This Is Your Song, Mike Del Grande

It’s a little bit funny this feeling inside/I’m not one of those who can easily hide…

… my feelings toward the city’s budget chief, Councillor Mike Del Grande.

And yeah, warm and fuzzy they usually ain’t. I have gone on at some length previously about my general disdain of the man. But this is not going to be a similarly themed diatribe.*

In fact, I have come not to bury the councillor but to praise him. Yes, that’s right. Praise him.

In the game of baseball, players may disagree with a particular umpire on his strike zone but if he’s consistent with it, well, pitchers and hitters both will settle in and deal with it. Yes, Oscar Wilde said, ‘Consistency is the last refuge of the unimaginative.’ Sure, Ralph Waldo Emerson believed ‘A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines.’ And I believe it was Aldous Huxley who claimed that ‘Consistency is contrary to nature, contrary to life. The only completely consistent people are dead.’

But I’m actually serious here in commending the budget chief for his consistency in adhering to the notion that if the city is actually facing a fiscal tsunami and money is exceedingly tight, then everyone has to buckle down and tighten their belts. And. I. Said. Everyone. Widows. Orphans. Bridge designers. Everyone.

And the police. Or at least when it comes to paid duty for Toronto’s finest. Now, I don’t know where the councillor came down on the latest contract agreement with the TPS. We know he didn’t send anyone around to try and derail it. But at yesterday’s budget committee meeting, he appeared quite vocal in expressing his view that the cushions on the police couch must be checked under to find all the loose change. Like every other couch at City Hall except for the one that used to be in Adam Giambrone’s office.

“When we talk about the police, everybody’s kind of timid to talk about it,” Del Grande said. “But you know what, right is right and wrong is wrong.”

Ignoring the simplistic, black and white, patently untrue second sentence, stop and marvel at the one preceding it. It’s not a sentiment that tumbled from the mouth of some left wing, pinko kook still smarting from their mistreatment at the hands of the police at last summer’s G20 debacle. This is Mayor Rob Ford’s budget chief telling us what everybody knows but is afraid to talk about.

Certainly the mayor’s mouthpiece, councillor-brother Doug didn’t want to hear it. “It just seems like we’re pounding away on the police here when there’s so many other inefficiencies in the city,” councillor Ford pronounced. Adding, “Keep in mind [paid-duty costs represent] one-half of 1 per cent of the construction projects that we have to pay for.”

I says, what?! This coming from a guy who has spent his 6 months or so in office railing about paltry office budgets, staff chocolates, excessive retirement parties? (Or was that mayor? I keep getting those two mixed up.) Now he wants to talk small potatoes percentages?

That is what I’d call inconsistency. Brushing off the budget committee’s concerns about certain aspects of police pay with an ‘it’s only a fraction of the cost’ shrug while having derided that same rationalization when it came to almost every other city department. Inconsistency bordering on hypocrisy.

At least with Councillor Del Grande, you know he wants to slash anything and everything down to balanced budgetary size. I may not agree with that approach or sentiment but at least it’s a stationery target. The budget chief (appropriately named Mike – see 1970s Life cereal ad) dislikes everyone and wishes they’d all stop asking him for money. It is what it is and you can engage it head-on for whatever merits (next to none) and weaknesses (many) it possesses.

His boss and boss’s brother are far more capricious, far less willing to spread the pain of austerity around equally. Their respect is really only for some of the taxpayers. They play favourites. As we wrote just recently, the Fords are not fiscal conservatives. They’re fiscal ideologues. Happy to spend money, they’re just particular about where and whom they spend it on.

It’s hard to see how such a focused but cavalier attitude will continue to sit well with the actual conservatives like Councillor Del Grande that make up Team Ford. While the lot of them seem very willing to lay waste to services in the name of restraint, many seem less inclined to spare some the rod of discipline, even the usually untouchable Toronto Police Services. With such a determined and inflexible personalities in the mix, it’ll be fun to watch who blinks first.

*(Normally I sound much like this.)

grudgingly submitted by Cityslikr

Say What NOW?!

So, is anyone doing anything else with their leisure time these days aside from seeing and re-seeing Avatar? I ask because last Friday I thought I should go and check out what all the fuss was about only to discover that every one of the 3-D IMAX showings over the weekend were sold out. Sure, I could’ve taken Avatar in at a normal screening but my guess is that without the additional fancy pants, hi tech eye candy that the 3-D and IMAX provides, you’re going to realize PDQ just what a crappy movie it actually is.

I bring this up because as I was thumbing through NOW, our weekly alternative newspaper, to find movie times, I came across reporter Enzo DiMatteo’s sorry assed excuse for a political column. It seems that in last week’s issue, DiMatteo mistakenly outed councilman (and possible mayoral candidate) Adam Giambrone who is so far in the closet that he’s actually straight. Giambrone then had to give a give an awkward, Seinfeldian denial, saying that he wasn’t gay, followed by the implied Not that there’s anything wrong with that, and that his partner, Sarah, was a full blooded female. Oh well, honest mistake, Enzo. I mean, look at Adam. Tall, slender and with those purrr-dy lips. How couldn’t he be gay?!

Remarkably, not only is DiMatteo still part of the NOW staff after such an embarrassing gaffe but he was permitted to write an eye-poppingly lame mea culpa filled with stroke inducing puns like: No use crying over spilt milk (can I say “homo”?) and doing penance over his faux pas by listening to Morrissey and The Smiths sing (guess what song, guess what, guess what!!) Big Mouth Strikes Again. You see what he did there? Combined an apropros title with a gay icon singer. Touché, Enzo. But if it was penance you were really after, I think you should’ve locked yourself in a room and listened to The Bronski Beat’s It Ain’t Necessarily So or Liza Minelli singing… anything.

Hack journalism aside, I lay the blame for all this almost entirely at the feet of George Smitherman. I’ll tell you why. Ever since he made his intention of running for mayor clear late last year, Smitherman has pushed personality front and centre. He is the prodigal Toronto son returning ‘home’ to champion the city where he was born and raised although, after spending the last decade at Queen’s Park (which if I have my coordinates right is still located here in the heart of Toronto), George’s journey is not all that epic. His husband, Christopher, is a big mucky muck at Lindt chocolates which makes George’s recent 40 lb. weight loss all the more incredible.

I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again. Who cares?! I just want to know why you want to be mayor, George.

Given the trite, empty clichés George mouthed after he officially filed his nomination papers last week (“A vote for my campaign is a vote for a city that works. I’m going to bring new energy, new direction and new leadership to the challenges that face Toronto.”), maybe personality is all that he possesses. Yeah, yeah, it’s early in the campaign still and it’s a long race, so we shouldn’t expect a full platform roll out, blah, blah, blah. But I think we should have a sense of why it is you want to be mayor as you come out of the gate. And no, this… “My city calls out, my city shows that it has a need to restore a sense of power to the office.”… is not inspirational, George. It’s kind of creepy.

So Enzo and all in your print journalist cohort, dial down the focus on personality. It’s lazy and it makes it easy on lazy politicians with a paucity of positive ideas.

gaily submitted by Cityslikr