Anger Management

July 9, 2014

After Mayor Ford’s attempted campaign press conference was commandeered by the self-proclaimed #shirtlesshorde yesterday (and the below video is just a fraction of the monumental disruption caused by protesters), there was some talk about the effectiveness of the tactic. Much of it was grounded in how it played to the mayor’s base. Would it paint a picture of this poor guy, fresh out of rehab and on the slow road to recovery, once more under attack by jobless, union-backed, trough-slurping downtown elites. Give the guy a break!

And put a shirt on.

Since his unlikely rise to the mayor’s office in 2010, we’ve been told Rob Ford is like no other politician we’ve ever seen here in Canada. He has a fiercely loyal base that believes unwaveringly that he is just one of them and is always looking out for the little guy. angermanagement2The rules of political engagement are, therefore, different.

What exactly those rules are, however, are not very clear. Ignore him? Attack him? Attack his policies? Mock him? Ignore him? Did I say ‘ignore him’ already?

How do we handle this guy?!

In the post-mortem after his election win, the conventional wisdom was that those of us standing in opposition to the Ford juggernaut failed to understand the anger it had managed to tap into. An anger, much of it in the inner suburbs of the city, at exclusion and disenfranchisement, a feeling of disconnect with the rest of the city especially the downtown core which was perceived as the sole beneficiary of the upside to amalgamation. It had all the good transit, the booming economy represented by all the cranes on the skyline, the perks and fancy public spaces. angryvotersAll mostly paid by the hardworking taxpayers struggling to get by out in the suburbs.

Understand that anger and you’d understand the Ford appeal.

If only it were that easy.

It wasn’t so much that nobody got the anger. Only the most smug, self-satisfied Torontonian could think we weren’t surrounded by high degrees of inequality and isolation, political disenchantment and deeply rooted regional antagonism. angryPeople were unhappy, and many of them rightfully so.

The problem was, there were no quick and easy solutions, and none that the city could address all on its own. The Miller administration was pushing better transit further into the inner suburbs with Transit City and a ridership growth plan. Business property taxes were being adjusted in an effort to attract employers into the city and create more jobs. There were programs like the Tower Renewal introduced.

Systemic change takes time, and in 2010 it got crushed under a steamroller of retail politics. Rob Ford wrangled all the disaffection by offering simple solutions and slick slogans. There was no problem that couldn’t be solved by simply Respecting the Taxpayer. angrymobOr Stopping the Gravy Train.

He took the anger, made it angrier and rode it all the way into the mayor’s office.

Now, four years later, we tremble in fear of in any way poking the angry bear we call Ford Nation.

Don’t attack the mayor. It’ll get the base angry. Don’t make fun of the mayor. It’ll make the base angry. Don’t talk about the mayor’s bad behaviour. It’ll make the base angry. And, for godsakes, put on your shirt or you’ll make the base angry.

An angry Ford Nation is a motivated Ford Nation. A motivated Ford Nation means a re-elected Rob Ford.

So, shhhh! Don’t wake the angry bear.angrywhiteguy

I don’t know. Maybe there’s some wisdom in all that. Anger is tough to sustain, and all recent indications suggest there’s no upward mobility for the Ford campaign. Keep your composure, stand back, let him crash and burn, move on.

But you know, there’s a bigger matter at work here. Our local democracy is more than Rob Ford and these last four extraordinary, at times, demoralizing years. Politics here will continue when Ford leaves the stage, one way or the other. I’m not sure we start to repair things in any significant manner by silently holding the door for him on his way out. Here’s your hat and crack. What’s your hurry?

Four years ago – and I say this through gritted teeth – Rob Ford was something of a blank slate. angrymanHis possible mayoralty, theoretical. When he won, there was something of a reluctant hope against hope. Maybe the office would moderate his immoderate views? He’d have to reach out beyond his supporters to secure a workable mandate at City Hall, wouldn’t he? His brother (and this hope turned out to be the most fantastical), newly elected to council, would be a temperate influence. He’d be the smart one.

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!

Well now, that all turned out to be unfounded dreaming. Rob Ford has a deplorable track record as mayor based on a mountain of lies and gross misconduct. Nothing he says is true. He has ripped up more than he has built. angrywhiteguy1By any measure, he is a spectacularly failed mayor.

And he wants to be re-elected.

Meanwhile, we’re advised to keep calm, our eyes averted, fingers crossed and hope this whole tempest blows over.

What exactly does that kind of negligent compliance signal for the future?

Rob Ford’s reckless governance and personal behaviour, his disregard for common decency has degraded the office of the mayor of Toronto and smeared City Hall. Allowing him a free pass, quietly waiting for the end, is tantamount to a dereliction of our civic duty as residents of this city.

That’s what the Joe Killoran incident was all about. Unfiltered anger at an unrepentant, untrustworthy, entitled politician who somehow is still able to hold onto public office and be out asking for 4 more years. What does it say about us that we stand back, questioning the motives and tactics of those speaking out in order to ensure that all the ugliness just quietly goes away?

While we do, the mayor’s so-called ‘sobriety coach’ kicks a member of the public. The mayor continues to pretend his rehab stunt was anything but a campaign publicity stunt. The mayor remains seated during a standing ovation for the success of hosting World Pride this year.

So I say, rage on John Furr and the shirtless horde! Remain angry. Vigil on, Rob Ford Must Go! Keep reminding us that our mayor remains unfit for office. That he remains a lying disgrace of a human being. Time and time again, he’s betrayed our trust and pissed on everything the city touts to represent.

Don’t be angry? How can you not be angry?

angrily submitted by Cityslikr


Rules Are For Others

April 23, 2014

Let’s suppose for a moment that the Toronto Community Housing Corporation is a big steaming pile of a mess. fierybuildingsThere is evidence to support such a supposition. Hundreds of millions of dollars in state of good repair needed. An impossibly long waiting list of prospective tenants. Tales of cockroaches, bed bugs and fire inducing hoarding.

Let’s also suppose that the fault for all this lies solely with TCHC management. The rot starts at the head, it is said. There is less evidence to support such an assumption but go with me on this for a bit. There were all those chocolates a few years ago. Spa retreats. Yaddie, yaddie.

Something stinks here. Something’s broken. All the king’s men and all the king’s horses…

So obviously, what the TCHC needs is a good shake-up. An ol’ fashion ass-kickin’. Names will be taken later but right now, all bets are off. These HR rules and regulations are what got us into this pickle in the first place, creating a cushy culture of complacency and cosy comfort. Time to bring the pain. Hello, culture of fear.

We don’t need no stinkin’ badges!yosemitesam

Terminate with extreme prejudice.

Even if we’d arrived at such a situation, even if such measures of disregard for protocol and standard operating procedure that the Ombudsman uncovered under TCHC CEO Gene Jones were effective outside of the movies or a flagging sports franchise (and listening to the interview with Schulich School of Business professor Alan Middleton on Metro Morning, it seems highly dubious they are), even if you adhere to some variation of the ends justifying means, what exactly were the ends? Surely Mr. Jones and other members of the TCHC board had a plan, an and then what. We shake this shit up and then..?

If there was some kind of strategy, some method to the madness, to the culture of fear, it hasn’t seemed to have surfaced. The logical follow up to the untendered hirings and firings without cause has yet to make itself evident. shakeitupWe await the appearance of the omelette after the breaking of all those eggs.

Order needs to be restored. Otherwise this just seems like summary executions for the sake of giving the appearance of something being done. Filling the depleted ranks with loyalists and call it The New Team, Under New Management. Fine. So, now what?

Besides, if such a purge was necessary to get the TCHC house in order, as they say, why ignore the rules that were in place to do it? If you have to fire people without cause, maybe you should take a moment to think about it first. Just because is another way of saying without cause. Just because is a pretty flimsy foundation. It’s awfully close to just because I can.

Unless Gene Jones can stand up to public scrutiny and explain why he did what he did since taking over the TCHC, citybuildingand what exactly his plans are going forward because of the course of action he has taken, this simply smacks of petty tyrant shit. A man with no plan except to show up, terrorize the staff into submission, surround himself with loyalists he doesn’t even have the confidence in to subject them to normal hiring practices. Because… well, because… that’s what he was hired to do.

If Gene Jones has no plan other than to wreak havoc on the TCHC, it is simply the sad reflection of the man who remains in his corner, defiantly. Let’s face it. Mayor Rob Ford’s approach to governance is no more extensive or involved than just that. Wreak havoc. Instill a culture of fear and intimidation. Surround himself with friends, allies and toadies to help him out in his righteous indignation with government. The Ford way.

The mayor’s never made much pretense in his attitude toward social housing and City Hall’s involvement in it. Privatize. Sell it off. Vouchers for tenants to contend out there in the free market. Governtexaschainsawmassacrement shouldn’t be in the business of…

You’ve heard that song and dance before.

I imagine in Mayor Ford’s eyes, Gene Jones did absolutely nothing wrong. He’s a doer not a talker. He gets things done, shakes it up a little. And if there’s a mess left behind, it’s hardly the fault of Gene Jones. It’s just further proof that anything government gets involved in just turns to shit. That’s what governments do best. Gene Jones, not unlike the mayor, is simply another victim to the ruinous presence of government in our lives.

obligingly submitted by Cityslikr


A New Generation Of Suburban Resentment

March 25, 2014

How would you best sum up Councillor Michelle Berardinetti’s (Ward 35 Scarborough Southwest) first term in office? is a question nobody’s asked me until now.surprisedbythequestion

Hmmm. Councillor Berardinetti, huh? Ward 35 Scarborough Southwest, eh?

Elephants, bike lane hatred and other terribly misguided public transit views.

Yeah. That about sums it up.

As to the elephants, I can’t offer up much in the way of analysis. Something about moving them from an unhealthy environment at the Toronto Zoo to a nicer place more conducive to the elephant lifestyle. How best to do that. Bob Barker. Different coloured t-shirts in the council chamber.

I remember Councillor Berardinetti being all up in that debate. No judgement from me about it. Wasn’t high on my list of things to be concerned about. bobbarkerKudos to the councillor for making it one of hers.

While she seemed to love the elephants, Councillor Berardinetti had little time for bike lanes. During the 2010 campaign, she claimed that some residents living along Pharmacy Avenue had moved because they could not “get out of their own driveway”, and within a year of taking over as councillor in Ward 35 had the damn bike lanes torn up along with those on Jarvis Street. In fact, run through this list of council votes from July 2011. Councillor Berardinetti pretty much came out against every pro-biking measure.

We get it, councillor. You represent a suburban ward. Everybody likes to drive there. Bikes have no place in your vision of how a city moves people around.

Or LRTs, for that matter.

Between she and Councillor Glenn De Baeremaeker (Ward 38 Scarborough Centre), they played point for the 7 other Scarborough councillors who eventually helped then TTC Chair Karen Stintz flip the planned Bloor-Danforth LRT extension to a subway. crybabiesNot so much good cop-bad cop, the two traded off on being perpetually outraged and indignant. World class transit! Scarborough is owed! Selfish downtowners!

“You can’t go to residents with revenue tools and not even deliver a subway,” Councillor Berardinetti pronounced. Subways are the only mode of transit worth paying for. Nothing for nothing. Something for subways.

Yeah so, pretty much stamp their feet, whine loudly and hold their collective breath until they got their way.

To give her full marks, at least Councillor Berardinetti had been consistent in her opinion that Scarborough deserved a subway, any subway. She went along with Mayor Ford when he sought to bury the Eglinton crosstown and agreed that his Sheppard subway folly didn’t need any of the Dr. Gordon Chong suggested revenue tools to proceed. The councillor was an early and eager adopter of the Scarborough LRT/subway swap, even voting for an additional property tax increase to fund it, waitingforasubwayan inclination she didn’t show a lot of on almost any other issue so far during her time at City Hall.

Throughout much of this term, Councillor Michelle Berardinetti has proven herself comfortably in line with Mayor Rob Ford, especially on fiscal matters. She’s voted to keep taxes low, freezing and eliminating important sources of revenue. Just this year, as a member of the Budget Committee, she pushed a motion to ignore the staff recommended property tax increase, lowering it by .25% and making up the difference with any surpluses from the projected Land Transfer Tax revenue. Credit where credit’s due, the councillor didn’t then turn around and vote in favour of a report looking at any possible reduction in the LTT rate.

She pretty much reflects the arc of the city council story during the Ford era. As an original member of his powerful Executive Committee, Councillor Berardinetti enabled all his destructive instincts early on. But as he pissed away his power to influence the agenda, she slowly changed course, jumping from the Executive Committee during the mid-term shuffle. berardinettifordShe had also left the Budget Committee for a while from March 2012 until January of the following year. A trendsetter, let’s call her. Totally comfortable with his policies but unhappy with his politicking.

Maybe this might play well for her constituents.

In 2010, she handily beat incumbent Adrian Heaps, concluding a bitter struggle that had gone back to the 2006 election that resulted in lawsuits and all sorts of legal wrangling. Ward 35 went strongly pro-Rob Ford in that election, so maybe she’s tapped into a certain ambivalence toward the mayor amongst her residence, loving the message, just not the messenger. If that’s the case, she may be hard to unseat.

But if anybody were to run against her based on her record, take her to task for her habit of underfunding the city’s ability to pay for programs and services, call her out on her subway love taking priority over common fiscal (not to mention transit) sense, Councillor Berardinetti would have a lot to answer for. She’s been very much at the epicentre of a couple of the city’s most divisive debates over the last three years, nutcrackerand has not provided a particularly cooperative voice, opting instead for the us-versus-them, suburban-versus-downtown tone of anger and resentment that has plagued Toronto since amalgamation. Having been put into a couple positions of leadership as a first time councillor, with an opportunity to change that tone, she failed to provide much leadership at all.

It’s hard to imagine she’ll grow into the role going forward, having adopted the familiar position of Scarborough councillor with a chip on their shoulder that seems to be the commonplace feature with many. Why change? It’s an approach that’s been working since long before Councillor Berardinetti came to Toronto City Hall.

unimpressedly submitted by Cityslikr


Go, Go, Go Giorgio

March 18, 2014

STOP THE (WORD) PRESSES!!

stopthepressesBreaking news in our Wards To Watch 2014!

Yesterday, Keegan Henry-Mathieu registered to run for city councillor in Ward 7 York West.

Why is this so newsworthy? Two words. Giorgio Mammoliti.

In our very first post of this series, we implored voters of Ward 7 to rid our city of this clown prince of municipal politics. Along with the Ford Brothers and Councillor Frances Nunziata, Mammoliti makes up one third of the unholy triumvirate of City Hall’s masters of divisiveness, discord and dysfunction. I know much of the campaign focus has been and will continue to be on the mayor’s race with an eye to ending the current reign of error but I cannot stress enough how chasing Giorgio Mammoliti from council would contribute to restoring much calm, decorum and civility as well.chasetheclown

As the councillor likes to point out regularly, in an attempt to deepen the urban-suburban fault line to his advantage, his ward never gets anything. And exactly whose fault is that, Giorgio? In his capacity as both an MPP and then city councillor for the area since 1990, more than a little of the blame should rest on his shoulders. He made it clear repeatedly throughout this term that it was a subway or nothing along Finch Avenue even if his residents had to wait a 100 years. His constant motions to freeze property taxes would also serve to provide a whole lot of nothing for Ward 7 residents.

Councillor Mammoliti also appears to hold the adherence to rules in as much disdain as he does his constituents. shirtlessmammolitiDuring this term, he’s been dinged with some ethical taint not once, not twice but three times. There are those 2010 campaign spending charges. There’s that questionable fundraiser now under investigation by Toronto’s Integrity Commissioner. Last fall, it was suggested that the councillor was paying below market rent owned by a developer that does business with the city.

It all adds up to a big ol’ bucket of What the Fuck? Just whose interests has Councillor Mammoliti been serving at City Hall?

While no official endorsement at this point, I will say that Keegan Henry-Mathieu appears on the tattered political landscape of Ward 7 like a refreshing breeze. I’ve met him a couple times in passing. He is some engaged, having spent time at City Hall as part of the Toronto Youth Cabinet, with an interest on issues like poverty, priority neighbourhoods, nutritional programs and equity. He would represent a much needed new voice on council and for Ward 7.keepcalmandturnthepage

Along with Lekan Olawoye who is challenging long time Ward 12 York South-Weston incumbent, Frank Di Giorgio, maybe Mr. Henry-Mathieu represents a new wave rising up against the old guard in the former city of York. If we could get somebody willing to step into the ring with Ward 11 York South-Weston councillor, Frances Nunziata, it might just be a movement stirring. A new generation of politicians, truly representing a post-amalgamated Toronto.

First, they take York. Then, they take Scarborough…

A guy can dream, can’t he?

hopefully submitted by Cityslikr


Is Not Bad Good Enough?

March 4, 2014

Councillor Gloria Lindsay Luby (Ward 4 Etobicoke Centre) seems like a nice enough person. In the current toxic political atmosphere at City Hall where ugly Tea Party conservatism sits at the seat of power (at least, it did for awhile)cotillion and the opposition to it rabid, she comes across like a moderating voice. Soft suburban centre right with a smiley face. All southern-like charm and mint juleps.

Anyone who has drawn the indignant ire of the Ford clan as regularly as Councillor Lindsay Luby has – A waste of skin, anyone? – is alright in our books.

Still…

She is a self-proclaimed conservative. She is from Etobicoke. There are times when her biggest concerns seem to revolve around lawn care and road maintenance. A throwback to an earlier era. Something of an anachronism and somewhat out of place on a big city city council. Mayberry meets Metropolis.

The councillor’s not a big fan of taxes but she does like her mechanized curbside leaf collection. Free plastic bags are an absolute necessity. A fully staffed environmental office? M’eh. keepoffthegrassThere is such a thing as too much funding for student nutritional programs. Consider cutting the size of city council in half? Nope. Ranked ballots and permanent resident voting? Nope and nope.

It’s pretty much steady as she goes government for Councillor Lindsay Luby. Let’s not shake up the status quo. This is a nice town. That’s never been the demographic in these parts.

Granted, there have been times when the councillor stands up to speak at council and you think, oh wow!, she’s going to do something unexpected. She reasons through an issue, sounding convinced that it’s time to alter course, that we’re going to see a different Councillor Lindsay Luby. And then, boom. She doesn’t and we don’t. Concern expressed but not resolve.

A glance through Matt Elliott’s council scorecard for this term also shows something of a higher rate of absenteeism for votes by Councillor Lindsay Luby. Admittedly, it is a small sample size, only some 105 of the votes cast over the past 3+ years. The councillor has missed 19 of them, which is only 18% but that puts her right up there with serial vote skipper, Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti (Ward 7 York West), and he actually missed some of the votes due to illness. Even compared to the likes of Councillor Mark Grimes (Ward 6 Etobicoke-Lakeshore) who, on the best of days seems like he’d rather be anywhere else other than sitting through a city council meeting, floatingplasticbagLindsay Luby’s absences are noticeable.

While it may be unfair to the councillor to truly judge her performance based on this term alone, it has been, frankly, nothing more than a series of one distraction from governance after another, she hasn’t stood as a champion of anything notable. At least not in any sort of forward thinking direction. She really wanted the 5 cent fee for plastic bags gone. And she was point person for the fight against the Humbertown redevelopment in her ward. A fight that, to her credit, didn’t wind up going to the OMB, proving that you can fight City Hall if you’re an affluent neighbourhood with the money to draw up your own set of alternate plans.

But we already knew that, didn’t we.

Councillor Lindsay Luby is a long time Etobicoke city councillor, dating back all the way past amalgamation to 1985. Her toughest fight came last election when the Ford juggernaut tried to finally take her out. That opponent, John Campbell, is back for another run at her this time out but if nothing else, Ms. Lindsay Luby has shown a scrapper’s instinct and will not be easily unseated.

Ward 4 could do worse, I guess. Certainly compared to the hideousness of some of the right wing representation thrown up at us from Etobicoke, Councillor Lindsay Luby is something of a cool breeze. stubbornasamuleBut ‘could do worse’ is hardly a ringing endorsement. The flip side is it could also do better. Until Etobicoke starts trying to do better, starts electing local politicians prepared to meet the demands and challenges of the amalgamated city in a 21st-century way, it will continue to be a soft spot in Toronto’s governance model. A recalcitrant partner in shaping the city in the ways it needs in order for it to perform in any sort of fully functional manner.

so-soly submitted by Cityslikr


A City Is Public Domain

January 9, 2014

Point 2.happycity

(Point 1 being from Monday that began our search for a 2014 campaign manifesto creed. A document to move us beyond talk of taxpayers, to find words or ideas that encompass the complexity of our relationship with each other and the city we live in. In his book Happy City, Charles Montgomery cites Henri Lefebvre who talks of citizens and denizens. Citadin, he says. Citident? Resizen? We’ll keep working on it.)

We have been pitched a faulty narrative over the course of the last few years, decades really, if we go back to Margaret Thatcher’s claim that there is no such thing as society. Here in Toronto since 2010, it’s all been about the taxpayer. That hardworking, heroic figure who just wants to make a few bucks, put food on the table for his family, maybe have a coupla pops on a Friday night. The little guy.

The only thing standing in the way — like a streetcar hogging up two perfectly good lanes of road — taxesof this simple, common sense approach to life, is the government. All greedy, grabby hands, reaching deep into our pockets, taking our hard-earned money to spend on their sketchy (and probably corrupt) boondoggles and international excursions. Everything would be so much better if governments would just get off our backs and let us do our thing!

Picture this.

A house on a street. Not one of those European semi-detached ones or row houses. An actual house. On its own. A nice front yard. A driveway to the side.

A home. A castle, am I right? A haven from the rough and tumble world going on outside of it.

The urban homestead. Pitched by self-sufficient pioneers come to the city despite its purse-snatchers and perverts, jaywalkers and bus riders, to seize the opportunity from petty bureaucrats and political bagmen. Look out world! Here I am, twirling on a street corner, tossing my hat in the air. homesteader[Note to self: rework that last image. It comes across as a little too girlie.]

It’s a myth, of course. Pure bullshit. Always has been.

Underneath that detached house on the street, pipes and drains and mains. Overhead, wires. All conveying some sort of public utility. Let me state that again. Public utility. Potable water in, treated first somewhere, a city service. Sewage out, again, treated somewhere, a city service. Electricity. Gas. Likely some combination of public-private partnership, depending on where it is you live.

That street out front of that house?

Built and maintained, if not directly by the city, by tax dollars brought into and paid out by the city. Cleared of snow and ice in the winter by the city. Cleaned of refuse the rest of the year by the city. On many of those streets, the city provides space for private vehicles to park at rates far below what the market would demand.

Any notion that any of us live or work in this city free of assistance and cooperation from everybody else is simply delusional. A taxpayer alone lives in a shack in the woods at the end of dirt path. complexsystemHe fends for himself.

Even the mighty industrialists among us depend on the kindness of strangers to chip in and pay for the infrastructure business needs to deliver its goods and services to succeed. Who did our mayor turn to in order to gussy up the surroundings of his family business in time for its 50th anniversary? Why, the city of course.

Look at our most recent run in with crazy inclement weather. No, not the outer space-like cold snap. Before that. The ice storm, and the toll it took on this city’s trees.

We all know trees, and how beneficial a healthy tree canopy is to a city. So much so that City Hall exerts a mighty control over their well-being. It spends a lot of money maintaining a healthy stock of trees.

You might have a tree in your yard. It is rooted in your property but overhangs a neighbour’s house or a neighbour’s car parked on the street. The ice storms blows through, bringing down huge branches of your tree, crashing down on top of that car, taking out the wires that provide electricity to a couple of your other neighbours’ houses. pitchinPower’s not restored for days. A lot of the food in their fridges and freezers goes bad.

Ooops.

Just because that tree is in your yard, you can hardly be expected to pay for all that damage. Such an expectation would just be silly and dumb. That tree in your yard contributes positively to all of our lives even those of us who don’t live in your neighbourhood or community. It makes sense that we all pitch in to help when things take a turn for the worse for that tree in your yard.

That’s not just a real life example. It works as a metaphor too, I think. A city cannot function on the self-interested efforts of individuals. While there is an ‘i’ in city (and community and neighbourhood), it is only just one letter among many. It can make its own word but isn’t much of a stand alone read.

In Happy City, Charles Montgomery refers to a city as a “social machine”. A place that provides opportunities to connect and engage others on an infinite number of levels. Friendship. Romantic. Business. Shared interests.

As diverse and complex as the inhabitants who dwell there.

pacmanIf you only see yourself as a taxpayer in your relationship to the place you live, the opportunities for engagement with those around you are limited. Those outside of this limited social circle are little more than rivals for the resources you’ve paid for. Get off my lawn! Get out of my way! Get moving!

At its very core, it’s adversarial. Cities are a collaborative project. Living in one as just a taxpayer is nothing more than a shirking of your responsibilities to everyone else who helps make your life a whole lot easier.

collectively submitted by Cityslikr


Evading A Solution

December 13, 2013

It should be easy. At least, it should be easier. There is a problem. The Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area has become bogged down in congestion. easyAs it stands now, the region’s public transit network is not up to the task of helping alleviate the situation.

So… ?

Build more transit. Pretty straightforward. It won’t be cheap, in the short term. In the long run, however, the savings will manifest themselves with a general increase in productivity that comes from increased mobility.

Besides, investing in major infrastructure isn’t exclusively about saving money. It’s about paying it forward. Investing in the future, in your children’s future, your grandchildren’s future. Playing your part in posterity like previous generation did with the roads you now use, the subway tunnels that get many of us around from point A to point B.

The details will always be prickly. The wheres and the hows will inevitably be politically loaded. (At times like these, it’s good to go back and re-read Jamie Bradburn’s great Historicist piece in Torontoist, Opposing the Subway.) Paying for shit we need is never a slam dunk case to make.

But it gets done because common sense and fair-mindedness prevail. Nobody loves paying taxes. giveandtakeThey’re just grudging necessities if we don’t all want to live in hovels in the hills.

Unfortunately, we have been living in an era where common sense and fair-mindedness are in short supply. This is how we’ve arrived at the state we’re in. Everybody hates paying taxes. They’re no longer grudging necessities but rather, egregious burdens on our lifestyles. All taxes are evil, as one of our local representatives has informed us.

In the face of such ill-will, our politicians have grown cowardly. With yesterday’s arrival of the funding report from the provincially appointed Transit Investment Strategy Advisory Panel – appointed by the province to undercut put distance between counter-balance the revenue generation report from another provincial government body, Metrolinx – the general consensus is, no political party is going to push ahead into a very likely election year with a platform of tax increases. Electoral suicide!

While it’s easy to blame them for such displays of cravenness, this is really nobody’s fault but our own. For a generation now we’ve swallowed the notion of low taxes and small governments as a path to prosperity. taxesareevilNot coincidentally, the very same generation where we’ve invested comparatively little in the public sphere. We sit behind the wheel of our cars, stuck in traffic, and wonder why. We wait half an hour for a bus before squeezing onto the crammed vehicle when it finally arrives, and wonder why. Bridges and overpasses crumble, and we wonder why.

This is the urban definition of the tragedy of the commons. We want and need something of a public service – i.e. transit – but think somebody else should pay for it. Gone is any sense of the greater good. Don’t look at me, jack. I already gave at the office.

There is little doubt that the ruling Liberals at Queen’s Park have for 7 years now, since the inception of Metrolinx, been doing their damndest to avoid the issue of funding public transit expansion in the GTHA. It was very much the very last piece of the puzzle they sought. When it came time to finally have the discussion, they desperately searched for partners to participate in what would definitely be tough talk.

And everybody blinked, looked the other way, made like it wasn’t their problem to help solve.

Toronto city council demurred to put in their two cents, choosing instead to draw up a list of we’d prefer nots.passthebuck

The provincial NDP said the revenue should be generated solely from the corporate sector. Details to follow.

The PCs, now the fossilized remnants of the political movement that kick started the divestment in the public good, assure us we can totally pay for the transit we want by tightening our belts and dipping into the pools of unnecessary current expenditures to build capital infrastructure. Translation? Since Bill Davis, we are the party of could give a fuck about public transit.

There can be little doubt that the parties and their pollsters have delved deep into this issue and concluded beyond the shadow of a doubt that taxing (even dedicated taxing) and spending (even on something we should be spending on) remains a losing campaign platform. Nobody’s convinced Transit Champions will put their party over the top.

Before we tsk tsk our politicians for their unwillingness to nobly go down to defeat fighting for a good cause, maybe we should try and figure out how we can contribute to making it more of a winning atmosphere for pro-transit building proponents. rollingrockEfforts have started with organizations like the CivicAction Alliance, Toronto Board of Trade and the city’s Feeling Congested. But 30 years of conventional wisdom that’s told us governments are the problem isn’t effortlessly overturned. It’s difficult convincing people that their long held, self-centred, narrow focus is working at cross-purposes to their best interests.

It will seem as if we’re beating our heads against a brick wall because we, in fact, are. Eventually though, even the hardest stone breaks. You just have to keep pounding away at it.

loudly submitted by Cityslikr