Colle Cocked

January 19, 2012

A remarkable day starring two, up until now, unremarkable councillors.

And I don’t use ‘unremarkable’ in a pejorative sense. Just not noteworthy. Bereft of distinction. Having made no real dent or splash yet. A kind of, who’s my councillor again kind of councillor.

Until budget day on Tuesday. In one swift motion (ha, ha), rookie councillor Josh Colle made his presence felt and established himself as a very real force to be contended with. Not only did he catch the mayor and his guard flat-footed with a move to reinstate some $15 million of the more controversial cuts back into the 2012 operating budget, he withstood a blustery, cantankerous line of questioning from a brigade of under-prepared Ford Teamsters in a polished and confident manner that suggested a much more veteran politician. He was politely aggressive with the baiting line of queries and also very funny. When a more friendly colleague, Councillor Mary-Margaret McMahon rose to ask him her questions and accidentally referred to him as the other Josh, Matlow, Colle waited for the laughter to subside before responding, “Yes, Councillor Doucette?”

His performance and not unreasonable motion changed the tone of the day’s debate and paved the way for moves by other councillors to stave off another $4 million in cuts including the additional savings demanded of the Toronto Public Library. Councillor Colle nudged Mayor Ford from the driver’s seat, sending the administration into scramble mode in the hopes of beating back the motion and preserving the mayor’s budget.

In the end, they didn’t. The mayor suffered a string of defeats, close, close, close but inevitable defeats and as much credit as Councillor Colle deserves for that, so does Councillor James Pasternak. Arguably traversing much more political ground than Colle to wind up on the opposite side of the mayor – he had been pretty much a sure thing for Mayor Ford for most of the year+ he’s been councillor for Ward 10 – Pasternak wound up being the very unlikely swing vote that pushed Councillor Colle’s motion over the top.

Not for a lack of trying to keep him in the fold by the mayor’s forces. At one point during Tuesday’s meeting, both the mayor and his brother, Doug, made their way across the chamber floor in Councillor Pasternak’s direction. The mayor gestured like a grade school principal who’d just caught a child running in the hallway for the councillor to follow them to backroom. Councillor Pasternak willingly obeyed and the three of them disappeared from the room.

What was said and how, I couldn’t tell you. One would assume it took more dark, threatening tones because for the mayor to be offering up goodies in return for the councillor’s vote, well, that would just be antithetical to what we’ve been hearing from the mayor’s office for months now. The cupboard’s  bare, there’s no money for ‘pet projects’. So as important as the vote was, and we’re talking really, really important, like 4 new libraries, 3 new community centres and a subway right up to the councillor’s door important, it would be monstrously hypocritical for the mayor to be promising favours in return for votes.

Whatever was said, offered, threatened behind closed doors failed. Councillor Pasternak didn’t blink. He defied the mayor and voted for Councillor Colle’s motion.

As did another right of centre councillor, Chin Lee who continued his drift from the administration. And let’s not forget, Councillor Gloria Lindsay Luby, the only girl allowed in the Etobicoke Councillor Boys Club that includes the mayor’s brain trust, his brother and the Deputy Mayor, Doug Holyday, along with the hangers-on, Councillor Vincent Crisanti, Mark Grimes and Peter Milczyn. While her intentions might not have been the most noble (“Leaf collection, for me, was absolutely important”), she stood her ground, gleefully flashing her thumb in the opposite direction of the one Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti insisted on displaying despite its noticeable lack of efficacy.

Combined with the other members of the newbie mushy middle, Councillors Ana Bailão, Josh Matlow and Mary-Margaret McMahon, it was enough of a faction, along with the left of centre crowd of councillors, to best the mayor in every budget motion save two, I believe. It was a rebuke if not quite a repudiation of the direction Mayor Ford wanted to take the city. It put on the brakes but did not turn the car around.

The budget that passed remained chock full of highly questionable cuts. The mayor and his team can still rightly claim that they are spending less than they did last year which, to their way of thinking, means something significant. Before losing control of the budget meeting, Team Ford deftly managed to snip off any nascent move that may have been building to increase the property tax increase from 2.5%. Budget 2012 can still rightfully be called a Mayor Rob Ford budget.

But at what cost?

There’s now clearly disorder in the ranks. If they can lose an ally like Councillor Pasternak on such an important vote as a budget vote, who’s next? Fellow rookie councillors and Executive Committee members, Michelle Berardinetti and Jaye Robinson, must feel as if they were hung out to dry. They now have to wear things like their vote in favour of demanding a full 10% cut to the TPL and explain it to their constituents. For what? Where an unwavering allegiance to the Ford brand might’ve seemed like just good politics last year, six months ago, two weeks ago, it’s suddenly more like a millstone around their necks.

Ditto Councillor Crawford. Another Ford stalwart, Councillor Michael Thompson was awfully quiet during the budget meeting. He dutifully voted along with the mayor but certainly kept his head low while doing so. And how long will even Councillors Grimes and Milczyn – both of whom were targeted for defeat by the Ford campaign during the 2010 election – blindly follow him, realizing the mayor can’t even win over city council on important matters let alone orchestra a successful race against them in 2014 if they don’t now obey his every command?

Yes, Councillors Josh Colle and James Pasternak may’ve just skimmed a speck of dosh from the surplus stash the mayor tucked away on the capital side of the budget on Tuesday. A mere less than .2% of the operating budget, as Edward Keenan pointed out in his comprehensively excellent article yesterday. But there is every reason to suspect that they succeeded in blowing up the prevailing Ford era dynamic at City Hall where the mayor pronounces and it is so.

They’ve opened the floodgates. The Curtis Flood-gates, that is. Free agency has come to city council.

borasly submitted by Cityslikr


An Addendum

July 16, 2011

Just a quick additional note that I tried to artfully weave into yesterday’s post but couldn’t pull off in any way that met even our impossibly low standards.

We were talking about the arrival of Councillors Mike Layton and Kristyn Wong-Tam into the bigs with their respective battles to save projects in their wards from under the Godzilla steps of Team Ford. The Fort York bridge in Layton’s case and the Jarvis Street bike lanes in Wong-Tam’s. In losing causes both councillors made very favourable impressions.

We failed to make one important point. That is to the ‘why’ these projects came under attack in the first place. Budget overruns were cited with the proposed Fort York bridge. A mix of ideologically thinking and a repackaged election campaign pledge got trotted out in the case of the bike lanes on Jarvis. None of the reasoning actually held up in the light of the day and perhaps it’s just easiest to see it as simply a purge of anything and everything to do with the Mayor David Miller era. (If you’re looking for better analyses of what’s making the mayor tick, you absolutely need to read Ivor Tossell’s piece in the Toronto Standard and Matt Elliott at Ford For Toronto.)

But consider this.

I think it’s safe to say neither Wong-Tam nor Layton could be viewed as reliable allies of Mayor Ford. In fact, opposite camp may be a better descriptor. Downtown pinko left wing kooks. No need expending any political capital trying to woo them.

Instead, they could be used as examples to the other new councillors who are more amenable to the mayor’s way of thinking. Something along the lines of, don’t fuck with us, newbies, or this kind of thing may happen to you too. So, running against unwritten council protocol, in committee a Ford ally blindsides both Layton and Wong-Tam, giving them no real heads-up that the mayor’s aiming to pull the plug on a project in their ward. Grade school, bully boy tactics that has the dual purpose of sticking it to a political foe while warning everyone else who may be getting restless under the mayor’s thumb to stay put and shut up.

Fort York bridge, killed. Jarvis Street bike lanes, removed.

You see what Mayor Ford just did there, Councillor Bailão? Councillor Colle? Councillor Matlow? Councillor McMahon?

It’s instructive to point out that in the lead up to the Jarvis bike lane debate, Mayor Ford went out of his way to hold the Lawrence Heights development item, a big ticket project that Councillor Colle inherited from his predecessor in Ward 15, Howard Moscoe. Yes, the mayor had never been a fan of the development. He’d even campaigned in the neighbourhood last year and vowed to stop it if elected. But note the timeline this week. Mayor Ford holds item, putting a gun to its head. Jarvis Street bike lane debate happens. Councillor Colle remains in deep background during it. When the vote happens, Councillor Colle lines up with the mayor to help tear up the bike lanes.

Recess for lunch. When the meeting resumes, the mayor releases the item and is the only one to vote against it. However, it’s now safe for Councillor Colle to go forward.

That’s some out-and-out gangster shit there. The exact opposite of building consensus. Let’s call it, political extortion, given added oomph that it comes with the very real example of what happens if you don’t play ball with the mayor. Projects just disappear.

That’s just how Mayor Ford rolls, yo.

sippin’ on gin and juicely submitted by Cityslikr


The Immoveable Mayor

June 23, 2011

Mark it down in your calendar, folks. The week of June 20th, 2011. It’s the date the mayoralty of Rob Ford officially jumped the shark. (If such a thing is possible. To jump the shark suggests that there’s a point of quality from which to jump. For example, can it be said that a Full House or Who’s The Boss? ever achieved the necessary creative heights to attempt the shark jump?)

Within a matter of days this week our very own Mayor Danny Tanner signaled that he’s unwilling, unable or just downright uninterested in reaching out past his core constituency. First, in Executive Committee he deep-sixed an offer from the province to pay for 2 public health nurses. Then the mayor announced that he would not be marching in the upcoming Pride parade, opting instead for a family long weekend at the cottage. In two fell swoops, Mayor Ford made it clear he was not the mayor of all Toronto.

I wouldn’t for a moment be presumptuous enough to try attaching a motivation for these decisions of the mayor aside from a reluctance to accept things that he doesn’t understand. Public nurses? We’ve got hospitals for sick people. Use them. T’eh Gays? Well, it’s all just a little too.. err… queer to him. Have at it. Live your life. Just don’t expect the mayor to endorse something he’s unfamiliar or uncomfortable with.

The real takeaway message here for me is that Mayor Ford doesn’t feel a need politically to broaden his appeal among Toronto voters. He’s perfectly happy wallowing in the pond of support that brought him to power, and that shares his uneasiness with extra front line health workers and homosexuality. These are his people and the decisions he made in both cases make perfect sense to them. His intransigence might even solidify his reputation as a straight-shooting, uncomplicated, apolitical, little guy. Our mayor doesn’t bend to special interests. Just like us hard working, taxpaying, regular Joes.

Or something like that. We who are flummoxed by the choices our mayor makes need to get used to it. He ain’t ever going to change, so stop expecting him to. That trait may be his greatest strength, his best political asset.

So, let’s stop trying to find common ground with the mayor. It is a small and barren patch of land. A my way or the highway mentality means that the only compromise we can ever hope to reach is all on our part. We give. He takes.

We need to set our sights elsewhere. The time has come to turn up the heat on those at city council who continue their willfully blind support of Mayor Ford and who continue to enable him to do the things he does. If the standard operating procedure so far has been to back the mayor or suffer the political consequences, we have to find a way to point out that such unstinting support will also come with adverse political consequences. A light must be shone on those councillors who have, so far, been quietly cowering in the safe shadow the mayor casts.

Sure, Team Ford is made up of a handful of councillors sharing the mayor’s limited view of politics and the city. Brother Doug, for one, and the Deputy Mayor. They will be immune to such pressure. You might throw in Budget Chief Del Grande and Councillor Shiner as well although, they like Speaker Nunziata and QB Mammoliti, former Ford non-allies present now because the going’s been good but alert to any changes of fortune that might come if the mayor’s destructive and narrow-minded policies become something of a drag on their standing with the electorate.

Even in toto that’s a pretty small group and won’t be able to help dig Mayor Ford out of any holes he gets himself into.

The councillors I’m talking about are the rookies who haven’t established any sort of real foothold besides being the mayor’s flunkies. There’s Vincent Crisanti, Gary Crawford and James Pasternak (the two latter elected in 2010 with the slimmest of pluralities, within the margin of error.) Councillors Michelle Berardinetti and Jay Robinson, undistinguished members of the mayor’s executive committee. And the deadweight veterans, Cesar Palacio, Mark Grimes, Frank DiGiorgio, Chin Lee.

Then there are the moderates from both sides of the political spectrum that have already started bucking under the weight of Mayor Ford’s missteps. Peter Milczyn, Michael Thomspon, Denzil Minnan-Wong, Norm Kelly, Joshes Matlow and Colle, Ana Bailão, Mary-Margaret McMahon. TTC Chair Karen Stintz could be counted on to bail out if things get a little rocky.

Let’s refocus a grassroots effort from the mayor to these councillors, the non-ideological hidebound and opportunists, and start holding them accountable for participating in this war against the city. Alert their constituents with loud announcements of their collaboration and facilitating of this ruinous administration. We need a catchy name for it. Project 23 comes immediately to mind but may not be ominous enough.

Mayor Rob Ford is a lost cause for anyone hoping to build a strong city. It doesn’t interest him and he wouldn’t have the slightest idea how to even if he had the inclination. That’s not going to change.

What can change is the support he now has at City Hall if more councillors begin to realize a price will be paid for their ongoing association with a mayor determined to do his thing and his thing only.

start a firingly submitted by Cityslikr


The Magic Middle

March 15, 2011

Talk is brewing of some sort of middle ground bubbling up from the rancorously partisan divisions at City Hall. Over at Spacing yesterday, John Lorinc wrote of the Gang of Six; six new councillors who didn’t hue to strict left-right voting patterns during the protracted special council meeting called by the mayor last Wednesday to de-board the TCHC. While Mayor Ford comfortably triumphed on the main issues of the evening, some cracks formed on side motions and amendments that showed the administration doesn’t hold an iron grip on a majority of council.

So as we move forward from what everyone’s referring to as the low-hanging fruit that the mayor’s been successfully bashing away at – and yes, as complicated an issue as the TCHC imbroglio was, its treatment by city council and the press made it a big ol’ low-hanging, over-ripe fruit – and onto more challenging matters like, say, garbage privatization, selling off of city assets, further and deeper cuts to things like the TTC, things may not go as swimmingly the mayor’s way. What happens when things become much more contentious not just between right and left but for those trying to navigate the bipartisan, middle way? When the mob’s frenzied, anti-government bloodlust is sated and people start looking around and realizing, wait, you’re cutting what? That wasn’t part of the deal.

Will the so-called tug-of-war between the left and right on city council become less one-sided with the current winners, Team Ford, having to learn how to be conciliatory instead of confrontational? Is this administration even capable of such a gesture?

It seems hard to imagine not just because the mayor’s been so heavy-handed since taking office but his decade long career as a councillor points to a pathological inability to get along with those he doesn’t agree with. His is a black and white world, and consensus is deemed a sign of weakness. You’re either with him or against him. If you’re against him, it can only mean that you’re a socialist. Or worse.

The problem with the debate so far is that it’s being painted in terms of this radical view of Mayor Ford. I am hard pressed to think of any current (or recent) councillor who veers as hard left as the Fords veer hard right. Yes, City Hall was called Silly Socialist Hall under David Miller. By Sue-Ann Levy who shares the equally skewed opinion with Mayor Ford and his brother that anyone to the left of them is a… how did she describe it in a recent babbling rant? “…gravy train-enabling, public teat-sucking, union-loving… leftist hangers-on and despicable leftist hypocrites.” The mayor himself back in the day when he was still a councillor referred to the Globe and Mail as a ‘socialist newspaper’ in the now infamous Fat Fuck video that he starred in with Giorgio Mammoliti and John Barber.

The Globe and Mail. A socialist rag.

This current council does not suffer from a deeply divided left-right cleft. It is all about the far right versus moderates. The question is, under the baleful, full court press of the mayor and his team, can a genuinely moderate group of councillors emerge and start holding sway come vote time?

Let’s start with the six Lorinc mentions, Councillors Bailão, Berardinetti, Colle, Matlow, McMahon and Robinson. If they consistently voted with the 16 or so who regularly oppose the mayor, they’d still come up 1 short of a majority. Councillors Chin Lee and Ron Moeser have not been slavish in their devotion to Mayor Ford, so they couldn’t be ruled out as allies in this enterprise. That still leaves this group precariously dependent on everyone dutifully following suit which, it seems, only the mayor can count on currently.

So to cobble together a more comfortable consensus, you’d have to look to chip away at that wall of unflagging support Team Ford now can count on to push his agenda through. Discounting the new councillors Crisanti, Crawford and Pasternak who have cast their lot in with the mayor and mortgaged their future on his continued popularity… oh, and his brother, Doug, the mayor’s political Siamese twin… there are 16 councillors who all worked with Mayor Ford when he was a councillor. We know they all didn’t share his views or votes back in the day. In fact, it would be interesting to figure out what kind of common ground they shared with the mayor while serving as councillors together. (Paging Ford For Toronto! Paging Ford For Toronto!)

Surely a handful of these could be counted to buck the mayor if a reasonable centre began to take hold. Giorgio Mammoliti, once sworn enemy of Rob Ford and a fair-weather friend if ever there was one. Nobody else can do an about-face political pirouette like he can. I’d put Karen Stintz in a similar camp. Gloria Lindsay Luby has already opposed the mayor on an amendment during the TCHC debate. As has Frank Di Giorgio on occasion. Denzil Minnan-Wong and Paul Ainslie both smack of opportunists. Councillors John Parker, Michael Thompson, David Shiner and Norm Kelly seem like they’re capable of independent thought and/or can’t be considered hard core ideologues. Think about the sweet revenge, Councillor Peter Milczyn, if you helped make the mayor irrelevant after he tried to unseat you in October.

The fact is, Mayor Ford is irrelevant when we’re talking about finding middle ground. He doesn’t know how and wouldn’t be interested if he did. As Lorinc pointed out in his Spacing piece, the man voted against amendments to the TCHC motion despite them being right up his alley in terms of oversight simply, it seems, because he didn’t like who brought them forth, Councillors Shelley Carroll and Adam Vaughan which, if true, is nothing but spiteful, partisan politics. You can’t find a middle way with that.

In order for this council to find a moderate, middle-of-the-road consensus, Mayor Ford will have to be sidelined. While I realize that is easier said than done as he holds a lot of high cards, it is worth remembering that despite his claims to having a mandate, nearly 53% of Torontonians didn’t give him one. It is those folks you should be afraid of not the mayor.

moderately submitted by Cityslikr


Cat Got Your Tongue?

March 10, 2011

As we mentioned here yesterday, the Ford administration is mainly a media driven machine, delivering its baked to bite size perfection message over the airwaves and on the pages of our dailies. Usually the less discerning outlets like the raggedy-assed Toronto Sun and news outlets on your AM dial. After spending 6-½ hours in the chamber gallery last night witnessing council’s marathon special meeting to decide the fate of the remaining TCHC board members, I’m gaining a better understanding of why that is.

And it won’t come as a surprise to anyone who watched many of last year’s mayoral debates during the campaign. Mayor Ford is fundamentally incapable of formulating a coherent thought that cannot be expressed in more than a 3 word cliché. It makes for great radio and newspaper headlines but when confronted by a living, breathing, semi-sentient human being, well, it all just falls apart. The mayor gets flustered, starts to sweat and turns red to a point where you almost start feeling sorry for him. Which he used to his advantage during the debates, quickly scurrying offstage to the welcoming arms of the media scrum, whining about his mistreatment at the hands of downtown, debate-capable elites. There, there, Robbie. Don’t worry. We’ll make sure everybody realizes you actually won the debate.

No, what’s surprising is that the Ford administration is bereft of a single member who can stand up and defend it at council. I know every group, regardless of where they sit on the political spectrum, has its share of dim bulbs. Same goes for the hardcore ideologues inside any political team. They don’t think they have to explain themselves. The far right has the additional problem of not being able to reveal the full extent of its radical intent, so they end up sounding disingenuous, mouthing words they don’t really mean.

Still, what can you say about a group whose best spokesperson at council is Giorgio Mammoliti, a man prone to never passing up an opportunity to miss a point? Ever since he detached himself from his last vestige of personal dignity to become Mayor Ford’s BFF, the smarmy factor has gone through the roof. He wears his smug triumphalism on his sleeve, and the jokes and jibes Mammoliti tosses toward colleagues and the crowd are riddled with contempt, spite and nastiness that can only come from someone fully cognizant of just what a lightweight he actually is.

The mayor’s brother, Councillor Doug, the face of the administration in the media, is as equally awkward and inept at council but, unlike his mayor brother, doesn’t seem to realize it. He flashes a folksy charm that is neither and comes across more like that married guy trolling ladies night at T.G.I.F. (do either of those things still exist?). Rebuffed, he then turns nasty.

Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday appears to be held in high esteem by his fellow councillors but from an outsider’s standpoint? Whenever he gets up to talk at council, he’s just this side of Abe Simpson, veering from incoherently didactic to outraged in a heartbeat. Why don’t you kids understand this? I’m being perfectly clear! Are you on the pot or something?

Of course, no one does outrage and indignation for this administration better than Budget Chief Mike Del Grande. Once or twice every meeting, he’ll stand and berate anyone and everyone for not getting with the program. He seethes with contempt toward all those who refuse to recognize just how smart and hardworking he is. Or. Who. Simply. Don’t. Understand. Basic. Arith. Metic. He doesn’t need to explain his motivations. If you don’t know, you’re just not trying hard enough. Or stupid.

Councillor Michael Thompson tries very hard to make us understand his point of view. Or, more to the point, wants to look like he’s trying very hard to make us understand his point of view. Verbosity and long-windedness are his stock and trade. Minutes of clause and subclauses, followed by memories of how poorly everyone now affiliated with Mayor Ford were treated by the former regime, come together all wrapped up with a coda that essentially says, the mayor’s right, you’re wrong.

Newcomer James Pasternak has recently taken to defending the mayor with a pained obtuseness that reminds one of that really bad calculus teacher we all had in high school who couldn’t understand why the class didn’t understand what he was saying. Councillor Josh Colle rises occasionally to propose a motion which, as often as not, gets voted down by the mayor. Councillor Mary Margaret McMahon takes turns expressing either effusive praise for staff or the mayor and indignation when her motives are called into question. Councillors Frank Di Giorgio and Chin Lee will occasionally take to the floor to announce they’re backing the mayor because he’s a good guy and they trust him.

After that from a near majority of Mayor Ford supporters, it’s crickets. Long stretches of silence punctuated with button pushing almost unanimously to vote along with the mayor. They could be replaced by those drink dunking birds Homer Simpson — a second Simpsons reference in a single post. Whatever could that mean? – used to do his job while he went out. Rarely seeing fit to explain themselves, they are either merely hoping to keep their heads low and ride along on Mayor Ford’s coat tails, unnoticed, so that if it turns out poorly fingers won’t immediately point in their direction or… What? They can’t be bothered? Too shy?

At last night’s meeting, every one of the councillors who ultimately voted against giving the mayor the power to deep six the last remaining members of the TCHC board rose to speak, question or give a motion or amendment. To make a public pronouncement about why they were going to vote the way they did. They weren’t all barnburners or crowd pleasers. But they stood up and let those attending the meeting, the press, their constituents back home, all know their opinion on what was happening.

That may be the nature of being in opposition. Making the case of why you stand opposed. You don’t have to explain yourself so much when you’re in the driver’s seat.

But to remain silent on such an important, divisive matter, to not even make an effort, that is simply unacceptable. It is nothing short of a dereliction of your elected duties. If you’re unwilling through fear or indifference to stand up every now and then for your cause and display the courage of your convictions, you need to be called out, your political cowardice revealed. It’s peoples lives we’re dealing with here. Everyone should know why you did what you did.

So our Dishonourable Roll Call (in alphabetical order):

Councillor Paul Ainslie. Shame.

Councillor Michelle Berardinetti. Shame.

Councillor Gary Crawford. Shame.

Councillor Vincent Crisanti. Shame.

Councillor Mark Grimes. Shame.

Councillor Gloria Lindsay Luby. Shame.

Councillor Peter Milczyn. Shame.

Councillor Cesar Palacio. Shame.

Councillor John Parker. Shame.

Councillor Jaye Robinson. Shame.

Councillor Karen Stintz. Shame.

chidingly submitted by Cityslikr