturally this brought howls of derision from the likes of the Ford Bros. and Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti. “Congestion is not good,” Mammoliti declared, “and if you suggest that it is, blow your nose because it isn’t. Clear yourself.”

The councillor then went on to introduce a mocking item that would revert everywhere south of Davenport back to the 19th-century, complete with dirt roads and period customs. Funny, for sure. Giorgio can be a funny guy at times. carcommercialBut it also revealed a couple other telling aspects about him and the car-centric crowd on council he runs with.

They cannot envision a city that doesn’t prioritize the use of the private automobile. It’s completely alien to them. Without our cars, without giving them easy and unobstructed access to go wherever they want, whenever they want, as quickly as possible with the least amount of hassle, we might as well be living in the pioneer days. Before cars, there were only horses.

Their reaction to the congestion statements by councillors Perks and Vaughan also displayed a fundamental incuriosity to what is a fairly counterintuitive idea. Instead of standing to ask for some sort of clarification – Congestion is good?! What the hell do you mean by that, councillor? How could congestion be good? – they just rolled their eyes and laughed in disbelief. crazytalkCouncillor Mammoliti even suggested that statement would come back to haunt Councillor Perks.

Congestion is good? How stupid is that?

But stop to think about it for a moment.

Councillor Vaughan brought up the image of downtown Detroit. No congestion there, apparently. Drive from one side of the city to the other, free of bumper-to-bumper traffic. The wind in your hair. The wide open road.

Perfect for quickly getting from point A to point B but you wouldn’t want to really live or visit where there’s nobody or nothing going on, right? A ghost town versus human congestion, let’s call it.

Think Manhattan, for example. There’s congestion caused by intense activity of all kinds. Pedestrians, cars, bikes, buses. Working, shopping, playing. Bustling, in other words.

That’s far different than the spectre of congestion Councillor Mammoliti is trying to evoke. busystreetNo one believes the gridlock that has bogged down commuters and the movement of goods throughout the GTAs as something that’s good. To pretend that’s what councillors Perks and Vaughan were suggesting is either deliberately obtuse or pure political calculation.

Or it’s just status quo hugging laziness.

Like Mayor Ford’s reaction yesterday to council giving the go ahead to ask the province to allow permanent residents to vote in municipal elections. “I think we have a good system,” the mayor responded. “It doesn’t make sense. How can someone that’s not a Canadian citizen vote?”

How can someone that’s not a Canadian citizen vote? How can congestion be good? How can anything that isn’t exactly how it is now or is exactly how I think it should be good or an improvement or in any way a positive sort of change?

The mayor, his brother, the likes of councillors Mammoliti, Minnan-Wong, Del Grande, Holyday et al notlistening2cannot understand anything that deviates from their point of view, anything that challenges their perception of how the world works and how it might be made to work better. It’s rigid, ideologically hidebound and fundamentally incapable of arriving at any sort of compromise.

Unsurprising then that this gaggle of reactionaries finds itself occupying a smaller and smaller circle at city council. The backward brotherhood, united in a dislike of and disbelief in anything that smacks of them having to lead their lives in any way different than they always have.

bob robertsly submitted by Cityslikr


The Fishin’ Politician? Seriously?!

February 8, 2013

Look. I don’t begrudge Mayor Ford the perks of the job. Despite my demand for perfection from those holding the office, it is, ultimately, a thankless position. You can never make everybody happy. uneasyliestheheadThere is unceasing scrutiny and criticism from assholes like me. (I’m thinking that should be an ‘I’. Assholes like I am?) The pay level is far below what someone with this kind responsibility and oversight would get in the much vaunted private sector. Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown, and all that.

Nor do I take exception to journalists covering the local political scene the fun outing that occasionally crops up in their line of duty. Have at it, folks. Embrace the breaks from the usual grind of the job.

But along with the fringe benefits come the odd bouts of doing the more mundane aspects of the job. Like, I don’t know, forging a consensus across political lines. Leading the discussion on the city’s more pressing problems like transit. Attending events you don’t necessarily share an affinity with.

Because our mayor seems to have an allergy to that particular aspect of his job description, I then resent the times he enthusiastically goes about doing the things he so clearly enjoys. And the journalists and their news outlets who so willingly play along and give Mayor Ford an unfettered platform to deliver the Everyman schtick he loves to play. Hey, everybody! ribboncuttingIt is all fun and games.

I watched Jamie Strashin’s coverage of the mayor’s Sportsmen’s Show outing yesterday with dumb amazement. Lookit. Mayor Ford fishes! Mayor Ford’s apprehensive around skunks! Owls love Mayor Ford! Mayor Ford shoots a target with an air rifle! Mayor Ford loves the Sportsmen’s Show. It’s Mayor Ford’s favourite show after the Super Bowl halftime show!

Again, I get that part of the mayor’s role is as an ambassador for the city, a promoter of all things Toronto. I’m sure in that capacity David Miller did likewise. Touting Toronto FC. Hanging out at the Wine and Cheese Show. Proclaiming a David Suzuki Day.

But why does the normally prickly with the press Mayor Ford get a free pass when he finally deigns to make a public relations appearance? Oh come on. Leave the guy alone. He’s having a little fun. Hey, Mayor Ford? What do you think of the city worker caught surfing porn while on the job? Keep it in your pants, boys, until you get home.

“And with that, the mayor was gone. Out of the wilderness and back to City Hall.”

Am I being a killjoy here? Clearly I don’t understand the relationship etiquette between the mayor and the media. Coverage on the mayor’s terms. He’s available when he’s available, take it or leave it. And if you don’t mind lobbing up a couple softball questions for him, it’d be much appreciated.

I probably could’ve let it all pass unremarked on had I not read fedora sporting Joe Warmington’s Sun scribblings. Why did I do such a thing on this beautiful wintery day? I cannot tell you. Maybe I was up too early this morning. Hadn’t had my cuppa before turning on the interwebs. My bad. Serves me right.

joewarmington

Talk about taking direct aim at a political foe.

Even it was just an air-powered pellet gun, it was a very clear message sent:

Hunters and sportsmen and women are very welcome in the city of Toronto.

And take that, former mayor David Miller. Councillor Adam Vaughan, too.

What a contrast from three years ago when the legal gun owners and law-abiding hunters were discriminated against.

So yesterday’s outing wasn’t simply an exercise in mayoral city building and promotion. chucknorrisIt served as a dog whistle to his supporters that he was out erasing all traces of the previous administration while sticking it to his political rival, Councillor Adam Vaughan. Bet Vaughanie’s never petted a possum.

It seems rather than combat ‘murderous gangster gun crime’ in the city like Mayor Ford was by shooting an air rifle at targets, the Millerites banned the gun loving Sportmen’s Show from city property at the CNE. They exiled it all the way north of the lake and a few blocks east to the Convention Centre. Fucking downtown elite despots. Enough was enough.

“I told [Sportsmen Show chair] Walter Oster if I am mayor it will be back here,” said Ford with a Cheshire Cat grin. “I am a man of my word and it’s back here at the CNE where it never should have left in the first place.”

“Bang, bang.”

Yep. Political correctness by damned. Sportsmen shouldn’t have to be subject to no stinkin’ trip to a convention centre when they want to battle a fish on a television set. courtierThey should be allowed to roam free in the cavernous halls of the Direct Energy Centre. As God intended.

If the mayor’s going to load even the most innocuous of outings with politics, the press can’t just stand idly by, playing along and dutifully noting his exploits. That’s what I would call, if you’ll excuse my Joe Warmington attempts at punning, court reporting. (Think about it for a sec.) Just because Mayor Ford refuses to buckle down and do his job, doesn’t mean the media should too.

poor sportingly submitted by Cityslikr


Birds Of A Feather

January 21, 2013

Suppose sometime over the course of the next couple weeks or so, Mayor Ford’s conflict of interest appeal is upheld and he’s officially tossed from office. Suppose not assume because, waiting2for me at least, my assumptions over the last 3 years have been woefully off the mark, starting with my early mirth about the improbable prospect of a ‘Mayor Rob Ford.’ Here, there be no more assumptions.

But let’s do suppose the courts toss him from office.

Much has been made of the Candidate from The Left who would best oppose him. Olivia Chow? Councillors Adam Vaughan and Shelley Carroll? All with the inevitable concern for vote splitting between them, allowing the mayor to slip up through the middle to another unlikely election win.

But recently, there’s been chatter about the right. bowlingsplitThis poses as equal if not greater threat to the mayor than any sort of alignment on the left, I think. A split on the right side of the spectrum would probably be fatal to his re-election chances unless somehow the left fragmented into tiny little pieces which, after 2010, I don’t see happening.

That’s assuming (ooops!) there’s a vote at all. Council could simply appoint a mayor instead of electing to have a by-election. Re-appointing Mayor Ford has been seriously floated by the likes of Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday. Like some real life Dallas re-do. It’s all just been a dream.

But why would council do that? More specifically, why would council conservatives do such a thing? Why would they allow Rob Ford to continue damaging their brand?

That speaks to a bigger picture, frankly. imwithstupidA response to my post yesterday, My Problem With Conservatives, summed it up in under 140 characters. “Have been curious for some time about why moderate conservatives have allowed, what were fringe radicals, to co-opt their parties.

We’ve seen it down in the States with the Republican Party and, to some degree, up here at the federal and provincial levels. These are not your daddies’ Progressive Conservative parties. Hell, in Ottawa they cut to the chase and dropped Progressive altogether.

And it’s meant a certain degree of electoral success. At least in the short term. The results of the 2012 U.S. election suggest right wing radicalism is, however, hurting the conservative cause now. Here in Ontario, after 2 terms of far-rightedness under the Common Sense Revolution, the P.C.’s have experienced trouble bringing voters back into the fold even in the face of discontent with the ruling Liberal party working in their favour.

And here in Toronto, well, Rob Ford.

It’s not like his type of right wing crank politician never existed before. But they just weren’t usually allowed to drive the bus. proppedupDriving it into a ditch.

I guess a cynical view might be that council conservatives with an eye on the mayor’s office could see fit to prop him up until next year at this time when the official 2014 campaign kicks off. Then, all bets are off. Whoever decided to run could take the 10 months to draw a distinction between their type of right of centre politics and the mayor’s. The right message delivered by the wrong messenger and all that.

That would be a calculated risk, I’d think. If Mayor Ford continues to blow up in such spectacular fashion, it might be difficult to continue keeping the fall out off of you. A smart, progressive campaign would tar all conservatives with the same brush.

Political calculations aside, surely to christ, moderate conservatives at the municipal level must now realize that the mayor’s conservatism is harming the greater good of the city more than anything either of his immediate predecessors did. citybuildingIn fact, if any moderate conservative can still say with a straight face Toronto is in better shape now than it was three years ago should not consider themselves a moderate conservative. They’re willfully blind ideologues.

Take for example John Tory. A seeming old school Red Tory. Too red certainly for the provincial Progressive Conservative party.

As chair of Toronto’s CivicAction Alliance, he is now the public face of a group advocating for greater investment in public transit infrastructure in the GTA. They along with conservative leaning interest groups like the Board of Trade recognize the negative impact congestion is having on the region and the only solution is to spend money bringing our public transit system into the 21st-century. That means considering new taxes. Road tolls.

Is John Tory prepared to stand idly by and let Mayor Ford continue to spout his subway nonsense, given the opportunity to replace him with someone more forward thinking? And I’m not talking about Tory running for mayor necessarily. birdsofafeatherWith the talk radio bully pulpit he has, is he going to pipe up in favour of the status quo, keeping a mayor in place whose closet counsel is his brother, a politician on record as saying all taxes are evil? The private sector will build us our subways, folks.

It won’t. John Tory must know that. TTC chair Karen Stintz too. How about Councillor Michael Thompson?

For the sake of keeping a conservative in power will they all be content to let Mayor Ford stand for the conservative banner? Reasonable people shouldn’t let blind loyalty to their ideology trump city building. It’s OK to state that Mayor Ford has been an unmitigated disaster and still be a conservative. Someone serious from the ranks should step forward soon and say as much. Otherwise, it’ll start to look like conservatives of every stripe are more interested in power rather than good governance.

helpfully submitted by Cityslikr