Another Photo Finish in Ward 26?

January 16, 2014

Just a quick clarification before I jump right into the next instalment of 15 Wards to Watch (Previous entries here and here.)reminder

This in no way should be interpreted as a list of worst councillors or bums that need to be tossed out. As I wrote at the beginning, if it were, the likes of councillors Frances Nunziata (Ward 11 York South-Weston) or Mark Grimes (Ward 6 Etobicoke-Lakeshore) would feature front and centre. While I’ve certainly weighted the calculations to reflect my opinion of the work councillors do at City Hall, it’s not what this about.

I’m looking at 15 wards that could be seriously contested in the upcoming municipal election based on a combination of councillor competency, the strength of their incumbency and the degree of their plurality in 2010. Obviously, high marks in category one is my way of subjectively skewing the results but as with the above mentioned councillors, primerincumbency and the ease of victory last time out also contribute.

Think of this as a primer, if you will. An All Fired Up in the Big Smoke guide to prospective candidates pondering a run for city council. The information contained within should be considered 85% reliable, 19 times out of 20.

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Councillor John Parker (Ward 26 Don Valley West) seems like a nice guy. Well spoken, thoughtful and with a dry sense of humour. His biggest contribution to this term at city council has been in his role as Deputy Speaker. In what could only be best described as a perpetual and ongoing clusterfuck, Councillor Parker always brings a sense of calm, civility and decorum to the proceedings when he assumes the Speaker’s chair.soothing

It also should not be overlooked that he quietly helped derail Mayor Ford’s plan to bury the Eglinton crosstown for the entire length of the route including, somehow, as it crossed the Don Valley. “We’re buying LRTs and asking it to do what a subway does,” Councillor Parker said back in December 2011. “It’ll be the goofiest LRT line known to man.” Parker helped TTC chair Karen Stintz take control of the board from the mayor and oust Ford loyalists who’d turfed then TTC CEO (and LRT supporter) Gary Webster.

He then stood opposed to the TTC chair’s move to build a Scarborough subway her way and was very vocal on the council floor, speaking out against the ultimately successful bid to abandon the planned and paid for LRT replacement of the Scarborough RT with a subway. So he’s got transit working for him. texaschainsawmassacreAs long as you don’t consider cycling and walking an integral part of a transit network.

There’s the rub. Councillor Parker is still what you might call a fiscal conservative with an OK sensibility of city building but not outstanding. Money first. Ideas next.

And we cannot forget that he was a member of the Mike Harris government back in the 90s when subways were filled in, costs downloaded to the city and enforced amalgamation. Much of this burden we’re still living with currently. So it’s annoyingly ironic that here he is, a decade and a half later, contributing (or not) to cleaning up a mess he as an MPP helped create. Such a mess that Councillor Parker, during a 2012 budget debate, had the gumption to suggest was severe enough to force him to float visions of Detroit and Greece if we didn’t clean up our act.

John Parker is much smarter than that.johnparker

As mixed as I’d call his time at city council as, the real factor in making Ward 26 one to watch is his tenuous hold on it. He was first elected in 2006 with just over 20% of the popular vote. In 2010 in another tight race, this time a 3-way one, Parker increase his share popular vote share to over 31% but only 600 votes separated him from the 3rd place finisher.

Slight shifts in either of these elections would’ve kept him from winning. Is he as vulnerable this time out? While I’d think his profile has been elevated (always a plus for an incumbent) especially in his role as Deputy Speaker if nothing else, does it move in a favourable direction for him?

He’s certainly become increasingly vocal in his opposition to Mayor Ford to the point that during the ice storm cleanup cost debate, the mayor’s brother-councillor-campaign manager told Councillor Parker that he was pathetic and a joke. photofinishSo Parker might not want to count on any Ford Nation bump to help him out in a close race. That ship seems to have already sailed.

Will it matter?

I’ve said that regardless of what happens at the mayoral level, the mayor isn’t going to have long enough coat tails to settle many council races especially ones that aren’t in Etobicoke or Scarborough. So Ward 26 is Councillor John Parker’s to lose. Depending on who lines up against him and if there’s another vote split like occurred in both of Parker’s previous victories, I’m pretty comfortable in calling this one a nail biter.

helpfully submitted by Cityslikr


Stop Me If You’ve Heard This Before

December 5, 2012

I have this recurring nightmare.

jacobmarley

In my death throes, with no turning back from whatever it is that’s oncoming, infinite nothingness I assume, and the last thing I see, my ultimate mortal vision, a Latin verse or two I so wish I could drop in here, my final rite if I were a god fearing sort of person, the light I would not rush headlong toward is the scowling, sullen, angry face of our current budget chief, Mike Del Grande.

Widows and orphans! At the end of the day! These times we live in. These TIMES we live in. At the end of the day. Widows and orphans. At the end of the day.

The burning resentment of that relative wrapped in a slight whiff of burnt butter that even your politically radioactive father didn’t have the time of day for. I may be nuts, sonny jim, but your Uncle Mike, well, he’s, well, how do I say this nicely, more than a little crazy. trembleNo small talk from your Uncle Mike because it cuts into his time to rail at everything. And we do mean everything.

Do you know how much they want for this loaf of bread? A loaf of bread?! Some flour and water! A loaf of bread?!

Mike Del Grande should not be making any sort of important decisions about the course of this city. He is simply incapable of imagining a place that must spend some $10 billion a year to function even close to properly or fairly. Big numbers overwhelm him and confuse him. Such confusion leads to a perpetual state of surliness.

These numbers must be reduced. They do not compute. My pocket calculator cannot contain them. They do not compute. These numbers must be reduced.

In breath-taking post by Karolyn Coorsh at Town Crier Politics, there’s the following exchange between the budget chief and the city’s Chief Planner, Jennifer Keesmaat.

Keesmaat was quite candid in describing a “honeymoon’s over” moment back in early fall, when she had to defend departmental spending line by line to Budget Chief Mike Del Grande.  

Keesmaat held the line this year, but informed the budget chief that after a previous three years of unilateral cuts, there is no way she’d be able to squeeze or freeze again next year.  

According to Keesmaat, a “hot-under-the-collar” Del Grande responded by saying it’s a pervasive problem he was seeing across departments. “He said, ‘There’s just no money and there’s no fat to trim. We have to find a source of revenue.’

“And I said, ‘Councillor, with all due respect, that’s what property taxes are. They’re a way that residents of this city pay for the services that we provide.’”

“There’s just no money and there’s no fat to trim,” the budget chief laments. “We have to find a source of revenue.”

We had a fucking source of revenue, Mr. Budget Chief! It was called the Vehicle Registration Tax. You and a majority of councillors jettisoned it back in the halcyon days of the city having a spending not a revenue problem. bananastandYou froze property taxes one year and didn’t make up for the resulting revenue shortfall the next.

There are sources of revenues immediately accessible to us. Our budget chief just chooses to ignore them, pretends they don’t exist and then berates anyone who comes before him, asking to be spared the axe. ‘Show me the money,’ is his boringly predictable response. Show him the money.

When someone actually does, pointing to a proper property tax increase, the budget chief just picks a big, unnecessarily large number out of the air. 10%? Is that what you want? 10% Maybe 15. Just say it. Say it!

It would be a lot less galling if he was just honest with us and simply came right out and said that he doesn’t care about the planning department. Widows and orphans? M’eh. Free swimming lessons? Outrageous. In his day, if you couldn’t afford to learn how to swim, you just stayed clear of the water.

Instead, we get this self-pitying tone of a put upon martyr foisted reluctantly into a position in the wrong place at the wrong time. He’d love to help everyone, give out a second helping of gruel to the needy, a chicken in every pot etc., etc. It’s just that, it’s just that his hands are tied, you see. A victim of circumstance and inevitability.

Three years in, the schtick is old and tiresome not to mention detrimental to the well-being of the city and its residents. Budget Chief Del Grande likes to tout how tough it is saying ‘no’. Anybody can say ‘yes’ to every request for money that comes across their desk. texaschainsawmassacreOnly the bold stand their ground, dig in their heels and close their minds.

But if there’s no more fat to trim, as the budget chief apparently admitted, only someone bereft of imagination or spirit would continue to cut away. He just can’t seem to stop. It’s all he knows how to do.

Perhaps it’s time someone takes the knife from his hand before he inflicts any further damage. After all, we don’t expect a butcher to breathe life back into the cow.

slice-and-dicingly submitted by Cityslikr