Muddling Through Or Is He?

July 10, 2015

Just 4 days after yet another black man, Andrew Loku, a father of five, a former Sudanese child soldier, living in an apartment building “leased by the Canadian Mental Health Association to provide affordable housing and services for people suffering from mental illness” was shot to death by Toronto police —“Andrew died right in front of me. There was no reason for it.” – just 4 days after the incident, Mayor John Tory, delivering one of his “angrier speeches”, fought to have his friend, not that that was relevant in any way, his friend and 2014 campaign fundraiser and chief of staff when Tory was the provincial leader of the P.C. party, Andy Pringle, re-appointed to the Toronto Police Services Board despite the fact that according to the former vice-chair of the TPSB, Councillor Michael Thompson, the lone black member of city council who the mayor dumped from the TPSB upon assuming office, according to Councillor Thompson, Mr. Pringle provided “a deafening silence on major police issues” and “consistently rubber-stamped police actions…not in the best interest of the community”, “policing was not his finest hour”, waving such criticism off as just politics, Mayor Tory pushed the pro-police carding Mr. Pringle’s appointment through council on what proved to be an easy, lopsided (and possibly whipped) vote, further highlighting that the mayor has no idea what the hell he’s doing on the police file or he knows exactly what he’s up to.

unbelievably submitted by Cityslikr


Subway Or No Way

May 7, 2013

So if things fall into place, we’ll be witnessing another transit debate during this week’s council meeting. rockyandapolloThis time it’ll be over possible revenue tools to help fund the region’s Big Move. The conversation Mayor Ford tried to bury at Executive Committee last month. The one that’ll stay buried if 30 councillors don’t vote to add it to the meeting’s agenda.

In all likelihood, 30 votes would’ve been an easy-peasy, no-brainer. The mayor barely managed to keep his own Executive Committee from ignoring him. But a bunch of Scarborough councillors led by Michelle Berardinetti, and given some heft by Michael Thompson, want to put a stipulation on their support for talking about new revenue tools: re-opening the can of worms that is the Scarborough subway. Extend the Bloor-Danforth line with a subway instead of the long ago agreed upon LRT or the revenue tools get it.

**sigh**notthisshitagain

Now look.

For the umpteenth fucking time, I am not intrinsically opposed to a Scarborough subway. If there’s a good reason for one, and the case is based on sound principles, have at it I say. We’re trying to build an awesome transit system here not spackle a crack in the stuccoed plaster. Let’s get it right.

But… but… and watch me adopt my best Jeff Foxworthy persona right now.

You Might Be a Transit Redneck if you think all public transit should be built underground. Actually, that’s just flat out idiocy that moves far beyond being a redneck. It’s pure car-ccentricity and really has no place whatsoever in this debate. The Russian judge will give you a negative score for that kind of reasoning.

You Might Be a Transit Redneck if you think Scarborough deserves a subway simply because there are other places in the city that have subways. Could you be any more of a child? They have one. I want one too. What kind of adult thinks like that?

Our one subway that should never have been built up along the Sheppard stub is still woefully under-performing, adding stress to the Yonge line more than anything else. tempertantrum2Sure, new development has sprung up along the route but not nearly enough to pay the bills or, ultimately, to warrant the subway in the first place. It was a simple case of politics over proper transit planning.

Ditto the University line extension up to Vaughan. Politics trumping solid transit building. It is not something councillors should be seeking to emulate in their neck of the woods.

To re-iterate.

If Scarborough is to get a subway extension, it should happen because it warrants one not deserves or wants one.

You Might Be a Transit Redneck if you think subways are better than LRTs because they go faster. There are many components that factor into the element of speed with transit, the capacity to do so only one of them. Yes, a subway travelling underground does so unimpeded by other forms of traffic but to maintain high speeds, subways also have to have fewer stops, spaced farther apart. This lowers the number of people who can easily access it by foot, putting additional strain on the service by requiring feeder routes to it, bumping up operating costs.

Things like frequency also affect speed and vice versa. You can only run so many trains travelling at 400 km/h down one tunnel. strutsandfretsEase of passenger flow on and off trains also matters.

Speed is not just speed when it comes to public transit. If you think it is, you’re thinking purely as a car driver. You’re thinking like a Transit Redneck.

And You Might Be a Transit Redneck if you’re demanding a subway in Scarborough in order to avoid having to make a transfer at Kennedy station. Yes, the current SRT is a rickety, noisy, less than welcoming bit of unpleasant business. But it doesn’t mean all transfers and connections are inherently bad or that a smooth, uninterrupted ride from point A to point F is all that’s needed to induce commuters to hop aboard public transit.

Connections can be made in a seamless manner, across a platform, up an escalator, down a set a stairs. Wait times are what largely determines whether or not a connection works. So frequency matters at least as much as having to change trains.

It’s not all about the technology, folks. Subways, subways, subways won’t solve our current transit woes. sosCertainly putting one where it’s not warranted simply because of crass political pandering can hardly be seen to contribute in a positive way to the overall system.

You want more subways in Scarborough? Stop being a transit redneck and lay out the reasons why without resorting to simple-minded transit views, whiny regional resentment or cheap sloganeering. It’s getting old, overly obstructionist and once more threatens to overwhelm the larger transit discussion we’ve ignored having for a generation now.

daringly submitted by Cityslikr


Scarborough Unfair

April 30, 2013

I can’t even.

facepalm

If Scarborough is not going to get any benefits from enhanced revenue tools, why would we support it? We’ll put our money where our mouth is as long as we get to benefit. If we are not going to benefit, then we see no reason to support either the downtown relief line or any other expansion of transit in the city of Toronto.  Councillor Michael Thompson.

It’s times like this when, if asked about the notion of de-amalgamation, I just throw up my hands and say, yeah, fuck it. Let’s do it. Such noxious self-serving toadying will be the death of any good transit planning anyway. So if a majority of Scarborough councillors want to stamp their feet and hold the entire process hostage by stirring up sub-regional resentment, good riddance to them.

(Although the transit file was dealt with on a 416 wide level long before amalgamation. kicktothecurbBut since we’re swimming in a spite pool, allow me to dip my toe in.)

It’s not that I even believe a further Scarborough subway extension of the Bloor-Danforth line is necessarily a bad idea. As Tess Kalinowski and David Rider point out in their Star article, there are compelling arguments for doing so. But councillors Michelle Berardinetti, Glenn De Baeremaeker and Thompson don’t bother putting them forward, choosing instead to wallow in the cheap, petulant politics of misinformation that’s usually the speciality of Mayor Ford.

Only in the minds of those more interested in grandstanding than in reason and fact based governing would getting an LRT be seen as some sort of slap in the face. By dismissing LRT technology as of no benefit and somehow getting less than other parts of the city, the Scarborough 7 have internalized the Ford Administration’s baseless and entirely uniformed transit views. metooIt’s legitimizing them and foisting them back into the debate.

So what if there’s a subway going up into Vaughan? (And I’ve only been out of town for a couple days. When did I miss Markham getting a subway?) Why compound one mistake – if the University line subway extension up past York and into Vaughan was a mistake – by making another? Mississauga seems content to build an LRT. Why does Scarborough think it’s better than Mississauga?

You see where this discussion might go, right?

It’s the destabilizing effect in opening up this debate once again that could be the most damaging. As the only rational seeming Scarborough representative, Councillor Paul Ainslie points out it simply signals the city’s unpredictable and impulsive attitude toward transit building. imwithstupidWhy should the rest of the city and the entire GTA region bother being serious if a group of Scarborough councillors are willing to scupper a deal to score cheap political points?

The increasingly Machiavellian (and I say that in the most non-complimentary way possible) Councillor Josh Colle believes that even if it throws the transit debate wide open to a pie in the sky wish list of options, it’ll be worth it to finally air out the Scarborough LRT-versus-subway for good. Uh huh. Maybe if we were actually going to have an honest debate about the issue, I could fully get behind that sentiment. But it doesn’t appear as if that’s going to happen, given the re-opening salvo from the Berardinetti-De Baeremaeker-Thompson triumvirate. Instead, we’re going to get full on crass pandering and pitting one region against another rather than region wide transit building.

Nobody “deserves” a particular form of transit especially based purely on what a nearby neighbourhood or area of the city has. You should get the transit that best fits the built environment within the budget you’re willing to spend. youhappynowSo let’s have the debate based on that premise, if we haven’t already, and not the politics of petty parochialism.

It’s that that’ll kill any chances we have of getting a GTHA-wide agreement on the proper funding tools needed to get started on the Big(ger) Move. And if we fail to do so, we’ll know where to point the finger of blame. I hope all the Scarborough councillors who are now beating their collective chests demanding their subway will be prepared for that kind of exposure.

annoyedly submitted by Cityslikr


Family Feud

March 15, 2013

Attended a casino information session last night in Liberty Village — @GiveMeLibertyTO, such a great Twitter handle – givemelibertywhich, honestly, wasn’t an information session so much as a citizens’ how-to on resisting a casino development. And frankly, why not? From the outset, this has been a futile exercise in getting the specifics. How much will the city receive in hosting fees? Hundreds of millions of dollars! OK, maybe $168 million? No no, we’re told by OLG. More in the range of $50-$100 million. A degree of magnitudes larger than Windsor receives from its casino.

Months and months into this discussion, we’re still hearing essentially, trust us, we’re in the business of gambling. We’ll treat you right. Listen to OLG’s President and CEO Rod Phillips today on CBC’s Metro Morning. Would you buy a casino from this man and plunk it right down on our waterfront?

I just can’t run down the pros (many still very questionable) and cons (many still unanswered) of this issue again. I canx.

But I was struck by something Michael Cruikshank of York Heritage said at last night’s gathering. That the city’s lack of a plan for the CNE grounds, which could be viewed as little more than a historic parking lot for much of the year, has left it vulnerable to this casino move. hucksterWhy not a casino? It’s not like you’re doing anything else with it.

That’s not a fair assessment. There’s the Allstream Conference Centre. The Ricoh Coliseum and BMO Field are in the vicinity. A new 26 storey hotel is slated to begin construction there sometime soon, which I don’t know how it fits into MGM’s proposed plans at this point.

In fact, I don’t know much about anything that’s going on down on the CNE grounds. Ditto, Ontario Place. What’s up with Ontario Place? I know John Tory headed some planning process for it. Whatever happened to that?

Being an engaged resident takes constant vigilance, I tells you. There’s never enough time in the day to keep informed. You elect people you hope have your best interests at heart, or at least, the city’s best interests. You hope. Fingers crossed.

Is that enough?

And then to hear from members of No Casino Toronto, a certifiable grassroots campaign created to fight the casino plans, talk about heading out into communities like Ward 37 where many of the residents hadn’t heard about the city organized casino town halls and the discussions going on about the issue. keepontopofthingsHuh? How is that possible? Ward 37 is the home to Councillor Michael Thompson, the chair of the Economic Development and Culture Committee. The one committee along with Planning and Growth that has the biggest stake in the debate, some serious skin in the game. How could his residents be unaware of what’s going on?

Fifteen some odd years into this project called amalgamation, we continue to live separate lives it seems. And hey. I’m not pointing fingers here. I don’t have the slightest idea what’s going on in Ward 37 Scarborough Centre, along with probably 40 other wards in Toronto. That’s on me. But how can we act as one entity if many of the residents aren’t part of a city defining moment like hosting a casino, something that will contribute substantially — negatively or positively, we still don’t know yet – to our economic and social well being?

Such a continued divide makes us easy prey to easy exploitation by calculating politicians who thrive on regional tribalism. Nobody benefits when they succeed, not even said politicians. Because nothing substantive or constructive ever gets accomplished under that kind of civic conflict.disengaged

We will simply stumble along, unable to give ourselves nice things.

sadly submitted by Cityslikr


Re-Imagining Toronto III

March 6, 2013

[On Thursday, March 7th, Idil Burale and I will be hosting a discussion forum at the Academy of the Impossible called, Reimagining Toronto: Understanding the framework of urban/suburban politics. So this week at All Fired Up in the Big Smoke, we’ll be looking at some of the issues that make up the divide of such urban/suburban politics.]

*  *  *countrymousecitymouse2

Throughout the week, we’ve been writing about the political landscape that lead to Rob Ford’s victorious run for mayor of Toronto in 2010. The historical background, the media environment, all the what you might call externalities. More or less an attempt at objective observation.

Today, let me get all subjective and present a frank and full mea culpa. How I played my part in the election of Mayor Robert Bruce Ford. babesinthewoodsA big ol’ ooops.

As cub observers of the political scene in Toronto, All Fired Up in the Big Smoke made its first appearance on January 4th, 2010. The day candidates could officially file with the city. We and Rocco Rossi made our municipal debuts together. Ha, ha. We’re still here.

Councillor Rob Ford as candidate for mayor was still a figment of our feverish imagination. It would be another couple months before he declared his intention to run. The possibility of such a thing merely tickled our funny bone. If nothing else, it would provide a bit of comic relief to the proceedings.

We continued not to take him seriously throughout the spring and early summer. His building constituency had to be fragile, a protest movement with no legs. It wouldn’t sustain itself through the all the missteps and scandals that would surface. When people were confronted with his deplorable behaviour during his ten years as councillor – cllrrobfordthe ‘Orientals’, dead cyclists, drunken outbursts at hockey games and on and on and on – there’d be a collective ‘Eewww’.

Yes, we were guilty of hurling invective, comparing him to Chris Farley, an excellent candidate for manager of a Walmart and on and on and on. Not only did we mock his one-note campaign style and his dodgy grasp of important policies but, unfortunately, we also ridiculed him about his weight and appearance.

When it became clear that Rob Ford had established himself as a serious contender for mayor, we finally had to overcome our disbelief and bewilderment and come to grips with that cold, hard reality. No, that can’t be right. What’s going on? What the fuck is wrong with people?!

On July 14th, 2010, we wrote a post entitled ‘An Open Letter To Rob Ford Supporters.’ By a long shot, it remains our most read piece to this day. (That’s called building an audience, that is.) In it we asked, with as little snark and condescension as we could possibly muster, what was the appeal. Why were they embracing his candidacy like they were. His numbers didn’t add up. His policy planks were wobbly under the weight of sheer improbability. His track record as a councillor indicated no desire on his part to solve the problems suburban voters faced in the amalgamated city.

Nearly three years on, the validity of our concerns holds up. There have been cuts when candidate Ford said there would be none. He’s shaved spending not cut the billions he said he could cut. fordnationHis transportation plan is in tatters, no more thought out than it was in 2010. On most major issues the city faces, the mayor has been sidelined, reverting to the lone wolf councillor he always was.

Yet Mayor Ford has retained his core support. His approval ratings hovering between 42-48%, essentially where they were when he was elected. The conundrum continues.

I don’t share some of my colleagues concern that this makes him re-electable. Sure, given his lack of performance one might think the numbers would be significantly lower. Where they were for his predecessors when Toronto had tired of them, in the thirties and high twenties. But compared to where Mel Lastman and David Miller sat at the same time during their first term? 48% is nothing to be boasting about.

And the news that John Tory hasn’t ruled out a possible mayoral run next year must send shivers up and down Team Ford’s spine. It’s what they feared most in 2010 and fought so hard and under-handily to stave off. biggermanThe appearance of any credible right of center candidate in the 2014 campaign – be it Tory, Karen Stintz, Michael Thompson – will spell the end of Mayor Ford’s hopes for a second term.

But that it’s come to that as the catalyst for a crash and burn of this administration should be mystifying to many of us. A startlingly high number of suburban Torontonians still love the mayor, despite what the rest of us would view as a bad case of the unrequiteds on his part. For our part, we’re still as confused about that connection as we were back in 2010. Now, as much as then, we need to come to terms with it and figure out how to make the case that it is an unhealthy relationship for all of us.

earnestly submitted by Cityslikr


Birds Of A Feather

January 21, 2013

Suppose sometime over the course of the next couple weeks or so, Mayor Ford’s conflict of interest appeal is upheld and he’s officially tossed from office. Suppose not assume because, waiting2for me at least, my assumptions over the last 3 years have been woefully off the mark, starting with my early mirth about the improbable prospect of a ‘Mayor Rob Ford.’ Here, there be no more assumptions.

But let’s do suppose the courts toss him from office.

Much has been made of the Candidate from The Left who would best oppose him. Olivia Chow? Councillors Adam Vaughan and Shelley Carroll? All with the inevitable concern for vote splitting between them, allowing the mayor to slip up through the middle to another unlikely election win.

But recently, there’s been chatter about the right. bowlingsplitThis poses as equal if not greater threat to the mayor than any sort of alignment on the left, I think. A split on the right side of the spectrum would probably be fatal to his re-election chances unless somehow the left fragmented into tiny little pieces which, after 2010, I don’t see happening.

That’s assuming (ooops!) there’s a vote at all. Council could simply appoint a mayor instead of electing to have a by-election. Re-appointing Mayor Ford has been seriously floated by the likes of Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday. Like some real life Dallas re-do. It’s all just been a dream.

But why would council do that? More specifically, why would council conservatives do such a thing? Why would they allow Rob Ford to continue damaging their brand?

That speaks to a bigger picture, frankly. imwithstupidA response to my post yesterday, My Problem With Conservatives, summed it up in under 140 characters. “Have been curious for some time about why moderate conservatives have allowed, what were fringe radicals, to co-opt their parties.

We’ve seen it down in the States with the Republican Party and, to some degree, up here at the federal and provincial levels. These are not your daddies’ Progressive Conservative parties. Hell, in Ottawa they cut to the chase and dropped Progressive altogether.

And it’s meant a certain degree of electoral success. At least in the short term. The results of the 2012 U.S. election suggest right wing radicalism is, however, hurting the conservative cause now. Here in Ontario, after 2 terms of far-rightedness under the Common Sense Revolution, the P.C.’s have experienced trouble bringing voters back into the fold even in the face of discontent with the ruling Liberal party working in their favour.

And here in Toronto, well, Rob Ford.

It’s not like his type of right wing crank politician never existed before. But they just weren’t usually allowed to drive the bus. proppedupDriving it into a ditch.

I guess a cynical view might be that council conservatives with an eye on the mayor’s office could see fit to prop him up until next year at this time when the official 2014 campaign kicks off. Then, all bets are off. Whoever decided to run could take the 10 months to draw a distinction between their type of right of centre politics and the mayor’s. The right message delivered by the wrong messenger and all that.

That would be a calculated risk, I’d think. If Mayor Ford continues to blow up in such spectacular fashion, it might be difficult to continue keeping the fall out off of you. A smart, progressive campaign would tar all conservatives with the same brush.

Political calculations aside, surely to christ, moderate conservatives at the municipal level must now realize that the mayor’s conservatism is harming the greater good of the city more than anything either of his immediate predecessors did. citybuildingIn fact, if any moderate conservative can still say with a straight face Toronto is in better shape now than it was three years ago should not consider themselves a moderate conservative. They’re willfully blind ideologues.

Take for example John Tory. A seeming old school Red Tory. Too red certainly for the provincial Progressive Conservative party.

As chair of Toronto’s CivicAction Alliance, he is now the public face of a group advocating for greater investment in public transit infrastructure in the GTA. They along with conservative leaning interest groups like the Board of Trade recognize the negative impact congestion is having on the region and the only solution is to spend money bringing our public transit system into the 21st-century. That means considering new taxes. Road tolls.

Is John Tory prepared to stand idly by and let Mayor Ford continue to spout his subway nonsense, given the opportunity to replace him with someone more forward thinking? And I’m not talking about Tory running for mayor necessarily. birdsofafeatherWith the talk radio bully pulpit he has, is he going to pipe up in favour of the status quo, keeping a mayor in place whose closet counsel is his brother, a politician on record as saying all taxes are evil? The private sector will build us our subways, folks.

It won’t. John Tory must know that. TTC chair Karen Stintz too. How about Councillor Michael Thompson?

For the sake of keeping a conservative in power will they all be content to let Mayor Ford stand for the conservative banner? Reasonable people shouldn’t let blind loyalty to their ideology trump city building. It’s OK to state that Mayor Ford has been an unmitigated disaster and still be a conservative. Someone serious from the ranks should step forward soon and say as much. Otherwise, it’ll start to look like conservatives of every stripe are more interested in power rather than good governance.

helpfully submitted by Cityslikr


A Whole Lot Less Where That Came From

November 20, 2012

Taking a break from his Santa Claus Parade Promenade, Mayor Ford called into his Sunday afternoon radio show to make his case for a second term in office. “We’ve still got a lot of work to do. Obviously, we can’t do it in the next two years (the remainder of the current four-year term). I’m going to need at least another four to six years to complete the work, and we’ll take it from there.”

That’s the key. Never let the folks forget that we’re in a perpetual campaign. Keep the base stoked. Maybe they won’t realize just how little governing there is going on currently.

It was particularly rich, reading the mayor’s plea for four more years to git `er done, while sitting through his Executive Committee’s meeting yesterday. He was absent, of course, busy in court defending himself from libel charges. In his place, a heavy hanging sense of inertia filled the room. The exact opposite of gittin’ `er done. Not gittin’ `er done, let’s call it to double underline my point.

The agenda was just eleven items long. Meatier ones like the 2013 Rate Supported Budgets for water, solid waste collection and the Parking Authority were adopted almost perfunctorily lickety-split. No debate, no questions to staff, just got `er done.

What took the majority of the committee’s time? Some five hours, part of it in camera, wrestling with the future of three city owned theatres. And in the end? A decision deferred for four months.

Now, look.

I’m not suggesting this isn’t an important matter that needs to be carefully sorted through. But should the Executive Committee be the one agonizing over it at this juncture? We’re talking about a net expenditure last year for the city of less than three million dollars. Surely there’s a more appropriate committee to be banging out the details. The Economic Development Committee perhaps? Even the Budget Committee.

The Executive Committee is a mayor’s steering committee. The hands on the tiller, charting a direction, shaping a mandate and agenda. The brain trust.

Under this mayor, it’s now relegated to wasteful micro-managing. Stuff people devoid of bigger ideas spend time doing to make it seem like they’re doing something important. Treading water, shuffling papers, looking busy.

The only jolt of life during the meeting came from a brief spat between councillors Minnan-Wong, Shiner and Thompson. Councillor Minnan-Wong took exception to the disrespectful manner in which he felt Councillor Thompson was questioning one of the deputants (yeah, insert laugh track here. Denzil? Meet respect. Respect? Some guy who has no time for you.) Sitting between the two, Councillor Shiner interjected, causing DMW to snap something about ‘your stupidity’, apparently referring to the plastic bag ban Shiner had instigated at council. ‘Sue me, Denzil’, came the response, proving only that Councillor David Shiner is the sharpest member of the Executive Committee.

Dust settled, it was back to the matter of doing precious little.

It could be argued that this Executive Committee might be merely running out the clock. The last meeting of the first half of term, they were lame ducking it. Indeed, exiting member Councillor Berardinetti skipped out to attend a ward event, never to return. (Hey. If the mayor can beg off to coach football…) Might as well put off any serious decisions until the new blood arrives to re-energize the atmosphere. Shuffle the deck. Shake up the roster. Refocus. Get `er Done.

But the fact of the matter is, the mayor has done nothing more than retweak. One councillor in, one councillor out. The mushy middle Josh Colle will still be outnumbered on Executive Committee by do-nothing loyalists like councillors Paul Ainslie, Norm Kelly, Peter Milczyn and Cesar Palacio. That’s the mayor’s team. The one’s who’ve allowed things to grind to a screeching halt, a mid-air stall out.

And he’s out there on the hustings already, talking four more years?

Out of breath and ideas, he’s barely limping past the first halfway mark.

windedly submitted by Cityslikr