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 Wild West — Challenger Endorsements II

October 2, 2014

wildwest

Three west northwest wards may give us some sense of where voters’ heads are at come October 27th. One is an open ward, up for grabs after an Etobicoke institution took a briefly successful stab at provincial politics. The other two are occupied by long time incumbents who, I was going to say, have seen better days but, actually, they probably haven’t.

Just how anti-incumbency (or not) are we at this point? Very much so? Somewhat? Not at all? Will name recognition, as it usually does on election day, trump any itch for something new?

 

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Ward 3 Etobicoke Centre

Just when we thought we’d heard the last of the Li’l Ginny type ramblings of Toronto City Hall’s Grampa Simpson, Doug Holyday, in steps his son, Stephen (whom we’ll refrain from referring to as Homer) into his dad’s shoes. Far be it from us to look askance on anyone simply because of their lineage. Just so long as Holyday the Younger doesn’t try to capitalize on his family name for his political entry.

Yeah. Uh huh. That apple certainly hasn’t fallen far from the tree.

The thing is, watching the Rogers Ward 3 debate, most of the council candidates have landed in the same vicinity. Low taxes. Find efficiencies. Privatize public services. Oh yeah. And keep our services up to snuff too. It’s like some Etobicoke creed.

Separate from all that is Peter Fenech who we talked to back in September. He is a quiet, new voice out there in the wilderness, unwilling to reflexively reject the positive role government can play in our lives and the costs associated with that. He is well versed in how City Hall works and would represent a whole new type of discourse, flowing eastward in from Etobicoke.

On October 27th we endorse Peter Fenech for city councillor in Ward 3 Etobicoke Centre.

 

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Ward 7 York West

Anywhere else, this ward’s incumbent, Giorgio Mammoliti, would be cooling his heels outside of an election campaign. When last heard from, the city’s integrity commissioner had requested a police investigation into the councillor’s accepting of $80,000 from a questionable fundraiser earlier this year. And that’s just for starters.

Mammoliti is once again facing off against Nick DiNizio who is still bearing David Miller era grudges. Aside from their respective political track records (Mammoliti: Eeewww! DiNizio: None), there’s not much to differentiate between the two men.

One glimmer of daylight in the race is Keegan Henry-Mathieu. We talked to him back in July and, boy, what a breath of fresh air he’d be down at City Hall. He’s everything his two opponents aren’t. Knowledgeable about municipal politics. Not inherently anti-tax. All for engaging the wider Ward 7 community in how they expect their city to run.

On October 27th, we endorse Keegan Henry-Mathieu for city councillor in Ward 7 York West.

 

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Ward 12 York South-Weston

This race couldn’t be any crazier.

One bumbling, ineffective incumbent councillor. A former mayoral candidate, Member of Parliament, lobbyist and brother of the outgoing city council speaker. A now third time council candidate, and son of a real estate magnate and former interim city councillor.

Throw in some slashed tires and broken campaign office windows and let’s call it an olde tyme dirty old York city council race.

Then there’s Lekan Olawoye.

If Ward 12 voters were really anxious to jettison the past, and get on with the future, Mr. Olawoye would be the clear choice. We went out canvassing with him back in July and found him to be polished, very focussed on the needs of the residents and not attached in the least to old bromides and tired political saws that have got nothing done that needs to be done for decades now.

On October 27th, we endorse Lekan Olawoye for city councillor in Ward 12 York South-Weston.

helpfully submitted by Cityslikr


Challengers To Watch VII

July 24, 2014

Normally when I set out to write up something on a city councillor candidate, I like to go and meet them on their home turf, observeget the lay of the land, feel the ground beneath my feet. Observe the species in their own habitat. I’m hands on, if nothing else.

But when it came to writing about Ward 7 York West, I was a little uneasy, if the truth be told. After hearing incessantly for the past 4 years from the long serving incumbent how Ward 7 never gets anything except for the short end of the municipal stick, all I could imagine was this barren wasteland with a mythical tall, tall flag pole and the regular u-turning of transport trucks. Surely only the forlorn and demented would call such a place home. I mean, where’s a guy going to get a latte while up there?

But I was convinced by candidate Keegan Henry-Mathieu to face my fears and head up Jane Street with him on a crowded, rush hour bus run. Squeezed on right from the outset and never really emptying out for the entire ride, we chatted about the campaign. From under one nearby armpit and over another backpack, I asked if transit was an issue for residents in Ward 7.

Spoiler alert: it is.

While we have these high concept transit debates – subways versus LRTs – crowdedbusToronto residents find themselves packed on buses and streetcars, oftentimes with unreliable service and long wait times. This is particularly true in the bus-dependent suburbs of Toronto. Ward 7 will wait a 100 years for subway! declared its local representative, a stranger, I’m assuming, to using public transit to get around the city.

“You think you just got unlucky, getting onto a crowded bus,” Keegan tells me. “But the next one’s exactly the same. And the one after that.” And don’t get him started about waiting for a bus out here in the winter.

In what is becoming a trend for me as I talk to candidates in the suburban areas of the city, they face an uphill battle in engaging residents they meet in their wards. After years, decades, generations of largely being ignored by the people they send to City Hall, ward7it’s difficult convincing them that it can be different, that change can happen. Civic engagement can’t just be flicked on.

So candidates like Mr. Henry-Mathieu knock on the doors of residents who don’t tend to have their doors knocked on by politicians seeking office. People whose connection to the city government is tenuous at best. Those who are usually not part of the wider political discussion.

He tells me he sees it most in the apartment buildings he canvasses, many of them in states of ill-repair, trash tucked away up in the ceilings in some. And property management MIA can be traced back straight to an MIA councillor. Vote for you? Why? What have you ever done for me?

For many residents in many wards of this city, it is a valid question.

After hopping off the bus long north of the 401, officially into Ward 7, Keegan and I continue to walk up Jane Street. janeapartment(Turns out I’m not the first one he’s taken out for a neighbourhood stroll.) There are the usual strip malls and gas stations you would expect to find in these parts. But he points out all the largely unused green space on either side of the street, most of it surrounding apartment buildings.

With even the slightest bit of imagination and initiative, install some benches, tables, bbqs, you could create a real sense of community. Instead, what you have is a whole bunch of fenced in, unused space.

Don’t even get him started on slightly more ambitious ideas. Perfect spots for local farmers markets to bring healthy food into the neighbourhood. What about food trucks? Eye-balling it, I’d say there are plenty of areas 50 metres from the nearest fast food outlet. Why not bring some choice to a part of the city that lacks much of it?

Why not bring all sorts of fresh thinking to a part of the city that’s been lacking it for years now?

Henry-Mathieu is no stranger to talking and pushing policy ideas. timeforchangeHe was part of the Toronto Youth Cabinet at City Hall for the better part of a decade before resigning recently to pursue a council seat. While certainly a natural progression, it stems also from a little bit of frustration.

His activism as a Youth Cabinet member helped deliver incremental change. He now wants to try and push harder, make bigger advances. Starting with improving opportunities for those living in Ward 7.

By all rights, this should be an open ward and a more level playing field for Keegan to take a run at. The sitting councillor, Giorgio Mammoliti, has spent much of this past term fending off, let’s just call them, greasy allegations. The latest, a damning report from the city’s Integrity Commissioner, accuses Mammoliti of pocketing some $80,000 from an illegal fundraiser attended by developers and other business types doing business with the city. shirtlessmammolitiAnd that’s just a ‘for example’.

In an ideal world, Giorgio Mammoliti would’ve been barred from seeking office again.

But this being Toronto city council, things don’t work out quite like that. Instead, he’s allowed to run for re-election, backed by questionable money and having delivered nothing of substance for his ward during his nearly 25 years in office, as M.P.P, North York and Toronto city councillor. Over the course of the last 4 years, he’s been nothing but a disruptive and destructive force, doing little more than establishing a name and reputation for himself.

If residents of Ward 7 are disengaged with local politics, it is almost exclusively to do with the fact that their elected representative at City Hall doesn’t care. It works to his advantage. Voter apathy is the key to a bad politician’s success.

Keegan Henry-Mathieu represents everything the man he’s trying to oust doesn’t. Optimism. Enthusiasm. Inclusion. commissoA belief in positive change through both little and big steps. An expectation that things can be better through collective action.

The guy even found me a more than serviceable latte at a place called Commisso’s, located on a side street, in between two tire stores.

There’s no telling what he could do if voters in Ward 7 give him a shot at representing them at City Hall.

hopefully submitted by Cityslikr


Go, Go, Go Giorgio

March 18, 2014

STOP THE (WORD) PRESSES!!

stopthepressesBreaking news in our Wards To Watch 2014!

Yesterday, Keegan Henry-Mathieu registered to run for city councillor in Ward 7 York West.

Why is this so newsworthy? Two words. Giorgio Mammoliti.

In our very first post of this series, we implored voters of Ward 7 to rid our city of this clown prince of municipal politics. Along with the Ford Brothers and Councillor Frances Nunziata, Mammoliti makes up one third of the unholy triumvirate of City Hall’s masters of divisiveness, discord and dysfunction. I know much of the campaign focus has been and will continue to be on the mayor’s race with an eye to ending the current reign of error but I cannot stress enough how chasing Giorgio Mammoliti from council would contribute to restoring much calm, decorum and civility as well.chasetheclown

As the councillor likes to point out regularly, in an attempt to deepen the urban-suburban fault line to his advantage, his ward never gets anything. And exactly whose fault is that, Giorgio? In his capacity as both an MPP and then city councillor for the area since 1990, more than a little of the blame should rest on his shoulders. He made it clear repeatedly throughout this term that it was a subway or nothing along Finch Avenue even if his residents had to wait a 100 years. His constant motions to freeze property taxes would also serve to provide a whole lot of nothing for Ward 7 residents.

Councillor Mammoliti also appears to hold the adherence to rules in as much disdain as he does his constituents. shirtlessmammolitiDuring this term, he’s been dinged with some ethical taint not once, not twice but three times. There are those 2010 campaign spending charges. There’s that questionable fundraiser now under investigation by Toronto’s Integrity Commissioner. Last fall, it was suggested that the councillor was paying below market rent owned by a developer that does business with the city.

It all adds up to a big ol’ bucket of What the Fuck? Just whose interests has Councillor Mammoliti been serving at City Hall?

While no official endorsement at this point, I will say that Keegan Henry-Mathieu appears on the tattered political landscape of Ward 7 like a refreshing breeze. I’ve met him a couple times in passing. He is some engaged, having spent time at City Hall as part of the Toronto Youth Cabinet, with an interest on issues like poverty, priority neighbourhoods, nutritional programs and equity. He would represent a much needed new voice on council and for Ward 7.keepcalmandturnthepage

Along with Lekan Olawoye who is challenging long time Ward 12 York South-Weston incumbent, Frank Di Giorgio, maybe Mr. Henry-Mathieu represents a new wave rising up against the old guard in the former city of York. If we could get somebody willing to step into the ring with Ward 11 York South-Weston councillor, Frances Nunziata, it might just be a movement stirring. A new generation of politicians, truly representing a post-amalgamated Toronto.

First, they take York. Then, they take Scarborough…

A guy can dream, can’t he?

hopefully submitted by Cityslikr