Meet A Mayoral Candidate XXI

July 16, 2010

It’s Friday and time for another Meet A Mayoral Candidate.

But first, a pop quiz. Which mayoral candidate said the following:

Again we have witnessed a regime taking the easy way out by abusing the poor taxpayer who after this latest tax increase may just have to turn in the keys to their home. Where is the vision in that? Where is the restraint and belt-tightening? Where are the real cuts necessary to combat the foolish and extravagant spending that has been going on far too long under this regime?

A) Rob Ford

B) George Smitherman

C) Rocco Rossi

D) Sarah Thomson

E) None of the above.

If you said ‘E’, none of the above, you are absolutely correct!

These are the words of JP Pampena, the Man With A Vision. (A punning reference to Mr. Pampena being blind for over 30 years after an adverse reaction to penicillin.)

Now maybe it’s people like us who are woefully out of step with the times. Our only tattoo is a single anchor on the forearm that signifies time spent in the merchant marines. We wear our pants over our hips not under (but not as high up as, say, Cary Grant did). And we have no idea who this Seamus O’Regan fella is. So the failure of comprehension could very well be on our part.

But why are there so many candidates out there running for mayor both above and below the sightlines that think the solution to all Toronto’s woes is that it be more like a business? I assume they mean like a successful business as opposed to, say, Eaton’s or the Lehman Brothers. It’s all Canada Inc. Ontario Corp. Toronto and Sons.

JP Pampena takes the idea to its logical extreme. If the city needs money, why not list it on the TSX? That’s right, put Toronto on the stock market. And while we’re at it, toss the TTC on too. I don’t know if it’s ever been tried before but certainly when Mr. Pampena  “…discussed this idea with key people at the TSX and the Toronto Board of Trade…” a number of eyebrows were raised “but overall…received positive support…with many commenting that it is an interesting and intriguing concept that definitely merits further discussion.”

Now who am I to debate economic issues with the likes of the Toronto Stock Exchange or Board of Trade? I have no head for business. If I did, I certainly wouldn’t be writing a blog for free. But if we were to take the city and transit system public, wouldn’t investors start demanding more and more returns? So the city could no longer lose money or even be content to just break even. It would have to start making money. Ooops. There goes that underused bus route. Couldn’t we start charging for all those library books we now just lend. For free?!

For someone who claims to think outside the box Mr. Pampena, executive vice president of JP Public Relations Inc. and a successful entrepreneur who runs four different companies, he winds up sounding an awful lot like most of the front running candidates. Aside from a constant flow of private sector rhetoric, Mr. Pampena views bike lanes on the arterial roads as “boneheaded” and espouses largely unsubstantiated opinions about cycling that could come from the Rocco Rossi camp. “… a recipe for disaster that would punish city drivers with more gridlock and increase safety concerns for all users of the roads…putting bike lanes – segregated or not – on main arterial roads is simply a further attack perpetrated on motorists by car-phobic councilors.”

He’s against road tolls but, interestingly enough, for heated highways. Crime rates have reached such levels in Toronto for Mr. Pampena that he thinks it’s time to call in Curtis Sliwa and the Guardian Angels! Is he still doing that? The last time I saw him, I think he was the right middle square on Whoopi Goldberg’s Hollywood Squares.

“Who better than The Guardian Angels to help improve the safety of our students in the hallways and schoolyards of our schools, especially with their world-renown anti-bullying programs,” states Mr. Pampena.

Who better indeed?!

When we posed our question, If the present mayor would like his legacy to be that of the Transit Mayor, how would a Mayor Pampena like to see his legacy written?, he answered that a Mayor Pampena would like to be remembered as a “pro-taxpayer and pro-business mayor.” So if you don’t find any of the frontrunners pro-business-y or taxpayer-y enough, well JP Pampena may be the candidate for you.

Us? We are clearly out of step here, head tucked down against the prevailing winds. Waiting for the mayoral conversation to open up wider than simply balance sheets and business plans.

dutifully submitted by Cityslikr


NYC Postmortem

April 28, 2010

So I step in after my colleague’s hard crash, like a child coming back down hard to earth after a mad sugar rush, he could be out for days by the look of it, to wrap up our New York City sojourn.

As any good trip away should, we return home with a heightened appreciation of where we live. At least, most of us do. Acaphlegmic went missing Monday night, staying aboard the uptown bound N train as the two of us hopped off at our stop. He had a plan, he said, that did not include us. With that, he was gone, destined for the upper regions of Manhattan or, quite possibly, Queens.

In terms of vibrancy and self-assurance, there really is no other place that compares to New York. It is the centre of the known universe and is well aware of that fact. To bask in its aura even for just a few days, is to acquire a taste, ever so fleetingly, of what it is like to wield true power.

That’s fun for awhile but the responsibility becomes a bit much for us mere mortals to bear. We make our way back home with the knowledge that we are not, ultimately, made of the sterner stuff needed to survive a serious go in such an unforgiving environment. Failure is not an option, as the movies tell us, so we retreat to our slightly more humble surroundings.

Where we have a little more space. A little more tranquility. Where the food is just as good and less pricey and precious. Where we have long since abandoned the idea of building subways.

Did you know that New York City is still building subways? How is that possible? I thought our American neighbours took it in the economic cojones much harder than we did. Especially at ground zero of the meltdown, home to your Lehman Brothers and Goldman Sachs. So how are they going about such extensive public transit infrastructure spending while we fiddle and fart over extending LRTs?

Then I came across this little tidbit in the Wall Street Journal yesterday at the airport:

Top New York real-estate executives and the City Council speaker will make an 11th-hour push Wednesday to persuade the White House to back federal funding for a second subway station as part of the extension of the No. 7 line in Manhattan.

Officials from the Real Estate Board of New York, a trade association, and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn will meet in Washington with Vice President Joe Biden’s staff in hopes of securing hundreds of millions of dollars to build a station at 10th Avenue and 41st Street.

What’s that then?! A New York City councillor and some members of the real estate association have an audience with the US Vice-President, the second most powerful man in the world, trying to secure federal funding for one subway station!? I mean, wasn’t he just over in Israel trying to kick start peace in the Middle East? Remember when Toronto was trying to secure some federal infrastructure money last summer and were told by the Honourable John Baird, Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities to go fuck ourselves because we hadn’t crossed our Ts and dotted our Is to their satisfaction?

Maybe cities get the respect they deserve. As long as we continue to grovel at the feet of senior levels of government, begging them to pony up cash they took from us in the first place, we’ll continue to be second class citizens. By taking seriously would-be mayoral candidates who call financial negotiations with the province ‘going cap in hand’, Toronto is simply acknowledging the fact that we’re an after-thought, a voter rich zone with little actual power and zero influence.

I’m not proposing we be like New York. That’s impossible and undesirable. What I would like, however, is to occasionally strut like New York, swing some serious pipe like New York. To simply stop acting like we’re not worthy to be treated like a world class city by the very politicians we elect to serve us. I’m not alone in appreciating where I live. It’s time to demand our elected officials do the same.

stridently submitted by Urban Sophisticat