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


The Calculus Of Crazy

June 20, 2013

So this morning TTC CEO Andy Byford lit the always short fuse of car-loving Ford Nation. uttermadnessIn an interview with Matt Galloway on Metro Morning, he floated the idea of closing King Street to car traffic during the morning rush hour. Reaction from the auto-huggers was swift and sadly predictable.

“Where are the cars supposed to go?” tweets radio talk show guy, Jerry Agar.

WHERE ARE THE CARS SUPPOSED TO GO?!

WAR ON THE CAR!!

Nothing Mr. Byford suggested was new or novel or particularly bold. In fact, King Street has been a problem for the city’s transportation department for over 20 years now. I wrote about this very thing in February. Back in the early-90s, city staff tried banning cars along the route during peak times in the day, using overhead signs and markings on the road.

upyoursGuess what happened?

“… this “passive” system of deterrents didn’t work,” according to a staff report, “motorists did, and continue to, ignore it.”

Motorists ignored the rules of the road. Just said, fuck it. I need to turn left here, I’m turning left here.

There’s no war on the car going on. It’s the exact opposite. This is all about the over-weening sense of entitlement and primacy in the minds of those using their private vehicles as their sole source of getting around the city.

I attended a seminar last night given by Jarrett Walker, author of the book and blog site, Human Transit. He talked about ‘symbolic transit’ and symbolic decisions made about transit based on incomplete information.

For at least two generations now, the Car has been presented as a symbol of freedom. That which will get you wherever you want to go whenever you want to go there. There are car advertisements attesting to it. carcommercialSleek machines blowing down the open roads, never another car in sight.

I remember that happening with me behind the wheel once. Driving in Montana. When was the last time you experienced that commercial sensation making your way through Toronto or the GTA?

The fact is, the primary source of congestion on our streets now is the over-abundance of private vehicles, and the position where they sit at the top of our transit policy decision making. Streetcars aren’t the problem. Not even the St. Clair disaster. Not bike lanes. Not scrambled pedestrian intersections.

Cars, and our continued catering to those who drive them.

Of course, you can say this until you’re blue in the face, trot out studies to back up the case but those fixated with their cars will simply tighten their grip on the wheel and demand the removal of anything they perceive that impedes their forward motion. redqueen1The Deputy Mayor’s response to the TTC CEO’s thinking? Replace the King streetcars with buses. How would that be better? Who the fuck knows other than they can get out of the way of cars when they pull to the curb to pick up and drop off passengers.

But a car driver’s sense of their right to the road is boundless.

Who else demands a space to stop their car right in front of the place they’re stopping? I live on a street that neither buses nor streetcars run down. I have to walk to where they are. And then, when I arrive where I’m going, I have to exit at the nearest stop to my destination and walk to it.

Why do drivers expect preferential treatment?

And why do people look around and see congestion on King Street, or Bathurst Street or Dufferin Street, Bloor Street and Finch Avenue, all roads with different modes of public transit, snarled in traffic, and come away saying, get rid of the streetcars/buses/build us a subway? When the one common element is cars and the excess of them on our roads?

60people

It’s car madness, frankly. A steadfast refusal to admit the obvious and be open to real solutions in alleviating the problem. Problem, what problem? I don’t have a problem.

The first step to dealing with it is to admit you have a problem.

Unfortunately, we still seem not to have hit bottom quite yet.

sanely submitted by Cityslikr


Pirated Radio

February 27, 2012

Conservatives these days.

It’s almost as if they’ve given up on the traditional mechanisms of democracy. Debate, discuss, deal, decide. All that outdated crap our grandparents and great grandparents fought and died to protect back… whenever.

Look. Nobody watches black-and-white TV anymore, do they? So who says our democracy has got to be the same?

Federally, after 6 years of not being able to earn enough votes to form a majority government, it seems that the Conservative party resolved to help keep some Canadians from finding their correct voting stations last election, thereby denying them their right to vote. No voters. No problem.

Here in Toronto, conservative leaning mayor, Rob Ford, having experienced a couple important setbacks and rebuffs by city council, has deemed his fellow elected local representatives to be irrelevant, and headed to more friendly terrain: talk radio. For 2 hours every Sunday (at least until the 2012/13 NFL season), he and his councillor brother, Doug, are taking to the airwaves, talking about the issues they want to talk about, listening only to the taxpayers they want to listen to and just generally reaching out to the regular folks they’d normally have to travel to a mall or Tim Horton’s to talk to. “’You’re going to get the straight goods from Rob and I,’ Mr. [Councillor] Ford promised Newstalk 1010 listeners during an interview with host Jerry Agar. “’You aren’t going to have the media twisting it around like they’ve been twisting it around for the last year and a half.’”

In short, the mayor and his brother are looking to replace actual governing by out-and-out campaigning some two and half years before the next election.

It’s telling also how their radio gig came about. The show, The City, was already established, hosted for its first 6 months or so by Councillor Josh Matlow. Its format was essentially the centrist leaning host moderating two other councillors from either side of the political spectrum in a two hour long discussion about municipal issues. There’d be listeners calling in to ask questions or give their opinions and members of the punditry invited to chime in as well.

Neither the mayor nor his brother ever took part in the show aside from phoning in. Mayor Ford called once to give Councillor Matlow birthday wishes and the councillor a couple times when he had a bone to pick with him. Otherwise, they remained disengaged.

Until this past January when, according to the program director of Newstalk 1010, Mike Bendixen, ‘the mayor’s camp approached him’. Interesting. While never deigning to appear on the show as is, Team Ford wanted to simply take it over, rejig it for their own purposes. Replace wonky policy talk and debate with one-sided, loaded partisan bluster. Like snivelling schoolyard suckie-babies who can’t play the game very well, so they grab the ball and insist on changing the rules.

Say what you will about The City hosted by Josh Matlow but it actually explored the nuts and bolts of municipal governance here in Toronto, never allowing one side to go unchecked. The City hosted by Rob and Doug Ford?

Of the show’s 78 minutes of actual Ford Bros. airtime, 10 minutes or so was given over to Leafs’ Talk with former player, Wendel Clark, his fights, his bar, his views on how to turn the team around, 6 minutes to Oscar talk and how the city should do something to honour Norman Jewison and about 3 minutes for some community bulletins. The only council member invited to join in on the conversation was hardcore Team Ford loyalist, Giorgio Mammoliti, who talked about his dream of building a subway along Finch Avenue. In terms of callers, by my count 4 were pro-Ford, 2 against and 1 I couldn’t really tell. One caller challenging the mayor and his brother to expand on their Sheppard subway plans and questioning their claim of the St. Clair disaster was cut off for a commercial break. When they returned, Councillor Ford spouted forth some dubious numbers about financing the subway, uncontested.

In an opinion column for the Toronto Sun on Saturday rationalizing handing over The City to the mayor and his brother to do with it what they want, Mr. Bendixen made the following assertion: After all, sharing ideas and opinions is what talk radio is about. If that were true, talk radio would not be the almost exclusive domain of right wing, conservative thought because ‘sharing ideas and opinions’ is anathema to modern conservatives. It runs against their grain of tightly holding onto ideas that only confirm their worldview and ridiculing opposing opinions that don’t.

It smacks a little too much of the democratic process that conservatives seemed to have developed an aversion for.

fair-mindedly submitted by Cityslikr


Permanent Campaigning

February 23, 2012

Having lost his once iron clad control of city council – and no mayor should lose an iron clad control of city council this early into a first term, at least, and not still be able to claim to have a ‘mandate’ – it looks like Mayor Ford has moved into outright permanent campaign mode. Yep. Fuck governing. That’s for egg-headed losers. We’re heading back out to the hustings where the mayor is most at home, amongst… I’m sorry… among the little guys and mall folk.

So the Brothers Ford make a weekly pilgrimage out to shopping centres in Scarborough where not 90%, not 99%, but 100% of shoppers who very likely drove to their destination want subways. Today the mayor’s opining (press releasing?) in the pages of the Globe and Mail. Whoah! The Globe? That’s some latté reading material there. Thought for sure that’d be news more fit for the Sun. No need, Your Worship. We’ve got your back. Here, here and here. (And that’s not even tapping the official Ford stenographer, Sue Ann Levy.)

Then, comes the big news. Bumping one-time centrist and now arch-enemy, Councillor Josh Matlow, from the airwaves, the mayor and his councillor brother will take over as co-hosts (co-mayors why not co-hosts) of 1010 talk radio’s Sunday afternoon political gabfest, The City. “This is our first opportunity ever to get our message out,” Councillor Ford told the Sun.

[Insert typeface here, denoting peels of belly laughter, followed by tears of mirth and ending with convulsive dry heaves from laughing so long and hard. What would that be, Franklin Gothic Book? Gill Sans MT?]

Aside from the stunningly delusional aspect of that statement, I mean, has there been a first term councillor who has received as much press, been offered up as many media platforms and opportunities to get the message out as Councillor Ford? I know out-going host Councillor Matlow has been accused by many of being a media hound but the real newcomer to council headline stealer is surely the mayor’s brother. How could it not be?

But note too the hint of victimization in the councillor’s assertion. The ‘first opportunity’? Really? Never mind as a sitting councillor back in the day, Rob Ford was a regular guest on John Oakley’s talk show but is Councillor Ford really trying to convince anyone that his brother, as the mayor of Toronto for nearly 18 months, has been ignored, his message kept boxed up?

On the Jerry Agar show this morning to announce their new role as radio guys, the councillor elaborated on that thought. “You’re not going to have the media twisting it around like they have the last year and a half.” Oh, my. Can I get you a little whine with that bitter greens salad, monsieur? How about a soother with that double double, councillor?

It constantly amazes me how these bully boy, tough guy conservative politicians get away with this damsels in distress schtick. Don’t their fanboys cringe just a little? What kind of cognitive dissonance do you need to operate with to buy into the notion that the sissy, downtown effete elite of the mainstream media are always picking on poor little Robbie and never letting him play and always twisting his words around?

Don’t we encourage our children to learn how to take responsibility for their actions and the outcomes that result because of them? It’s a little embarrassing to hear grown men constantly complain about always being taken out of context or having their word twisted. Or blaming other people for their failures.

And fail the Ford Brothers have. After a year plus of successfully pushing their agenda through city council, repealing taxes, reducing budgets, cutting and outsourcing services, they have lost control of the vehicle after hitting a bumpy patch on the road. It was inevitable. Not because of who they are but because that just happens when you’re in power especially at a non-party affiliated municipal level. Everything doesn’t just go your way with a wave of the hand and a loud proclamation.

You have to govern. You have to orchestrate a consensus. You have to lead and make a majority of your elected colleagues want to follow you, sometimes because it’s the right thing to do but other times because it’s the smart political thing to do.

Team Ford has given up on governing and simply kicked off its re-election campaign. It’s just easier. Whistle-stopping in front of welcoming crowds rather than debating with hostile councillors. Taking (screened) friendly calls from radio listeners instead of having to pretend to listen to opposing opinions from the usual suspect that line up to give public deputations. Running a city is hard. Running a campaign, well, any idiot can do that.

While the mayor and his brother are out on the stump, trying to revive the awesomeness of Ford Nation and get it into fighting shape once more in order to scare councillors back into the fold, council needs to just go about the business it was elected to do and, you know, govern the city. We’ve said it before but it bears repeating, Mayor Ford and Councillor Ford are only 2 votes. Yes, the power of the mayor’s office allows the two of them to gum up the works and grind things to a halt if they decide they don’t want to play along nicely or even collegially if their version (I will not say ‘vision’) of Toronto is the only one they’re willing to work for.

So be it.

In two and a half years’ time, one of two outcomes will be facing the mayor when he goes to the voters asking for their support again. Very little’s happened during his tenure as mayor and people are asking if they are better off than they were four years earlier. Mayor Ford’s ‘landslide’ victory in 2010 wasn’t so landslide-y that he could afford to have very many of his supporters answer that question negatively.

Or, the city’s humming along fine, transit is being built, services have been maintained at acceptable levels, people are generally happier than they were the last time they went to the polls, all while Mayor Ford has been on the outside, campaigning about just how bad it is at City Hall and regularly on the wrong side of every vote. Unable to claim much credit for any sort of turnaround, he’ll be running on essentially a platform of 4 More Years Of Contributing Nothing!

That’s a far cry from stopping the gravy train and reminds me of the old adage about lightning not striking the same place twice.

abdicatingly submitted by Cityslikr


The Bigger They Are

September 16, 2011

Credit where credit’s due.

Mayor Ford, his brother and their closest coterie certainly do things in no half measure. Go big or go home should be their motto.

From last year’s oversized campaign that ultimately swept aside his competitors in a noisy, boisterous march to the mayor’s office to the blustery early successes this administration’s had in crushing much of the previous administration’s doings under foot, they have made their presence felt. It has been relentless, the busting up and dismantling of things. Big time ‘doers’, as Mayor Ford might likely say.

So it appears will be the case next week when Team Ford faces what could be its first significant setback. Short of serious amending and de-fanging of the Executive Committee item instructing city council to grant the Toronto Port Lands Corporation authority to seize property from Waterfront Toronto, a resounding, flashy and high profile defeat looks very, very likely. A spectacular flameout might not be too much of an overstatement.

Go big or go home.

Perhaps had the mayor and his brother attempted this move more quietly, it might not have been successful but the failure wouldn’t be so garish. What had worked for them before, a combination of bullying and bad mouthing and a little bit of glitzy, Vegas style showmanship ran into a solid wall of established resistance on the waterfront portfolio. Badly misjudging both those they were up against and the growing attachment the general public had toward what was going on down by the lake, the Ford Bros. did not have their normal bogeymen to excoriate. The downtown elites. Left wing kooks. Cycling pinkos.

Instead, the mayor and his brother found themselves on the receiving end of the body blows and head shots from very well respected urban thinkers and planners, former mayors. Even normally friendly media types have been conspicuous in not rushing to defend the mayor’s waterfront plans. The mayor’s interview with Jerry Agar yesterday brought to mind the Fawlty Towers episode where a German group was staying at the inn and Basil spent much time telling his staff ‘Not to mention the war’. ‘Don’t mention the waterfront, Jerry. Don’t mention the waterfront.’ He dutifully didn’t.

The pushback to Mayor Ford’s waterfront plan is so significant that normally pliant and quiet allies on his Executive Committee have been freed to publicly announce their intentions to oppose it. To lose support at that level suggests it’s now open season for defections. In fact, the item has become so repugnant to the general public that it could be seen as a detriment to back it. What councillor will risk being tarred with the ignominy of following the mayor down this path?

There’s Doug Ford, of course. Arguably the architect of the fiasco. Deputy Mayor Holyday has hitched his wagon to Team Ford. Councilllor Giorgio We Don’t Blink Mammoliti. The ever obedient Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong.

But who else? This could be some heavy baggage to carry around for the next three years. Voting to pull the plug on Waterfront Toronto is not simply some ward specific attack that will be remembered only by local residents like the Jarvis bike lanes or the Fort York Bridge. This will have reverberations city wide even in places far from the battleground. Is that a risk Councillors John Parker and David Shiner are willing to take? How about the budget chief? The entire city’s going to be watching you Councillors Grimes, Moeser, Crisanti, Di Giorgio, Pasternak, Lee, Ainslie, Nunziata, Palacio, Kelly, Crawford, Lindsay Luby, Thompson, Milczyn.

I know it’s early in this term yet but some matters are not easily forgotten three years later when voters will go to the polls again. This could be one of those defining moments. Are you going to be for the mayor or for the city. You can’t be both on this.

demandingly submitted by Cityslikr