The Four Sures — Council Challenger Endorsements VIII

October 10, 2014

So we come to the end of our official endorsements for the upcoming municipal election (although we won’t rule out maybe a surprise one or two here or there. Don’t quote me on that though.) bootsonthegroundWe want to remind everybody reading along that even more so than the mayor’s race, these council races really, really matter. In the end, despite some additional legislative powers, the mayor is just one vote. City council is many.

Moreover, council races can be determined by the 10s, 100s of votes. Even the slightest uptick in votes or turnout can flip a race. In 2010, 13 wards were determined by an average of 347 votes. Five of those the eventual winners were elected by less than one-third of the popular vote.

It’s now 17 days until the election. That’s plenty of time to get out there, donate some time or money to the candidate(s) of your choice, the ones you think will do a great job in advancing the interests of every resident of this city. This is when your help’s needed. This is what they call crunch time.

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Ward 16 Eglinton-Lawrence

I feel I have to state this upfront. I am a friend of J.P. Boutros. I mean, not a close enough friend to know that he was planning a run for the open Ward 16 before the fact. Still. I have broken bread with J.P. I have had drinks with J.P.

In his role as assistant to the then TTC chair, Karen Stintz, he was frank and fair with me in discussions during the very heated and seemingly ongoing transit debates that consumed last term. As frank as one could be, I think, when it’s your job to adhere to the boss’ plan of action. That’s just the nature of the relationship.

With those cards on the table, let me state unreservedly J.P. Boutros will make one dynamite city councillor.

The least I can say of a possible Councillor Boutros is that he will be one hell of a step forward from his predecessor. The whole transit file aside, don’t forget that Karen Stintz was an unabashed right winger and supporter of much of Mayor Ford’s agenda. Boutros will not be that vote.

His adamant stand against the Scarborough subway during this campaign shows an independence that will be immediately tested if John Tory is elected mayor. Similarly, his outspoken opposition to the island airport expansion. He is a smart growth proponent which too will be subject to a quick study as the Eglinton Crosstown makes its way into the ward.

We think J.P. Boutros is more than up to the task.

We here at All Fired Up in the Big Smoke endorse J.P. Boutros for city council in Ward 16 Eglinton-Lawrence.

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Ward 30 Toronto-Danforth

In what should be something of celebratory campaign (as much as any campaign, aside from the winning one, can be celebratory), with 3 women vying for a council seat, there is instead much consternation, driven by fear of vote-splitting and demands for strategic voting, blah, blah, blah.

Look, I have no particular beef with the ward’s incumbent, Paula Fletcher. Point to her absolute anti-Ford voting record as proof of her solid credentials. Tell me how we shouldn’t let our desire for the great threaten getting the good.

But the fact of the matter is, Jane Farrow may be the finest non-incumbent running for city council this time out. Forget great. I’m telling you spectacular.

I cannot rave enough about the new sensibility she would bring to city council, a new approach to governance that has at its core heightened civic engagement. She gets it. She encourages it. Jane Farrow represents a fundamental shift in how business would get done in this city. Ward 30 is being offered the opportunity to make a huge difference in Toronto’s politics.

Hopefully voters there won’t kill their chances at great for fear of the bad. There’s too much of that going on these days.

We here at All Fired Up in the Big Smoke endorse Jane Farrow for city council in Ward 30 Toronto-Danforth.

helpfully, hopefully submitted by Cityslikr


Challengers To Watch X

August 14, 2014

We were sitting chatting in a local coffee shop – which I’d been taken to via my own personal Jane’s walk through the neighbourhood – ward30when a fellow customer stopped by the table to tell city council candidate Jane Farrow (Ward 30 Toronto-Danforth) that he was a big supporter. This lead to an enthusiastic conversation about a nearby street he worked on and lived not far from that had been adopted by residents who built flower gardens and dog drinking bowls with construction detritus from an adjoining development site, a path cutting down the side of the road where there was no sidewalk. Both candidate and voter were genuinely excited about it.

It was an exchange that encapsulated what Farrow’s campaign was all about. So much so that, suspicious me immediately suspected a plant, a set-up. Too, too perfect.

The thing is, this is the exact kind of encounter that’s bound to happen given the campaign she’s running and the public person Jane Farrow is.ward30c

If you don’t know who Jane Farrow is, well, first, shame on you. Second, here’s a brief summary of her career that won’t do it nearly enough justice. Broadcast journalist, founding Executive Director of Jane’s Walk, an original member of Active 18. She served as Councillor Mary-Margaret McMahon’s (Ward 32 Beaches-East York) Executive Assistant during the tumultuous first couple years of the Ford Administration including the $19 million pushback on the 2012 city budget that emerged as the first crack in the mayor’s control of city council.

Jane Farrow has been a major urban thinker, activist and community builder in Toronto for some time now.

I’ve been chatting with city council candidates for a couple months and I just have to say that Farrow is as fully formed a candidate as I’ve met during that time. Tward30ahat’s certainly not a slag or thumbs down on the others. Everyone I’ve met so far seems to be running for the best of reasons, to help their neighbourhoods and communities, to improve the tone at City Hall, to build a better city. Farrow is all about that but knows exactly what her approach is going to be.

It’s as simple as it is appealing.

Bringing about a sense of proactive engagement and planning. “Convening a conversation,” she says. Getting people into the room in order to express their very strong impulses for better neighbourhoods and deliver fresh perspectives. Allowing them to ask for the things they want to make the improvements, point out the possibilities available to them.

Farrow sees the lack of community and resident associations in her ward as evidence of a more top-down approach to governance, where the community is consulted only after the big decisions have been made and set in motion. This has resulted in too many missed opportunities (her campaign chant) in building more liveable and equitable neighbourhoods. The Leslie Street makeover is a prime example of this exclusionary style where car parking once more trumped bike lanes. ward30bMaybe that’s what people in the neighbourhood wanted but no one thought to ask them beforehand.

“The whole city is agitated,” Farrow said. While that manifests itself in the tumultuous politics revolving around the Ford spectacle of horrors, its source is much more profound. Toronto and the GTA are experiencing the pain of growth, both in terms of development and population. We haven’t adapted to that reality and now everything is just moving slower, everything is that much more of a slog. People are edgy, angry and looking for an easy target to blame.

What’s going to better serve us in coming up with solutions, Farrow contends, is putting ‘ideas over ideology’. Building a better city shouldn’t be a left-right struggle. Good, positive, forward-thinking ideas don’t come with political stripes. divisionIdeas spring from people, neighbourhoods and communities. The more of them that are brought into the process, the more ideas we have to choose from, the better chances we have of coming up with good answers to the problems currently facing us.

Yeah. I could go on and on, heaping praise on Jane Farrow’s candidacy. Suffice it to say, it’s so meaty and heady that I’m thinking of packing up and moving to Ward 30 just in order to vote for her.

But here’s the thing, here’s the hitch.

When she registered to run back in late May, there was great hue and cry from the left side of the political spectrum. Not Ward 30! That’s Councillor Paula Fletcher! You can’t run against Paula Fletcher! She’s… She’s one of us!

Of course, it was a little more tactical than that. Councillor Fletcher had narrowly been re-elected in 2010 by something of a cipher candidate, TV host, Liz West, who was back for another run at it this time around. ptahasdisbandedAny serious challenge from the left would split the vote and allow West to snatch victory. This was no time to make “progressive” voters decide between two progressive candidates.

It’s this type of binary thinking that has caused such a political mess of things at City Hall. You’re either with us or you’re against us. There’s no middle ground, only stark, black and white choices to be made. Right versus left supplants right versus wrong. Decisions made according to allegiances not best practices or better ideas. The last 4 years has revealed a progressive bloc with, in Farrow’s words, “shared values not shared actions.”

She sees this election in the hopeful light of people taking back Toronto. Not just from the usual suspects like the Fords but, more importantly, from outdated and unhelpful modes of governance that keep the decision-making process largely in the hands of the elected not the electors. That’s not a partisan issue.jfbridge

I don’t want to call the Ward 30 race a bellwether for the city but, man, it’s something close to that. Toronto’s future will look a whole lot rosier if voters in that ward send Jane Farrow over the bridge to City Hall. They won’t just be sending their champion there but a champion for the entire city.

hopefully submitted by Cityslikr


Wards To Watch — Surprise Edition

May 22, 2014

There’s a dust up brewing over in Ward 30 Toronto-Danforth where Jane Farrow, the Jane Farrow, former CBC media type, donnybrookformer Executive Director of Jane’s (the other Jane) Walk, former Executive Assistant to Councillor Mary Margaret McMahon and just generally fabulous left of center Jane Farrow registered to run against the incumbent, Paula Fletcher, a well-established, long time left of center councillor who barely squeaked out a victory in 2010 over media celebrity, notably not left of center and back for another run at it, Liz West.

VOTE SPLIT!! was the almost immediate reaction by many City Hall watchers, with the assumption generally being that this automatically paves the way to victory for Ms. West. Each ballot cast for Ms. Farrow would be one less cast for Ms. Fletcher. ptahasdisbandedThat only needed to happen about 250 times and the race would be over.

This is presumptuous on a whole bunch of levels.

To start, Councillor Fletcher hasn’t even registered to run yet. Sure, the election’s still over 5 months away but if she is in the race, she really should signal her intentions. Waiting on the sidelines is kind of oily incumbent behaviour. Keep everybody guessing. Either a bunch of people jump in with the expectation of an open ward, ending up carving up the vote or it keeps everybody on the sidelines, wondering, should they enter, shouldn’t they, until it’s too late to mount a serious campaign.

As I tweeted out when the news broke, since when has incumbency bestowed any sort of squatter’s rights on a ward? kingofthecastleA designated position until either the candidate or voters deign to say otherwise. Until there’s an actual vote splitting scenario, you know, between two actual candidates, maybe we can back off the sturm und drang for a bit.

More annoyingly, who says all progressive, left of center voters are the same, expect the same from candidates? It is hardly a uniform bloc of singular group think. In fact, just the opposite, much to its exploitable electoral detriment.

Maybe it’s time that Councillor Fletcher has her progressive qualifications taken out for a test run, see if they’re still what the residents in Ward 30 are looking for. My guess is, while there is much overlap between the two, she and Ms. Farrow have some very distinct views of what constitute progressive values in Toronto in 2014. allthesameA good airing out of ideas and opinions never hurt any discourse or policy positions in the long run.

Besides, how do we know for a fact that this thing’ll get settled on a left-right split? Sure, Liz West was a Ford-lite sounding waste and efficiency finding vessel and Councillor Fletcher was a high ranking target of the outgoing David Miller administration. While I don’t think she’d achieved a Sandra Bussin level of loathing in the media, Fletcher did make something of a spectacle of herself when she badgered one budget deputant she thought to be a John Tory radio show plant. “Come on down, baby!”

Couldn’t it have been Ms. West just struck Ward 30 residents as the best possible alternative to Fletcher in 2010? She was a two term councillor at the time. Maybe she had just almost worn out her welcome.

What’s not to say that Jane Farrow may present Ward 30 voters as their best alternative come October? toughchoiceIn that case, she may just as well strip votes from Liz West who, to the best of my knowledge, hasn’t spent the time between the last election and this one, working the constituency, establishing herself ready to step up and serve as city councillor. Unless, of course, appearing on Hamilton TV constitutes working the constituency.

Look, I don’t have any beef with Councillor Paula Fletcher. Her voting record over the last 4 years shows a strong resistance to the Ford agenda. The Boys and their crew never missed an opportunity to drag her name out as the prime example of the tax and spenders they were constantly doing battle with in order to be respecting the taxpayers.

But from my perch observing the proceedings at City Hall, she was not one of the go-to bulwark stalwarts against the hurry up offense of the Fords. toughchoice2That grunt work was done more often than not by the likes of councillors Shelley Carroll, Janet Davis, Gord Perks and Adam Vaughan, both at council meetings and with regular appearances as visiting councillors at standing committees where much of the public input happened and policy decisions took shape. A reliable no vote? Sure. But there’s that goes into the sausage making than that.

Perhaps most annoyingly about all this is that we’re still having the same conversation about vote splitting. If there was ever the case to be made for ranked ballots, this would be it. Two candidates, of similar political persuasion, neither would be a terrible choice for councillor. rabitOne speaks to your sensibilities, just a little bit more. That one is # 1. The other, # 2. And let the run off begin.

Unfortunately, we’re still lagging behind on that count. Until such time as we finally step up and embrace ranked ballots (Hello, Queen’s Park!) voters are going to sometimes have to face the unpleasant prospect of vote splitting. We’re not there yet in Ward 30. So let’s take a step back, relax, and enjoy having too many good candidates to choice from rather than too few.

excitedly submitted by Cityslikr