Oh, Etobicoke

May 18, 2014

whatareyousayingIf you’ve ever found yourself staring incredulously at the awful antics of some elected representative and stopped to wonder, Who the fuck elects these idiots?, have a quick gander here. It appears it really does take a village.

“Staff of a residential home for developmentally disabled youth with mental health issues newlyopened in a north Etobicoke neighbourhood faced an angry, anxious group of residents Thursday night.”

“Griffin Centre is a non-profit, multiservice mental health agency that operates five residential homes across the city and in Richmond Hill and offers programs and services funded by the Ministry of Community and Social Services and the Ministry for Children and Youth Services.

The centre recently purchased and renovated the house at 22 Jeffcoat Dr. where four challenged youth, some with autism, have lived for the past two months. All have learning issues and emotional problems, which include anxiety, depression, explosive anger and complicated family situations that prevent them from living at home, Deanna Dannell, Griffin Centre’s director of youth and family support services, told the crowd.

Staff are in the house “24/7” she said, adding staff are trained to deal with “aggressive and volatile behaviour, part of which is knowing when to call the police. Typically, we don’t have emergency services come as much as they have in the last few weeks.”

Asked the nature of police calls, a 23 Division officer explained police remove a child from the home under the Ontario Mental Health Act and take them to hospital when the child is a danger to himself or herself, or a danger to others, including other residents or home staff.”

Within 10 minutes of the meeting arranged by the ward councillor of the neighbourhood, Doug Ford, at the 23 Division police station, some of the ‘anxious residents’ were demanding explanations.

angryvoters

“This is not a place for mental people. This is a residential area. Why don’t you build a house out on a farm?”

“There is nothing wrong with what the Griffin group is doing with these children. They’re just doing it in the wrong location.”

“What do I say to my three kids under the age of seven when one of these kids freaks out? When my child says, ‘Mommy, why are there police here again?’ What do I say?”

“The solution is for them to move out. Locate the facility in another place. This is a community for people, not for that. I have nothing against the kids. If the kids need help, they need help.”

Is it any wonder these people elected someone like Doug Ford (and his brother Rob before him) to represent them at City Hall? The lack of empathy or understanding. Their inability to deal with anyone who isn’t just like them. The shocking sense of entitlement. This is a community for people not for the mentals.

Of course, their councillor did pretty much what we’ve come to expect from him in situations like these. Pour gasoline on the fire of outrage. After arriving 25 minutes late, of course.

gastofire

“You can’t destroy a community like this,” the councillor said. “People have worked 30 years for their home. My heart goes out to kids with autism. But no one told me they’d be leaving the house. If it comes down to it, I’ll buy the house myself and resell it.”

No one told Councillor Ford the mentals would be allowed to roam free. I mean, come on. His heart goes out to the kids but what about the normal people? The hardworking normal people?

What’s with Etobicoke? Especially those areas of it represented by the Fords, Doug Holyday, Gloria Lindsay Luby. If it’s not group homes or social housing they’re trying to keep at bay, they’re opposed to children being raised downtown (L’il Ginnys) or sidewalks. Yeah, they’re against sidewalks.

How the fuck are we supposed to build a cohesive, healthy, equitable city when we don’t share certain core values, one of which is not locking away those suffering from mental illness out on some farm or other institution? We tried that for awhile. It didn’t really work out that well.

Sloughing off something you may even deem to be worthy but just not desirable in your neck of the woods onto another part of the city is the exact opposite of neighbourly. Few of us are generous enough in spirit that we seek out areas to live that, I don’t know, highlight the marginalized. We all want a comfortable piece of mind, a safe place for us and our kids and our grandkids to go about their lives.

etobicoke

But we don’t all see difference as threatening, objectionable or unwelcome. That’s what you say to your young children, Mr. Anxious Resident, when they ask what’s going on at that house on the street. We’re not all the same. But that’s OK. Some people need different things in order to live their lives and we can all help out by gracefully accepting that and doing our utmost to adapt to different circumstances.

By being better neighbours.

mystifiedly submitted by Cityslikr


Fool Me Once

October 30, 2013

Let’s just cut to the chase, eliminate the middle man of pretense, and put it right out there killmenowon the table.

The current crop of what we refer to as conservatives (or maybe more fairly, Conservatives… those adhering to contemporary Conservative values) couldn’t give a rat’s ass about public transit. They don’t use it. They think it’s a nuisance, clogging up their roadways and prolonging their daily commute. The only reason they want to put it underground, why they’re all subway champions all of a sudden, is because it’ll be out of their way. Out of sight, out of mind.

Oh, and one other reason.

So they’ll never really have to build it.

whatthehellareyoutalkingaboutWhat other conclusion can you come to reading PC leader Tim Hudak’s lunatic ravings about his party’s public transit policies in last weekend’s Globe and Mail?

“While his preference for subways is well known,” Adrian Morrow writes, “he has never before detailed which extensions he favours or been so explicit that some lines will be on the chopping block. To save money, he will axe parts of the Big Move – the current, $50-billion plan championed by Liberal Premier Kathleen Wynne – which envisions light rail in Mississauga and Hamilton, subway extensions and several dedicated bus corridors across the region.”

Yep. Toss out LRT and dedicated bus ways in the GTHA and build subways instead. Why? Because Mr. Hudak, how did he put it again? “… I do not believe in ripping up existing streets to lay down track.”

Not so fast, says Mississauga mayor and more old school conservative Hazel McCallion. Don’t you be messing with her LRT, Hudak. “We’ve got gridlock in Mississauga and we need the LRT,” she told the Globe and Mail.ohmygod1

But, and I’m postulating here, the opposition leader could care less what Mayor McCallion may want since she’s on her way out of office and there’s a bunch of Mississauga ridings currently Liberal red that could be swung Tory blue if the subway mantra can work its magic in the upcoming provincial election.

World class cities build subways, Hudak will tell Mississaugans. Don’t you want to be world class too, Mississauga? Like Vaughan? Scarborough?

It’s all nonsense, of course. World class cities don’t build subways in places with low density, largely single family dwellings. Why? Because it makes zero sense. It’s prohibitively expensive not only to construct but to operate while being almost impossible to generate the necessary ridership that would actually help reduce congestion on the streets running above them.

On top of which, the idea that you can build such pricey public transit simply by finding efficiencies and not raising revenues is pure fiction. Worse than that, it’s contemptibly bad fiction since it doesn’t even try to pretend it could be real life. If you wanted anything in the world and it didn’t cost a thing, what would it be? waitwhatA subway? Sure, I’ll give you a subway.

So stridently opposed to productively addressing public transit, Tim Hudak appointed newly elected MPP and former mayor of Etobicoke and deputy mayor of Toronto, Doug Holyday, ‘point man’ on the transit file. Holyday, not exactly known as a transit advocate during his days as a municipal politician, is working on the party’s transit plan which, hopefully, will include things like this gem: “It [at-grade light rail] takes away from the road capacity. We’ve got to protect that capacity because there’s no opportunity to build more roads.”

Mr. Holyday is also big on the idea of extending Toronto’s Bloor-Danforth subway westward out to Etobicoke’s border at Sherway Gardens and eventually, fingers crossed, long after most of us are dead presumably, into Mississauga. Why? Ease traffic congestion, of course. lucyandcharliebrownHow? Ummm… WORLD CLASSINESS!!

If they’re not even going to try to have a serious discussion about public transit, why do we even bother listening to them? Given the Progressive Conservative’s track record on this particular issue when they were last in a position of power at Queen’s Park and Tim Hudak was a fresh-faced MPP in the government, they buried subways, cut operating funds to transit organizations like the TTC, you’d think they’d at least be attempting to appear as if they’re taking this matter seriously. But I’m just not seeing it.

Fool me once… etc., etc., etc.

repeatedly submitted by Cityslikr


Endorsing Chris Stockwell

October 2, 2013

For me the really interesting aspect of yesterday’s Etobicoke-York Community Council’s nomination process starstruckfor its preferred candidate to replace Doug Holyday as city councillor for Ward 3 was just how predictable it all was. Much is made of how name recognition plays a major factor in voting at the municipal level. Well, it seems even our elected representatives are more than a little star struck when it comes to making their selections.

In the end it was all about the names. Chris Stockwell. John Nunziata. Even Agnes Potts, for those watching Etobicoke politics over the last 20 years, had a certain name recognition as a former school board trustee and pre-amalgamation councillor.

It makes sense. Savvy political operators take 5 minutes to wow the crowd with a rousing stump speech, outlining all the positive ways they will contribute to the community they’ve been appointed to represent. unimpressiveWhat’s a neophyte outsider to do in the face of that?

Yet, aside from Ms. Potts who stressed her work in the community over the time she spent as an elected official, the frontrunners fizzled at the mic. Never mind the forgettable performances of non-pols like Holyday’s choice, Peter Leon, or the Ford blessed Ross Vaughan. John Nunziata did little more than read off his CV and pledge not to run in Ward 3 in next year’s general election.

The community council’s eventual nominee, Chris Stockwell, was hardly more inspired. In what amounted to an extended shrug, Stockwell said, “I’m simply coming here saying, if you want someone who can hit the ground running and knows how politics works, I’m available.”

Certainly there’s something to that. With barely over a year left in the term, all a complete newcomer to City Hall would be able to accomplish is keeping their head above the water, what with the rope learning they’d be doing. shrugA place holder in every sense of the word.

But aside from his experience — over 20 years in fact, first as an Etobicoke city councillor, then a Metro councillor before moving on to Queen’s Park — there was little talk from Stockwell about stepping forward as a public service. When asked why he wanted the job, his response? After 10 years as a private citizen, he ‘missed it’.

You’d think that kind of statement alone would disqualify him in the eyes of someone like Councillor Doug Ford who hates career politicians. Just another fat cat coming for one last slurp at the trough. Where’s your business sense, Stockwell? Your talk of Lean Six Sigma?

But Councillor Ford had other things on his mind during this whole process.

Along with his mayor-brother and newly re-allied Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti, the councillor was still smarting from the grave injustice done to them Ward 3 by city council in voting against a by-election to replace Holyday. suspiciousLeftists at City Hall were just itching to further deny them Ward 3 their rightful representation and were all probably gathering together in their coven, looking to impose their will on them Ward 3 with a downtown pinko elite cyclist appointee.

So deep was their suspicion that Councillor Mammoliti tried pushing through a referral motion until they could secure a guarantee that the Etobicoke-York Community Council’s decision would be supreme. Much of the motion was ruled out of order by city staff and the Ford Brothers reluctantly agreed that they had to push on with council’s July mandate in selecting a replacement, regardless of the ultimate will of the people to have a by-election. It was just yet another sad example of how downtown was sticking it to the suburbs.

Nothing would serve this narrative better than if council ignored the recommendation of Etobicoke-York Community Council and appointed someone other than Chris Stockwell as the new Ward 3 councillor. dareyouA narrative, coincidentally, the Fords seem to be pushing a lot in the run up to next year’s election campaign. For 4 years, Mayor Ford has been trying to serve the folks of Toronto to the best of his abilities but city council just keeps getting in the way. Not appointing Chris Stockwell would be a perfect illustration of this and give the mayor plenty of ammunition.

And who better to get the downtown lefties’ collective backs up than a former muckie-muck in the Mike Harris government that killed the Eglinton subway and forced amalgamation on Toronto? My guess is, the Ford faction didn’t give a shit about Stockwell’s qualifications or the reasons he wanted the gig. He provided the best opportunity for council to do their bidding and appoint someone else.

Which it shouldn’t, of course. If precedent has it that city council essentially rubber stamps a community council’s choice for appointment, that’s what should happen next week with Chris Stockwell. Not only for the crass reasons of denying Mayor Ford his perfect talking points going forward but because this particular by-election/appointment situation was highly contentious, its outcome rife with questions and concerns of Ward 3 residents as merely after-thoughts in the battle between the mayor and council. chrisstockwell1This won’t be the last time an appointment process will occur. Council should endeavour to keep it as orderly and grounded in rules as possible.

Besides, I think it’ll be interesting to see Stockwell in action again. By all accounts he was as funny and engaging as he was pugnacious. It’s not as if he can be any more right-leaning and mayor-friendly than the man he would be replacing. It’ll be fun watching someone who was part of the team that created so many of the problems this city faces now try and chip in with some solutions.

positively submitted by Cityslikr


Our Real Democratic Deficit

August 27, 2013

To argue yesterday’s city council vote was some sort of subversion or denial of democracy is ohpleasesimply a frank admission that you haven’t really thought much about the issue past headlines and rhetoric. An appointment decided by city council is as valid a process as a by-election, according to the rules. Appointments have happened seven times previously versus two by-elections. Timing is the key, and since no firm rules are in place about that, this remains a grey area.

Initially, protocol and precedent suggested for me that a by-election to fill Ward 3 Etobicoke Centre, vacated by Doug Holyday in his winning bid for a provincial seat, was the way to go. As the staff presentation pointed out, traditionally if a ward was declared vacant before November 30th a year before the next general municipal election, a by-election was called. After that date, an appointment was made in order to avoid having two elections so close to one another.

Ward 3 was declared vacant yesterday, August 26th. So, a by-election it should be. questionsThat was my opinion going into the council meeting.

But it was Councillor Chin Lee who threw a little wrinkle into the proceedings. During his questions to the staff, he pointed out that the city hasn’t faced this situation since moving to a four year term. All the protocol and precedent was based on three years terms. A one year appointment was 33% of the total term. One third of council and committee meetings.

Now? A one year appointment is 25% of the term. If a by-election had been voted on, the new councillor would’ve been present for 8 council meetings. That’s about 16% of the 2010-2014 term council meetings (including the additional special meetings called).

Things aren’t so clear cut, are they?unsure

Still, I would’ve been happy to see a by-election called with the promise to re-visit this matter again in order to recalibrate the parameters for a four year council term. But I’ll leave it to the likes of Councillor Lee to explain the outcome of the vote to any outraged voters. I’m just going to revel in witnessing the appointment process, especially since the likes of former mayoral candidate John Nunziata and former Harris cabinet minister and Doug Ford Sr. bester, Chris Stockwell already expressing interest in the position.

For his part, Mayor Ford did little to help the by-election cause at yesterday’s meeting. He’d been stumping for one almost as soon as it became obvious that an Etobicoke ward was going to be open come August 1st  with two members of Toronto council vying for one provincial seat. It’s really the only thing he’s talked about over the summer.

But he wasn’t prepared to defend his preference beyond anything other than his standard slogans – You Can’t Put A Price On Democracy! – and stunt populism. The people of ward 3 want a by-election. He was simply doing their bidding, he told council over and over. democracydeniedNor would he step back from a hands-on involvement in the by-election if one was called, fueling speculation that this was simply about him getting his election chops in fighting shape for 2014.

Unsurprisingly, the mayor displayed a complete lack of sway in the outcome of the vote.

The easy explanation is that he didn’t really care how the vote went. A vote for a by-election would be trumpeted as a victory for him democracy no, for him democracy. A loss, and council appointing a councillor for ward 3? Just a cudgel he could use during his official re-election campaign next year to beat the drum about the dysfunctional council undermining him and the democratic will of the people. bullhornVote Ford and more Ford friendly councillors so the mayor can really get the job done!

At no time yesterday did you get the sense the mayor’s staff was working the room for votes. There appeared to be no behind the scenes arm-twisting or horse-trading. As I noted last week, aside from a couple official appearances and the community meeting he called about this issue, Mayor Ford was largely absent, certainly not stalking the corridors of City Hall in an attempt to win the vote at special meeting he himself called to deal with this matter.

Maybe that’s also because Mayor Ford has simply lost any ability whatsoever to influence council. He’s become a lame duck, in other words, with more than a year still to go in his first term. He bellows. The majority of councillors (comprising every point on the political spectrum, left-right, suburban-downtown) just shrug. There is no need to fear or even listen to him anymore.

shrugThink about that for a second.

A mayor calls a special meeting of city council to deal with a key item he seems to hold especially dear and doesn’t come close to winning the vote?

He either doesn’t care or is singularly inept at doing his job.

That’s really the take-away from council’s decision to appoint a successor to Doug Holyday in ward 3 rather than hold a by-election. “The worst thing for democracy”? How about a complete abandonment of leadership by the city’s elected leader.

alternatively submitted by Cityslikr


True Believers

August 22, 2013

Sitting in the auditorium of Silverthorn Collegiate in Etobicoke last night, taking in Mayor Rob Ford’s community meeting called to discuss the Ward 3 vacancy created by long time councillor Doug Holyday’s election as MPP earlier this month, I caught a glimpse of the mayor’s fabled populist appeal. It was ever so fleeting but had long eluded me. This is what people, the folks, see in him!

He was explaining the process that had to be adhered to by council and city staff in filling a vacancy mid-term. It’s not overly complicated but it is an either/or scenario involving many if this-es, then that-es. Details, more or less, outlining the different procedures to be followed if choosing between a city council appointment of a new Ward 3 councillor or a by-election for the voters to select one.

It’s territory the mayor isn’t overly interested in, the small picture stuff. Nevertheless, he’d called the meeting so he soldiered through the small print, explaining how both situations would work. boringHe mumbled, hummed and hawed, checked his notes frequently, circled back to repeat something he’d already covered. The whole thing was as torturous for him, evidently, as it was for the audience to sit through.

But here’s the thing. He didn’t try and pretend it was anything other than that. A boring bunch of bureaucratic business he had to go through to set the stage for the rest of the meeting. This was no smooth operator with any glib condescension to the audience. The mayor made no attempt to hide the fact that he didn’t understand things any better than most of the audience.

My a-ha! moment.

The mayor’s just like us.aha

He has a complete and utter lack of guile. How else to explain that one minute he assured everybody that he was going to be neutral at the meeting about hearing everyone’s opinion and 7 minutes later state that “You can’t put a price on democracy” in responding to concerns over the cost of a by-election? “I am trying to be as unbiased as I can be here, folks but…”, hey, that’s just not the mayor’s style.

And the thing is, I think he actually believed it. Just like he actually believed that if the room came out in favour of appointing someone to replace Doug Holyday, he’d go to City Hall on Monday and vote for an appointment. He’s not there to represent his views, he assured the crowd. He’s there to represent their views, the taxpayers’ views.

Never mind that by the meeting’s end he’d somehow come to the conclusion that 70% of the people in Ward 3 wanted a by-election by judging the applause, I guess. allaboutyouEven before counting the pink straw ballots that had been handed out for the audience to mark down their preference, he had already concluded that a by-election was the way to go. But I think he truly believed it was the audience’s decision that sealed the deal for him.

There was no question in my mind as well that a majority of those in attendance at the meeting wanted a by-election. 70%? I’d actually want to count hands at least before offering up any firm number. But certainly more than half of the 100 people or so who came out last night were vocal in stating that preference. Give the mayor his number, 70 people in a ward of over 50,000 people wanted a by-election as the means of getting a new councillor. So, a by-election the mayor will vote for next week.

He will do so, not because that’s his opinion, but the opinion of the people of ward 3.

I don’t think there’ll be one moment during Monday’s debate on the issue that the mayor will think otherwise. He wants a by-election because the people of ward 3 in Etobicoke want a by-election. innocentBecause you can’t put a price on democracy. Because if a new councillor is chosen by council appointment, somebody from Scarborough, of all places, (there was a surprising anti-Scarborough sentiment running through the discussion last night), might be picked to represent ward 3 Etobians. Democracy denied.

None of the push for a by-election on Mayor Ford’s part has anything to do with ensuring his administration gets another rock solid loyalist in the mold of Doug Holyday. Having lost enough allies to already seriously undermine his ability to steer the agenda, he can’t afford to allow any further erosion. One more undependable vote at council won’t help his cause going into an election year.

His preference for a by-election has absolutely nothing to do with his love of campaigning. That’s not what this is about at all. hiddenagendaIt’s about representing the wishes of the people of Etobicoke down at City Hall. It’s not about the mayor’s political survival. It’s about democracy.

I’m convinced Mayor Ford really and truly believes that. It’s what makes him come across as genuine, as a straight shooter, down to earth and not just some slick professional politician. Only cynics would see him as calculating, delusional even.

Those still supporting the mayor support him because they still believe he’s looking out for their best interests. They believe it because the mayor still believes it.

That’ll be a real tough nut to crack.

penny-droppingly submitted by Cityslikr


The Wrong Fight For The Wrong Reason

August 2, 2013

So the 5 Ontario summer by-elections are over, and the ruling Liberal party has been humbled vindicated ignored tickertapeand nothing has changed everything has changed oh, I’m sorry, there were by-elections at Queen’s Park.

The Liberals remain in power and voters are now demanding an immediate general election praying to god we don’t have to go through such a depressing experience again for at least a few months couldn’t care a less.

What we do know, here in this city is that Mayor Ford and his councillor-brother Doug campaigned hard did as much work as they normally do for the winning losing Progressive Conservative party candidate in Etobicoke-Lakeshore Doug Holyday in particular, and the provincial PCs in general. The Tories remain in opposition, emboldened deflated by the results of the by-election, in no more control of the situation in the legislature than they were before the campaigns began. The fate of the government is still in the hands of rewritingthe NDP Green Party who stunned everyone by winning all five by-elections yesterday.

As the Toronto Sun’s Don Peat pointed out, the mayor really made no friends with the Liberals over the course of the last month or so, despite having a mutual love of subways. He took shots at them at every opportunity and made awkward kissy noises with the NDP in a naked attempt to promote vote splitting in the non-Tory vote. You see, Mayor Ford is a dyed-in-the-wool Progressive Conservative. That’s his team. The original blue, folks.

Party Family comes first for politicians like Rob Ford. The job he was elected to do merely an outcome, a result of his politics. Besides, as we’ve learned over the course of the last 3 and a half years, the mayor much prefers campaigning to actually governing. There are no responsibilities like keeping your promises, no consequences to not doing so. It’s just about winning or losing. All so simple. Just like football. Or hockey.

But in this particular game, there are implications to the mayor so blatantly taking sides.

What now of the extra $400 million he’s looking to the province for to build his Scarborough subway? bloodsportWhat possible reason would they have to play nice with him? If they took it on the chin yesterday especially to the PCs benefit, I’m pretty sure the post-mortem isn’t going to be they were not Rob Ford-friendly enough. They lost because their own supporters failed to show up, unimpressed with many things but certainly none of them had to do with being too unfriendly to our mayor.

And if the Liberals weren’t knocked back on their heels? If Tim Hudak’s PC party didn’t step up and assume its predicted rightful position as government in waiting? If our mayor was capable of any sort of self-awareness, well, oops.

Not only did he get all in the face of the government at Queen’s Park to no particular end aside from them being Liberal, it’s not far-fetched to think the mayor’s also further entrenched divisions at City Hall. What self-respecting Liberal sitting on council could now honestly believe that it’s anything other than the mayor’s way or the highway in terms of working with him? This isn’t news but it certainly should be a reality by now.disloyal

Card carrying Liberal party member Peter Milczyn has voted along with Mayor Ford more than 32 other councillors. On almost 9 out of every 10 big ticket issues as tracked by Matt Elliott, Councillor Milczyn backed the mayor, and for what? He’s a great guy, been a great chair of the… Planning and Transportation Planning and Growth Management Committee but, the mayor still very, very visibly campaigns against him.

Frankly, had Councillor Milczyn previously shown any evidence of possessing a backbone, I’d fully expect him to tender his resignation tomorrow morning today as chair of the…. Planning and Transportation Committee and member of the mayor’s Executive Committee. Mayor Ford and his brother showed the councillor absolutely no respect, refusing to simply stand this one out to allow two strong allies to battle with no outside intervention from the Ford family. losingticketBut with the 2014 municipal election just around the corner and Ford Nation lurking somewhere in the weeds out there…

Toronto should feel as equally betrayed by Mayor Ford who put party allegiance before his duty to represent the best interests of the city he was elected to lead. He’s declared himself an enemy of the provincial government who doesn’t appear now to be going away anytime soon. Wrong horse backed, we’re now all going to be paying for our mayor’s losing bet.

to showly submitted by Cityslikr


The Mayor’s True Colours

December 9, 2010

If you’re one of those people who think our city councillors are underworked and overpaid, I highly recommend that you attend a council meeting or two to disabuse you of such inaccurate notions. While just the tip of the iceberg of what their job description, meetings are grinds with as much, if not more, going on behind the scenes as what we see performed out in the open. Yes, you can point to the laggards, those not actively engaged and who would receive failing grades for class participation. I’d be willing to bet that for many of those, the parry and thrust of debate simply is not their forte. They excel in the multitude of other duties councillors are responsible for. And then there’s Cesar Palacio. I kid. I kid. I’m sure every council needs an invisible non-entity taking up space.

Council meetings can also be extraordinarily engrossing to witness. They’re like visual variations on the Pixies song structure. slowslowFASTFASTslowslowFASTslowFASTslowslow. Nothing happens. Nothing happens. Languor and stultifying boredom. Interminable talk about meal breaks. And then, the proposed schedule comes up for a vote and the seemingly innocuous ‘expedited budget process’ lying there within, suddenly mayhem breaks loose. Amendments start flying. Staff is summoned. Councillors scramble to and fro. Points of order demanded. Points of privilege taken. Rhubarb-rhubarb-rhuarb. Rhubarb-rhubarb-rhuarb. And then… calm. Repeat as many times as necessary. Vote. Adjourn.

Now it’s entirely possible that yesterday’s meeting was something of an anomaly. Uncharacteristically fraught with political machinations, the first skirmishes of a new council that has undergone a radical shift from centre-left to far right. Like a couple boxers in the early rounds of a fight, feeling each other out with jabs and some fancy footwork to find weaknesses and vulnerabilities in their opponents.

Opponents? you say. The election is over. City council should be a place where there is a coming together. A meeting of minds to hash out and seek to solve the problems of the city. Leave your partisanship at the door, buckos. Time to roll up your sleeves and get down to the business of building a better Toronto.

Well, no. While City Hall has never been free of politics (especially since amalgamation), this session is shaping up to take the discord to a whole new level. Starting with the executive committee and working down, senior posts in the Ford Administration are exclusively occupied by right wing councillors. More importantly, they are also almost entirely from the suburbs, meaning that on vital, big ticket matters like the police service and budget, there are no voices from downtown at the committee level. No geographic input for voters who didn’t hop aboard the anti-gravy train train.

And no, before you even try blurting it out, David Miller did not do the same thing (exhibit A: his 1st budget chief was a Scarborough councillor from the right of centre who supported Miller’s rival, John Tory in the 2003 election.) Neither did Mel Lastman so nakedly and insecurely pack his committees with such slavish loyalty for that matter.

On day 1, it worked for Mayor Ford. As he crowed to the Globe’s Kelly Grant, “We got everything we wanted.” Yep. Everything came up Ford on Thursday but not without some surprisingly strong pushback from a group of councillors led by Adam Vaughan, Gord Perks and Janet Davis over the ‘expedited budget process’ that the mayor is pushing, hidden within the council schedule proposal. When amendments were offered to give more time for council to sort through budget matters between scheduled meetings and to hear from the public, Team Ford scrambled hard to get just enough votes to send the amendments to the Executive Committee where they will in all likelihood die an ignominious death. A couple squeakers should give pause to the mayor’s machine that it just might not be as invincible as it thinks it is. Although, judging by the 5 hours or so I sat in council chambers, the mayor hasn’t surrounded himself with many of the reflective types.

No, the mayor’s team in council seems to consist of bitter ideologues more interested in exacting revenge for their exclusion from power during the Miller years than they are dealing with the problems of the city. In fact, a noticeable waft of anti-democracy hangs about them. During the debate over public input on the city budget, the Deputy Mayor, Doug Holyday, opined that deputations were largely for those wanting to get their face on cable television. Giorgio Mammoliti chided those councillors fighting for proper and extended public input for representing wards where their constituents were little more than public organizers. “The trouble with processes with lots of time in them, is that they allow people to organize,” the councillor griped. What?! The people organized! Well, that just won’t do.

All of which flies in the face of Mayor Ford’s open and transparent City Hall promise on the campaign trail. His ‘expedited budget process’ seems dodgy and unnecessary. Their claim of merely seeking to eventually shift it to a January 1st-December 31st timeline has as many minuses as it does pluses. The haste in wanting to get the budget wrapped up by the end of February (rather than the usual April) appears to be driven more by stealth than any sort of respect for the taxpayers.

Of course, that seems absolutely preposterous. Rob Ford campaigned on a platform of looking out for the little guy. Surely, his objective now that he’s in office wouldn’t be to exclude them from such an important civic matter as the budget. Because that would mean that within less than one council meeting, he’s already broken one of his main election platforms. Clearly, I must be jumping the gun.

stealthily submitted by Cityslikr