Who Wouldn’t Want A Casino?

April 17, 2012

I joked about this on the Twitter last week. Probably wasn’t the first one. Definitely not the last.

But now it seems to deserve more than the 140 character treatment as, zombie-like, it’s an idea, a dumb idea, a highly unoriginal idea that just won’t die. A waterfront casino cash cow. Ching-ching!

It reminds me of one of my favourite movie lines from one of my favourite 80s movie, Prizzi’s Honor. “If Marxie Heller’s so fucking smart, how come he’s so fucking dead?”

If a casino’s so fucking smart, how come suburban councillors are so fucking dead set against having one in their ward? Never does a council or committee meeting go by when we don’t hear the whine from the likes of councillor Mammoliti or Nunziata or Ford about how downtown gets everything and the suburbs get stiffed. Hey, folks. Here’s your chance. Step right up and claim your casino.

Remember The Great Sheppard Subway Struggle of 2012? Sure you do. Scarborough councillors Ainslie, Berardinetti, Crawford, Del Grande, Kelly and Thompson all demanded that Scarborough residents get what downtown had, subways not no stinkin’ streetcars. They weren’t second class citizens. They deserved first class transit.

Well, where  are they all now? You want something downtown doesn’t have? Here, take the casino. Please. There’s some waterfront out there in your neck of the woods, isn’t there? Stick the casino there, why don’t you.

That's NIMBY not GUMBY

I heard Budget Chief Del Grande on the news this morning, suggesting that the old city of Toronto’s inability to say no is a source of the city’s money woes. Well, here you go, Mr. Budget Chief. Downtown’s finally saying no to a casino. Maybe Ward 39 would like to take it off our hands.

For the casinos biggest supporters, it’s a really good idea in someone else’s ward.

Just like transit planning. As John McGrath wrote about the commissioner of Los Angeles transit, Richard Katz’s seminar yesterday, “…everyone wants a transit solution that other people use.” Or development planning. John tweeted from today’s Toronto-East York Community Council meeting (he’s everywhere, that John McGrath): Councillor [Pam] McConnell, speaking for every deputant against height ever: “This is a beautiful design, for somewhere else.”

Everybody wants the upside — Yeah, whatever. That’s for another post — of a casino, the benefits but none of the headaches. Parking and congestion. Down-and-out gamblers. A Jeff Foxworthy crowd streaming out into the streets, looking for a post-show nosh at a Cracker Barrel.

If I wanted a fucking casino in my neighbourhood, I’d move fucking downtown!

It’s almost as if these councillors all know a casino is little more than a dog and pony show, it’s not really going to contribute much to city’s bottom line but it’s a great way to stick to downtowners. Ohhh, they’re gonna hate this! Like they did tearing up the Jarvis bike lanes, de-fancifying the Fort York bridge and making threatening noises about the Portlands.

In his Metro article today, Matt Elliott pointed out that one of the mayoral campaign platforms of Rob Ford was to give “…more power to local community councils to make neighbourhood decisions.” Instead, we’ve seen a whole lot of imposing their will upon others by Team Ford. Might I suggest that for some of the more vocal, pushy ones, they take a little more time to tend to their own garden, gussy up their own respective wards. That way, perhaps, in the future we won’t have to listen to their bellyaching, complaining how they never get anything.

How about starting with a casino?

Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

generously submitted by Cityslikr


Waning of the Thumb

December 5, 2011

(A repost of our Friday Torontoist piece. Title is all theirs.)

*  *  *

A two day meeting dragged into three. As the third day ground to its inconclusive conclusion, participants voted to defer all remaining items to the next regularly scheduled meeting in February. Decisions put off. The business of municipal governance delayed.

Perhaps it was because council members were looking ahead to the big game, the 2012 budget battle. Beginning almost immediately, today in fact, as the Budget Committee kicks off the first of seven meetings over the course of the next eleven days, including two for public deputations, to hash out a budget for city council to consider and implement next month. That’s the big fish to fry, where energy needs to be expended. This week’s council meeting was simply the warm up session, getting loose, stretching the body into fighting shape.

Or it simply could be seen as the precursor to how things are going to happen over the next little while. A war of attrition. Gone are the early, glorious days of shock and awe that saw quick and surprisingly decisive victories for the Ford administration. The VRT gone! Councillor office budgets slashed! Transit City mauled in its infancy. The mayor is still pushing ahead but it’s now become a tough slog, a slow grind. Some of the more egregious intentions are being picked off by sniper fire, some even coming from friends and allies. His opponents’ Maginot line is still holding.

Councillor Shelley Carroll amended out the possibility of large industrial water users being given carte blanche to ignore city sewer by-laws in the Rate Supported Water and Waste Water budget. It reserved the city’s right to monitor ‘effluent’ – essentially waste water dumping – and to keep aiming for water conservation targets. The mayor found himself on the losing side of what turned out to be a drubbing on that one, abandoned even by his brother and budget chief.

Mayor Ford also took it on the chin (even if symbolically) on the Rate Supported Solid Waste Management budget when Councillor David Shiner, a usual Ford loyalist, maintained the current 44 environmental days that Public Works and Infrastructure Committee wanted to chop back to 11. Certainly, Councillor Shiner’s amendment scales back the events and doesn’t threaten the mayor’s desired 0% increase in waste collection rates. It was, however, a definitive poke in the eye of those looking to do away with remnants of green initiatives in the city.

Councillor Shiner was also front-and-centre in negotiating a compromise with noted foes of the mayor, Councillors Adam Vaughan and Mike Layton on the relocation of the youth shelter, Eva’s Phoenix. It was sitting on property Team Ford has its eyes on selling as part of the revised Fort York bridge plan. The shelter poised an obstacle in the march to ‘monetize city assets’ and in finding it a new home, Shiner brokered a deal that kept both sides, if not happy, at least content.

It could also be that what we’re witnessing is the formation of a consensus building model at city council. The hitherto unuttered word since Rob Ford took office, ‘compromise’ is becoming part of the vernacular. Many of the mayor’s most ardent opponents including Janet Davis, Joe Mihevc, Kristyn Wong-Tam, Paula Fletcher and Raymond Cho made amendments to the direction of child care services in the city. Mihevc managed to get everyone present at council except for Councillor Minnan-Wong to agree to work at not closing any day care centres until hearing what the provincial government, who has been slow and unsteady holding up its part of the funding formula, will say about the matter in next year’s budget.

Compromise may be a word the mayor has to come to terms with. Winter is indeed blowing in, issuing a serious threat to further bog down his troops and heavy artillery in the muck and goo of the 2012 budget process. (Yeah, I wasn’t going to let go of the military metaphors that easily.) Talks of cuts to services at the TTC, elimination of pools and programs, reduction in library hours, all are emboldening the opposition outside council to set up and stand their ground. Within council, allies are exerting their independence and not bending to the mayor’s bully tactics. Witness just how far the moderate, small c conservative, Councillor Chin Lee has drifted from the Ford fold.

The mayor has expended on awful lot of political capital in his first year, tilting at long standing pet peeves of his that represent the worst excesses of tax and spend governing. Non-automobile forms of transit. Community engagement and outreach. The arts. The environment. Anything that smacks of ‘nice to haves’. All before it truly gets ugly for him. When that bus doesn’t arrive for that little old lady going out grocery shopping in Scarborough. When that library is closed on Sunday for that little girl looking for some quiet study time. When the family has to go even further afield to find affordable swimming lessons.

The battles are going to get more intense over the next 6 weeks, the pushback stronger and terrain more treacherous. Already besieged, it’s hard to see how Mayor Ford can simply bludgeon ahead in that damn the torpedoes fashion that has been his governing style to date. His arsenal has been severely depleted. While hardly a spent force, Mayor Ford is not the indomitable powerhouse he was earlier this year. The one that caught everybody flat-footed, surprised and easily overwhelmed. It’s now trench warfare (you know I had to go there) and any gains will come with great cost. If he fails to adapt to the new reality, the mayor may find that the 2012 budget is the hill he will die on.

repeatedly submitted by Cityslikr


Never A Dull Moment

November 4, 2011

Heads up all you Toronto city council watchers. If you want to witness exactly how the Mayor Ford administration dysfunctionally functions, there’s no better place to start than spending a few hours with the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee. There’s intrigue and machinations aplenty. Dastardly double-dealing. Oozing personal antipathy.

And in the end? Invariably a little more of the city has been chopped up or sold off for an ever so slight relief of our budgetary woes. All this and no cover charge to boot.

Yesterday’s gathering could’ve been so very different. There was actually serious consensus brewing, and between two committee members who couldn’t really be much further apart on the political spectrum without needing spyglasses to recognize on another. Councillor David Shiner, committee vice chair and bona fide, shark hating right winger. Last spring, if you recall, he used the committee to bring to a screeching halt the proposed Fort York bridge, citing cost overruns and it being unnecessarily ‘fancy’. This came at the expense and to the surprise of the councillor for the ward the bridge was to built in, Mike Layton, left leaning and most definitely not a member of Team Ford.

Despite this history and such stark ideological differences, these two councillors seemed to have patched things up and worked out a compromise that would see a bridge built not dissimilar to the previous one but at less cost and, more importantly, slightly smaller that opened up more land nearby to be developed. That’s an important point to keep track off as it’ll come back as part of the fitting coda of this story. That just seems to be how the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee rolls.

Now, it’s hard to see what exactly Councillor Shiner representing the administration gave up here to reach an accord on the bridge. There was no disputing the fact that one was needed for the area. The only real nod to the previous design was to ape its appearance. Everything else met Councillor Shiner’s demands: cheaper, shorter and more to city owned property to sell. Even the timeline which would not get the bridge built in time for the War of 1812 bicentennial celebrations at Fort York was just fine and dandy with him. Hard to use the word ‘compromise’ with such an agreement. Sure you can have a bridge but only to my specifications.

It’s not like the councillor went out of his way elsewhere during the meeting to extend a hand to his colleague. Shiner led the charge to defeat an item Layton put forth to exclude bikes from a bylaw restricting chaining or locking items to city property for any length of time. It was the kind of thing that might be OK downtown, Councillor Shiner suggested, but wouldn’t work in his suburban ward. A chaotic scene of bikes locked to fences and bus shelters outside the Finch subway station. And we wonder why bylaw harmonization still hasn’t happened in this post-amalgamation era.

On top of which, Councillor Shiner insisted on pushing through an item that will really only serve to harass the homeless living on our streets; a situation less endemic in his ward than it would be in Councillor Layton’s ward. Is the situation so hunky dory up in Willowdale, no problems there to solve, that councillors like David Shiner have ample time to muck about in other wards, emptily pontificating on things they have only a passing knowledge or interest in? If I understood the councillor correctly, people have no right to sleep on sidewalks if he doesn’t have the right to park his car on them. (The sidewalks, that is. Not the homeless. I think.) Yeah. It was that idiotic of a discussion.

Still, Councillors Shiner and Layton overcame their differences and put forward a motion that would see a Fort York bridge built.

And then, enter the sandman, PWI Committee Chair Denzil Minnan-Wong.

Seemingly not content with what would appear to everyone else to be a victory for his side, the councillor slithered in a two part motion that would, one, direct section 37 development fees to the building of the bridge and two, specifically targeted a property, 53 Strachan to be exact, to be used as ‘leverage’ to get the ball rolling on development in the area.

Whoa, whoa, whoa went up the cry. Where did this come from, asks Councillor Layton. Even Councillor Shiner seemed surprised by the surprise move, immediately jumping in to broker some kind of deal between his chair and Councillor Layton.

Once more, at yet another Public Works and Infrastructure Committee meeting, a non-Ford compliant councillor gets blindsided by a proposal to push and/or kill a project in their ward. No prior consultation. No attempt to involve the local representative. Nothing more than a deliberate poke in the eye. Take that, consensus.

In the ensuing brouhaha, it’s revealed that among other things at 53 Strachan there’s a youth shelter and a community garden. Councillor Minnan-Wong didn’t appear to know that but might have had he spoken first to Councillor Layton. Why he didn’t, only Councillor Minnan-Wong would know but from the back-and-forth between the two, it seems the committee chair felt Layton had gone public after an earlier meeting between them about getting the Fort Bridge motion onto the committee agenda…

Or some such petty, spiteful bullshit like that. Committee member Councillor Gord Perks suggested it was just simply another example of proving who was the boss of the committee. Marking his territory.

Not that it ultimately mattered, as the chair’s item was soundly defeated by the committee. But it managed to cast a pall on what could be considered a minor step forward out from the partisan pissing match that now passes for debate and discussion at City Hall these days. It’s almost as if the more ardent members of Team Ford are allergic to anything that smacks of compromise or cooperation. Concession and negotiation are dirty words. They have the upper hand now so giving in on anything, admitting to any sort of negotiated settlement, is a sign of weakness.

Even in the building of a bridge, they are incapable of anything other than crass politics.

submitted by Cityslikr


Our Summer Farce

July 24, 2011

(Since summer is the season for repeats, a rebroadcast of our post at the Torontoist, looking at the Core Services Review of the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee. Re-enjoy.)

*  *  *

The good news emerging from yesterday’s Public Works and Infrastructure Committee meeting was that there was no last minute, duplicitous motion put forward by any of the mayor’s men to derail or erase projects in other councillors’ wards. In May, Councillor David Shiner (Ward 24, Willowdale) nixed the Fort York bridge, pulling the rug from out under Councillor Mike Layton (Ward 19, Trinity-Spadina). Last month, it was Councillor John Parker (Ward 26, Don Valley West) blindsiding Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam (Ward 27, Toronto Centre-Rosedale) with the news that plans were afoot to remove the Jarvis bike lanes.

The bad news, however, was three-fold.

First, the KPMG core services review report was revealed to be wholly unsatisfactory in addressing our alleged budget crisis. Under questioning from committee members, councillors Layton and Gord Perks (Ward 14, Parkdale-High Park), as well as visting (i.e. non-committee member) councillors like Shelley Carroll (Ward 33, Don Valley East) and Adam Vaughan (Ward 20, Trinity-Spadina), the report and its corporate authors (along with City staff) went limp. It quickly became clear just how narrow the report actually is, offering only the broadest strokes of possible “savings opportunities” (a.k.a. cuts), with little to no examination of the impact or implications of taking such opportunities. (For instance, the health impacts—and subsequent economic burdens—of rolling back fluoridation in the water or scaling back environmental programs were not included in the report that recommended those cuts.) The validity of the report’s comparative analysis with other cities came under question too. Aside from size, why Melbourne, Australia? An entirely different beast, structurally and governmentally; where were the instructive comparisons? And why were no other municipalities in Ontario examined in the report? They suffer under the exact same provincial handcuffs as Toronto does. Wouldn’t that be more helpful?

Even worse was how the subject of waste diversion was handled. The report clearly ignored key relevant numbers—such as the amount of money the city receives from recycling, which brings down the actual cost to us of collection—in assessing the financial benefits of potential cuts. Additionally, KPMG’s suggestion that our target rates were too ambitious was questioned by a deputant who claimed, in fact, the city of Toronto lagged behind almost ever other municipality in the GTA and was still below a proposed provincial target of 60 per cent.

Such deficiencies just begin to scratch the surface of the problems with the KPMG report. After nearly eight hours of listening to presentations, deputations, questions, and answers, it was hard not to come to the conclusion that the report is little more than a big ol’ softball for the mayor to hammer for extra bases. Big, scary cuts will be dangled out at us with no intention of ever implementing them, so that other cuts will actually happen and we’ll all breathe a heavy sigh of relief, telling ourselves that, well, it could’ve been a whole lot worse.

Bringing us to problem number two. The right wing on the Public Works Committee doesn’t give a shit about any of that. To a man (and they were all men) they couldn’t have looked less interested in yesterday’s proceedings if they’d pulled out blankies and pillows and taken a nap right on their desks. At one point of time, three of them—councillors Grimes (Ward 6, Etobicoke-Lakeshore), Parker, and Shiner—left the room entirely, bringing things to a halt due to a lack of quorum. The questions they asked of staff, KPMG, and deputants were few and far between. Committee chair Denzil Minnan-Wong’s (Ward 34, Don Valley East) sole purpose, it seemed, was to run interference for staff and the KPMG representatives when the line of questioning from other councillors got a little too aggressive or demanding.

All of which leads to the third and most damning problem of the committee meeting. After all was said and done—reports given, deputations made, questions asked—the councillors on Public Works voted to punt the report to the stacked-with-mayoral-allies Executive Committee. Except for seeking further information on snow removal (a big item in places like Shiner’s North York ward), street cleaning, and water fluoridation, the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee decided to make no decisions or even recommendations on the KPMG report, leaving it entirely in the hands of Mayor Ford and his executive. It is a move that will quite likely get repeated at every committee meeting over the course of the next 10 days or so. There will be much posturing and posing, ignoring of deputations, blowing smoke and spinning narrative, sound and fury signifying nothing, only to have each and every decision handed meekly over to the mayor to deal with as he sees fit. A complete and utter abrogation of responsibility by the majority members of the City’s standing committees.

Perhaps, that’s overly harsh. Maybe it’s a gambit on some councillors’ part to try and make the mayor show his hand, to be the first to go on record saying what he wants cut. Either way, it seems that the committees are telling us that tough decisions have to be made. Just not by them.

resubmitted by Cityslikr


Vengeance is Ford’s

July 17, 2011

Upper Jarvis Street was a lovely avenue when my grandfather’s grandfather, William R. Johnston, built his mansion on it in 1875. He and his family lived there until 1916, when they were part of the exodus of Toronto’s high society north to the suburbs of Rosedale and Forest Hill. Today, neighbours call 571 Jarvis, at the corner of Isabella, The Grey Lady and it serves as office and training space for Casey House. Meanwhile, Jarvis St. became a battleground for competing visions of what Toronto can and should be.

One sides sees Jarvis as a 1950s-style “traffic corridor,” a glorified highway to zip central Toronto residents downtown and provide suburbanites an alternative to the Don Valley Parkway’s congestion. Another vision, championed by Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam among others, would have Jarvis as a pedestrian-friendly cultural corridor. Of course, we didn’t hear much about cultural corridors at city council this week, just rage over bike lanes.

Jarvis was actually an unlikely site for such a crusade. Despite the whining of the soccer moms in Councilor Karen Stintz’s North Toronto ward, the bike lanes weren’t really that disruptive for carists. Maybe they added a couple of minutes to the commute, but the five-lane system was far from elegant and left the lanes too narrow to really be safe. As Councilor Josh Matlow noted, the bike lanes actually improved the road for drivers. Meanwhile, let’s face it, if we could install just one north-south bike lane between the one on Sherbourne and the one on St. George and Beverly, we wouldn’t put it on Jarvis—we’d want it on Bay or Yonge. Besides, bike lanes aren’t essential to a cultural corridor; in fact, they meant the sidewalks weren’t widened as originally planned.

Nevertheless, the cyclists picked my great-great-grandfather’s old street to make their stand. Inevitably, they were frustrated that the carists showed absolutely no understanding of even the most rudimentary elements of transportation planning. Mayor Rob Ford’s allies treated self-serving anecdotes as data and dismissed contrary evidence as corrupt. They also delighted in their procedural deviousness. So while the cycling community held out hope that the vote would be close, the bike brigade never had a chance.

For Ford Nation, this skirmish was about far more than bike lanes or even just a clash of competing visions—it was a triumph of vengeance over vision. Ford and his faction on the previous council felt so dismissed by the Miller administration that once they grabbed power, they were going to make damn sure to treat the council’s left wing the same way. Only worse. (This comes as no surprise to anyone who understands Ford’s essential childishness.) More than that, the mayor is determined to undo as much of Miller’s legacy as he possibly can, no matter the merit or the cost. Transit City’s four LRT lines? Now just one. The Fort York bridge? Gone. Jarvis as a cultural corridor? Nope. Instead, the five lanes will return at a cost of $500,000 to respected taxpayers.

Those of us who saw Don Cherry’s rant at Ford’s investiture as classless and inappropriately partisan missed the real message: he was signaling that Ford’s reign would be all about spite. But vengeance is not only a disastrous way to run a city, it’s a foolish political strategy.

So the bad news is: a lot of things in Toronto are going to get much worse before they have a chance to get any better. By shrinking the planned expansion of transit (and even cutting back on existing service), by making our streets more inhospitable to cyclists and by completely ignoring pedestrians, Ford ensures that our roads will become even more congested.

But the good news is: Ford’s government by vengeance ensures that voters will react by giving a strong and clear mandate to a city builder with a vision of Toronto as a place that works for everyone, not just those behind the wheel. And someday Jarvis will become a cultural corridor because those are the kinds of streets great cities nurture. I’m pretty sure that’s what William R. Johnston would want for his old ‘hood.

— submitted by Tim Falconer is the author of three books, including Drive: A Road Trip through Our Complicated Affair with the Automobile.


An Addendum

July 16, 2011

Just a quick additional note that I tried to artfully weave into yesterday’s post but couldn’t pull off in any way that met even our impossibly low standards.

We were talking about the arrival of Councillors Mike Layton and Kristyn Wong-Tam into the bigs with their respective battles to save projects in their wards from under the Godzilla steps of Team Ford. The Fort York bridge in Layton’s case and the Jarvis Street bike lanes in Wong-Tam’s. In losing causes both councillors made very favourable impressions.

We failed to make one important point. That is to the ‘why’ these projects came under attack in the first place. Budget overruns were cited with the proposed Fort York bridge. A mix of ideologically thinking and a repackaged election campaign pledge got trotted out in the case of the bike lanes on Jarvis. None of the reasoning actually held up in the light of the day and perhaps it’s just easiest to see it as simply a purge of anything and everything to do with the Mayor David Miller era. (If you’re looking for better analyses of what’s making the mayor tick, you absolutely need to read Ivor Tossell’s piece in the Toronto Standard and Matt Elliott at Ford For Toronto.)

But consider this.

I think it’s safe to say neither Wong-Tam nor Layton could be viewed as reliable allies of Mayor Ford. In fact, opposite camp may be a better descriptor. Downtown pinko left wing kooks. No need expending any political capital trying to woo them.

Instead, they could be used as examples to the other new councillors who are more amenable to the mayor’s way of thinking. Something along the lines of, don’t fuck with us, newbies, or this kind of thing may happen to you too. So, running against unwritten council protocol, in committee a Ford ally blindsides both Layton and Wong-Tam, giving them no real heads-up that the mayor’s aiming to pull the plug on a project in their ward. Grade school, bully boy tactics that has the dual purpose of sticking it to a political foe while warning everyone else who may be getting restless under the mayor’s thumb to stay put and shut up.

Fort York bridge, killed. Jarvis Street bike lanes, removed.

You see what Mayor Ford just did there, Councillor Bailão? Councillor Colle? Councillor Matlow? Councillor McMahon?

It’s instructive to point out that in the lead up to the Jarvis bike lane debate, Mayor Ford went out of his way to hold the Lawrence Heights development item, a big ticket project that Councillor Colle inherited from his predecessor in Ward 15, Howard Moscoe. Yes, the mayor had never been a fan of the development. He’d even campaigned in the neighbourhood last year and vowed to stop it if elected. But note the timeline this week. Mayor Ford holds item, putting a gun to its head. Jarvis Street bike lane debate happens. Councillor Colle remains in deep background during it. When the vote happens, Councillor Colle lines up with the mayor to help tear up the bike lanes.

Recess for lunch. When the meeting resumes, the mayor releases the item and is the only one to vote against it. However, it’s now safe for Councillor Colle to go forward.

That’s some out-and-out gangster shit there. The exact opposite of building consensus. Let’s call it, political extortion, given added oomph that it comes with the very real example of what happens if you don’t play ball with the mayor. Projects just disappear.

That’s just how Mayor Ford rolls, yo.

sippin’ on gin and juicely submitted by Cityslikr


On The Plus Side

July 15, 2011

Lest anyone be dejected that no good came out of this month’s clusterfuck shitshow of a council meeting, take heart. I can think of two things. Or people, as it were.

A couple rookie councillors emerged as genuine, forceful bona fides on the council scene. Both faced their own respective trials by fire over the last few months and stepped up from being hopeful prospects and into full time positions in the majors. While tough to celebrate given the circumstances, it should still be cause for at least a brief round of applause.

As any long time follower of this blog will know, way back when in the summer and fall of 2010, we were not supporters of then candidate Michael Layton here in Ward 19. In fact, we heartily endorsed one of his opponents in the race to replace Joe Pantalone, Karen Sun. Having watched a couple of the debates and briefly chatting with Mr. Layton when he came knocking at our door, nothing about him jumped out favourably at us. Like many constituents in this ward, we looked at the baggage/advantage he carried being the son of a former city councillor and now leader of the federal NDP and stepson (we think) of another former city councillor and current NDP MP with a certain degree of disdain. There was talk of needing a fresh start without any attachments to the past.

That said, having him an elected as councillor was not the worst thing that happened on election night. Rob Ford’s now mayor?! Cesar Palacio was re-elected!?

Certainly Mr. Layton did not assume office with any air of entitlement. I think I’d even go as far to call him tentative, not an immediate presence in council chambers. He seemed to go for the slow rollout, getting his sea legs, learning the ropes. I softened toward him when he hosted a town hall gathering during the lead up to the budget battles. Admitting that he was new to the process and didn’t have all the answers, he brought in former budget chief Shelley Carroll to help explain to the gathered residents what to expect when council began debating the budget.

Councillor Layton’s first mini-splash came during a subsequent council meeting when, in the middle of speaking on something or other, he was set upon by Councillor Doug Ford who took a rare turn to actually speak out loud, blustering and burping the usual nonsense that flows forth from his gob. Layton held his ground, effectively counter-punching until Brother Doug ran out of steam and plopped himself back down to his seat.

The feistiness flared up again Wednesday when Layton attempted to get Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong to commit to tearing up the Jarvis Street bike lanes only after the alleged protected lanes on Sherbourne Street were functioning. As is his way, Minnan-Wong avoided addressing the issue by spuriously accusing Layton of spearheading the building of the Fort York bridge, in place years before Layton was elected. Layton angrily called Minnan-Wong on his crap and demanded a retraction. Minnan-Wong complied in his typical weasel fashion to which we have become accustomed.

Ah, yes. The Fort York bridge. Councillor Layton’s nasty introduction into the politics of the Ford era. At last month’s Public Works and Infrastructure committee meeting, Ford loyalist, David Shiner, greasily sandbagged Layton with scant advance notice, that they were taking the bridge back to the drawing board and the issue was as good as dead. Layton scrambled to get the necessary 2/3s majority vote to bring it to council for debate but, unsurprisingly, fell short. Tough lesson learned but battle stripes earned.

The Public Works and Infrastructure committee also initiated Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam into the rough and tumble, oily manner of city politics, Ford style. Like Mike Layton, she too was blindsided at the very last minute about a project under threat in her ward. You might’ve heard about it. The Jarvis bike lanes? Mousy but obedient councillor, John Parker gave her about a 5 minute heads-up, after all the deputations had been heard, that plans were in the works to remove the lanes. You don’t have any problems with that, do you councillor?

Like Layton, Councillor Wong-Tam fought an uphill, losing battle in defense of the well-being of her ward but in so doing helped expose the members of the Ford team as mean-spirited, small-minded and categorically unable to defend their positions. When she submitted her 3 motions to save the bike lanes on Jarvis or to ensure they were not removed before the promised Sherbourne lanes had, in fact, been established, Wong-Tam simply embarrassed Councillor Karen Stintz who stood up to try and poke holes in the motions. I don’t know if Stintz didn’t do her homework or was simply performing a half-hearted gesture of solidarity with the mayor but she ended up doing herself or her side no favours. With each hard return from Wong-Tam of Stintz’s goofball queries, it became painfully obvious that, despite being the veteran in the exchange, Councillor Stintz was simply out of her depth and out her league.

So what, you’ll say. At the end of the day, the ill-informed and malignantly intentioned won out. Hoo-rah for the losing side and their hopeless causes. But I happen to think strong character is best forged in defeat. Winning is easy especially if it’s achieved through deceit and, let’s call it what it was, treachery. It’s how you handle yourself and what you learn when you come up short that ultimately counts. Councillors Layton and Wong-Tam were tested and met the challenge. I think we got a couple of keepers on our hands.

happily submitted by Cityslikr