How Not To Be A City Councillor

October 13, 2015

Recently, a Scarborough community of about 12 households took their fight to City Hall over plans to install sidewalks along their street. Yes, you read that correctly. protestagainstResidents have been fighting the city over plans to install sidewalks.

This item, let us call it, first came to my notice when the local city councillor, Gary Crawford, tried to ix-nay hetay idewalksay at September’s Public Works and Infrastructure meeting. Rebuffed, it came back this month before finally being subdued and, hopefully, deep sixed for good last week after much commiserative mumbling from a few of the committee members. “I’m not a big fan of pavement myself,” said PWIC chair, Jaye Robinson.

How so very Joni Mitchell of her.

That the pushback even got this far along in the process is truly an abject lesson in pandering and How Not To Be A City Councillor. Listen to Councillor Crawford speaking up for his aggrieved dozen of households.

I fully support the construction of sidewalks, especially in my ward. I really do support sidewalks. But what I support is sidewalks that make sense. When you look at this particular little section, the community looked at the foot traffic and how busy that road is. They’ve indicated there’s very little foot traffic.

‘Sidewalks that make sense’.

Looking at this photo of Ramona Drive from the Scarborough Mirror, it’s hard not to conclude that, of course, there’s very little foot traffic. Who the hell would want to travel by foot along here? It basically screams, Stay Off My Lawn and Get In Your Car! RamonaDriveAfter the committee vote, the Globe and Mail’s Oliver Moore asked Councillor Crawford why he thought the sidewalk issue was so ‘divisive’. “It’s partly because people have become accustomed to having/using the road allowance,” the councillor responded.

In other words, the residents of Ramona Drive don’t need sidewalks because they use the road to walk on. But it’s not really that pleasant walking on the road, so, unsurprisingly, there’s very little foot traffic. Therefore, we don’t need no stinkin’ sidewalks!

Never mind the fact that the sidewalks would be put in on city property, so it’s not really up to residents to say yes or no to them. The installation is being coordinated with the replacement of watermains in order to keep construction time to a minimum and, hopefully, save some money in the process. Like it or not, this is just something that comes with living in a city. You want untouched bucolic where you collect your water from a stream and shit in an outhouse? There are places you can move to for that even without building a time machine to travel back to. Toronto, even Scarborough, isn’t one of them.johndenver

Another complaint from the residents was that the city didn’t consult enough with them beforehand, to come up with some sort of compromise, a more sensible sidewalk, I guess. This is often a legitimate complaint from people in dealing with the city about city plans but I do get the sense that on this one that from staff’s position what was there to consult about? They’re putting in a sidewalk, for fuck’s sake. Who’s going to have a problem with that?

Apparently, residents of Ramona Drive, Scarborough, Toronto. That’s who.

Interceding with and navigating the often times antagonistic dynamic between City Hall and city residents is part of the job of being a city councillor. That doesn’t mean always siding with the public because it’s the politically expedient thing to do. An angry constituent means a hostile voter. If people living on Ramona Drive weren’t notified in a timely fashion, the blame ultimately should lie with their councillor, and this whole ridiculous business feels like a councillor scrambling to the defense of his residents in order to keep up appearances. Councillor Crawford wants people to know he isn’t against sidewalks, in theory. gotyourbackHe’s just against this sidewalk, in practice, because these 12 households are against it.

Hedges have been built, Councillor Crawford points out. We can’t just bulldoze over front yards because people have been operating under the misconception that their property was their property even when it isn’t. People must be indulged, in other words, not enlightened or guided in the right direction. By doing just that, Councillor Crawford helps to exacerbate the animosity and feeling of alienation residents can feel toward City Hall rather than do his best to try and smooth over the relationship.

That wasn’t what he was elected to do.

submitted by Cityslikr


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


Dear Councillor Crawford

September 23, 2015

Cityslikr
All Fired Up in the Big Smoke
The Internets
September 23, 2015

 

Councillor Gary Crawford
City Councillor, Ward 36 Scarborough Southwest
City of Toronto
100 Queen Street West, Suite A11
Toronto, Ontario   M5H 2N2

 

Dear Councillor Crawford:

As an avid city council watcher, I couldn’t help but notice your appearance at yesterday’s Public Works and Infrastructure Committee meeting. Actually, that’s not entirely true. I barely noticed your appearance, coming as it did just after the lunch break when you attempted to get some quick item passed by the committee. Turns out it wasn’t that quick and got shuffled off to the next meeting of the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee in a flurry of what seemed to me at the time to be much baseless and niggling procedural wrangling.

Frankly, I’d forgotten the entire incident until a few hours later when the Torontoist posted this piece, Scarborough Sidewalk Skirmishes March On. It fleshes out your item PW 7.15, Midland Avenue Sidewalk Construction in more interesting detail. Allow me to quote the staff summary of the item as I’m sure it’s just one of many you have to deal with during the course of a day in the life of a busy city councilor.

In late July, my office was contacted by a number of residents on Midland Avenue who were disheartened to learn that, in accordance with City policy, a sidewalk would be constructed on their street in conjunction with area watermain replacements. In this case, while the watermain replacement stretches as far north as Kingston Road, the construction of sidewalks is limited to the west side of Midland Avenue from Fishleigh Drive to Romana Drive.

I have received a petition demonstrating that all thirteen homes on the west side of Midland Avenue from Fishleigh Drive to Romana Drive are opposed to the installation of sidewalks in the currently planned location.

“A number of residents…were disheartened to learn that…a sidewalk would be constructed on their street.” What? “I have received a petition demonstrating that all thirteen homes on the west side of Midland Avenue…are opposed to the installation of sidewalks in the currently planned location.” Surely, this must be some sort of joke. Opposed to a sidewalk?

In the letter, you go on to state that the source of this complaint is that the city’s sidewalk construction policy is not being applied fairly. If I understand your thinking correctly, other parts of the area in question are not getting sidewalks, so in the fairness, residents of these “thirteen homes on the west side of Midland Avenue” believe they too should not receive such fancy civic amenities as a sidewalk either. Perhaps, I am not properly reading between the lines.

Interestingly, in her Torontoist article, Sarah Niedoba points out a previous Scarborough sidewalk kerfuffle not far from this one. In that, Ms. Niedoba writes the opposition to sidewalk construction wasn’t so much a question of fairness as it was about the negative impact a sidewalk would have on the “rural” feel of the area. Rural? Scarborough? I had to check my calendar. Yes. Indeed, it was 2015 not 1815.

I don’t know how much of the ensuing social media chatter you followed but one point made which I think bears repeating, especially if you missed it. “So we’re building subways to a place too rural for sidewalks,” Mr. Alex Colangelo asked. We want our mod-cons to whisk us back and forth from our country homes.

In other words, Councillor Crawford, you cannot demand Manhattan while wearing a John Denver vest.

In other other words (and I believe this requires an ALL CAPS emphasis), YOU CANNOT ADVOCATE FOR A SUBWAY IN SCARBOROUGH AND STAND OPPOSED TO BUILDING SIDEWALKS THERE. I mean, obviously, you can and you are but that would be pandering at its worst. It is a refusal to accept the realities of living in a big, big city in the 21st-century at the same time demanding all the advantages of doing so.

Records indicate that you won re-election in Ward 36 last year by more than 4000 votes. Surely you don’t feel so insecure in your position that you’re compelled to rush to the defense of 13 misguided residents. Is anti-sidewalk sentiment so strong in Scarborough Southwest that it could make any electoral difference to you in the future?

Even if it did, this is a question of leadership, Councillor Crawford. Leadership means not putting your own self-interest, or that of a precious few, ahead of the best interests of the city. Leadership means championing good public policy not kneejerk, reactionary nimbyism.

All the best.

 

Yours civic-mindedly,

 

Cityslikr


Has Anybody Seen Your Councillor, Ward 36?

January 10, 2014

On those very few occasions we are called upon to think about Councillor Gary Crawford (Ward 36 Scarborough Southwest), something like this immediately comes to mind.

blackout

No. That’s not quite right. Too much personality. It’s more like this.

whitebox

Tabula rasa. A blank slate. An empty space.

Three years into this councillor’s first term and I really have no idea what drives him, what compels him to serve at City Hall. He plays drums for a band that performs at Ford Fest BBQs. He painted a portrait of Mayor Ford that was commissioned by the mayor’s mom. These things we do know.mayorfordportrait1

Aside from that, pretty much bupkis. He’s like Councillor Mark Grimes (Ward 6 Etobicoke-Lakeshore) minus the bow tie and good ol’ boy charm.

I exaggerate slightly.

Councillor Crawford has stood up and generally spoken in favour of the arts and arts funding. He’s been the point man for the mayor on the self-congratulatory distribution of the increase in per capita arts spending from the court delayed billboard tax the previous administration initiated. He… uh… ummm… Did I mention the councillor plays drums in a band that performs at Ford Fest? He is also a painter, did I point that out already?

After that, well, it’s all…

whitebox

As a member of perhaps the two highest profile standing committees, Executive and Budget, you’d think we might’ve heard more from Councillor Crawford from time to time. But I swear to god. You can attend those meetings and never know the councillor’s in the room. He is. He sits there a lot. Doing what? I don’t know. Maybe just waiting to vote. Maybe dreaming of being Ringo Starr.

The councillor’s pretty close to mute during city council meetings as well. ringoWhen he does stand to speak or ask questions of staff, it’s very rarely memorable. The last thing I remember hearing from him was his support for a Scarborough subway. Pretty much par for the course for councillors from Scarborough.

So left to judge Councillor Crawford’s political views almost exclusively by the votes he casts at council (like I said, there’s not much else to go on), he veers pretty much hard right. He’s voted along with Mayor Ford over 80% of the time during the course of the entire term. Even during this terrible, terrible year for the mayor who’s wound up on the wrong side of many issues, Councillor Crawford has been right there with him over 3/4s of the time.

Compare that with fellow Scarborough councillors Michelle Berardinetti (Ward 35 Scarborough Southwest) and Paul Ainslie (Ward 43 Scarborough East), former strong allies, both of whom have created a gaping chasm of distance between themselves and the mayor now.

You can draw a couple conclusions from that.

One, Council Crawford puts loyalty to the mayor above all else. You don’t just turn your back on a guy because he’s going through a rough patch. notwithhimThere’s got to be a carrot and a stick. Vote to take away his powers and you paint a picture of him.

Second, Councillor Gary Crawford is an ideological far right conservative. Not as far right as the mayor or the mayor’s brother but still comfortably in that camp.

The question is, does that reflect the general feeling in his ward? His predecessor in Ward 36, Brian Ashton fell out with then mayor David Miller over the implementation of the Vehicle Registration and Land Transfer taxes and eventually resigned from the Executive Committee because of his opposition. But to think of Brian Ashton as a hardcore conservative, an ideological soul mate of the likes of Rob Ford is something of a stretch.

At this juncture in his tenure as first term councillor, that’s pretty much all Gary Crawford has. Being a strong ally of Mayor Rob Ford. What else is there? I’m all ears if anyone can think of anything else.

That’s a pretty thin and fraying string to hoist up his re-election bid with. Since Crawford barely squeaked into office in 2010, winning an open ward with just over 25% of the popular vote, you’d think he would’ve pieced together a stronger rope to swing on than that. I don’t know. defiantonesMaybe he busks on street corners in Ward 36, playing the drums and generating name recognition that way. Does those caricature drawings of passers-by in between sets. He certainly hasn’t established himself in any meaningful fashion in his role as councillor at City Hall.

You’d think residents would want their elected representative to contribute a little more to the life of the city than that.

curiously submitted by Cityslikr


Hey Rain Man!

September 25, 2013

“Once the government gets involved, 9 times out of 10 it’s a disaster.”

mess

This from Mayor Ford at yesterday’s Executive Committee meeting during a debate over recommended increases in development charges. Development charges are fees the city receives for development that increases demand on necessary infrastructure like roads, public transit, sewage and water delivery. Fees this city charges are significantly less than many in the surrounding regions and as anybody who tries to get from point A to point B or who’s had their basement flooded knows, our infrastructure needs have not really kept up to all the new growth.

Councillor Paul Ainslie put forward a motion asking for a staff report on “… mechanisms for development charge discounts along main avenues in our Strong Neighbourhoods, and adjacent neighbourhoods.” A Scarborough councillor, Ainslie pointed out that with development charges the same throughout the city, developers tended to go where they would get the biggest and quickest return on their investment which is almost always downtown. bullhornAs with most things planning related, the city is constrained by provincial law in its ability to manipulate development charges in order to spur growth in areas needing growth. The councillor was just looking for possible ways to work within such restrictions.

But the mayor was having none of it.

“I’m a huge believer in the market determines the cost.”

“We shouldn’t be dictating what these people pay, let the market dictate.”

“This will turn into a complete mess.”

Have conservatives always been this dumb? Are those of us of a certain vintage deluded when we talk about the halcyon days of the red Tory – Joe Clarke, Hugh Segal, Bill Davis, David Crombie – when conservatism was entirely reasonable?

Development charges, by their very nature, are the government getting involved. It takes money from the private sector in order to help offset the costs of growth which, in turn, makes the development more attractive, therefore increases the value of the development. notlistening2Higher value, higher tax base. A win-win for all involved.

In voting in favour of the staff’s report to phase in development charge increases over the next couple years, Mayor Ford voted in favour of government involvement.  But somehow, in an effort to figure out ways to encourage growth in areas of the city in need of it, that was just too much meddling for the mayor’s taste. It would surely precipitate a complete disaster.

The irony (and I believe I’m using the word correctly) is that this anti-government outburst from the mayor came a day after he declared victory in securing federal funding and sealing the deal for a Scarborough subway. An infrastructure project exclusively funded by the government which, in the mayor’s very own words, would stimulate growth and development in Scarborough.

But when Councillor Ainslie and another Scarborough councillor, Gary Crawford, request a report to propose ways to help stimulate growth and development along Kingston Road in their neck of the Scarborough woods? No way. People shouldn’t be dictating. Let the market decide!

It’s like this iteration of conservatism has taken all the easy, self-serving, short term aspects from the ideology while jettisoning its more complicated features. multiplicityThey’re like the third clone in Michael Keaton’s Multiplicity, the ones who eat toothpaste. Pale shadows of their forbearers who can’t or conveniently don’t remember the fuller version of their political philosophy.

There’s no pattern or logic. It’s just partisan addled sloganeering outbursts at words or ideas that don’t sit well with them. Like single-celled organisms reacting to the light. Single-minded entities reacting to things they don’t understand. No thought. Just visceral, opportunistic grandstanding.

Modern conservatism is nothing more than an empty brand masking its one true operating principle: blind, anti-government reactionism. Openly adopting such a stance, however, doesn’t play well with the voting public. So you try and smooth out the rough electoral edges by maintaining a soothing name that reeks of tradition.

A tradition that I now call into question if Mayor Ford and his ilk represent its legacy.

sins-of-the-fatherly submitted by Cityslikr


Get Off My Lawn! (Unless You’re Here To Cut It)

July 26, 2013

Hey old people of Scarborough’s Ward 36. Hey old people throughout Toronto’s inner suburbs. scaredoldmanHell, hey all you people of Scarborough and the inner suburbs of Toronto.

I am willing to pay for the city to continue cutting the grass on those public strips of land you’re now being forced to maintain under threat of a fine. It’ll only cost me a fraction of a cent, I imagine, in terms of a property tax increase. I’m fine with that.

The only thing I ask in return?

A full and frank discussion about the relationship between taxation and public services. You can’t have the latter without the former, and try as we have been for the past 3 years or so to believe otherwise, to imagine that our public sector was so bloated with excess that all we had to do was squeeze a little bit, nip and tuck, tighten our belt and we wouldn’t notice a thing? itllcostyouIt’s now costing Mrs. Miranda Masih an additional $20 a pop to have both her and the city’s grass cut.

Why risk a $200 fine when, for pennies a year, we could have the city keep doing what it’s been doing? That’s how taxation works. We pool our resources to provide residents with services they want and need in a more cost-effective way. It’s called economies of scale and is all the rage in the private sector.

This isn’t about some magical pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. We’re not talking a bottomless well of nice-to-haves, as Mayor Ford called them. As a city, we need to regularly sit down and hash out what’s important to us, what’s important for the future welfare of this place and for those who will be decide to call it home.

But to pretend we can have it all and not pay for it or take it from somebody else, well, that’s just not working out particularly well for anyone right now. scaryoldmanAs residents of Ward 36 in Scarborough are discovering to their extra grass cutting displeasure.

They really should call their councillor, Gary Crawford, and ask him about his nearly unwavering support of the mayor’s keeping taxes low and no service cuts guaranteed mandate. The math behind all that and how it’s led to a cut in a service the city used to provide. That equation was always untenable and one side of it had to eventually give way.

While they have Councillor Crawford’s ear, Ward 36 residents might also want to ask how his support for a largely unfunded subway extension of the Bloor-Danforth line is going to further put stress on services the city provides to them. tightfistedA subway is more expensive to build and run, so both capital and operating budgets will face increased pressure and, in turn, property taxes will inevitably go up. First, they asked you to cut more grass. Next you’ll be expected to shovel your sidewalks and windrows.

Everyone for themselves, in other words. DIY. Pay to play if you think our tax burden is too much to bear, if you’re sick and tired of being nickel and dimed to death.

To my mind, it’s a recipe for a pretty nasty and unappealing city. A collective approach will get much more done and cost us each individually much less. Unfortunately, too many of us have only discovered that the hard way.

angryoldguy

 

Update

According to the Toronto Star’s David Rider, it seems playing the old and cranky card trumps common sense. The creaky, squeaky wheel does get oiled. Turns out, taxes can be kept low and services untouched. My bad.

head-shakingly submitted by Cityslikr


On A Need To Know Basis

January 14, 2013

I don’t think it much hyperbole to suggest that budgeting is the most important aspect of governance, especially so at the municipal level. alookatthebudgetIt pretty much determines a city’s quality of life. The number of police and firefighters on the street. The state of good repair for important pieces of infrastructure. How many people will die on the streets in any given year.

The budgets here in Toronto are complex and complicated, no question. It just sort of comes with the territory when the annual operating budget comes in and around $10 billion and the capital at roughly $1.5 billion. That’s a lot of moolah that needs to be found and services that need to be funded adequately.

So it’s curious to me when councillors fail to reach out to their constituents in any meaningful way during the lead up to the council budget debate and vote. Hey, everyone. Here’s what’s happening. Here’s how I’m going to vote. Any questions? Concerns? Opinions as to what you think is and isn’t important?

Running down the list compiled earlier this month by Social Planning Toronto shows that less than half of our councillors organized any sort of budget forum for their constituents although that may’ve changed in the last few days. (We are happy to be corrected and updated to any omissions we make.) publicconsultationsAm I over-reacting to think there’s something wrong and neglectful about that?

By my estimation, some twenty of the councillors I’d expect to vote along the fiscal lines of Mayor Ford (yes, I’m including Councillor Karen Stintz in that group) had no public consultation on the budget process. There were six councillors on the other side of the political fence who didn’t although I’ll give Councillor Joe Mihevc a pass on his ‘maybe’ as he doesn’t seem averse to public consultations. And I’ve thrown Councillor Raymond Cho into the latter category despite having no idea where he’s going to come down on budget votes since seeking the provincial Progressive Conservative nomination in the next election.

Now, I could rush to the ideological conclusion that right wing politicians, once in office, don’t care to fraternize with the hoi polloi. Don’t bug me in between elections, folks. We’ll talk again in 2014.

But I won’t. Let’s just chalk that discrepancy up to the nature of being in power versus not. This is Mayor Ford and his supporters’ budget. They don’t need to consult the public’s opinions or fully inform them because a ‘mandate’ is why. shhhI’m sure the roles were reversed back in the day David Miller was in power.

But what I will note is the urban-suburban, geographic divide.

In Scarborough, only Councillor Chin Lee held a budget town hall. Councillor Gary Crawford was planning on attending one while also offering to meet up with groups at City Hall. Up in North York, 4 councillors either held formal sessions or met in for smaller budget get-togethers. In York, Ward 13 councillor Sarah Doucette was alone in holding a public meeting. None of the elected representatives in Etobicoke deigned to put together a budget town hall for their constituents.

In fact, in Ward 6, Councillor Mark Grimes declined to attend last week’s community organized budget session. Why? Your guess is as good as mine if you read through a statement he issued.

patronizing“Every year the capital and operating Budget seems to be the most contentious issue we deal with at City Hall,” he said.

“It’s difficult to comment on any one item without looking at its context as part of the whole. I’ve been gathering feedback from around the ward, meeting with city staff and I’m looking forward to the (budget) meeting. There is going to have to be a give and take from all sides of the debate, but I think at the end of the day we’ll find ourselves with a budget everyone can be proud of.”

It seems Councillor Grimes believes the budget’s too ‘contentious’ to be discussed in a public forum outside of a city council meeting. Leave the ‘give and take’ up to the councillors, folks. That’s what they’re elected to do. You can’t possibly expect a councillor to give any sort of budgetary context in just two or three hours, am I right? Next thing you know, people’ll be standing up on chairs and the like.

Meanwhile downtown, in the former cities of Toronto and East York, only the above mentioned Councillor Joe Mihevc and Councillor Paula Fletcher didn’t hold public budget sessions (again, all this is subject to updates and corrections). Setting aside the left-right politics for the moment, it shouldn’t escape anyone’s notice the wildly divergent degrees of engagement based on location. letmefinishThe broad strokes suggest politicians in the core engage with their constituents. Those in the suburbs don’t.

Which leads me to ask one very pertinent question.

When we talk of political alienation as a part of the rise of what we once referred to as Ford Nation – suburbanites being left out of the conversation, neglected, ignored – should we really be pointing the finger at out-of-touch, downtown elitists? Overwhelmingly it seems councillors from the suburbs failed to consult their own constituents on such an integral matter as the budget. Perhaps political disengagement begins much closer to home.

inquiringly submitted by Cityslikr