Mayor Nimby

May 15, 2013

For three years now, ever since then-councillor Rob Ford announced his run for mayor, we’ve been clubbed over the head with the urban-suburban divide.fordnation The narrative of downtown elites hoarding all the goodness that is living in Toronto, leaving their suburban counterparts with nothing more than the crumbs and scraps. Get out of your cars so we can have bike lanes! No subways for you! Your taxes spent on us.

Rob Ford rode such resentment into office, and the continued suburban support maintains his not impossible chances for re-election next year. He is the self-proclaimed champion of the little guy in places like Scarborough, basing his entire transit policy around getting a new subway out there. Nobody rails about and profits from deriding the self-satisfied, special interest insularity of downtowners like the mayor and the rest of Team Ford.

An accusation I’ve tried to take to heart. Get out there, learn what makes these suburban types tick, their likes, dislikes, their pet peeves, their pet causes. haughtyTry and find out why they’re so mad at us and how politicians like Mayor Ford so easily tap into that vein of anger.

The latest leg of that journey outside of my south of Bloor/west of the Don Valley comfort zone took me to the Scarborough Civic Centre yesterday for their monthly Community Council meeting. Here you can see the local councillors and their constituents at work far from the spotlight of City Hall, not dwelling on the Us-versus-Them but instead focusing on pure Scarborough time (or North York or Etobicoke-York or Toronto-East York time depending on which community council meeting you’re attending). Community council concentrates on the minutiae of local governance.

As the agenda for the Scarborough meeting showed, this is the time spent adjudicating neighbours’ fence heights, debating the need for a stop sign or traffic lights, the removal of tree from private property, parking, always parking. toilIt isn’t glorious or sexy. Just the nuts and bolts of the political process at the municipal level.

Perhaps the most charged item I witnessed yesterday was over the fate of the wading pool just outside of the civic centre. Apparently it was a community hub for the forty years of the building’s existence but last summer the This Is Not A Wading Pool sign went up due to the lack of funding to pay for a lifeguard. Scarborough councillors set out to try and rectify that situation.

Most of the time, big ticket, highly contentious, city wide items don’t dominate community council meetings. A casino, tall tower complex or the island airport runway expansion rarely find their way to be debated at North York or Scarborough community councils. The majority of those end up for discussion at Toronto-East York community council.

And Etobicoke-York, apparently.

For the last two months the west-end community council has had to conduct additional meeting time to deal with the public reaction to two developments that are being proposed in their catchment area. In April, there was an evening session at the Etobicoke Civic Centre over the proposed waterfront development in Ward 6, Mimico 20/20. nonono1And yesterday for six hours, the public came out to express their unanimous opposition to First Capital Realty’s intention to convert the Humbertown shopping plaza into a mixed up residential-commercial space.

This one was a biggie. As David Hains writes in the Grid, it was held in a 3,200 seat church on the Queensway, was broadcast on TV and streamed online and brought out much of the media as well as the big gun politicians like the mayor and his councillor-brother. (As a member of the Etobicoke-York community council, it’s not unusual that Councillor Ford was in attendance although, it is worth noting that he was absent for the Mimico meeting last month, choosing instead to attend a provincial Progressive Conservative fundraiser.)

Now, I don’t know if the Humbertown development is a good one or not. Certainly the community’s concerns over the increase in traffic caught my attention. It didn’t strike me as the disaster-in-waiting almost every speaker to person claimed it would turn out to be. villagesquireThere are voices living in the area that even think it’s a positive thing for the area.

What I will tell you, however, is that I didn’t care for the tone I heard from the development’s opponents. Like many who spoke out against the Mimico 20/20 plans, we were told the Humber Valley neighbourhood was like a village wrapped inside a big city. A place for families to thrive and grow, away from big city concerns. People were born in Humber Valley. They went to school in Humber Valley. They got married in Humber Valley. They have children of their own who they want to raise in the same Humber Valley they grew up in.

After a couple hours of this, I couldn’t help but think if these people really wanted the village life, they should maybe move to an actual village. Somewhere, I don’t know, in Amish country. Or maybe on the edge of the moors in south-west England. A village village.

Not a pretend one of their imagination, situated 1500 metres from a major east-west subway line. No, what these people want is to enjoy all the amenities a big city offers while keeping the messier aspects like intensification and underground parking (really, underground parking) at bay. usversusthemThis is a wealthy enclave with the time and resources which, as my friend Paisley Rae said, should not determine the outcome of the civic process, trying to keep the 21st-century from their front door.

And the real kicker is that these are our populist mayor and brother’s people not the poor schlubs having to endure a cold winters rid on the Scarborough SRT or even those living further north in Etobicoke, up in Rexdale. This development is right in both the Fords’ backyards and the little guys they’re looking out for are those who can afford to hire their own architect to draw up alternate plans and find the concept of shopping on a second floor inconceivable. I suppose you’re going to tell me that you’ve invented a moving staircase in which to ascend us to ladies wear.

“We cannot let these developers come in and bully us,” said the mayor who’s all in pushing a waterfront casino. He vowed to fight the Humbertown development ‘tooth and nail’. “Let’s go to the board (Ontario Municipal Board),” he urged if First Capital Realty didn’t back down, presumably with money from the city he often tries to stop at council when other communities faced with unwanted development face appeals at the OMB. Everything Mayor Ford purports to be got completely turned on its head with his strident opposition to the Humbertown development.

Not in my backyard.humbertown

The fact is, Mayor Ford doesn’t really represent the aspirations or alienation of suburban Toronto. At least not those of the hard-working little guys in large portions of Scarborough or Etobicoke. It’s a very select few he will go to the mat for, the ones who essentially live in his own neighbourhood. The overwhelming majority of suburban residents are nothing more than votes to him.

nimbly submitted by Cityslikr


Re-Imagining Toronto

March 4, 2013

[On Thursday, March 7th, Idil Burale and I will be hosting a discussion forum at the Academy of the Impossible called, Reimagining Toronto: Understanding the framework of urban/suburban politics. So this week at All Fired Up in the Big Smoke, we’ll be looking at some of the issues that make up the divide of such urban/suburban politics.]

*  *  *countrymousecitymouse2

Last week after wiggling off another over sight hook at the Compliance Audit Committee meeting, Mayor Ford took some time to talk to the media. The Globe and Mail’s Elizabeth Church reported an interesting little tidbit the mayor passed along. “The suburbs, Etobicoke, North York, Scarborough,” Mayor Ford said, “these people are obviously right of centre.”

It is a wholly unsurprising view coming from a right of centre politician who doesn’t do nuance. A world that can simply be broken down into two camps, right/left, suburb/downtown. letatcestmoiThe suburbs, c’est moi.

The statement is worth further scrutiny. Certainly the federal Conservatives made inroads onto Toronto’s electoral map last election, winning 8 of the city’s 22 ridings, all of them in the inner suburbs. But their counterparts at Queen’s Park were shut out both in the suburbs and downtown in the provincial election that followed less than half a year later. Twenty-two seats. Zero representation.

So I think it’s more accurate to say that ‘these people’ in the inner suburbs of the former municipalities Etobicoke, North York, Scarborough, York will vote conservative but it depends entirely on the situation. In the 2010 municipal election, they embraced Rob Ford’s conservatism. In the spring 2011 federal election, they were warm to Stephen Harper’s Conservatives. In the fall 2011 provincial election, they gave Tim Hudak’s PCs the cold shoulder.

At the municipal level, while the inner suburbs loved both Mel Lastman and Rob Ford, they weren’t vehemently opposed to David Miller. In the 2003 election, Miller won wards in York, Etobicoke and Scarborough. mayoral2006When he was re-elected in 2006, the only wards he didn’t win in the city were the two in Don Valley West.

Despite Mayor Ford’s hope masking as a claim, there are no hard and fast political divisions in drawn along party lines in the city. Tendencies? Sure. But by their very nature, tendencies tend to be fluid, fluctuating on a case by case basis.

The key to Ford’s election success in 2010 had less to do with uniting Toronto’s conservatives under his banner than it did corralling the former suburban municipalities back into the fold. Four years earlier they had all supported David Miller and the Ford campaign artfully convinced them they were the worse off for it. Out of control spending all directed to the downtown. $12,000 of tax payers’ hard earned money spent on a retirement party for some councillor from downtown. resentmentTime to stop that gravy train, folks.

It was an appeal to geographic tribalism. Suburbanites unite! Put an end to the profligacy the downtown elite have been showering upon themselves for the past seven years.

Look at two of the key members of the mayor’s administration, Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday and Speaker Frances Nunziata. Fiscal conservatives for sure but also the last mayors of their respective cities before amalgamation, Etobicoke and York. These are two politicians steeped in the history of big ticket items like transit, police and emergency services being looked after by a second, city-wide tier of local government. A time also when senior levels of government were not absent on other issues like social housing.

City government for the likes of Doug Holyday and Frances Nunziata was about keeping property taxes low and programs provided on a pay-as-you go model. There was no need for all that spending they then witnessed as amalgamated councillors. What was good for their days in Etobicoke/York/North York/Scaroborough was good enough for the megacity of Toronto.

It is the gasping of the past unwilling to come to terms with the present reality. A city of 2.7 million people does not, cannot be run like cities a fraction of that size. Economies of scale give way to a critical mass. Big city. Big numbers. metropolisandmayberryAttempting to roll those back is not some act of civic heroism but simply a dereliction of duty.

Councillors Holyday and Nunziata, along with the mayor and his brother and a few remaining hardcore loyalists remain convinced the amalgamated city of Toronto can operate in the frugal manner the former inner suburban municipalities did. Notwithstanding the glaring holes in the social fabric this approach brought about – high priority needs neighbourhoods, a lack of public transit, aging, malfunctioning infrastructure – this method of governance threatens the well-being of the entire city now. Rather than moving in a direction that brings issues of mobility and liveability up to higher service levels, the Ford administration is attempting to reduce them the barest of bones.

Conservative or not, I don’t believe that’s what voters signed up for when they backed Rob Ford in 2010. While urban-suburban differences may be many, I think on fundamental questions of fairness (no, subways are not about fairness) and good government, reasonable Torontonians, regardless of political stripe, can agree on the fact the Ford administration is delivering neither. That’s something a majority of this city should be able to unite around.

texaschainsawmassacre

submitted by Cityslikr


Notes From North Etobicoke

February 3, 2013

(Idil Burale is an organizer, social commentator, and political blogger who lives in Ward 1, Etobicoke North. The following is a post from her blog, A different persepctive.)

*  *  *guestcommentary

There is this false assumption that downtowners have about suburbanites in Toronto: those who voted for Rob Ford must be political illiterates, i.e. they do not follow the news, and are therefore susceptible to his lies. I was once invited to a meeting — organized by Junction Hipsters — that plotted ways to ‘educate’ residents in Ford Nation territory so that they didn’t make the same mistake twice. This is, of course, all amusing to me as a long time resident of Etobicoke and a progressive suburbanite.

I didn’t vote for Rob Ford. I also didn’t vote against Rob Ford. I didn’t vote because I was out of the country during that election. But had I the chance to vote, I’m not so sure I would have voted against him.

I get why Rob Ford is so popular in my neck of the woods. He is, in many ways, the counterculture version of our former mayor. haughtyWhile David Miller represented everything that is a downtown elitist,  a yuppie, professional, fancy degree holder snob, Rob Ford came across as the opposite, a humble, blue-collar guy who drove a van and drank coffee from Tim Horton’s. But more importantly, he came from the suburbs and downtowners often underestimate how important location is, in a post-amalgamated city.

George Lakoff, an American professor of cognitive science and linguistics at UC Berkeley, noted in his book Don’t Think of an Elephant! that people often vote for who they identify with, even if it goes against their own self-interest. Rob Ford, the candidate, stood out as the anti-elitist proponent who could champion the cause of a forgotten demographic of post-amalgamation Toronto. For instance, it was assumed that someone who doesn’t live along the subway lines might recognize the importance of transit, that someone who doesn’t live or work downtown would understand the entrenched sense of alienation that resulted from amalgamation; also, with 46% of overweight Torontonians living in the suburbs, someone who looks like us would be a welcome change.

A straight-talker who doesn’t sugar coat anything and is brave enough to go unscripted and speak his mind, in a political world drowning in sound bites, Rob Ford’s success was good news for any layperson who ever aspired to run for office. In a world where politicians behave more like celebrities than representatives, Rob Ford stood out as the grassroots leader who lowered the barriers to participation by making himself accessible directly by phone. He supposedly returned over 200,000 calls in the 10 years he spent as councillor.fordnation I had some mothers tell me that they liked Rob Ford simply because he helped them find their kids summer jobs. In other words, he was an exceptional councillor.

Now I don’t know what happened to his chutzpah when he transitioned from councillor to mayor, but his supporters still have faith in him. In many ways, the media’s one-sided criticism of Rob Ford (or as he would call it: witch hunt) aided in his self-portrayal as political martyr and reinforced his us vs. them framework. All of a sudden, to insult Rob Ford was to insult suburbanites and opposition to his subway plan was to disrespect the taxpayers of Scarborough.

This is why Rob Ford is still a political contender. Personally, I think Rob Ford is an idealist who is misunderstood. He is not sophisticated or strategic, but then again, that is what most people find refreshing in his style of leadership. With that said, I don’t think Rob Ford ever aspired to be the mayor of this city. This is evident in the kind of answers he gives whenever asked what he likes most about Toronto. I would even go so far as to suggest that his family may have pressured him into running for the mayoralty. All I know is that Rob Ford is much, much happier being a football coach than he is at being a mayor.

submitted by Idil Burale


On A Need To Know Basis

January 14, 2013

I don’t think it much hyperbole to suggest that budgeting is the most important aspect of governance, especially so at the municipal level. alookatthebudgetIt pretty much determines a city’s quality of life. The number of police and firefighters on the street. The state of good repair for important pieces of infrastructure. How many people will die on the streets in any given year.

The budgets here in Toronto are complex and complicated, no question. It just sort of comes with the territory when the annual operating budget comes in and around $10 billion and the capital at roughly $1.5 billion. That’s a lot of moolah that needs to be found and services that need to be funded adequately.

So it’s curious to me when councillors fail to reach out to their constituents in any meaningful way during the lead up to the council budget debate and vote. Hey, everyone. Here’s what’s happening. Here’s how I’m going to vote. Any questions? Concerns? Opinions as to what you think is and isn’t important?

Running down the list compiled earlier this month by Social Planning Toronto shows that less than half of our councillors organized any sort of budget forum for their constituents although that may’ve changed in the last few days. (We are happy to be corrected and updated to any omissions we make.) publicconsultationsAm I over-reacting to think there’s something wrong and neglectful about that?

By my estimation, some twenty of the councillors I’d expect to vote along the fiscal lines of Mayor Ford (yes, I’m including Councillor Karen Stintz in that group) had no public consultation on the budget process. There were six councillors on the other side of the political fence who didn’t although I’ll give Councillor Joe Mihevc a pass on his ‘maybe’ as he doesn’t seem averse to public consultations. And I’ve thrown Councillor Raymond Cho into the latter category despite having no idea where he’s going to come down on budget votes since seeking the provincial Progressive Conservative nomination in the next election.

Now, I could rush to the ideological conclusion that right wing politicians, once in office, don’t care to fraternize with the hoi polloi. Don’t bug me in between elections, folks. We’ll talk again in 2014.

But I won’t. Let’s just chalk that discrepancy up to the nature of being in power versus not. This is Mayor Ford and his supporters’ budget. They don’t need to consult the public’s opinions or fully inform them because a ‘mandate’ is why. shhhI’m sure the roles were reversed back in the day David Miller was in power.

But what I will note is the urban-suburban, geographic divide.

In Scarborough, only Councillor Chin Lee held a budget town hall. Councillor Gary Crawford was planning on attending one while also offering to meet up with groups at City Hall. Up in North York, 4 councillors either held formal sessions or met in for smaller budget get-togethers. In York, Ward 13 councillor Sarah Doucette was alone in holding a public meeting. None of the elected representatives in Etobicoke deigned to put together a budget town hall for their constituents.

In fact, in Ward 6, Councillor Mark Grimes declined to attend last week’s community organized budget session. Why? Your guess is as good as mine if you read through a statement he issued.

patronizing“Every year the capital and operating Budget seems to be the most contentious issue we deal with at City Hall,” he said.

“It’s difficult to comment on any one item without looking at its context as part of the whole. I’ve been gathering feedback from around the ward, meeting with city staff and I’m looking forward to the (budget) meeting. There is going to have to be a give and take from all sides of the debate, but I think at the end of the day we’ll find ourselves with a budget everyone can be proud of.”

It seems Councillor Grimes believes the budget’s too ‘contentious’ to be discussed in a public forum outside of a city council meeting. Leave the ‘give and take’ up to the councillors, folks. That’s what they’re elected to do. You can’t possibly expect a councillor to give any sort of budgetary context in just two or three hours, am I right? Next thing you know, people’ll be standing up on chairs and the like.

Meanwhile downtown, in the former cities of Toronto and East York, only the above mentioned Councillor Joe Mihevc and Councillor Paula Fletcher didn’t hold public budget sessions (again, all this is subject to updates and corrections). Setting aside the left-right politics for the moment, it shouldn’t escape anyone’s notice the wildly divergent degrees of engagement based on location. letmefinishThe broad strokes suggest politicians in the core engage with their constituents. Those in the suburbs don’t.

Which leads me to ask one very pertinent question.

When we talk of political alienation as a part of the rise of what we once referred to as Ford Nation – suburbanites being left out of the conversation, neglected, ignored – should we really be pointing the finger at out-of-touch, downtown elitists? Overwhelmingly it seems councillors from the suburbs failed to consult their own constituents on such an integral matter as the budget. Perhaps political disengagement begins much closer to home.

inquiringly submitted by Cityslikr


The Caretaker

November 29, 2012

Through the window of the cafe in City Hall I spotted Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday standing out in the lunchtime chill in Nathan Phillips Square, patiently being interviewed by a television crew. Since the announcement of Judge Charles Hackland’s ruling in the mayor’s conflict of interest case, the deputy mayor has become the de facto face of the administration, issuing stay calm and proceed alerts as the city deals with an official leadership vacuum for the next couple months or so.  Not Winston Churchill in the face of the blitz but still, strangely assuring.

I have an oddly dichotomous opinion of the councillor from and last mayor of Etobicoke. In person whenever we cross paths, he is extremely courteous and gracious, always nods and exchanges greetings with me. I’m fairly certain he has no idea who I am, what I do or why I’m always hanging around his place of work. But I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t matter if he did. Colleagues of mine who have regular dealings with him and share more of my politics than his tell me the deputy mayor always makes himself available and is gentlemanly and cordial.

But then there is the Grandpa Simpson side of Doug Holyday that makes regular appearances on council floor or in a committee room during heated exchanges. Little Ginny. Remember her? That poor neglected child raised by negligent parents in a downtown high rise, destined to die an early death when she’s relegated to playing in the traffic or shoots off the slide on her roof top playground and plunges 95 stories to a bloodied splat on the ground below.

Why, just this week, under pointed questioning from Councillor Janet Davis about the uniformly male, uniformly suburban make up of the members of the mayor’s two most powerful committees, Executive and Budget, going forward in the terms second half. Look, the deputy mayor responded, he’d welcome more downtown councillors, would love to have more women on the team, if only they could get with the program and set aside any independent thinking.  When asked what his problem with entertaining more diverse opinions and views, he seemed nonplussed. Because… because DAVID MILLER! because BRIAN ASHTON! BRIAN ASHTON!!

In no way, shape or form could the deputy mayor be mistaken as anything other than a hardcore, fiscal conservative. No Red Tory is he. But it does seem that he is a more realistic assessor of the political situation in front of him. You don’t spend 125 years in politics, even politics in Etobicoke, and not know how to adapt to a change in the winds.

This is why I put forward the proposal that if Mayor Ford is really and truly put out to pasture, if his appeal in January to overturn Judge Hackland’s ruling falls upon deaf ears, that instead of plunging into a distracting and noisy by-election, city council designate the deputy mayor the actual mayor for the remainder of the current turn.

Believe me, this goes against every retributive instinct in my body. That scorched earth inclination to raze everything and anything reminiscent of Rob Ford’s time in office. A Northerner demands the South’s destruction not reconstruction.

Deep breath. Inhale. Exhale. Allow cooler heads to prevail.

Hear me out (and forgive me if any or all of the following suggestions contravene any statute of the City Of Toronto Act. I have not read it in its entirety. You see, back in the 1990s, my daddy was…)

There would be some serious stipulations in appointing Doug Holyday mayor. First, he could not run for re-election in 2014, using this appointment as a high profile platform. He might even consider this his municipal politics swan song.

Second, no coaching football or any equivalent activity to occupy his afternoons. Keep those crazy Kiwanis meetings to non-council meeting evenings, sir.

Third, a Mayor Holyday would remove Councillor Frances Nunziata from the Speaker’s chair, replacing her with the current deputy speaker, John Parker. Going forward, it’s important to restore a tone of civility and decorum during council meetings. Councillor Nunziata has proven herself incapable of providing such an environment during her tenure in the chair.

Next, a Mayor Holyday must share the job with council of completely overhauling the Striking Committee, appointing new members not because of their ideological loyalty but to reflect the diversity of council makeup.  In turn, such a Striking Committee would consider other committee appointments based on the same principle of diversity and inclusion. To try and lessen the whole us-versus-them mentality that has laid siege to City Hall.

On many of the committees, I don’t think there’d be the need for major renovations. A tweak here and there. Maybe flip a vice-chair to chair to bring a more bipartisan look to the Executive Committee. Say, a Councillor Chin Lee or Gloria Lindsay Luby replacing Councillor Cesar Palacio as Chair of the Licensing and Standards Committee. Councillor Mary-Margaret McMahon takes over for Councillor Norm Kelly as Chair of the Parks and Environment Committee.

There would be two deal-breaking change of appointments before Doug Holyday could take over as mayor. Both Councillor Mike Del Grande and Denzil Minnan-Wong must be relieved of duty from their respective committees. Along with Speaker Frances Nunziata, they are the most non-Ford divisive and destructive forces at council right now. To go forward with any hope of a constructive 2nd half of the term, these two – the Stadler and Waldorf of Toronto politics – must be relegated to where they belong. The backbenches of braying opposition where they’re only allowed to make noise and not a mess.

The final stipulation for a Mayor Holyday would the necessity of appointing a deputy mayor that was his polar opposite in political view, geography, gender and/or ethnicity. While I love the idea of a Deputy Mayor Janet Davis in a Mayor Doug Holyday regime, I think it would be ultimately unworkable, a sitcom in and of itself. So, how about a Deputy Mayor Pam McConnell? Yes, occasionally a Mayor Holyday’s head would explode in righteous indignation but, let’s be honest here. That’s going to happen regardless.

While the idea of such an unorthodox arrangement might run contrary to everything the straight-laced Holyday stands for, I think he could look upon this as his final and finest contribution to a long if not entirely distinguished career in public service. He could be the one who rose above partisan rancour to help heal the rift of a city divided. A grandfatherly figure dampening the heightened emotions of his unruly brood. Wisdom besting acrimony. Good will trumping ill.

And by reaching out this way, appointing the deputy mayor mayor, those currently in opposition in council would accomplish two things. The administration of a Mayor Holyday would be a tough one for Rob Ford or his brother to rail against during  their 2 years in exile. The inevitable campaign to recapture the mayoralty would lack satisfying target to shoot at.

The move would also acknowledge that the voters’ will from 2010 is not being denied. Doug Holyday was Rob Ford’s choice for deputy Mayor. By making him Ford’s replacement, there is some continuity, a peace offering.

If nothing else, what Toronto needs at this point is a little peace.

honest brokerly submitted by Cityslikr


Relationship Woes

October 24, 2012

Look, none of us wanted to be in this arrangement. We all were more or less happy, living side by side, tossing the occasional gentle barbs at each other, sharing a police force, a perfectly adequate transit system and some other infrastructure. It wasn’t paradise but it functioned properly.

But that was then and this is now. We are stuck with each other, by god, and nothing, it seems, can rend us asunder. (Is that even possible? A rendering asunder?) Our shotgun marriage has stuck, so let’s just make the best of a bad situation and at least try to get along.

In the affluent Humber Valley Village neighbourhood, density is a dirty word.

A proposed development at the site of the Humbertown Shopping Centre has met with furious opposition from local residents, who have staked their lawns with “Save Humbertown” signs and flooded two community consultation meetings. On Thursday evening, area residents spent more than two hours in an Etobicoke high-school auditorium grilling the plaza’s owners, First Capital Realty, over what they see as an assault on their suburban lifestyle.

**sigh**

Humber Valley Village. Enjoy all the amenities of a big city while living in a small town feel. No apartment complexes. No green spaces you can’t call your own. No poor people. (I’ll get to that in a minute).

According to the Humber Valley Village Residents’ Association president, Niels Christensen, the ‘suburban lifestyle’ as exemplified by Humber Valley Village consists of “…single-family homes, quiet streets and low-rise buildings.” Anything else constitutes a threat. All hands on deck! The urbanists are coming! The urbanists are coming!

You know, where exactly is that contract the city signs when you buy a house and settle into a neighbourhood guaranteeing nothing’s going to change forever and ever? You bought it as is. It’s going to stay as is. Come hell or high water.

Now I get I chose to live in an area of town that was already dense. I adapted my lifestyle to accommodate to that environment. Getting around by car is a pain. So I do as little of that as possible. The streets aren’t always quiet. I can sometimes hear my neighbour’s TV through the wall of the house we share. That backyard is, what do you call it, postage stamp small.

But the area continues to get denser, bringing in more people. I can’t expect to stop that 40 story tower going up 8 blocks to the east, nor would I want to. As Joe Strummer once sang, It’s just the beat of time/the beat that must go on/If you’ve been trying for years/we ‘ready heard your song

Post-war, automobile 1st city planning and living is dead or, at least, on life support. It’s too expensive to maintain. No longer a luxury municipalities, the province or the country, ultimately, can afford. As much as some suburbanites are convinced that they pay for all the ‘nice to haves’ downtowners enjoy – subways, community centres, free swim lessons, poor people cleaning our windshields – the ugly truth is the exact opposite. We are all subsidizing the suburban, low density lifestyle.

“The population of this area, of this census tract, has declined 2 per cent in the last census, it has declined 2 per cent in the census before,” a local resident, Robert Ruggerio, told the crowd gathered at the October community consultation meeting. “And unless we have change, and unless we have new life in the neighbourhood, our neighbourhood will suffer.”

Food for thought, right?

Indigestible it seems. According to the Globe and Mail article, Mr. Ruggerio’s comments drew heckling. When he went on to say that new apartments might be the only way he could continue to afford to live in the neighbourhood, someone in the mob crowd told him to get a job. Apparently, low income earners aren’t really welcome in Humber Valley Village.

“That’s never been the demographic for that area,” the local councillor, Gloria Lindsay Luby, said.

I guess, along with increased density, traffic and noise, poor people are also an assault on the suburban lifestyle of Humber Valley Village.

Apparently, the harassment of those speaking in favour of the proposed development continued after the meeting. Ruggerio tweeted yesterday that he received a phone call and was told he should move downtown. You want density, diversity and apartment living? Move downtown. Humber Valley Village. Love It (as is) or Leave It.

But I have a better idea. If you want to live the bucolic small town life with your wide open spaces and drives to the corner store for your bags of milk, move to a bucolic small town. Take the small fortune your single family house is now worth because of the increased property values due to the growth of this city and buy your piece of mind out on a leafy lane in the countryside. This ain’t your granddaddy’s Etobicoke anymore. The rest of us are tired paying to maintain your lifestyle.

That’s what being in a relationship is all about, give and take, compromise. A decade and a half into this thing we call the megacity and I’m not quite sure what anti-development suburbanites are bringing to the table except a destructive resistance to necessary change.

scoldingly submitted by Cityslikr


The Deputy Mayor’s Got Those Far Away Eyes

September 26, 2012

I’ve often wondered what goes on behind those blue eyes of our Deputy Mayor, Doug Holyday, as he sits and stares off at the horizon during city council meetings. Lunch? Ava Gardner? Lunch? Lunch? Dirty filthy unions? Lunch? René Descartes dualism? Lunch? Ooo! Tuna salad!

These days, I would imagine, it wouldn’t be surprising if the good councillor from Ward 3, Etobicoke Centre sits silently ruminating about the possible folly of getting those Ford boys involved in municipal politics. It seemed like a good idea at the time. A couple like-minded tax-hating kids from the neighbourhood. Sure, they seemed a little boisterous but chalk it up to youthful exuberance. Besides, their daddy’s company sold election campaign signs!

Like almost everyone else, it’s unlikely the last mayor of Etobicoke ever imagined that Rob would scale the heights of amalgamated Toronto politics and become the city’s chief magistrate. An improbable outcome, let’s call it. But what the hay. Somebody had to come along and clean up the profligacy of the left wing downtowners. Why not Rob Ford?

Why not indeed.

How did it become so unseemly? What ugliness had Doug Holyday wrought as political mentor to Rob and Doug Ford, I imagine Doug Holyday thinking as he gazes into the distance.

That the Deputy Mayor essentially suggested that the mayor’s brother shut his trap for a bit gives voice to the dilemma all council conservatives must be facing at the moment. How do you solve a problem like Mayor Ford and his most vocal supporter/nemesis, Brother-Councillor Doug? Or more specifically, how do continue with the mayor’s message of frugality while not getting any of the messy taint of scandal and bad behaviour on you?

They don’t come much more rock solid conservative than the deputy mayor. His ideology is as rabid and unbending as any on Team Ford including the mayor and his brother. Councillor Holyday has been known to step in it himself with the ‘it’ being headline grabbing outbursts like the one we saw earlier this year with the mythical Little Ginny, held against her innocent little will by her morally bankrupt parents in a downtown high rise.

The difference being that was said during the heat of council debate which doesn’t make it any less reactionarily anti-urban but, hell, we all say dumb things if we talk long enough. By all accounts, the deputy mayor is courteous and accommodating to anyone who asks of his time. Even certain publications that represent the polar opposite of his political leanings. You clearly don’t last as long in politics as Holyday has by drawing up an enemies list comprising of those who cover the work you do on a daily basis.

Obviously his patience is waning with the administration’s off-field antics. “We have important work to do,” the deputy mayor said, “the taxpayers expect certain things from us and these distractions don’t make it any easier. To have a public fight on the radio with all media isn’t really helpful.”

That’s not to suggest there’s an imminent breaking of ranks of the far right wingers at council but when your staunchest compatriot in the ideological wars openly chastises you… And this after another devout defender of the faith, Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong told the CBC that the mayor needed to “smarten up” with all the appearances of conflict swirling around him. It’s kind of hard to lead, I bet, when you’re constantly looking back over your shoulder.

Only the budget chief, Mike Del Grande, appears prepared to go to the mat for the mayor. “People will find ghosts where there are no ghosts,” he said. Del Grande has even lobbed a budget broadside at the Integrity Commissioner who will inevitably be dragged further into the mayoral mess over the next little while, demanding a line-by-line audit of the city’s accountability offices. All this for the mayor and what’s he have to show for it? Lousy bedbug bites. That’s devotion.

If they’re not openly criticizing the mayor, other conservative and right leaning councillors are either keeping quiet, hoping no one will notice them or they’ve publicly walked away on certain issues. The highest profile, obviously, is TTC Chair Karen Stintz who served up notice that Mayor Ford could be openly defied with no repercussions. Councillor John Parker followed along with her. Councillor Michelle Berardinetti quit her position on the budget committee and word is Councillor Jaye Robinson will do similarly at the end of year with her position on the executive committee. Councillors Michael Thompson and David Shiner have at times had little trouble disagreeing with the mayor, the latter the architect of the proposed plastic bag ban that slipped through council in the spring.

There may be no bigger sign of a realignment of the informal council conservative caucus than the silence of Mayor Ford’s other official mouthpiece, Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti. Having effortlessly and spectacularly flip-flopped in joining forces with his long time adversary, no one could be surprised if there’s a full 360 pulled off if the fortunes of the mayor continue to plummet. I’m sorry. Did you call me Gino-boy?! Hey everybody. The mayor called me Gino-boy again!

This commotion should strike a positive chord for all but the hardest of hardcore right wing conservatives. With one of the polarized ends collapsing under the weight of its own obstinacy and incompetence, the atmosphere at City Hall can only moderate. Poisonous partisanship – so pronounced right from the beginning of Mayor Ford’s time in office – will die down to just a dull roar and maybe, just maybe, we’ll actually start to see some constructive governance again.

hopefully submitted by Cityslikr