If You’re Not Even Going To Try…

October 21, 2014

Friends, living in Ward 11 York South-Weston, asked the other day what on earth they should do when it comes to voting for their local councillor. decisionsdecisions1As many of you probably know, Ward 11 is the domain of long time city councillor, Frances Nunziata. Frances Nunziata is easily one of the 5 worst city councillors at City Hall. She’s been ill-representing residents of the area for over a quarter of a century.

You might think with such an abysmal record and tradition, there’d be a long list of challengers out there, knocking on doors, talking to residents in the hopes of defeating Ms. Nunziata. You might think. But my friends’ dilemma was real. There is no viable candidate running to unseat her in Ward 11 York South-Weston. I checked. I watched.

Voting against Frances Nunziata in 2014 essentially comes down to, Well, candidate X couldn’t do any worse, right? holdyournoseandvoteAnd in the case of Dory Chaloub, I’m not sure I could say that with a whole lot of confidence.

How is that possible?

This takes me back to a theme that’s emerged most glaringly during this campaign. In amidst talk of infrastructure deficits, transit deficits, what’s lost in the shuffle is our democratic deficit. In places throughout the city, like Ward 11, residents have been so poorly served for so long by those they’ve elected to City Hall that they’ve simply given up hope for anything different. There’s no reason to hope for change because change never comes, and when and if it does, it rarely is change for the better.

One of the first questions council challengers hear at the door when they’re out canvassing is, How are you going to be any different? That’s a tough one to answer because “they” haven’t been any different for years, decades, a generation.

So who on earth is going to put their neck out there and risk what is almost certain defeat?

What is remarkable is how many people have actually done that this election year. holdyournoseandvote2There are a lot of eminently electable candidates running in areas of the city where good candidates are not the norm. Despite an uphill battle convincing constituents that it can be different, they’re out there, convincing them.

Not in Ward 11 this time out, unfortunately.

There is no good choice to be made for city councillor in Ward 11. If I lived there, I’d probably leave my council vote blank, decline it as best you could, as a form of protest.

I was surprised a little bit then when yesterday in the Toronto Star’s city council endorsement list, they gave a thumbs up to Dory Chaloub, reasoning, pretty much, that anyone would be better than Frances Nunziata. “A dose of vitality.” Obviously, they saw something in him that escaped our notice or (and I’m thinking this is much more likely) they weren’t paying that close of attention.decisionsdecisions

I base this assertion on some of the other endorsements the Star made including perhaps the most jaw-dropping. Denzil Minnan-Wong in Ward 34 Don Valley East. “A thinking conservative,” the Star called him. “An asset on council.”

It’s hard to believe the person who wrote those words watched the same last 4 years of city council as I did. Minnan-Wong was every bit as destructive, divisive and partisan as Frances Nunziata, arguably more so as he held much more policy sway than she did. (Think of him as last term’s John Tory to Nunziata’s Rob Ford.)

The big difference between them is Minnan-Wong’s actually got a viable, interesting challenger running against him in Mary Hynes. Yet he gets an endorsement and Frances Nunziata doesn’t. How?

This happened elsewhere throughout the city in the Star’s endorsements. endorsement1They give a ‘lukewarm’ endorsement to Michelle Berardinetti in Ward 35 Scarborough Southwest even though she’s got a very good challenger in Paul Bocking. In Ward 7 York West, they overlook Keegan Henry-Mathieu for the non-entity but last election’s runner-up Nick Di Nizio to replace Giorgio Mammoliti. With a series of open wards in Etobicoke, the Star just as often went with names as they did interesting choices. Andray Domise for sure. But Stephen Holyday and Justin Di Ciano?

And aside from showing up, it’s hard to see how Diane Hall will be a better representative for Ward 44 than Ron Moeser especially when there were at least a couple other strong candidates running there.

Look, we agreed with the Star more often than not in its endorsements. (They did pick Franco Ng over Jim Karygianis to replace Mike Del Grande in Ward 39). We certainly didn’t expect to agree across the board with them.holdyournoseandvote1

But I look at their endorsements and I’m not sure what kind of city council the editorial board of the Toronto Star wants. Cynically, my first guess is familiar faces. Aside from the worst of the worst of incumbents – your Nunziatas, your Mammolitis, your Crisantis, Fords Crawfords and Grimes – I’d argue the Star went with name recognition even in many of the races where they wanted the incumbents defeated, they picked 2nd place finishers in previous elections or other candidates who had some traction already.

“We’re not big fans of political dynasties but…” Stephen Holyday? Why?

It’s not that we here at All Fired Up in the Big Smoke ran an exhaustive survey of the council races. We did our diligence in many of them and where we didn’t feel we did? We didn’t endorse. It seemed unfair, uninformed and arbitrary. eenymeenyminymoWe wanted our choices to reflect our values of what we expected from city councillors not be little more than, I don’t know, lottery picks.

Trotting out a list of endorsements heavy with name recognition does little to battle the power of incumbency. It further beefs up the status quo and gives the impression of immutability. Change comes slowly if it comes at all.

It helps feed into the sense of hopelessness in places like Ward 11 where someone like Frances Nunziata reigns supreme.

disconcertingly submitted by Cityslikr


It’s Why He’s Called Dorg

June 22, 2014

Here’s how I saw it.perspective

At Friday’s Budget Committee meeting, during the discussion of the final 2013 operating variance report, which contained a $168.1 million dollar surplus, Councillor Doug Ford had a plan. But first he had to actually read the report, skim it maybe.

From where I sat in the room, he hadn’t. This is the vice-chair of the committee, wanting to play with the numbers, who appeared not to have done his homework. He scrambled to find the pages, assisted by the city’s Chief Financial Officer, Robert Rossini, sitting beside him. The item located, the councillor flipped through it. You could almost hear him mumbling the words as he read them.

Now, if I’m wrong in these observations, I’ll happily retract them. It just struck me as a very on-the-fly process, heightened by the fact, Councillor Ford began scribbling out what would be a motion to amend the item. totallyunpreparedHe urged other committee members to take the opportunity to speak to give him time to finish writing his motion. Everyone waited. Staff. His colleagues at the table.

“This one’s going to flatten the City Manager,” Councillor Ford warned, glibly. Or something to that affect. Here comes a patented Fordian haymaker, folks.

Nothing like blind-siding the city’s top bureaucrat as a stable and judicious form of governance. Hey, Joe. Watch this. I’m going completely fuck with the city’s budget and established protocol. That’s how we roll in the private sector.

It isn’t, of course. One would hope Councillor Ford’s cavalier approach to monkeying around with the budget numbers is anything but sound business practice. I’m just spitballing here, folks. Haven’t put a lick of thought into this but what do you think about…

His motion?

Use 20% of the surplus to give a tax refund to the taxpayers. “It’s their money not ours,” the councillor said breezily, outoftheblueas if it made any kind of sense whatsoever. Put a little less money in the rainy day reserve funds. Pay down a little less of the capital debt. Give people back their money. It’s not as if the city has any pressing need for it.

Unsurprisingly, Councillor Ford’s motion was ruled out of order by the Budget Committee chair, Frank Di Giorgio. Any tax refund would change the property tax rate set by city council earlier this year. Only city council could re-open that matter. It couldn’t be done at the committee level.

“Just cut everybody a cheque,” Councillor Frances Nunziata chimed in, as if the room wasn’t already filled to bursting with the dumb.

Councillor Ford was having none of it. He challenged the ruling of the chair. A majority of the committee members voted against the challenge.

“I’d rather see the money go to filling in potholes,” Councillor Nunziata said as she voted along with Councillor Ford, bullinachinashopchallenging the chair’s ruling.

Well, why are you voting in favour of the challenge in order to bring about a motion that would refund some of the surplus, councillor, rather than have it go back into filling those pot–oh, never mind.

It’s not so much the crass, disruptive grandstanding from Councillor Ford that’s so tiresome and predictable. The tax refund motion was simply a variation of his peeling off $20 bills to give to strangers. It’s the sheer laziness of it.

The year-end variance came as no surprise to anyone who pays even the scantest of attention to city operation. Amounts differ. Some years the surplus is bigger than others. fordnation1But you can always count on some sort of surplus.

Councillor Ford has seen it happen during his time at City Hall four straight times yet he bulls into the meeting as if it’s some sort of newsflash, as if he’s too busy toiling away on other parts of his job to have had the time to read through the report, jot a few ideas down. Neither one of those possibilities is true. Councillor Ford is a half-assed municipal politician whose ignorance of how the city functions is only surpassed by his refusal to take the time to actually learn about it.

The blind leads the willful into a state of total incompetence.

In one sentence, pretty much summing up the Ford administration.

— repeatedly submitted by Cityslikr


Go, Go, Go Giorgio

March 18, 2014

STOP THE (WORD) PRESSES!!

stopthepressesBreaking news in our Wards To Watch 2014!

Yesterday, Keegan Henry-Mathieu registered to run for city councillor in Ward 7 York West.

Why is this so newsworthy? Two words. Giorgio Mammoliti.

In our very first post of this series, we implored voters of Ward 7 to rid our city of this clown prince of municipal politics. Along with the Ford Brothers and Councillor Frances Nunziata, Mammoliti makes up one third of the unholy triumvirate of City Hall’s masters of divisiveness, discord and dysfunction. I know much of the campaign focus has been and will continue to be on the mayor’s race with an eye to ending the current reign of error but I cannot stress enough how chasing Giorgio Mammoliti from council would contribute to restoring much calm, decorum and civility as well.chasetheclown

As the councillor likes to point out regularly, in an attempt to deepen the urban-suburban fault line to his advantage, his ward never gets anything. And exactly whose fault is that, Giorgio? In his capacity as both an MPP and then city councillor for the area since 1990, more than a little of the blame should rest on his shoulders. He made it clear repeatedly throughout this term that it was a subway or nothing along Finch Avenue even if his residents had to wait a 100 years. His constant motions to freeze property taxes would also serve to provide a whole lot of nothing for Ward 7 residents.

Councillor Mammoliti also appears to hold the adherence to rules in as much disdain as he does his constituents. shirtlessmammolitiDuring this term, he’s been dinged with some ethical taint not once, not twice but three times. There are those 2010 campaign spending charges. There’s that questionable fundraiser now under investigation by Toronto’s Integrity Commissioner. Last fall, it was suggested that the councillor was paying below market rent owned by a developer that does business with the city.

It all adds up to a big ol’ bucket of What the Fuck? Just whose interests has Councillor Mammoliti been serving at City Hall?

While no official endorsement at this point, I will say that Keegan Henry-Mathieu appears on the tattered political landscape of Ward 7 like a refreshing breeze. I’ve met him a couple times in passing. He is some engaged, having spent time at City Hall as part of the Toronto Youth Cabinet, with an interest on issues like poverty, priority neighbourhoods, nutritional programs and equity. He would represent a much needed new voice on council and for Ward 7.keepcalmandturnthepage

Along with Lekan Olawoye who is challenging long time Ward 12 York South-Weston incumbent, Frank Di Giorgio, maybe Mr. Henry-Mathieu represents a new wave rising up against the old guard in the former city of York. If we could get somebody willing to step into the ring with Ward 11 York South-Weston councillor, Frances Nunziata, it might just be a movement stirring. A new generation of politicians, truly representing a post-amalgamated Toronto.

First, they take York. Then, they take Scarborough…

A guy can dream, can’t he?

hopefully submitted by Cityslikr


This Cannot Stand

March 7, 2014

WE INTERRUPT THIS REGULARLY SCHEDULED WARDS 2 WATCH DISPATCH TO BRING YOU AN URGENT BULLETIN:

PEOPLE OF WARD 11 YORK SOUTH-WESTON! newsflashWON’T SOMEBODY PLEASE, DROP WHAT YOU’RE DOING AND REGISTER TO RUN AGAINST YOUR LONGTIME INCUMBENT, COUNCILLOR FRANCES NUNZIATA? IF NOT FOR YOURSELF OR FOR THE CITY. DO IT FOR YOUR CHILDREN. YOUR CHILDREN’S CHILDREN. FOR THE LOVE OF GOD.

I know it’s early in the race, still months to go before election day on October 27th but when our friend Jude MacDonald pointed out that as of March 6th, Councillor Nunziata was running unopposed, I just couldn’t help thinking, WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE?! WHY ISN’T EVERYONE BEATING DOWN THE DOOR TO CHALLENGE HER!? SHE IS THE WORST!

(OK, I’ll stop shout-writing now. Deep breath. Deep breath.)

The thought of running against a firmly entrenched incumbent at any political level but especially municipally must be a daunting one. oldendaysAnd few city councillors are as entrenched as Frances Nunziata. Along with the city’s 180th birthday yesterday, the councillor celebrated her 180th year in office, I believe. [Actually, she was first elected as a York school board trustee in 1985. A York city councillor in 1988. York mayor in 1994. Amalgamated city councillor in 1997. But who’s counting? – ed.]

Whatever.

A municipal elected official for nearly 3 decades. An institution, really. The Municipal Institute of Cranky Pants at the Frances Nunziata campus.

You know, I’m not one for the term limits. I’ve said as much on this very site. If someone is doing a good job, serving their ward and its residents well, why arbitrarily chase them out?

But, come on, folks. This is Frances Nunziata we’re talking about. This isn’t a case of a forever politician serving her ward and residents well. Think that’s just my opinion? You don’t have to take my word for it. donothinglistThe councillor pretty much admits it herself.

“My ward never gets anything,” is a frequent lament heard coming from Councillor Nunziata’s mouth. If that’s so, whose fault is that, I ask? Look into the mirror, councillor. Look into the mirror, Ward 11.

A wag once told me that the key to Frances’ electoral success lies in her getting 9000 of her residents’ fences fixed. That’s fine, if that’s the kind of councillor she wants to be. But you can’t scream and shout about the big stuff while only focusing on small matters.

Besides, if her total absence of skills as Speaker of city council in any way reflects her overall abilities as a city councillor, I’d say voters in Ward 11 have simply stopped trying. They are merely going through the motions. X marks the circle with name recognition.

To have someone run unopposed in any election race is a bad sign for democracy. To have the likes of Councillor Frances Nunziata run unopposed is nothing short of a travesty. unopposedA slap in the face of all that is good and holy in a free and healthy political system. It’s the surest sign of apathy run rampant.

As of now, Councillor Nunziata is not the only incumbent facing zero opponents. There are six other wards in the city where challengers are absent in running against their councillor. That situation cannot stand. Any acclamation looks bad. Two bit. Small time.

Maybe voters are content with the representation they’re receiving. Why exert the effort if everything’s hunky dory, a-OK? You don’t fix what ain’t broke, am I right?

But you know, the election process isn’t simply about voting. It’s about having a conversation, having your say. Every four years every ward in the city gets to have its own debate. What’s important. What’s working. What’s not working. During that time, if a politician seeks another opportunity to represent the residents of a ward at City Hall, they should have to explain why, and set out their record of accomplishments and a new list of priorities to justify a renewal of that faith voters showed in them the previous time around.

All elected officials, no matter how effective or popular, need to have their feet held to the fire. A trial, if you will, in which they must lay out the case to warrant their re-election. whosontheballotThat can only happen if someone steps forward to challenge them. Failure to do so is an abdication of responsibility on the part of every single eligible resident.

If the likes of Councillor Frances Nunziata stands unopposed in her umpteenth re-election bid, her atrocious track record as city councillor unchallenged, then our system is clearly broken. It suggests that people, at least those living in Ward 11, really don’t care what goes on at City Hall. An electoral shrug. Oh well. What’s it matter?

In the end, you get the type of representation you deserve, I guess.

pleadingly submitted by Cityslikr


Another Photo Finish in Ward 26?

January 16, 2014

Just a quick clarification before I jump right into the next instalment of 15 Wards to Watch (Previous entries here and here.)reminder

This in no way should be interpreted as a list of worst councillors or bums that need to be tossed out. As I wrote at the beginning, if it were, the likes of councillors Frances Nunziata (Ward 11 York South-Weston) or Mark Grimes (Ward 6 Etobicoke-Lakeshore) would feature front and centre. While I’ve certainly weighted the calculations to reflect my opinion of the work councillors do at City Hall, it’s not what this about.

I’m looking at 15 wards that could be seriously contested in the upcoming municipal election based on a combination of councillor competency, the strength of their incumbency and the degree of their plurality in 2010. Obviously, high marks in category one is my way of subjectively skewing the results but as with the above mentioned councillors, primerincumbency and the ease of victory last time out also contribute.

Think of this as a primer, if you will. An All Fired Up in the Big Smoke guide to prospective candidates pondering a run for city council. The information contained within should be considered 85% reliable, 19 times out of 20.

*  *  *

Councillor John Parker (Ward 26 Don Valley West) seems like a nice guy. Well spoken, thoughtful and with a dry sense of humour. His biggest contribution to this term at city council has been in his role as Deputy Speaker. In what could only be best described as a perpetual and ongoing clusterfuck, Councillor Parker always brings a sense of calm, civility and decorum to the proceedings when he assumes the Speaker’s chair.soothing

It also should not be overlooked that he quietly helped derail Mayor Ford’s plan to bury the Eglinton crosstown for the entire length of the route including, somehow, as it crossed the Don Valley. “We’re buying LRTs and asking it to do what a subway does,” Councillor Parker said back in December 2011. “It’ll be the goofiest LRT line known to man.” Parker helped TTC chair Karen Stintz take control of the board from the mayor and oust Ford loyalists who’d turfed then TTC CEO (and LRT supporter) Gary Webster.

He then stood opposed to the TTC chair’s move to build a Scarborough subway her way and was very vocal on the council floor, speaking out against the ultimately successful bid to abandon the planned and paid for LRT replacement of the Scarborough RT with a subway. So he’s got transit working for him. texaschainsawmassacreAs long as you don’t consider cycling and walking an integral part of a transit network.

There’s the rub. Councillor Parker is still what you might call a fiscal conservative with an OK sensibility of city building but not outstanding. Money first. Ideas next.

And we cannot forget that he was a member of the Mike Harris government back in the 90s when subways were filled in, costs downloaded to the city and enforced amalgamation. Much of this burden we’re still living with currently. So it’s annoyingly ironic that here he is, a decade and a half later, contributing (or not) to cleaning up a mess he as an MPP helped create. Such a mess that Councillor Parker, during a 2012 budget debate, had the gumption to suggest was severe enough to force him to float visions of Detroit and Greece if we didn’t clean up our act.

John Parker is much smarter than that.johnparker

As mixed as I’d call his time at city council as, the real factor in making Ward 26 one to watch is his tenuous hold on it. He was first elected in 2006 with just over 20% of the popular vote. In 2010 in another tight race, this time a 3-way one, Parker increase his share popular vote share to over 31% but only 600 votes separated him from the 3rd place finisher.

Slight shifts in either of these elections would’ve kept him from winning. Is he as vulnerable this time out? While I’d think his profile has been elevated (always a plus for an incumbent) especially in his role as Deputy Speaker if nothing else, does it move in a favourable direction for him?

He’s certainly become increasingly vocal in his opposition to Mayor Ford to the point that during the ice storm cleanup cost debate, the mayor’s brother-councillor-campaign manager told Councillor Parker that he was pathetic and a joke. photofinishSo Parker might not want to count on any Ford Nation bump to help him out in a close race. That ship seems to have already sailed.

Will it matter?

I’ve said that regardless of what happens at the mayoral level, the mayor isn’t going to have long enough coat tails to settle many council races especially ones that aren’t in Etobicoke or Scarborough. So Ward 26 is Councillor John Parker’s to lose. Depending on who lines up against him and if there’s another vote split like occurred in both of Parker’s previous victories, I’m pretty comfortable in calling this one a nail biter.

helpfully submitted by Cityslikr