The Reckoning

January 14, 2015

OK. That’s it. This has to stop.notthisshitagain

For the sake of future civic sanity, Toronto City Hall has to sit down and do a full, frank costing of services, programs and capital expenditures across the city, breaking it down into the 4 community council brackets. How much gets spent on what in each area of the city. Top to bottom, from street maintenance through to swim times, after school programs to park grass cutting. The whole enchilada.

Because I am so fucking sick and tired of this parochial drumming up of regional resentment that has led directly to the white elephant-in-waiting council decision like the Scarborough subway extension. The usual suspects were at it again this week, led of course by the Scarborough {air quote} Deputy Mayor {end air quote} Glenn De Baeremaeker, on the subject of skating rinks. “I can’t imagine many people would object to building more outdoor ice rinks anywhere in this city,” he said, insisting that it needed to be done on a more ‘equitable basis’.

The back story is, Scarborough has only 1 of the 52 outdoor artificial ice rinks on the city which, no argument here, is clearly way out of whack, disproportionately speaking. shortchangedThings are only a little more even-handed but still not what anyone would call equitable when it comes to outdoor natural rinks, only 11 of 69 in Scarborough, and indoor skating rinks, Scarborough has 9 of 49. Discrepancies abound, no question but the sentiment, vaguely hovering over the numbers, is that Scarborough, once again, is getting the short end of the stick. Raw numbers in terms of skating rinks or subway stations presented as proof that while the city splurges on these things elsewhere, Scarborough remains frozen out in the cold.

Is that actually the case?

Could it be that, historically speaking, pre-amalgamation, Scarborough was a municipality that placed little emphasis on public spaces (aside from streets and roads), and adhered more to a pay-as-you-go approach to providing services and programs? You want it? You pay for it. (An approach epitomized by the former councillor for Ward 39 Scarborough-Agincourt and budget chief, Mike Del Grande. Cupcakes for widows and orphans.) Traditionally, skating rinks might not have been a priority for Scarborough and now we’re playing a game of catch-up.

I’m just posing that possibility. I have no hard data to back it up but neither does anyone else when they start making noises about the unfair treatment Scarborough receives when it comes to the doling out of municipal nice-to-haves. please sirWe need a full, robust accounting in order to have a full, robust conversation.

We need to expand on the Fair Share Scarborough report Councillor Norm Kelly undertook early in amalgamation. Let’s not just look at soft services the city provides – the skating rinks and parks — but the hard ones too. How much of our public works expenditure goes toward maintaining the wide streets of Scarborough. As a percentage of our waste collection budget, what’s Scarborough’s take in order to provide the service to all their big-lotted, detached homes. What’s the portion of our police budget that is spent in Scarborough. The buses serving as the backbone for commuters in Scarborough (and that will continue to even if it gets its subway), how much do they cost the TTC.

It may well turn out that Scarborough is underserved and underfunded in comparison to other parts of the city. There’s just no way of knowing that currently, and counting skating rinks (or subway stops) isn’t really the best way to tally it. thebillWe downtowners acknowledge your lack of rinks, Scarborough, but where’s our sidewalk snow shovelling or windrows clearing or leaf collection?

That’s not to say that if it were to turn out that Scarborough is a money-suck due to the high maintenance and delivery costs to service its sprawling built form, sorry, folks, no outdoor skating for you because you have so many roads to plow. This shouldn’t be a zero-sum game. But the Scarborough Warriors need to start putting solid evidence on the table, showing exactly how they’re being short-changed in this amalgamated deal of ours. Otherwise, it’s empty carping. Divisive governance intent only on benefitting their narrowly defined interests at the expense of everyone else in the city.

— resentfully submitted by Cityslikr


InGloriaLindsayLubyous

May 16, 2014

Goddammit!

overturnthetable

Can we please stop having this fucking conversation?

All due respect, nobody in this ill-arranged shotgun of a marriage we call amalgamated Toronto is getting screwed, is getting more than their share, isn’t getting anything in return for what they put in.

Once again today, Councillor Gloria Lindsay Luby went to the resentment well in defence of her no road tolls and just let my neighbourhoods be stance.

“Etobicoke already pays a lot but doesn’t always get its fair share in return,” she tweeted. stampyourfeet“True in transit, sewer, roads, other services.”

This has been a regular lament from the councillor since she became more active on social media during this, not coincidentally I imagine, a municipal election year. Divide and conquer. Us versus them. That it’s simply not true is of little concern, it seems. Just say it enough times and it develops a ring of truth.

I mean, what kind of person would keep repeating a factual inaccuracy again and again?

As we have written here numerous times previously, way back in 2008 then just plain ol’ regular Councillor Norm Kelly commissioned a report, Fair Share Scarborough, to see if, well, Scarborough was getting its fair share of city services over the first decade of amalgamation. While not exhaustive or conclusive, it certainly pointed in the direction that Scarborough was not getting the short end of the stick although you wouldn’t know it, having listened to the Scarborough subway debate over the last year and a half.

Now, unless Councillor Lindsay Luby has evidence to the contrary, we should assume that none of the former municipalities are getting shafted in terms of who’s getting what. parochialSaying otherwise, with no numbers to back up such a claim, is nothing more than cheap parochial politicking. It exhibits a startling lack of leadership and contributes nothing more than discord to our civic discourse.

A while back, friend of All Fired Up in the Big Smoke, Himy Syed gave us a theory about the suburban-urban divide plaguing Toronto. The biggest political wound this city received from amalgamation was the loss of the Metro level of government. It was the pan-416 institution every one of the former municipalities could band to together to rail against. Damn you Metro council, they could say, shaking a fist at Metro Hall.

With that gone, collective anger was re-directed toward Toronto City Hall. It became the target of all that wasn’t working. We pay our taxes there. What do we get in return?

Maybe I’m wrong in assuming that’s what Councillor Lindsay Luby is doing. Downtown gets everything and we get nothing. Maybe she’s actually suggesting Etobicoke subsidizes York, North York, East York, Scarborough and not just the old legacy city of Toronto.

usversusthem1

Any way you cut it, her tactic is not any more constructive than it is true. And as long as we keep electing this type of tribal representation, we are doomed to continue rehashing these false arguments and petty antagonisms over and over and over again. In her misguided and outdated defense of Etobicoke, Councillor Gloria Lindsay Luby is working to the detriment of the city as a whole.

fed uply submitted by Cityslikr


A Tale Of 2 Community Councils

June 19, 2013

The downtown versus suburbs pissing match flared up again this week, ignited by the usual suspects, councillors Doug Ford and Giorgio Mammoliti, pissingmatchover the redevelopment of a northern portion of St. Lawrence Market.

“When it comes to the downtown part of the city, it freaks me out,” Councillor Mammoliti spouted, “it freaks me out that everybody can find money to be able to do these things when the rest of us are told no.”

“We’re going out and we’re spending (a) disproportionate amount of money downtown all the time,” Councillor Ford mouthed. “Etobicoke North we get crumbs,” the Toronto Sun’s Don Peat quotes the councillor saying, “people out in Scarborough get crumbs.”

It’s a very easy political fight to pick. All appearances would back the councillors’ claims up. crumbsAttending the North York Community Council meeting yesterday, it was wrapped up before lunch. On its agenda were some 56 items, accompanied by about 10 deputations from the public.

This allowed for enough time to get back downtown to City Hall and take in the Toronto-East York Community Council meeting when it resumed after lunch. Its agenda included 128 items with over 20 deputations for one item alone. (For the record, the Scarborough Community Council meeting dealt with 37 items and the Etobicoke-York Community Council, which both councillors Ford and Mammoliti are part of, had 52 items before it.) If you’re counting along at home, the 3 suburban community councils had just 17 more items combined than their downtown counterpart.

Certainly the Toronto-East York Community Council represents significantly more of the city’s population than the other three, with just under 1/3 of the entire population of Toronto. And without question, it’s the area of town getting the lion’s share of the development, what with the business core within the boundaries while sitting on a good chunk of the waterfront. pieceofthepieThis is where a majority of the action’s at, baby.

But that somehow this translates into receiving a disproportionate piece of the total budget pie? The claim never really comes with any concrete proof or reliable sources. It’s cache comes purely through the repetitive chant not any actual facts.

We’ve written a few times about the study commissioned back in the day by Councillor Norm Kelly, Fair Share Scarborough. Ostensibly it set out to see if Scarborough was getting its fair share of city services under amalgamation. Turns out there was no solid proof Scarborough was either getting ripped off or making out like bandits in the situation. A wash, let’s call it.

Nothing since that study has surfaced to prove otherwise.

Yet that doesn’t stop the likes of Doug Ford or Giorgio Mammoliti (Councillor Frances Nunziata is also a avid proponent of the divisive tactic) from trying to make political hay out of it.

Oh, but what about all that Section 37 money the downtown gets and the suburbs see nothing of? The slush fund. The dirty bribe money. section37moneyWhy does it only go to the wards where the development is?

“Distribute the money equally to all the boroughs not just downtown all the time,” Councillor Ford demanded.

Fair’s fair, right? All for one and one for all, yeah? We’re all in this together.

Except for the development part of the equation.

Seems the likes of Councillor Ford is all for section 37 funds as long as the development that provides it goes elsewhere in the city.

Next time the councillor from Ward 2 Etobicoke whines about his share of section 37 funds ask him about Humbertown.

 “We’re all in consensus, we’re going to kill this thing.”

So spoke Councillor Ford at a public meeting about a proposed development in his neck of the woods.

It seems that you can suck and blow at the same time.crybabies

There are many residents of this city who can rightfully claim that they are being left out of the politics, the planning, the development of Toronto. Their claim is legitimate. But politicians like Doug Ford and Giorgio Mammoliti are simply piggybacking on that grievance, attempting to leverage it for political gain. They’re looking for others to do the heavy-lifting of governance and city-building while they just squawk away noisily in their little corners of the city.

submitted by Cityslikr


Budget Surplus. What?!

November 5, 2010

Truthfully, I don’t know what to make of this week’s announcement by the city of their $275 million surplus. At first glance it’s like, whoah! (Keanu Reeves reference #1.) That’s a big number. More than half of what the council needs to cover its $500+ million budget ‘gap’ next year. Although, just how much credence we should give to that projected number, I’m not sure, given the regular ‘surprise’ surplus announcements over the course of the past year, $100 million, $180 million, $275 million.

Then again, I try not to be swayed too much by the power of big numbers. Yes, 275 million is substantial. It could fund a lot of programs, maybe build one subway stop, pay down some debt. But in the scheme of a $9.2 billion budget, well, it comes out to about 3% of it, .03.* In fact, the latest adjustment from $180 million up to $275 million represents a little over 1% of the total operating budget. So not an unreasonable accounting revision when talking billions of dollars.

At which point I realize that we’re talking about a fucking budget surplus! Why did we just throw away the last 10 months or so on an election campaign railing about out of control spending, gravy trains, retirement parties, plant watering, etc., etc., blah, blah, blah? It seems that, in fact, just the opposite was true. That in these dire economic times, our City Hall was fiscally managing matters very, very competently. Prudently, even.

Yet, over the course of the past 10 day post-election period, we’ve attempted to explain away this discrepancy, pointing at maps and opining that the campaign as it played out was merely the manifestation of the anger out there, especially in the inner suburbs at their feelings of exclusion within the amalgamated city. OK, so why weren’t we talking about that directly then? Why was the election narrative railroaded into a simplistic, simple-minded package, easily spewed out by our simpleton mayor-elect and his zombie horde of followers? (Yeah, I called Rob Ford a ‘simpleton’. Winning this election doesn’t erase the past 10 years of buffoonery.) If we elected our mayor and council based on a lie, a mirage, what hope do we have of real issues and concerns being addressed by them?

Perception is reality, I keep reading. Tell the people what they want, and then give it to them. Yeah well, I’m just wondering when it was we took the blue pill and started living in the Matrix. (And the 2nd Keanu reference.) The reality is, our outgoing council and mayor were not fiscally irresponsible. Sputtering out tired examples of bunny suits and shifty sole-sourcing doesn’t change that fact. The inner suburbs think all their hard-earned tax dollars are being spent on the downtown core? Show me the numbers. Nothing I’ve seen so far indicate that. Scarborough councillor Norm Kelly commissioned a study to examine that claim. The numbers were inconclusive at best.

Just because we elected a new mayor and councillors based on lies and misinformation does not mean we have to allow them to govern likewise. Rather than looking for common ground and areas of compromise, those readying to stand in opposition (and those in the middle waiting to see which way the winds are blowing) to the new administration and its handful of allies need to remain firm in the face of what will clearly be a continued distortion of facts and reality. Letting them bullshit their way to power was a misstep. Enabling them to do so while in office will be tantamount to collaboration in their ongoing battle to keep this city divided and detrimentally parochial.

* My math is always suspect but, if anything, I’m over-estimating the surplus’s percentage of the operating budget. I think.

— dutifully submitted by Cityslikr