Is Not Bad Good Enough?

March 4, 2014

Councillor Gloria Lindsay Luby (Ward 4 Etobicoke Centre) seems like a nice enough person. In the current toxic political atmosphere at City Hall where ugly Tea Party conservatism sits at the seat of power (at least, it did for awhile)cotillion and the opposition to it rabid, she comes across like a moderating voice. Soft suburban centre right with a smiley face. All southern-like charm and mint juleps.

Anyone who has drawn the indignant ire of the Ford clan as regularly as Councillor Lindsay Luby has – A waste of skin, anyone? – is alright in our books.

Still…

She is a self-proclaimed conservative. She is from Etobicoke. There are times when her biggest concerns seem to revolve around lawn care and road maintenance. A throwback to an earlier era. Something of an anachronism and somewhat out of place on a big city city council. Mayberry meets Metropolis.

The councillor’s not a big fan of taxes but she does like her mechanized curbside leaf collection. Free plastic bags are an absolute necessity. A fully staffed environmental office? M’eh. keepoffthegrassThere is such a thing as too much funding for student nutritional programs. Consider cutting the size of city council in half? Nope. Ranked ballots and permanent resident voting? Nope and nope.

It’s pretty much steady as she goes government for Councillor Lindsay Luby. Let’s not shake up the status quo. This is a nice town. That’s never been the demographic in these parts.

Granted, there have been times when the councillor stands up to speak at council and you think, oh wow!, she’s going to do something unexpected. She reasons through an issue, sounding convinced that it’s time to alter course, that we’re going to see a different Councillor Lindsay Luby. And then, boom. She doesn’t and we don’t. Concern expressed but not resolve.

A glance through Matt Elliott’s council scorecard for this term also shows something of a higher rate of absenteeism for votes by Councillor Lindsay Luby. Admittedly, it is a small sample size, only some 105 of the votes cast over the past 3+ years. The councillor has missed 19 of them, which is only 18% but that puts her right up there with serial vote skipper, Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti (Ward 7 York West), and he actually missed some of the votes due to illness. Even compared to the likes of Councillor Mark Grimes (Ward 6 Etobicoke-Lakeshore) who, on the best of days seems like he’d rather be anywhere else other than sitting through a city council meeting, floatingplasticbagLindsay Luby’s absences are noticeable.

While it may be unfair to the councillor to truly judge her performance based on this term alone, it has been, frankly, nothing more than a series of one distraction from governance after another, she hasn’t stood as a champion of anything notable. At least not in any sort of forward thinking direction. She really wanted the 5 cent fee for plastic bags gone. And she was point person for the fight against the Humbertown redevelopment in her ward. A fight that, to her credit, didn’t wind up going to the OMB, proving that you can fight City Hall if you’re an affluent neighbourhood with the money to draw up your own set of alternate plans.

But we already knew that, didn’t we.

Councillor Lindsay Luby is a long time Etobicoke city councillor, dating back all the way past amalgamation to 1985. Her toughest fight came last election when the Ford juggernaut tried to finally take her out. That opponent, John Campbell, is back for another run at her this time out but if nothing else, Ms. Lindsay Luby has shown a scrapper’s instinct and will not be easily unseated.

Ward 4 could do worse, I guess. Certainly compared to the hideousness of some of the right wing representation thrown up at us from Etobicoke, Councillor Lindsay Luby is something of a cool breeze. stubbornasamuleBut ‘could do worse’ is hardly a ringing endorsement. The flip side is it could also do better. Until Etobicoke starts trying to do better, starts electing local politicians prepared to meet the demands and challenges of the amalgamated city in a 21st-century way, it will continue to be a soft spot in Toronto’s governance model. A recalcitrant partner in shaping the city in the ways it needs in order for it to perform in any sort of fully functional manner.

so-soly 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


Change Isn’t Always Worse Than The Alternative

May 16, 2013

You know what the scariest word in English just might be? No, not anesthetist. pickawordThat’s the hardest word in English to pronounce but not the scariest. Unless, of course, you’re going in for surgery imminently.

Change.

That’s the scariest word.

People are averse – averse? adverse? averse? Again, tricky words. Not necessarily scary ones — to change. Even those most likely to benefit from a particular change are reticent.. reticent? hesitant? I’ve clearly thrown myself off here. Pick a word and run with it.

Change ain’t easy.

Our penchant is to view change warily, assuming it’s always going to be for the worse. This despite the fact that we are where we are, doing what we’re doing in relative comfort because of change and our ability to adapt to it. adaptchangeI mean, we could still be creatures flopping around in mucky goo, trying to figure how to breathe oxygen in through these things called lungs not gills.

This is not to say all change is beneficial and that we should simply embrace any new fad that comes our way. Change for change’s sake and other interior decorating maxims. I need a change, while usually indicating a desire to move in a positive direction, doesn’t automatically signal improvement. It could be a phrase uttered by a guy in a bar who’s been drinking rye-and-cokes all afternoon and he just wants to change to, I don’t know, rum-and-cokes.

It’s not about blind acceptance but the moderating measured space between that and an open hostility to any notion of change.

Speaking out against the proposed First Capital Realty development for the Humbertown strip mall on Tuesday, Mayor Ford clearly falls in the latter camp.

“Time equals change,” the mayor said in his speech at Tuesday’s Etobicoke-York Community Council meeting, “we have to move on but…” But what? Gradually? In a thoughtful manner? Earlier on in his speech the mayor stated that “we have to maintain these strip malls in Etobicoke”. So we have to move on to what?

We Have To Move On But is the trademark phrase of the bonafide, heels-dug-in intransigent. Frankly, Etobicoke seems to be populated by such types. Look at their representation at City Hall currently. driveinrestaurantFrom the Fords to councillors Doug Holyday and Gloria Lindsay Luby, part of a historical lineage of obstructionist and obdurate municipal politicians fighting tooth and nail against the slow march of time’s encroachment into their neighbourhoods and pocketbooks.

Read Jamie Bradburn’s Historicist piece last week in Torontoist about the city’s west end politicians battling the building of a subway in the late 1950s. All the way to the Supreme Court! ‘Bamboozled’ is a familiar phrase to modern ears, a kissing cousin to boondoggle, and one used in reference to subway plans. “I am afraid these taxes [to fund subway construction] will tie people up so tightly it will make them move out of here,” said Long Branch Reeve, Marie Curtis, “the same as some of us moved from the city.”

“Don’t be misled by visionaries who would lead you to believe they see things the rest of us don’t,” decried York Reeve Chris Tonks.

That’s not an unreasonable statement if you’re talking about visionaries touting contact with occupants not named Hatfield of interplanetary crafts. overmydeadbodyBut it was 1958. Subways weren’t some new fangled technology about to be foisted upon an unsuspecting population. Cities had been building them for about century by that time. It was a question of figuring out how to pay for an established mode of public transit and putting it in the right place.

Intensification runs along a similar line of thinking.

Sprawl is no longer sustainable. These kinds of strip malls Humbertown represents are relics of a past that was guided by the idea of unlimited space and cheap fuels to get us to these far flung places. As a form of land use, they no longer make sense.

Defenders of the status quo proclaim that this isn’t downtown Toronto we’re talking about, but Etobicoke. But this isn’t Etobicoke we’re talking about, not the one of 40, 50 years ago in its leafy-streeted isolation from the hustle and bustle of downtown. Now a fully functioning inner suburb, its quaint dreams of a pleasant village life located miles and miles past the outer suburbs to the west and north that push it closer to the downtown many of the residents are trying to keep at a distance.

I don’t think it a coincidence this heavy resistance to such change comes from the mayor’s own backyard. I think it’s a sentiment deeply rooted in the notion of Ford Nation. leftbehindThe city of Toronto has been undergoing demographic, cultural and economic shifts, accelerated by amalgamation. None of it particularly easy or cheap. But the face of the city is going to change with or without our participation. Probably not for the better if we simply choose to stand on the sidelines hoping it all passes us by without altering and costing us too much.

In 2010, a plurality of Torontonians, a healthy majority of those living in the inner suburbs and experiencing some of the biggest changes, decided to stand pat and with fingers crossed wait things out. Rearranging the furniture and painting the walls instead of undertaking a major renovation. Hopefully, no one gets too attached to the colour of the room.

adaptedly submitted by Cityslikr


Mayor Nimby

May 15, 2013

For three years now, ever since then-councillor Rob Ford announced his run for mayor, we’ve been clubbed over the head with the urban-suburban divide.fordnation The narrative of downtown elites hoarding all the goodness that is living in Toronto, leaving their suburban counterparts with nothing more than the crumbs and scraps. Get out of your cars so we can have bike lanes! No subways for you! Your taxes spent on us.

Rob Ford rode such resentment into office, and the continued suburban support maintains his not impossible chances for re-election next year. He is the self-proclaimed champion of the little guy in places like Scarborough, basing his entire transit policy around getting a new subway out there. Nobody rails about and profits from deriding the self-satisfied, special interest insularity of downtowners like the mayor and the rest of Team Ford.

An accusation I’ve tried to take to heart. Get out there, learn what makes these suburban types tick, their likes, dislikes, their pet peeves, their pet causes. haughtyTry and find out why they’re so mad at us and how politicians like Mayor Ford so easily tap into that vein of anger.

The latest leg of that journey outside of my south of Bloor/west of the Don Valley comfort zone took me to the Scarborough Civic Centre yesterday for their monthly Community Council meeting. Here you can see the local councillors and their constituents at work far from the spotlight of City Hall, not dwelling on the Us-versus-Them but instead focusing on pure Scarborough time (or North York or Etobicoke-York or Toronto-East York time depending on which community council meeting you’re attending). Community council concentrates on the minutiae of local governance.

As the agenda for the Scarborough meeting showed, this is the time spent adjudicating neighbours’ fence heights, debating the need for a stop sign or traffic lights, the removal of tree from private property, parking, always parking. toilIt isn’t glorious or sexy. Just the nuts and bolts of the political process at the municipal level.

Perhaps the most charged item I witnessed yesterday was over the fate of the wading pool just outside of the civic centre. Apparently it was a community hub for the forty years of the building’s existence but last summer the This Is Not A Wading Pool sign went up due to the lack of funding to pay for a lifeguard. Scarborough councillors set out to try and rectify that situation.

Most of the time, big ticket, highly contentious, city wide items don’t dominate community council meetings. A casino, tall tower complex or the island airport runway expansion rarely find their way to be debated at North York or Scarborough community councils. The majority of those end up for discussion at Toronto-East York community council.

And Etobicoke-York, apparently.

For the last two months the west-end community council has had to conduct additional meeting time to deal with the public reaction to two developments that are being proposed in their catchment area. In April, there was an evening session at the Etobicoke Civic Centre over the proposed waterfront development in Ward 6, Mimico 20/20. nonono1And yesterday for six hours, the public came out to express their unanimous opposition to First Capital Realty’s intention to convert the Humbertown shopping plaza into a mixed up residential-commercial space.

This one was a biggie. As David Hains writes in the Grid, it was held in a 3,200 seat church on the Queensway, was broadcast on TV and streamed online and brought out much of the media as well as the big gun politicians like the mayor and his councillor-brother. (As a member of the Etobicoke-York community council, it’s not unusual that Councillor Ford was in attendance although, it is worth noting that he was absent for the Mimico meeting last month, choosing instead to attend a provincial Progressive Conservative fundraiser.)

Now, I don’t know if the Humbertown development is a good one or not. Certainly the community’s concerns over the increase in traffic caught my attention. It didn’t strike me as the disaster-in-waiting almost every speaker to person claimed it would turn out to be. villagesquireThere are voices living in the area that even think it’s a positive thing for the area.

What I will tell you, however, is that I didn’t care for the tone I heard from the development’s opponents. Like many who spoke out against the Mimico 20/20 plans, we were told the Humber Valley neighbourhood was like a village wrapped inside a big city. A place for families to thrive and grow, away from big city concerns. People were born in Humber Valley. They went to school in Humber Valley. They got married in Humber Valley. They have children of their own who they want to raise in the same Humber Valley they grew up in.

After a couple hours of this, I couldn’t help but think if these people really wanted the village life, they should maybe move to an actual village. Somewhere, I don’t know, in Amish country. Or maybe on the edge of the moors in south-west England. A village village.

Not a pretend one of their imagination, situated 1500 metres from a major east-west subway line. No, what these people want is to enjoy all the amenities a big city offers while keeping the messier aspects like intensification and underground parking (really, underground parking) at bay. usversusthemThis is a wealthy enclave with the time and resources which, as my friend Paisley Rae said, should not determine the outcome of the civic process, trying to keep the 21st-century from their front door.

And the real kicker is that these are our populist mayor and brother’s people not the poor schlubs having to endure a cold winters rid on the Scarborough SRT or even those living further north in Etobicoke, up in Rexdale. This development is right in both the Fords’ backyards and the little guys they’re looking out for are those who can afford to hire their own architect to draw up alternate plans and find the concept of shopping on a second floor inconceivable. I suppose you’re going to tell me that you’ve invented a moving staircase in which to ascend us to ladies wear.

“We cannot let these developers come in and bully us,” said the mayor who’s all in pushing a waterfront casino. He vowed to fight the Humbertown development ‘tooth and nail’. “Let’s go to the board (Ontario Municipal Board),” he urged if First Capital Realty didn’t back down, presumably with money from the city he often tries to stop at council when other communities faced with unwanted development face appeals at the OMB. Everything Mayor Ford purports to be got completely turned on its head with his strident opposition to the Humbertown development.

Not in my backyard.humbertown

The fact is, Mayor Ford doesn’t really represent the aspirations or alienation of suburban Toronto. At least not those of the hard-working little guys in large portions of Scarborough or Etobicoke. It’s a very select few he will go to the mat for, the ones who essentially live in his own neighbourhood. The overwhelming majority of suburban residents are nothing more than votes to him.

nimbly submitted by Cityslikr