The Defeat Device

September 29, 2015

The basis of the appeal of the private automobile has always been a kind of mystically perceived total freedom. In practice, it is the freedom to go wherever one wants to go (wherever the roads go, which opens up another socioeconomic can of worms), whenever one desires to go (whenever the car is ready, when one has paid the price in preparation and maintenance, in taxation and legal qualification, whenever one has the wherewithal simply to feed the machine), at whatever rate one desires to go (assuming the traffic will allow, that congestion eases – and at rates up to but not beyond the arbitrary standards established to protect one from the dangers of excessive use of his own freedom).

Never mind the cavils, however; mobility, or the illusion thereof, has indeed been the prime attraction, the dream for which we have so cheerfully paid all those other costs. The tragedy is that if mobility alone had been the single goal in the development of the modern private automobile, we could have achieved a better measure of it for a fraction of a percentage point of the cost we have paid.

— John Jerome, The Death of the Automobile, 1972

It should be unsettling to all of us that we have built our lives around, designed the places we live and work to, hinged an unhealthy segment of our economy on this “mystically perceived total freedom” of the private automobile. deathoftheautomobileSo engrained is this perception of the individual life enhancing power of the car that we cannot imagine a future without one, a future, like the past two generations, of unimodal transportation policy revolving entirely around our use of private vehicles. Anything else is inconceivable.

Our mayor will be pursuing an item at city council this week that will, if successful, drain $350 million from the capital budget in order to speed up repairs on the Gardiner Expressway, shrinking the timeline from 20 to 8 years. So important to our local economy that people not be hampered in getting around the city in their cars, Mayor Tory believes this to be a wise and prudent expense of public dollars. Just like spending hundreds of millions more money to keep a small eastern section of the same expressway elevated makes sense to him.

The primacy of the automobile is simply self-evident. As it was so it shall ever be. carad5Stopping such madness only serves to reveal it was madness from the very beginning.

While you can certainly accuse the mayor of lacking much imagination and even less foresight, you can’t necessarily fault him. The car mythology has been deeply engrained in us, sold to us unrelentingly, in 30 second spots during the Super Bowl, filling up magazine pages, providing regular content in pop culture. Little Deuce Coup to the Fast and Furious. Baby, you can drive my car and we’ll have fun, fun, `til your daddy takes the T-bird away. (That makes no sense but nothing about car adulation does).

We have been bamboozled by marketing and PR. In this way, the automotive industry has much in common with Big Tobacco. Actually, in another important way as well. Mass deception and perfidy resulting in a steady march of hundreds of thousands to the graveyard.

Truth in advertising.

We laugh now at the outrageous claims of pretend doctors pitching their favourite brand of cigarettes. Cool menthol. Lucky Strike. It’s Toasted! Low tar and nicotine. I’d Rather Fight Than Switch. carad4Come To Where The Flavour Is, you Marlboro Man Men, a succession of pitchmen dying of lung cancer.

But how much more realistic is your everyday car commercial? Mostly, drivers and their freedom-loving passengers, tearing it up along the open road, nary another car in sight, even in the most populous of cities. Ads highlighting the new features that a company has developed to keep your family safe deny the obvious. Your family would be much safer not travelling around the city in a car.

One of the most cynical spots on TV right now is one featuring the band X Ambassadors, touring America in a Jeep, writing lyrics, listening to music on the radio, taking in the sights. And where do they wind up for a gig? At a venue that says ‘Portland’ on its marquee. Portland, Oregon. Perhaps the leading North American city committed to reducing its dependence of private automobiles.

Renegades, my ass, you TV jinglemakers. Fuck you, X Ambassadors. Fuck you, Jeep. Fuck you, car industry.

A little over-the-top? An unfair comparison, cars and cigarettes? One is a delivery system for an addictive, toxic virulence which was well-known but hidden and denied by corporations and the other…

Volkswagen: The scandal explained. ‘Diesel dupe’. ‘Defeat device’. carad2A mammoth multinational company consciously working to defy regulations in order to sell their product which dumps untold amounts of dangerous, deadly shit into the atmosphere. Yeah, that’s the other.

It’s not like this is some singular event by an outlier. Car companies have been slipping and dodging government environmental regulations for, well, probably since the advent of environmental regulations. “Manufacturers have long been accused of using specially prepared cars to produce the best possible [miles-per-gallon performance] figures.”

The entire Age of the Automobile has been predicated on lies and slick, misleading advertising. Like all advertising, it’s based on a perceived lifestyle with the promise of easy, economical and efficient mobility at its core. Like all advertising, it’s not entirely true. Not even close.

This is not news, particularly. There’s nothing revelatory in that statement. Car dependence is killing us, and disfiguring our cities and communities in the process. But we’re too far in, it seems, to do much about it. carad1We just continue to dig the hole deeper, tossing more money after bad, hoping to find a solution somewhere in that deep, dark pit.

The denial sits heavily. We can’t possibly have been this stupid to have bought so whole-heartedly into such a fantasy, spun by corporate entities. Can we? No. Let’s just keep doing what we’ve been doing.

More than 40 years on, we refuse to accept the reality of what we’ve done.

Technology isn’t evil, but the uses of technology often are. The car is a bad machine – and the solution is not to build a better bad machine, but rather not to build bad machines. Yet this huge, wealthy nation is trapped with what is virtually a single transportation system, and to suggest simply abandoning that system is to suggest paralyzing the nation. We have become addicted to automobiles; they have become literally a necessity to sustaining life.

autohatingly submitted by Cityslikr


Standing Strong For The Status Quo

September 28, 2015

There are days when my rational and sane side win out, when my contempt and general misanthropy wane, taking a back seat and making me, I think, a moderately agreeable person. It rarely occurs without a battle. sunnydispositiononarainydayI don’t enjoy taking the dim view but whoever said that it takes more muscles to frown than to smile couldn’t have been fully on top of either human psychology or physiology.

Reasonable me wants to believe Mayor John Tory is more concerned, is more of an advocate for addressing Toronto’s affordable housing crisis (as part of a broader anti-poverty strategy) than was his predecessor, Rob Ford. That should be a no-brainer, right? I mean, no sooner had Ford assumed the mayor’s office than he started making noise about selling off Toronto Community Housing stock and letting the private sector deal with the mess. There were few social programs he didn’t deem to be akin to thug hugging.

Mayor Tory, on the other hand, has handpicked Councillor Pam McConnell to devise a poverty reduction strategy. Earlier this year he appointed Senator Art Eggleton to oversee the functioning of the Toronto Community Housing Corporation and recommend ways to make it work better. Councillor Ana Bailão continues to focus on ways to deal with the Mount Everest backlog of TCHC state of good repairs. lookbusy1Just last week, the mayor pressed the ReSet button on an initiative to streamline the manner TCHC goes about fixing its housing stock.

So yeah, sane and rational me prevails, seeing Mayor Tory as a step in the right direction on the poverty and affordable housing fronts after the Ford years. Check that It Could Be Worse box.

But here comes disagreeable me to demand that it’d be really great to see the mayor speak and act as passionately and as often about poverty and affordable housing as he does on road repairs and car congestion. He’s pushing a $350 million agenda item at city council meeting this week to expedite work on the Gardiner expressway, reducing the construction timeline down 8 years, from 20 to 12. Just today, the mayor was defending an extra $3.4 million spent on a section of the Gardiner to shorten the repair completion date a few months.

Watch Mayor Tory vigorously champion the $350 million Gardiner rehabilitation expenditure at last week’s Executive Committee meeting on economic grounds (right near the end of the clip).

There is no mountain the mayor does not seem willing to move, no amount of money he will not spend to free drivers of congested traffic. Poverty and affordable housing? He’ll appoint people to make reports. He’ll tweak procurement practices. He’ll press senior levels of government to do their part.

That’s a whole lot better than showing up at buildings and handing out $20 bills but it’s hardly enough. It’s all well and good. It’s not Gardiner expressway rehabilitation level good, though.

This is where the sunny disposition, sane and rational me loses the upper hand on this discussion. No amount of reports or fiddling with the system is going to seriously address the problems at TCHC. Neither will they do much in dealing with poverty in Toronto, and the rise of David Hulchanski’s 3 cities within this city. Tblahblahblahhese are long simmering problems abandoned in any serious way by all 3 levels of governments for the better part of a generation now.

And Mayor Tory’s go-to move on the files? Not dissimilar from Rob Ford’s when he was mayor. Ask/cajole/plead with/shame the provincial and federal governments to pitch in and do their part. Try, and try again. Only this time, it’ll be different because… because… because… ?

Is this the face of a provincial government that looks as if it’s willing to open up its coffers to a municipal ask/demand from Toronto?

The Ontario government is trying to squeeze millions of dollars out of the City of Toronto by appealing the property-tax assessments on several provincial properties – including the Legislature Building at Queen’s Park and the headquarters of the Ministry of Finance.

During the Executive Committee debate over the Gardiner expressway rehabilitation item, it was pointed out that in order to access federal government infrastructure money the project had to use a P3 process. Sure, you can have some money. But always with strings attached. Always.

Mayor Tory hopes to tap into some of that federal infrastructure cash to help with the $2.6 billion repair backlog at TCHC. Another wish that comes, presumably, with strings attached. If we’re lucky.

This is where I can fight off the contempt and discontent no longer. Our mayor seems unprepared, unwilling or unable to challenge this status quo. He talks and talks and talks around it, expresses occasional dissatisfaction with it but in the end, he bows down before it. fingerscrossedWith an eye on the polls, acting on those things which churn with possible voter anger and ballot retribution, he prioritizes his agenda accordingly. Thus, we find ourselves flush with $350 million to speed up repairs on the Gardiner but improvements to living conditions at the TCHC remain dependent on successful asks from senior levels of government.

The poors and their poverty aren’t traditionally big vote getters. That’s simply the undeniable status quo. Mayor Tory isn’t big on challenging the status quo.

sadly submitted by Cityslikr


A Gardiner Ode

September 22, 2015

OK, not technically an ode, not even an Irregular one. No stanzas, no rhyme scheme. gardinerfortyorkJust a tribute, if you will.

Standing, listening to music this past weekend at the Toronto Urban Roots Festival, down on the grounds of ol’ Fort York, I was struck regularly by the terrible beauty that is the Gardiner Expressway. The elevated portion of the monstrosity snaking its way through the downtown core, separating the fort from its barracks and the lakefront; modernity, once shadowing out the past, itself now under siege by the present and future as towers rise up on either side of it.

Even more so than this 18th-century fort, it’s the Gardiner Expressway that now looks and feels out of place, out of touch, a relic from a bygone era. An obstinate obstacle to progress, demanding we acknowledge its one-time greatness and how it represented glorious future-thinking and city-building. gardinerfortyork1A money-suck monument to the past.

During this never-ending debate over what to do with this eastern most portion of the expressway – Repair, Rebuild or Tear Down, in short – I’ve sided, rather forcefully, with the latter. Bring the fucker down, I say. But on this day, from this vantage point I’m looking up at it, I reconsider.

Maybe not, I think.

Let’s leave it up, as a symbol to prior civic mistakes. Well-meaning but ultimately misguided public policy pursuits that reverberate, decades on, with unfortunate unintended consequences. An artefact in an outdoor museum to grand plans of yesteryear gone wildly and madly astray.

Eventually, vehicular usage on the expressway will dwindle, a smattering of what it once was as people figure there are better ways to move around the city. Maybe we will then turn it into some kind of public space, some sort of reclamation project. cadillacranchA graveyard for the automobile age upon which we will all ascend to dance upon.

Or maybe, once we come to our senses about the albatross that is the Gardiner expressway, we will plan a grand send off for it, a command performance of the Pixies, say, blasting their planet of sound from the grounds of the ol’ Fort York, LOUDquietLOUD, bringing the entire hideous structure tumbling down. And we will all cheer, not ruefully or spitefully but humbly, acknowledging folly isn’t always avoidable, refusing to accept it as such is.

odeladywholy submitted by Cityslikr


Reading Between The Lines

May 28, 2015

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Reading between the lines of Mayor Tory’s remarks about the Gardiner Expressway – May 12, 2015:

Good afternoon.

[One day before public deputations at the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee about the options for the eastern section of the Gardiner Expressway. Before public deputations. Almost like they didn’t matter.]

In the next few days and weeks, there will be a lot of discussion about the future of one of Toronto’s most important pieces of road infrastructure – the Gardiner expressway.

The fact is there has already been a lot said about the eastern section of the Gardiner.

Positions have been advanced. Editorials have been written. [Almost all of it coming out in favour of the removal option. Except for some special interest groups like the CAA.] There is an active and ongoing conversation on the subject and I welcome that. [Although by publicly proclaiming a stance before deputants spoke, he’s essentially ignoring it.] That’s as it should be in a healthy democracy.

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It’s come to the point now where I believe I should let the people of this city know where I stand on the issue as their mayor. [In order to dampen any enthusiasm that might spring up from public deputations the following day.]

To set the table briefly, there are three options before us. We can maintain the Gardiner as is, repairing it to ensure it remains safe for drivers and pedestrians walking nearby.

Option two, we can tear it down and replace it with an eight lane roadway at grade, or street level.

And finally, option three, what’s known as the hybrid approach, which would remove a section of the expressway and open up lands to the east of the Gardiner [As would the removal option, in addition to which another 12 acres that the “hybrid” option will effectively shutdown development on.], but also maintain a continuous connection with the don valley parkway [For 3% of the morning rush hour commuters. 3%. An extra half billion dollars for 3% of the morning commuters. Do the math on that.]

Some will know that during the election campaign I favoured the hybrid option. [A different “hybrid” option that engineers declared wouldn’t safely work in joining up with the DVP. A different “hybrid” option that didn’t negatively impact the 12 acres of so-called 3C lands. A different “hybrid” option from the new one Mayor Tory’s stumping for that just went public a month earlier.]

I did so because I believed then, as I do now, that we have to keep traffic moving in this city. Not just traffic but commerce as well. [Somebody should ask FedEx about their traffic study, and why they’re moving their time-sensitive business east of the Gardiner as if it didn’t matter to their ‘commerce’ whether or not the Gardiner is removed.]

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We have one of the worst congestion problems of any large city in North America and there was little doubt in my mind that tearing down the eastern section of the Gardiner would only make matters worse. Much worse. [There is very little actual evidence to back this claim up. In fact, just the opposite. Almost all studies of traffic post-expressway removal show little to no adverse impact of the removal. Look it up if you don’t believe me.]

Since the election there have been a number of studies and reports on the subject. There have been public meetings, as well. [Again, almost all in favour of removing the eastern portion of the Gardiner.]

I have listened, and have read the reports thoroughly, including ones dating back ten years on this issue.

Just this past weekend, I drove the eastern section of the Gardiner and I have also looked at it, and the area around it, from below, on foot.

I did what, frankly, I think people would expect from their mayor – a careful and thorough review of the available facts and evidence. [And somehow still arrived at the same conclusion a less ‘careful and thorough’ mayor, like say, Rob Ford would. Odd, that.]

This is not an easy decision. Not by a long shot. There are compelling arguments on each side. [The one Mayor Tory is about to make the case for, a lot less compelling. Unless by ‘compelling’, the mayor means, I don’t know, ‘hollow and self-serving’.] Ultimately, for me, it came down to a number of important considerations.

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Right at the top of the list – traffic. We simply can’t go on the way it is. We have to keep people and goods moving in this city. It is vital both to our quality of life and to our economy. [The “hybrid” option will do nothing to make this better. Nothing.]

There are also the lands to the east of the expressway – the so-called Unilever lands – which are primed and ready for development. Not just a handful of buildings, but a transformational development that would employ thousands of people and pump billions into our economy. [Removing the eastern portion of the Gardiner would do the exact same thing. The. Exact. Same. Thing. No either/or like Mayor Tory’s trying to make it. Plus, the removal option opens up an additional 12 acres of waterfront property that the “hybrid” option locks outs.]

I also considered how these plans fit with my desire – and the desire of so many of us – to build a truly great city – a city that is on par with the other great cities of the world in terms of urban design, taking into account the aspirations of all of our residents, whether they drive, cycle or move around on foot. [All truly great cities are falling over themselves to put up or maintain waterfront expressways. Every. Single. One. Of. Them.]

The option to maintain the eastern section of the Gardiner as is would keep traffic moving. What it would not do, however, is unlock the tremendous potential of the Unilever lands. For that reason, I don’t believe it is a good option. [Agreed. What do you know? Mayor Tory can actually not talk nonsense when he puts his mind to it.]

Now to the remove option.

While parts of me understand the desire to tear down the eastern section altogether [Just 2 years ago, in his role as head of CivicAction, John Tory championed doing just that, tearing down the eastern portion of the Gardiner], I don’t believe we can and let me explain why.

In the next few years, another million people will move here. Those people need to get around. The businesses that serve those people, and the 2.8 million that are here already, need to get to them as well. Whether we like it or not, and notwithstanding transit projects like Smarttrack that will be built – that involves cars and trucks.

I didn’t get elected to make traffic worse. And let’s be clear – removing that piece of the Gardiner will almost certainly make traffic worse. [Ooops. There he goes, talking nonsense. It won’t. In almost every other situation where an expressway was removed, traffic did not get worse.]

While experts disagree on just exactly how much worse – one says three to five minutes, another says ten – [Classic he says/he says argument that suggests equal weight should be given to both sides. Kinda like climate change deniers. This is not an equal debate. A critical mass of experts and accomplished city builders want to tear down the eastern portion of the Gardiner.] there is no doubt that there will be a negative impact on commute times, [Yes, as a matter of fact, there is some doubt.] and that means bad news for families, bad news for business, bad news for the environment and bad news for quality of life overall. [None of which the “hybrid” option will help.]

A number of weeks ago when we were able to re-open sections of the Gardiner early, I got all kinds of emails and messages from people who said that their commute times had dropped by 20 or 30 minutes. [Purely anecdotal evidence based on a far more used portion of the Gardiner. In no way salient to this debate.]

They told me what an enormous difference it was making in their lives, just to have that extra time at home with a child or a spouse. [Ahhh, that’s nice. But again, utterly irrelevant to this debate.]

talkingibberish

The remove option would take us in the opposite direction. [It would not. What reports was Mayor Tory reading?] It would erase those extra minutes and hours with the ones we love and, quite conceivably too, add even more time to already long, frustrating commutes.

To me, a great city is many things, but it must be one where you can get to work in a reasonable amount of time. A great city is one that allows you to be at home with your kids, instead of spending hours in your car fighting traffic. [The “hybrid” option would do little to alleviate this. Sorry if I’m repeating myself. It’s just that the mayor keeps saying the same thing over and over again.]

Great cities, some will say, don’t have elevated expressways. They have boulevards and friendly streets.

But take the time and look at it and I think you will reach the same conclusion I did.

The eight-lane roadway that would replace the eastern section of the Gardiner would, for all intents and purposes, be a street level expressway. [Now Mayor Tory is just out-and-out making shit up. Think University Avenue.] Any notions of sipping a coffee in a café [A Ford-like dog whistle statement! Downtown elitists, sipping coffee in a café, sipping not drinking or chugging.] next to a busy, congested eight lane highway should be put out of your mind, because it’s just not a reflection of reality. I mean, the traffic could just disappear or divert itself onto other streets. But ask yourself. Does that accord with common sense? Is that a likely scenario? Again I don’t believe so. [Doesn’t matter what Mayor Tory may believe, despite all the reports he claims to have read, traffic does largely disappear or adjusts to the new reality. Maintaining road space maintains traffic. Induced demand. Look it up. Clearly the mayor didn’t.]

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The fact is there are elevated expressways in great cities in the world. New York. Amsterdam. Tokyo.

What they’ve managed to do there, and in cities like Rio de Janeiro and Shanghai and Glasgow, is make use of the space underneath the expressway, transform it from dead space to a vibrant piece of the urban fabric. [I’ve been to every one of those cities save Glasgow and the one thing I don’t remember is what was going on under their expressways.]

We’ve started to do that here with the Fort York Centre and underpass park. That’s what innovative, forward thinking cities can do. [No, that’s what cities do to adapt to horrible decisions they’ve made in the past that can’t be easily redone.]

I intend to take on the challenge personally. I will take the talent we have and, using the examples from around the world, bring the space under the Gardiner to life. Make it creative, welcoming urban space. Skate parks in Philadelphia, markets in Rio and an art gallery in Amsterdam. The possibilities are endless.

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It should be obvious by now that I support the hybrid option. And I do for the reasons I have just laid out. It will keep traffic moving. It will keep our economy strong. And it will ensure that the development potential at the Unilever site is realized and with it thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in value.

And we will take up the opportunity to do something unique with the space below and around the expressway as other great cities have done.

[Mayor Tory’s just on a loop repeat now, regurgitating easily refuted points here.]

Cost is always and issue and so let’s spend a minute on cost. There are those who say that the hybrid option is too costly, that the dollars needed are greater than either of the maintain and tear down options.

It’s true that the hybrid option costs more. But when the costs looked at in real dollars, once you discount the effect time has on money, they are only slightly greater.

And ask yourself this – what are the costs of congestion getting substantially worse.

[Congestion the “hybrid” option will in no way help to address.]

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What are the costs of halting development of an exciting new downtown on the east side of the city with thousands of new jobs, new homes and new stores? [Again, Mr. Mayor. Removing the Gardiner east will not halt development of the Unilever site. In fact, if you’d waited just one day to listen to the public deputations, the First Gulf – Uniliever developers – representative said it didn’t matter to them aside from the maintain option. “Hybrid”, removal, whatever.]

We need to unlock that development. And we need to keep this city moving. [Absolutely. The removal option unlocks even more potential waterfront development.]

The best way – the only way – to do that, in my view, is the hybrid option. [How many reports did you actually read, Mr. Mayor?]

The public works committee will consider this issue tomorrow. Whatever the outcome, whether it makes a recommendation or not, ultimately this is an issue that will be decided by the full City Council with all of the facts on the table and after a full and thorough debate.

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I’m confident that once that happens, when we have those facts and we have that debate, it will become clear that the hybrid option is the best choice, the best way forward.

The best way to keep our city and our economy moving, the best way to unlock potential and value in emerging areas, and the best way to ensure our place among the great cities of the world.

[Yaddie, yaddie, yaddie. Boilerplate gibberish. The mayor’s decision has already been made, facts, thorough debates and convincing deputations aren’t going to change his mind. The next couple weeks are going to be filled with propagating bullshit and backroom arm-twisting of a compliant city council.]

Thank you and I look forward to taking your questions. [But you already know what Mayor Tory’s responses will be.]

parsingly submitted by Cityslikr


Damn The Torpedoes

May 27, 2015

Despite protestations to the contrary, it appears as if the Scarborough subway will be open to further debate. At our mayor’s behest no less. To build more of it.wtf

Good god.

Yesterday the Toronto Star’s Jennifer Pagliaro wrote about the behind-the-scenes mad scramble of the Team Tory’s increasingly desperate attempt to square the circle of building SmartTrack and the Scarborough subway, two lines of high order transit that threaten to gobble up each others’ ridership numbers, inflicting on one, possibly both of them, a bad case of white elephantitis.

“SmartTrack, which Tory largely staked his election campaign on and which hinges on the use of existing GO rail in the east, can’t be moved,” Pagliaro states. “The subway, which he also promised to build, can. At what cost, however?”moneytoburn

In order to keep what was a questionable from the outset campaign transit pledge (‘bold’, as his team called it), Mayor Tory is prepared to start burning through (more) money, expand an equally dubious transit project and wreak even further havoc on an already havoc-wreaked transit system.

This, at the same time he’s determined to ignore a growing mountain of expert advice recommending against his (again, hastily drawn up) “hybrid” option to keep the eastern portion of the Gardiner expressway elevated.

Our mayor, it should by now be apparent, is a big proponent, like his predecessor in the job, of what the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives’ Armine Yalnizyan referred to on MetroMorning today as, “decision based evidence making”.notlistening

Or, politics trump good policy, hands down. Every time. No matter what.

What kind of position does this leave city staff in (which is what I was writing about when the Star transit story broke)? What purpose do they serve a politician determined to only listen to them when there’s agreement? Props, to be used to buttress an argument when it suits or to rail against when not. Bureaucracy! Red tape! A culture of no!

Last week, when the city’s Chief Planner, Jennifer Keesmaat, spoke out unequivocally in favour of removing the Gardiner east, Mayor Tory shrugged, saying she was certainly entitled to her opinion.

“But I’ve sort of set out my own position. She’s set out hers,” the mayor said.squarepeg

As if by merely taking a position, having an opinion makes it valid for no other reason than its existence.

That is not to say politicians are obliged to carry out staff recommendations. We don’t vote for our civil service. It, and our elected representatives, ultimately serves at the people’s pleasure in a democracy.

To simply wave such advice off, however, sum it up as little more than competing points of view undermines the very idea of the civil service. Why bother if you’re simply going to ignore them when it’s politically expedient to do so? Somebody’s got to create the reports we need to show voters we’re not beholden to some unelected body. Come on. Are we going to let some egghead know-it-alls tell us what kind of city we want to live in? Not on my watch.

City staff, filled with expertise, certainly don’t get it right all the time. Anyone can look at a finished development or cite a flawed traffic study and conclude, What were they thinking? Our civil service is not infallible.

Should they be treated as just another opinion, though? Oplottingliver Moore of the Globe and Mail pointed out in the Toronto Star story how the mayor’s staff seemed to be telling the chief planner where subway stops needed to go. Are you fucking kidding me? In Mayor Tory’s Toronto, common sense equals supplanting expertise with political calculation.

Campaign governance. That was the Ford era speciality, now infecting the Tory administration. There is no amount of money too rich, no plan too outrageous that musn’t be pursued to the bitter, ugly end if it’s been slapped on a campaign lawn sign or featured prominently in the campaign literature. Sure, in retrospect that idea I floated while running for office seems misguided and completely unworkable but I said it, so now I have to do it.

Damn your torpedoes, man! Damn them straight to hell!!

Once more, political strategy defeats city building, leadership by poll tracking rather than informed consensus building. Don’t tell me what we need to do. damnthetorpedoesTell me how I get to do what I want to do.

Few should be surprised that’s the territory Mayor Tory’s operating in. The depth to which he’s prepared to wade into it, well, that’s somewhat shocking. He’s proving to be as comfortably shameless as the administration he chased from office, two points converging on the nexus of pure and unadulterated self-interest at the expense of a city that had closed its eyes and crossed its fingers in the hopes of something different.

sinkingly submitted by Cityslikr


Mayor Tory Is A Lawyer, Right?

May 25, 2015

3C

The new development, with a working title of 3C Waterfront, will transform a major portion of the land where the Don River meets Toronto Harbour. 3C Lakeshore Inc., a joint venture by partners Cityzen Development Group, Castlepoint Realty Partners, both of Toronto, and Continental Ventures Realty of New York, will develop the site. The 3C site, positioned between Cherry Street and Lake Shore Boulevard East, is the largest contiguous tract of land on Toronto’s East Bayfront. The project is designed to be a mixed-use urban development adding 2.4 million square feet of residential, commercial, office, retail, and parking space to the waterfront. The overall vision of the project is to expand Toronto’s waterfront to the east by creating a vibrant community space, a gateway to the revitalized Port Lands, and integrating nearby communities into continuous urbanity.

This was written more than 2 years ago, all of which has been thrown into disarray by the sudden appearance of the updated “hybrid” option for the Gardiner east expressway being pushed by Mayor Tory. “We’re this far from settling 3 years of an appeal,” Jane Pepino, a lawyer representing the 3C development group, told the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee a couple weeks ago when she was asked what stage the development application process was at. With zero consultation “and, seemingly, no overlap between those at the city who were working with us and those at the city developing this scheme,” Pepino said, they only found out about the new “hybrid” option at a public meeting just over a month previously.

Hastily drawn up lines on a map, erasing years of careful planning. Sound familiar?

[via @_JohnTory]

Mayor Tory will tell anyone who will listen that this was the “hybrid” option he supported during last year’s campaign. The “hybrid” option both his major opponents supported. That’s not the truth. As Ms. Pepino tells Councillor Ron Moeser during her deputation, the original “hybrid” option had “no detrimental impact on the 3C lands” and they “took no position on it”.

This “hybrid” option – let’s call it “hybrid reboot” – “came out of the blue” because of city engineers’ concerns about the original “hybrid” option.

So again we have hastily drawn up lines on a map, erasing years of careful planning.

What do you think is going to happen if city council pushes ahead with the “hybrid reboot” option for the Gardiner east, scuttling years of development planning in the process, on what is perhaps the most valuable land in Toronto? Can you say ‘litigation’? No? How about ‘massive lawsuit’?

When Councillor Joe Mihevc asked Ms. Pepino for a ‘rough ballpark, back of the envelope value’ of the 3C lands, she had a one word answer for him. ‘Huge’.

Where’s the common sense Mayor Tory keeps talking about in unnecessarily risking that?

advocatingly submitted by Cityslikr


Tolling Smoke And Mirrors

May 21, 2015

hammeragoodideaOut of the fog of debate over the fate of the eastern portion of the Gardiner expressway, Budget Committee member James Pasternak floated the idea of imposing a toll on non-residents using the city owned and maintained Don Valley and Gardiner expressways. “I think the mayor’s hybrid selection is the way to go, but at the same time, you really do need a secure, reliable source to fund it,” the councillor mused publicly yesterday.

While any talk of tolling roads should be warmly welcomed into the conversation, coming as this does in the service of the willfully misguided effort of Mayor Tory to keep the eastern portion of the Gardiner expressway elevated, we have to simply shrug. It’s feels like little more than a dodge, frankly. An attempt to offset the cost argument against the hybrid option, and serving to deflect from the real issue at hand: the hybrid option is a terrible, terrible, terrible, terrible idea.

Besides, the mayor has no time for toll talk. Att least, ever since re-running for mayor. There was time when he held a different view. Of course.

Now as mayor of Toronto, money is no object for John Tory when it comes to dealing with his beloved Gardiner expressway. There’s just a secret stash of it, tucked away somewhere apparently, whenever he’s looking to gussy or speed it up and burnish his pro-car image.

Without mayoral support for the idea, it’s hard to imagine Councillor Pasternak’s toll item garnering much support, consigned surely to the trash bin at the next Executive Committee if it gets even that far along. The right place for it, if for the wrong reason. I mean, why would the councillor stop at tolling non-residents, aside from the fact they can’t vote in a municipal election in Toronto, freeing him of facing any electoral ire? It can’t be just that crass an idea, can it?

No, no. It’s a question of fairness. trashbinCouncillor Pasternak told Matt Galloway on Metro Morning yesterday [segment not yet archived] that Toronto residents pay to maintain the Gardiner and DVP from their property taxes. Why should outsiders get to freeload on our roads, paid for by our hard-earned property taxes?

But how about extending that sense of fairness a little further? Why should I, a resident of Toronto who helps pay for those expressways I rarely use, be forking over the same amount of cash as someone using them on a daily basis? That hardly seems fair, if we’re introducing the concept of road use/pay fairness.

Another member of the Budget Committee, Councillor John Campbell agrees. “I don’t see why all residents and all users of the highway shouldn’t be paying for it. Basically the TTC is a user-pay system. 80% of the funding for the TTC comes out of the fare box. Why shouldn’t our roads be the same?”

That’s just the tip of the inane iceberg of Councillor Pasternak’s toll idea, a half-baked measure with a full on helping of self-interest. letmecorrectitThe expense of co-ordinating the whole thing would immediately bite into any money made to throw at road maintenance. Fellow Budget Committee member (and former Budget Chief) Shelley Carroll said tolls had been discussed extensively, back in 2006 and the introduction of the City of Toronto Act. “What my colleague is proposing is ridiculously expensive,” she tweeted in response to Councillor Pasternak’s toll idea.

“You can’t collect from ‘outsiders only’ without use of transponder system or Tech ‘Road Pricing’ technology of some sort. Would need to be GTA wide, therefore, not just Gardiner. Would cost minimum $300/400 million to install. $30+million a year to operate. All of this would earn about $20/30 million net to Toronto because we would have to partner with GTA & Province.

Despite the fact the Gardiner and DVP are ours to pay for and maintain, in yet another example of the paternalistic relationship we have with Queen’s Park, we’d have to go to the province for permission to toll them even if it was economically feasible which it isn’t. In other words, Councillor Pasternak is just making noise in an attempt to sound as if he’s put a lick of thought into his idea.

But wait. There’s more from the councillor.

Maybe we should just upload responsibilities for these two expressways to the province, as if it were as easy as wishing. toshredsCiting a ‘historical imbalance’, Councillor Pasternak pointed out that other GTA municipalities don’t have to directly financially support their expressways, the QEW, 401, 404, 407. (Did I miss any?) Why should Torontonians have to bear the burden of the Gardiner and DVP alone?

I hate to break it to him but the Gardiner and DVP have always been ours. Aside from the strip of the Gardiner from the Humber to the 427 which the Harris government downloaded onto the city (h/t to Sean Marshall for that bit of info), these 2 urban expressways were Toronto’s from the outset, birthed and raised into being by the 1st chair of Metro council, Fred “Big Daddy” Gardiner, inspired as he was by the city building prowess of New York City “construction coordinator” Robert Moses. We’ve been maintaining them for some 50 years now. Why suddenly should the province feel compelled to start bearing that burden?

There’s nothing wrong with having a discussion about utilizing road tolls in order to raise revenue to pay for transportation infrastructure. facethemusicIt’s being done throughout the world. We wouldn’t be breaking any new ground there.

But let’s have a realistic discussion on the subject instead of something floated like a lead balloon for no other reason than to divert attention away from an equally politically loaded topic like what to do with the crumbling eastern section of the Gardiner expressway. Councillor Pasternak should be working on answering why we need to throw money to ‘retain and drag’ such an antiquated beast, why exactly is the hybrid option the way to go, not how do we pay to do that. The answer would be much simpler.

We don’t. It’s time to bring the fucker down.

demandingly submitted by Cityslikr