The Worst. The Absolute Worst.

October 2, 2015

Just about a year ago (340 days or so but who’s counting?), as the results of the 2014 municipal election rolled in, I looked over the debris and carnage and declared that this may well shape up to be an even worse city council than the one that preceded it.JustinDiCiano

Impossible to imagine, I know, in the wake of the drunken, crack-laden, I’ve got enough to eat at home Ford years. But I held firm in my view that we did ourselves no favours with the new composition of council even with the new mayor we installed. Just watch, I said.

While I think there have been more than a few examples to back up my claim (the Gardiner east hybrid hybrid anyone?), a vote last night at council cemented it. In a 25-18 vote, our local representatives decided to reverse course and reject the notion of using ranked ballots in forthcoming elections. “A real setback for democratic reform and renewal,” according to Councillor Joe Mihevc.

How did such a turnaround happen? Aside from this simply being a worse city council, you mean? We have to go back to earlier this year, June to be exact.

The province is undergoing a 5 year review of the City of Toronto Act, the 2006 piece of legislation where Queen’s Park bestowed more powers and autonomy on Toronto’s city council. City staff struck up its own review process and the mayor’s office established a panel of 3 councillors, Norm Kelly, Kristyn Wong-Tam and Justin Di Ciano, to work with the staff in coming up with recommendations to pass along to the province for its consideration. The resulting report was before city council to vote on yesterday.

During the debate, councillors were putting forth ideas of their own to package off and send to Queen’s Park. JustinDiCianoThey were flying so fast and furiously at one point that Mayor Tory stood up to lecture his colleagues on governing ‘on the fly’. Staff had worked with council for months to come up with this report. These slap ons were, to the mayor’s mind, going to muddy the waters and diminish the seriousness of the report’s intent. Two of the working group members, councillors Kelly and Wong-Tam, echoed that sentiment.

The third member of the panel, Councillor Justin Di Ciano, had other ideas. Despite apparently working throughout the summer with Kelly and Wong-Tam and city staff on the report council was now amending, plenty of time, you’d assume, for him to float the idea of tossing out the request for ranked ballots, he decided to pursue it ‘on the fly’, as the mayor said. What were his reasons? They were doozies. Real fucking doozies.

Voters found ranked ballots “too confusing” he said. Never mind that the Toronto Star’s Betsy Powell explained how they work in a couple paragraphs.

Under ranked balloting, voters select candidates in order of preference — potentially first, second and third. The candidate with the majority of first-place votes — 50 per cent plus one — wins, just as in the current system.

If nobody meets that threshold, the candidate with the fewest first-place votes is knocked out. The second-place choices of that candidate’s supporters are added to the totals of the remaining hopefuls, and so on, until someone has a majority.

Hopelessly and utterly confused, are you? As the ranked ballot literature says, Easy as 1, 2, 3.

Under softball questioning from fellow council lightweight, Michelle Berardinetti, Councillor Di Ciano cited some study from California that said ‘low-income voters’ had trouble understanding ranked ballots. JustinDiCianoSee? The poorz. They just wouldn’t get it.

The councillor went on to say that this particular council, you know, the one worse than the previous one, shouldn’t be beholden to a decision made late last term. The vote on ranked ballots happened in June of 2013, with almost 18 months left in the mandate. What point does Councillor Justin Di Ciano think should serve as a cutoff in the term of council when it needs to stop doing stuff that might impinge on subsequent councils? A year? Two?

What makes this line of reasoning even more fucking ridiculously vacuous is that the June 2013 vote from city council was a request to the provincial government for the power to decide to use ranked ballots. Even if the province grants the city that power, council would have to vote to enact it. So this city council would have the opportunity to vote against it, and no decision from the previous council would be forced upon it.

Instead, city council said yesterday, nope, don’t even want to consider it.

This boneheaded motion from a terrible, terrible city councillor, Justin Di Ciano, could’ve, should’ve died right there, in its infancy. JustinDiCianoAll it needed was 7 councillors who’d voted in favour of requesting ranked ballots in June 2013 (and one who’d “missed” that particular vote) to vote against it. Amazingly, they didn’t. They did a 180. Like that. Killing months and years of advocacy that a whole lot of people had dedicated their time to. Just like that.

Who were those councillors?

Councillor Michelle Berardinetti (Ward 35 Scarborough Southwest). Councillor Gary Crawford (Ward 36 Scarborough Southwest). Councillor Glenn De Baeremaeker (Ward 38 Scarborough Centre). Councillor Paula Fletcher (Ward 30 Toronto-Danforth). Councillor Mary Fragedakis (Ward 29 Toronto-Danforth). Councillor Cesar Palacio (Ward 17 Davenport). Councillor Anthony Perruzza (Ward 8 York West). Councillor Jaye Robinson (Ward 25 Don Valley West).

Had these councillors not cravenly flipped-floppped, the results of the vote would’ve been reversed, and the motion would’v died. They did and it didn’t. Yeah, this city council sucks.

Click on those links, get a phone number or email address. And start asking these councillors why they changed their minds on pretty much a moment’s notice. Why did they think ranked ballots were a good idea last term? JustinDiCianoWhy do they think ranked ballots are a bad idea now? What changed?

Oh, and let’s not forget the architect of this clusterfuck and big ol’ fuck you to voting reform, Councillor Justin Di Ciano (Ward 5 Etobicoke Lakeshore). Remember this face. It is the face of a city council that makes you pine for the Ford years.

angrily submitted by Cityslikr


The Mayor Declares

September 15, 2015

It looks like now very few of us will ever learn why it was Mayor John Tory caught himself a case of Olympic fever and, for the last month or so, tried to spread the contagion city-wide. torontosignHolding a curious press conference on the roof of snack bar in Nathan Phillips Square (to afford a better camera angle on the PanAm/ParaPan Toronto sign, I guess) to announce his intention not to submit a commitment to bid letter for the 2024 summer games, the mayor cited most of the same reasons those opposing a possible bid had been trotting out since the idea popped up in the wake of the above mentioned PanAm/ParaPan games. Too short a time line to put together a proper bid. No committee in place to do so. A lack of support from the private sector, and by support, I mean money.

One reason he didn’t mention that I think should be pointed out here is the soft public support for a bid. Perhaps the veil of secrecy that surrounded the mayor’s consultative process during the last few weeks dampened any sort of chance at a last minute surge in pro-bid momentum. Who exactly was he talking to? puttingoutthefireWhile he claimed he’d been in conversation with, among other stakeholders, his council colleagues, Anthony Perruzza might beg to differ. In fact, he did just that yesterday on Metro Morning. The hush-hush, behind closed doors approach the mayor engaged in leading up to this decision generated more suspicion than enthusiasm.

Why Mayor Tory took to the podium to make this negative announcement remains something of a mystery to me. Wouldn’t a simple press release have sufficed, given he was saying no? I guess having beaten the bushes to scare up some semblance of interest in hosting the Olympics, words on page might’ve seemed like the coward’s way out. Nope. Step up. Claim the decision as your own.

Which, arguably, has been something of the intent and optics of all this from the outset. The mayor as the authoritative voice, the buck stops with him guy. City council as merely an afterthought, a rubber stamp on mayoral decisions.

None of this is true but you wouldn’t know that from how the entire will he-or-won’t he bid on the Olympics played out. bigcheese1Mayor Tory’s face was all over the push, his words treated as official statements. He brushed aside calls for a special meeting to ensure full council input into the decision, to make the ultimate decision which it inevitably had to do to go forward. This was his decision, the mayor wanted you to think, his alone to make.

Today’s press conference was also an opportunity for Mayor Tory to show everybody he was not rash. He was reasonable, prudent and whatever else he wants you to think he is that isn’t rash. And all that stuff he told you we needed the Olympics for in order to build? Transit and other major infrastructure needs. Affordable housing. Poverty reduction. Yeah well, not necessarily. The other levels of government need to get onboard, helping out with that. Toronto is the country’s biggest city, an important economic engine. When Toronto thrives, the country thrives.

Exactly where we were before all this talk of an Olympic bid to spur senior government action on such vital municipal issues. Nothing ventured, nothing gained, I guess. Hey. It was worth a shot. Except that it wasn’t, as it turns out, as Mayor Tory announced today.startfinish

During the press conference, Mayor Tory took a not so subtle swipe at the previous administration, stating an Olympic bid was no ferris wheel. He was no Doug Ford, impetuously redesigning a decade’s worth of planning on the waterfront, with elaborate renderings of amusement park rides and monorails. No, if you’re going to indulge in spectacle, go big. How about an 80,000 seat stadium on the waterfront! Now that would garner us some serious infrastructure. It would have to, right?

So Mayor Tory gets applauded today for his wise and pragmatic decision not to pursue a course of action he himself had encouraged and championed for the entire last part of the summer. Not only encouraged and championed but fluffed with his talk of the September 15th deadline being simply a letter of interest in possibly bidding when, in fact, as he admitted at the podium today, it was a commitment to bid. slowclapI guess it took him all this time to finally get around to reading the not so fine print in the IOC’s bid process documents.

Oh well. It could’ve been worse. The mayor could’ve made the wrong decision today. A decision city council would’ve had to clean up afterwards.

That, I think, earns him a slow clap for prudently and reasonably making a decision on a bid for the 2024 Olympics that was never his to make in the first place and shouldn’t even have been entertained at this late stage in the game.

Well done.

decisively submitted by Cityslikr


Emperotory

September 11, 2015

Let me run this one up the flagpole for you.alcaponedeaddeaddead

Regardless of where he lands in terms of a 2024 Olympic bid for Toronto, after his agonizing to watch, behind-the-scenes deliberations, the only firm conclusion you can come to is Mayor John Tory has arrived at his Rob Ford ‘Transit City is Dead’ moment.

You remember that one, right? On the day of his swearing in as mayor back in 2010, Ford stepped up to the microphones and unilaterally declared that the previous administration’s massive transit plan, one of the projects already well underway, was dead, finished, over and out. Just like that. No debate with his council colleagues. Rob Ford was now the mayor, the big cheese. What he said, goes. End of discussion.

Of course, it wasn’t. That particular discussion was far from over, is far from over. 1984pigsIt lingers on still.

But Rob Ford, in that single utterance, made with no consultation outside of his small gang of vandals, drew a line in the sand, daring anyone to cross. Few did, initially, at least. For about 18 months or so after that, Rob Ford’s primacy as city council alpha went unchallenged.

Now listen to Mayor Tory’s most recent utterances about a possible Olympic bid less than a week before the deadline for making a decision.

I’m engaged in a very extensive consultative process with groups and individuals and I continue to do that. I will make what I hope will be a considered decision — that people will respect as being considered — when the time comes.

What groups or individuals? We’re only getting dribs and drabs of that information. But we can be pretty much assured it doesn’t include many other members of city council. Mayor Tory has brushed aside a request from Councillor Anthony Perruzza for a special council meeting to discuss the city putting in a bid letter next Tuesday.

I just felt in the circumstances that the decision as to whether to even send a letter or not expressing interest was one that I could make, in consultation with my colleagues and a lot of other people. So I’ll be held accountable for that decision.

“I just felt…the decision…was one that I could make.”

Like Rob Ford, this mayor single-handedly feels he can make a monumental decision on his own. Don’t get side-tracked by his weasel assurances that this is just a letter ‘expressing interest’ in a bid. igotthisThere’s no evidence anywhere that I can find that next Tuesday’s deadline is anything other than a ‘commitment to bid’. It says so right in the International Olympic Committee’s very own 2024 bid document, page 20 to be exact.

As for Mayor Tory being ‘held accountable’ for the decision he makes on this? I say, sure, starting right now. Let’s hold him accountable for his arrogant disregard for our local democratic process. If the Rob Ford years taught us nothing else, we should be well aware of what happens when one man and his small coterie of advisors and hangers-on tries to steamroll city council, and city council allows itself to get rolled over. Nothing good.

And if your response to that statement is to jump to John Tory’s defense, to point out that he’s no crackhead, that he shows up to work on time, that he’s no dummy like his predecessor, that he’s reasonable, sensible, prudent, you’re missing the bigger point. He shares Rob Ford’s point of view that as mayor he gets to call the shots, and city council’s backing simply comes with the territory. A mayor is just one vote but it’s the only vote that counts.

You like your mayors strong, if not in statute, in practice. I don’t. illgetbacktoyouI think a mayor of Toronto has as much power as he needs, and if he’s unable to use it to push an agenda through city council, that’s on him not the system.

As the clock clicks down to the bid decision deadline next Tuesday, and more and more information leaks out about the backroom maneuvers that have been going on – through Freedom of Information access to e-mails, the mayor’s been forced to admit there’s an unofficial bid ‘working group’ operating to assist him in “planning his consultations” – and the names of the people he’s been consulting with, largely unelected names – revealed, city council should realize that its authority is being usurped by the mayor’s office. He ignored a request for a council meeting to debate a possible bid. He has not been forthcoming in providing information to the public about how any decision is being made.

Whatever decision Mayor Tory makes next week, the city council cannot let this moment pass without making some sort of stand. That’ll be easier, obviously, if he decides to proceed with a commitment to bid and needs council approval for any money the city might need to come up with (and there will be money needed). royalsealBut even if the mayor declines to proceed, city council needs to make it clear, in the strongest way possible, that this was never a mayor’s decision to make alone, that all the behind-the-scenes, Freedom of Information access only deliberations were unacceptable and undemocratic. If Mayor Tory’s doing all that on an Olympic bid, what else is going on back there?

City council needs to nip this mayor’s imperious inclinations in the bud now. It needs to show the mayor exactly who the boss is here. Like Rob Ford before him, Mayor Tory seems to have claimed a mayoral mandate as some sort of executive fiat. He’ll keep thinking that until city council shows him otherwise.

advisingly submitted by Cityslikr


It All Depends On How You Define ‘Respect’

April 24, 2014

This isn’t about Rob Ford (although he’ll think this post is about him, about him). At least, not directly, it isn’t. dimmenIt’s about how we’ve slipped into his skin, donned his way of thinking, his attitude toward government.

Following along yesterday to the monthly proceedings of the Executive Committee, the committee the mayor no longer chairs but remains part of only out of legislative necessity – everyone elected to city council must serve on one standing committee – it all felt so petty and small-minded. Bereft of heft. Lacking in rigour. These are the tiny men of a big institution.

It’s no surprise, really. They all were picked to be there by the mayor before his tumble from the seat of power. Not one to challenge his own preconceptions or belief systems, unLincolnian in assembling a team of rivals, the mayor sought nothing more than to surround himself with fellow boobs and yes-men. The worst and the dimmest.

During the debate over somehow commemorating the 1915 Armenian genocide at the hands of the Ottoman Empire, Councillor Frank Di Giorgio presented a muddled view of history where the Holocaust was fact but South African apartheid was still contested. Or something. badhistoryCouncillor Peter Leon referred to the Armenian genocide as an ‘unfortunate mishap’ which he later upgraded to a ‘horrible atrocity’.

Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti moaned about not being paid to have to deal with international issues like European history. He was elected to fill potholes and cut grass, he told the room. If only you would stick to that, Councillor Mammoliti. If only.

Councillor Anthony Perruzza mentioned prosciutto.

But where that item, tabled late in the afternoon when many members of the Executive Committee might’ve been passed their nap time, brought out the dumb, fizzleit was a couple matters earlier in the morning that really saw the collective sparkle fizzle.

A proposed council pay increase, council office budgets and city travel expenses, all the mayor’s bread and butter, led to not so much a healthy debate as regular opportunities to politically grandstand. Protestations of We Are Not Worthy (which is true for many in that room) mixed with talk of gravy and the need for more oversight and micromanaging. Apparently, our city councillors aren’t paid enough to sort out matters on an international scale but don’t make so much money that they can’t waste time looking through colour swatches to find just the right colour at the right price for their office walls.

Of course, there was no way this committee was going to push forward the 12.9% pay increase for council members recommended by the OCG Strategy and Organization Consulting company after surveying 16 Canadian municipalities. puntDespite the fact that, comparatively speaking, our mayor and city councillors are not in the upper echelon of renumeration in terms of their fellow municipal representatives, this is an election year. Nobody’s dumb enough or brazen enough to face the voting public after giving themselves a substantial pay hike.

OK. Maybe Giorgio Mammoliti is. And Frank Di Giorgio might push the wrong button when it came to casting his vote.

It would also be monumentally hypocritical for this group of men to give themselves a raise after nearly 4 years of preaching the gospel of austerity and penny-pinching. What’s good for the goose and all that. They kind of painted themselves into a fiscal corner on this one.

“We can all agree we are well compensated for the job we do,” declared the mayor, mindful I’m sure of his own financial situation as the scion of a wealthy family. In his case, it’s true. Given the job he does, the time he puts into it, I’d argue Mayor Rob Ford is amply compensated, as are many of his colleagues sitting on Executive Committee with him.

livinglargeHow much should the going rate be for bad representation at City Hall?

How much should the going rate be for good representation at City Hall?

I’ve seen how much work the diligent and dedicated city councillors put in on a daily basis. Forget your notions of any 40 hour work week. Double that. On call 7 days a week most weeks of the year. You break their 6 figure salaries down to an hourly rate and I think you’d find a much more modest pay rate.

But because we’ve assumed the anti-public sector stance that the mayor believes so passionately in, any amount is too much. It’s our taxes that pay their bills, we trumpet. Respect, we demand. Why should they be entitled to anything more that we are?miniscule

We’ve willing agreed to travel down the deceptive road of misconception, believing that somehow the taxes we pay at a local level don’t go toward paying for all the useful things we use on a daily basis. We hear that this councillor makes $100, 000 a year in salary, plus perks, and imagine, well, there goes all my money. Straight into the councillor’s already stuffed pocket, so they can jaunt off to some all-expenses trip to somewhere they have absolutely no need to be going to, somewhere I’ll never get to go.

In actual fact, the operations of city council costs us collectively around $20 million a year. Throw in the mayor’s office along with the city clerk, and I’ll generously round it up to $30 million. $30 million, in a $10 billion operating budget. Do that math. .003 Every municipal tax dollar you submit, missthepoint.3% of that goes to our elected officials, and the general operations of their offices and meetings.

So, if you pay $5000 a year in property tax about $15 of that is used for your mayor and city councillor to do their respective jobs. Do that math. $1.25 a month. Less than a nickel a day.

So when the mayor goes on some outraged tirade about all that gravy, pointing to $150,000 in councillor travel expenses (.00000015 of the operating budget, I think) or the not quite $6 million in city staff travel expenses, reach into your pocket and pull out all the change. We no longer use the denomination small enough needed to pay for your portion of that. And then stop to think about how we’re paying someone $170+K a year to fussily focus on saving us that amount of next to nothing.

Then honestly tell me who exactly it is respecting the taxpayers?

generously submitted by Cityslikr


A Man Of Many Words

March 11, 2014

Not going to lie to you. I am kind of a sucker for the occasional outburst of oratorical thunder that Councillor Anthony Perruzza williamjenningsbryan(Ward 8 York West) unleashes at city council meetings. And by ‘oratorical’ I don’t really mean to suggest any sense of eloquence or particular skills in rhetoric. It’s more to do with the loud noises that come out of his mouth in no discernible pattern or meaning. Most of the time, I have no idea what the councillor’s on about or the point he’s trying to make. It’s just fun to watch him perform.

Which pretty much sums up my impression of his term on council during the Ford administration. I don’t know what he’s been up to or the reason why he’s there. I get no sense of who he represents. It’s a mystery to me who Councillor Perruzza stands up to advocate for when Councillor Perruzza gets up to thunder.

I imagine if he didn’t have such a unique style of delivery, I’d hardly notice Councillor Perruzza at all.

He is (at least according to his Wikipedia page) a member of the New Democratic Party, serving as an MPP for one term as part of the Bob Rae government alongside now Communist defector Giorgio Mammoliti. headscratcherBoth men voted against their own party’s same-sex rights and benefits bill, helping to defeat it. Perruzza was also a North York Separate School Board Trustee and councillor before eventually becoming an amalgamated city councillor.

He seems to have been a long time advocate of affordable housing, tenants’ rights and low property taxes. Throughout much of the past 3+ years, unlike his former NDP MPP colleague Councillor Mammoliti, Perruzza has kept his distance, politically speaking, from Mayor Ford while still managing to eventually snag a chair position of one of the city’s standing committees, Community Development and Recreation. That’s the kind of appointment the mayor usually only grants to his closest allies. Councillor Perruzza was even tapped by the mayor as one of only five councillors worthy of being re-elected this year. “Although he doesn’t vote with us sometimes,” the mayor said, “but he supported me when times were tough.”

This is where the whole Anthony Perruzza enigma gets really unsettling for me.

Somewhere along the line, the councillor softened toward the mayor, going to bat for him on two recent fronts. First, the Scarborough subway. Not only would this transit line provide zero help to transit users in his part of the city, Councillor Perruzza voted in favour of a property tax increase to pay for it (at least, initially he did.) throwalifelineCouncillor Perruzza is not a big fan of property tax increases.

More baffling however was the councillor’s standing up for Mayor Ford in his fight to keep all his powers after the crack scandal broke wide open. The ‘tough times’ the mayor referred to. Perruzza rose to his feet to boom about the political implications of such a move, worrying that it might set a dangerous precedent. The next time a city council and a mayor had a falling out. He even voted against asking the mayor to apologize for lying about smoking crack.

As if smoking crack and lying about it while impugning the reputation of others is in any way political. As if the motion to remove the mayor’s power wasn’t at all a reflection of his job performance and somehow just political posturing. As if the mayor’s behaviour could be categorized as the normal functioning of the office that some of his colleagues simply didn’t agree with.

Matt Elliott later pointed out when Mayor Ford YouTubely endorsed Councillor Perruzza that the worthy list of re-electable councillors consisted of only those who voted against stripping the mayor of his powers. So a cynic might conclude that Councillor Perruzza’s motivation was with an eye on the upcoming election. In order to tell voters in Ward 8 that, while he opposed the mayor on many issues, he wasn’t against the mayor, if you catch the fence straddling there.

Why would not being perceived as too anti-Rob Ford be a goal for Councillor Perruzza?scratchmyback

In the Etobicoke-York-Scarborough axis of… nevermind… that served as the base of support for Ford Nation, Ward 8 ranked at the bottom, with just 47% voting for Rob Ford, almost the same as the average city wide numbers. One would think approval ratings for the mayor haven’t increased there more than anywhere else in the city over the last 18 months or so. Does an unofficial endorsement from Mayor Ford actually help Councillor Perruzza’s re-election chances?

On the other hand, the councillor has been engaged in electoral war in Ward 8 over 4 campaigns since 2000, all with the former incumbent, Peter Li Preti. He lost twice (3 times if you count the pre-current council alignment in 1997) before winning the last two times. All of the elections, save in 2000, have been close. The last three were determined by a combined 1381 votes, less than 500 an election.

Now, in the 2010 election Mr. Li Preti was nailed for various campaign finance violations. Last summer the Compliance Audit Committee voted in favour of proceeding with a prosecution. hedgingSo, there’s a good chance the two men won’t meet in a council race for the first time since the city amalgamated.

But you can never be too sure about these things. Councillor Perruzza may just be hedging his bets, making sure all his bases are covered. That roar you hear when he gets to his feet to bellow could be the sound of someone marking their territory. I am Councillor Anthony Perruzza. I represent Ward 8 York West.

Sound and fury, signifying nothing more than a re-election bid.

cynically submitted by Cityslikr


They’ve Got A Committee For That?

June 27, 2013

Early on at yesterday’s Community Development and Recreation Committee meeting, it dawned on me that I wasn’t really that interested in people. realitytvSure, in the abstract, I spend my time thinking about things like transit and budgeting in a (hopefully) people friendly manner but the nuts and bolts of their daily lives? That’s what reality TV’s for. To watch the mundane aspects of real life without actually having to experience it.

Apparently it is an indifference I share with Mayor Ford because the Community Development and Recreation Committee whose task it is to oversee “social cohesion, with a mandate to monitor, and make recommendations to strengthen services to communities and neighbourhoods” may be the most non-Fordian of any of the city’s standing committees. The makeup skews centre to left. Former chair, Councillor Jaye Robinson, was perhaps the most natural ally of the mayor’s and he turfed her because of her outspoken stance on his alleged crack use.

Social cohesion and strengthened services to communities and neighbourhoods is stuff the mayor is prepared to leave up to the lefties on council to sort out. sandboxOr, more to the point, stuff he can quash at the Budget or Executive Committees. From his perspective, it’s easy to see CDR as the sandbox he sends the usual suspects off to play in.

Which translates into a very amicable and constructive atmosphere in the committee room. With no vendetta seeking animosity brought to the table by any of the mayor’s remaining allies, the meeting represented the complete antithesis of the dysfunction normally on display at the higher profile meetings like council, budget, public works and infrastructure. Hell, the mayor’s own hand-picked Executive Committee has become more strained and combative than Community Development and Rec.

That’s not to say everything was roses.passthebuck

There’s clearly a shit storm brewing with the continued roll out of full-day kindergarten and the question of before and after school child care. It pits three entities – Queen’s Park, the school boards and the city – against one another with the latter holding the bag when the inevitable shortages appear. The big question is who’s going to provide child care for the newly minted kindergarteners before and after class. Licensed child care businesses were led to believe the schools would, so adjusted their staffing and facilities to reflect that. Many of the schools have not taken up the task. The province just shrugs. Community Development and Rec committee members scramble to figure out how to fill in the void.

Another agenda item, the Toronto Youth Equity Framework is an ongoing part and parcel of “…the development of a Toronto youth equity strategy”, undertaken after the 2008 Review of the Roots of Youth Violence report from Roy McMurty and Alvin Curling, and the provincial Ontario Youth Action Plan that came in response to a couple high profile shootings in Toronto last year. You know, the low hanging fruit our elected officials can easily strike off their To Do list. sweptundertherugInequality. Discrimination. Exclusion.

I will grant Mayor Ford this. He isn’t the first politician to place such matters on the back burner of their administration although few have been as open in their disinterest as this one. There’s not a whole lot of political capital to be gained dealing with issues like poverty and racism especially when you get elected vowing to rein in spending. The axe tends to fall easily on the disenfranchised if it saves the hard-working taxpayers a buck or two.

So the workings of the Community Development and Recreation committee feel like a slog. The type of business only the likes of Councillor Janet Davis could love. Seemingly intractable problems moving in imperceptible slow-motion. Troubles mount quickly. Solutions appear stingily.

There are no easy wins and the steps needed to set things on the right course invariably cost money. That’s a formula to strike fear in the hearts of any but the most intrepid of politicians. The weight of the status quo hangs heavy over the Community Development and Recreation committee.

Councillors taking on this work deserve the utmost respect from us. When all is said and done, they are the faces of the city at ground level, rollingrockdoing the grunt work while lacking the necessary control over the factors that influence what comes before them. It was Queen’s Park who made the decision to institute full-day kindergarten but the implications of it fall on the desk in front of the members of CDR committee.

Judging from the tone of Wednesday’s meeting, they do so with a certain resolve, grace and equanimity. It just so happened to be Councillor Anthony Perruzza’s first meeting as chair and, despite the fact I still question his decision to take the position that pushed aside the last female member of the mayor’s Executive Committee, I thought he did a good job. He was solicitous with all the deputants, accommodating with both visiting councillors and the members of the committee. There was no bombastic oratory. Disappointing to those of us who are a little partial to his bombastic oratory.

Once again, I was left with the feeling that the dysfunction ascribed to City Hall currently flares up only when the mayor or his brother or Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong gets involved. For the most part, at most committee levels work is getting done. Councillors do get along. The business of the city is proceeding apace.

keepcalmandrollupyoursleeves

It just doesn’t make for an immediately compelling story.

applaudingly submitted by Cityslikr


The Fault, Dear Brutus

June 8, 2012

Let’s get this straight right off the bat.

Toronto’s city council is not out of control. It has merely stepped into the leadership vacuum created by Mayor Rob Ford’s misguided, hell bent pursuit of his self-proclaimed ‘mandate’. A mandate now in tatters due to ill-advised blunders like the Port Lands land grab, declaring Transit City dead with no viable plan to replace it and an overarching war on revenue that has put an unnecessary strain on already stressed city coffers.

While the mayor loves to play victim in this, beset on all sides by deranged left wingers (new members of the club now include councillors Michelle Berardinetti and David Shiner… Michelle Berardinetti and David Shiner, people), his monochromatic, black-and-white, us-versus-them worldview has been the actual impetus for his startling loss of control at council. There is no obvious official mechanism in place to strip power from a mayor. A mayor squanders the office’s powers purely through a failure of leadership.

“With limited executive authority,” the Globe and Mail editorialized yesterday, “a Toronto mayor’s power is mostly derived from his or her ability to unite councillors in common cause, or at least broker compromise.” The paper goes on to suggest that, “Rather than embracing his current role as an opposition politician, Mr. Ford needs to find a way to lead again.”

The problem is, the mayor has never led in the sense the Globe would like to see. Uniting or brokering compromise is not exactly his strong suit. What Mayor Ford is truly skilled at is dovetailing his angry sense of privileged entitlement with the anger of those who have truly been left on the outside. Tea Party like demagoguery exploiting grassroots populism in order to divide and conquer.

So every significant loss at council such as the most recent surreal tale of Toronto’s move to ban the use of plastic bags isn’t seen for what it most certainly is. The unintended consequence that results from not having any plan in place past point A. No. Instead it’s portrayed as a petulant fuck you to Mayor Ford by those who remain vigilantly bitter about his successful 2010 campaign. And dissing the mayor is dissing all of Ford Nation.

Was city council’s vote to ban plastic bags unexpected and impetuous? Yes. But it followed its own logic. Everyone agreed that the 5¢ cent fee council imposed – more like, suggested, since it was a bylaw never enforced – had done what it was intended to do. Reduce the use of plastic bags and their presence in our landfills. If that was the goal, why not pursue it to the obvious conclusion? So first Councillor Anthony Perruzza and then Councillor David Shiner pushed for an outright ban.

Toronto will hardly be on the vanguard on this issue if it is in fact enacted in the new year. There has been an international move in this direction for some time now. Countries in Europe have banned them. Peruse this list to see the extent of it in the United States. Hell, deep in the heart of Alberta oil country, the city of Fort McMurray has had a plastic bag ban since 2010.

(Daniel Dale of the Toronto Star gives a thorough breakdown of the implications of the city’s proposed ban here.)

City council merely stepped into the void created by Mayor Ford whose agenda now consists of nothing more than building a re-election platform for a campaign that doesn’t begin for another 18 months or so. The only chaos or anarchy currently swirling around at City Hall is in the mayor’s office. Mayor Ford has left the actual role of governing up to his 44 councillor colleagues. They should be commended not condemned for accepting that responsibility.

seriously submitted by Cityslikr