Bully Budgeting

January 14, 2016

It was just a coincidence, I’m sure, that I was reading through Torontoist’s 2015 Heroes and Villains list while listening to the first of the public deputations on the 2016 budget. TPLTorontoist(Truth be told, I’d held out following the annual Torontoist series as, once again, I’d been snubbed despite my unrelenting and uncompromising work covering the politics of this city. Hero or Villain. It didn’t matter to me. Just a little recognition might be nice, Torontoist.) As it so happened, I was just getting to the final reveal – Superhero of the Year – when the library workers union president, Maureen O’Reilly, sat down to speak to the budget committee.

No, really. That’s exactly how it happened. Sometimes life can be that serendipitous.

Read what Eva Hd wrote about the Toronto Public Library, in nominating it as Superhero of the Year:

The individual branches’ lovingly curated and topical displays, whether tying in to contemporary political issues such as Idle No More or featuring mystery Valentine books wrapped in red tissue paper for February 14, always amaze and amuse. On any given day, TPL’s librarians can be heard giving tips to adolescents on how to find books and movies about Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, showing seniors how to use the internet, guiding researchers through the archives, and telling homeless people where to find the bathroom with equal amounts of patience and grace, while the security guards interact respectfully with everyone and will often be seen helping out at kids’ story time.

Now here’s David Nickle writing about Maureen O’Reilly’s budget committee deputation:

“It’s 2016. It’s no longer acceptable to underpay the ladies of the library and to continually cut them.”

O’Reilly was referring to the Toronto Public Library Board’s recommendation to save $250,000 by cutting 6.7 full-time equivalent page positions – a move that would mean between 12 and 14 of the minimum-wage pages would lose their jobs.

The pages, said Reilly, are bearing much of the weight of a cut in library staffing that she said amounts to 25 per cent since 1992. The position of page was traditionally a part-time job for high school students, but currently, the average age of a page at Toronto Public Library is 43. They do the work of reshelving materials and helping at checkouts.

That’s what you call working ‘harder and smarter’ with less. It’s just what budget hawks like our mayor (like so many mayors before him) love to hear, love to tout. See, Toronto. texaschainsawmassacreWe continue to nick and cut at library services, and they still keep providing exemplary service to residents of this city. It can be done!

Libraries, and those who work so diligently to make them the key community hubs that they are, represent the kind of soft services line-by-line, always searching for efficiencies, nickel-and-dime politicians love to go after. Easy targets. Libraries don’t directly provide life-or-death support to residents. They aren’t grand infrastructure symbols elected officials can cut ribbons at.

Actually, that’s not quite true. Almost any politician who isn’t a Ford – Doug was convinced there were more libraries than Tim Horton’s in his ward and would’ve slashed them ‘in heartbeat’ — loves to oversee the building of a library. The 100th TPL branch was opened in Scarborough last year. It’s the funding of their operations that’s so tempting to shave, trim and hack at.

So, working at the library for many falls into the precarious employment category. Half of the workers are contracted, meaning benefits, a living wage and the like are but a pipedream. library2At Tuesday’s budget deputations, library worker Tori MacDonald talked about scrambling to branches all over the city in the search of hours. For Ms. MacDonald, the librarian’s lot in Toronto was not one where she could see buying a home, raising a family.

Bully for them, those of us with plenty of space at home to find a quiet spot to work, with easy access to all the internet we need, with that book we want one Amazon click away, with our own communities already carved out, will say. What’s a librarian’s job anyway? Checking out books. Putting them back on the shelves when they’re returned. Why should we pay a premium for that?

But read the Torontoist piece and realize that our library system represents much more than that to many residents of this city. In fundamentally important ways, our libraries and those (wo)manning the desks, counters and stacks – Yes, 75% of library workers are female. Women and precarious employment. Surprise! — serve as, if not gatekeepers, librarythen the welcoming committee of this city for newcomers and other oftentimes marginalized segments of our community. Libraries provide both a physical as well as social shelter for this city.

How much should that be worth to us?

It’s easy to embrace the big gestures, the grand symbols of our civic well-being. The shiny new transit projects and plans, the high rise office towers, the beautiful, “world class”, outside public spaces. What we always overlook, however, in our seemingly perpetual chest-beating, looking out for the taxpayer push to scrimp toward balanced budgets is the vital element of the human scale. “Finally,” Hd writes in the Torontoist, “TPL locations are also some of the last places in Toronto where you can still get a glass of water and use the bathroom for free, a not insignificant attribute in our increasingly precious metropolis.”

Our libraries and the people working to make them cornerstones of neighbourhoods and communities are indeed significant attributes ‘in our increasingly precious metropolis’. libraryWe need to defend them from those intent on only counting costs and ignoring the benefit side of the ledger. A strong library system is not simply a nice-to-have. It is a need-to-have, and we have to start treating it as such, beyond just the easy to spot and promote bricks-and-mortar, to the people inside, working to make it the remarkable enterprise it is.

bookishly submitted by Cityslikr


… And Speaking Of Resigning

July 4, 2014

Think there’s no party politics at play at the municipal level? Look around at what’s going on at City Hall right now, folks. pitypartyTell me we aren’t awash in one great big Pity Party.

According to the mayor’s councillor-brother-campaign manager, there’s a “full out jihad” against the Fords now in response to yet another complaint registered with the integrity commissioner, this time about Councillor Ford’s comments made about autistic kids under care at the Griffin Centre. This jihad comes on top of the media jihad that’s been waged upon the mayor since his planned triumphant return from rehab this week.

Happy Ramadan, Muslims. The Fords feel ya.

Not to be outdone in this woe-is-me parade (never to be outdone when it comes to grandstanding), Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti wants everyone to know that he was sick, very, very, gravely ill, so, you know, don’t be pointing the finger at him about some ‘illegal fundraiser’ as alleged by an obviously ‘unfair and biased’ Integrity Commissioner, Janet Leiper, yesterday.

mybrainhurts

How can anyone have done anything wrong that was in a hospital bed with his head carved open?

If there was some improper, shady shit going on in terms of this so-called ‘illegal fundraiser’ – and that’s a big ‘if’ since the integrity commissioner is obviously out to get Councillor Mammoliti as she is always, always ‘breathing down his throat’ – he’s blameless due to medical reasons.  “Some short term memory loss during this period of time.” “I can barely remember any of it.”

The claim, as full of holes and leaky as it is, might hold some water if this was the councillor’s first ethical lapse in judgement. countingfingersI don’t know. The surgeon must have cut out the moral compass of my brain! But it isn’t. Giorgio Mammoliti has come under scrutiny for at least a couple other violations. He’s currently in court facing campaign finance irregularities. There’s the below market value rent he’s received for an apartment owned by a company that does business with the city. Never mind the illegal re-election signs that have popped up.

That’s just this term alone. Let’s not forget the oldie but goodie from way back when the councillor got the city to pay his legal defense against a challenge of his campaign financing in 2006. So either, the thing that was wrong with Councillor Mammoliti’s head was long term and slow growing or the guy simply operates under the premise that The. Rules. Apply. To. Other. People.

Perhaps the most egregious bit of conduct the Integrity Commissioner laid at the councillor’s feet in her report was his accepting of $80,000 from the fundraiser that was attended by lobbyists and companies doing business with city. whome1Even if he was non compos mentis at the time, wasn’t there anybody surrounding the man, family, friends, staff not busy planning the event on the city dime, who thought such a gift might be, I don’t know, a little out of bounds? I’m not a politician, Councillor Mammoliti, but accepting money while you’re in office seems… not quite right. Especially when it’s from people who might benefit from such a transaction with an elected official.

Even when the councillor had seemingly recovered from his brain affliction and returned to his normal state of assholery, he didn’t bother to respond to the integrity commissioner’s offer of allowing him to return the money. Money? What money? Short term memory loss, remember? Remember what? Money? What money? Short term memory loss, remember? Remember what? Money? What money?

And here’s the real kick in the nuts to any and every right-thinking resident of Toronto (and beyond). Even if the integrity commissioner’s recommendations are adopted by city council and Councillor Mammoliti is docked 3 months pay, slaponthewristthe maximum penalty that can be dealt out to him by the city, he’d still walk away with over $50,000 in his pocket. Money paid to him by registered lobbyists and companies doing business with the city.

“This is as offside as you get when you come to a code of conduct violation,” said Brian Iler, the lawyer who brought the original complaint to the integrity commissioner.

Is it any wonder politicians like Giorgio Mammoliti and Rob Ford continue to disregard the rules put in place to ensure ethical behaviour from our elected officials? Why wouldn’t you if you can still come out ahead of the game. It’s a twisted realm of thinking that, if there are no deterrents to your questionable conduct, if there are no tangible repercussions to your actions, like jail time or being chased from office, then clearly, you did nothing wrong. If you did, where’s the appropriate punishment?

getawaywithit

The system as it’s currently set up at the municipal level may not exactly encourage bad behaviour. I can confidently declare that ethical, upstanding councillors heavily outnumber those who aren’t. Those so inclined to disregard the rules, however, are hardly dissuaded from doing exactly that. Ethics preferred but not required should go with the job description. Cheaters sometimes prosper.

cleanly submitted by Cityslikr


A New Generation Of Suburban Resentment

March 25, 2014

How would you best sum up Councillor Michelle Berardinetti’s (Ward 35 Scarborough Southwest) first term in office? is a question nobody’s asked me until now.surprisedbythequestion

Hmmm. Councillor Berardinetti, huh? Ward 35 Scarborough Southwest, eh?

Elephants, bike lane hatred and other terribly misguided public transit views.

Yeah. That about sums it up.

As to the elephants, I can’t offer up much in the way of analysis. Something about moving them from an unhealthy environment at the Toronto Zoo to a nicer place more conducive to the elephant lifestyle. How best to do that. Bob Barker. Different coloured t-shirts in the council chamber.

I remember Councillor Berardinetti being all up in that debate. No judgement from me about it. Wasn’t high on my list of things to be concerned about. bobbarkerKudos to the councillor for making it one of hers.

While she seemed to love the elephants, Councillor Berardinetti had little time for bike lanes. During the 2010 campaign, she claimed that some residents living along Pharmacy Avenue had moved because they could not “get out of their own driveway”, and within a year of taking over as councillor in Ward 35 had the damn bike lanes torn up along with those on Jarvis Street. In fact, run through this list of council votes from July 2011. Councillor Berardinetti pretty much came out against every pro-biking measure.

We get it, councillor. You represent a suburban ward. Everybody likes to drive there. Bikes have no place in your vision of how a city moves people around.

Or LRTs, for that matter.

Between she and Councillor Glenn De Baeremaeker (Ward 38 Scarborough Centre), they played point for the 7 other Scarborough councillors who eventually helped then TTC Chair Karen Stintz flip the planned Bloor-Danforth LRT extension to a subway. crybabiesNot so much good cop-bad cop, the two traded off on being perpetually outraged and indignant. World class transit! Scarborough is owed! Selfish downtowners!

“You can’t go to residents with revenue tools and not even deliver a subway,” Councillor Berardinetti pronounced. Subways are the only mode of transit worth paying for. Nothing for nothing. Something for subways.

Yeah so, pretty much stamp their feet, whine loudly and hold their collective breath until they got their way.

To give her full marks, at least Councillor Berardinetti had been consistent in her opinion that Scarborough deserved a subway, any subway. She went along with Mayor Ford when he sought to bury the Eglinton crosstown and agreed that his Sheppard subway folly didn’t need any of the Dr. Gordon Chong suggested revenue tools to proceed. The councillor was an early and eager adopter of the Scarborough LRT/subway swap, even voting for an additional property tax increase to fund it, waitingforasubwayan inclination she didn’t show a lot of on almost any other issue so far during her time at City Hall.

Throughout much of this term, Councillor Michelle Berardinetti has proven herself comfortably in line with Mayor Rob Ford, especially on fiscal matters. She’s voted to keep taxes low, freezing and eliminating important sources of revenue. Just this year, as a member of the Budget Committee, she pushed a motion to ignore the staff recommended property tax increase, lowering it by .25% and making up the difference with any surpluses from the projected Land Transfer Tax revenue. Credit where credit’s due, the councillor didn’t then turn around and vote in favour of a report looking at any possible reduction in the LTT rate.

She pretty much reflects the arc of the city council story during the Ford era. As an original member of his powerful Executive Committee, Councillor Berardinetti enabled all his destructive instincts early on. But as he pissed away his power to influence the agenda, she slowly changed course, jumping from the Executive Committee during the mid-term shuffle. berardinettifordShe had also left the Budget Committee for a while from March 2012 until January of the following year. A trendsetter, let’s call her. Totally comfortable with his policies but unhappy with his politicking.

Maybe this might play well for her constituents.

In 2010, she handily beat incumbent Adrian Heaps, concluding a bitter struggle that had gone back to the 2006 election that resulted in lawsuits and all sorts of legal wrangling. Ward 35 went strongly pro-Rob Ford in that election, so maybe she’s tapped into a certain ambivalence toward the mayor amongst her residence, loving the message, just not the messenger. If that’s the case, she may be hard to unseat.

But if anybody were to run against her based on her record, take her to task for her habit of underfunding the city’s ability to pay for programs and services, call her out on her subway love taking priority over common fiscal (not to mention transit) sense, Councillor Berardinetti would have a lot to answer for. She’s been very much at the epicentre of a couple of the city’s most divisive debates over the last three years, nutcrackerand has not provided a particularly cooperative voice, opting instead for the us-versus-them, suburban-versus-downtown tone of anger and resentment that has plagued Toronto since amalgamation. Having been put into a couple positions of leadership as a first time councillor, with an opportunity to change that tone, she failed to provide much leadership at all.

It’s hard to imagine she’ll grow into the role going forward, having adopted the familiar position of Scarborough councillor with a chip on their shoulder that seems to be the commonplace feature with many. Why change? It’s an approach that’s been working since long before Councillor Berardinetti came to Toronto City Hall.

unimpressedly submitted by Cityslikr


Is Not Bad Good Enough?

March 4, 2014

Councillor Gloria Lindsay Luby (Ward 4 Etobicoke Centre) seems like a nice enough person. In the current toxic political atmosphere at City Hall where ugly Tea Party conservatism sits at the seat of power (at least, it did for awhile)cotillion and the opposition to it rabid, she comes across like a moderating voice. Soft suburban centre right with a smiley face. All southern-like charm and mint juleps.

Anyone who has drawn the indignant ire of the Ford clan as regularly as Councillor Lindsay Luby has – A waste of skin, anyone? – is alright in our books.

Still…

She is a self-proclaimed conservative. She is from Etobicoke. There are times when her biggest concerns seem to revolve around lawn care and road maintenance. A throwback to an earlier era. Something of an anachronism and somewhat out of place on a big city city council. Mayberry meets Metropolis.

The councillor’s not a big fan of taxes but she does like her mechanized curbside leaf collection. Free plastic bags are an absolute necessity. A fully staffed environmental office? M’eh. keepoffthegrassThere is such a thing as too much funding for student nutritional programs. Consider cutting the size of city council in half? Nope. Ranked ballots and permanent resident voting? Nope and nope.

It’s pretty much steady as she goes government for Councillor Lindsay Luby. Let’s not shake up the status quo. This is a nice town. That’s never been the demographic in these parts.

Granted, there have been times when the councillor stands up to speak at council and you think, oh wow!, she’s going to do something unexpected. She reasons through an issue, sounding convinced that it’s time to alter course, that we’re going to see a different Councillor Lindsay Luby. And then, boom. She doesn’t and we don’t. Concern expressed but not resolve.

A glance through Matt Elliott’s council scorecard for this term also shows something of a higher rate of absenteeism for votes by Councillor Lindsay Luby. Admittedly, it is a small sample size, only some 105 of the votes cast over the past 3+ years. The councillor has missed 19 of them, which is only 18% but that puts her right up there with serial vote skipper, Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti (Ward 7 York West), and he actually missed some of the votes due to illness. Even compared to the likes of Councillor Mark Grimes (Ward 6 Etobicoke-Lakeshore) who, on the best of days seems like he’d rather be anywhere else other than sitting through a city council meeting, floatingplasticbagLindsay Luby’s absences are noticeable.

While it may be unfair to the councillor to truly judge her performance based on this term alone, it has been, frankly, nothing more than a series of one distraction from governance after another, she hasn’t stood as a champion of anything notable. At least not in any sort of forward thinking direction. She really wanted the 5 cent fee for plastic bags gone. And she was point person for the fight against the Humbertown redevelopment in her ward. A fight that, to her credit, didn’t wind up going to the OMB, proving that you can fight City Hall if you’re an affluent neighbourhood with the money to draw up your own set of alternate plans.

But we already knew that, didn’t we.

Councillor Lindsay Luby is a long time Etobicoke city councillor, dating back all the way past amalgamation to 1985. Her toughest fight came last election when the Ford juggernaut tried to finally take her out. That opponent, John Campbell, is back for another run at her this time out but if nothing else, Ms. Lindsay Luby has shown a scrapper’s instinct and will not be easily unseated.

Ward 4 could do worse, I guess. Certainly compared to the hideousness of some of the right wing representation thrown up at us from Etobicoke, Councillor Lindsay Luby is something of a cool breeze. stubbornasamuleBut ‘could do worse’ is hardly a ringing endorsement. The flip side is it could also do better. Until Etobicoke starts trying to do better, starts electing local politicians prepared to meet the demands and challenges of the amalgamated city in a 21st-century way, it will continue to be a soft spot in Toronto’s governance model. A recalcitrant partner in shaping the city in the ways it needs in order for it to perform in any sort of fully functional manner.

so-soly submitted by Cityslikr


A Sad Reflection

February 18, 2014

Last week, the Ombudsman, Fiona Crean, released her office’s 2013 annual report. badnewseveryoneIt did not paint a pretty picture of the interface between the city’s bureaucracy and its residents. Complaints were up 28% over 2012 with a solid majority of them having to do with ‘poor communications and inadequate information provided by city staff.’

“It’s not returning phone calls, it’s rudeness,” Ms. Crean stated, “it’s problems that need fixing in a timely fashion such as basement flooding, where no responses are occurring or little to no explanation is provided.”

That probably only serves to confirm what many already believe about our civil servants. Unhelpful. Lazy. Rude. Overpaid and underworked, the lot of them.

It may be worth pointing out, I think, 2013 contained more than a few unexpected and unwelcome turn of events that put undue pressure on city services. The torrential rain of early July and the ice storm in late December spring immediately to mind. While no excuse for bad or uncooperative behaviour, especially if these so-called 100 year type storms begin happening on a more frequent basis, it would be charitable to chalk up at least some of the problems in communication and inadequate information provision to staff being caught both unprepared and undermanned for such unexpected turn of weather events.

As the report points out, there are more than 2500 vacant positions currently in the ranks of the city’s civil service. complaintsWe hear about the big ones, the chronic shortages in departments like planning. Gapping, is the euphemism used to suggest that short staffing is a temporary situation. Let’s just get past this little rough patch. Then we can start filling the roster back up.

While it may warm the cockles of the cold, cold hearts of everyone who sees four guys gathered around one pothole in the road as proof the city is bloated with useless workers, the success of any municipality ultimately lies in its ability to provide residents with day-to-day services. That can’t be done on the cheap or without the necessary number of bodies to deliver the necessary services. Or, at least not yet, with robots. Believing otherwise is simply wishful, ideological thinking.

“There’s no question that resources are tight,” the Ombudsman said. “It’s a difficult time to be a public servant. The stress is tremendous, but there’s never an excuse for poor communication.”

Obviously one of the prerequisites to working for the city, particularly if it’s a job interacting directly with the public, should be a certain grace and unflappability in the face of even the harshest of approaches by those you’ve been hired to serve. complaints2It comes with the territory. Being surly or unfriendly only feeds into the anti-bureaucracy sentiment that bubbles perpetually just below the surface in the public’s imagination.

Interestingly, the report suggests that the antagonism isn’t purely a one-way street. “…  complainants are becoming more hostile,” the Ombudsman writes. “Citizens have shouted at and cussed her staff, and security has had to be called to intervene.”

Ms. Crean generously talks about that dynamic in terms of people becoming more desperate. “There are more frustrated residents,” she told reporters which “may reflect ‘growing social inequality’”.

“We have more complaints from seniors, from people who are poor, from people with disabilities, people with diminished capacity.”

“People are becoming poorer; the waiting list for subsidized child care is over 15,000 now. The number of working poor has spiked from about 16 per cent to 21 per cent.”

“The greater the marginalization, the more residents depend on public services.”complaints1

And it probably doesn’t help when there’s an administration at City Hall that has forged its reputation as gravy stoppers. As much as the Ford team has picked away at perceived councillor extravagances like office budgets, snacks and retirement parties, it has also hit on, time and time again, finding efficiencies. No matter how many reports are paid for and come back telling everybody that the city runs a pretty tight ship and operates near peak efficiency, there’s always more to cut, more to slash and burn.

That’s the services you want and those that provide them to you, folks.

Never mind the fact that the mayor and his dwindling band of supporters consistently vote against all those things that the Ombudsman believes are making people more desperate and cranky. Subsidized child care. After school and nutritional programs. A continued lack of funding for the repair backlog for TCHC with a preference for selling off its stock instead.texaschainsawmassacre

It’s a double sided machete of underfunding programs and services while berating and belittling city staff for not providing those programs and services with a smiling face and peppy personality. Demanding excellent customer service without any sort of support for the chances of doing just that.

Little wonder everybody involved is cranky, frustrated and more than a little stressed out.

complainingly submitted by Cityslikr


Will The Real Josh Colle Please Step Forward

February 14, 2014

There are more than a few sitting city councillors whose presence on the municipal scene baffles me. headscratcherWhether they seem ill at ease in a public forum or are just complete busts when it comes to understanding policy issues, I scratch my head and wonder what forces brought them to where they’re currently sitting. Accidents of circumstance or just freak electoral accidents?

Curiously, none are more of a mystery to me than Councillor Josh Colle (Ward 15 Eglinton-Lawrence). He seems smart and is definitely articulate. No dummy is Councillor Colle. It’s just, I can’t get a handle on the man.

Even before he started sporting a goatee that made him look like the son of Councillor David Shiner (Ward 24 Willowdale), he struck me as someone who was up to something. That something, I haven’t been able to figure out. Colle’s like the thinking man’s Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong (Ward 34 Don Valley East), City Hall’s Machiavellian Prince.

Back during the highly contentious 2012 budget debate, Councillor Colle was the face of the pushback to save some $20 million in cuts that the Ford administration had put on the chopping block. twofacedHe stood defiantly in opposition to the mayor when it wasn’t necessarily politically advantageous to do so. It was probably the first symbolic lump Mayor Ford took.

A little more than a year later, the very same Councillor Colle stood up and gave perhaps one of the most dispiriting defences of city council not doing a single thing when it came to dealing with revenue tools for building transit. He was pushing an amendment to colleague Councillor Josh Matlow’s motion to proceed with some of the revenue recommendations from city staff that essentially struck all the suggested revenue streams out of the motion. In effect, Colle was seeking to turn a pro-tax motion into a non-tax motion. He won.

It was a shrug. An outright rejection of responsible governing. Councillor Colle’s version of Homer Simpson’s I’m not not licking toads denial.

Looking through the councillor’s voting pattern via Matt Elliott’s council scorecard reveals little up about what he represents. lickingtoadsHe sits at just over 40% of agreement with Mayor Ford, almost smack dab in the middle of the pack. That’s not far off the number he was at after year one on council. While support for the mayor from his strongest allies has dropped off precipitously over the last couple years, Councillor Colle has remained fairly steady throughout.

Even in this last budget cycle where the mayor was pretty much abandoned by everybody but the hardest of hardcore, far right on council, Colle punched in at 33% alignment with Mayor Ford. A very small sample size mind you, but it was on par with the usual unthinking mayoral yeah-sayers like councillors Cesar Palacio, Gary Crawford and above even the likes of the normally dependable Councillor Mark Grimes.

This is not necessarily a good or bad thing. Early on in the term, when Councillor Colle had inherited the Lawrence Heights redevelopment in his ward, you could sense he was forced into some horse trading with the mayor who’d campaigned against the redevelopment, in order to protect it. orelseA scenario where he was operating with a gun to his head, as is the mayor’s standard operating procedure.

But Mayor Ford doesn’t swing that kind of pipe any more. Still, Councillor Colle continues to play ball. Maybe he’s comfortable politically aligned with the mayor 40% of the time on the big issues affecting the city. It’s just odd that his predecessor in Ward 15, Howard Moscoe, famously said Rob Ford couldn’t pass gas if a majority of council didn’t let him, and here’s Councillor Colle – who Moscoe endorsed to replace  him – enabling Mayor Ford to pass gas 4 out of 10 times.

It all leaves me cold with ambivalent uncertainty toward Josh Colle.

As the scion of the local MPP and with all the Liberal party election machine operations that entails, it’s hard to see how a candidate could dislodge him in October. In 2010, Colle’s main opponent was the established conservative candidate Rob Davis, so picture him running as the reasonable progressive in the field. beatfromthebushesMaybe it might be worth a try this time around for someone to run against him from the left, challenge the councillor on his progressive credentials. Ask Councillor Colle why he continues to support the Scarborough subway extension while voting against ways to fund it.

Ask him anything that might chase him from the bushes and force him to define who exactly he is and what he stands for. After nearly 4 years in office, we deserve to know that much, I think.

— curiously submitted by Cityslikr


Not A Showdown So Much As A Show Off

January 29, 2014

The 2014 budget city council meets this week to iron out is shaping up to be the most madcap one yet under the Ford administration. madcapAnd that’s saying something, given last year, I believe it was, when Mayor Ford voted against his own budget, following the always reasonable Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti down the rabbit hole of a property tax freeze.

This ain’t a budget debate, Chuck! It’s college hijinx!

No doubt the extra splash of wacky sauce comes, in part, from the fact that it’s a campaign year budget. Nobody wants to be seen as a tax-and-non-spender. You’re going to wind up pissing off some constituency and handing a flaming torch to a willing challenger. Best to try and go unnoticed, quietly not upsetting the status quo.

Not possible, of course, with our very own raging bull, the braying mayor, Rob Ford, doing his very unleveled best to ring the alarm bells about the budget debate. This time around, he’s an absolute free agent when it comes to the budget process. It’s not his budget, he’ll tell anyone still willing to listen to him with any degree seriousness. bullinachinashopHe was stripped of all his powers back in November for no good and probably illegal reason. Stabbed in the back by both friend and foe alike.

Budget 2014 is all on these traitors. Mayor Ford’s hands are clean. Neutered as he was from reining in their tax-and-spend inclinations, this is what happens when he’s not allowed to single-handedly watch over every single dime.

Which is all kind of weird when you start looking more closely at it.

The proposed budget limped out of the Executive Committee with a 2.23% property tax increase attached, roughly the same as the Budget Committee had recommended earlier. Both were down from the 2.75% city staff had advised. Both were roundly criticized by the mayor.

The worst budget ever!” he bellowed.

exactlythesameHere’s the thing.

In 2012, when Mayor Ford was still in (never quite) full control of the budget process, he signed off on a 2.5% property tax hike. In line with this worst one ever but not including a .5% bump dedicated to the first stage of building a new subway. Or, as the mayor likes to claim, an already built subway.

So the mayor’s deriding a budget that, give or take a few million over nearly $10 billion in total, is essentially the same as one he was on board with two years earlier, but now with some new subway attached to it.

You can’t make this shit up, folks.

Making matters even more… what’s a word for nut job zany?… Mayor Ford insists he’s going to move motions that will amount to the tune of some $50 million in savings, therefore removing the need for over 2% of that property tax hike. Without… wait for it…wait for it…affecting services and programs enough that anyone will notice. Easy. Guaranteed.

What kind of cost savings is the mayor proposing? It’s a secret, he says. nottellingStrategically kept from all those back-stabbers who are just waiting to tear his motions to shreds. But don’t get too tied up in knots over his approach. Mayor Ford is sure everything he puts forward will get defeated. So it’ll be like the whole thing never happened.

The Budget and Executive Committees didn’t help the cause in fending off the mayor’s magical budget thinking, ignoring staff recommendations on both the revenue and spending sides of the ledger. In the end, the document going to full city council today reduced the property tax hike while adding additional expenditures, counting on a higher amount of revenue from the Land Transfer Tax than staff estimated. That darned staff. Always keeping their projections low. Fingers crossed, the good times keep on rolling!

As it stands, the members of the Executive Committee attempted a tricky optical manoeuvre, sucking-and-blowing at the same time, only less so than the mayor (although as of this writing, Councillor David Shiner is now singing the praises of yet another cheap stunt property tax freeze, going full out MammoFordie), insaneand we’re now facing what staff has called an unbalanced budget. An unbalanced operating budget is unnatural at the municipal level, unnatural and illegal by provincial statute.

So by the end of this, by hook or by crook, and likely with a little razzle dazzle and smoke and mirrors, someone has to step up and balance the books. But I’m sensing before we arrive at that place, unbalanced will be the order of the day(s). Unbalanced. Unhinged. Unglued.

That’s just how we roll these days.

maniacally submitted by Cityslikr