Fool Me Once

Let’s just cut to the chase, eliminate the middle man of pretense, and put it right out there killmenowon the table.

The current crop of what we refer to as conservatives (or maybe more fairly, Conservatives… those adhering to contemporary Conservative values) couldn’t give a rat’s ass about public transit. They don’t use it. They think it’s a nuisance, clogging up their roadways and prolonging their daily commute. The only reason they want to put it underground, why they’re all subway champions all of a sudden, is because it’ll be out of their way. Out of sight, out of mind.

Oh, and one other reason.

So they’ll never really have to build it.

whatthehellareyoutalkingaboutWhat other conclusion can you come to reading PC leader Tim Hudak’s lunatic ravings about his party’s public transit policies in last weekend’s Globe and Mail?

“While his preference for subways is well known,” Adrian Morrow writes, “he has never before detailed which extensions he favours or been so explicit that some lines will be on the chopping block. To save money, he will axe parts of the Big Move – the current, $50-billion plan championed by Liberal Premier Kathleen Wynne – which envisions light rail in Mississauga and Hamilton, subway extensions and several dedicated bus corridors across the region.”

Yep. Toss out LRT and dedicated bus ways in the GTHA and build subways instead. Why? Because Mr. Hudak, how did he put it again? “… I do not believe in ripping up existing streets to lay down track.”

Not so fast, says Mississauga mayor and more old school conservative Hazel McCallion. Don’t you be messing with her LRT, Hudak. “We’ve got gridlock in Mississauga and we need the LRT,” she told the Globe and Mail.ohmygod1

But, and I’m postulating here, the opposition leader could care less what Mayor McCallion may want since she’s on her way out of office and there’s a bunch of Mississauga ridings currently Liberal red that could be swung Tory blue if the subway mantra can work its magic in the upcoming provincial election.

World class cities build subways, Hudak will tell Mississaugans. Don’t you want to be world class too, Mississauga? Like Vaughan? Scarborough?

It’s all nonsense, of course. World class cities don’t build subways in places with low density, largely single family dwellings. Why? Because it makes zero sense. It’s prohibitively expensive not only to construct but to operate while being almost impossible to generate the necessary ridership that would actually help reduce congestion on the streets running above them.

On top of which, the idea that you can build such pricey public transit simply by finding efficiencies and not raising revenues is pure fiction. Worse than that, it’s contemptibly bad fiction since it doesn’t even try to pretend it could be real life. If you wanted anything in the world and it didn’t cost a thing, what would it be? waitwhatA subway? Sure, I’ll give you a subway.

So stridently opposed to productively addressing public transit, Tim Hudak appointed newly elected MPP and former mayor of Etobicoke and deputy mayor of Toronto, Doug Holyday, ‘point man’ on the transit file. Holyday, not exactly known as a transit advocate during his days as a municipal politician, is working on the party’s transit plan which, hopefully, will include things like this gem: “It [at-grade light rail] takes away from the road capacity. We’ve got to protect that capacity because there’s no opportunity to build more roads.”

Mr. Holyday is also big on the idea of extending Toronto’s Bloor-Danforth subway westward out to Etobicoke’s border at Sherway Gardens and eventually, fingers crossed, long after most of us are dead presumably, into Mississauga. Why? Ease traffic congestion, of course. lucyandcharliebrownHow? Ummm… WORLD CLASSINESS!!

If they’re not even going to try to have a serious discussion about public transit, why do we even bother listening to them? Given the Progressive Conservative’s track record on this particular issue when they were last in a position of power at Queen’s Park and Tim Hudak was a fresh-faced MPP in the government, they buried subways, cut operating funds to transit organizations like the TTC, you’d think they’d at least be attempting to appear as if they’re taking this matter seriously. But I’m just not seeing it.

Fool me once… etc., etc., etc.

repeatedly submitted by Cityslikr

If Mayors Ruled The World

While a contingent of Toronto city council watchers fret and wring their hands over the state of our local democracy, I find it tough to get too tied up in knots about what’s been happening here. You want messed up democracy? How about that stable majority government in Ottawa and the sledgehammer passing of C-38? Now, those people should be worried their state of democracy there. [Errrr… Aren’t we ‘those people’? – ed.]

In fact, I’d say in comparing Parliament Hill to our City Hall, we’re doing just fine, thank you very much. Checks and balances are in place. Blind party loyalty is non-existent to any detrimental extent. Councillor Doug Ford might be on his way out!

Even here in Toronto, municipal politics are where it’s at, where the rubber hits the road, according to New York mayor Michael Bloomberg. “We’re [municipalities] the level of government closest to the majority of the world’s people,” Mayor Bloomberg has said. “While nations talk, but too often drag their heels — cities act.”

So, What If Mayor’s Ruled The World?, asks political scientist Benjamin Barber in the above interview with Richard Florida and in a talk presented to The Long Now Foundation last week in San Francisco. The world might just be a better place, Barber thinks. More equitable. Further along the road toward sustainability. More democratic.

Barber sees cities as places ‘… governed by voluntary cooperation and shared consensus’. Cities are ‘…defined above all else as places of collaboration and pragmatism.’ “Mayors are the most pragmatic and effective of all political leaders because they have to get things done,” Barber writes. [La-di-da. And then there’s Toronto. – ed.]

Of course, it’s easy to be cynical these days in these parts. Getting things done translates into little more than attempting to roll back almost anything that happened from 2003-2010. Repeal this tax. Kill that transit plan. Not so much a situation of getting things done as it is seeing things undone. At all levels of government right now, that is the new conservative way.

Barber, quoting urban planner Bruce Katz, says, “If you love cities, you’re going to love the 21st-century.” Hold on to your horses, says our mayor and his team who haven’t yet come to terms with the last 30 years of the previous century. They like living in a permanent state of counter-urbanization as they would call it at Human’s Scribbles. Cars rule. Public transit is for the poor. Children ride bikes. Public space amounts to little more than shopping malls and your backyard when you invite friends over for a BBQ.

But think about this.

As much as we can blame Mayor Ford’s reversal of fortune on his own obstinate bumbling or the coalescing of the opposition into an organized group slowly shaping into a body capable of piecing together an agenda for the city, it also could be that he’s fighting an uphill battle against the march of history. Actual 21st-century urbanization is coming. Some of it’s already here. This isn’t a right-left issue. We’re talking the future versus the past. Our mayor came into office already yesterday’s man.

We really do need to stop comparing Mayor Ford to his predecessor, David Miller. Instead, let’s prop him up next to Miller’s true successor and urban heir, Mississauga’s 91 year-old mayor since 1978, Hazel McCallion. While Toronto’s mayor has made it a point to erase the city of any and all traces of Miller, McCallion has embraced much of Miller’s agenda, including the idea of LRTs and extra municipal taxing powers like the VRT. Mayor McCallion has been front and centre demanding a dedicated regional wide sales tax to building public transit. “…if you don’t want tax increases,” says McCallion, “you’re not going to get service, it’s as simple as that.”

Times, they are a-changing. Cities must change their ways of going about things in order to adapt and flourish in this, The Urban Age. Even the former Queen of Sprawl recognizes that fact.

And because of the nature of cities, the almost immediate relationship between by-law enacted and by-law in effect, change can happen like that. [Imagine a snapping of fingers. – ed.] Some find this unsettling, even some elected to serve the best interests of the city. That’s the other beauty of city life. We can ward off or mitigate their worst reactionary instincts. It’s happening right now.

That’s why Councillor Doug Ford calls it ‘dysfunctional’ and is thinking of jumping ship. Actual democracy tends to be messy. Autocrats don’t like to get their hands dirty.

“Democracy began in cities,” says Benjamin Barber, “and works best in cities.”

Despite appearances to the contrary, I think Toronto’s in pretty good hands right now since those who are adhering to that notion have assumed control of the place.

merrily submitted by Urban Sophisticat

Crazy, Crazy, Crazy

Crazy Hazel McCallion, McHellion I’ll call her, as I’m sure no one ever has before, she’s at it again, spouting off nonsensical blatherings. Won’t this woman ever retire? Talk about your career politicians.

At a pre-meeting of big city mayors before this weekend’s gathering at the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, Mississauga mayor McCallion pooh-poohed a call for a new, more equal partnership between all three levels of governments. According to last Thursday’s Toronto Sun, “…McCallion said a new partnership is not enough — it’s time to open the “can of worms” that is the constitution to give recognition to the important role of cities, enshrining powers and revenue sources needed to keep municipalities viable.” Has grandma finally lost her marbles? Surely she can’t mean opening up the always divisive constitutional process just for the sake of such a trifling matter like municipal powers?

“It really means a look at the constitution, there’s no question about it,” McCallion said.

Now I know there are some who would say that perhaps we should cede a little ground on this issue to someone of McCallion’s… errr… experience. I mean, the woman just might be old enough to actually know the intention of the makers’ of our constitution, going all the way back to the original British North American Act of 1867? Maybe old Hazel has some insider information.

But if there really is “no question” about looking at the constitution why hasn’t anyone else suggested it?

Where's Hazel?

In order to give cities the powers they need to sustain and upgrade infrastructure and build stronger communities, wouldn’t our elected officials in Ottawa and Queen’s Park utilize every means at their disposal to make sure that happens, including looking at the constitution? Surely to god our Prime Minister and Premier, M.P.s and M.P.P.s aren’t so petty and rigid that they would blindly adhere to some document written back during the middle years of Queen Victoria’s reign simply in order to keep power (and revenue) in their grubby little hands while municipalities heave and convulse under the weight of increasing fiscal and human responsibility. That can’t be what McCallion’s suggesting.

And if there really was “no question” about looking at the constitution wouldn’t this be a major topic of debate during our current municipal election campaign? With all the tough talking hombres we’ve got running for mayor in 2010, you’d think at least one of them would be pushing the idea of increasing Toronto’s share of power and revenue through constitutional reform instead of nattering ineffectually at each other and casting highly dubious aspersions upon the present council and the mayor. If Hazel McCallion — who has been mayor of the 6th largest city in Canada for longer than most of Toronto’s mayoral candidates have been old enough to vote — has decided that the only way for cities in this country to continue to grow sustainably and prosper is for a constitutional rejigging, and none of our candidates seem to agree on that or even deign to bring the subject up on the campaign trail, well obviously, Hazel McCallion is talking through her hat on the issue.

Perhaps McCallion needs to take a little time out (nap maybe? Don’t old people need naps in order to keep themselves functioning properly?) and then read Carol Goar’s take on the matter in the Toronto Star. “…local taxpayers have lost their appetite for mayors and councillors who see Canada as a dynamic urban nation,” Goar informs us. “… the debate about building strong, sustainable city-regions has almost petered out,” she continues. You see, Hazel? If the Toronto Star has decided that we should just shut up, sit back and let senior levels of government ignore the needs of the some 80% of Canadians who live in cities, that’s the end of the discussion. We don’t want to hear talk of provincial status for Toronto or the GTA. Or pie-in-the-sky, pipedream calls for constitutional reform in order to put power and actual decision making in the hands of, you know, citizens.

It’s off the table, old lady. Municipalities are the playthings and pawns of our higher ups, regardless of how negligent and detrimental the policies of senior levels of government may be to our lives. You’d think after more than 30 years of being mayor, you’dve cottoned on to that fact.

insanely submitted by Cityslikr