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

May 9, 2014

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

February 21, 2014

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

weinterruptthisprogram

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

February 16, 2014

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


Make Them Run For It

January 7, 2014

Now, it may seem something bordering on the amnestic, me writing yesterday about wanting to see an aspirational municipal campaign in 2014 forgetfuland then turn around the very next day to begin a series on 15 councillors who need to be seriously challenged this year. Shouldn’t I instead be extolling the virtues of councillors who bring a sense of equitable and smart city building to the proceedings? Why focus on the negative, dude, if you’re trying to be all aspirational?

The thing is, it’s a campaign, right? At this point, what’s the sense in writing something that ends up stating: Councillor So-and-So is alright. Opponents need not apply. Endorsements come later in the race.

What I’ve done for now is to develop a very subjective, non-scientific formulation to calculate the worthiness of our current slate of city councillors and factored in the feasibility in successfully challenging them. It’s weighted toward my impression of their work and votes at City Hall with little emphasis on just how well they do constituency work. There certainly could be some councillors who excel at fixing residents’ fences or sorting through on street parking while being complete duds at a more city wide level. formulation1I’ve chosen to accentuate the later.

As for the feasibility aspect, I’ve combined a rating for incumbency — the level at which a councillor is entrenched as an immoveable force in the ward – with their plurality in the 2010 election. So if they’ve been around for centuries and won by a shit ton last time around, they get big points in terms of feasibility. They may be terrible councillors but, for whatever reason, their residents keep putting them back in office.

It’s because of that measure, incumbency+plurality, the likes of councillors Frances Nunziata (Ward 11 York South-Weston) and Michael Del Grande (Ward 39 Scarborough-Agincourt) escape the wrath of my Better Off Gone list. While nothing could be more beneficial for the governance of this city than the removal of the likes of these two, given their respective time served and easy victories in 2010, it’ll be a very uphill battle to dislodge them. That’s not to say, no one should try. formulationBut go in with your eyes wide open.

And just in case you think I’m being overly partisan, I’d put Councillor Glenn De Baeremaeker (Ward 38 Scarborough Centre) on the list too for his scorched earth approach to the Scarborough subway debate last year. In vilifying every other form of public transit, he helped set the debate back years if not decades. However, he too, has a strong presence in his ward and won in 2010 in a walk. He’d be tough to knock off but should be challenged every step of the way.

One final note before moving on to my first entry. I arbitrarily declared both Ward 2 Etobicoke North and Ward 3 Etobicoke Centre open since Councillor Doug Ford has said he won’t be seeking re-election and Councillor Peter Leon pledged he wouldn’t run again before being chosen to replace Doug Holyday. rulesandregulationsAlso, I declared Ward 16 Eglinton-Lawrence open as it looks like the incumbent there, Councillor Karen Stintz, will be making a serious run at the mayor’s job. All those are subject to change but as of right now won’t be part of this process.

So with the rules, stipulations and caveats in place, and in no particular order, we shall commence with All Fired Up in the Big Smoke’s 15 To Give A Run For Their Money list.

Up today:

The Madness of Clown-Prince Giorgio

Aside from the mayor and his councillor-brother (and maybe the above mentioned Councillor Nunziata), nobody represented the sheer breakdown of function and civility at City Hall more than Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti (Ward 7 York West). Grandstanding does not do justice to the thing it is he does most frequently and annoyingly. He doesn’t debate so much as he brays. He baits rather than discusses. He sees conspiracy (usually of the union kind) and plots to silence him behind every door and under every bed.

Unprincipled? You betcha.

Back in the day, before Rob Ford became mayor, he and Mammoliti were bitter, bitter enemies. madnessofkinggeorgeDuring the 2010 mayoral campaign, candidate Mammoliti was then councillor Ford’s most caustic and aggressive critic. But when the winds changed in favour of Ford, Mammoliti scurried back to his ward race and hitched his wagon to Team Ford becoming, literally, the new mayor’s right hand man and most rabid attack dog.

Depending on Mayor Ford’s fortunes, Councillor Mammoliti’s hopped on and off the Executive Committee, clearly with an eye open to see if the ship sank fully. He claimed to be a new man after an illness felled him last year but by last council meeting when he was forced to apologize for his bad behaviour at council, it was difficult to make out any discernible difference in him. Same as if ever was. Same. As. It. Ever. Was.

Unethical? You be the judge.

He was charged last year under the Municipal Elections Act for 5 financial offences from his 2010 campaign. In December, the Integrity Commissioner launched an investigation into a fundraiser the councillor had last spring that featured some big name lobbyists. sameasiteverwasAlong with Councillor David Shiner (Ward 24 Willowdale), Councillor Mammoliti has also allegedly been renting at below market rate an apartment from developers who conduct millions of dollars of business with the city.

Oh my.

As a local representative, the councillor was such a subway advocate that he claimed his residents would wait a 100 years for one to be built along Finch Avenue West rather than settle for some measly LRT. Knowing that’s never going to happen, he might as well have just admitted he could give a shit about public transit for Ward 7, York, northwest Toronto. In fact, it’s difficult to see an example of Councillor Mammoliti ever putting the interests of his residents before his own.

Now, no doubt that the councillor has big name recognition (good or bad, that’s very important in local elections) and definitely has the power of incumbency in his favour. But here’s an interesting tidbit I’ve pointed out previously. Since being first elected to city council in 2000, [as was pointed out to us by one of our readers, Councillor Mammoliti was 1st elected in 1997, coming in second to Judy Sgro when 2 councillors in each of the then 28 wards made up the 1st amalgamated city council in Toronto. Our apologies. — ed.] Giorgio Mammoliti’s share of the popular vote in Ward 7 has dropped each election, runforyourlifefrom over 70% in 2000, to being acclaimed in 2003, to 63% in 2006 to 43.8% in 2010 after a high profile mayoral run earlier in the race.

One might conclude that the more his residents see Giorgio Mammoliti, the less they like him. He could be vulnerable this time out and knocking him off would be a huge step forward for both Ward 7 and the city of Toronto. It doesn’t matter who’d replace him. They couldn’t be any worse.

hopefully and helpfully submitted by Cityslikr


Shut It Down Frank

December 3, 2013

There was a certain lack of urgency in the air in committee room 1 for the public deputations ahead of the 2014 budget, grityourteetchandcarryonboth perplexing as well as unsurprising.

Clearly there’s a crush of need in many sectors of city services and programs after years of cutbacks, flat lining and neglect by all three levels of government. Where that fact was on stark display these past two days was in child care and children’s nutritional programs. Oh, and the TTC. Always the TTC.

It is astounding to me the number of people out there filling in the gaps left by governments that, regardless of political stripe, seem to believe we are taxed enough. You can’t get blood from a stone, we’re told. Don’t look at us to be the heavies here. DIY. Do it yourself.

Many do, setting up things like breakfast programs with and/or without assistance from both the public and private sectors along with a healthy dose of volunteerism. And then they manage to take the time to come down to City Hall to express (almost exclusively) a discontent, let’s call it, with the contributions city council is making. For at least some 150 people or so who signed up to make deputations over the last couple days, democracy is much more than simply voting on election day.

I’m hoping what I perceived to be the deputants’ collective tone of quiet resolve wasn’t instead resignation in the face of just 3 years of constant beat down. admirationIt might be a product of sideshow freak fatigue, civic efforts in the face of a leaderless political entity trying to get back to business as usual. Who is it I’m addressing here?

Perhaps (and I could very well be projecting my own views onto this) there’s a sense out there that this is also very much a do nothing drastic, it’s an election year budget. Don’t rock the boat with any sudden change in direction and just get on with campaigning. Grit your teeth. Grin and bear it. Register your concern but no outrage. Next year will be an entirely different year.

The lack of, I don’t know, pressing engagement also might have been the result of the prevailing attitude from the budget committee members. With the exception of Councillor Michelle Berardinetti, it felt like the whole deputation process was an imposition upon the rest of them. disengagedAfter quickly passing a motion to reduce speaking time to 3 minutes, they followed up with a 1 minute limit for councillor’s questions that succeeded in impeding any sort of actual dialogue between residents and their elected representatives.

Then, the committee wanted to cut short Monday’s meeting back from its 930 p.m. scheduled end to 6 p.m., effectively eliminating any possibility for those who couldn’t make it to the meeting during work hours from deputing. Councillor Berardinetti initially beat back the motion but Councillor Doug Ford managed to have it pushed through later in the afternoon. Talk about your customer service.

Say what you will about former budget chief Mike Del Grande (and we said a lot, almost none of which was positive) but he at least seemed to revel in rubbing his opponents’ nose in the fact he was in charge of the city’s purse strings. Cupcake this, widows and orphans and he’d bang the gavel with relish. foghornleghornI want to listen to you beg and make a point of ignoring you.

This gang (again, I exclude Councillor Berardinetti from this broadside) couldn’t even bother mustering the pretense of interest. Councillor Ford, flitting in and out of the meeting, started almost every ‘question’ to deputants with a “Do you realize that…” before launching into whatever dubious claim or numbers he thought appropriate. Private sector this, find efficiencies that. Unsurprisingly, it was the lack of outdoor skating rinks IN SCARBOROUGH that grabbed his attention the most.

As for Councillor Frances Nunziata, if there is a more contemptible, less respectful councillor currently representing residents of Toronto, their name is Mike Del Grande and, well, see above. Nunziata wears a permanent sneer and spent more time on Monday watching the clock than listening to the deputations. “Frank! Frank!” she’d snap at the committee chair when he absent-mindedly or graciously allowed deputants to wrap up beyond the 3 minute mark. Her only interaction with the speakers who’d made the effort to come out was to ask if they’d looked elsewhere for help.

h/t Paisley Rae

h/t Paisley Rae

But there’d be problems with the deputation process even with a more crowd friendly committee. Unless you’re among the first 10 or so listed deputants, there’s too much uncertainty in your timing. People need to be assigned a block of time in which they know they’ll be speaking and the committee needs to stick to that. Otherwise, people just drift off, having to get back to work, to home, to pick up their kids from school. This usually precipitates a run of no-shows, leading to more no-shows by people who had been following along but hadn’t expected to be called on so soon.

More than that, the public needs to be invited to take part in the budget making decisions much earlier in the process. It’s hard not to conclude, as it works right now, that once we get to the staff proposed budget release it’s all a done deal. Months in the works, behind closed doors, it’s delivered up. A fait accompli. Here it is, boys and girls. What do you think of it?

In quick succession, just before Christmas, the public is offered a glimpse of what to expect, nowrunalonghave their say over the course of a couple days, and then it’s off to council to be voted on in late-January. Thanks for playing along. See you next year.

It gives the impression that we’re offered the chance to be heard but not listened to. This budget committee, this week, simply made what was a matter of fact painfully obvious.

openly submitted by Cityslikr


Standing Up To The Mayor

October 15, 2013

Here’s why I’m not a gambling man.

kennyrogers

Back in the early days of the Ford administration if you’d offered me the longest of long shot odds that Councillor Paul Ainslie would be a likely candidate to publicly break with the mayor, I’dve turned you down flat. Not possible, I’d say. There aren’t odds oddsy enough to make me take that bet.

Well, here we are.

On Friday, Councillor Ainslie not only resigned his chair of the Parks and Recreation committee exitstageright(automatically walking away from the powerful Executive Committee in the process) but he did so in a very loud and public fashion.

According to the councillor, Mayor Ford “ran out of ideas a long time ago” and has a “lack of strategic objectives.”

Ouch.

Councillor Ainslie isn’t the first former ally and Executive Committee member to part ways with the mayor but he might be the noisiest. Both councillors Michelle Berardinetti and Giorgio Mammoliti slipped away gently, citing their own reasons for doing so. Councillor Mammoliti has already crawled back onto the Executive Committee, directly replacing Ainslie.

Only Councillor Jaye Robinson’s departure from the inner sanctum back in June made a similar kind of splash. She was turfed for suggesting in her outside voice that maybe Mayor Ford should take a little time away from his position to deal with any sort of personal issues he might be having. pileonRobinson has not shied away from her break with the administration, weighing in on her colleague’s exit and the subsequent robo-call roll out from the mayor’s office that followed.

“We should be encouraging independent thought at City Hall,” she said in the radio interview and referred to Mayor Ford’s ‘leadership style’ as nothing more than “bluster and intimidation” “The farthest thing from transparent and accountable government.”

Along with Ainslie’s transition from an almost Tommy-like support (deaf, dumb and blind…actually, let’s call it Gary Crawford-like support) at the beginning of this term to a bona fide outspoken maverick of Mayor Ford, Councillor Robinson’s increasingly pointed criticism may well represent the soft support that put the mayor over the top in the 2010 election. It’s now evaporating and that should be of some concern to those dreaming of a second term. tommyThe simple fact of the matter is, there isn’t one without at least some of the mushy middle voting public across the city.

Of course, for some this latest schism with a former ally is no fault of the mayor’s. After Councillor Ainslie’s resignation on Friday, councillor-brother Doug went on full smear alert, chalking it up to Ainslie being miffed for having been overlooked to replace outgoing budget chief, Mike Del Grande (who himself kicked up some dust leaving the position. It didn’t amount to much as he seems to just have retreated into a sullen surliness). Frankly, I’d be pissed too if I’d been passed over for the job by Councillor Frank Di Giorgio. If anything is proof of Councillor Ainslie’s assertion that the mayor lacks strategic objectives, it would be his appointing of Frank Di Giorgio as budget chief.

As with almost everything that comes out of the mouth of councillor-brother Doug, the truth about the rift between Ainslie and the Ford administration is much more robust, let’s call it, beginning a lot earlier and in a far more nuanced way.

While Councillor Ainslie was enabling the mayor to run roughshod through the halls of City Hall, cutting this tax and that service, he was also steadily tinkering as chair of the Government Management Committee. yourefiredHe pushed through small but important things like getting wireless service throughout all of City Hall that helped further citizen engagement to the bigger enchilada on that score: sending a request to Queen’s Park for permission to start using alternative voting methods in forthcoming municipal elections. He was actually helping Mayor Ford keep a campaign promise of delivering a more open and transparent government.

But then things seemed to come unglued with some back stage mayoral shenanigans at the Garrison Ball in March. Ainslie was knocked from his post as Government Management Committee chair a couple months later and served briefly as chairs of the Parks and Recreation Committee until this week.

Until his decision to reject the Scarborough subway on Tuesday and opt for the already in place subway. When he stood up at council to make his case for the LRT, he said that he’d gone into the previous weekend fully intending to vote for the subway. Then he started really reading the staff report and just saw the mounting costs that had no definite end to them. yourefired1He found himself weighing his options between a fully funded LRT, ready to go, with no extra costs lurking in the corners versus a subway proposal dripping with unknowns and a much higher price tag.

However, subways have become so integral to the Team Ford brand that to vote against them and vote against them so overtly couldn’t be seen as anything other than an outright rejection of the administration. Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong, another member of the Executive Committee, also voted against the subway but did so in a more low key fashion, so escaped notice.

Or maybe as a potential rival for the mayor’s job next year, he’s being allowed to keep close relations so he doesn’t have much distance between himself and the mayor if they have to campaign against one another.

Or quite possibly, Councillor Minnan-Wong shares enough of Mayor Ford’s loathing of government and taxes hediditthat he’s allowed a longer leash in order to wreak all the damage he can while the clock’s running down.

That’s not the kind of fiscally conservative politician Councillor Paul Ainslie is, obviously. Plus, he’s from the holy land of folks in Scarborough. So he was expendable. He needed to be made an example of.

It’s nothing personal, according to the mayor, although it seems voting against the Scarborough subway was nothing short of a ‘personal attack’ on Mayor Ford according to Councillor Ford. Go figure. *shrug* It’s about politics and political calculation. Plain and simple. The plan is to ride the subway issue to re-election and anybody seen as standing in the way? Electoral road kill.

This couldn’t come as any sort of surprise to Councillor Ainslie. He too must’ve made some calculations and decided to roll the dice on his political future, prepared to face his constituents as a careful custodian of their tax dollars rather than just another mayoral flunky. Again, I’m no betting man but if I were, I wouldn’t put my money against the councillor on this one.

rollthedice

fingers crossedly submitted by Cityslikr


Subways It Is

July 18, 2013

Hats off to Toronto city council’s subway warriors, for they won the hearts and minds of a majority of their colleagues and have earned the right to finally deliver more subways to our Scarborough brethren. robfordstreetcarsLet us take a break in the seemingly never-ending transit battles and allow them room to manoeuvre, to bring their subway dreams to fruition. This is, after all, a democracy, and that’s how democracy works.

After 3 years or so of Sisyphean struggles, Mayor Rob Ford can now claim to have delivered on his campaign promise of subways, subways, subways. On paper, at least. The devil, as they say, is in the details and having watched the mayor this week during the transit debate we were reminded that he is not really a details kind of guy.

It’ll also be interesting to see how the mayor attempts to square the circle of higher than promised dedicated property tax increases to pay for his Scarborough subway. Or, to put ‘skin in the game’ as he liked to say over and over and over again. Since the city manager’s report on the LRT-to-subway conversion came out last week, Mayor Ford has held firm on his no more than a .25% increase. rollingrockWell, yesterday he wound up voting in favour of the city manager’s recommendation of anywhere between 1.1 – 2.4% over 3 years, beginning with .5% in next year’s budget.

But as we have seen in the past, the mayor seems unperturbed by logical inconsistencies and operates under the assumption that normal rules of reasoning and accountability don’t really apply to him.

It’s a knack the TTC chair appears to want to hone and develop.

Councillor Karen Stintz, having a Scarborough subway road to Damascus moment sometime during the course of the past year, loved LRTs (after she didn’t) when she pulled the carpet from under the mayor’s bid to build a subway extension on Sheppard Avenue. roadtodamascusShe thought they were just great running along Sheppard, east of the subway. And along Eglinton and Finch avenues.

But apparently not as an extension of the Bloor-Danforth subway line. Why the change of heart? Some chalk it up to mayoral ambitions but there’s no way of knowing that for sure. Until next year’s campaign, at any rate. For now, let’s just take her at her word that there’s a funding plan in place, based on a whole lot of contingencies and variables which, if they don’t all fall neatly into place, we will simply revert back to the original LRT plan.

But no one will be able to accuse Councillor Karen Stintz of denying Scarborough residents their long overdue subway. Especially not Mayor Ford if it just so happens they meet on the 2014 campaign trail.

Ditto Councillor Glenn De Baeremaeker, another late convert to the need for a subway in Scarborough. glenndebaeremaekerLike the TTC chair, he extolled the beauty and sleekness of LRTs during last year’s Sheppard subway debate but now finds them something less than perfect when proposed to run through his neighbourhood. He expertly tapped into the vein of entitlement, resentment and divisiveness in Mayor Ford-like style this week in demanding his residents in Scarborough get the respect and subway they deserve. LRTs may be just fine for other Torontonians but his tribe, well, they actually vote in Councillor De Baeremaeker’s ward.

As a confirmed and noted tax-and-spender, the councillor won’t have to contort and convulse having to explain the billion dollar+ extra expense for building the subway. Unlike some of his more “fiscally conservative” colleagues who gave the project a thumbs-up. Take Councillor Mike Del Grande, for instance. whome1During his time as budget chief in the first few years of the Ford Administration, no one was more vocal about the profligacy of the David Miller regime and its love of taking on debt to buy cupcakes for the widows and orphans.

But for a subway in Scarborough that will actually have little effect for transit users in his ward? Completely different story. Our debt is better than their debt, I guess.

But at least such naked parochial pandering on the part of the mayor, the TTC chair, Councillor De Baeremaeker and a bevy of council fiscal hawks that supported the subway plan could be visible to the jaded eye that chose to look at things through that sort of lens.

How the likes of councillors Joe Mihevc and Paula Fletcher got all caught up in these proceedings is more of a mystery, their motivations more opaque. Was it just to come to the rescue of their fellow leftie colleague from Scarborough? iminchargeIt’s one thing to compromise and juggle your integrity for the sake of your own political career but for another councillor? The nice word for that is loyalty. I’m sure the good people of Scarborough will find that devotion commendable if it amounts to any sort of delay in expanding rapid transit for them.

We have been assured no such thing will happen. Many of the amendments brought to the motion yesterday were safeguards against things like unforeseen delays, lack of funding from other levels of government and a multitude of variables, any of which could amount to an actual decrease in rapid transit expansion throughout the city. There’s even a drop-dead deadline, we’re told, September 30th, for the provincial and federal governments to shit or get off the pot. If this isn’t sorted out in full, all the i’s dotted and t’s crossed, well, then an LRT it would be. No harm, no foul.

I will take them at their word on all that.

I will believe that city council is in full control of the situation, able to negotiate multiple competing agendum and put the brakes on any situation that arises that in any way threatens the plans we already had in place or risks any sort of significant delays in building rapid transit. stayquietThis is what we were told. At this point, I have no reason to not believe it and only my healthy skepticism whispering negatively in my ear.

I’ll try my best to ignore my concerns and take the next few months to think of other things than dismal transit arguments and dubious transit plans. It’s a big city, our Toronto. Plenty of stuff to focus on. Subway advocates won the day. They’ve earned the right to step forward and see this through.

That’ll be me, quietly standing on the sidelines, enjoying the sultry summer.

chill-ly submitted by Cityslikr