Enemy Of Your Enemy

March 14, 2012

Is it me or is TTC Chair Karen Stintz operating like Michael Corleone these days? And I mean, the good, baptism scene, killing his rivals to assume control and avenge his father’s attempted assassination Michael Corleone, not the hyper-paranoid, soulless murdering machine Michael Corleone who offed his own brother. Yeah, as a matter of fact, there is a difference. It’s all about knowing where to draw the line.

At this point, it’s hard to square the cool, confident Councillor Karen Stintz with the pipsqueak who took voice lessons while contemplating a run at former mayor David Miller back in 2006. But hey. Six years is a long time in politics. And maybe this time, she’s more comfortable with her opponent. A far right ideologue, putting his future electability before good governance, threatening to cause irreparable harm to even Ms. Stintz’s brand of moderate conservatism in the process.

The Globe and Mail’s Kelly Grant reported yesterday that the TTC Chair and her newly appointed commission will move to ice the Toronto Transit Infrastructure Limited corporation the mayor revived and drained of money and significance in his bid to come up with a viable Sheppard subway plan. Note how I wrote, ‘her newly appointed commission’ as last week she successfully rid the TTC commission of the five members who’d done the mayor’s bidding and fired then Chief General Manager Gary Webster in reaction to his public expression of support for LRTs. This, during a special council meeting Stintz and twenty-three other councillors called that eventually set aside the mayor’s self-proclaimed transit plans and re-established the more Transit City-like designs on Eglinton, Finch and the Scarborough RT.

It’s a transit file tit-for-tat that is increasingly marginalizing Mayor Ford. So emboldened is the TTC Chair that she walked into a wholly manufactured anti-LRT crowd last Thursday at the Scarborough Civic Centre and calmly, patiently stated her case in the face of shrill shrieking on all sides. Why? She had nothing to gain. There was no way she was going to win over that particular room filled as it was with antipathy rather than curiosity.

She took it on the chin, was heckled mercilessly by not only the audience but by fellow panel members. She got unsurprisingly bad, egregiously biased press coverage. But you know what? A week later, the TTC Chair is busy preparing to close down the last remnants of the mayor’s subway dreams while Mayor Ford… still has no viable plan to build a subway. A fact that Councillor Stintz made over and over again at the Scarborough transit townhall which, despite falling on largely deaf ears, doesn’t make it any less true.

So the councillor faces a hostile crowd as part of her job representing the entire city as TTC Chair while the mayor, in his capacity of city wide representation, retreats to the increasingly no-critics-allowed cocoon of AM talk radio.

This can hardly be the outcome Team Ford foresaw when they handed such a high profile position to someone they must’ve viewed as a mayoral rival in Councillor Stintz. In fact, allow me to hypothesize here for a moment, but this is the exact opposite outcome for them as they probably saw the TTC Chair position as a millstone to anyone’s political aspirations who took it on. Since public transit was not something Team Ford gave a rat’s ass about, if played just right they could fuck with it while taking out any potential suitor to the mayor’s job in 2014.

And up until about October last year, Councillor Stintz played the willing dupe, delivering up the requested 10% departmental budget cut the mayor asked for, the requisite service cuts er, ‘adjustments’ and minimal fare increase. She made the emptily strident call to maintain those service cuts during the budget debate this year in the face of Josh Colle’s motion to take them (along with other services) off the table. According to Ms. Grant’s article, the TTC Chair was even part of the group last year that revived  the TTIL to explore the Sheppard subway option. The TTIL she is now moving to finish off.

Playing along to get along or was the resulting tepid Chong report that emerged the breaking point?

Fissures had surfaced before that, certainly. The TTC Chair was on the vanguard last fall pointing out — what did she call it again? — ‘unresolved technical issues’ with burying the Eglinton crosstown LRT like the mayor wanted. “For one, the change of plans championed by Mayor Ford could trigger a new environmental assessment – a costly and time-consuming proposition,” Councillor Stintz said. “The Don Valley also is a problem. ‘You can’t tunnel there. It’s just not possible.’”

And it’s an issue that still hasn’t been fully addressed by underground fetishists and perhaps is one of the reasons for the TTC Chair’s break with the mayor on the transit file. She certainly gave him enough warning about her unease, raised a warning flag publicly that Team Ford either didn’t see or simply chose to ignore. No one can accuse her of operating by stealth here. She telegraphed this punch months ago. Maybe the mayor believed he couldn’t be knocked on his ass by a girl.

Now that he has been, Councillor Stintz seems determined not to let him back up on his feet. Having been rebuffed on numerous occasions at striking some sort of compromise with Mayor Ford on the Sheppard subway, it looks now as if she’s moving in for the kill come next Wednesday’s council meeting. If the vote goes her way there and LRTs are given the greenlight for Sheppard, she will have, in effect, run the transit table vote, relegated the mayor to the noisy peanut gallery and left the province with very little wiggle room in terms of the ‘will of council’.

It will also mean that Councillor Stintz fully owns the TTC file. Its successes will be hers as will the failures. The chances of the latter are greatly increased since there will be a mayor in office actively pursuing and magnifying her setbacks.

If this were her cunning political plan all along, her Machiavellian strategy to the mayor’s chair in 2014, well, I have to give her a nod, no, a bow of admiration. It is, perhaps, the most perilous route, the one most fraught with possible catastrophes imaginable. Surely to god there has to be an easier way.

But, stranger things have happened. I mean, there was that time just after World War II when nobody believed that war hero Michael would eventually succeed his dad as the Godfather. It was supposed to be Sonny, always Sonny.

admiringly submitted by Cityslikr


Old Friends Reacquainted

February 21, 2011

Why do these things always happen on weekends? Prepped for a couple lazy days of kicking back and doing a whole lot of nothing, maybe catching up on some reading, a movie or two; indulge in an extended wine tasting. Go time on me time.And then the phone rings. And rings. And rings.

There’s no ignoring it, ultimately. It’s not in my nature. A ringing phone must be answered regardless of the technological advances made in allowing us to avoid engaging.

Because of this weakness of fortitude, my weekend unfolded in the most unexpected manner… which, in looking at it, really should’ve been the first sentence of this post. A tweak here and there and it would be a killer opening line.

The caller ID offers no assistance. It’s a name I don’t recognize. Perhaps without the extra spicy, extra strong Bloody Caesar under my belt I would’ve let it go to voice mail. I’m feeling magnanimous, inclined to reach out and touch somebody and not in any sort of creepy way.

It’s Mrs. _________, you don’t know me but I’m the downstairs neighbour of ________. ________? Who the fuck is _________? (I only swear retrospectively, telling the story to you.) Oh, wait. You mean, Urban Sophisticat!

You remember Urban Sophisticat. Long lost colleague, hightailed it out of here not long after the day infamy, October 25th, when the city he loved lost its collective mind and voted Rob Ford to be mayor. If you’ve only just recently joined us here at All Fired Up in the Big Smoke, allow me to submit his last appearance for your reading pleasure.

He up and left for sunnier climes and the boating life. Our very own George Clooney living la vida loca Mediterranean style. Or so I thought. I mean, he sent a postcard claiming as much.

“Oh, no, no, no,” Mrs. _________ tells me over the phone. “He’s here. But acting very, very strange.” Strange, you say. Strange how? “I haven’t seen him for a week now. Maybe two. And there’s this smell…”

Oh, god. The Smell.

And why was his neighbour calling me anyway? He had family in town all over the place. Let them deal with his rotting corpse. Urban Sophisticat had been dead to me for months now. I’d long since buried him.

“There was a note under my door this morning,” Mrs. ________ says. “Asking me to summon Cityslikr. That’s you, right? Cityslikr?”

Summon Cityslikr? OK. This, I had to take part in.

Arriving outside his door and, yes the stench was more than a little disagreeable. But even if Urban Sophisticat had died since slipping the note under his neighbour’s door, he couldn’t be decomposing this badly, this quickly, could he? Besides, there was a hint of cumin… no, wait… cardamom in the stench. Is that what decaying flesh smells like?

I knocked at the door. It took long enough for a response that I almost left, thinking why would I expect a dead guy to answer the door anyway. Then the door opened.

I turned to see Urban Sophisticat already heading away from me, back into his place. He hadn’t said a word. By the time I walked in, he was sitting in a chair in the living room, looking not unlike Michael Corleone near the end of The Godfather II just after hearing the gunshot that killed his brother in a hit he’d ordered. And there was that smell.

“What the fuck is that stink?” I asked.

“I’m fermenting lentils.” Urban Sophisticat just stared at me and clearly wasn’t about to tell me why. The ensuing silence became a little annoying, I must admit. I chose not to pursue the lentil line of questioning and instead inquired into his whereabouts over the last 4 months or so.

“I thought you were sailing off in the Mediterranean,” I said. “What are you doing—“

He waved me off, with clearly bigger fish to fry which wouldn’t be a bad idea if it could mask the stink of lentils long past their best before date.

“I needed you to think that,” he says matter of factly as if no further explanation was necessary. It was.

“Why?”

“We needed time apart.”

Clearly there was going to be no making sense of him. I’d made a terrible mistake coming. But this was the kind of erratic behavior to expect from my other colleague, Acaphlegmic, not Urban Sophisticat.

“I probably should be going,” I told him. Before I could turn back toward the door, Urban Sophisticat got out of his chair and walked toward me as if he was walking on water or some sort of fragile surface that might break under his weight if he stepped down to forcefully. Almost gliding.

When he got close, he lifted his arms and grabbed me by both shoulders and looked deep into my eyes. I won’t lie. I start to giggle, semi-nervously.

Was he really going to take my head in his hands and kiss me? “It was you, Fredo. I know it was you,” I was fully expecting him to say. Instead, he just continued to stare at me in dire earnestness.

“We failed miserably, you and I,” I’m told finally. “We paddled hard against the tide but were washed ashore by a rogue wave of unrighteous indignation and misguided populism.”

He started to squeeze my head. Combined with the lentil stench, I was getting more than a little nauseous. I refused to show any sign of discomfort, however. That would give Urban Sophisticat the upper hand which is something I categorically could not bring myself to do. Ever.

“But in defeat,” he continued, “we must become warriors. Warriors of change. Warriors for change.”

“Whphfedleshdamyhthdsss,” I asked through painfully compressed cheeks.

“What?”

Taking control of the situation, I pushed him back away from me. “What are you talking about? And what’s with the lentils, dude?! Seriously. I’m going to pass out here.”

Urban Sophisticat returned to his chair and sat down.

“It’s time to talk electoral reform, my friend,” he informs me. “Toronto does not have a spending problem. Toronto has an electing problem. I want to be your point man on this. I want to be All Fired Up in the Big Smoke’s ground zero for election and voting initiatives. Unless you grant me that, I won’t come back. This thing between us? It’ll be over.”

It’s not that I disagreed with his sentiments on the issue. Voting reform was long passed due. I had never said otherwise which made this whole display on my colleague’s part unnecessary and so over-the-top.

“Who’s stopping you?” I asked. “Write away.”

Urban Sophisticat looked hard at me, as if I were lying.

“What? Start the conversation. You have carte blanch.”

“Really?” he asked. “And can I have the title of Electoral Reformer in my posts?”

“If it makes you less nuts, I’ll call you Electoral Reformer King.”

Urban Sophisticat sat back in his chair, looking satisfied as if he’d just squeezed a major concession from me.

“But whatever it is you’re doing with those lentils, it stays here. I don’t ever want to smell that smell again.”

With that, I turned and fled the premises. My weekend ruined by the stink of rotting lentils. An aroma that will forever be associated with the notion of electoral reform. But as I think a great suffragette once said: change is never easy and it never smells quite right at the beginning.

wretchingly submitted by Cityslikr