No More More Of The Same

September 5, 2010

Earlier this week as the mayoral candidates prepared for another series of debates, some questions popped up about the inclusion of 6th placer, Rocco Achampong. Why now? Why not months ago? Nobody ever listened to what former candidate Giorgio Mammoliti said about anything else when he was campaigning. So how come they took him up on including Achampong in the debates?

The most salient argument against including newcomers to the proceedings at this relatively late stage of the game is that now is the time to start winnowing down not opening up. We need to focus in on the front running campaigns, one of which will produce Toronto’s next mayor. To throw the doors open will simply muddy the waters, cause voter disarray and make post-Labour Day clarity and decision making near impossible.

My response to that would be, have the candidates earned such a free pass? Months and months into this, with countless debates already under their belts and exclusive media access, and no one’s yet broken through. So what’s just more of the same going to accomplish?

Of course, that’s not entirely true. Rob Ford has more than broken through. He is the one candidate that has run what must be considered a near flawless campaign so far. How else to explain his turning a mindlessly pea-brained platform that can be re-uttered by even the densest voter – Stop The Gravy Train! – into a 1st place standing? Ford should be the joke of this race and yet the only one to even so much as land a punch on him is, well, Ford himself.

Take this past week for example. Ford bumbled, stumbled and fumbled through 3 debates, two of which, to be fair, were not his strong suit, city heritage and the environment. But what’s the news grabbing the headlines over the weekend? George Smitherman telling a Rocco Rossi campaign staffer to either fuck or screw off after they tried handing him some pamphlet apparently critical of his candidacy.

(To give George some props on this issue, I’ve encountered the Rossi Red Army at a number of debates. Their aggressive chair saving and Pavlovian cheering at their candidate’s increasingly loud, shrill empty rhetoric have made me inclined to want to tell a few of them to fuck off on occasion as well. So that’s a point for Smitherman in my books.)

If anything, this suggests that the mayoral debates need some new blood not a closing of ranks. Achampong has not embarrassed himself even if he hasn’t distinguished himself either. Part of the problem as I see it is that he’s singing from the same fiscal conservative, social liberal songbook as Smitherman, Rossi and Thomson. So it’s difficult to differentiate his views from the rest of the pack. Still, he’s proving that there are other credible candidates out there we should be hearing from.

My first choice would be HiMY SYeD. (Don’t worry, potential debate moderators. The name’s much easier to pronounce than it looks. Simpler than ‘Achampong’ which seems to be giving everyone verbal fits.) Following SYeD out on the hustings largely through his almost superhuman Twitter output, he appears to have more knowledge and ideas about civic governance than any of the leading candidates outside of Joe Pantalone. Let’s see how he fares up under the debate spotlights. He’s earned it.

That’s seven. How be we make it an even number? I’d nominate George Babula or Sonny Yeung. Give them a crack at the big time. Hell, let’s see what Keith Cole is up too as the campaign kicks into high gear. He acquitted himself well at the Better Ballots debate back in June. No reason he wouldn’t again if given another shot.

While much noise is being made over this final summer long weekend about how people’s attention will start to hone in on the municipal campaign as it heads toward the October 25th conclusion, I’m not sure how delivering them the same dog-and-pony show will accomplish anything other than having more people feeling as discouraged and disenchanted as those who’ve been following from the beginning. To borrow an inane phrase Rocco Rossi’s been touting over and over again, isn’t the definition of insanity doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting a different result? What this campaign doesn’t need is more of the same. It needs a shake-up that can only come with bringing in new voices and new ideas.

still hopeful(ly) submitted by Cityslikr


Another Debate, Same Old Tune

July 21, 2010

With another televised mayoral debate under our collective belts, I do not think it hyperbolic (in the non-mathematical sense) to say that this city is now facing a crisis of confidence, leadership confidence. What seemed funny back in March became mirthlessly laughable by May. Now, more than mid-way through July and it’s simply just sad. And a little bit worrisome.

Yeah, it’s that bad, folks.

At moments like these, I try to settle my rattled nerves by knocking back a few stiff belts of Woodford Reserve over an a.m. bowl of honey coated Shreddies and convince myself that if we made it through the Mel Lastman years, hell, we can make it through anything. We are that strong. We are that resilient.

But this feels a little different, and not in a ticklish, I kind of like it way. It’s more ominous and disheartening. Thirteen years into this experiment we call the amalgamated city and it seems like we’ve learned nothing, processed no information, become none the wiser through the experience of past accomplishments and mistakes. Those endeavouring to assume Toronto’s top office have surveyed the landscape, examined the books and come to the exhaustive conclusion that what ails us most is a… spending problem.

It’s all about out of control, unaccountable, retirement party spending. End of discussion. Full stop. Enjoy the rest of your evening everyone. Vote For Me!

To give Councillor/Deputy Mayor Joe Pantalone his due, he did try offering up a variation on the theme. (No, not his charts.) He raised the spectre of tax revenue inequality among the various levels of government, pointing out that for every tax dollar a Toronto resident spends, 92 cents of it leaves the city on its way to either Ottawa or Queen’s Park but it was a conversation the others didn’t want to have. Pantalone was summarily shouted down by all 4 of the others, braying in unison: We have a spending problem!

That’s it. The full extent of the conversation. The alpha and omega of the debate. A paucity of thoughtful, provocative ideas and views, best exemplified by Rocco Rossi. I know you thought I was going to say Rob Ford but what would be the point? He’s a Johnny One-Note that only surprises by his extraordinary ability to bring every issue, regardless of how irrelevant and beside the point back to Kyle Rae’s $12,000 retirement party. I’m pretty sure that’s how he plans on cutting 22 council seats. Anyone who attended the party is gone.

Yet in his own way, Rossi’s no better. He might not turn as beet red as Ford but he manages to spout similarly inane nonsense. Near the end of last night’s debate, he looked into the camera and bludgeoned us with the power of absolute numbers, saying that the present mayor inherited a 6 point something billion dollar operating budget and this year? (Stare deep into my eyes those out there in TV land and listen to the gravity I summon in my baritone voice.) 9 point 2 billion dollars.

Wow. That’s a lot of money. We really do have a spending prob—Wait a second. Might there be any explanation for such a significant rise in expenditure? Let’s see, for the past 18 months, 2 years, there’s been that little recession thing. The biggest economic meltdown since the Great Depression with government expenditures at all levels exploding in order to head off an even bigger calamity. So there was that. Plus Transit City, the largest expansion of public transportation in Toronto for decades, making up for previous regimes’ neglect and building those bridges Mr. Rossi talks so movingly about to underserved areas of the city. A little cash outlay was needed for that.

The spendthrift argument Rossi et al put forward de-contextualizes the situation, pulling Toronto out of the reality it operates in for purely political purposes. No real viable solutions are put up on offer. Just hot button topics to raise the hackles of outrage among the electorate.

So whatever audience there is for the debate tunes in, turns off and drops out. We’ve been hearing the same drivel for 6 months now and we’re not biting. Sure, Ford’s made a splash upon entry but he basically siphoned support away from the others. The largest number still remains in the undecided column. The prix fixe doesn’t do it for me. Can I order a la carte, s’il vous plais?

Unfortunately the media maitre d’ remains firm. This is the slate of candidates we gave you, dammit, pick one of these! Given the opportunity of Giorgio Mammoliti’s exit from the mayoral race to open up the field of choice, CP24 declined last night. Brushing off calls to include Mammoliti’s pick to replace him, Rocco Achampong, they said winnowing the debate down to 5 would help simplify things as if they weren’t already doing that with Ben Mulroney MCing the proceedings.

This led to accusations of racism since Achampong is black and every one of the front runners is white. Let’s try and, if not represent the diversity of the city here, at least make a passing nod to it. While not ignoring that point, I do think that it’s part of a bigger problem at work here.

We are a small organization and yet over the course of the last few months have uncovered 5 or 6 other candidates running for mayor who are at least worth a first look at. Some aren’t white, some are. None are saying anything crazier than Rob Ford; all are talking a lot more sense. If we can find them certainly big news gathering conglomerates like CP24 or CTV or CBC or the Globe and Mail, The Toronto Star and Toronto Sun can too. Talk to them. Interview them. Introduce them to the public. That is your job after all, is it not?

Here, let me give you a list of names to get you started: there’s Rocco Achampong. (Check the spelling though.) HiMY SYeD. (Ditto.) Sonny Yeung. (Pronounced just like our main north-south street.) Keith Cole. (He’s gay just like George Smitherman.) George Babula. Andrew Barton. Wendell Brereton. Colin Magee.

These candidates are only fringe because you guys declared them so. Well, given those who you said weren’t and who were on display on CP24 again last night, I’m not sure we should trust your judgment on this. We’re not liking what we’re seeing and suggest it’s time to turn the channel. Or at least, give us more to choice to choose from. What we are seeing here is the deliberate muffling of democracy and the handcuffing of voters. A prospect even more frightening than a Mayor Rob Ford.

End of discussion. Full stop.

ire drawingly submitted by Cityslikr


Meet A Mayoral Candidate XX

July 9, 2010

Rainy days on Fridays always make me… want to read Meet A Mayoral Candidate!

This week a special double feature: Giorgio Mammoliti & Rocco Achampong!

OK, so we’re not going to really spend much time on the former mayoral candidate, Giorgio Mammoliti, as he’s withdrawn from the race and is heading back to seek reelection as councillor for Ward 7. But as we wrote here earlier this week, when Mammoliti announced that he was exiting he expressed hope that Rocco Achampong would have a greater presence in the campaign. Ostensibly, Mammoliti was endorsing Achampong to take his place along side the 5 other front running candidates.

How effective this endorsement of legitimacy will be is hard to tell. It came from Giorgio Mammoliti after all. A candidate very few took at all seriously which is why he is no longer running for mayor. It’s difficult to imagine why the remaining front runners would welcome a new face into the midst given the difficulties most of them have had mustering a whole lot of support and enthusiasm for their respective campaigns. Aside from Rob Ford that is, and he may welcome anyone up on stage with him who isn’t Giorgio Mammoliti, a constant thorn in Ford’s side and aggressive caller out of Ford’s steady stream of bullshit.

But Mammoliti’s attempt to shine whatever light he had on Achampong will make it increasingly difficult for debate organizers to continue ignoring the other Rocco. CBC’s Metro Morning picked up the thread almost immediately, interviewing Mr. Achampong the very next day. CP24’s next mayoral debate is schedule on July 20th. Has an invite already been extended to Rocco Achampong?

For our part, despite having already profiled his candidacy a couple months ago, we’re going to accept Giorgio Mammoliti’s challenge and do our first ever re-profile here at All Fired Up in the Big Smoke.

As we wrote here earlier about Mr. Achampong, he has all the tools to be a very compelling candidate. He is articulate, passionate, confident and has a great biography. Born in Ghana, he came to Canada with his family at the age of 9 and grew up in one of the toughest, poorest neighbourhoods in Toronto, managing all the obstacles inherent in that environment to work his way through to becoming a lawyer. He was very politically active while at U of T, serving as both president of the Black Students’ Association and the Students’ Administrative Council. It is a resumé fit for a career in politics.

And yet, we remain underwhelmed. Having seen and heard Rocco Achampong a couple times since we wrote the first profile, nothing he’s said has alleviated our concern that his platform is built on the flaccid legs of empty rhetoric. When talking to Metro Morning’s Matt Galloway on Tuesday, Mr. Achampong spoke of a need for a mayor who was not “a person reciting from rote from a political handbook”. We couldn’t agree more, Mr. Achampong. So would you mind closing up that political handbook you’re reciting from?

The Issues section of the (other) Rocco for Campaign 2010 website shows a candidate who is very concerned with social matters. Transit, housing, job creation and culture all figure prominently. But it still lacks some need to know specifics. Mr. Achampong wants to freeze TTC fares for two years and add subways to Transit City. Where’s he going to get the money to do that? Ditto the doubling of grants to city cultural and arts groups. Great idea. Where’s the money going to come from?

None of which would be all that troublesome at this juncture of the campaign (especially since the other leading candidates have similar gaping holes in their platforms) but we find it hard to gibe these noble intentions with the anti-tax/anti-City Hall sentiments that shone through Mr. Achampong’s kick off speech back in February. Many of his words could’ve just as easily emerged from the mouths of Mssrs. Ford, Smitherman, Rossi and Ms. Thomson. While Rocco Achampong may be a fresh face on the campaign trail, his ideas most certainly aren’t.

This isn’t to suggest, however, that Rocco Achampong is not ready for and hasn’t earned a shot at mayoral primetime. He may fit in a little too neatly for our tastes. The race is in desperate need of someone of Mr. Achampong’s intelligence and perspective. There is no reason whatsoever that he continue to be ignored as future mayoral get togethers are organized.

And if not Rocco Achampong, why not HiMY SYeD? Or Colin Magee. Or Sonny Yeung? Or Keith Cole? Or Wendell Brereton? Or George Babula? There are plenty of interesting choices out there. Let’s get the opportunity to explore them.

dutifully submitted by Cityslikr


Don’t Let The Bastards Wear Us Down

June 10, 2010

At the risk of appearing to be indulging in a little log rolling for this site, allow me to pick up on a thematic thread from my colleague’s post yesterday.

Our ever increasing democratic deficit.

After a slight walk on the wild side with the Better Ballots mayoral debate a week and a half or so ago where more than just the Gang of 6™®© were allowed on stage to air their ideas and differences, it’s been back to the business as usual format. The kids had been treated to an evening of dress up and pretending to be grown ups but now playtime’s over. Why, just the other evening CP24 hosted their second mayoral debate (of a conveniently numbered six) featuring their designated six front running candidates. How could you possibly open up the floor to more candidates and threaten that kind of entrenched synchronicity? Even the community held debates like the one in Parkview Hills this past Monday and hosted by John Tory, are opening their doors only to the 6 main candidates as if some hard and fast rule exists to keep interlopers out.

I understand why the media wants this easy to remember, uncomplicated setup. It’s difficult enough for the likes of Ben Mulroney to remember the names of all the candidates on stage, forced to use both hands to count heads while still managing to hold onto his microphone. Imagine what would happen if the numbers got into the double digits. (Keep your pants on, Ben.) I also indignantly understand why the anointed six want to be left on their own. No further sharing of the spotlight while lending credibility to their campaigns even if they haven’t earned it.

But why is the voting public so willing to chip in and contribute to the stifling of debate? Shouldn’t they want to hear a wider chorus of voices offering up a wider swath of ideas and solutions to the problems and concerns they’re facing? Surely we’re not as empty-headed as Ben Mulroney and are able to cope with slightly more complexity.

Then this appeared in our interwebs mailbox earlier in the week. A note from mayoral candidate Keith Cole (and participant in the Better Ballots June 1st debate), announcing his withdrawal from participation in PRIDE’s ALTERNA-QUEER event due to the organization’s banning of the phrase “Israel Apartheid” from its annual and iconic parade. Not really wanting to enter this particular fray, I bring it up only to point out that while every one of the front running candidates ducked for cover and came out in favour of the ban, and in favour of overt censorship through media, government and corporate pressure tactics, there was one dissenting voice with a dissenting opinion. Keith Cole made a stand (and sacrifice) for his principles. Yet he is being arbitrarily shut out for the sake of convenience and whatever other sinister reasons there are for maintaining a manageable status quo.

This is how totalitarian regimes operate, folks, to paint a shiny happy face of a free and open society. They present to their electorate a sanctioned list of candidates for the voters to choose from. Debates range from points A through to B. People cast their ballots. Someone the party has given their seal of approval to wins. No fuss, no bother. It’s what we usually refer to as a ‘sham election’.

But true democracy is messy. It shouldn’t be clean and easy to navigate. Giving voice to disparate views, as many views as demand to be heard, means tolerating – encouraging — a cacophonous din on the march toward forging a workable consensus. That’s how democracy works. The expectation of having everything presented in a nice tidy box is frighteningly short-sighted and narrow-minded especially this early on in the game. And it doesn’t qualify as democracy. What it is, what we should call it is mediacracy in all its appropriately homonymic glory.

urgently submitted by Urban Sophisticat


Meet A Mayoral Candidate XVI

June 4, 2010

It’s Friday and time for another edition of Meet A Mayoral Candidate! But not just any old edition. A Better Ballots Mayoral Debate Meet A Mayoral Candidate!

As some of you regular readers will already know, we attended Tuesday’s mayoral debate, hosted by the good folks over at Better Ballots, and wrote about it here on Wednesday. There was talk of the general atmosphere at the event, how it was the first debate of this campaign that opened up to the wider swath of registered mayoral candidates past just the anointed frontrunners and, ironically in hindsight, how those same frontrunners fared during the course of the evening. We decided to talk about the “other” candidates in a separate post, here today.

Was the segregation necessary and did it serve to simply perpetuate the completely arbitrary division that’s keeping lesser known candidates from gaining wider public exposure? Yes, perhaps. But in our defense the post on Wednesday bordered on being unreadably long. If we had made it any longer with fuller coverage of the “outsider” candidates, no one would’ve read it anyway and they’d all be back at square one, wallowing in obscurity. With their own post now, there’s every possibility that one, two or maybe all of them will break out to be a serious contender on So You Think You Can Be The Next Mayor of Toronto?©®™

Owing to an online poll conducted by Better Ballots last month, candidates Rocco Achampong and Keith Cole earned themselves the right to share the stage on Tuesday with the other “regular” six. Neither Achampong nor Cole fluffed their opportunity to be looked at for further serious consideration. From our vantage point, both men easily fared better than at least 2 of the other candidates on stage.

Not that this should be surprising to anyone paying attention. For Mr. Achampong’s part, he has more hands on political experience than either Rocco Rossi or Sarah Thomson, having been president of both the Black Students’ Union and the S.A.C. during his time at the University of Toronto. No small feat the latter, as he had to contend with an often times fractious 50+ member council.

What was surprising was Achampong’s stagger out of the starting gate, given his political background and the fact that he is a lawyer who, presumably, argues cases in front of an “audience”. He clearly underestimated the 1 minute time limit (strictly enforced) candidates were given and delivered a fuzzy, rambling opening statement that was breathlessly finished in an attempt to get every last word in. That behind him, Achampong settled in nicely, playfully jostling with the other Rocco, and appearing far more prepared to talk about the electoral reform issues on hand than almost all the other candidates on stage. I would advise Mr. Achampong to refrain from quoting obscure theologians in the future for fear of stumping most of the audience although the baffled look on George Smitherman’s face when Achampong mentioned William of Occam may have been worth it.

In his e-vite to the sweaty soiree that Keith Cole sent out, he expressed concern that his appearance at the debate “…could either be fabulous or a train wreck – or a combo of both. A Fabulous Train Wreck!” Well, no worry as Mr. Cole’s appearance on stage tilted heavily to the former. Again, not that surprising as he is a performer and very obviously comfortable on the stage. He brought lightness to the proceedings and sense of fun to battle the room’s heat. When things got a little testy between two other candidates, Cole delivered a tasty bon mot.

“Tonight started out as a cocktail party and it’s become a family reunion.”

More than the merry prankster, though, Mr. Cole brought a couple things to the stage that should not be overlooked. One, was a sense of humility as he confessed confusion at a number of the proposals that were being discussed, asking that the other candidates to explain it for him. At one point, Sarah Thomson obliged but it was clear that many of the others on stage were equally at a loss at times but none had the nerve to admit that publicly. Secondly, Keith Cole displayed a love of this city none of the other candidates did. Sure, they might love to be mayor or love the politics of a campaign but no one expressed the degree of enthusiasm for Toronto that Cole did and he deserves to continue to be heard because of that.

After this debate, if anyone suggests that it was all fun and games, the fringers had their shot in the spotlight but now it’s time to get back to the serious business at hand and let the “real” candidates (or as the Toronto Sun phrased it, “quality declared candidates”) continue flailing away at one another, they are simply attempting to quash outside voices and a much wider discussion about this city’s future. If you’re going to refer to the likes of Rob Ford, Sarah Thomson, Giorgio Mammoliti, Rocco Rossi as “quality declared candidates” – and I’m being unusually generous not including George Smitherman on that list – Keith Cole and Rocco Achampong have earned a spot amongst them.

And not only Cole and Achampong. While we were surprised that less than half of the other 20 declared mayoral candidates used the opportunity of the debate to introduce themselves in a one minute statement, there were some who struck us as deserving a closer look. As the son of an Irish immigrant, Colin Magee spoke very eloquently and concisely about the need for extending the municipal vote to permanent residents. George Babula fought through an apparent case of severe stage fright and talked enough sense to earn a further hearing. And we highly encourage everyone to check out HiMY SYêD next Tuesday as he pushes off his campaign. He killed on Tuesday with his line: “We’ve sent enough Cowboys to City Hall, Now, It’s Time for an Indian.” Who wouldn’t want to hear more from him?

Despite the Better Ballots move toward a wider candidate inclusivity, the “official” debates continue next week in their sanctioned format. Only Frontrunners Need Appear! Making matters worse is that debate on Thursday is going to be moderated by the ultimate mayoral media darling, John Tory who, mysteriously, is still being wooed into entering the race. So we’re back once again to independent voices and ideas being shut out of the race. That is not good for democracy. That is not good for this city.

So we say, let’s boycott all future mayoral debates that remain the sole domain of illegitimately designated frontrunners and lazy media favourites. Let’s stop allowing nebulous entities to arbitrarily dictate to us some pre-approved list of who we can listen to and vote for.

Boycott! Boycott!! Boycott!!!

stridently submitted by Cityslikr


Better Ballots Mayoral Debate 6 + 2

June 2, 2010

Attending my first mayoral debate last night, thrown by the folks at Better Ballots at the University of Toronto’s Hart House, it’s difficult to properly assess the proceedings. There’s no baseline to measure it against as the scientists say. Are they all like this because if that’s the case, debates are a lot of fun. More people should make a point of attending them. It was infinitely more entertaining than, I don’t know, Iron Man 2, although in reading that sentence I realize it could be taken as less than complimentary toward political debates.

I do know that this one was different than previous debates so far as it introduced some of the other 22 candidates who have registered to run for the office of mayor. Two, Rocco Achampong and Keith Cole, had won an online poll to join the 6 main contenders up on the stage while the other 20 were given the opportunity to give a 1 minute speech throughout the course of the evening. (We’ll go into more detail about how the “other” candidates fared in our Friday ‘Meet A Mayoral Candidate’ post, only to say now that Mssrs. Achampong and Cole acquitted themselves very, very well on stage last night.)

Held in the very proper Debates Room, the atmosphere was both stuffy and almost carnivalesque. Stuffy, owing mostly to the lack of A/C in the place. It was warm, close. To the point where I was half expecting a wet-pitted Huey Long to appear on the podium, exhorting a radical redistribution of wealth.

Yet, at least metaphorically speaking, the event felt light and airy. Finally allowed access to a wider audience, many of the previously overlooked mayoral candidates who were present took the opportunity to mingle with the crowd, some handing out their campaign literature, others promenading down the middle aisle of the room, holding up handmade campaign posters. Candidates on parade! Place your vote for mayor here!

Doing their level best to dampen the upbeat mood, however, was the Red Menace. A group of youthful red t-shirted Rocco Rossi supporters, hogging up chairs by the row full, wrestling the loose vibe in the room to the ground, harshing the mellow. As the jostling swirled around me, I realized they were in a pitched battle with equally young but perhaps even more doe-eyed, undercover George Smitherman (only one of them sported their team’s purple shirts which he quickly removed) backers. I fought the urge to ask one of these youngsters why on earth they were wasting their formative years working for such soulless candidates but fortunately resisted, not wanting to ruin the evening with fearful thoughts of our future well-being.

As for the debate itself, it was a tightly run operation based around the 14 electoral reform proposals that Better Ballots have been working on, ranging from extending the municipal vote to permanent residents and online voting to term limits and campaign finance rules. If I can offer up two bits of constructive criticism, it would be as follows:

  • One, since Better Ballots had held 4 town hall meetings throughout the city in April for interested members of the public to discuss and vote on, I might’ve used the numbers to eliminate the issues that least caught peoples’ attention, i.e. municipal parties, at-large councils, even possibly term limits. That way, there would’ve been more time to discuss the remaining issues in more detail and not allowed any of the candidates to simply agree or disagree without giving the reasons why.
  • Two, again to afford more time to delve further into details, I would nix the 6-10 minute open portion after each of the candidates were given their 1-1½ minutes to speak on a specific issue. It only opened the door to pre-packaged digs between candidates and empty, rhetorical posturing that often had little to do with the issue at hand.

That said, for much of the evening all the candidates seemed to be in the spirit of things, offering up thoughtful opinions on electoral reform. Except maybe Rob Ford who came across as completely uncomfortable and out of his element. To be fair, he was the main target of shots from the other candidates and the Hart House crowd was not his crowd and the room grew increasingly hot so he was sweating a lot but I still half expected him to break out into a Chris Farley “I live in a van down by the river!” routine. Ultimately, if I were voting for the candidate who I thought would make the best Walmart manager, Ford would be my candidate.

Sarah Thomson struck me as a high school valedictorian. Whenever she kept pointing out that she’d built a multi-million dollar business, I wanted to stand up and scream, “But government isn’t a business, Ms. Thomson!!” Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti drifted in and out of lucidity, constantly badgering Ford, dismissing his incessant call to reduce the number of councillors to 22 as nothing more than empowering the unelected bureaucracy and calling for (I think) publicly funded elections. George Smitherman was smooth, said pretty well next to nothing (a voting reform package sent to a council committee) and struck me as extremely unlikable.

I must admit that, despite the presence of his Redshirts, Rocco Rossi caught my attention with his thoughtfulness and passion. So much so that whenever he talked I found myself thinking, if we only could get him off this whole selling of public assets nonsense… Then came his final statement where he tried to convince the audience that the real reason for voter disaffection is due to the choices the current mayor has made, and then proceeding to dismiss plastic recycling and public toilets as unimportant. Clearly the man had no read on who he was talking to on this particular evening and his ideas of civic engagement are wildly antithetical to mine.

Leaving us with Deputy Mayor Joe Pantalone. Neither here nor there, pretty well lost in the shuffle, he didn’t seem out of place so much as content to go along, surf the various tides as they swell up in order to be one of the last candidates standing come October. He seems non-ideological and cordial enough to work well with a fractious council. But I just wish he’d stand up (no pun intended) and be more forceful about why he thinks government matters, why he would be a good mayor and that after 29 years in office, the city he’s represented is not doing too badly despite what the gaggle of naysayers on the stage around him are saying.

It is still just June yet. Lots of time remaining for policies, platforms and personalities to coalesce. Onward and forward to future debates!

dutifully submitted by Cityslikr


Meet A Mayoral Candidate XV

May 28, 2010

It’s Friday again and—wait, wait. Friday? Really? Didn’t the work week start, like, just 3 days ago? Oh well. If you say so. Friday it is then, bringing another installment of Meet A Mayoral Candidate!

Up this week: Rocco Achampong!

Voted by those in this office as the Candidate Most Likely To Break Out From The Back Of The Pack And Start Running With The Big Bulls (you mean your office didn’t have a similar pool?), Rocco Achampong appears ready to fulfill that destiny. He’ll be appearing along with Keith Cole at the Better Ballots Mayoral Debate on June 1st at the University of Toronto’s Hart House with the 6 top dogs, acronymously known as TRFMPS. His time in the shadows is about to be a thing of the past as steps out into the glaring limelight.

Mr. Achampong should have somewhat of a home field advantage at next Tuesday’s debate as he is a graduate of U. of T. where he co-founded the Black Students Association and served as the president before being elected president of the university’s Students’ Administrative Council (now known as the Students’ Union). In fact, so at home with the place is he that Achampong even announced his candidacy for mayor earlier this year in the very room where the debate will be taking place. He’ll be well versed with where the puck bounces unexpectedly off the boards into the slot in front of the net.

There is little question that as a candidate for mayor Mr. Achampong has all the goods. He is young, driven and possesses a compelling and uplifting biography. Born in Ghana, his family immigrated to Canada when he was nine years old. Some of his youth was spent in Toronto’s rough-and-tumble Jane-Finch area, where Achampong was well aware of the violence that sometimes flared up in the community.  But with a strong family bond steeped in love and faith, he overcame these struggles to make his way through school, eventually graduating from Osgoode Hall with a law degree in 2008.

It is perfect political pedigree, bestowing a can-do under dog, over-achieving mantle on him that Achampong clearly relishes. “I think of myself as Rocky,” Achampong has said. “As long as I’m still on my feet after 12 rounds, I’ve won.” Strike up the Bill Conti theme music, we say, because up that flight of stairs we go!

Yet for all the fresh-faced, new blood, rising star qualities enveloping Achampong, there’s a whiff of familiarity upon closer examination. Imagine my surprise when glancing through his biographical material that Mr. Achampong campaigned for John Tory back in 2003 in that mayoral election. I say, what? Tory may be a nice guy and genuinely decent human being but what’s a bright-eyed, impressionable young thing doing going to work for the consummate insider, an official member of the unofficial kitchen cabinet for the execrable Mel Lastman regime? What does that say about Achampong’s politics?

It speaks volumes.

From Mr. Achampong’s speech announcing his intention to run for mayor: I have no experience when it comes to raising your taxes – time after time after time. No experience when it comes to looking for ever more innovative ways to separate our hard-working citizens from their hard-earned money. I have no experience when it comes to wasting these same hard-earned tax dollars through reckless and irresponsible spending. I have no experience when it comes to selling our city out to special interests, no experience in caving in to demands, to sitting idly by and complacently while union bosses hold our citizens hostage with outrageous demands.

Unlike my professional politician opponents, I have no experience when it comes to running government agencies rife with scandal and corruption. I have no experience when it comes to hiking transit costs for hard-working citizens to pay ever higher salaries to overfed employees who sleep on the job.

Words that could just as easily be emanating from the mouth of George Smitherman, Rob Ford or Rocco Achampong’s former boss on the John Tory 2003 campaign team, Rocco Rossi. For a new kid on the block, Mr. Achampong sounds awfully shopworn, clichéd and hackneyed. Where is the new vision to accompany the new face? Even his answer to the question we’ve been asking all our candidates, If the present mayor would like his legacy to be that of the Transit Mayor, how would a Mayor Achampong like to see his legacy written? strikes us as somewhat generic. “A Mayor Achampong would like his legacy to be that of economic growth, prosperity for the many, and hope for all…when they look back, I  would like them to not forget that times were great under my administration”.

Yes, there is much to admire in the compassionate and progressive elements of Achampong’s platform. A national housing initiative. TTC fare freeze. Doubling of the city’s arts funding. Dedicated bike lanes.

We just do not see how all this gibes with the anti-tax, anti-union stance Mr. Achampong’s touting right now. The hope is with a new voice comes a new vision. Rather than trotting our all the old sawhorses about this city’s out-of-control spending and being held hostage by union layabouts, we’re looking for someone, anyone, to point out how the fiscal straits Toronto is facing presently are largely beyond its control. We’re looking for a candidate to stand up for our interests in the face of recalcitrant and negligent senior levels of government and state categorically that we refuse to play delivery boy to the heartless and harmful effects of the neoliberal policies that they’ve been pursuing for decades now.

And somewhere in our peabrains we lodged the idea that a candidate such as Rocco Achampong might be that one. Now, we’re not so sure. It saddens us. Maybe over the course of the election campaign we will be proven wrong.

dutifully submitted by Cityslikr