Why We Don’t Have Nice Things

September 1, 2015

Allow me, if you will, to make this a Rob Ford story, while he plays a cameo in it, the familiar part of “former Toronto mayor…allegedly smoking crack” basketball1(Allegedly? The man’s admitted it already!), there are, admittedly, much bigger, wider, deeper issues at play.

Courting controversy: Push for public basketball courts runs up against misguided fears,” is the last in a 4 part series in the Globe and Mail “examining support programs and services for lower-income residents in Mississauga, Brampton and Caledon – the cities and towns of Peel Region more known for their affluent middle and upper classes than a growing population who live in poverty.” Once more we are faced with our “veiled racism”, as a young Tristen Mason generously sees it in the article, in continuing opposition to building and operating basketball courts throughout the GTA.

“Veiled racism”? What’s the kid talking about? What’s racist about opposing basketball courts?

Let me ask you this.

When I say, Fill in the blank in the following statement: basketballBasketball is a game played mostly by _______, what’s your first response?

Yeah. Exactly. And then follow that through with the usual equating of basketball to drugs and gangs and gun play. Like I said. Mr. Mason’s talk of ‘veiled racism’ is generous indeed.

Such sentiments are ham-fistedly stoked by local knuckleheads like longtime Ward 7 York West city councillor, Giorgio Mammoliti, who features prominently in Dakshana Bascaramurty’s piece. “We don’t welcome the concept, at all, of gang bangers…selling drugs on outdoor basketball courts,” he once said. Basketball courts, and all their yelling and screaming and fights and guns! Having changed one over to a place for ball hockey instead, I mean, what’s more Canadian white bread than ball hockey, Mammoliti claimed police told him crime dropped ‘dramatically’. Of course, the police claimed no such thing.

The councillor was at it again, late last municipal campaign where, probably not coincidentally one of his opponents, Keegan Henry-Mathieu, just so happened to be black. fanningtheflamesWhen Mammoliti was asked about his dim view of basketball courts, he pretty much replayed the dog whistle tune. “For one reason or another, [basketball hoops] seem to attract the wrong crowd outside. What I’ve heard loud and clear is that nobody is playing outdoor basketball any more, they seem to be selling drugs.”

That’s always a distinct possibility when you actively neglect a public space into dereliction.

Which brings me back to the subject of Rob Ford.

One of the dilapidated basketball courts that went untended and disregarded had originally been built with the proceeds from a foundation of one-time Toronto Raptor superstar, Vince Carter. The “Rolls-Royce of outdoor basketball courts,” the Globe and Mail called it. Now?

These days, the backboards are rusted. One rim has no net; the other is torn-up and ratty: like a once-voluminous coif thinned to a comb-over. Empty water bottles, McDonald’s cups and even an old 3.8-litre bleach container are scattered over the grass around the court. For a stretch, even the rims were taken down, effectively rendering the city-owned court useless.

Here’s the kicker.

Our friend over at Marshall’s Musings, Sean Marshall, pointed out that this one time ‘Rolls Royce of outdoor basketball courts’ is located right smack dab in Ward 2 Etobicoke North, fiefdom of the Ford clan, Rob-then Doug-then Rob again. basketball2Of course it is. Irony or poetic injustice demands it.

While serving as councillors/mayors, rarely was any opportunity passed up by the brothers Ford to squawk about private section participation in the running of the city. Want to build a subway? (And who doesn’t?) The private sector’ll pay for it. (Still waiting.) Want to host a splashy international event? (Don’t we all?) Corporate sponorship’ll foot the bill. (Honest.) Yaddie, yaddie, yaddie. Blah, blah, blah.

Here we have a perfect example of such a model. The private sector, through a private donation, builds the ‘Rolls Royce of outdoor basketball courts’ for the city, serving it up on a platter for the Boys of Ward 2 to make political hay with, and what happens? They let it go to shit. “Nobody has done more for black people than me,” Rob Ford crowed during the 2010 mayoral race. And by ‘more’, obviously he meant more, as in, more to promote drugs, guns and violence through underfunding services and programs and undermining the marginalized community he’s represented, in one way or another, for more than a decade now.

This is the absolute and abysmal hollowness that forms the core of the Ford brand of fake populism. pretendpopulismTalk a big game about looking out for the little guy, assure them there are easy ways to serve their best interests and when the chips are down, when it comes to putting money where their mouths are? M.I.A.

Worse yet, go missing and then blame the failure on everybody else. Bloated and misdirected spending at City Hall. The suburbs never getting anything. Thugs that they don’t hug.

What we really ought to do is post signs around the abandoned basketball court, pointing out the reality of continuing to fall for the politics of the Fords. This basketball court, brought to you by Vince Carter. This basketball court, destroyed by Rob and Doug Ford.

suggestingly submitted by Cityslikr


In Praise Of Paul

April 2, 2015

We spend a lot of time railing here at all Fired Up in the Big Smoke, bitching, if you will, agonizingly over the state of affairs of our local politics. notallbadWith good reason, I think it fair to add. Things are terrible, from the state of our public transit, public housing to the repute (illin’, in the vernacular of the kids today) of our local governance, and many points in between.

Grim, dark days indeed.

From all that glum, occasionally the positives appear, brightly alight on the dreary canvas of civic/political life of this city like the spring flowers we should expect to see sometime soon if this cold, heartless winter ever ends. We’re told it will. Honest. It has to.

So I’d like to send a shout out today to one of those positives, one of the proofs that Toronto isn’t necessarily going to hell in a hand basket. It is the Easter holiday season, after all. If the dead can rise again, why not the near dead? (Too much?)

Councillor Paul Ainslie.applaud

At yesterday’s council meeting, he entered the fray of the accountability officers’ debate, putting forth an amendment to a motion that should put the issue to rest at least for a bit, seemingly satisfying a solid majority of the two factions. It was an adept bipartisan move that deflated the hyper-partisanship which had needlessly infected the issue. Such diplomacy, let’s call it, was a far cry from the Paul Ainslie I remember when I first started closely watching City Hall back in the early days of the Ford era.

It struck me then (and I believe with justification) Councillor Ainslie was simply a robotic ‘yes’ vote for whatever crazy idea the Mayor Ford demanded. In fact, I will confess publicly here for the very first time, I had a hand in an obscure Twitter parody account mocking the councillor, mostly for his refusal to get up and defend some of the positions he took. We can all disagree politically, I think it’s safe to say. caterpillarI just want to hear why you’re doing what you’re doing.

To give Councillor Ainslie his due, at the same time, he was plugging away quietly in his position as chair of the low visibility Government Management Committee. Yeah, I know, right? What the hell is the Government Management Committee and how does it impact my life?

Well, OK. I’m not going into the details here but let me say this. If ranked ballots arrive at City Hall for our next municipal election (currently nestled away somewhere in Queen’s Park awaiting provincial approval), Councillor Ainslie should be credited as one of the prime adoptees of the initiative at City Hall in his role as chair of the Government Management Committee. In a time of regressive, backwards thinking embraced by many in the Ford administration, it is a testament to the councillor’s doggedness to the cause that ranked ballots made it through such a mess.

Then came 2013.

Hopefully when a definitive history is written about Toronto’s city politics from 2010-14, Paul Ainslie’s role in pulling one of the many loose threads of Rob Ford’s ratty, tawdry behaviour will be acknowledged. standupA full month before the crack story broke, it was Councillor Ainslie going public about Ford’s drunken, loutish appearance at the Garrison Ball that really teed the ball up for the messy, ugly fall that followed. Few of the mayor’s supporters had broken ranks with him yet. This was big news at the time that got lost in the ensuing crack story.

The Fords, of course, denied it. They wrote the claim off as just bitterness on the part of Councillor Ainslie for not getting the nod as the budget chief to succeed Mike Del Grande. A few months later, they booted Ainslie from his post as chair of Government Management in a display of what spite was really about.

Let me just say here that while there is no need to point out the Ford’s unfamiliarity with the truth, the notion Ainslie, I don’t know, used the incident to get back at them is sort of laughable. Having chatted with the councillor on a few occasions, I have to say, the man comes across as lacking as little guile as I have seen in any other adult I know. You have to have a little bit of the sharp elbows in you to be successful in politics and Ainslie’s city councillor origin story is not without controversy but if there is a more genuine politician at City Hall right now, I haven’t spoken to them.drunkdriving

The feud between Ainslie and the Fords escalated especially when the councillor reversed course on the Scarborough subway extension. Initially supporting the move, he said after looking at all the information that the numbers simply didn’t add up. He was the lone Scarborough councillor to speak out and vote against scrapping the LRT which led to a series of robocalls being placed by the mayor to residents of Ainslie’s Ward 43, a subsequent complaint to the Integrity Commissioner by Ainslie and yet another apology from Rob Ford.

Compare and contrast the principled stand on the issue made by Paul Ainslie with the complete and utter cowering capitulation and 180 made by Glenn De Baeremaeker.

What was really interesting about yesterday’s accountability office motion by Councillor Ainslie wasn’t so much that he made it, and made it stick. There’s every reason to believe that the original motion of Councillor Stephen Holyday’s wasn’t going to pass, so ill-thought out and deliberately divisive as it was. steakthroughtheheartIt was Councillor Ainslie’s response in defending it to some critics who thought the original motion should just be killed outright.

“I’m not trying to salvage it [Holyday’s motion],” the councillor tweeted. “If we defeat it outright it will only leave too much on the table with an axe to grind.”

Ainslie wasn’t aiming at the motion. He was going after those behind it who had ‘an axe to grind’ with the accountability officers and, for their own mysterious reasons, were determined to reduce oversight of city council despite any protestations they made to the contrary. A more thorough review of the offices (as opposed to the very narrow, amalgamation-orientated one asked by Councillor Holyday) would better arm accountability proponents for future attacks.

I understand why councillors like Shelley Carroll opposed any sort of review. It is unnecessary and floats the idea that there’s something amiss with the accountability offices when the reality is, the only thing wrong is they are all chronically underfunded. easterbunnyYet the pipsqueaks on the council, the Stephen Holydays, Michelle Berardinettis, James Pasternaks, Justin Di Cianos and John Campbells were relentless in their fight against the offices. Councillor Paul Ainslie attempted to put an end to their pursuit once and for all, or, maybe even better, expose them for the regressive, anti-democratic types that they are.

For that, and the general all-round geniality and amenability, good natured can-do-ness, we salute Councillor Paul Ainslie. May you find all the easter eggs you search for in the easter egg hunt you will undoubtedly participate in.

positively submitted by Cityslikr


Building A True Sense Of Community

August 20, 2014

On Friday Metro Morning’s Matt Galloway interviewed Roger Cattell about the slow down campaign that emerged in response to slowdown3last month’s death of Georgia Walsh, a 7 year-old who was struck and killed by a car in the Leaside area of the city.

If you haven’t heard the entire interview, I suggest you click on the above link. For the purposes of this post, I just want to excerpt a few quotes from Mr. Cattell (except where noted), hopefully without de-contextualizing them.

You’ll find a community that’s ready to engage in a conversation, not just about what should be done but what could be done and how they can help…

I’m not a social activist. I’m a dad. I’m a husband. I’m a neighbour, and I’m a guy who was affected by events that, in retrospect, maybe I could’ve been more active in my neighbourhood making sure something like this never happened in the first place…

There’s great conversation and great dialogue in the neighbourhood. Out of that can only come good things…

We’re seeing local businesses come together. We’re seeing the principal in our school engage with politicians in ways they haven’t before…

I’m not fully prepared to comment on that only because I do find local politics a bit too embedded in administrivia. Things become motions and ideas become things. But nothing ever seems to get done. I know there’s a process…but until these become tangible changes they remain good ideas…

Matt Galloway: This has come out of something terrible, and yet has led to a larger conversation, and a sense of true community in this neighbourhood.

We would always finish our statements when complaining about traffic and complaining about things with What’s It Going To Take? This is our What’s It Going To Take moment…

Now’s the time to do something about it…

This shouldn’t be seen as any sort of criticism of the grassroots activism that seems to be emerging from this incident, particularly with Roger Cattell and his neighbours. slowdown2It’s more of an instructive assessment, let’s call it. In the hopes that it won’t take another terrible situation to spur more of us into civic action.

“I’m not a social activist,” says Mr. Cattell. “… I’m a guy who was affected by events that, in retrospect, maybe I could’ve been more active… making sure something like this never happened in the first place…”

We really need to cease designating people for the role of ‘social activists’. In a vibrant democracy, all of us would be ‘social activists’. That’s not to say everyone needs to get involved with every issue that arises. But for this issues that truly matter to you? Don’t expect someone else to do the legwork for you, including your elected representatives.

The fact is, Toronto’s Board of Health raised the issue of reducing speed limits a couple years ago, receiving something of a chilly reception to the idea from the likes of Mayor Ford and Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong. Their report took a backseat, if you’ll pardon the pun. What might happen to it if a group of determined ‘social activists’ started making noise and demanding action?

“… I do find local politics a bit too embedded in administrivia,” Mr. Cattell states later. What exactly is ‘administrivia’? slowdown1I mean, I get it, a funny little made-up word that denotes boring and useless tasks of administration. But city government is nothing if not ‘adminstrivia’. It is about the mundane, day-to-day slog of trying to make sure the city functions properly, including the determination of speed limits on city streets. It ain’t pretty but somebody’s got to do it.

“But nothing ever seems to get done.”

This is where I’ll take the most exception to Mr. Cattell. Flush your toilet, step out your door, hop in your car and drive to work. None of this is possible if nothing gets done. Much gets done, each and every day. We just sometimes stop noticing because we take many of those things for granted.

“Things become motions and ideas become things…but until these become tangible changes they remain good ideas…”slowdown

Politicians, especially local ones, do not operate in a vacuum. It is their job to try and keep as many people as happy as possible. Some of it is self-serving. Happy residents make for content voters. But it’s also the nature of democracy, creating a consensus based on competing interests and the best evidence available.

If you remain on the sidelines, finding the ‘social activist’ dress ill-fitting, you forgo any influence. A voice heard only every four years is listened to only that often.

From the large buffet of damage done to governance in Toronto by Rob Ford, the customer service item is a pretty hefty one. This idea of voting for a politician and then only getting involved with a phone call when something’s not working for you is a smiley face on dysfunctional civic engagement. It’s reactive democracy, a one-stop runt of resident participation.

You got a problem, folks? Give me a call. I’ll pretend to sort it out and we can all pretend that’s how democracy is supposed to work.

“This is our What’s It Going To Take moment…Now’s the time to do something about it…”getinvolved

If we all took that challenge and accepted the responsibility on matters that are really important to us, there’d no longer be any distinction between social activists and, I don’t know, hard working taxpayers. We’d all be social activists. None of us would be social activists.  We’d have in the words of Matt Galloway, ‘a sense of true community.’

helpfully and hopefully submitted by Cityslikr


Now It’s A War On The Raccoon

August 19, 2014

You know we must be in full-fledged municipal campaign season when right wing candidates are turning up the volume and frequency on their Outrage, denzilminnanwongan Outrage inversely proportional to both its importance and reality itself.

Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong’s invective against the cost of umbrellas and rocks paid by Waterfront TO to build Sugar Beach. A cost almost entirely all borne by upper levels of government on a project that is succeeding in its goal of generating private sector development in a long underused and undervalued area of the city. Outrageous!

Now Councillor David Shiner is up in arms about an alleged explosion in the city’s raccoon population. “There is an increasing population and they are out there and they are getting more aggressive”, Councillor Shiner claimed at yesterday’s Licensing and Standards committee. raccoonhorde“They are breaking into people’s houses and ripping up people’s lawns and getting into their garbage.” Something must be done. Outrageous!

It is a claim city staff aren’t on board with. At least, not yet. There’s a report being done on Toronto’s wildlife population and is due next year but there’s no indication that the number of raccoons has ballooned. Still, who amongst us hasn’t seen a raccoon this year? So you do the math.

Never one to turn down an opportunity to deliver a public display of über-outrage (not to mention pad a rather skeletal looking re-election campaign), Mayor Ford hopped on both the incensed wagons of Sugar Beach and anti-raccoonness with outbursts that ratcheted up the nonsense into the realm of performance art.

“It’s a severe problem,” the mayor told a media scrum yesterday. “They’re getting braver and braver.” He told of “standoffs” with raccoons. Raccoons popping out of recycling bins. The kids and wife refuse to take the garbage out at night out fear of the raccoons lurking, waiting. outrageous1We are under siege, folks, from an implacable and growing procyonid army, intent on taking control of our curbside garbage placement routines.

It would be funny – it is funny as you can tell by the media snickers elicited by the mayor’s raccoon comments – if it wasn’t the elected leader of a city of 2.5+ people making such ridiculous and (as usual) unsubstantiated remarks about what is, essentially, an inconsequential matter. But that’s just how he rolls, making mountains out of molehills that, of course, being omnivores like they are, raccoons will inevitably destroy in order to satiate their ravenous appetites. Get the people riled up and indignant. Light the flame of anger and outrage under their collective butts. Lash out, people! Lash out.

It should come as no surprise to anyone that the mayor offered zero solutions to the pretend problem he was creating. “We have to do something with the raccoons. I don’t have the answer but…” There’s always a ‘but’ followed by silence. The mayor and right wing cohorts like councillors Minnan-Wong and Shiner rarely provide answers because manufacturing outrage is just easier. hornetsnestIt validates their dimly held view of the role of government in our lives. Give the government an inch, it’ll take a mile. Give it a buck, it’ll buy $12 000 umbrellas. And when a problem pops up from behind the garbage bin like this rise of the raccoon horde, government is powerless to help us.

Anger rather than inspiration is their stock and trade. That’s all they know how to do. Pick a fight, stir the pot, move on. Create endless points of outrage in order to keep your name in the press. It’s so much simpler than actually contributing in any positive way to the operations of this city.

racc0onteurly submitted by Cityslikr


The Anger Runneth Over

July 29, 2014

Another Ford Fest, another round of ‘What the hell is up with these people?!’

whatareyousaying

In his Globe and Mail article yesterday about the semi-annual campaign non-campaign event, Ivor Tossell gives it a go at answering that perplexing question.

But Mr. Ford’s core constituency is not a group of any given colour or creed, but a coalition of people who feel they’re on the outside of a booming, changing city. There are lots of different ways to feel alienated — geographically, economically, culturally, ideologically — and Mr. Ford appeals to all of them.

This is not a particularly new notion. Since Rob Ford’s unlikely rise to power at City Hall back in 2010, a chastened rump of non-believers, who’d stood by in growing incredulity throughout the campaign, slowly shaking their collective heads as the election’s outcome hardened into reality, fordnationhave circled that same territory of what makes a Ford supporter tick. Disengagement through alienation and disenfranchisement. The anger of the outsider. The voiceless given a voice.

Message received. But how is it Rob Ford continues to be the messenger? Given the last four years, nothing of much substance has happened at City Hall that would’ve made anyone’s life appreciably better, anyone angry in 2010 would still have reason to be angry now. Rob Ford has done nothing to change that. Yet he remains the vessel in which people’s frustration and resentment are poured.

Why?

I’m wondering if it’s just as simple an explanation as since he’s always angry, the angry identify with him. angrymobIt doesn’t matter if they’re angry about the same thing. The important fact is they’re angry together. Brothers in Ire.

Whenever we see the mayor or his brother-campaign manager-councillor these days they’re both angrily denouncing something or other. Debate rules. Apparent conflict of interest rules. Rocks and umbrellas. Yelling at cloud angry.

If the Fords are still mad as hell, then something must be wrong down at City Hall. Denounce. Denounce!

His Worship, Our Anger-in-Chief, Rob Ford.

But here’s the thing.

What remains of the Ford base of support, that unbudging 25-30% who show up in every poll, is driven solely by spite and anger. There’s nothing else that fuels them. I don’t know, resentment maybe. angryvotersThat anger is diffuse. To use Mr. Tossel’s 4 categories, geographic – downtown hating suburbanites; economic – cost of living in the city continues to rise; cultural – homophobic bigots, racists, misogynist; ideological – hate government.

The anger is broad and deep.

I would argue at this point, however, that it was not anger, not anger alone, that put Rob Ford in the mayor’s office. His soft support in 2010, the 15-25% or so who put him up over the top, weren’t motivated purely by anger. There was hope too. angryHope that Rob Ford would change the culture at City Hall and make it start working for them. Hope that Rob Ford was on the level when he said he would be looking out for the little guy. Hope that Rob Ford would make a positive difference in their lives.

But hope is in short supply these days at Team Ford camp. So you get what you got at Ford Fest last Friday. Yelling, badgering, the laying on of hands, and not in the biblical way.

These are no-hopers, burn it to the grounders. Look at me, ma! (We were once) Top of the Worlders!

What it isn’t is a winning coalition.

Candidates vying to replace Rob Ford need to look beyond this base of discontent. They’ve got their man. whiteheatNo amount of pandering will entice them from him. It’s just a question of how many will continue to fight for a losing cause or just simply walk away, even more disillusioned and fed up than they were going in.

What we need to start hearing is some hope. A full and frank admission that governance in this city has been ground to a halt and that it’s in nobody’s best interest that it continue, and the only way forward is with good ideas and a collaborative spirit. Hope that, in the words of Ivor Tossell, fewer and fewer of us will be left “on the outside of a booming, changing city.”

Most of us know what’s wrong with this city. Transit, lack of diverse sources of revenue, opportunity inequality, regional parochialism, to name a few. How we approach solving those problems is what we should be hearing now. texaschainsawmassacreHopeful solutions, based on reasoned, civil discourse and debate, not indignant shrieks and howls of outrage.

For four years now, we’ve mistaken loudness for soundness. It isn’t. We need to plug our ears to the Ford manufactured din and get on with fixing this thing they’ve tried their best to break into pieces.

calmly submitted by Cityslikr


Time To Step Up

July 11, 2014

Of all the madcap weeks we’ve seen at City Hall since late-2010, this one just ending probably wouldn’t qualify as the madcappiest.madcap Maybe not even in the top 5. But if there’s a greatest hits compilation ever issued, this week would most definitely be included.

On Monday, two new city councillors were appointed. One of them, by week’s end, had voted against oversight and in favour of councillors being able to pocket money from lobbyists and others doing business with the city. A real keeper, Ward 5. You should definitely urge him to stay on.

On Tuesday, Mayor Ford’s ‘sobriety coach’ kicked a protester.

On Wednesday, the mayor remained seated during a standing ovation for the recently concluded World Pride event here in Toronto. Some serious questions were also raised about his time spent during the two month rehab stint.

On Thursday, weird machinations surrounding the renewal of the Ombudsmen’s contract swirled around council chambers. While rejecting the basic 5 year renewal term, an in camera motion was approved, the details of which we don’t yet fully know. madhatter1We are aware that at least 15 sitting councillors don’t like the current Ombudsman and many of them have failed to explain exactly why.

And what sort of zany week at City Hall would there be without a Doug Ford outburst?

Of course it would be very easy to shrug all the wackiness off onto the mayor and his unpredictable brother-councillor-campaign manager. Change that dynamic and order will be restored. Presto-magico!

If only.

Free of the mayor’s grip for over two years now, city council itself manufactured the Scarborough subway debacle, perhaps the biggest cock-up of the term. It continued to dance with the TPA and Porter Air over the island airport expansion and allowing jets on it. It’s muddled relationship with the city’s accountability officers remains confounding.

So, the idea of changing one member of council, even the titularly most powerful one, and creating a whole new positive, standingonthesidelinesconstructive dynamic amounts to little more than wishful thinking. Worse still. Hoping to achieve even that modest change by yelling over social media or staging PR protests alone amounts to nothing short of a dereliction of civic duty.

The theme we need to take away from this week is pure and simple: get active and really participate in producing the kind of city council you want to see in place.

(Full disclosure before going into full rant mode. I have been working on the Idil Burale campaign in Ward 1 Etobicoke North. This may seem very self-serving, and to some degree it is. But try to focus on the bigger picture. Pick a candidate and get involved.)

As of this writing, July 11th, with just over 100 days before the municipal election, there are 12 open, incumbent free wards. checklist(Wards 2, 3, 5, 6, 8, 16, 20, 24, 30, 38, 39, 44.) While that number will drop as we get closer to the vote, this presents an opportunity to help instill new blood into council. The candidate slates in many of those wards are numerous, offering plenty of choice for people to join a team.

In 2010, 13 ward races were, very, very close, determined by mere percentage points and a few hundred votes. (Wards 1, 4, 5, 8, 9, 10, 12, 25, 26, 27, 30, 36, 44.) In another 7, the winner got less than 50% of the popular vote. (Wards 7, 13, 15, 17, 18, 19, 29.) This suggests plenty of fertile ground for change.

Then there’s my very subjective, harder to define wards were the seeming untouchable incumbent needs to be seriously challenged because of their continued contribution to the undermining of good governance of this city. That list would include Ward 11, Councillor Frances Nunziata. Ward 34, Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong. Ward 35, Councillor Michelle Berardinetti. Ward 42, Councillor Raymond Cho because he just doesn’t seem to want to be a City Hall any more.

Of course, alarm bells should be ringing because in 4 of the city’s 44 ward, incumbents are currently sitting unopposed. getcuriousWard 21, Councillor Joe Mihevc. Ward 22, Councillor Josh Matlow. Ward 25, Councillor Jaye Robinson. Ward 40, Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly.

Nobody, no one, not even the most glorious, munificent politician who’s able to spin gold from straw should be acclaimed into office. Certainly none of these four have track records that have earned unquestioned support. It’s an utter failure of the democratic process if any of them run unopposed. Acclimation is something that happens in small town reeve races not in the biggest, most complex and diverse city in the country.

Hopefully, that scenario will change before the September 12th registration deadline date. If you can’t even drum up enough engagement for a contested election race, it makes the argument for greater participation in the process a little more difficult. It’s hard to imagine anyone watching the last four years at City Hall and coming to the conclusion that they are entirely satisfied with their representation.

For the time being, at least, there are 40 other council races. Many of them will be highly competitive, the outcome in doubt right up until the very end. getinvolved1The difference will come down to who has the resources to get out the most number of voters to the ballot box. That means volunteers and donations.

You really, really want to have your say in the make-up of the next city council? Set aside a couple, few hours a week between now and October 27th to go knock on doors. Shy and don’t like meeting new people? Fair enough. Contribute some time, stuffing envelopes, making phone calls, entering data. More of the manual labour type? Come early October, volunteer your time and effort hammering in lawn signs.

If any and all that is too much, send some money in your chosen candidate’s direction. $5, $10, $20, the whole donation limit enchilada. Every bit helps. Every penny appreciated.

Our politicians can brush off much of the displeasure they’ve generated with their constituents when it’s expressed from a distance. getinvolved3They can log out of Facebook and Twitter or simply not return email and phone messages. It’s a little more difficult when they’re forced to come face-to-face with it.

Disapproval and discontent become impossible to ignore, however, when a credible threat to their office arises come election time. Such a threat is built purely on the back of a movement based on dedicated volunteers and engaged residents. There is no other way, no flash gimmick-y approach that can be pulled off from a distance. Boots on the ground and money in the bank. End stop.

Unless you are prepared to dedicate more than just a voice, to scream and holler and cast a vote in the fall, you cannot call yourself a truly engaged, civic-minded resident of Toronto. You cannot call for change, demand change and not also chip in and work for it. We are where we are with the city council we have because – and only because – too few people put in the effort to make a difference. There’s still time this time around to try and ensure a different outcome.

you

It all starts with the littlest of efforts. Pick a candidate. Make a call, drop them an email. Say you want to help out.

deploringly submitted by Cityslikr


Ask And Ye Shall Receive

September 5, 2013

Late Tuesday afternoon, we were told that the provincial Minister of Transportation, Glen Murray, would be holding a press conference the following day with important news regarding a certain Scarborough subway. raisedeyebrowEyebrows raised. Oh really? I honestly thought they’d let that die after having survived the by-election, relatively unscathed. No federal funding forthcoming. The mayor hasn’t so much as lifted a finger to find some additional financing. It was a great idea. The Liberal government really want to get it up and going but… alas, it was just not meant to be.

Oh well. That ol’ LRT is just gonna have to do, I guess…

Then came word yesterday morning before the minister’s press conference that, no, in fact, subway plans were still alive and kicking. Minister Murray and some faceless folks over at Metrolinx had been hard at it, busily revisiting and revising, ahead of the city council imposed September 30th drop deadline to deliver up a Scarborough subway. scribblingNo siree, bob. Queen’s Park wasn’t playing politics with this. They said they were the subway champions. They will be the subway champions.

And boom!

There it is.

The Scarborough subway, running from Kennedy station all the way up to… Scarborough Town Centre?

What kind of holy fuckery is this?!

The good Minister of Transportation couldn’t be serious, could he?

This story must be some sort of feint, a PR exercise to lower expectations, lower than low, so that the real plan they’ve been concocting throughout the summer will emerge, smelling all fresh and rosy. amimissingsomethingThere is no way in fucking hell the minister, this Member of Provincial Parliament for Toronto Centre can step up with anything even close to a straight face and announce a $1.4 billion expenditure on a subway that runs an even shorter distance than the much reviled RT now runs. He can’t possibly re-route the fucking the thing along the RT route when much heated debate had been expended at city council in June about interrupting that service and using a shitload of buses in its place while the subway was being built.

It. Just. Couldn’t. Be.

We are announcing that we are putting $1.4 billion into extending the subway to Scarborough Town Centre.

Apparently, I was wrong. Hardly the first time I’ve missed the mark, predicting which way a political wind will blow. Probably not the last. amimissingsomething1[Note to self: stop predicting things.]

I must not be seeing the bigger picture on all this. The one beyond the first blush of pure political brinkmanship, of simply some demented bumper car ride initiated back in 2010, on his very first official day of work when Mayor Ford unilaterally declared Transit City ‘dead’. This can’t be the end point. The Scarborough subway people have been clamoring for, Gollum-like, as some sort of symbol of equality.

“Today is a great day, they’re getting subways in Scarborough,” Mayor Ford pronounced. “We’re getting subways for Scarborough. I campaigned on it. Promise made, promise kept.”

That’s it? Subway Supporters of Scarborough (SSS™©®) are that easily appeased? No new extension further into subway-less regions of Scarborough. Simply a re-jigging of a pre-existing line. Burying (maybe) what is now elevated, with fewer stops and a terminus ending before the current one does.

youcanbeseriousIf we’re going to insist on being pandered to, we might want to extract a little more from the arrangement.

As it stands right now, this proposed subway does nothing to help the transit weary in Scarborough. In fact, as a line drawn on a map, it can only exacerbate what problems there are already. Looking at it and listening to its most ardent defenders, it’s hard not to think the only purpose this serves is to mollify those with their noses out of joint over the perceived slight of being subway deprived.

You wanted subways, Scarborough? We gave you subways. Enjoy!

When this discussion first got started, there were grand plans to extend the Sheppard subway east until it met Eglinton where the LRT would all be underground. Once that was in place, we could close the loop, bringing a subway all the way down to meet the Bloor-Danforth subway.

When that idea foundered on the rocks of Where the Fuck Would the Money Come From?, a more modest proposal emerged. Replace the proposed Scarborough LRT with a 3 stop subway, from Kennedy station up to what would be the Sheppard LRT. emptycupNot as all encompassing as the previous plan, and not without its serious concerns but a Scarborough subway nonetheless.

This is what it comes down to? This Sheppard subway redux is the measly result of all the fuss, all the indignation, all the foot-stomping and petulant screaming? We need a comprehensive transit network plan for a woefully under-served quarter or so of this city but we’ll settle for two lousy subway stops in the one spot in Scarborough that isn’t faring too badly when it comes transit service already?

We all can roll our eyes, shake our heads and mutter about the uselessness and self-serving of our politicians of every stripe and at all three levels of government. In this story alone, there is plenty of villainy to go around. But if our demands are so easily met, if our expectations and understanding of an issue as fundamental to the proper functioning of this city as public transit is are so superficial and little more than slogan thin that we can be assuaged with a token gesture which qualifies as nothing more than in name only, well, come on, folks. scratchedbellyThere’s nobody else but ourselves to blame.

The people wanted subways. The people got a subway. If all we ask of our elected representatives is for them to pander to us, we will be pandered to. That’s one prediction I’m fairly confident I’m right on.

 — postulatingly submitted by Cityslikr