Meet A Mayoral Candidate XVIII

It’s Friday. That means Meet A Mayoral Candidate post here at All Fired Up in the Big Smoke. Here are some perfunctory !!!s to denote enthusiasm.

I am writing in place of the usual MAMC©™® contributor Cityslikr who seems to be suffering from a toxic mix of World Cup fever (its megacoverage is literally making him sick) and bile from attending two mayoral debates on successive nights this week. He’s been reduced to a simpering state of mental incontinence, so the call has been made to the bullpen.

Today: Andrew Barton for Mayor.

Now no one should mistake the lack of enthusiasm on display here as any negative reflection of Mr. Barton. In fact, assume just the opposite. He is a self-described “scientifictionist (writer and reader of science fiction literature), photographic dabbler and transit nerd.” His blog, acts of minor treason, reveals an engaged, articulate, progressive leaning young man who has “goggles on”. Why he thought it necessary to point that fact out under his photo is somewhat unclear but it struck me as funny and endearing, and not at all in a patronizing way.

His thoughts on transit are very incisive and well-informed, both about our very own TTC and other systems around the world. It isn’t merely the knowledge of political motivation or idle curiosity. Mr. Barton is a daily transit user and proudly announces that he doesn’t own a car and doesn’t want to own one. He possesses a driver’s license purely in order to purchase alcohol which makes him our kind of people if a good chunk younger since he’s still actually worried about getting carded.

Barton also writes very smartly on such topics as the importance of culture, environmental initiatives and governance issues. In his initial declaration of seeking the mayor’s office, Barton advocates for the intriguing idea of crowdsourcing. This is an inclusive (some say possibly exploitive) proposition of handing over projects, development or research to the wider community usually via this thing here we call the interwebs. Certainly from a governmental standpoint, one of the benefits would be an increased sense of participation within the general public which could not be a bad thing.

If I have one beef with the Barton campaign so far it would be the lack of an easily identified, unified platform. While front running candidates like George Smitherman and Rob Ford can get away with that, it makes it tough for the voting public to discover new voices and ideas. I get paid whatever the proper adverbily opposite of handsome is to search out worthy candidates toiling outside the spotlight. Most folks don’t have the time. Give us old technogoofs a fully functioning website, Mr. Barton, and don’t hand those in charge of designating ‘credible’ mayoral candidates any further excuses to keep you wallowing in obscurity.

Because that’s what’s going on at the moment which is part of the reason for our growing discouragement. There seems to be some sort of orchestrated effort during this mayoral campaign to keep new ideas and new, viable candidates from participating in any meaningful manner. Or maybe that’s just giving in to easy conspiracy thinking. In all likelihood it can be chalked up to nothing more than laziness. Of those whose job it is to cover the election as well as the voting public, desirous to get behind a candidate as long as there’s not too much work involved in the process.

So interesting candidates like this one get lost in the shuffle of our indifference. That’s a shame. If we all were doing our homework, we might be listening to what the likes of Andrew Barton is saying. Once he gives us that campaign website.

dutifully submitted by Urban Sophisticat

PSA #1a

It seems that there were some computer problems over at the Experimental Mayoral Debate Challenge and all the voting data was lost. So they’re asking if people would take a moment to re-vote. Or, if you haven’t the opportunity yet to do so, now is the time.

We highly recommend your participation in order to help put pressure on the powers that be to open up the mayoral debate to more voices. Trust us on this, after sitting through two of the debates with the 6 regulars this week, we need an injection of ideas, opinions and visions.

In case you have no idea what I’m talking about, read on…

This just came to our attention via TorontoVote on the Twittersphere:

Experimental Mayoral Debate Challenge.

Now, we have no knowledge of the folks behind this so can’t vouch for how it’ll all work out but we do encourage everyone to give it a whirl and see what happens.

The proposal is this: From a list of all the registered mayoral candidates (30 to date), you vote for the 5 who you’d most like to see up on stage, taking part in a forum the site describes as, “Debate = Candidates sit and Residents ask questions that Candidates answer to their best ability.”

The top 5 vote-getters would be invited to the debate. Those who decline would have their 8×10 headshots displayed on an empty chair as a gesture of protest against their anti-democratic inclinations. (Although we would suggest to the debate organizers to have the Top 5 candidates who accepted their invitation up on stage regardless of where they placed overall. Set up a wall of shame of all the candidates who were invited to participate and declined the offer.)

Our inclination was to vote for 5 of the “other” candidates who have not yet had a platform to air their views to a wider audience but who we think should be heard. To indulge in a little shameless self-promotion here, if you feel a little under-informed as to who those candidates might be, explore our Friday posts as we’ve been profiling the lesser known mayoral candidates for a few months now and have highlighted 15 of them to date.

Or maybe you want to see 5 of the front runners in a format that is less prepackaged and audience friendly than we’ve seen so far. Fair enough. But start voting and let’s see if we can’t help get this thing off the ground. For all the talk about the weekend polls putting Rob Ford neck-in-neck with George Smitherman, the more salient point was that nearly 40% of those asked are still undecided over where they’ll place their vote.

Clearly, we have been watching, listening and are still not liking what we see. So why not use the opportunity on offer here to try and shake this motherfucker up.

dutifully submitted by Cityslikr

Meet A Mayoral Candidate XVI

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