Death To My Hometown

June 2, 2012

To some of us of a certain vintage (aged nicely like a bottle of wine), Bruce Springsteen holds a special place in our musical hearts. He appealed to our youthful restlessness, a passionate desire to be someplace other than where we were, someplace that had to be more exciting, more grittily rock-and-roll. Where there was an opera out on the turnpike and a ballet being fought in the alley.

Teen-aged intensity gave way to a certain level of disinterest which I blame more on our move from vinyl to CDs rather than to any decline in quality in Springsteen’s output. We became more distant, less engaged and hands-on with our music. Our attention wavered and The Boss demanded utter devotion.

Or we just got old. I’m willing to accept that distinct possibility. But at some point Born To Run became less an anthem than a song that filled the dance floor with drunken wedding guests.

I bring this up not as some sort of Saturday nostalgia trip but because I came across an excerpt of Marc Dolan’s “Bruce Springsteen and the Promise of Rock and Roll” earlier this week in Salon. Even if you aren’t a Springsteen fan or even know who he is, I highly recommend reading the article as it traces the politicization of the musician during the Reagan era and Springsteen’s own rise from cult status to full blown superstar. It is truly fascinating.

In my beer drinking days before I became a Chardonnay swilling elitist, I remember having a heated drunken barroom argument about the politics of Springsteen’s Born in the USA song. “What do you mean it’s all rah-rah America’s great!” I said indignantly. “Have you listened to the lyrics aside from the chorus?” Born down in a dead man town/The first kick I took was when I hit the ground/You end up like a dog that’s been beat too much/Till you spend half your life just covering up. “What part of that screams, Morning in America to you?”

In his book, Dolan suggests that both Reagan and Springsteen shared an overlapping ideology if not politics. A particular rugged individualism and a dream of freedom for people to pursue life on their own terms, unhindered. So much so that during the re-election campaign in 1984, the president’s handlers overtly sought to piggyback on Springsteen’s growing popularity in order to expand beyond Reagan’s traditional base. There’s a hilarious description of a buttoned-down and bow-tied George Will attending a Springsteen concert.

“In general, Will found Springsteen androgynous, noisy and surrounded by pot smokers, yet in the end he concluded that the singer was ‘a wholesome cultural portent’  As a political commentator, Will may not have cared about rock ’n’ roll’s future, but he did see Springsteen’s abundant success as an emblem of a robust American present.

The difference was, ironically, the politics of freedom and individualism espoused by the much older Reagan’s was formed by a combination of his fervid anti-communism and an adherence to the nascent neo-conservative belief in the supremacy of the free market while, according to Dolan, “…Springsteen finally moved beyond his 1960s rock ’n’ roll individualism, back to the New Deal communalism he had instinctively absorbed from his parents.” Freedom from the tyranny of the state versus being free only if we’re all free. Freedom for me versus freedom for all.

What’s all this got to do with the forum I’m currently writing in? [I was just about to ask that question. – ed.] Well, Ronald Reagan’s vision triumphed and, despite its worst excesses still afflicting the world at large, it continues a slow creep, further perverted by conservative zealots who would be unrecognizable to the man they claim as their idol. This includes an extreme form of it here in Toronto under the Ford administration.

But nowhere does this type of ideology fit worse than it does at the municipal level. It’s hardly surprising that when a society turns inward and gives primacy to individual rights above all else, the first place it’s felt is in our cities. Not for not are they called communities and by pulling more and more out of the public sphere, the impact is felt almost immediately. Roads crumble. Parks go untended longer. Pools open later and close sooner. Libraries reduce their hours. Busses appear less frequently. [Or, as a certain member of Team Ford says: Widows and orphans make do with less cupcakes. – ed.]

 

It simply runs contrary to the building of better cities. Cut is the opposite of build. You can’t untax your way to a better city. The numbers simply won’t add up.

In the end, what you have is a Tenth Avenue Freeze Out in the midst of a Jungleland with the bridges all fallen down and no way to get yourself over for that Meeting Across the River.

[Yeah, yeah. We got it. You know every word to every song on Born To Run. Now take your white wine and vamoose. – ed.]

bossily submitted by Urban Sophisticat


Austerity. What Is It Good For?

January 29, 2012

Austerity is in the air.

Can you smell it? It’s acrid, like burning hair, with a hint of pungency as if wafting upwards from Satan’s unwashed bum. Unpleasant. Vile. But an absolute necessity in these days of economic uncertainty.

Or so we are being told at the turn of every newspaper page, radio channel, and at every level of government. Prepare for the Big Cut. We’ve been living too high off the hog for too long, living way beyond our means. Poke another hole further along your belt and tighten up.

All a great heaping pile of steaming bullshit, of course, from the root causes right up to the tip of the stiffy we’re being screwed with.

[Don’t believe us? Put Alex Himelfarb, Trish Hennessy and Sol Chrom on your immediate reading list. – ed.]

What I don’t understand about this coming age of austerity is how it’ll help anyone other than those who’ve already benefitted most from the supposed bacchanalian descent into debt that we’ve all been participants in. How will everyone spending less turn things around and grow our economy? I get the whole government cuts reduce deficits pitch but that’s only a part of the whole equation. Those cuts result, usually, in lost jobs and, ultimately, further lost revenue to governments in the form of taxation. Lower revenue means more cuts. A vicious, downward cycle; the snake eating its own tail.

Austerity2Prosperity is another mythical kingdom bordering on the Republic of Debtfreetopia that baffled Urban Sophisticat here earlier this week. Sounding good on paper or up on a blackboard but how exactly does it work in real life? It would be nice if someone could point to an actual occurrence of this theory working in practice. And if you’re about to write ‘Canada in the mid-90s’, don’t bother. You’ve already pounded back the koolaid and are blindly singing along to the set playlist.

We here in Toronto are looking down the barrel of some serious labour disruption next month entirely because we have a mayor who wants to dismantle city workers’ unions in order to contract out city services to private companies that pay their workers less, provide fewer benefits. The goal, we are told, is to save the taxpayers’ money although the case for that in many circumstances is actually quite iffy. For every example of, say, contracted out waste collection, there’s a counter example of municipalities contracting waste collection back in house. It’s a wash.

Instead of busting up unions on the theory that private sector workers can do any job more efficiently for less money, prove it first. Being wrong about that will wind up costing us all much more in the end. Mistakes always do.

Even if a case can be made that contracting out government services does save the said government money with the savings passed along to taxpayers, what is the bigger societal cost that comes with workers making less money? For the sake of pocketing 25, 50 cents per weekly curb side collection, how does a community benefit having workers make half of what they were paid before? I’m catastrophizing, you say? That won’t happen. Fearmonger.

Exhibit A. Caterpillar Inc. A company tax incentivized up the wazoo and how do they pay the economy back? Demand to cut themselves some $30 million in labour costs, thank you very much. Take it or leave it, and by leave it, we mean, the province for a more pro-low wage jurisdiction.

“That’s the game. That’s just the way the game is played,” claimed Metro Morning’s business commentator, Michael Hlinka. [Just a ‘yo’ away from claiming gangsta character status on The Wire. It’s all in the game, yo.— ed.] To Mr. Hlinka’s point of view, organized labour is a monopoly. And poor ol’, put upon free marketers like Caterpillar Inc. with only their 58% 4th quarter earnings increase and record revenues have no choice but to freely move their capital elsewhere if their workers insist on demanding their fair share of the wealth.

That’s the game. That’s just the way the game is played. Which leaves us with this kind of headline on a regular basis: More Canadians in low-paying jobs.

I am old enough to remember and to have voted in the 1988 federal election. It was the Free Trade election, and those standing in opposition who said that it would be the start of a rush to the bottom were labelled knee-jerk, parochial, backward-looking nationalists. [If you say so, old man. – ed.] Free trade was the way of the future. Glorious wealth will be sprinkled on more people. Don’t fight the future. It is inevitable.

Yet here we are, nearly 25 years later and more Canadians in low-paying jobs. Income inequality has grown to a degree that has not been seen here since the 1920s. And now we’re being told to prepare for austerity.

Tell me again, how that’s going to make everything better.

lavishly submitted by Acaphlegmic


Return To Civilization. Such As It Is.

August 3, 2011

I am the first to re-emerge from the woods.

It was an eventful few days, full of surprises, undercooked food and questionably cooked alcohol. The blindness, mercifully, turned out to be only temporary. The holes in the mind, I fear, may be longer to diagnose and repair.

Arriving at the homestead/hunting cabin/inherited family real estate/squatting place, Cityslikr and I were surprised by the presence of our long lost colleague Acaphlegmic who, judging by the lived in look and smell of the place, had been camped out there for some time. As regular readers of this site know, Acaphlegmic self embedded into Ford Nation just after election night last October to try and understand the heart of the beast we had just installed as our next mayor. To what end was never quite clear as his irregular posts (here and here) bordered on the, if not delusional, let’s call it fantastical. Instructional would not be an adjective I’d attach to his correspondence.

But there he was, in all his feral splendor, awaiting our appearance. How long he’d been there, he wouldn’t say. Why he was there, also left unanswered. He was sphinx-like with any information, saying that what he saw, what he learned, all the knowledge he’d gleaned from his time in Ford Nation was not going to be handed over to some nowhere blog without adequate recompense. There was a book to be written and he was just the person to write it. Any evidence suggesting that’s what he’d been doing out in the wilderness was scant.

What was evident was Acaphlegmic had been rolling around contentedly in his own approbation along with, as our noses hinted at, many fish carcasses that had washed ashore. The reason for such sentiment was pasted to the inside of the cabin. Copy after copy of his mayoral endorsement last year covered every inch of the walls. Standing in the centre of the room, it wasn’t as spooky as, say, Shelley Duvall discovering pages and pages of her husband typing out All Work And No Play Makes Jack A Dull Boy. Still, it was somewhat unsettling. We were miles away from anything resembling civilization and it was an awfully deep lake we had just crossed. It would take months to discover our bodies.

Fortunately, Acaphlegmic wasn’t in a killing kind of mood. Mostly. It was all about the crowing, the chest beating, the I-Told-You-Sos. “I was right, wasn’t I, chaps. Bulls-eye. Correctamundo. Fucking dead on.” Agreeing with him, even heartily, didn’t seem to lessen his demands that we agree with him.

Admittedly, given the last few months, it’s difficult not to concede he’d been accurate in his assessment of how a Mayor Ford scenario would play out. Who amongst us didn’t see that train wreck coming? Who amongst us, that is, who didn’t vote for the man. It’s all been as grisly, divisive and dispiriting as we feared it would be if such a thing came to pass. The difference is, very few of us were reveling in the situation to any degree. Certainly not to the degree Acaphlegmic appeared to be.

“It is as how I prophesized!” Acaphlegmic bellowed at us intermittently throughout the weekend. Not meaning to draw any comparisons between either Cityslikr or myself to Jesus but it did feel a little like we were in the presence of crazy John the Baptist. “Our time is soon at hand.” Yes, he did actually say that. On more than one occasion.

I will distill Acaphlegmic because I don’t think, at this point, you could handle pure Acaphlegmic.

What we are witnessing now in Toronto is the radical right wing, neoconservative, small government, anti-tax, deranged Ayn Randian libertarianism end game of the radical right wing, neoconservative, small government, anti-tax, deranged Ayn Randian libertarians. From Margaret Thatcher to Ronald Reagan to Mike Harris to George W. Bush to the Tea Party to Stephen Harper to Tim Hudak to Rob Ford with some willing and conciliatory liberals (both small and big ‘L’) thrown in for good measure. The slashing and burning, vilifying and demonizing has all trickled down to where the rubber meets the road, municipalities. This is where we all discover exactly what they mean by ‘small government’, ‘finding efficiencies’ and ‘respect for the taxpayer’.

It all sounds so reasonable and mainstream when it’s stated hypothetically. Who doesn’t want to find efficiencies? I’m a taxpayer. Hells yeah, I want respect. A leaner, meaner, smaller government? You betcha. Go right ahead. Cut our libraries. Reduce public transit. Gut environment—

No, wait. What?

At the municipal level, we’re getting all close up and personal with what these people mean when they talk about small government. It’s really all about less government. Reduce. Eliminate. Obliterate. Fewer helping hands. Less shared sacrifice. Watching the men of KPMG present their Core Services Review over the last couple weeks, the realization sunk in that it’s only about throwing citizens to the wolves of privatization and free marketeers. No guarantees we’d be paying less or services improved. And absolutely no word on any negative social impacts of guts and cuts. Not in our purview.

Trickle down neoliberalism, offloading and downloading costs and responsibilities from the feds to the provinces to the municipalities. Now with a mayor and his administration in place as willing waterboys, poised to do the dirty work, Toronto is realizing the implications and consequences of such radical ideology where everything is on the table. Everything, that is, that makes a city livable, desirable and place which encourages its citizens to reach their fullest potential. There’s no more hiding from that fact.

Acaphlegmic called it back in October. We wrote it off as the rantings of a crank and alarmist. It’s hard not to admit he may’ve been barking up the right tree.

contritely submitted by Urban Sophisticat


A Sheepish Admission

July 25, 2011

Standing outside the tent on Saturday night, listening to The Sheepdogs rip through their 2nd set of the day (the first being an acoustic one in the blazing sunshine) at Hillside, my thoughts turned to the 70s. How could they not? Here was a band channeling the spirit of Southern Fried Rock in both sound and look with a touch of The Black Crows and My Morning Jacket thrown in for good measure to a capacity crowd that consisted largely of folks who weren’t even born when this sound first emerged.

Kids these days, with all their rap and bleep-blop electronic music, enthusiastically embracing the more countrified roots rock sound of their parents. Nothing wrong with that although, for me, if I want to listen to the Allman Brothers (an impulse which occurs almost never – my musical taste tends more to the bands that bracketed The Sheepdogs, Hooded Fang and Hollerado) I’ll listen to the Allman Brothers. But certainly, there are worse things to adopt from the recent past as I await the re-arrival of wide, wide ties with some trepidation.

I have mixed emotions about the decade I came of age in. While many of us benefited from the social and political freedoms that opened up as a result of the upheavals of the 1960s, we also wound up stunting them, stopped the march of progress far short of its goals, twisting and bending the ideals into an almost unrecognizable shape that called itself the Reagan (Neo-Conservative) Revolution. In 1969, America put a man on the moon. By 1980, we’d convinced ourselves that government was a problem not the solution. The 1970s just don’t hold up well in that light.

I was still mightily in my pre-teens during the tumultuous year of 1968 but I do remember that mixed sense of fear and, if not hope, a curious anticipation of what might be right around the corner. Protestors derailed a presidential re-election bid in a fight against an illegal, immoral war. Cities exploded in riots, set alight by inequality and racial oppression. Assassinations. First, Martin Luther King. Then, Bobby Kennedy. More riots.

It was Kennedy’s death that we can now see as something of a turning point for progressivism. Not that it was any more important or devastating than the slaying of King but RFK’s journey from his privileged, elite upbringing and early rabid anti-communism to the moral conscience of a country as presidential candidate signaled that the old order was rotten to the core. A fundamental change of course was needed and underway.

And then he was dead.

The politics of spite and tribalism filled the void and prospered. Even the downfall of the petty tyrant of vindictiveness, Richard Nixon, in 1974 only served to temporarily delay the triumphant of reactionism. It emerged in its full blown hideousness with the ascent to power of Margaret Thatcher in 1979, Ronald Reagan in 1980 and so on and so forth.

So by the time those younger Sheepdogs fans began sitting up and noticing the wider world around them, radical conservatism had become the entrenched orthodoxy. We who had benefited from progressive ideas in action – livable wages and working conditions, accessible and affordable health care and education, reasonable expectations of fair pensions and a well earned retirement, all that solid middle class claptrap – had decided that enough was enough. No longer would or should we extend such luxuries. They only served to sap our work ethic and encourage lolly-gagging and freeloading. Nose to the grindstone, pull yourself up by your boot-straps and all that.

The flagrant hypocrisy of such I-Got-Mine-Jackism manifested itself to me last week when I came across a video of Paul Ainslie’s maiden speech at Toronto city council (h/t Jonathan Goldsbie) after he was appointed councillor in 2006. Ignoring for the moment his vow never, ever to run for council in ‘Ward 41 or any other ward in this city’ after his interim time was up (he did run both in the 2006 and 2010 election, successfully unfortunately), what really got my goat was Ainslie’s citing of a Bobby Kennedy quote as a source of his political and public service inspiration.

The task of leadership, the first task of concerned people, is not to condemn or castigate or deplore; it is to search out the reason for disillusionment and alienation, the rationale of protest and dissent — perhaps, indeed, to learn from it.

Councillor Ainslie is a nose-pick of a politician who is a certified member of Mayor Ford’s wrecking crew, intent on dismantling much of what makes this city work so well. Rather than searching out and learning from ‘the reason for disillusionment and alienation’ as Robert Kennedy implored, Councillor Ainslie, the mayor and his other enablers only seek to exploit the disillusionment and alienation in order to reduce government to impotency. The exact opposite of what RFK was seeking to do.

That a politician of Ainslie’s low caliber was able to co-opt the words of Robert Kennedy goes a long way to explaining our modern political dynamic. The Reactionary as Revolutionary. I’m a neo-conservative politician and Robert Kennedy would endorse these words I’m about to speak.

It takes me to the words of another icon of the 60s, Hunter S. Thompson. The best known passage from his best known book, and perhaps the best analysis of the end of what we now think of as the end of the 60s and the birth of a generation of swine.

And that, I think, was the handle—that sense of inevitable victory over the forces of Old and Evil. Not in any mean or military sense; we didn’t need that. Our energy would simply prevail. There was no point in fighting—on our side or theirs. We had all the momentum; we were riding the crest of a high and beautiful wave. . . .

So now, less than five years later, you can go up on a steep hill in Las Vegas and look West, and with the right kind of eyes you can almost see the high-water mark—that place where the wave finally broke and rolled back.

And it’s been rolling back now for over 40 years, slowly and surely drowning much of the progress that had come before it. Just when you think it’s crested, unbelievably you’re hit with another surge. Stephen Harper. Rob Ford. This has to peak too, doesn’t it? That’s the way waves work. Where is the neoconservative ‘high-water mark’? Have we just not seen it yet? Are we lacking the ‘right kind of eyes’?

So kids, follow in our musical steps all you want. Remake it. Remix it. Rejig it. It’s all harmless, nostalgic fun. But stop listening to our politics. We’re sell-outs and con artists. We’ve shirked our duties and responsibilities, leaving us all worse for wear. Our taste in music far exceeded our sense of citizenship, and the sooner you learn that the better.

guiltily submitted by Urban Sophisticat


How About That Infrastructure Deficit?

June 20, 2011

Do you want to leave our grandchildren our deficit to deal with?

It is a mantra often sited by deficit hawks to guilt us into cutting government spending. An iteration of it was pronounced in the U.S. by former Senator Alan Simpson when he was appointed Republican deficit commissioner last year. “If you don’t want your grandkids picking grit with the chickens, better ignore soundbite politics and get lawmakers to find real solutions to the deficit,”  so said Simpson who seemed unaware of the irony of using a soundbite to criticize ‘soundbite politics’.

Two can play at that game, Senator Simpson. What if we plug one word into that phrase? Do you want to leave our grandchildren our infrastructure deficit to deal with? How does that change the equation?

I came across an article last week in my Kawartha.com via the Federation of Canadian Municipalities. In it was a laundry list of infrastructure needs for Ontario cities, towns and communities that amounted to $100 billion of unfunded ‘unrepaired and unbuilt’ infrastructure according to the provincial government’s own estimates. “… delaying upgrades means higher costs in the long run,” according to the FCM’s Gabriel Miller.

‘Higher costs in the long run’. Try using that phrase with fiscal conservatives and watch their heads explode. We don’t have the money, they’ll yowl. But if we don’t find the money now it will end up costing more later. Thus, the infrastructure deficit is born.

What’s doubly interesting in this debate is that it is not simply we here in ‘tax and spend’ Toronto facing such a dilemma. Places big and small, conservative and liberal are under similar pressures. According to myKawartha, every Toronto resident would have to pay more than $1,000 extra on their property tax bill to deal with its infrastructure gap while residents of wee places like Prince Edward County and Perth face closer to $2,000 per person. Even the Fords’ favourite frugal city, Mississauga, is looking at nearly $450 million of debt in the next decade needed to fund infrastructure projects.

Clearly, it is a situation beyond the control of municipalities to deal with on their own. The revenue tools necessary to grapple with it are not at their disposal. So the internecine, right-left battles we’re now witnessing here at city council are fruitless. We can slash and burn all we want but we’ll still have an infrastructure deficit. Probably even more so. Since our ability to generate more revenue is severely limited, neither can we tax our way to better infrastructure health because the costs would be too unbearable for most households to carry. Although claiming we are over-taxed as a way to cut and freeze taxes is fallacious at best, highly destructive at worst.

This is a fight that needs to be re-directed at so-called ‘senior’ levels of government. Their coffers are where our tax money goes (90%+ by most estimates). They, both Liberal and Conservative, have been the laggards on this issue, dating back to the 1980s. For the past 3 decades, successive federal and provincial governments have been able to ignore this coming perfect infrastructure storm as it manifests itself mostly at the local level. Disintegrating roads and sewer systems. Dilapidated community centres. Diminishing social housing.

In fact, one could argue that both Ottawa and Queen’s Park have attempted to balance their books on the backs of cities. We need to start calling them out on that. Municipal politicians who don’t are simply doing the dirty work of their provincial and federal masters. They are the ones burdening our grandchildren with an infrastructure deficit and should be judged accordingly.

judgmentally submitted by Cityslikr


Budgetary Voodoo

June 13, 2011

I just want to add on to a post Matt Elliott at Ford For Toronto wrote last week called ‘Lame Budge Analogies’. It’s one I highly recommend everyone take a look at as it deals with budgetary decisions and the argument fiscal conservatives like to use that really doesn’t hold up in the light of day. ‘Governments need to run their finances like a household’, we’re told and the first time I remember hearing it was from a cheque book waving Preston Manning back in the early days of the Reform Party.In addition to all the logical fallacies of the argument Mr. Elliott points out, I’d also suggest that government shouldn’t really be run as a household because governments are nothing like households in one very important way. Individual households are, in the end, terminal economic units. They must earn, save and invest with the knowledge that the bulk of the revenue they generate is finite. At some point of time as they age, money coming in will decrease to the point where (if lucky) the last part of their lives they will be living off the money and assets they’ve been able to save and invest. It’s a fairly basic bell curve arc.

Governmental institutions, on the other hand, are more enduring for the most part. Stable democracies like ours don’t have to plan for their old age and retirement. So their fiscal approach is vastly different from those of individual households. Revenues and spending fluctuate, of course, depending on the economic environment but governments, unlike households, continue to maintain an ability to generate income perpetually. So their finances shouldn’t be viewed on a bell curve where one day, sometime in the future, their ability to generate revenue disappears.That is not to say our governments should go around spending more and more money, going deep into debt, with the expectation that the good times will never end. It’s just that they can (and should) take a longer view than we as individuals need to have. Think more along the lines of geological versus human timelines. Government will continue to exist after all of us have performed our mortal jig. To think that it should follow the same economic rules that we do is cute in its human self-importance but ultimately short-sighted and wrong-headed.

Operating under such a narrow conceit also reveals a fundamental misunderstanding of the role of government assuming, of course, it’s arrived at genuinely if more than a little misguidedly. I can’t help thinking, however, that because it’s a concept utilized mainly by right wing ideologues intent on shrinking the role of government in our lives, it’s little more than a ruse. A ‘lame budget analogy’ as Matt Elliott called it that is so appealing in its apparent common sense that it’s used to hijack a more honest discussion we need to be having. Not surprising really as the last thing our modern conservatives really want at this point is an honest discussion.

submitted by Cityslikr


Garbage Debate

May 19, 2011

It all ended so anti-climatically. A day’s worth of debate and bluster, bare knuckles and bared teeth. A flurry of motions, amendments and barely contained confusion, wrapping up in a couple, three quick votes. Then a recess was called, an in camera session declared, spectators, many clad in union supportive orange, wandered from the council chambers toward the elevators, surprised to learn that it was all done, the deal sealed.

Toronto now has private garbage collection, west of Yonge Street to Etobicokie, from Steels down to the lakefront. Sort of. Rather, a call to tender out trash collection in the city’s District 2 has been approved by council. The winning bid will then be brought back, further debated and voted on, subject to a series of stipulations and benchmarks crafted at Tuesday night’s council meeting to help ensure that the savings we have been guaranteed will be had.

Let’s call it step 1 toward the full implementation of Mayor Ford’s campaign pledge to privatize garbage collection citywide, thereby fulfilling his mandate of respecting the taxpayers and saving them x amount of dollars. (x being a fluid, evasive number dependent on who was touting it and for what purposes but always variable.) It wasn’t the slam dunk many of the mayor’s previous initiatives were and much of the drama had been bled from it when, in the face of some stiff opposition to an earlier plan to have council give carte blanche to the Bid Committee to sign off on any deal, Team Ford appeared to have caved to council’s will. The real battle is set to happen when the selected bid comes before council for its approval.

Of special note is the role played by the so-called mushy middle in tempering the mayor’s desired stampede to full on privatization. The two Joshes along with Ana Bailão, new councillors all, managed to push through amendments that, in theory at least, establish more rigorous oversight when the bid comes back to council for final approval. In doing so, they delivered a few nice body shots to the mayor, proving that he is not invincible and his grip on the majority of council members is not ironclad.

Yet… yet… not meaning to diminish their achievements, defeating the mayor in some important votes on such a high profile item that he so identifies with is nothing to sneeze at, but it all felt so unnecessary. I know Councillor Josh Matlow is a big proponent of ‘process’, of not adhering to simple ideology in determining how decisions are made. It just seemed to me that the process should’ve been simpler. There were two sides to the debate. Those favouring privatized waste collection and those not. (Or in Mayor Ford’s more nuanced view, those respecting taxpayers versus tax-and-spend socialists.) Each presents and makes their respective cases, the pros and cons discussed and deliberated thoroughly and thoughtfully, leading to a majority decision. That’s council process.

If the mayor and his forces want to privatize garbage collection, all they have to do is to prove that it will save money and improve the service we already have. Simply put, they couldn’t do it. Their numbers are suspect and all they had for improved service was to point out that in Etobicoke where collection has been fully private since the mid-90s, they get no more complaints than in the rest of the city.

No more?! That isn’t an improvement. That’s a wash. And without being able to show that privatizing will actually respect the taxpayers and save them money, all they had to go with was guaranteeing there’d be no more strikes.

And that’s not even guaranteed. There’s no way the city can include a no-strike clause in any contract it signs with a private firm. City staff admitted as much on Tuesday. All that is possible is a decreased likelihood of future strikes because non-union workers don’t tend to go on strike and, from the arguments I heard, private waste collection is usually performed by non-unionized workers. Workers working for less money and with less benefits which is where the savings for the taxpayers are supposed to come from.

But that’s really all the rabid pro-privatizers had to go on, and they went with it with all the shrill, hectoring vehemence they could muster. Between Councillor Mammoliti and Speaker Nunziata, they painted a veritable Mad Max of garbage collection up in their York wards. Trash ridden streets, broken and busted bins, anti-social, unionista collectors putting the fear into old ladies and keeping them cowering in their houses, taking cover weekly, waiting until the garbage trucks passed to re-emerge out in the daylight to clean up the mess left behind.

All anecdotal and unlike anything I’ve ever seen with garbage pickup outside of my house. More to the point, every horror story councillors Mammoliti and Nunziata used to fire up their supporters must be matched by similar tales of woe in Etobicoke because as Chair of Public Works and Infrastructure, Denzil Minnan-Wong, and city staffed told council repeatedly, complaint levels on both sides of the fence are roughly the same. Privatization has not proven to be an ingredient for increased public satisfaction.

In terms of process, the anti-privatization argument at Tuesday’s council meeting won the day if for no other reason than their opponents’ case was flabby, unproven and based almost exclusively on hearsay and unbridled emotion demanding vengeance on those who caused us so much discomfort and heartache for nearly 40 days during the summer of 2009. On the face of it, the vote should’ve been one-sided in the other direction that it ultimately went. That is, if councillors had left their concerns of being smeared as free spending socialists and enemies of taxpayers back in their offices.

All was not lost. If some of the amendments that managed to get out from under Councillor Mammoliti’s down turned thumb are adhered to as the debate moves forward, and the numbers are actually explained and examined honestly and without bias, the move towards privatization may not yet be a done deal. Of course, that’s predicated on the assumption that the councillors still sitting on the fence of the privatization issue really are waiting for all the facts to fully emerge. That’s something I’m not convinced of.

trashily submitted by Cityslikr