Everything’s Fine. Ignore All Evidence To The Contrary.

March 3, 2015

I know the drill.nothingtoseehere

Take a deep breath. Rob Ford is no longer the mayor of Toronto. We are in capable hands now. We are in responsible, prudent, capable hands. Inhale, exhale.

Sitting through the morning session of yesterday’s special Executive Committee meeting to discuss, debate and amend the 2015 budget before passing it along to city council next week for a final vote, and I’m not feeling particularly reassured, however.

City staff’s message was clear. Holes have been plugged. Band aids and duct tape liberally applied as stop gap measures to balance the operating budget. But the recent approach to financing the city is not sustainable. A fiscal bullet was dodged again this year. Next year…?

Mayor Tory shrugged. Every year we hear the same doom and gloom tune. Every year things work out. Relax. alfredeTake a deep breath. The city is in capable hands now. Responsible, prudent, capable hands.

No matter the state of good repair backlog, manifested by the creaky condition of our public transit, the long, long repair list in our TCHC housing, the flood of broken watermains under duress from the extremely cold weather last month. What, me worry?

Everything’s fine. There’s no need to panic and start talking about new sources of revenue. An above the rate of inflation property tax increase? “An admission of failure,” according to the mayor.

Toronto does not have a revenue problem.

Sound familiar? It should. Because, no matter how much the appearance of responsible, prudent, capable leadership this administration wants to project, no matter how many times key members of the mayor’s team tell us that’s what they stand for (there’s some inverse proportionality to the number of times they say it to the actual reality of the claim), agenda-wise, Mayor Tory and his executive are little more than extensions of the previous holder of the office.

Think I’m exaggerating?failureisnotanoption

Of the 10 members on Mayor Tory’s Executive Committee who spent at least some of last term serving in the same role under former mayor Rob Ford, they collectively voted with Ford nearly 73% of the time (according to Matt Elliott’s council scorecard). Throw in Councillor Ana Bailão, as she worked with the Fords on the affordable housing file, and that brings this mayor’s Executive Committee overlap with Ford’s numbers down to 69%. Even factoring in the 12th member, the least Ford friendly of Mayor Tory’s Executive Committee, Councillor Mary-Margaret McMahon (she aligned herself with Rob Ford less than 1 in 5 times) and you still have nearly a two-thirds consensus between the two administrations.

Of course, the mayor, his budget chief and other team spokes people point to very obvious differences. Increases in services to the TTC, for example, eventually restored to 2010 levels before Rob Ford took an axe to them. Commendable, for sure, laudatory even if it were still 2010. In the interim, there’s 4 years of ridership growth, now packed onto and into 2010 service standards.

Clawing our way back to running to catch up from behind.

Mayor Tory brushes aside demands to even discuss an above the rate of inflation property tax increase or new revenue tools wolfinsheepsclothing(aside from hikes to user fees, the mayor loves user fees except for car drivers, leave the poor drivers alone, would you) because he believes that the big ticket items Toronto has to deal with must involve getting senior levels of government to the proverbial table. Until such a time, we can trim away here and there at city operations, gently nudge revenue in a way not to piss off too many people. Make the pretense of responsible, prudent, capable governance.

He’s not wrong, at least not in the first part of that equation. Toronto (and every other city in this country) doesn’t have the revenue or governance tools at its disposal to deal with what is essentially a gaping infrastructure deficit. Without those, both the province and federal governments have to step up and chip in.

But just how realistic is that scenario?

Ottawa hasn’t really been involved in municipal matters for a generation now. And how many times already during Mayor Tory’s 3 months in office has the province basically told him to get stuffed when he’s asked for financial help? Why, just yesterday we learned that Toronto got a double-dose of fuck you from Queen’s Park and Ottawa when the city was denied any funding help for cost overruns at Union Station, only one of the major transit hubs for the country’s biggest city and region that generates a fifth of the national GDP.loosechange

Sorry, pal. We’d really like to help but we’re a little strapped right now. In fact, maybe you could spot us a buck or two…

Yeah. Adding insult to snubbery, it also came to light yesterday after a two-hour in camera session that the city is expected to chip in on Metrolinx’s building of the Union-Pearson Express-Georgetown rail link. We’re facing a bill of nearly $100 million from the province for various improvements to their regional rail plans along the lines running through Toronto.

This is the environment Mayor Tory expects to make nice and extract money for the city?

Maybe if he’d have stepped up from the start and stated that there was no way he was going to raise taxes or introduce new revenue tools in order to pad provincial coffers, I’d be right there with him. neroThose demands from the government at Queen’s Park that the city needs to start using the revenue streams it was given back in 2006 sort of ring hollow now. Raise taxes, so we don’t have to.

But Mayor Tory isn’t doing that. He’s pretending like there’s nothing wrong, like this is just a little blip, a rough patch that can be managed with a capable, prudent, responsible approach. We just need to tighten our belts, be more efficient.

If Rob Ford set the city on fire or, at least, tossed gasoline onto the hot spots, Mayor John Tory is just fiddling while we burn, hoping, I guess, for the restorative powers of fire.

consumedly submitted by Cityslikr


Welcome To The Hot Seat, Mr. Budget Chief

September 4, 2013

Anybody else pause a moment reading the Toronto Sun’s Don Peat write that our budget chief, umwhatCouncillor Frank Di Giorgio, suggests the process of balancing the 2014 operating budget might ‘require a few miracles’? The man in charge of the $10 billion (more or less) purse strings casts an eye heavenward in hopes of some divine intervention to make sure revenues match expenditures because actual math might not do the trick this time round. Fingers crossed. Say your prayers. Hope there’s a rabbit to pull out of the fiscal hat.

I’m sure it was just an expression and the budget chief isn’t really that concerned. He has no choice but to balance the budget. The province mandates that he does so. It could even be he’s simply ramping up the concern, clearing the way for either service cuts or tax increases as necessary in order to meet the zero bottom line. ohdearHe won’t be the first budget chief to do so.

But it could also be that Councillor Di Giorgio, in his first kick at the can as budget chief, is now staring into the hard reality of Mayor Ford’s voodoo economic model for running the finances of the city. Cut revenues, cut the gravy but whatever you do don’t cut services the public actually wants. Those are much tougher numbers to crunch. And if all that easy waste wasn’t nearly as prevalent as the mayor claimed?

Well, that’s enough to make any budget chief look for a little guidance from the big guy upstairs.

The almost impossible task the budget chief faces was made glaringly apparent at yesterday’s budget committee meeting. City staff reported a $58+ million projected surplus after the 2nd quarter of 2013, made up largely of bigger than expected revenues from the Land Transfer Tax and money saved from unfilled staff vacancies, now in excess of 2500 positions including in vital departments like Human Resources, Planning, Health and IT. squaringthecircleIn order to keep the city in the black, it seems, the budget chief is going to have to keep that tax revenue coming in and maintain a freeze on making new hires.

The problem arises, however, when his boss wants to reduce that particular tax by 10% and preserve the façade of putting customer service first and foremost which entails keeping departments properly staffed up. Cut revenue and increase costs. It’s a difficult equation to keep in balance. Less money in + more money out = the same 0 it has to be every year.

To be fair to this administration, not filling staff vacancies – ‘gapping’, to use the euphemism — didn’t start in 2010. It has been an ongoing issue for some time now as an unobtrusive way to keep costs contained that isn’t immediately felt by the general public. A slight delay here. An unreturned call there. An accumulation of neglect owing to fewer and fewer bodies present to do the jobs that need getting done. workaloneKicking the can down the road, essentially, in the name of fiscal prudence.

Things become acute however when such gapping is combined with a downward pressure on revenues. Never mind hiring to fill in the gaps. The gaps just get bigger, deeper.

Under questioning from councillors, City Manager Joe Pennachetti admitted that maybe they had cut a little too much in the Human Resources department at City Hall over the last few years. So there aren’t enough people to hire other people in other departments. The gaps just get bigger, deeper.

Team Ford stalwart and budget committee member Councillor Frances Nunziata tried to suggest that many of these unfilled vacancies were unnecessary management positions that didn’t affect front line services. The city manager gently disagreed, saying the bulk of the vacancies were front line workers. He will deliver a report to next month’s meeting setting out the numbers in more detail.texaschainsawmassacre

But it’s hard to believe that the 36 vacancies in the planning department, say, are unnecessary management type positions. The understaffing in that vital department has long been decried, going back to at least the Miller years if not before but it’s staggering to think that it’s continuing all during the building boom that the city has been experiencing, not to mention the fact that we’re also reviewing our Official Plan… with a depleted planning department.

The city manager did point out that Toronto isn’t the only municipality experiencing problems hiring qualified people to fill its bureaucratic ranks. Competition is tight from competing cities as well as the private sector. It’s not as easy as just topping up your human resources department and telling them to go out and get hiring.

It’s going to take opening the wallets up and creating a desirable work place environment in order to successfully recruit candidates here. Both conditions seem to be the exact opposite of how the current administration operates. badnumbersDedicated to the best customer service that the money we refuse to spend can buy.

If that unworkable kind of Dr. Doolittle, push me-pull me approach wasn’t evident to the budget chief before yesterday’s meeting, it certainly should be now. How he’s going to straddle that divide, God only knows. So far, there’s no indication the budget chief does.

celestially submitted by Cityslikr


Putting Ourselves Between A Rock And A Hard Place

June 25, 2013

On the other hand…

hmmmm

It was gently asked of me yesterday that if the characters in the current $150 million pooling-uploading saga now swirling around City Hall and Queen’s Park were different – like, say, a mayor I didn’t see as a raging incompetent or a provincial government I felt was more Mike Harris-y – would my reaction be the opposite of what it was. Essentially, a variation on the why is he so fucking incompetent theme. A fair question.

Yes indeed, the Liberal government is getting away with some dubious claims in this transaction, using Mayor Ford’s epic inability to get along with absolutely anyone and everyone he doesn’t see eye-to-eye with as cover. letmestopyourightthereAs John McGrath pointed out on Friday, over the course of the 3 year phase out of the $150 million pooling fund, the city will ultimately be short-changed just over $13 million after factoring in the uploading of services back to the province over the same period of time. (The chart is on page 5 of this letter sent to the mayor’s office by Finance Minister Charles Sousa.)

Of course, Mayor Ford muddies the waters with his immediate ballistic response, threatening to cut social programs to the tune of $50 million next year when, in fact, the pooling fund-upload exchange will net the city an additional $700,000. It’s hard to believe there can’t be some financial re-arranging at the city level to mitigate the need for any cuts. It’s also hard to believe the mayor would be willing to go into an election year with the mess of significant cuts to social programs on his hands in the hopes voters follow him in pinning the blame on the provincial government. No service cuts. Guaranteed. Remember?

This is all purely political jostling on everyone’s part. It’s just unfortunate, if not at all surprising, the Liberals decided to play along. pissingmatchA solid majority of Toronto residents know that we’ve elected a child-mayor who only operates through the lens of campaigning. The provincial government is supposed to be the adult in the room. Instead, they’ve started up their engines in a game of chicken.

In order to try and mask that, the finance minister threw into the pot relief from a loan made to the city by the province back when Mike Harris was premier and Mel Lastman mayor. A loan to cover the initial costs of amalgamation with the expectation of being paid back with all the efficiencies that would be found. Efficiencies weren’t found, so the loan has been ignored for most of its life.

So, the finance minister claims that’s about $230 million in savings for the city but it’s actually Ford level accounting. thanksfornothingIf the city hasn’t made a payment in a decade or and wasn’t expected to, it should hardly count as any sort of savings. Thanks for the gesture, Queen’s Park. As empty as it may be.

The politics of this goes beyond just the war with Ford. The Liberals want everyone to know that it’s not giving any municipality preferential treatment even if there are legitimate reasons it might. If the province is fully assuming the costs of the social programs Toronto bears a heavier burden providing than other cities in Ontario, fair enough. I’m yet to be convinced that’s actually the case.

But the Liberal government under Premier Kathleen Wynne, a Toronto MPP, is petrified of being seen as Toronto-centric by the rest of the province. So no special deals on a casino. No special funding treatment. itshisfaultAs it goes in Kenora, so it goes in Toronto.

It would be unfair to suggest that it’s simply back to business as usual since 1995. The Liberals have reclaimed much of the costs their Progressive Conservative predecessors downloaded onto municipalities in the Great Savagery of 1995-2003. (Certainly not all. For one, there remains the outstanding matter of the provincial contribution to the TTC’s annual operating budget they haven’t made good on.) Let’s give credit where credit is due.

It’s sheer big-balled audacity, though, to point to the city’s annual surpluses as proof we’re sitting pretty while Queen’s Park battles heroically with a debt load that’s kept us all afloat. Lest they need reminding, cities can’t run an operating deficit. They’re not allowed as provincially mandated. dirtyhands1Our surpluses come from conservative budgeting that leaves many of our services (some also provincially mandated but not necessarily provincially funded) and residents more than a little frayed around the edges. It’s at moments like this when it’s worth asking if the province is putting back as much into Toronto as it’s taking out. I’ve never had a satisfactory answer to that.

While it may be politically advantageous at this point to use our bumbling, stumbling mayor as a convenient punching bag, it would do well for the provincial government to remember that there are real life implications to their political calculations. Implications that will inevitably be borne by those least able to bear them. Mayor Ford won’t be among them.

Perhaps the bigger lesson to be learned from this is for the people of Toronto. Queen’s Park and the governments in power there, first and foremost will be looking out for themselves. We’re just part of their always fluid political equation, little more than polling numbers.responsibility

We need to look after ourselves and have been given some of the tools to do so. In order for that to happen, we have to stop electing politicians who refuse to step up and take on that responsibility. It makes us easy prey for those putting their own interests first.

responsibly 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


A Bad Deal With Fake Numbers And Pretty Pictures*

November 6, 2012

Look. Personally, I’ve got nothing against casinos. I am not a betting man because, among other reasons, there are more interesting vices to feed. Casinos can be fun to visit from time to time especially if there’s an opportunity to see exotic animals maul their handlers. Hey. If you could guarantee me that I just might see a white tiger take hold of Celine Dion by the head, I’d become a regular patron.

Besides, the genie’s out of the bottle. Whatever you might think of governments living off the avails of gambling, we’re all in, dependant on the revenue it generates. Like we are with alcohol and tobacco products. And like those, there’s going to be negative social fallout but the upsides are too tempting to resist.

New casinos are coming. The provincial government and Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation have told us so. It’s just a question of where.

So let’s have a robust debate about the pros and cons of building a casino (or two) in Toronto.

That would mean dealing with actual numbers, estimates and information.

Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be happening as we begin the consultation process.

The city’s casino staff report is rife with best case scenario formulations, based on hypothetical deals the city would swing with the province and OLG for heightened cuts of percentages and hosting fees. The bottom line — how much money would the city of Toronto receive hosting a casino — is awfully muddy. $168 million? $18 million? It depends. (See Hamutal Dotan’s The Great Casino Myth yesterday at Torontoist).

Depends. Depends. Depends.

On the type of casino that is built. Stand alone or a resort like complex. Where the casino is built. Etobicoke. Exhibition Place. The Port Lands.

Depends. Depends. Depends.

What the proposed consultation process seems to be is, here’s some possible numbers based on some possible locations and designs, give us a yes or no answer now. If you don’t agree to play along with us, there are 36 other municipalities waiting in the wings to pounce on this once in a lifetime opportunity. That’s hardly a robust debate. It’s deal making with a gun to your head. Why would we play along with that?

As a number of deputants pointed out yesterday at the Executive Committee meeting, this casino push is a scramble by Queen’s Park to contend with their deficit and debt. A downtown Toronto casino makes a whole lot of sense to them. There’s gold in that thar waterfront. For the province.

But for Toronto?

Depends. Depends. Depends.

On a whole lot of factors that will not be decided upon before the residents of Toronto are asked to form and make a decision. There’s no development plan to look at. No economic impact study. Right now, just numbers Ernst and Young accumulated from the OLG, developers and casino operators. None of whom should considered objective sources on this debate.

If we’re going to get a casino, fine. But on this city’s terms. Despite the mayor and his supporters’ claims that Toronto is in desperate financial straits (and thereby weakening our bargaining position), the one thing we should know for certain is that, as it stands now, pro-casino proponents need us more than we need them.

* lifted directly from Councillor Adam Vaughan’s press scrum

unhoodwinkedly submitted by Cityslikr


Suck And Blow

November 1, 2012

Tuesday’s hours’ long debate on the Toronto Community Housing Corp.’s report – Putting People First – represents a microcosm of the political division this city faces. An overwhelmingly daunting capital expenditure To Do list. One side says sell as much of the operation off as you need to pay for the expenses (and in so doing, conveniently reduce the size of government). The other views it not as some zero sum equation, an impermeable circle of set dollars that can only change in a downward direction. Let’s call that the more than one way to skin a cat camp.

That a compromise solution was achieved, a partial sell off, much, much less than the real deficit hawks were eyeing, is moderately good news. But make no mistake, once the sale of 55 TCHC homes is done, there will be less housing in this city where some 80,000 families sit on a waiting list. That cup is still half empty.

This is an act of civic cannabilization, just as cutting TTC service in order to use the savings to pay down the capital costs of buying new streetcars is. Without talk of increasing revenues, this conversation is simply travelling along a one way street. Make Do With Less Boulevard. It’s all in the mayor and other right wingers’ favour. The rate of reduction may be slower than they want but it’s certainly up their slash and burn alley. (Yeah, I couldn’t resist).

While it’s only and always been just about attacking the role of government in the functioning of the city, the argument made out loud is inevitability. It’s always about inevitability. Queen’s Park downloaded this file on us without the financial resources to keep things running properly. It’s been ages since the federal government expressed any interest in social housing. The city’s left holding the bag. There’s only so much we can do. So stop being poor if you want a reasonable roof over your head at a reasonable price.

That some of the argument is true makes it sound convincing. The senior levels of government have walked away from the issue, leaving cities to cover for them. But by following their lead – and selling off housing stock is walking away, no matter where the proceeds go – the situation can only get worse.

There’s only so much we can do.

Ummm, well, we could talk about raising revenue. You know, that other side of the economic equation the mayor and his flock of right wing supporters never want to talk about. Except to say, “We’re up to our eyeballs in taxes!” Or, how about a downtown casino? That’ll pay for everything. And the latest gambit they’re rolling out in order to evade an honest discussion about taxes is to demand a redistribution of Section 37 wealth from wards that see a lot of those funds to those that don’t.

In brief, Section 37 funds “permits the City to authorize increases in permitted height and/or density through the zoning bylaw in return for community benefits…” So developments outside zoning bylaws cough up cash to help mitigate any negative effective they might cause to the surrounding neighbourhood. Such money might be used to build a park, playground community centre.

Wards with a lot of that type of development have access to more Section 37 funds than those that don’t. Some of the have not councillors have noticed this discrepancy and want to even things up a bit. Now, I’m not going to get into the arguments for or against this sentiment except to say it’s not as easy as all that since, among other complications, provincial legislation becomes involved. A bid on Tuesday by Councillor Michelle Berardinetti to have 10% of Section 37 funds put in a pool to go toward the TCHC repair backlog got rightfully shot down.

What I do find interesting though is that some councillors (cough, cough.. Giorgio Mammoliti.. cough, cough) are all for this type of equalization payment, let’s call it, but would go red in the face and his head explode to hear talk of property tax increases. Unsurprisingly he has the stones to call Councillor Adam Vaughan who is flush with Section 37 funds the “$51 Million Man” and a hypocrite for not supporting a pooling of this resource (which is not true anyway). It seems collectivism is fine and dandy as long as it doesn’t involve any socialist talk of increasing taxes.

This bid by some councillors on the right to lay claim to Section 37 money to help fix TCHC housing is nothing less than a tacit admission new revenues are needed for the city coffers. Evidently Toronto does have a revenue problem despite Mayor Ford’s campaign mantra. By refusing to honestly face that fact by keeping any discussion of reasonable tax increases off the table, it’s hardly surprising budget cuts and city owned property fire sales are presented as our only viable option.

But that’s not inevitability. It’s a conscious choice.

predictably submitted by Cityslikr


A Section 37 Set-To

October 12, 2012

I hesitatingly wade into the cold and murky waters of Section 37 fees, knowing that almost immediately I will be out of my depth.

But hey! If the Toronto Sun can do it, why not me?

Much has been made recently in the pages of our little tabloid that could about… how did they put it?… ‘the wild west’, ‘shakedowns’, ‘legalized extortion’, ‘bribery’ and ‘… getting away with murder forever’!

Holy cow. It sounds like Tammany fucking Hall down there. Dirty politicians with their greasy, grafty hands, reaching into developers’ pockets to pay for their personal yachts and country estates. Corrupt Ward Bosses.

Or, as many devoted Sunshiners would say: Councillor Adam Vaughan.

Make no mistake, the Toronto Sun’s new found civic activism has less to do with improving the quality of life in this city than it does on zeroing its sights on a potential 2014 rival for their beloved and beleaguered mayor. Councillor Vaughan is knee deep in section 37 funds, his ward 20 in the midst of a development and intensification boom. And of course, Mayor Ford stands vigorously opposed to Section 37 money. “I’ve never liked Section 37 (funds),” the mayor said yesterday. Except when he does. Back in 2010 as a councillor, Ford used $75,000 in Section 37 money to build change rooms at – you pretty much guessed it already – Don Bosco High School.

But look, I’m not here to exchange tits-for-tats or defend Councillor Vaughan. As written, the guidelines on the protocol of Section 37 funds – intended to mitigate the downsides of permitting taller development with higher density than bylaws allow — are both much more thorough than the Sun and critics would have you believe and more open to interpretation than some defenders might care to admit. Although, evidence of nefariousness in the use of the funds or the building of political pet projects is in scant supply in the accusations hurled at Section 37 practitioners.

Still, should the system be examined and other options explored? Sure. “It’s fair to say the process needs to become more clear and it ought to be administered by city staff,” said Toronto’s Chief Planner, Jennifer Keesmaat. “In part, because city staff are not in a conflict of interest when administering it.” (Again, I’d like to see more concrete examples of conflict of interest than simply theoretical possibilities.) Ms. Keesmaat also believes that Section 37 funds could go to city wide infrastructure needs. Not long ago, I was talking to a councillor staffer from a left-leaning, heavy development ward who suggested spreading Section 37 funds more equitably city wide might help in easing downtown-suburban tensions.

Fair enough, I say.

Let’s talk about all that.

While we’re at it, however, I’d like to ask suburbanites and those representing them at City Hall what they’re prepared to give up in return. It seems to me to be all a little one-sided at the moment. Bulk up all you want, downtown wards, Willowdale, Scarborough Centre, Mimico. But share the proceeds with us. A casino would be a great source of jobs and revenue. Put it downtown where we don’t have to deal with any of the negative aspects of it.

It’s almost like, parts of Toronto adapt to being a big 21st-century city, divy up the benefits of doing so with the other parts that just want to remain as is. Give us money from your densification. Accommodate our single rider car travel. Give us subways. Don’t you dare try to impose on our single family, detached homes and cul de sac communities.

“It’s about equity and fairness,” Councillor Mike Del Grande said. (And I’m trying to stifle a derisive snort here.) “This money should improve all of Toronto.”

Absolutely, councillor. But as you might say yourself, shouldn’t improvement start at home? This tilt he’s undertaken smacks a little of the ‘widow and orphan’ syndrome he brushed aside during previous budget cycles. Demanding something for nothing.

I’m all for spreading the wealth. For this city to prosper, it has to prosper for everyone. That can only happen, however, when every part of the city contributes to its evolution from 6 bickering municipalities to a unified whole at the centre of a global metropolitan region. It’s a willingness that has been in short supply from some quarters, who seem more intent on exploiting the inequities for political reasons rather than addressing them for the greater good.

brokeringly submitted by Cityslikr