Tough To See The Bigger Picture When You’re Always Looking For Change On The Floor

I imagine when Councillor Josh Matlow begins canvassing for re-election in earnest around his Ward 22 St. Paul’s, polishhe will present himself as a relentless fighter for sensible transit planning. A consensus seeker who went to City Hall and bravely sought the middle way in a toxic environment of hard, harsh partisanship. A uniter not a divider.

But I think the councillor’s first term in office is more aptly summed up by a little ditty of an amendment he pushed through yesterday at city council, divesting the proposed Photo Laureate post put forth by Councillor Joe Mihevc of any monetary value. Photo Laureate. What a great idea. As long as it doesn’t cost anything. Essentially establishing, as pointed out by a number of people after the amended motion passed, an official City of Toronto unpaid internship.

We’ve come to expect such penury of spirit from the likes of Councillors Mike Del Grande, original holder of the item, and Denzil Minnan-Wong, the item’s mocker in chief. A Photo Laureate, he peeped. execrableWhat next? An Instagram Laureate? A Twitter Laureate?

(Back in the olden days, there’d be a picture of the councillor hung on the walls in the halls of power, painted by the Portrait Laureate. At the bottom, it would read: Denzil the Execrable.)

Such use of public money is inconceivable to the likes of Mike Del Grande and Denzil Minnan-Wong. Their paucity of imagination and civic verve is so stunted, so atrophied that they cannot possibly see past the $10,000 price tag attached to the position to grasp any kind of positive contribution it could make to the well-being of the city. $10,000! Ten thousand dollars!!

To put that into perspective, again, as we always have to do with these things, it’s like having $10 in your pocket and agonizing over purchasing this little trinket you’ve come across that will bring you so much joy. But the cost, you fret. The cost, you agonize. If you buy it, you will only have $9.999999 left over.

Let’s ignore for the moment the crass economic calculation of 44 councillors, each making $400 a day, spending an hour to debate a $10,000 item and cut right to the inevitable rebuttal. $10,000 here. waste$10,000 there. And all of a sudden you’ve built yourself a great big shiny gravy train. You want a Photo Laureate? No problem. When there are no more potholes to fill. When we have subways running underneath all our avenues.

The zero sum game. As long as there’s a need for this, we cannot spend money on that. Haven’t you heard? We’re living in austerity city, baby.

In Austerity City, the roads are always smooth and clear. The garbage always gets picked up. And all those nice to haves you want, the private sector provides, paid for out of your own pocket.

We know all this from the Del Grandes and Minnan-Wongs on council. The Fords. The Shiners. The cost of everything and the value of nothing.

But what’s Councillor Matlow’s deal here? Why would he spend even a moment of his time crafting an amendment like this? miserlySurely he’s smart enough, or at least isn’t soulless enough, to realize any city worth its salt is more than the total of all its filled potholes. That out of a position like a Photo Laureate might burst a little ray of civic pride or engagement. The Toronto Story told in pictures.

I can only think of two explanations for this.

One, the old cynical Matlow has resurfaced, the suck and blow at the same time, the truth is always somewhere in the middle guy. Hey. Photo Laureate! That sounds like a great idea. $10 000?! How about a little respect for the taxpayers. Here’s a thought. A Photo Laureate. For Free. A win-win for everybody. Except maybe, the Photo Laureate.

Or, and probably worse, Councillor Matlow is just one of those guys. He can’t make a case for a funded Photo Laureate because, well, he doesn’t have one. He, in fact, like councillors Del Grande and Minnan-Wong, can’t think of one reason why we would want or need such a thing. potholerepairmanThe thought of having to explain to one of his residents what benefit it would be to them, this post of Photo Laureate, that cost them, this single taxpayer, almost but not even a penny, was simply too daunting to contemplate. It’s a good idea but hardly worth investing in.

There remain potholes to be filled.

Yesterday Councillor Matlow proved he is nothing, if not a filler of potholes.

profligately submitted by Cityslikr

3 Wards To Really Watch Now

We interrupt the regular Wards To Watch program to bring you this breaking ward-related, election 2014 news:


Already early into the 2014 municipal campaign (yes, it really is still early despite the feeling that we’ve been at this since about 2011), 3 wards have come open, the incumbents declaring, for some reason or the other – one, boredom; two, spite; three, bigger fish to fry — they would not be seeking re-election. These are wards that, I think it safe to say, if said incumbents decided to run again, they probably would coast to victory. While none of the announcements came out of the blue, it does suddenly throw a little unexpected uncertainty into the possible make-up of the next city council.

All 3, Ward 2 Etobicoke North, Ward 16 Eglinton-Lawrence and Ward 39 Scarborough-Agincourt, as geographically dispersed as they may be, are crowded under their current local representation together at the far right end of the political spectrum. callitadayIn Ward 2’s Councillor Doug Ford and Ward 39’s Councillor Mike Del Grande, you can’t really veer further to the right unless you’re prepared to run into Mayor Ford.

And don’t let Ward 16’s Councillor Karen Stintz’s fall out with the mayor over transportation plans and her mayoral aspirations fool you. She’s pretty much as tax-cutting (except for certain transit projects in Scarborough), program and service slashing, bike-lane ripping up as any conservative politician on council. Remember, she was a bona fide part of the Responsible Government Group, standing in stark opposition to then mayor David Miller, even contemplating a run against him in 2006.

The question is, are these wards as hardcore conservative as the councillors who’ve been representing them?

Ward 2 has been a Ford folks fiefdom since 2000. They probably believe they could run a family pet there and get it elected. Since electoral rules would forbid that, there’s been chatter of throwing up a daughter or nephew as version 3.0. Just how Ford friendly can the ward be?

In our fondless farewell last weekend to Mike Del Grande, we checked out the demographics of Ward 39 and discovered that it contains a larger proportion of old people than the citywide average. leanrightNow, I don’t want to get too ageist here, some of my best friends are old people who aren’t conservative, but the cohort does skew right and it does also tend to be dedicated more to voting than the younger whippersnappers. So maybe Ward 39 isn’t inherently conservative. Maybe its conservative voters just simply get out to vote.

Ward 16 looks like an entirely different can of worms. Before Councillor Stintz, it was represented by the not unprogressive Anne Johnston. In fact, the story goes that Stintz responded to an ad taken out by residents, unhappy with Johnston’s approval of a high rise development in the ward. She unseated the incumbent in 2003, bringing a much different political tone to city council than her predecessor did.

So, is Ward 16 a conservative leaning ward with a preference for conservative councillors or is the current representative simply conservative? The same goes for wards 2 and 39. Are they just empty right wing tip shoes waiting to be filled by the appropriately right wing candidate?

I would imagine that in 2 and 39, conservative candidates have a leg up. There is an established base there for their votes. cleanslateMuch less so in Ward 16.

Even in the absence of an incumbent (or maybe because of that), name recognition will also play as an important factor as political stripe. In 2010, a handful of school board trustees filled council vacancies, some in exceedingly close races. Having a known brand is a big plus at the municipal level.

That said, these are 3 wards that over the past decade have been lockdown, very right wing seats for the conservative contingent at City Hall. It’s difficult to imagine them swinging further that way this year. That’d be like, I don’t know, Mississippi, Alabama and Kansas going deeper red in the United States.

It’s an opportunity for more moderate voices to step forward, to shift things to the centre a little bit, perhaps even dampen down the heated rhetoric some. If you were contemplating a run in these wards in the hopes of doing just that but were put off by the prospect of mounting an uphill battle against an entrenched incumbent there, that obstacle has been cleared out of your way. Now’s your chance. Seize it. In municipal politics, that only seems to happen every decade or so.whatareyouwaitingfor

hopefully submitted by Cityslikr

A Farewell To Mike

I just canx.

With the same grace and class he displayed while serving his time on city council, mikedelgrandeMike Del Grande announced he would not be seeking re-election to Ward 39 Scarborough-Agincourt. Which is to say, he’s basically intent on burning the place to the ground on his way out the door. So long, suckers. You won’t have Mike Del Grande to kick around anymore.

After what will be 11 years in office, the councillor and former budget chief doesn’t seem to have a good word to say about anyone or anything. To accentuate the dyspepsia and kick up the bile and acrimony a notch or four, the Toronto Sun’s tapped their former City Hall scribbler and now on book leave author, Sue-Ann Levy to transcribe Councillor Del Grande’s farewell note. There will be blood, spilt, mixed with the usual bit of meandering, pointless prattling.

“It [the dynamic at City Hall] gets very nasty, very personal and I just don’t want to be part of that anymore,” Councillor Del Grande tells Sue-Ann. “I just detest that.”

This from a man who I can’t remember ever turning on his microphone at council or committee meetings without eventually shouting at somebody, everybody. rageyHis colleagues, deputants, visiting members of the public.

His spiteful adieu is nothing short of pure psychological projection. The gruffest, least cordial member of city council signs off, accusing everyone else of being meanies. Mike Del Grande, an oasis of calm and civility in a desert of nasty.

Usually I could stop and at least applaud a person for the years of dedication to public service. Clearly the man’s time in office did his health no good. As he reminds readers, as budget chief, he worked 75-80 hours a week without help from anyone. Just him, his cross and a handful of nails.

I really can muster no good thing to say about Mike Del Grande as an elected official.

Surprisingly, the one person he sort of holds his fire with is Mayor Ford. Yes, he has his problems with the lying and imagines the substance abuse probably affected the mayor’s professional performance. But no mention of that time during Del Grande’s third and final budget, where he worked 75-80 hours a week all on his own, when the mayor wound up voting against him, instead whimsically getting behind a zero % property tax increase thrown up by Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti. robfordbellicoseThanks for the effort, Mike. It’s just, there’s optics to think about.

None of these shortcomings, it seems for Councillor Del Grande, were the fault of the mayor. It was the elites who never recouped from Ford’s unexpected rise to power. Or the gutter journalists, with their mob mentality, refusing to cut the guy a break.

No. In fact, the councillor shows a grudging respect for Rob Ford, and his lack of political correctness. “He was a very good Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,” Del Grande dictates to Sue-Ann, going on to say that he “actually enjoyed watching Rob Ford the councillor ‘go bonkers’”.

Ahhh, yes. Go bonkers.

Remember. The councillor told Sue-Ann that “the ‘level of decorum (and) personality attacks’ at council factored highly into his decision not to run again. In fact,” she continues, “there were times he was so ‘disgusted’ with the conduct of his colleagues, he walked out of council meetings.” ebenezerscroogeEvidently, Councillor Del Grande draws some sort of distinction between a lack of decorum and enjoying watching somebody go bonkers.

What I think Mike Del Grande should be remembered best for, aside from his totally misguided attempts to right the fiscal ship of the city, is his pithy and totally respectful response early on in his tenure as budget chief. “We need firm discipline. I get a little concerned when we start making arguments about the widows and orphans. Negligibles add up. We cannot afford to do everything that everybody wants us to do… the 2011 budget is cupcakes. We tend to spoil everybody. We need to learn to say ‘no.’”

Oh, the poor widows and orphans, always wanting their cupcakes. And I suppose they want to take off work early on Christmas Eve!

If Mike Del Grande possesses a decorous or generous bone in his body, I never saw it on display. His demeanour and the tenor he brought to City Hall never much wavered from pure vitriol and mean-spiritedness. goodriddanceHe was the exact problem he bemoaned of in others but somehow everybody else was to blame, never Mike Del Grande.

I wish the man well in whatever future endeavours he pursues and hope he finds some sort of peace and well-being. But, I for one, feel free to say that his malignant presence at City Hall won’t be missed. He represented the worst, most penurious of our civic instincts. Our municipal government will be better off in his absence.

grudgingly submitted by Cityslikr