Meet A Mayoral Candidate XXV

Lucky Friday the 13th and with it, even luckier still, another installment of Meet A Mayoral Candidate!

Up this week: Dave Lichacz!!

What, wait now. Dave Lichacz? Who the hell’s Dave Lichacz? Did he just register to run?

Well no. In an attempt to truly get inside the mind of an outsider candidate – a “fringer” if you must – we thought we’d talk to one who wasn’t actively campaigning in order to get a more open, unguarded view. So we dug deep into the archives and hopped into our wayback machine (you have one of those too, don’t you?), traveling to a simpler time when the grass was greener, our dollar was weaker and tomatoes actually tasted like tomatoes.

The year was 2003. The execrable Mel Lastman regime was doddering off to Florida. Change was in the air. Anything and everything felt possible.

That’s when Dave Lichacz threw his hat into the ring. Why would he do that? Sure, the race was wide open with no incumbent but even a sitting councillor like David Miller was considered a long shot. What did Lichacz hope to accomplish?

“I ran for office because I felt that I could do as good a job, if not better, than a career politician who had special interest groups in his/hers back pocket. I felt that because I had distance between myself and any political influence that I looked better as a candidate who could get a job done without any pressure of people who elected me (big business) to give hand outs once I got into office.”

So he was the populist outsider. Mr. Smith meets John Doe. If you can’t fight City Hall, take control of it.

“Plus I felt that it was my duty to at least try. This way I could complain. If I didn’t try everyone says, well, why don’t you do something about it. So I did.”

Mr. Lichacz got up from the armchair and set out to get elected mayor of Toronto. Hopefully with a wallet full of cash or the beneficence of a wealthy benefactor. Yes?

“The only resources I had was $500 of my own money and some help from friends and colleagues.”

A couple of those friends ran a small printing firm offered to do all of the print literature, posters and signs for free in exchange for a tax receipt.

“As far as a campaign team I had me. I created policy statements which I mailed, emailed faxed to all the radio and TV stations in town. A new one each day until I was satisfied that I had covered the critical issues.”

What more could the media want? An engaged, hardworking candidate, keeping abreast of the issues that were relevant during the campaign and who let them know where he stood. They must’ve just eaten that up and offered plenty of airtime and space in the broadsheets.

“I didn’t hear anything back from a single one,” Mr. Lichacz told us. Come on! Don’t tell us that. Surely you were invited to the debate your opponents.

“I did take part in one debate although I wouldn’t call it a debate. It was more of a policy statement meeting and meet the candidates. The only big name that showed up and stayed for 5 minutes was Tom Jacobek. A lack of profile hurt me.”

As it was, so it will ever be… or something biblical sounding like that. The media decides which candidates to follow. How? Who knows. Names from a hat? Pig entrails? Probably just pure, utter and lazy name recognition. We know you or know somebody important who knows you. All others need not apply. Sometimes democracy is simply too messy.

Just how discouraging was it, to plug away and be simply ignored?

“I was in over my head and if I really wanted to make a difference I would have to get financial backing to the tune of several hundred thousand dollars.”

In the end, Lichacz wound up 18th of 44 candidates running for mayor in 2003, garnering 659 votes in the process. Although well behind the eventual winner, David Miller, Lichacz figures he was much more effective, monetarily speaking. At $500 spent and 659 votes, that’s 1.3 votes/$1. Mayor Miller spent $2 000 000 for 299 385 votes which equals .15 votes/$1.

“I realize now the amount of dollars involved in any type of political aspirations.”

A familiar refrain, seven years later? Money = power. How else to explain the ascension to viable candidate status by someone like Sarah Thomson, no less a political neophyte than Dave Lichacz.

We asked Mr. Lichacz the question we’ve asked all our “other candidates” with only a slight modification. If the current mayor sees his legacy as the Transit Mayor, what would the legacy have been of a Mayor Lichacz?

“I hope my legacy would’ve been to take a Toronto that was on the road to financial difficulties and make some difficult decisions. I would have tried to limit the power special interest groups had over the city and concentrate on helping the majority of citizens.”

A noble goal and a guy undaunted by the prospect of losing in order to try and have his voice heard and views acknowledged. How many others are out there right now, hard at it, wanting to make a difference to the city they live in? And why do we insist on allowing ourselves to continue ignoring them? It’s almost as if we’re afraid of entertaining new ideas, insights and opinions, grumpily content to merely rehash and recycle all that is tired and horribly shopworn.

dutifully submitted by Cityslikr

A Ray Of Sun-Shine

It’s easy if you follow politics for enough hours of the day to find your ugly, surly side. Gone are our Capraesque notions of the nobility in public service, if ever they existed outside of, well, Frank Capra movies. We have grown to expect the worst in anyone who offers themselves up for political office. What are they really angling for? What’s the matter with them anyway, can’t they find a real job? How many times have you heard this sign off on a discussion of politics? A plague on all their houses!

Certainly a municipal mayoral campaign like the one we’re experiencing currently in Toronto does little to buoy a person’s outlook. Government, bureaucracy, they are the enemy. Anyone speaking in favour of the public good cannot be trusted and is suspected of wanting to only pad their own nest. Ill-temper and mean-spiritedness rule the tone of discourse.

So what a long, cool glass of water it was attending a fundraiser last night for Ward 19 councillor hopeful, Karen Sun. Check your cynicism at the door, please. This here be a can-do zone.

(Even writing that I can feel every atrophied editorial muscle in my body screaming – OK, squeaking – don’t write that, don’t write that! Unless you’re being facetious. Are you being facetious? If you’re being facetious, that’s OK then. As long as everyone knows you’re being facetious. Will they know you’re being facetious?

What is wrong with me?!)

I had myself a very pleasant and upbeat experience at a political fundraiser is what I’m trying to say without getting all embarrassed and fearful of losing whatever edge cred I might have. The room was full of positive talk and energetic people who weren’t ashamed about expressing a desire to contribute to the building of this city rather than ripping it apart. Yes, there were some dark discussions about the odious possibility of a Mayor Rob Ford and the clusterfuck that was the G20, yet it was mostly background noise. A soft, discordant noise that vaguely grated but never imposed.

As for the candidate herself, Karen Sun, well, she is, or should be, considered a serious contender in Ward 19. She brings a decade of experience working and volunteering with and around the city on numerous environmental issues which is clearly her métier. But her resumé is also full to bursting with work on matters like immigration, human rights and sitting on advisory committees like Toronto’s Emergency Medical and Fire Services. Civic groups like the Maytree Foundation, Toronto City Summit Alliance and Diverse City have tapped Ms. Sun for her leadership capabilities.

However, she will be up against it in the council race in the form of Michael Layton, son of you know who, and who’s already picked up the endorsement of outgoing councillor and mayoral candidate, Joe Pantalone. Mr. Pantalone did himself no favours around this office with that move which smacked of old school horse trading. My machine for your machine? Michael Layton will have to bring his A-game to the table if he wants to convince us that he would better represent Ward 19 at City Hall than Karen Sun would.

For progressive minded voters out there, this may be the key to a successful election outcome in the fall. Let the mayoralty chips fall where they may, hoping for the best of a worst lot and concentrate your energies on electing council candidates like Karen Sun. Yes, that would be handing over the bully pulpit that is the mayor’s office to some disagreeable views and opinions, lending them credence and traction. But the mayor still only carries one vote and if they can’t muster 22 likeminded councillors to their way of thinking then it will all be nothing but bluster.

So maybe candidates like Karen Sun are the way forward and the hope for breaking through the darkness that has descended on civic life in this city.

shinily and happily submitted by Cityslikr