Mea Culpa

I’ll take the blame.

My exuberance and enthusiasm for a bold transit plan blinded me to its shortcomings. The lack of a wider consultative process both at the council level as well as with the province and regional partners. A less than ideal funding mechanism proposal. Cost underestimation. All capital, no operating. Yet another politically motivated subway expansion that was only necessary in order to curry voters’ favour.

I was aware of all that but didn’t care. A conversation had been started, a vital conversation with some meat on its bones. Transit, transit, transit not subways, subways, subways.

Turns out,  the plan was fatally flawed, the minuses outweighing the pluses. I hoped when I should’ve thought.

My mistake.

Nothing was really lost, however, in yesterday’s vote except maybe a little sheen from the TTC Chair’s star. But all things considered, she’s had a pretty good year. Her pluses outweighing the minuses.

This spring’s transit vote remains in place. LRT construction is underway.  Any notion that Mayor Ford (who spoke nary a word during the day’s debate) has somehow reclaimed control of the transit file is nothing more than laughable spin.

On top of which, the East Bayfront LRT proposal was underlined as a priority going forward. This will help keep it on the radar as the waterfront redevelopment continues apace. Let’s not use sight of that.

Still, it was all so anti-climatic. Great expectations dashed. Or at least, put off until the fall.

At which time I hope — no, demand — the vigorous debate of the first few days of One City is once again picked up. Taking staff recommendations and getting down to the nitty gritty of how we plan to pay for the transit Toronto desperately needs. Because that’s the one thing that came out of the whirlwind that was One City. There’s plenty to do. We just need to accept the fact it won’t get done for free.

only semi-crushedly submitted by Cityslikr

Swimming With Sharks

Is there a term or phrase that refers to the period of time after somebody jumps the shark? That vast pool of ridiculousness when jumping the shark has become the general rule rather than an exception. Suspension of disbelief is simply too, too difficult to maintain; the only proper response: Oh, Come On!

I can’t support taxing the taxpayer.


That’s what Mayor Ford said yesterday in response to the One City transit proposal.

I can’t support taxing the taxpayer.

Oh, Come On!

It’s like we’re witnessing some increasingly deeper, darker performance art piece. Dada Mayor Dada. What he says next will confound and amaze you! I’m half expecting Andy Kaufman to burst from a fat suit and begin singing the Mighty Mouse theme song.

Here I come to save the day/So taxpayers will never pay!

But just in case you think it’s all some sort of stale joke, a sitcom relying solely on stunt casting at this point, the man purporting to be mayor has fired off a written request to City Manager, Joe Pennachetti, angling for a property tax freeze for both 2014 and 2015. Combined with a 2011 property tax freeze and followed by a modest 2.5% increase in 2012 and an even lower proposed one of 1.75% in 2013, that totals a 4.25% increase in property taxes during Mayor Ford’s term, in all likelihood below the rate of inflation during that period. That math basically works out to less money to pay the increased costs of running this city.

Can you say, No Service Cuts, Guaranteed?

The mayor’s road to re-election has him on a collision course with reality. Something’s got to give and pretence ultimately crumbles in the face of the facts on the ground. At least, in the long run it does. As the administration struggles and snorts to the halfway mark of its term, the vacuity of its political philosophy is on full display. It’s irresponsible. It’s petulant. It’s pandering not governing. To suggest all taxes are evil, as the mayor’s brother and councillor-consigliere did earlier this year is to admit you don’t actually know how government works and that you’re wholly unqualified to be in the position you’re in.

By now, none of this should come as a surprise. God knows, we’ve talked endlessly about it here. Still, it’s always surprising to listen to what comes out of the mouths of hardcore right wing ideologues and their steadfast belief that what they’re saying actually makes any sense. More surprising is that there remains any core of support for this monotony of mindless summer reruns. (Albeit, an ever shrinking core of support if the liberal media is to be believed.)

A city does not operate on wishful thinking and a tip jar. Why do people really think they should pay less and get more? I understand residents were angry at something back in 2010 and thought they found a vehicle in Rob Ford that would right the injustices that caused them such misery. It would all be so simple. Find efficiencies here. Restructure there. You wouldn’t feel a thing, folks.


The truth, as it usually does, turned out to be a little more complicated. Toronto faces difficult choices and can’t afford to rest on whatever laurels it once had. A refusal to acknowledge that and pretend the future will happen without us having to contribute anything to it is… how did Councillor David Shiner refer to the original design of the Fort York bridge?… a little fancy, a flight of fancy.

Electing Rob Ford mayor may’ve seemed like a good idea at the time. The comedic sidekick character given a starring role in an exciting new spin off. Not to worry. His one note schtick wouldn’t become quickly tiresome. He’d grow into the role. Really. It would be a huge hit.

Guess the shark jumping happened right at the get-go, back in October 2010.

fonziely submitted by Cityslikr

Be Bold

It’s the only way to counteract the lethargy of ill-governance.

Boldness is a form of action not reaction. It steps into the void created by a lockdown of thought, a failure of nerve, an acceptance of some misbegotten notion of inevitability. Boldness requires courage.

What we are currently experiencing is the exact opposite. Ours is the Age of the Great Flinching. We flinch in the face of economic uncertainty. We flinch in the face of climate upheaval. We flinch in the face of societal reconfiguration.

We flinch, retreat, retract and call it conservatism.

I do not think that word means what self-described conservatives think it means.

It’s all a regression to the meanness of a previous era. Everyone for themselves. Winner takes all, losers work retail.

There are days when I’m unsure how we as a species ever managed to climb out of the primordial goo and start to evolve. It’s just so hard. I’m good here. Think I’ll just stay put where I am.

The path of least resistance.

So I think it hardly surprising that such an outpouring of interest was sparked by the announcement of One City last week. Hey! Look at that, would you? An idea, many ideas. A forward looking plan that poses substantial questions and tough challenges. Something we can actually sink our teeth into.

Now, much has been made of the plan already so I won’t add to the discussion except to say that, if nothing else, the proposal and the negative reaction to it on the part of the province and from some on council simply made them look tired and unwilling. Disinterested spouses at the tail end of a lifeless marriage. Don’t kick up a fuss. Think of the children.

But I do hope that unenthusiastic reaction does not dissuade other councillors who find themselves in similar positions of power at City Hall – not just in terms of committee chairs but with powers of persuasion – from observing what the TTC Chair and Vice-Chair and councillors Josh Colle and Joe Mihevc actually accomplished. They activated an agenda. Rather than stand pat and let the chips fall where they may, a larger discussion was initiated. If you really want to talk transit, let’s really talk about transit.

I’m looking at the most unlikely of sources to take a flyer on an issue and make a big splash. Ward 43-Scarborough East councillor and Government Management Committee chair, Paul Ainslie. [Phee-ew. I was worried you were talking about Councillor Frank Di Giorgio for a minute there—ed.] Your time is now. Carpe diem.

Councillor Ainslie, you say? I’m not even sure I know which one he is. [Almost always but never quite ever holding the mayor’s hand—ed.] Are you sure you got the right councillor?

As chair of the Government Management Committee, Councillor Ainslie has the opportunity to bring about some important voting, ballot and citizen participatory reforms. He’s been a big supporter of Dave Meslin’s 4th Wall Project which is on display in the lobby of City Hall all next week with an opening reception at 6:30 Monday night. (July 9th). Earlier this year, Councillor Ainslie introduced numerous motions – ranging from using ranked ballots to using video for deputations – for further study.

But as anyone who’s followed voting reform initiatives knows, they can die a frustrating, quiet death by neglect. Those who’ve been elected to office in the traditional manner aren’t always prone to change a system that’s worked for them. Entrenched status quo is not the friend of change in any fashion.

In fact two reform motions actually passed city council unanimously recently, one to establish a working group to study the proposals and another calling for a staff report on a ranked ballot initiative. Yet somehow even these two innocuous seeming items never made it out of the meeting intact and were sent back to staff until October. The slow grinding wheel of change.

The thing is, though, civic awareness and participation has spiked here in Toronto during Mayor Ford’s term. People not only want to be engaged, they have realized the absolute necessity of getting engaged. While it may not be in the best interest of some politicians to have an increase in voter activism, those looking beyond their own self-interest know that it would be in the best interest of our local democracy.

So now, Councillor Paul Ainslie, it’s your time to shine. Use this summer interregnum and the mayor’s disinclination to actually lead as an opportunity to make the case for voter reform. Pull a Stintz, as they say, and step outside the mayor’s circle, that ever decreasing sphere of influence. You’ll have a wide and receptive audience. People want what you have to offer.

Be bold.

It’s this season’s colour.

humidly submitted by Urban Sophisticat