Building Legacies

January 21, 2014

I wish there were times when I could simply agree with the mayor. Just flat out, nod my head, flash two thumbs up and say, the dude’s right. high5broOn this point, the mayor and I are completely simpatico. Now let’s go stormin’ the Sex Laser dance floor. It’s Triumph, baby!

It’d be a display of, I don’t know, rare bipartisanship. Proof that I don’t categorically dismiss everything Mayor Ford stands for simply because it’s Mayor Ford. He says up, I say down. He says black, I say white.

So it could’ve been with our respective responses to a city bid for the 2024 Olympics. Not interested. What?! I said it first! No, I said it first!!

There you have. Mayor Ford and I agree. No 2024 Olympic bid for Toronto.

And yet… and yet…copying

Applauding him for that stance is applauding him for his stubborn anti-everything stance. We come to the same conclusion but arrived there taking very, very different routes. Him? The government should not be in the business of [anything outside of road maintenance and public safety]. Me?

I’m just not convinced the benefits to the city would ultimately outweigh the enormous costs it would be to host such an event. Ditto, an Expo. I’m not yet sold on the upside.

That doesn’t mean I’d rule it out. It’s not unreasonable, I think, to call the recent results of hosting such international gatherings as mixed. For every apparent success story – Salt Lake City? Sydney? Beijing? – there’s an Athens. How did the 2004 summer games work out for them?

Seriously. I’m genuinely asking. I don’t know the answer, and I think it might be because there isn’t any clear cut answer.

unsure1It all depends is probably closer to the truth.

In Canada we have two cities, Montreal and Vancouver, who’ve hosted both the Olympics and their very own Expo. Is it safe to say that the results of each varied considerably? To an ill-informed outsider, Vancouver seemed to have come off alright in both cases. Montreal’s 1967 Expo might be seen as a defining moment not only for the city but the entire country. The 1976 Olympics? Well, there’s that white elephant of a stadium with the faulty roof symbolizing everything that could go wrong.

That’s the most compelling argument that gets made in favour of these things, legacy projects. By landing an Olympics or Expo, we entice all levels of governments to get involved, gussying up the place for the millions of visitors who will make their way here. droolingPut our best foot forward with a brand new stadium here, an athletes’ village there, ready for re-purposing, new public transit everywhere.

New public transit everywhere…. *aaarrggggghhh…. drooling…*

With the 2015 PanAm Games on its way, Toronto is getting help fixing up parts of its waterfront, some much needed affordable housing and, well… let’s not talk about the public transit at this point. While we’re not entirely clear what the costs of all that’ll be yet, there are suggestions it’s going to come in higher than anticipated but that’s not entirely news. Such things tend to be pitched with lower, more acceptable price tags at the outset, only to suffer from what we’ll call the inevitable ‘project creep’. Just comes with the territory on undertaking of this scale.

Now, I’m going to come across as all Pollyannish about this, but why do we require these super spectacles in order to entice our politicians to invest in legacy projects? What happened to wrapping your legacy around restarting an affordable housing boom instead of a sporting event? Mayor/Premier/Prime Minister So-and-So is credited with getting transit building off the ground once again in Toronto/Ontario/Canada. The entirely revitalized Toronto waterfront? cutoutthemiddlemanDue to the dogged determination of Mayor/Premier/Prime Minister So-and-So.

We want international attention? How about becoming a leader in public transit again. Kick start a charge in building affordable housing throughout the city. Let’s pursue a legacy of sustainable living.

What’s with the middlemen from the Olympic or Expo committees? It just seems like a layer of bureaucracy and expense we don’t need to go through to get the stuff we desperately need. Inefficient.

On that, I think the mayor and I can both agree.

for posteritily submitted by Cityslikr


Family Feud

March 15, 2013

Attended a casino information session last night in Liberty Village — @GiveMeLibertyTO, such a great Twitter handle – givemelibertywhich, honestly, wasn’t an information session so much as a citizens’ how-to on resisting a casino development. And frankly, why not? From the outset, this has been a futile exercise in getting the specifics. How much will the city receive in hosting fees? Hundreds of millions of dollars! OK, maybe $168 million? No no, we’re told by OLG. More in the range of $50-$100 million. A degree of magnitudes larger than Windsor receives from its casino.

Months and months into this discussion, we’re still hearing essentially, trust us, we’re in the business of gambling. We’ll treat you right. Listen to OLG’s President and CEO Rod Phillips today on CBC’s Metro Morning. Would you buy a casino from this man and plunk it right down on our waterfront?

I just can’t run down the pros (many still very questionable) and cons (many still unanswered) of this issue again. I canx.

But I was struck by something Michael Cruikshank of York Heritage said at last night’s gathering. That the city’s lack of a plan for the CNE grounds, which could be viewed as little more than a historic parking lot for much of the year, has left it vulnerable to this casino move. hucksterWhy not a casino? It’s not like you’re doing anything else with it.

That’s not a fair assessment. There’s the Allstream Conference Centre. The Ricoh Coliseum and BMO Field are in the vicinity. A new 26 storey hotel is slated to begin construction there sometime soon, which I don’t know how it fits into MGM’s proposed plans at this point.

In fact, I don’t know much about anything that’s going on down on the CNE grounds. Ditto, Ontario Place. What’s up with Ontario Place? I know John Tory headed some planning process for it. Whatever happened to that?

Being an engaged resident takes constant vigilance, I tells you. There’s never enough time in the day to keep informed. You elect people you hope have your best interests at heart, or at least, the city’s best interests. You hope. Fingers crossed.

Is that enough?

And then to hear from members of No Casino Toronto, a certifiable grassroots campaign created to fight the casino plans, talk about heading out into communities like Ward 37 where many of the residents hadn’t heard about the city organized casino town halls and the discussions going on about the issue. keepontopofthingsHuh? How is that possible? Ward 37 is the home to Councillor Michael Thompson, the chair of the Economic Development and Culture Committee. The one committee along with Planning and Growth that has the biggest stake in the debate, some serious skin in the game. How could his residents be unaware of what’s going on?

Fifteen some odd years into this project called amalgamation, we continue to live separate lives it seems. And hey. I’m not pointing fingers here. I don’t have the slightest idea what’s going on in Ward 37 Scarborough Centre, along with probably 40 other wards in Toronto. That’s on me. But how can we act as one entity if many of the residents aren’t part of a city defining moment like hosting a casino, something that will contribute substantially — negatively or positively, we still don’t know yet – to our economic and social well being?

Such a continued divide makes us easy prey to easy exploitation by calculating politicians who thrive on regional tribalism. Nobody benefits when they succeed, not even said politicians. Because nothing substantive or constructive ever gets accomplished under that kind of civic conflict.disengaged

We will simply stumble along, unable to give ourselves nice things.

sadly submitted by Cityslikr