Advised: Radio Silence

June 12, 2012

So when does any publicity become bad publicity?

The thought came to me while listening to Sunday’s The City radio show with Mayor Rob Ford and Councillor Doug Ford. “Well, you’re married to the Pollack,” brother Dougie said to Rob during their conversation about the Euro Cup. “A term of affection,” the mayor said later, responding to his brother’s apology for using the term which he claimed not to know was derogatory. All would be forgiven in Fordland later over polish sausages and pierogies watching some soccer at the mayor’s house.

Would that be the case, however, outside the family circle?

With The City, Mayor Ford has been given an even bigger bully pulpit than the already impressive one the mayor of Canada’s biggest city inherently possesses. Every week he gets to expound on his political views, his council pet peeves and his one true passion, sports. Except for the last topic, he goes largely unchallenged, tolerating little dissent from any callers who have the temerity to chime in with opposing opinions and filling the guest list with like-minded councillor colleagues.

Why, for example, after last week’s bizarre plastic bag debate at council, didn’t the mayor invite the culprit behind the ban motion, Councillor David Shiner, on to the show to have a further debate on the issue? Maybe he did and the councillor declined. Who knows? But surely one of the 24 councillors the mayor named who voted in favour of the ban was willing to come on the show to discuss the matter.

Instead we got plastic bag loving and part time Ford foe, Councillor Gloria Lindsay Luby phoning it in. This, despite the fact, as my colleague Cityslikr pointed out to me, Councillor Lindsay Luby was the real impetus behind the ban when she brought up Seattle as a city that does not charge anything for plastic bags, having been there recently, shopping. You’re right, councillor. Seattle no longer charges for plastic bags, its bid to do so overturned on an election proposition. So as of July 1st, the city will ban plastic bags outright. Councillor Shiner saw that memo passed around council chambers during the debate and ran with it.

Ooops. No matter. The councillor and brothers Ford prattled on, talking up all the benefits of plastic bags and fielding calls from listeners who felt the same.

In the show’s previous iteration, originally helmed by Councillor Josh Matlow, there was an actual attempt to discuss municipal matters from the basic left-right dynamic with the host in the role as the moderate centre. Sure, the set-up was a little cutesy but it brought a substantive dialogue to City Hall proceedings in a much more inclusive way than its bastard offspring. The City versus The City as seen through the Ford brothers’ eyes.

And it is a very narrow, skewed perspective, one that includes ethnic slurs as family nicknames, it seems. If the idea behind getting the Fords a wider audience through a 2 hour, weekly radio show was to circumvent the other, less friendly forms of media in town and get their message out there, unfiltered, the negative repercussions to such increased exposure were probably never fully considered. In the hands of a truly media savvy public figure, there might not be much of a downside but to the gaffe prone, like our mayor and his even gaffier happy brother?

Maybe the constant reminder of just how ill-informed the mayor is on almost every subject outside of sports serves to shore up the basest of his base. He’s just one of us! Maybe the regular placing of a foot in the mouth endears them to those who don’t care for the slick, knowledge based type of politician. As a then councillor, Rob Ford’s regular appearances on AM640’s The John Oakley Show show established his brand and helped develop an audience that followed him to the polls on his quest to be mayor. Maybe Team Ford hopes to keep that loyalty alive and kicking through to 2014.

But is it possible to have too much of a bad thing? While little quirks of character might be endearing in small doses, serving them up in weekly helpings could eventually get tiresome even to the most devoted of fans. “Did he really just say that?” is the response radio shock jocks aim for but is it the sort of result a mayor of Toronto seeks? Despite the emphasis during Sunday’s show on the plastic bag ban and subways, subways, subways, what lingers is The Polock, and brother Doug’s search for an appropriately WASPy soccer team to root for.

Yep folks, them thar’s our mayors, warts and all.

It’s hard to believe that such a continued assault on common sense and common decency can be parlayed into a winning re-election formula. These personality tics often do work when a candidate campaigns as an outsider but after 4 years of being the most powerful elected official in Toronto? It suggests a failure to grow into your role and can only remind voters that they may have miscalculated when they cast a ballot for you the first time around.

wonderingly submitted by Urban Sophisticat


Scenes From A Life With Cars

May 25, 2012

Three car themed vignettes today, all crashing to one inevitable conclusion which I won’t spell out directly, leaving it up to the reader to arrive at on their own. Hopefully, it will give the post an art house film feel.

Yesterday the McGuinty government announced a $1 billion eastward extension of the 407 highway, sounding as if it were some revolutionary act of patriotism. “Our intention is to ensure that this is a people’s highway, owned by the people, tolls are set by the people, service standards set by the people and the revenues that are generated are returned to the people.” And this road, this getter of the people from point A to point B, shall be known from this time forth as the Volksroute!

I don’t have the information at hand to judge if this is a good use of money or not. At least they’re tolling it, so drivers will be paying more for the pleasure of using it. As to a new highway ‘tackling congestion’ as the CBC site claims? There’s little evidence to prove such a case. Google the question do more roads reduce question and judge for yourself. What jumped out at me was this point in link #3 from a U of T study: For interstate highways in the densest parts of metropolitan areas we find that vkt [Vehicle Kilometers Traveled] increases in exact proportion to highways.

I only wish that our premier would embrace the building of public transit with the same kind of grassroots gusto he has for the 407. His support of Metrolinx and its Big Move has been what we might call mercurial. An initial enthusiasm perpetually dampened by an eye on the bottom line. One could argue that, along with the David Miller administration’s failure to really get out and sell the idea of Transit City to the people who would benefit from it most, the Liberal’s quick trigger finger in reducing funding for it in the face of the economic crisis of 2009 made the plan seem, if not expendable, at least elastic to those intent on doing it harm.

Public transit, it seems, is for downtown elites. Highways are for the real meat-and-potatoes, drive-through Tim Horton’s salt-of-the-earthers.

[Cue awkward segue.. A traffic jam as far as the eye can see, under a menacing sun cutting through a smog filled sky. The sound of blaring horns slowly fades into those of hockey sticks on pavement; angry shouts of drivers are replaced by the gleeful peels of joy from kids playing road hockey. The scene of traffic congestion dissolves to a leafy neighbourhood street, curiously devoid of any cars. Only children, boys and girls, all races and creeds, together playing road hockey.]

It seems Councillor Josh Matlow’s quixotic quest to end the city’s ban on ball hockey has come to a stultifyingly bureaucratic end. Too much red tape for many of his colleagues although the idea and its demise provided plenty of opportunity for hockey related puns. So there’s that.

I got no particular dog in this hunt nor do I blame the councillor for pulling the plug in the face of what seemed to be certain defeat certainly at the committee level. Is this an issue you’d waste political capital on? It’s the source of the alleged bureaucracy that grates.

As explained on the councillor’s site, the determination for allowable road hockey would be based on the level of car use. “The street would have to have a speed limit of 40 km/h or less, 1,000 or fewer vehicles passing per day, an average gap between vehicles of one minute or more, and sightlines sufficient to allow vehicles to stop before crashing into the goalie.” In other words, kids, streets are for cars. Sharing is entirely up to them. Maybe if you ask nicely and there’s not too much red tape involved…

Think I’m just being petulant? Read Confession of a former engineer. It seems road/street design runs contrary to how many of us think a proper neighbourhood/community should flow. 1) Traffic speed 2) Traffic volume 3) Safety 4) Cost versus 1) Safety 2) Cost 3) Traffic volume 4) Traffic speed. It’s a car’s world, man. We’re just allowed to live in. Unless we get in their way, of course.

This sense of entitlement defines our 3rd car tale. (Oooo. Seamless transition. Well done.) And it’s a story that actually happened to me. So it has a more gritty, hand held, verité feel.

Earlier this week I picked up an Autoshare car for a couple hours. Yes, as a matter of fact, I do drive occasionally. As a reminder why I fucking hate it so much. And to pick up items that are too big to fit in my bike baskets.

Chores and loathing finished, I returned the vehicle only to find someone parked in the spot. Right in front of a sign clearly indicating it was reserved 24 hours a day, each and every day. No parking. Yes, that includes you, dickhead.

This ought to be interesting I thought, never having encountered such a problem before. With no other place in sight to leave the car, I honked the horn a couple times, thinking that the driver might be within earshot, knowing they were illegally parked. Nothing.

So I called Autoshare, hoping that the solution would be to throw the anchors out right behind the motherfucker and force him to call Autoshare and explain why he thought it OK to park his car wherever the hell he wanted. Unfortunately, no. I was advised to find a place wherever I could in the area, leave it there and let them know the location.

“You’re going to call and have the jagoff towed though?” I asked. “Right?”

Apparently, no. That’s not a thing Autoshare does. It’s more live and let live. Inconvenience rather than enforcement.

I did find a place not far away. But as I finished up I caught a glimpse of a meter guy, walking along a street, writing out tickets. So I raced to find him and point out a certain transgression.

“Excuse me, sir. If you’re looking to fill your quota, some asshole” — yes I do swear this much in real life especially when a car’s involved – “just parked his car in my Autoshare spot. Come on. Follow me. I’ll show you.”

But what do you know? Apparently, this was not an infraction he could ticket. “It’s sort of like private property,” he tried to explain. Unless someone working for Autoshare showed up to complain, his hands were tied.

Shaking my head, I headed home. Unless Autoshare came and moved the car I’d parked from the street in a couple hours or so, it would get ticketed. Ultimately I’d bear the cost in some indirect form or another, as a member of the organization. Some piece of shit would walk away, his wallet none the lighter. Just another freeloading car driver.

THE END

[An addendum: after showing this to a couple test audiences, I was informed that 71% didn’t get it, didn’t see how the three stories were related, failed to understand the point. Some voice-over narration was needed. Don’t worry. It’ll be removed for the director’s cut edition.]

OK, SO NOT THE END

Cars kill cities. Cars kill communities.

NOW, IT’S THE END

auterly submitted by Cityslikr


No Girls Allowed

May 24, 2012

Can I tell you something?

Sitting in the audience at last night’s decidedly un-sausagefest panel discussion, The Comments Section, brought to fruition by the relatively new to the scene Women in Toronto Politics group (#WiTOpoli), I found myself feeling very much the bystander… bysitter? My Blackberry deliberately stuffed into my back pocket, it wasn’t a discussion for me to participate in. I came to listen.

Not owing to any sense of condescending chivalry or politeness but, frankly, it mostly had to do with my surprise this conversation even needed to be aired. The talk wasn’t directly about the obstinately immoveable low numbers of women actively pursuing a career in politics although that problem certainly bubbled below the surface of much of what was being said. The evening’s main topic was the low percentage of women finding space to have their views on  municipal politics heard, clogged up as it is by those of us possessing penises. (No, that word didn’t come up. I just used it because I don’t get to very often especially in its plural form.)

Come on, I thought to myself. We’re talking about the wide open world of social media here, the Twitter and Facebook, the blog-o-sphere. Why, even I, an outsider to the world of local Toronto politics, just sat down and started to read, watch and write about it, and two and a half years later, here I am, having reached, well, not dizzying heights but I’ve made a name for myself. I mean, Councillor Josh Matlow knows who I am and, apparently, he doesn’t care for my work.

This is as democratic as it gets, ladies. Meritocracy rules. If you can’t make it here, you won’t make it anywhere.

Of course, in the microcosm that is Toronto politics, we now have a mayor, the scion of wealth and privilege casting himself as the underdog during his successful campaign run, the down-to-earth feller who just wanted to be mayor so he could look out for the little guy. (No, not that one. The actual little guy. I mean, I think that’s what he meant.)

If a rich and, arguably, the whitest of white guys can winningly embrace the mantel of the triumphant outsider, what room does that leave for those who are actually on the outside? Guy claiming to be powerless railing against a guy in power. Sort of a variation on cock blocking. Keep it down a bit, girls. Can’t you see we’re fighting amongst ourselves here?

The hyper-testosterone driven aggressiveness of the current administration probably also contributes greatly to the boys’ clubbiness of the political atmosphere. From the get-go, the language and attitude has been confrontational, regularly descending into little more than a pissing match between supporters and opponents. With a War always going on about something or other, it’s hard not to see a men’s game at play.

Now I’m not crazy for the… a-hem… a-hem… broad gender generalizations. I know as many outspoken and feisty women who like a good knock `em down and drag `em out debate as I do soft-spoken and reticent men. So I wouldn’t say that the tenor of the political discourse in Toronto has kept some women on the sidelines. But perhaps the tone has.

I’ve been referred to nastily in various ways over the course of my time at TOpoli. Never, however, has my gender been attacked. You fucking guy doesn’t quite have the same personal sting as you fucking bitch. Too many times have I seen gender become an issue in the heated debates that flame up on social media sites. Gender, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity.

All problems with which Mayor Ford has stumbled over during his 12 years in public office. So it’s not taking a big leap to suggest his attitude has fostered an antagonistic straight white male mindset into our politics. More malignantly, an aggrieved antagonistic straight white male mindset that lashes out at any demand to think more inclusively.

And his female troubles are especially pronounced. His Executive Committee is heavily male dominated. One of the two females on it, Councillor Jaye Robinson, has announced she’s stepping down at the end of the year and, if she’s not replaced by another women – it’s difficult to see who’d willing step into her spot at this point of time – there will be one woman on the committee.

Not only that, but in the last election the Ford campaign targeted a number of sitting councillors for defeat, three of whom were women. Councillors Maria Augimeri, Gloria Lindsay Luby and former councillor Suzan Hall who they did help unseat and replace with a Ford friendly face Vincent Crisanti. That would be Mister Vincent Crisanti.

I think it’s safe to say that Ford Nation is not terribly female friendly. While that hopefully will inspire some pushback activism, it also creates, I would imagine, something of a hostile work environment for those women willing to step into the fray. It’s one thing to dedicate time and effort into a cause with the expectations of a spirited and vigorous debate but another thing altogether to find ugliness lurking under every bridge you cross.

It would be foolish, however, for me to lay the blame solely at the feet of the Ford administration for the barriers women are feeling in getting heard around these parts. By not recognizing them myself, I help keep the obstacles in place. Even this post I write hesitatingly for fear of appropriating their terrain and horning in on the action Women in Toronto Politics are attempting to generate.

But I do believe there’s plenty of space at the table for new players, lots of ground still to be tilled. Regardless of who’s in the mayor’s office, Toronto is facing problems and opportunities that cannot be solved or taken advantage of using old methods of thinking or ways of seeing things. Putting new wine into new wineskins and all that.

So if you’re out there, reading this, wondering if it’s worth the effort. From my protected harbour of white maleness, let me assure you it is. And I offer you space here if you want to test the waters, see how it feels or just simply want to get something off your chest and have nowhere else to do so at the moment. It is a humble offer, no remuneration and not tons of eyeballs but it is a friendly place. It is a start in the right direction.

manly submitted by Cityslikr


Room To Grow

May 13, 2012

One of the advantages of this thing I do to while away the hours between when its socially acceptable to drink is that I can not only riff on ideas put forth by others in order to fill up the blank pages – like a jazz musician putting his own notes on a established theme – but I’m allowed to take my ideas and run with them for a subsequent post. Acting as my own source. The ultimate insider ball.

Like say, just this past Thursday. In bemoaning the mayor’s abdication of responsibility… no, not bemoaning, exactly. More pointing it out and realizing that there’s an upside to it, I suggested that in the empty space provided, a handful of first term councillors have taken the opportunity to start exhibiting a little moxy, some chutzpah, a long cool drink of independent mindedness. They’ve thrown themselves a debutante ball.

In retrospect, being elected to City Hall for the first time in 2010 must’ve been like winning the lottery and immediately being held up at knifepoint and told to hand the cheque over. Wait… but I haven’t even cashed it yet.

The 14 newcomers were thrown into what could only be described as a bear pit. Some found their footing fairly quickly and not in the least bit unsurprisingly. There was the mayor’s brother, touting the purest form of Team Ford DNA. Others like councillors Kristyn Wong-Tam and Mike Layton were destined to be on the other side, owing to pedigree in Layton’s case and both being elected to represent wards as anti-Ford as they came.

But for the other 11, it has been a strange, strained, tumultuous, uncharted trip.

At the start, Mayor Ford was a force to be reckoned with. Defy him at your peril, mere council mortals. Fear the wrath of Ford Nation!

Sensibly, many neophyte councillors ducked for cover, quietly taking sides and hoping not to be noticed. Councillors Sarah Doucette and Mary Fragedakis usually leaning to the left, Executive Committee members Michelle Berardinetti and Jaye Robinson along with councillors Gary Crawford, Vincent Crisanti and James Pasternak lining up behind the mayor. John Tory endorsed Mary-Margaret McMahon, councillors Ana Bailão and Josh Colle made up what was soon termed (mostly derogatorily) the ‘mushy middle’, voting with Mayor Ford as often as not in the early going.

The 14th newbie, Councillor Josh Matlow broke from the pack earliest, trying to stake out a highly visible non-partisan man in a neither black nor white shade of grey suit. His timing was off, however, not to mention coming across as more than a little self serving. For the first year or so of the Ford administration, compromise and negotiation were simply not part of the equation. It was all about His Worship’s way or the highway.

Pressure was applied to play along. Projects were threatened without consultation. It was tough to learn the ropes when you were always coming under assault. Discretion, for many, was the better part of valour at this juncture. Keep heads low until the storm passes.

It started to break late last year. With Councillor Ford’s ill-advised land grab of the Portlands, the pushback began. Soft spoken Councillor Jaye Robinson took a very public stand against the move which, coming from a member of the mayor’s Executive Committee, signalled that dissent was now possible. Mayor Ford backed down on that, forging a rare council consensus that saved some face but his ironclad grip on the majority of rookie councillors had been broken.

Councillor Robinson didn’t jump ship entirely, remaining a reliable mayoral ally or, at least, not a vocal critic of him. That is, until she announced recently that at the end of the year she’ll be leaving her position on the Executive Committee. It seems she’s looking to spend the second half of her first term a little less affiliated with Mayor Ford.

Fellow ExComm member Berardinetti is travelling a similar but slightly rockier path. While maintaining a closer adherence to the Ford agenda than Robinson, Councillor Berardinetti has already bailed out of her position as a member of the Budget Committee, citing a desire to concentrate more on her constituency work as the reason. It probably also had something to do with her not being as down with the cutting and slashing especially in the face of an increased surplus since the original budget showdown in January.

Now she’s in the middle of a tussle with the mayor over the fate of the 5 cent plastic bag fee. He wants to kill it outright. Councillor Berardinetti wants to try and find a way to redirect the money to the tree canopy fund.

“I don’t know how it is going to happen,” Mayor Ford said. “I can’t support that.” I don’t get it. I don’t like it. End of discussion.

“I’m not sure if he fully understands what we’re trying to achieve here,” the councillor said, “and quite possibly he hasn’t read the full report.” Ouch. I’d call that a serious lack of deference now being shown to the mayor by a member of his very own Executive Committee.

“Berardinetti told the Sun she wasn’t surprised by Ford’s position,” Don Peat writes, “but she stressed he won’t be able to get council to scrap the bag fee.”

Yeah, that thing the mayor wants to do? He can huff and puff all he wants. It’s not going to happen.

Just like not reversing the $15 million or so of cuts in the 2012 budget. Another new councillor, Josh Colle, served as the face of that mayoral rebuff. It didn’t need to be a big setback as it was a miniscule fraction of the overall budget but Mayor Ford’s unwillingness to bend even in the slightest turned it into a major PR bomb. Emboldened, council, along with a solid majority of new members, turned its sites on the transit file in March and assumed complete control of it, sidelining the mayor to a state of almost insignificance.

How much so? Take a look at Councillor James Pasternak. A strong Ford loyalist from the get-go he’s now drifted notably from the Ford fold, rankling under the continual pressure to follow marching orders. He broke decisively during the budget debate despite the mayoral squeeze. “I would say it [pressure] was intense. Very intense,” he told the National Post. “I was looking for an opportunity to speak during the [budget] debate, but every time I’d try and get on the speakers’ list, I would be called away for another mini-caucus in the members’ lounge or in the back room.”

Perhaps in order to keep a closer eye on him or to lure him back with a plum post, Mayor Ford put him on the Budget Committee to replace the outgoing Councillor Berardinetti. So far the move hasn’t exactly brought him back into line. With an even bigger surplus than expected announced a couple weeks ago, Councillor Pasternak wants more of the cuts in this year’s budget reversed. Voted down at his inaugural budget committee meeting, the councillor was not deterred.

“There’s going to be a floor fight on council on this item,” he told the Globe and Mail. “We’re going to move it straight up there and that way all 44 councillors and the mayor have a say in what’s important to Torontonians. I think the most important thing is we have to cut through a lot of the histrionics of financial despair that were plaguing the budgetary process into the fall and early 2012.”

In the space of less than a year, one of city council’s most intimidated new councillors has not only abandoned Mayor Ford but done so openly and loudly. Labelling the mayor’s handling of the budget process histrionic and vowing a ‘floor fight’ at council in response to the budget committee’s refusal to defy the mayor, Councillor Pasternak has staked his position and, perhaps, his political future in the wide open political territory of moderation. By clinging so stubbornly to his far right comfort zone, Mayor Ford has inadvertently given plenty of room for the newcomers to stretch their wings and find their own place on the spectrum, free of coercion or bullying from an administration that, with one self-inflicted wound after another, has diminished its power to wield that sort of clout.

submitted by Cityslikr


Seething In Scarborough

March 9, 2012

About an hour and a half, an hour and three-quarters into last night’s rage fest at the Scarborough Civic Centre – TTC Chair Karen Stintz had been there for roughly half of that and was neck deep in bile and vitriol – a woman across the aisle from me out in the overflow seating in the foyer shouted at the screen that projected the meeting going on inside the chambers. Where’s your plan, Karen!? What’s the plan?!

Rattled like I usually get in the face of such unbridle, inchoate anger, I reflexively turned to the woman and blurted out: Shouldn’t you be asking the mayor that? Where was Mayor Ford? This was his gathering, his town hall. He is the one demanding that Scarborough get a subway. Why was he not here, answering the crowd’s questions?

Yes, Councillor Stintz had recently taken control of the TTC from him. City council had reversed his unilateral declaration to kill Transit City and voted to unbury parts of the Eglinton LRT and put 2 other LRTs on Finch and the Scarborough SRT. But a subway on Sheppard Avenue remained very much in play, perhaps a final decision to be made by council on March 21st. Shouldn’t he be here, pitching his plan to the people? This was his town hall meeting after all.

That’s how these things usually work. Councillor Stintz had held a similar transit meeting a couple weeks back with Councillor Matlow. They brought in a planning expert to explain why we should be going with LRT technology rather than subways. Somebody from the city was present to lay out the proposed implementation. They fielded questions from the audience in a similarly packed room. They made their case.

Mayor Ford conducted his town hall in absentia, leaving others to try and respond to questions there weren’t yet any answers for. It wasn’t so much an information session as it was swatting at the hornet’s nest, stoking the flames of resentment. What do you want? We want subways! When do you want them? When we figure out a tax increment financing scheme and start up a transit lottery… something, something.

Over and over and over again Councillor Stintz tried to explain that she’d very happily vote for a subway on Sheppard if there was a viable plan in place to build it. It’s been more than 15 months since Mayor Ford swept aside Transit City in favour of all underground transit, 16 months since he’d been elected with that as part of his platform. In fact, it’s almost two years since Rob Ford announced his intention to run for mayor of Toronto, and yet he still has no plan how to build a subway on Sheppard Avenue.

So of course the mayor wasn’t going to stand in front of even such a rabidly sympathetic crowd as there was last night and admit that. He wanted them angry. He just didn’t want them angry at him.

Instead there were his proxies in place. The Toronto Sun’s Sue Ann Levy played to the crowd, bashing the TTC, the disaster on St. Clair, former mayor David Miller. Of course we could build subways. How? Because Madrid did.

Former city manager John Morand was a proponent of casinos as a source of revenue for subways. He also uttered what might have been the least recognized bit of irony of the evening when he told the crowd that he had been fired from his position at the city for saying what he believed. Can I get a Gary Webster from the hee-ouse?

Dr. Gordon Chong started out as the voice of reason but when the audience didn’t take to his suggestion of new taxes, tolls, congestion fees, he changed course and turned his guns on the TTC Chair. When she expressed some disagreement with an aspect of his report, he called her ‘thick’ and proceeded to explain that public private partnerships were the way to go. Aren’t they always? A sole reliance on P3s is the last refuge of those without a plan.

Nearly two and a half hours later, we were pretty much right back where we started. People wanted subways. People were owed subways. World class cities have subways. Scarborough demanded their piece of that transit dream.

But there was no one there to tell them how that could happen. It was all vague notions, untested theories and a whole lot pie in the sky projections. I’d be plenty pissed too. I just think the crowd turned their ire on the wrong target.

Which wasn’t their fault in the least. The real target wasn’t in the room. He’d skipped the meeting, encouraging the anger while sidestepping any responsibility for it. Maybe he was busy preparing for his meeting today with the Prime Minister where, it seems, they’ll be announcing plans for a subway. Just not one in Scarborough.

He’ll get around to figuring out that one eventually. Until he does, just stay angry Scarborough. Angry at everyone else but the real culprit, Mayor Rob Ford.

carefully submitted by Cityslikr


Raging Bullishly On Subways

February 29, 2012

Following along with Toronto’s ongoing transit struggles, let’s call them, and I have a Raging Bull moment. It’s been a while since I’ve seen the movie but there’s that scene after, I don’t know, the 23rd fight between Jake LaMotta and Sugar Ray Robinson, LaMotta’s lost the middleweight title (or failed to regain it from Robinson), been beaten to a bloody pulp (again) and he staggers over to his opponent’s corner. “I never went down, Ray. You never got me down, Ray. You hear me? You never got me down.”

Kind of reminiscent of Mayor Ford and his Sheppard subway plan, don’t you think?

Leading face first with not much defence to speak of, he just bulls forward, taking shots to the head and body, swinging wildly in retaliation, landing significantly fewer punches than his opponents. “You’ll never take subways from me, Karen. The people want subways, Karen. You hear me? The people want subways.”

Having attended a couple transit meetings and discussions this week and listening to the subways versus LRTs argument, it’s hard not to conclude that it’s really a bit of a mismatch at this point. Proponents of LRTs cite academic studies pointing to the reasons why the inner suburbs of Toronto shouldn’t expect subways, the lack of necessary density being one of the prime reasons why. There’s also the question of money, austere times being what they are. LRTs are less expensive to build and maintain. So, they’ve got cost and suitability going for them.

Subways?

Errrr….. ummmm…. uuuuhhhhhh… They go fast! Downtowners have them. Why can’t the suburbs? Suburban dwellers are not 2nd class citizens. The St. Clair right of way was a disaster! The mayor has a mandate to build subways. The mayor has a mandate!

Did we mention that subways go fast?

Mayor Ford and his councillor brother, Doug, took to the airwaves last Sunday for two hours of unobstructed time (minus the ads, news and traffic reports) to make their subway case. Instead, they talked to Wendel Clark about the state of the Toronto Maple Leafs franchise, chatted Oscars and Norman Jewison and basically recited their transit script (see paragraph 6) over and over again, allowing Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti to chime in with his opinion on the matter. “Hey, guys. Subways are great. Let’s build one under Finch sometime. Talk to you soon.”

No expert testimonials to back their plan. No objective study explaining why building subways would be worth it in the long run. No one-on-one, face-to-face debate with an LRT supporter. Just glib and unsubstantiated rhetoric from a couple knuckleheads with no interest in public transit except as an election issue. Well that, and keeping it off the streets they drive their big vehicles on.

Now, in the final rounds and up against the ropes, the mayor is desperately looking to land a haymaker – boxing’s version of the Hail Mary Pass (in this case case, why don’t we call it the St. Jude) – to try and salvage at least a split decision on the Sheppard subway. Something, anything in order to avoid being completely and utterly sidelined… unless of course that’s exactly what he wants. Like Jake LaMotta, he’s throwing the fight, deliberately losing this battle in order to win the wider war of re-election.

“Now he [Mayor Ford] can argue that, by thwarting him, council denied suburban voters their right to have underground transit like downtowners do,” as Marcus Gee surmised in his Globe and Mail article last week.

So the Sheppard subway isn’t really for the suburbs, the transit deprived Scarborough. It’s for Mayor Ford. Rather than step back and accept the fact that he’s on the losing side of this, that his failure to deliver a feasible, reasonable, sensible plan to replace Transit City that he single-handedly declared dead has left him on the verge of suffering a TKO, he’s picked it up to use a club to bludgeon his way back into the hearts of Ford Nation.

“You never got me down, Ray. You hear me? You never got me down.”

Maybe the mayor has become a little punch drunk.

In a recent Angus Reid poll that showed nearly an even split between those wanting subways and those wanting LRTs, some 57% of those asked said they had no interest in paying tolls, congestion or parking fees, increased taxes to build subways. Pretty much a prerequisite if they’re going to be built. Gordon Chong, the mayor’s handpicked representative to write a report on the viability of a Sheppard subway said as much. As has the mayor in recent days. As has the Toronto Sun.

No, wait. It didn’t. In fact it pretty much called out Mayor Ford for even broaching the subject of increased taxes or any sort of user fees. The Toronto Sun. Called out the mayor. No taxpayer money even if it meant no subways.

The Toronto Sun, people.

But Mayor Ford soldiers on. Even at the time of this writing, he’s holed up in his office with developers, the Board of Trade and a councillor or two, trying to hammer out a deal to get his subway built. There are rumours being floated of a proposal to reinstate the vehicle registration tax that would go to help financing subway construction.

The VRT, people.

This is getting ugly. Somebody outta stop this fight. The mayor’s gonna  get really hurt.

Maybe Mayor Ford shouldn’t be preparing for re-election in 2014. Maybe he should be working on some material in order to play host to some adult cabaret show down in Florida. “I coulda been a contender. I coulda been somebody…”

deniroly submitted by Cityslikr


Pirated Radio

February 27, 2012

Conservatives these days.

It’s almost as if they’ve given up on the traditional mechanisms of democracy. Debate, discuss, deal, decide. All that outdated crap our grandparents and great grandparents fought and died to protect back… whenever.

Look. Nobody watches black-and-white TV anymore, do they? So who says our democracy has got to be the same?

Federally, after 6 years of not being able to earn enough votes to form a majority government, it seems that the Conservative party resolved to help keep some Canadians from finding their correct voting stations last election, thereby denying them their right to vote. No voters. No problem.

Here in Toronto, conservative leaning mayor, Rob Ford, having experienced a couple important setbacks and rebuffs by city council, has deemed his fellow elected local representatives to be irrelevant, and headed to more friendly terrain: talk radio. For 2 hours every Sunday (at least until the 2012/13 NFL season), he and his councillor brother, Doug, are taking to the airwaves, talking about the issues they want to talk about, listening only to the taxpayers they want to listen to and just generally reaching out to the regular folks they’d normally have to travel to a mall or Tim Horton’s to talk to. “’You’re going to get the straight goods from Rob and I,’ Mr. [Councillor] Ford promised Newstalk 1010 listeners during an interview with host Jerry Agar. “’You aren’t going to have the media twisting it around like they’ve been twisting it around for the last year and a half.’”

In short, the mayor and his brother are looking to replace actual governing by out-and-out campaigning some two and half years before the next election.

It’s telling also how their radio gig came about. The show, The City, was already established, hosted for its first 6 months or so by Councillor Josh Matlow. Its format was essentially the centrist leaning host moderating two other councillors from either side of the political spectrum in a two hour long discussion about municipal issues. There’d be listeners calling in to ask questions or give their opinions and members of the punditry invited to chime in as well.

Neither the mayor nor his brother ever took part in the show aside from phoning in. Mayor Ford called once to give Councillor Matlow birthday wishes and the councillor a couple times when he had a bone to pick with him. Otherwise, they remained disengaged.

Until this past January when, according to the program director of Newstalk 1010, Mike Bendixen, ‘the mayor’s camp approached him’. Interesting. While never deigning to appear on the show as is, Team Ford wanted to simply take it over, rejig it for their own purposes. Replace wonky policy talk and debate with one-sided, loaded partisan bluster. Like snivelling schoolyard suckie-babies who can’t play the game very well, so they grab the ball and insist on changing the rules.

Say what you will about The City hosted by Josh Matlow but it actually explored the nuts and bolts of municipal governance here in Toronto, never allowing one side to go unchecked. The City hosted by Rob and Doug Ford?

Of the show’s 78 minutes of actual Ford Bros. airtime, 10 minutes or so was given over to Leafs’ Talk with former player, Wendel Clark, his fights, his bar, his views on how to turn the team around, 6 minutes to Oscar talk and how the city should do something to honour Norman Jewison and about 3 minutes for some community bulletins. The only council member invited to join in on the conversation was hardcore Team Ford loyalist, Giorgio Mammoliti, who talked about his dream of building a subway along Finch Avenue. In terms of callers, by my count 4 were pro-Ford, 2 against and 1 I couldn’t really tell. One caller challenging the mayor and his brother to expand on their Sheppard subway plans and questioning their claim of the St. Clair disaster was cut off for a commercial break. When they returned, Councillor Ford spouted forth some dubious numbers about financing the subway, uncontested.

In an opinion column for the Toronto Sun on Saturday rationalizing handing over The City to the mayor and his brother to do with it what they want, Mr. Bendixen made the following assertion: After all, sharing ideas and opinions is what talk radio is about. If that were true, talk radio would not be the almost exclusive domain of right wing, conservative thought because ‘sharing ideas and opinions’ is anathema to modern conservatives. It runs against their grain of tightly holding onto ideas that only confirm their worldview and ridiculing opposing opinions that don’t.

It smacks a little too much of the democratic process that conservatives seemed to have developed an aversion for.

fair-mindedly submitted by Cityslikr