Give Him Enough Rope

November 5, 2015

If the predominant response to witnessing the Ford mayoralty was anger (followed by a profound sadness), cynicism is the emotion that springs forth watching Mayor Tory in action (followed closely by anger). cynicalIs cynicism even an emotion? I don’t know. It sure feels like an emotion.

It sure felt like it watching the mayor speak to the TO Prosperity: Poverty Reduction Strategy item at city council yesterday. ‘Aspirational’… but. A ‘moral issue’… but. Proud of this document. Proud of the work having gone into it. Proud, proud, proud … but.

Mayor Tory took much of his speaking time to explain that the strategy, as such, spread out over a 20 year framework, was ‘not an instant answer’. He took great pains to explain ‘what it is not’. Aspirational … but. Almost as a warning, he informed us that at the budget committee, they will endeavor ‘to do as much as we can’ … but. Competing priorities, and all that.

Until that time, when this poverty reduction strategy goes through the buzz saw that will be the budget committee – as Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam pointed out, the mayor’s “direction to reduce 2016 overall budget by 2%” is not compatible with the new funding called for in the TO Prosperity document – likeI’ll set aside my cynicism, and take a moment to applaud those who are pursuing this with the upmost of earnestness and serious intent. Those who, for the time being, are willing to take Mayor Tory for his word on this, as qualified and mealy-mouthed as the words may sound to my jaded ears.

Hats off to Councillor Pam McConnell for her genuine acceptance of the title of Deputy Mayor, and her belief that the man who gave her that title is actually committed to this course of action. Her diligence in putting this report together, and exhorting her council colleagues that it is a worthy and absolutely essential undertaking, should be acknowledged and commended. Councillor Janet Davis said that McConnell “gave one of the best speeches of her career… Passionate and inspiring call for a fairer, stronger city.”

Applause too to all the advocates who contributed their time and effort to make sure this didn’t simply slip through the cracks, as poverty issues tend to do. aweSuch tirelessness is, I can’t even come up with the proper word that amplifies the inadequate ‘admirable’. It’s unfathomable to me, that kind of determination.

Many of you were probably in the council chambers gallery to watch the vote, and applauded when it was approved, clapped for Mayor Tory when he spoke to it. I cannot express the kind of awe I feel at that sheer act of trust in the good intentions of others, the conviction enough of us will do the right thing when push comes to shove. Again, humbled does not even begin to describe how I regard such faith and principle.

… but … but … but …

Let’s remember these words that the mayor uttered near the end of his speech yesterday, remember them, and hold him to account for saying them when he inevitably fails to live up to them. And Mayor Tory, as sure as I’m sitting here writing this, will fail, will prove to be a false ally. He’s already qualified his support, showing none of the can-do, inevitable triumphalism he’s flashed for SmartTrack or the Gardiner East hybrid, pledging only ‘to do as much as we can…to the extent we can’. Aspiration is great until it runs smack dab into the reality Mayor Tory has established. “More isn’t always better.” So please dim your expectations.

I think this is one of the most important decisions, one of the most important commitments that we’re going to make as a council during this entire term without even knowing what else is going to come up over the next 3 years.

That’s what he said. Those were Mayor Tory’s exact words. This poverty reduction strategy was one of the most important decisions city council would make this term. Mayor Tory said so.

lifecouldbebetter

Let’s make sure he’s held to that. Make this his signature item. Its success or failure will determine his success or failure as mayor of this city. He will try and wiggle free of it. Don’t let him.

assuredly submitted by Cityslikr


No More Important A Key Item

November 3, 2015

At this month’s city council meeting, Mayor Tory has made the Toronto Poverty Reduction Strategy his key item. He’s talked a lot about it. He appointed one of his Deputy Mayor’s (“Deputy Mayor”?), Pam McConnell, to oversee its realization to this point. The mayor’s talked about it some more.

We can call this a good first step but make no mistake. It’s only a first step. If I’m reading the agenda item correctly (not always a sure thing), the item before council this week “…proposes an Implementation and Accountability Structure to oversee and coordinate the strategy’s implementation, beginning with the first of five action plans…” These first of five action plans involve very little spending of money. That point “when the rubber hits the road,” according to the actual deputy mayor, Denzil Minnan-Wong.

As part of this initial implementation of the strategy, there is talk of talking money. “…to include consideration of the funding needs of TO Prosperity: Toronto Poverty Reduction Strategy in the Long Term Fiscal Plan.” “…to develop a cost-benefit analysis and framework for poverty-related spending as part of the TO Prosperity implementation.”

But as Deputy Mayor Denzil Minnan-Wong suggested above, and the mayor himself said at last month’s Executive Committee meeting, “There are going to be competing priorities”. Talk’s great. Ambition and aspiration are all well and good but… but… “Budgetary implications have to be considered,” Minnan-Wong intoned, darkly, we can assume, since this is Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong we’re talking about.

It will be later this month, when the 2016 budget debate begins in earnest, that Mayor Tory’s actual ‘priorities’ will start to take shape. So far in his tenure, he’s found money to fund his SmartTrack reports, to build an increasingly expensive Gardiner East hybrid, to expedite repairs on the rest of the expressway. Just how much political capital will he be willing to spend to actually address poverty in this city? With the likes of Councillor Minnan-Wong looking over his shoulder or Etobicoke councillor John Campbell who’s already expressed his view that the mayor’s over-emphasized the ‘Progressive’ part of Progressive Conservative in terms of spending at City Hall.

Mayor Tory cannot be allowed to use this vital process of fighting poverty as just some window dressed display, a reiteration of last year’s municipal campaign where he pointed to all the things he said as proof of his progressive bent. Mayor Tory says a lot of things. Much of it simply filling up space, empty words.

Today, the mayor’s made the Toronto Poverty Reduction Strategy his key item. He cannot be allowed to do nothing more than wear it as some badge of honour, as meaningless proof of his commitment to social justice. Not a show piece of his administration but a centre piece. This has to stick to him. We must demand Mayor Tory do more than talk about Toronto poverty or use this as a rickety platform of self-promotion.

I’m sure Mayor Tory cares about poverty in Toronto. I’m sure he would like nothing more than to be seen as contributing to the alleviation of it. How much he’s willing to risk to put actual commitment and dollars behind the strategy, I’m less certain of. Failure to do so on his part must be seen to be just that, a failure, and not a more noble failure, where the mayor did his best, tried his darndest, but the rock was just too big to roll up the hill, competing priorities simply too overwhelming, for him to deliver.

upthehill

Mayor Tory needs to realize that on this, good intentions will not be good enough.

demandingly submitted by Cityslikr


Another Gardiner East Rethink

September 8, 2015

Remember back, oh, I don’t know, 3 months ago, when city council had that prolonged, knock `em down, drag ‘em out battle over the fate of the Gardiner east expressway? goodoldaysThe great hybrid # 2 debate over a replacement option lots of people hated, few loved and Mayor Tory championed? Political capital spent all over the place, resulting in a close 24-21 vote that brought back memories of the Ford era with its downtown-suburban divisiveness and ultimate triumph of resentful emotionalism over sound, reasoned city building.

Well apparently, according to Jennifer Pagliario and David Rider at the Toronto Star, it all may have been for nought. Seems the mayor’s been working behind the scenes to reconfigure the design of the eastern portion of the Gardiner so that it more resembles the original hybrid option, one that city staff had rejected as technically unworkable which lead to the second hybrid proposal. Making this hybrid option 2.1? 1.2.1?

Setting aside the optics of Mayor Tory spending even more of his time out of the public eye doing city business, he’s also been quietly mulling over a 2024 Olympic bid during the summer months, you have to wonder what the hell all the fuss was about back in June? Why did the mayor come on so hard then on an issue he seems so willing to walk back on now? humptydumptyHe waded into the debate before listening to public feedback during deputations at a Public Works and Infrastructure Committee, unequivocally planting his flag of support in the ground. He sniffed derisively at Gardiner teardown proponents as something akin to latte-sipping boulevardiers. He muzzled the city’s chief planner after she publicly disagreed with him on which option would be best.

And now he’s all willing to hunker down, even with his ‘opponents’, and bang out a compromise, a compromise that was pretty much on the table back in June?

Only someone unfamiliar with Toronto City Hall would be at all surprised that a major infrastructure project decision is undergoing reconsideration. It’s what we do. In this case it should be especially anticipated since the June vote in favour of the mayor’s option 2 jeopardized a number of other waterfront development plans, setting the city on a possible collision course with some deep-pocketed players.clumsy

None of this information is new or comes out of the blue. All of it was on the table in June. Mayor Tory brushed it aside, brusquely at times, digging in his heels and refusing to budge.

Now it’s all like, “They’ve done a lot of work to make something, as I was confident they could, much better than what appeared in some of the diagrams that took place…very significant improvement.”

As he “was confident they could.” Yet he still opted to pretty much go to war with colleagues and staff in some sort of pipe swinging, PR exercise. Power drunk gives way to sober second thought.

Ah well, at least he’s come to his senses, right? The other guy, the previous guy would’ve just hunkered down and fought any attempt to revisit the decision. Mayor Tory, after using the opportunity to prove who’s boss, quietly retreats to fix a boneheaded outcome that he had loudly pushed for months.headlesschicken

Progress!

I’ve given up attempting to divine tactics and motivations in how this mayor operates. It’s pretty much by the seat-of-his-pants, listening to the bad advice he’s getting or only getting bad advice. He played chief advocate for the wrong side of the Gardiner east debate out of pure political calculation. Somewhere deep in the backrooms he’s conducted his business in over the course of the last 3 months, he’s been forced to reckon with his misstep on this file, and not necessarily by his opponents on city council, I imagine. Like with the carding issue, Mayor Tory isn’t trying to do what is right or just. He’s simply following the bouncing political ball.

And now, with the Gardiner east, he’s had to go retrieve the ball he kicked into the bushes.

One of his opponents in this unnecessary fight the mayor picked, one of his appointed deputy mayors, Councillor Pam McConnell whose ward that section of expressway runs through, has obviously been part of the behind the scenes negotiations and has come to a slightly less glowing conclusion about the compromise. unimpressed“Maybe it’s something everyone can live with,” she effused, if that word meant the opposite of what it does. Maybe it’s something everyone can live with.

Which, I think, pretty much sums up John Tory’s time in the mayor’s office so far. Maybe something everyone can live with. Don’t expect or demand too much. Mistakes will get made. Gaffes will happen. Some stuff will get done too. Just not too much and certainly nothing particularly exciting or groundbreaking or visionary. Just enough that maybe everyone can live with.

still incredulously submitted by Cityslikr


Nothing Against Councillor Mary Fragedakis But…

January 19, 2014

There’s a moment in Peter Cook and Dudley Moore’s One Leg Too Few sketch, about a one-legged actor auditioning for the role of Tarzan, where Cook, conducting the audition, tells Moore, the actor, “Your right leg I like. I like your right leg. It’s a very lovely leg for the role. A lovely leg for the role, and I’ve got nothing against your right leg. Unfortunately… neither do you.”

I’ve got nothing against Councillor Mary Fragedakis (Ward 29 Toronto-Danforth). Unfortunately… that’s hardly a rousing ring of approval, is it? That’d be the very definition of damning with faint praise, if I understand the phrase properly.

I should say right here that I truly do try and cut the freshman class of 2010 some slack. Birthed onto council in a fiery tempest of toxic partisanship brought down upon them by a strictly by the book, us-versus-them administration. trialbyfireThey had to make some hard choices, and make them quickly.

They were either with the mayor, ag’in the mayor or ducking for cover in the much derided mush middle. Imagine gazelles, born onto the savannah just as the herd bolts in fear at the approach of a hungry, hunting lion. Get up, junior. Get up! This is no time to learn how to walk. Run! Run!!

It was evident early on where Councillor Fragedakis came down on that spectrum. Despite going along with stripping the city of revenue by eliminating the vehicle registration tax (many, many confirmed anti-Fordists made that mistake), she clearly took a spot hanging out with the non-friends of the mayor.

But she did so with little distinction. She got lost in the crowd. Try as I might, I can’t come up with one thing she took hold of, made her own. Councillor Fragedakis, champion of… ?

It’s not like she sat silent, disappearing Esmeralda-like (ask your parents, kids) into the background. More often than not, the councillor made her opinion known during council meetings. milfordmanIt’s just… it’s just…

Her voice was like an echo, a reverberation of something that had already been said. Nothing particularly offensive to these ears but little to be distinguished from things already stated. Councillor Fragedakis strikes me as the dutiful political daughter of Councillor Paula Fletcher (Ward 30 Toronto-Danforth) and niece of Councillor Pam McConnell. (Ward 28 Toronto Centre-Rosedale).

It could be worse, no doubt. I have nothing against Councillor Mary Fragedakis but…

Again, it’s worth noting that she could be a superb constituent councillor, attentive to the needs and concerns of the residents in her ward. Not everyone elected to council needs to be a firebrand and on the forefront of city wide issues. Councillor Fragedakis may be happily and effectively tucked away, doing the more mundane tasks of municipal governance.

Her re-electability too is something of a mystery. me tooI may be horribly off the mark seeing her as vulnerable. She is just in her first term, so not entrenched as the incumbent. Ward 29 shouldn’t necessarily be seen as some safe, left wing seat. Remember, the long time representative from the area, for like 150 years, was Case Ootes, an old Lastmanite and noted anti-David Miller foe. Unless there’s been a dramatic shift in demographics, this ward can’t be considered a walk for any left of centre candidate.

In the 2010 election, Fragedakis benefitted from a right of centre split between former councillor and 2006 mayoral candidate, Jane Pitfield, and the Rocco Rossi endorsed, Jennifer Wood. Animosity flared up, in fact, involving those two camps, with a member of Ms. Pitfield’s team sending off an email request for Ms. Wood to step down in order that she not take votes away from Pitfield and ‘let an NDP council (candidate) Mary Fragedakis win’. stumpedWood didn’t withdraw and ended up with over 4200 votes. Fragedakis won by almost 2500. So it is conceivable that played a part in the outcome.

So it is conceivable that a single strong right of centre candidate in 2014 could seriously challenge Councillor Fragedakis for Ward 29. If that happens, the question will be has she shored up her incumbent bona fides to stave such a charge off, to increase her percentage of the popular vote? Like many things to do with her time in office, I remain simply stumped for an answer.

confusedly submitted by Cityslikr


Return To Pretender

December 18, 2013

There was a point of time during yesterday’s council meeting, in the afternoon, hours after the Morning of Apologies, one by Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti and two from Mayor Ford, both full of heaping disrespect for their colleagues and almost any sentient being listening in at the time, when the sensation definitely came upon me that it wasn’t my life I was leading. I’d been cast as an extra in a movie, some sort of Charlie Kaufman-The Truman Show mashup. Reality was under constant assault and I couldn’t just shake my head and clear a way back to normal.

“Recapping the past 10 minutes,” Paisley Rae tweeted. “McConnell confrontation. Dancing to One Love. Dale Drops a Nope. Integrity Commish presentation. Mammo shows.”

If I wrote it up in a script or tried to submit it as a short piece of fiction, it would be rightly rejected as too much, too outrageous, too unbelievable. A little over the top? Try, a whole lot over the top.

The sequence basically went as follows. For realz.

In between, I don’t know, either a vote or an item, one of the mayor’s young staffers approached her boss on the floor of the chambers. A protocol no no, no staff on council chambers floor, although Mayor Ford, 13 years into being on city council, insists it’s all good. It isn’t. Councillor Pam McConnell rose to ask the speaker to send the staffer back to her seat. Some back and forth ensues, even long after the staffer sat back down.

The tone rises above where it actually should be, through a combination of the mayor’s bull-headed insistence he was right and, I think, Councillor McConnell’s exasperation. Watching her, she seems tired and a little beaten down. Earlier in the day, she’d responded to the mayor catcalls during a vote about how she was in favour of tearing down a heritage building. She tried to explain what the vote was actually about but the mayor just tuned her out and repeated that Councillor McConnell was in favour of tearing down a heritage building.

Shaking her head, she turned to Councillor Jaye Robinson who sits beside her and said, Why do I even bother trying to answer him?

Why indeed, Councillor McConnell.

Anyway, when things settled down, the councillor walked over to where the mayor’s staff sat to apologize for putting the one staffer on the spot. Well, doesn’t Mayor Ford see this and comes bellowing out of his chair, telling Councillor McConnell to get away from his staff. He’s right up in her face, accusing the councillor of trying to intimidate his staff and advising her to walk back to her seat.

Now recollect, this is the very same councillor, tiny, older councillor who the mayor accidentally bowled over during one of the frays at last month’s council meeting. You remember, right?

Evidently, Mayor Ford doesn’t because there he is again, pushing menacingly into her space, yelling at her to back off. You want intimidation, old lady? I’ll show you intimidation.

Moments after Councillor McConnell returns to her seat, it’s the Jimmy something something jazz trio from Scarborough with a couple songs to lighten the council mood and instill a little holiday cheer! And wouldn’t you know it, first up is Bob Marley’s One Love. Let’s get together, it’ll be alright…

As we all know and have seen by now, Mayor Ford was immediately up on his feet, dancing like he’s never danced before or, at least, since Sunday when he was dancing in church. As if nothing unseemly had just transpired on council floor. One Love. One Love. Let’s get together, it’ll be alright…

It was sometime during the dance number that Daniel Dale of the Toronto Star let it be known that the mayor’s earlier apology for suggesting in an interview with Conrad Black that Mr. Dale was a pedophile was not going to cut it and that the libel suit against Mayor Ford was going to proceed.

“I asked Mayor Ford to 1) retract all of his false claims about my conduct,” Dale wrote, “and 2) issue an unreserved, abject, complete apology. His statement today didn’t come close. I’m proceeding with a defamation lawsuit.

And the mayor continued to dance.

On his own political grave? To dance his cares away? Because he’s a maniac, maniac on the floor?

And then, before you knew it, council’s on to a presentation from the Integrity Commissioner, all about incumbent campaign Dos and Don’ts. The mayor mopped his brow. Councillor Mammoliti reappeared to ask if it was alright with the Integrity Commissioner for him to hand out to his colleagues some panettone somebody had given to him. Hee, hee, hee. That’s funny because, well, yeah, panettone is the least of Councillor Mammoliti’s problems currently.

How many times can you watch such a travesty and say, You can’t make this shit up? You want more? During the lunch break before all this transpired, Mayor Ford’s lawyer advising him about the libel action, appeared at City Hall and told the media that his client had lost 26 pounds in 5 weeks and then he left toting two bags of the new batch of Mayor Ford bobbleheads.

The complete disconnect with reality sets in because you can’t believe that adults would really and truly act like this. There’s nothing about their behaviour that seems reasonable at this point. Nothing has prepared us for such an assault on civility, decency and personal responsibility.

The mayor has clearly given up governing, his clown prince sidekick Mammoliti has joined him in doing little more than pissing on the carpet of council chambers. I’d argue that councillor-brother Doug was never interested in governing as much as he was ruling.

All it is to them right now is theatre. Not even political theatre as it’s utterly devoid of anything political. It’s purely personal. We’re witnessing three charlatans pretending that everybody else is the problem. Play acting.

And we’re caught up in their weird psychodrama, tragicomedy. This can’t be real, can it? Sadly it is but, fortunately, it’s only for a limited run.

serlingly submitted by Cityslikr