Shooting The Messengers

March 27, 2015

What the fuck is up with city council?

Just days away from yet another sanctioned apology from Rob Ford by the Integrity Commissioner for yet another ethical lapse on his part while serving as mayor wtf– What for this time? The use of ethnic/racial slurs – and a lobbyist registrar’s report of improper lobbying of then Mayor Rob Ford and his brother, then conuncillor, Doug, by one of their family business’ clients, a couple freshman councillors are bringing a motion to next week’s council meeting that would diminish the oversight of all four accountability offices through amalgamation.

It’s as if, seeing the slime trail left behind by the Fords (and a few other councillors) from last term, the response is to lessen the ooze by checking the investigative process instead of changing the greasy behaviour.

What exactly these new councillors, motion mover, Stephen Holyday, and seconder, Justin Di Ciano have against the accountability officers is difficult to fathom. They’ve been in office for less than four months. Some sort of pre-emptive axe grinding? Who knows. metooBut it is another full frontal attack on the accountability offices that began at the last budget committee meeting with a Councillor Michelle Berardinetti walk on motion to reject all increased funding requests by the Ombudsman and Integrity Commissioner. A motion supported by Councillor Di Ciano and another rookie Etobicoke councillor, John Campbell (not to mention the budget chief himself, Gary Crawford).

Mayor John Tory managed to walk that one back ever so slightly, pushing a motion at the following council meeting to partially restore the funding request a slight fraction. A gesture which amounted to little more than seeing the Ombudsman, Fiona Crean, announce she would not be seeking reappointment, fearing the `divisiveness’ would do long term harm to the office itself. Good job, Creanie, is essentially how the mayor greeted that news, and then his Executive Committee passed a motion to keep future Ombudsman’s gigs to just one, 7 year term, replacing the current 2 term, 5 years each, the 2nd, renewable at council’s pleasure, thereby reducing the politicking of the appointment process to just a one-time thing. Probably pragmatic politics but for the absolute wrong reasons.

I mean, what reason is there to resist strengthening oversight of the operations at City Hall, both the public service and elected officials? There’s been no credible criticism of the job any of the accountability officers have done. Report after report from them has been accepted by city council and city staff, many recommendations implemented. pokeintheeyeThis has never been a question of competence or performance.

So, what then?

There is no good or satisfying answer to that. Various councillors, including one currently under criminal investigation for accepting $80,000 from a fundraiser back in 2013, have seen the accountability investigations as some sort of witch hunt. During the hyper-partisan years of the Ford Administration, the work done by the Ombudsman, Integrity Commissioner, Lobbyist Registrar became characterized as some sort of left-right issue, non-elected bodies trying to undermine the democratic will of the voters of Toronto. These weren’t misdeeds or missteps being committed, but acts running contrary to the sore losers on the left.

Such were dynamics of the day.

Yet these motions seem intent on dragging this past fractiousness forward, keeping the matter alive. The mayor, councillors Campbell, Di Ciano, Holyday had nothing to do with any of it. Now they seem to want to join the fray. (Matt Elliott has his usual excellent insight into the seemingly passive-aggressive role Mayor Tory’s playing in this sad melodrama.) suffocateIt’s not even clear whether the motion will be in order, if it contravenes the City of Toronto Act, which had established the accountability offices or would require changing that act.

With so much else that needs tending to in Toronto, we all know the list: infrastructure, affordable housing, transit, why are councillors wasting their time, as well as ours, and, undoubtedly, threatening to further dig a partisan divide, by attacking and diminishing the accountability offices?

We need to listen very carefully to each and every councillor who rises to speak in favour of this motion next week at city council. They must spell out clearly and concisely why they think folding 4 offices into 2, 4 offices which overlap only in the function of providing oversight, will help to increase transparency and public scrutiny of the job City Hall is doing. Because, right now, I can’t think of one compelling reason to do what councillors Holyday and Di Ciano are proposing to do. Not one.

Moreover, Mayor Tory needs to step up to the plate and lead the charge killing this thing. He is too back-roomed up, too chock full of potential conflicts of interest through his continued affiliation with the likes of Rogers, brooma senior staffer of his and former lobbyist already tsked tsked by the Registrar for a lobbying transgression back in 2012 and raising eyebrows in his current capacity for talking up a Toronto Library Board candidate for the chair, to be seen as anything other than unequivocal in his opposition to any potential weakening of the accountability offices. The mayor cannot shy away from this this time around. Otherwise, he will establish the tone at City Hall that oversight is negotiable.

dubiously submitted by Cityslikr


Free To Be Mammoliti

December 12, 2014

So maybe we all should stop the tsk, tsk, tsking of disapproval toward Ward 7 York West residents and grant them a well-earned cynicism in regard to a certain long serving city councillor of theirs, one Giorgio Mammoliti.tsktsktsk

Pleading guilty to 4 charges of campaign overspending and ‘filing false paperwork’ during the 2010 election, the councillor was subject to a fine of $17, 500 which includes paying back the $10-12,000 he ‘inadvertently’ overspent. But don’t feel too badly for Mr. Mammoliti. He’s still got the $80,000 he pocketed from an illegal fundraiser last year minus 3 months salary the Integrity Commissioner dinged him for as a result of that illegal fundraiser minus the legal fees he’s racked up taking the city to court to fight that ruling plus $20,000 the city council just yesterday agreed to contribute to those legal fees.

“We all have different strengths,” Denis Lee, Justice of the Peace said during his ruling. “Unfortunately for Mr. Mammoliti, things went off the rail. He’s here today to take his lumps.”

“The court is of the opinion that you did act in good faith at all times — and there may have been an error in judgment in appointing who you did as your financial assistant. shrugAnd while the responsibility still is yours, the court is of the opinion that, taking everything into consideration, what has been presented to the court today is a very fair position on all these matters.”

Keep in mind here that Councillor Mammoliti has been an elected official for the better part of 25 years now, starting as a one-term M.P.P. from 1990-95 and then a city councillor since 1995. 2010 was his 6th municipal campaign (once in North York, the rest in amalgamated Toronto). The only difference 4 years ago was Mammoliti started out running for mayor before hightailing it back to his ward race when the run for the top job became an obvious lost cause.

The Justice of the Peace could have tossed the councillor from office but chose instead a financial shrug. So it’s difficult to view the ruling as Mammoliti taking any sort of lumps. offtherailsMore to the point, the idea that the councillor possesses the ability to act in good faith, never mind ‘at all times’, simply strains any attempts to attach a meaningful definition to that term.

I’m no legal scholar but I imagine the councillor’s most recent legal woes including being under police investigation had no bearing on today’s judgment. Priors may figure into a court ruling. Can currents?

It’s just hard for me to get my head around the fact that a veteran politician like Giorgio Mammoliti could be treated with such kid gloves. “Things went off the rail.” Mistakes were made. Mix ups happen. What are you going to do?

So why shouldn’t residents in Ward 7 be cynical? If the institutions meant to keep our politicians honest fail to do so, if they simply shrug and grant offenders political mulligans, how can we possibly chastise voters for figuring what’s it matter, it’s not going to make a difference who’s in office, they’re all the same? shirtlessmammolitiSince there are obviously no repercussions to bad behaviour, why should the public believe any politician will play by the rules?

Exposed to regular lapses of ethical conduct over the past 4 years from the likes of Councillor Mammoliti, the previous mayor, his ex-councillor brother, the new chair of the Planning and Growth Management Committee, and with apparently no recourse to hand out appropriate punishment, we leave it up to voters to chase the offenders from office. But if they have no faith in the system to keep the players playing fairly, why wouldn’t they conclude the next one’s going to be as bad? They’re all crooks and liars, right? All politicians are only in it for themselves and their deep-pocketed friends.

With the whole thing so broad strokingly tarnished, when it comes around to casting a ballot, many voters simply won’t bother. It only encourages the bastards. If they can summon up a sense of civic duty, why not just go with the devil you know? We know how bad he is. The other guy could be worse.trainwreck

Until we decide to act forcefully and justly with politicians who abuse the system and the public’s trust in it, we should hardly blame one tiny segment of voters for not making an example of one particularly egregious offender. The whole thing’s broken. There’s no reason for Ward 7 residents to think otherwise. There’s no reason for the likes of Giorgio Mammoliti not to realize it too and continue to push the limits because there doesn’t seem to be any serious downside not to.

fellow in cynicismly submitted by Cityslikr


An Open Letter To Rob Ford Supporters

July 14, 2010

Dear Supporters of Mayoral Candidate Rob Ford,

I’m writing to you not to mock or belittle you, or to denigrate your candidate of choice for mayor of Toronto, Rob Ford. I’ve participated in such easy activities in the past but now want to build a bridge between us. Your man just might win the election in October, so I want to understand how that could possibly happen and how you imagine a Mayor Ford administration is going to help make your lives better. Consider this a letter asking for some clarity from you.

In his column last week, the Toronto Star’s Christopher Hume suggested that Ford represents the suburban anger that has reached a boiling point more than a decade after the enforced amalgamation made us all one. Your concerns have been marginalized by downtowners such as myself, shrugged off while we’ve been busy eating our brie and sushi, sipping lattes and demanding bike lanes, increased transit in the core and conducting our War on Cars, your cars no less.

Fair enough, and undoubtedly true. None of us wanted to be part of the megacity and it seems that those of you living in the outer ring of it in places like Scarborough, North York and Rob Ford’s home turf of Etobicoke feel you got the raw end of the deal. You’ll get no arguments from us here about that. Amalgamation’s miracle of efficiency and money savings never really worked out as well as we were to told it would, especially for you folks out there on the fringes.

Interestingly, Mr. Ford, the fighter for the little guy, takes every opportunity to evoke the memory of his beloved late father, Doug Ford who, as a backbench M.P.P. in the Mike Harris government, sat on his hands during the debate over amalgamation except to raise it in favour of the motion when it came to vote it into law. In direct defiance of over 70% of his constituents, Rob Ford’s father helped usher in an era of municipal governance his son and his supporters now rail against. Nothing more than an example of irony, I guess, but I do hope his father’s anti-democratic tendencies didn’t brush off on his son.

So let’s say your man becomes mayor and is able to muster a majority of the new council to support his way of thinking. (The second scenario much less likely than the first.) A frenzy of cutting taxes and slashing spending ensues. You wind up with a little more money in your pocket and fewer services at your disposal. Now what? How is it your lives are going to be improved because of that?

Transit City – a plan put into place to deliver better service to the areas of the city you live – will be gutted. Replaced by some mystical, magical building of subways your candidate insists the private sector will do for some strange reason that they have not yet thought of. That’s as detailed as his transit plan goes. Aside from making the TTC an essential service, the matter isn’t even referred to in the Issue section of his website. How is that going to get you from point A to B any faster or lessen the traffic congestion that is now part of your life?

I’m also mystified how cutting council numbers in half is going to increase Mr. Ford’s vaunted customer service agenda. I know you love to believe that every other councillor except Rob Ford simply sits around doing nothing more than counting ways they can steal your money except for when they’re partying with Kyle Rae but that is nothing more than an ideological fantasy. Fewer elected officials at City Hall (plus their respective staff) can only deliver better customer service if there’s less services to deliver. Maybe you’re content with that. Fair enough. That’s a different vision than making people’s lives better.

And all that money the city will supposedly save? Even taking Mr. Ford’s numbers at face value which is always an iffy proposition (take a moment to read Simon McNeil’s Writing and Tutoring blog post for an analysis of candidate Ford’s questionable numbers and spotty savings), he claims that eliminating 22 councillors and their staff will save the city $9 million a year in direct savings plus another $6 million due to some sort of nebulous “reduced burden on City Hall staff”. Reduced burden? Would someone please explain that one to me? Less demand on City Hall because it’s doing less?

Even giving Ford the dubious $15 million annual savings with cutting the council in half, what’s that going to do? In terms of a $9.2 billion budget it represents less than a percent. Much, much less. How much less? Let me write it out to 18 decimal points if it helps. 0.0016304347826086956. You know what $15 million will get you in terms of subways even factoring in the lowest estimated cost to build one subway stop? Half one percent of one. So with that cost savings, Rob Ford will be able to build one subway stop every 20, 000 years.* Oh right, I forgot. In Rob Ford’s world the private sector will step right up and build subways once governments get out of their way.

His candidacy just makes no sense to me, Rob Ford supporters, and it’s not like I won’t personally benefit if he becomes mayor. My taxes will go down (although user fees will very likely gobble up much of those gains.) I don’t depend on the city services that a Mayor Ford would attempt to cut. Oh sure, I’ll probably lose a bike lane or two but mostly my life down here in the core will be unaffected if your candidate wins in October. Except that, the city will feel a little more… vindictive.

Because that’s the vibe I get from your campaign. Vindictiveness. It doesn’t feel like what’s driving you is justified anger or outrage. It’s more of a temper tantrum. Rather than fighting to secure a better place for yourselves within the amalgamated city and thereby making the entire city a better place to live and work, you simply want everyone to be as pissed off as your are, as your candidate is.

It’s purely the politics of destruction and wherever it’s been tried before has never made anyone’s life better. How will it work this time around?

earnestly (and unironically) submitted by Urban Sophisticat

* Math may not be exact but it’s no more than one decimal point off. Either way, savings are going to miniscule.