It All Depends On How You Define ‘Respect’

April 24, 2014

This isn’t about Rob Ford (although he’ll think this post is about him, about him). At least, not directly, it isn’t. dimmenIt’s about how we’ve slipped into his skin, donned his way of thinking, his attitude toward government.

Following along yesterday to the monthly proceedings of the Executive Committee, the committee the mayor no longer chairs but remains part of only out of legislative necessity – everyone elected to city council must serve on one standing committee – it all felt so petty and small-minded. Bereft of heft. Lacking in rigour. These are the tiny men of a big institution.

It’s no surprise, really. They all were picked to be there by the mayor before his tumble from the seat of power. Not one to challenge his own preconceptions or belief systems, unLincolnian in assembling a team of rivals, the mayor sought nothing more than to surround himself with fellow boobs and yes-men. The worst and the dimmest.

During the debate over somehow commemorating the 1915 Armenian genocide at the hands of the Ottoman Empire, Councillor Frank Di Giorgio presented a muddled view of history where the Holocaust was fact but South African apartheid was still contested. Or something. badhistoryCouncillor Peter Leon referred to the Armenian genocide as an ‘unfortunate mishap’ which he later upgraded to a ‘horrible atrocity’.

Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti moaned about not being paid to have to deal with international issues like European history. He was elected to fill potholes and cut grass, he told the room. If only you would stick to that, Councillor Mammoliti. If only.

Councillor Anthony Perruzza mentioned prosciutto.

But where that item, tabled late in the afternoon when many members of the Executive Committee might’ve been passed their nap time, brought out the dumb, fizzleit was a couple matters earlier in the morning that really saw the collective sparkle fizzle.

A proposed council pay increase, council office budgets and city travel expenses, all the mayor’s bread and butter, led to not so much a healthy debate as regular opportunities to politically grandstand. Protestations of We Are Not Worthy (which is true for many in that room) mixed with talk of gravy and the need for more oversight and micromanaging. Apparently, our city councillors aren’t paid enough to sort out matters on an international scale but don’t make so much money that they can’t waste time looking through colour swatches to find just the right colour at the right price for their office walls.

Of course, there was no way this committee was going to push forward the 12.9% pay increase for council members recommended by the OCG Strategy and Organization Consulting company after surveying 16 Canadian municipalities. puntDespite the fact that, comparatively speaking, our mayor and city councillors are not in the upper echelon of renumeration in terms of their fellow municipal representatives, this is an election year. Nobody’s dumb enough or brazen enough to face the voting public after giving themselves a substantial pay hike.

OK. Maybe Giorgio Mammoliti is. And Frank Di Giorgio might push the wrong button when it came to casting his vote.

It would also be monumentally hypocritical for this group of men to give themselves a raise after nearly 4 years of preaching the gospel of austerity and penny-pinching. What’s good for the goose and all that. They kind of painted themselves into a fiscal corner on this one.

“We can all agree we are well compensated for the job we do,” declared the mayor, mindful I’m sure of his own financial situation as the scion of a wealthy family. In his case, it’s true. Given the job he does, the time he puts into it, I’d argue Mayor Rob Ford is amply compensated, as are many of his colleagues sitting on Executive Committee with him.

livinglargeHow much should the going rate be for bad representation at City Hall?

How much should the going rate be for good representation at City Hall?

I’ve seen how much work the diligent and dedicated city councillors put in on a daily basis. Forget your notions of any 40 hour work week. Double that. On call 7 days a week most weeks of the year. You break their 6 figure salaries down to an hourly rate and I think you’d find a much more modest pay rate.

But because we’ve assumed the anti-public sector stance that the mayor believes so passionately in, any amount is too much. It’s our taxes that pay their bills, we trumpet. Respect, we demand. Why should they be entitled to anything more that we are?miniscule

We’ve willing agreed to travel down the deceptive road of misconception, believing that somehow the taxes we pay at a local level don’t go toward paying for all the useful things we use on a daily basis. We hear that this councillor makes $100, 000 a year in salary, plus perks, and imagine, well, there goes all my money. Straight into the councillor’s already stuffed pocket, so they can jaunt off to some all-expenses trip to somewhere they have absolutely no need to be going to, somewhere I’ll never get to go.

In actual fact, the operations of city council costs us collectively around $20 million a year. Throw in the mayor’s office along with the city clerk, and I’ll generously round it up to $30 million. $30 million, in a $10 billion operating budget. Do that math. .003 Every municipal tax dollar you submit, missthepoint.3% of that goes to our elected officials, and the general operations of their offices and meetings.

So, if you pay $5000 a year in property tax about $15 of that is used for your mayor and city councillor to do their respective jobs. Do that math. $1.25 a month. Less than a nickel a day.

So when the mayor goes on some outraged tirade about all that gravy, pointing to $150,000 in councillor travel expenses (.00000015 of the operating budget, I think) or the not quite $6 million in city staff travel expenses, reach into your pocket and pull out all the change. We no longer use the denomination small enough needed to pay for your portion of that. And then stop to think about how we’re paying someone $170+K a year to fussily focus on saving us that amount of next to nothing.

Then honestly tell me who exactly it is respecting the taxpayers?

generously 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