Compare And Contrast

October 14, 2010

As Toronto’s mayoral race is being forcibly shoehorned into an ill-fitting two man race, leaving anyone who usually sits happily left of centre with the distasteful choice between worse, worser or simply making a defiant gesture, the time has come to turn our attentions more fully to the council races. To protect the city’s progressive spirit from the nasty onslaught of a His Honour SmitherFord™®© (FordMan®™©?), a council needs to be in place that will resist the worst impulses of such a short-sighted, small thinking regime. Barring some wacky turn of events between now and October 25th, no one is going to assume the mayoralty with a sweeping mandate. So a strong, purposeful council needs to be in place.

We here in Ward 19 (Joe Pantalone’s former stronghold) have already endorsed Karen Sun as our councillor of choice. But a post in yesterday’s Torontoist caught our attention as it featured our particular council race. It interviewed the three perceived front runners and the thoughts and opinions expressed by two of them struck us as typifying the stark divisions at work in the city at the moment. Whoever prevails will go a long way to determining the direction Toronto takes over the next few years.

Karen Sun versus Sean McCormick.

A quick look at their respective backgrounds and experience reflects an important distinction between the two. Sun has worked with the city as part of its Urban Forestry Services and Water and Wastewater Division. She’s the Toronto chapter executive director of the Chinese Canadian National Council and serves on the boards of several extra-governmental community organizations, including Heritage Toronto. McCormick is a media personality who founded the annual summer Queen West Musicfest.

Karen Sun has made a career of active civic engagement with the community. Sean McCormick has a single resume padder. I know throughout this campaign we’ve heard much antagonism toward “career politicians” but it’s safe to assume which one of these candidates will hit the ground running if elected.

Sun and McCormick’s responses to the questions posed by Torontoist also reveal a large gap in knowledge about the issues at work in Ward 19. Simple-minded, misguided ideology informs one while an open, informed, flexible approach is the basis of the other.

When asked about development in Liberty Village, McCormick is generally in favour of it but “…concedes that developers require a certain amount of oversight.” He then focuses on one issue, the pedestrian bridge that is in the works, as if that alone will solve the problems and concerns of increasing density in the area. Like the mayoral candidate he’s fashioning his campaign after, McCormick offers little in the form of insightful ideas that he would bring to the table as councillor.

Same question asked of Karen Sun? “I think there will be more pressure to build denser, and to build towers. And I think that’s fine,” she said. “But if we are going to be building up, I think we need to go to some of those other cities and see how they build tower communities well.”

“Because right now [Toronto is] zoning them as mixed-use, and then building twenty, thirty-storey towers with a Rabba and a Blockbuster on the first floor, and calling that mixed-use. When you’re putting another thousand residents into an area that used to be zoned as employment lands and the only employment opportunities are retail at a couple of stores, I mean, that’s not a community, right?”

On that response alone it’s clear who the more qualified candidate is but it continues for 6 more questions, all of which reveal Mr. McCormick to be as unfit for elected office as Rob Ford is. The Ossington bar/restaurant moratorium? Sun isn’t in favour of it but largely due to the lack of public consultation that was involved. She believes much of the business-resident friction could be alleviated by proper enforcement of current noise by-laws and that the city should work with the province in changing the liquor law licensing to make explicit distinctions between bars and restaurants. Moratorium bad, development good, according to McCormick. He then proceeds to paint the scene on Ossington in its pre-hip days as a hotbed of criminality that suggests he spent more time watching Law & Order at home on TV than he did in the vicinity. And really, Sean? “Ne’er-do-wells”? How old are you anyway? 90?

How about transit expansion? Sun wants to proceed with Transit City because it’s this first massive transit plan for Toronto in decades that has all 3 levels of government on board. McCormick? Subways please and then he goes on to applaud former candidate, Rocco Rossi’s largely discredited plans for selling city assets to finance them. Same theme for the idea of electrification of the Georgetown corridor and Union-Pearson airport link. Sun yes, McCormick no, as it’ll place too much burden on the tax payer, as increased expense automatically translates into increased taxes in Sean’s world. This, despite the fact that, an electrified Georgetown corridor would be highly beneficial to residents of Liberty Village not only environmentally but electric train technology would allow for a stop near the Village which diesel wouldn’t. But, no matter to likes of Sean McCormick and his empty posturing as Angry Taxpayer Man.

While the die may, may, be cast for our disagreeable choice of mayor, we can counteract that by diligently keeping the likes of Sean McCormick out of City Hall. If a healthy majority of Toronto wards elect councillors as intelligent, well-versed and hardworking as Karen Sun, the situation will not be nearly as dire. We can endure a SmitherFord/FordMan®™© as our mayor if we surround them with a council consisting of the likes Karen Sun.

positively submitted by Cityslikr


One Councillor And One Mayor Are Not Enough

September 28, 2010

Early on at last night’s Ward 19 council debate, it became clear to me that Toronto’s post-amalgamated governance structure is woefully lacking in delivering us the representation we need and deserve. As the questions piled up (both prepared from business and residents association as well as the audience’s more free form stylings), most expressed concerns about purely local issues. The moratorium on restaurants and bars on Ossington Street. Park upkeep and organization at Trinity-Bellwoods. Traffic congestion in Liberty Village and parking at the CNE.

Undoubtedly, some of these have city wide implications concerning matters like density and park management, but it still felt awfully parochial, if I can use that term non-derogatorily. The debate was held in a parish, after all. So why not `parochial’?

Local matters should be the main duty of those seeking a council seat. To look out for the interests of their constituents. Councillors represent the peoples’ voice at City Hall.

But this leaves the city wide view in the hands of the mayor and the mayor only. Councillors sit on various committees that oversee municipal aspects for the entire city like transit, police, planning but they remain councillors first and committee members second. Leaving us with one voice in the face of 44 who must straddle the line between city building and ward defending. Sometimes these two roles not only don’t jibe but are in direct opposition to one another.

Which may explain some of the palpable anger and discontent at the debate last night toward outgoing councillor for ward 19 and mayoral candidate, Joe Pantalone. He was accused by many of non-responsiveness and unilateral decision making. Perhaps this was always the case but I can’t help thinking that as a high ranking official in the Miller administration, Pantalone stopped looking out for the concerns of those who had elected him while he was concentrating on the bigger picture of Toronto as a whole.

A city of this size and diversity cannot be properly represented by one official and a handful of councillors who are secure enough in their ward positions that they can attend to wider city matters. We need another municipal level of government (yes, I said another level of government) whose sole purpose is for the greater good of the city and to coordinate its place within the entire GTA region. A Board of Control, say, elected from the ashes of the former cities of Toronto, York, East York, North York, Scarborough and Etobicoke. Call it, oh I don’t know, Metro Council. But this thing with a mayor and 44 fiefdoms doesn’t really seem to be fully functioning.

It’s a dilemma I’ll be facing when it comes to deciding where to cast my vote for ward 19 councillor. On one hand, there’s Karen Sun. From her, I get a sense of someone looking to contribute to the building of a better city. That’s not to say she won’t stand tall for the people of this ward. She just seems to have a bigger vision. One that goes beyond the Trinity Spadina border.

On the other hand, there’s David Footman. Having just encountered him last night, it would be presumptuous of me to make sweeping generalizations about his campaign but what I saw at the debate (and read from his campaign literature) is a bull terrier in defense of ward 19 and the people living here. Mr. Footman very likely possesses thoughts about the city in its entirety. Upon first impression however, his strengths seemed to be very much local, on the ground.

Toronto voters should not have to make such a choice. Or rather, there should be a second option. To vote for someone like David Footman whose primary job is to look after our neighbourhood needs. And to vote for Karen Sun as our representative for matters encompassing the entire city. Such a system was in place back before we were all one city. Nothing about amalgamation has ameliorated the situation to the point where we don’t require a similar set up again.

undecidedly submitted by Cityslikr