How Not To Be A City Councillor, Part 2

October 14, 2015

Here’s basic transit planning math. Get higher order public transit = Get higher density. That’s the only way it can work out in any sort of realistic economic sense. simplemathYou want subways or at-grade rapid transit? More people just come with that territory.

Or to put it another way, a robust public transit system needs people to function fully. People are attracted to fully functioning public transit. One follows the other. The other follows the other one. Like a Lays potato chip, you can’t have just one.

That basic equation seems to elude a startlingly high number of our city councillors however. Councillors in Scarborough want a subway to travel up a stable, single-family home residential street. When and if (always a big ‘if’) such a project arrives, the same councillors want nothing to do with the density that needs accompany it.

The latest skirmish in this I Want/Don’t You Dare battle has surfaced in the Eglinton-Bayview part of the city. Here comes the LRT, very likely, probably in the next decade, and moves are afoot to start developing along and near it accordingly. holdthephoneIntensification, in other words. Density, yo.

Just hold on a second. Hold on to your horses, pard’ner. Not so fast.

“Councillor Jon Burnside is not happy with Metrolinx officials after recently discovering the government agency had purchased property on Bayview Avenue that may be used for a residential development above an LRT station.”

Residential development above an LRT station? Whoever’s heard of such a travesty. Not if Councillor Burnside has anything to say about it.

Councillor Jon Burnside became aware of the deal when a resident on Bayview notified him that the transit agency had purchased a double duplex immediately adjacent to both the McDonald’s (at 1785 Bayview Ave.) and the property south of that, also owned by Countrywide Homes.

Acccording to Councillor Burnside, the deal could enable the developer to push for a taller development beyond the nine storeys allowed by the official plan.

Meanwhile, residents are already fighting a 19-storey proposal across the street at Sunnybrook plaza.

Not only is the local councillor concerned that new development above the LRT station might contravene the city’s Official Plan, he also suggests that the provincial transit agency has a vested interested in building higher, bigger because it was profit per square foot of development. cllrjonburnsideBeware development. BOO! Beware government agencies. BOO!

Councillor Burnside’s demonization of both Metrolinx and the development industry is on full display in a couple columns he’s written over the last couple months in Leaside Life News on the Eglinton-Bayview LRT station. “Can we trust Metrolinx?” the councillor wonders in the September edition.

The benefits of the Eglinton Crosstown LRT to our city have been mentioned many times over, but what is less clear and even less welcome are the consequences to our community. The biggest issue we currently face is intensification along Eglinton, namely, enormous condominium development.

Intensification means consequences, a word wrought with negative connotations. Metrolinx and their development buddies are out to screw with Ward 26 residents, imposing on them ‘enormous condominium development’. How big? No one knows yet (or no one’s saying) but we could be talking ‘upwards of 20 storeys’, the councillor intones. There goes the neighbourhood, sitting as it will be along a major transit hub.

Councillor Burnside even undermines that idea, putting higher order transit in quotations. “Higher order transit”. So says the devious Metrolinx and their sneaky development buddies.

Then in October, the councillor follows up, confirming his suspicions. “I found Metrolinx duplicitous,” he writes. This wasn’t about the agency striking a deal to simply build an LRT station but with “… a clear motivation for maximum density and would likely back it up with the rationale that their job is to promote transit-oriented developmentpitchfork[italics mine] as if that would be the end of Leaside as we know it. Maximum density, transit-oriented development straight to hell in a handbasket! Or, as Metrolinx calls it: “Higher order transit”.

“I will let you decide whether or not you think Metrolinx is a neutral bystander or a government agency that could do irreparable damage to our community,” Councillor Burnside signs off, establishing a poisonous atmosphere between his constituents in the ward he represents and the official body in charge of inflicting “higher order transit-oriented development” on them. Get out the pitchforks, folks! The gubrment’s coming!!

I’m not suggesting that Metrolinx or any official agency be given a free pass and automatic benefit of the doubt as to their motivations and transparency. People much more informed about Metrolinx than I am, and certainly more so than Councillor Burnside, keep constant vigil with a wary eye as to what exactly they’re up on various projects. As it should be.

But this flagrant indulging, encouraging even, of such malice and mistrust is unbecoming, to say the least, of an elected official. protestagainstTo undercut a major transit project, one of the biggest and most important in these parts for decades now, simply to score cheap local political points shows Councillor Jon Burnside to be unfit for public office. But hey. That’s never stopped anyone from occupying space at City Hall before. I mean, Toronto elected someone like that as mayor not that long ago.

There is a good, necessary, spirited debate to be had about the kind of impact that will happen on neighbourhoods and communities as the Eglinton crosstown makes its way across the city. Obviously, Councillor Burnside isn’t prepared to be part of that. Despite his claims to the contrary, he’s not looking out for anyone else’s interest aside from his own.

sadly submitted by Cityslikr


Rank Anti-Ranked Ballot Arguments

October 6, 2015

There are good arguments against ranked ballots. Valid reasons in which they are not optimal, mostly revolving around the question of true proportional representation. goodpointIt is not a perfect system.

Unfortunately, these are not the arguments being made currently, especially by those on city council who voted in favour last week of requesting the province not to give cities the option of introducing ranked ballots in forthcoming elections. Motion 6(a) from Councillor Justin Di Ciano (Ward 5 Etobicoke-Lakeshore): “That the Province should not proceed with amendments to the Municipal Elections Act to provide for Ranked Choice Voting.” There’s nothing more to this than not wanting to have the debate at all. It’s essentially trying to kneecap a decision council made last term. No discussion. Just cheap political thuggery.

If you want to hear really bad, woefully inadequate, pure and utter fuckwad nitwittery arguments against ranked ballots, take 5 minutes and listen to this segment on Mark Towhey’s Sunday 1010 talk radio show from three first term councillors, all, interestingly enough, close allies of Mayor John Tory. He voted against the motion. With friends like these, am I right?

I’ll refrain from taking the most obvious snark shot here. Larry, Curly and Moe. Because, really, that’s the first thing that sprang to your mind too, isn’t it.

No. I’m going with Dopey, Doc and Sully. A coterie of dumb. Exemplars of why we here in Toronto can’t have nice things.

When Councillor Christin Carmichael Greb (Ward 16 Eglinton-Lawrence) opens her mouth to speak, you realize why she doesn’t do so very often. It does her no favours. You know why she supported the motion to bury ranked ballots? She’s never been a fan of them. That’s why. She doesn’t like them.

You can hardly blame her, from an entirely selfish perspective. As Mr. Towhey pointed out, she was elected last year with only 17% of the popular vote. tempertantrumWith ranked ballots, the outcome might’ve been different, depending on the makeup of her challengers and other variables. Councillor Carmichael Greb simply doesn’t ‘believe it’.

Besides, she told listeners, she worked really hard for over a year to ensure that fewer than 1 in 5 voters in her ward put an X beside her name. She earned that 17%, dammit! With 16 candidates on the ballot in Ward 16, it was already confusing for the voters, she claimed. Having to choose 1, 2, 3 would’ve been even more so and, ultimately, not made any difference as far as the candidate who got into office with just 17% of the vote was concerned.

In explaining his opposition to ranked ballots, Councillor Stephen ‘Doc’ (yeah, I went there) Holyday (Ward 3 Etobicoke Centre) continued his impressive display of seemingly sound, rational reasoning always taking him into the reeds of illogical reactionism. It is a step forward, I guess, from the frequent unhinged rantings of his father, the sire of the Holyday dynasty in Etobicoke, (L’il Ginny, anyone?), but if it lands us in the same nonsensical soft spot, what’s it matter? The journey is a lot less fun to watch.

Councillor Holyday informed us that, under the current system, there’s quite a diversity at city council. A diversity along the political spectrum, that is, left, right and centre, and please, don’t look at the overwhelmingly white, largely male elephant in the room. longrouteSuch diversity, according to the councillor, leads to vigorous debate and discussion which, it can hardly be argued, is a good thing.

The problem with ranked ballots, says Councillor Holyday, is that they will ‘flatten’ that diversity. How? Because – and this is where he goes truly Holydian in his thinking – the second or third choice candidates on a ranked ballots will, and I’m quoting here with italics to emphasize the outrageousness of the statement, “…naturally be that centre, centre-left candidate that’s very neutral, very unexciting…”

Where the fuck does he come up with that?! Was he talking to his dad over Sunday brunch before coming in to the studio to do the show? Councillor Holyday proceeds to pile it on, suggesting such a fantasy scenario will lead to boring debates at city council as if the sole purpose of municipal government is to keep us entertained with some gruesome spectacle.

What’s truly amazing about the councillor’s performance here is that he actually brings up an interesting point before taking it and driving it through his eye into the intelligence centre of his brain, thereby killing any possibility of thoughtful discourse. on2ndthoughtBingham Powell, in his 2000 book, Elections as Instruments of Democracy: Majoritarian and Proportional Visions, suggested that our current system, first past the post, let’s call it, which requires a simple plurality of votes to determine election outcomes, may lead “to governments that are more extreme than the voters”. Or, less boring, as Councillor Holyday might sum up.

By making his particular argument against ranked ballots, basically smoothing off the extreme edges of the democratic process, Holyday winds up actually arguing in favour of the hyper-partisan, divisive dynamic that has been paralyzing this city for at least 5 years now.

As egregious an assault on our intelligence as that was, Councillor Jon Burnside (Ward 26 Don Valley West) took home the bullshit prize on this particular day. I nicknamed him Sully because, honestly, I failed to come up with a better word ending in ‘y’ for him. Dicky? Pricky? I even briefly contemplated transgressing the c-bomb stratosphere before settling on Sully.

Why?

Councillor Burnside’s anti-ranked ballot justification just drips of condescension toward the voting public. The ‘complication factor’, he stated, despite the fact that host Towhey had perfectly explained how ranked ballots worked in about 45 seconds.idiot Ranked ballots are a lot more complicated than putting down one X, Burnside said, as if counting to 3 gets most of us all fuzzy-headed.

He then goes on to say that when he was out knocking on doors during last year’s campaign, a lot of voters didn’t know the difference between federal, provincial and municipal levels of government as if that somehow proves that we can’t be trusted to mentally multitask. Nope. We’re simple folk. We like to mark our ballots like we like to sign our names. With just one X.

It is hard to refute his argument about the idiocy of the electorate, I guess, at least in Ward 26. After all, voters there voted Jon Burnside into office to represent their interests at City Hall.

In less time than it took Mark Towhey to inform listeners about the nuts and bolts of ranked ballots, Councillor Burnside sullied the reputation of voters and revealed a real patronizing side toward his constituency. I’d suggest anyone wanting to challenge him in 2018 simply print up flyers saying in big bold letters: COUNCILLOR JON BURNSIDE THINKS YOU’RE STUPID, WARD 26! No, wait. KOWNSILER JON BERNSID THINK WERE STOOPID WORD ??WEAR EVER WE LIV!!!

If you’re opposed to ranked ballots, so be it. We do still live in a democracy. idiot1This isn’t Russia. This isn’t Russia, is it, Danny?

Just be honest, is all we can ask. Don’t come up with bogus rationalizations. It’s obvious, listening to these 3 city councillor, Burnside, Carmichael Greb and Holyday, they don’t like change. The won, fair and square, with the current system in place. Why would they possibly want to change that?

But please stop insulting our, albeit limited, intelligence pretending it’s about anything else. You just wind up embarrassing yourselves.

dumbly submitted by Cityslikr