Carefully Picking Sides

March 19, 2014

Earlier this year I attended a Ward 10 York Centre community town hall meeting hosted by Councillor James Pasternak. townhallIt was just pre-2014 city budget and post-ugly holiday season ice storm. Despite the timing, the atmosphere wasn’t hostile or toxic, at least, not initially.

Unsurprisingly, the hot topic was the storm clean-up which, like in many parts of the city, wasn’t happening quickly enough for most folks in the room. Even more than 3 weeks after the weather bomb, swaths of the local area remained unnavigable because of fallen and uncollected foliage. Some branches still hung dangerously from trees.

Transit, traffic and congestion ran a close second, however. While not evenly split certainly, there was a respectful representation from among the attendees of those asking thoughtful and reasonable questions about public transit. Frequency, capacity and route ideas were part of the discussion. These were offset, of course, by demands to widen Bathurst Street for another lane of cars or the possibility of opening a local cemetery road to make it a neighbourhood thoroughfare.

But things didn’t really get out and out zany until about hour three. No elected official should be expected to endure a 3 hour Q and A session. None of us are made of such hardy stuff. It’s too much. anymorequestionToo, too much.

A lady, who earlier in the evening had been gently subdued after her time at the microphone, waving a 3 year old issue of NOW magazine with a nearly nude Rob Ford Photoshopped on its cover, regained control of the floor and began reading from the provincial health act, I believe it was. I’m sure there was a reason for it but it slips my mind at the moment. Suffice to say, it was beyond the jurisdiction of Councillor Pasternak.

That just kicked open the door to crazy. Without the aid of the mic, a gentleman began berating the councillor, accusing him of hording TTC tokens before a fare increase. The man had been fairly aggressive in questioning Councillor Pasternak a couple hours prior but this was just flat out lunacy, as he ended up yelling at anybody approaching him until a poor young staff member of the community centre had to guide him to the exit. “Don’t touch me! Don’t touch me or I’ll have you charged!!”

The meeting petered out after that. I felt compelled to approach the councillor to shake his hand and offer condolences of a sort. Before you run around slagging a city councillor, you really should go to a town hall meeting they hold, see what they have to put up with.

Besides, I personally, as a Ward 10 non-constituent, can think of far bigger issues to yell at Councillor Pasternak about than just making up nutty stuff like token hording.angrymob

Three things stand out for from his time at City Hall since 2010. None of them particularly good or inspiring.

One: re-opening (and opening again) the whole Queers United Against Israeli Apartheid marching at Pride hullaballo. Not only was the councillor on the wrong side of a free speech issue, city staff had firmly held that there was nothing hate speech-y involved in the expression and nothing wrong with the group participating in Pride, he helped provide cover for the homophobia the new mayor and the likes of Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti like to indulge in. Why do you want to defund Pride? Because QUAIA. Why won’t you march in the Pride parade? Because QUAIA (and other things).

Two: He possesses a remarkable tone deafness and ward-ccentric view of public transit. What about the North York Relief Line he asked again, just last week. Wondering why everyone running for mayor was stumping for the DRL. What about the North York Relief Line?

What about it, councillor? I don’t even know what it is. Oh right. Connecting the under-used Sheppard subway, from the Yonge Line west to the University-Spadina line. beatingadeadhorseNobody else thinks it’s necessary at this time, councillor. It’s a parochial distraction. Stop it.

And thirdly, Councillor Pasternak is awfully demanding of city services and programs while towing a fairly fiscal conservative line. By ‘fiscal conservative’, I mean Ford fiscal conservative. Keeping revenues down, low property taxes, eliminate other streams like the VRT, requesting a report for reducing the Land Transfer Tax, all the while not being averse to spending money, most times on very admirable and necessary items. The councillor recently expressed displeasure at possibly losing a priority designation for a neighbourhood in his ward in the proposed staff reshuffling of newly designated Neighbourhood Improvement Areas. “This is not a time to cut back, when you make certain headway,” the councillor said. “You keep the funding to make sure there’s no sliding back.”

You gotta pay for the things you want, Councillor Pasternak. A strong city isn’t built on the cheap.

I guess it’s going to depend on what residents of Ward 10 prioritize in the upcoming election that will determine Councillor Paternak’s political fate in October. He was in one of the tightest races in 2010 in an open ward to replace long time council member, pickasideofthefenceMike Feldman, winning by under 400 votes with less than 20% of the popular vote. Will voters see his name as a tax fighter or a protector of services and programs they want in their neighbourhoods?

A jaded eye might view the councillor as making sure all the bases were covered. You have to wonder if that’s spread him out too thinly, made him not enough of anything to really have made much of a lasting impression.

gruelly submitted by Cityslikr


Selling Off Stock

May 29, 2011

(In case you missed it at the Torontoist on Wednesday, we’re reposting the post. With new, pretty pictures.)

* * *

Just before the May 24th fireworks reignited the ongoing Pride/anti-QuAIA debate at yesterday’s Executive Committee meeting, the Toronto Community Housing Corporation’s (still) one-man board was given the go ahead to sell off 22 properties. While possessing moments of drama and emotion, the TCHC debate ultimately lacked the highly charged personal edge that gripped the Pride v. anti-QuAIA deputations. Perhaps that’s what happens when only one side holds all the cards.

What Tuesday’s TCHC process was also lacking in was concrete answers. And not just answers to pointed questions from visiting councillors looking to score political points. Honest to goodness answers to honest to goodness questions asked by the mayor’s allies on the Executive Committee.

Like much of the rush to foist the Ford Nation mandate onto Toronto, there’s a sense that the mayor and his team don’t have to explain themselves. They won the election, so they’re free to do as they want. All this back-and-forth is simply wasting time. Pitter patter, let’s get at her!

It was in evidence at last week’s council meeting and the debate over proposed garbage outsourcing in district 2. The staff and privatization advocates were all a little hazy when it came to the numbers and figures. Would it save $8 million? If not, how much? Any? What about diversion rates? Different? On par? Improved?

Stop with all the questions, already! We campaigned on privatizing garbage. We won. We’re going to privatize garbage.

Likewise, TCHC Managing Director Case Ootes and CEO Len Koroneos didn’t seem particularly driven to talk turkey about their recommendation to unload the 22 housing units. How many tenants would be affected by the sell off? Ummm… let me check my notes. 32. Who would be in charge of relocating the tenants losing their homes? Ummm… not sure. “The Planning Department’s not here,” the mayor offered up by way of an answer. What would be the difference in cost to the city between putting in necessary repairs and renovations and continuing to rent out units and simply unloading them as is? Ummmm… we’ll have to get back to you on that, councillor.

“A huge absence of information,” Councillor Janet Davis suggested.

The Committee wasn’t even provided with definitive numbers when it came to such fundamental inquiries about how much the city could really expect to get for selling the houses. Mr. Ootes is thinking close to $16 million. Others like Michael Shapcott at the Wellesley Institute aren’t convinced the number will be that high. Whatever sum it ends up being, the money will be applied to the backlog of repairs on other TCHC properties that is now in the neighbourhood of $650 million.

Another number that came as a surprise to some councillors at the meeting, more than a tripling of repair costs in just two years if true. And if true, it’s hard to imagine how $16 million is going to make a lick of difference in their bigger picture even 1 elevator repair at a time. Especially if we’re ultimately reducing the amount of rental units available to a list that’s already 10 years long to do it.

That seemed to be one thing we could safely conclude would happen if the sale gets approved by city council. Less TCHC housing to go around. “A reduction of capacity,” as Mr. Ootes admitted reluctantly. But, he was quick to add, we weren’t responsible. “We’re not reducing capacity,” Mr. Ootes spun. “Capacity’s being reduced because we don’t have the money.”

It is a new age, a new reality, according to Councillor Mammoliti. “We’re on our own,” he informed the room. We should never expect to see money from senior levels of government ever again. That was that.

So, wave the white flag and agree to be the hatchet men, to do the bidding of the provincial and federal governments’ respective and collective negligence in the social housing portfolio. Instead of standing up and fighting to protect the most vulnerable in our city, members of the mayor’s Executive Committee voted to use them as fodder, sacrifices to the new order. Making tough choices, it seems, means making other people pay for your lack of imagination and willingness to go to bat for your constituents.

“This particular sale of 22 houses is a start,” the unelected, unaccountable Case Ootes told reporters, undoubtedly striking fear into the hearts of every TCHC tenant.

For all the talk of having to go it alone and make choices out of enforced necessity due to fiscal restraints not personal preference (the mark of all small-minded municipal politicians who operate happily under the umbrella of not bearing ultimate responsibility), the irony of the decision to sell the houses is that, even if city council agrees, it is still pending provincial government approval. What the Executive Committee signaled with its vote to sell off TCHC properties was that it was willing to get its hands dirty and be the bad guy. That answer seems firm and unequivocal.

repeatedly submitted by Cityslikr


How Do You Solve A Problem Like Sue-Ann?

April 18, 2011

I’m not really sure this is worth the effort.

Or at least, my subconscious isn’t convinced which might explain the hours and hours of procrastination I’ve been subjected to, trying to sit down and write this out. Ignore it, my better me tells me, no good can come from harping on it. But my ugly me (who I’m partial to) leans in and badgers me to do this thing. This cannot stand, unchallenged, I’m challenged. Nonsense must be called out. Yeah but… good me whines… Some things are better left ignored. Let them simply rot in their own putrid, bilious juices. My God, you are so fucking naïve, ugly me yells at good me, and so the argument continues as does the procrastination.

Oh, Sue-Ann Levy. How can such a mean-spirited, talentless typist cause me so much consternation? I mean, I don’t even read the Toronto Sun and highly suspect anyone who does aside from gathering their sports news. Yet she and it represent the nasty, squalid side of the Ford Nation. Ignoring her and the paper that employees her services allows for misinformation and character assassination to stand. However, addressing what spills seemingly unedited from her poisoned pen (or whatever passes for the modern equivalent) may only lend credence to it.

Decisions, decisions.

It all started (again) last week when SAL got caught up in the whole Pride-QuAIA situation which she has been very vocal about. To do the brouhaha justice, read all about it in Xtra! where it was covered much more thoroughly by Andrea Houston. The thing you need to know is that in a flurry of Twitter activity, Ms. Levy managed to toss around an anti-Semite accusation (misspelled) and taunted another journalist with a ‘Johnny Jew’ epithet. Many deletions and one apology later, she was then removed from covering the ongoing Pride-QuAIA story for the Sun.

A peaceful silence ensued.

And then came this.

So many things coalesce along with the assorted bacteria and other single-celled beings in the pit of my stomach when I read a Sue-Ann Levy article, none of which makes me feel better as a human being. The least important but most glaringly apparent is the fact she is a terrible, terrible, terrible writer. Is that enough terribles? A terrible, terrible, terrible, monstrously terrible writer. Just terrible. There. That’s better.

To call her a hack is to heap unjustified scorn and derision on true hacks everywhere. Hackery suggests some form of organized, systemic badness. That’s a bar Ms. Levy simply doesn’t possess the creative vertical leap to clear. It’s all a stream-of-consciousness, spewed forth like the expressing of a dog’s anal glands, ideology and vitriol trumping logic, truth and basic construction of thought at every turn. No literate adult should write as poorly as Sue-Ann Levy does. Certainly, no literate adult should write as poorly as Sue-Ann Levy does and get paid for their efforts.

My offended artistic sensibilities aside, the real damage inflicted by Levy’s rant writings.. wrantings?.. is on the political discourse in and around City Hall. Like the radical right wing City Hall pols she so slavishly shills for, SAL now basks in the glow of Mayor Ford’s ascension to power, having been on the outside looking in during the Miller administration. To a one, they claim the exclusion was because the Millerites brooked no dissent although judging from their performance so far in office and in print, one could just as easily conclude that an inability or unwillingness to contribute anything positive to the proceedings might also have been factored in.

It’s Team Ford time now and no one epitomizes the nyah-nyah-nyah-nyah-nyah triumphalism better than Sue-Ann Levy. Because they won the election in October, they don’t have to justify themselves. They don’t have to defend or debate their ideas. The only fact that matters is the fact Rob Ford is mayor now. Suck on that, left wing kooks.

So it’s invective name-calling and innuendo from the mayor’s court reporter, Sue-Ann Levy. Reading one of her columns is like eaves-dropping on a teenager’s phone call with a friend. It’s all like, gawd, why doesn’t she just, like, shut up and mind her own business! I was talking to Dougie and she, like, all butted in. (Hint to Ms. Levy? If you really want to conduct a private interview with a councillor? There are these places at City Hall called ‘offices’. Go inside, close the door behind you and have at it.) I mean, did you hear her laugh? All horsey. Maybe we should start feeding her sugar cubes. Tee hee, tee hee.

Perhaps it’s because she herself lacks any principles other than obsequiousness to right wing power, Levy can only impugn the motives of anyone at council she disagrees with. And she disagrees with no one at council more than Adam Vaughan. There is nothing he does to SAL’s eyes that isn’t due to him angling for a run at the mayor’s job in 2014 and his bitter resentment Rob Ford now occupies that place. He has become her new bete noire, David Miller incarnate. It’s surprising that, nearly 6 months in, and she’s yet to come up with a derogatory nickname for him yet. Here’s a tip, Sue-Ann. Vaughan rhymes with yawn. Run with it.

Most disturbingly, Levy shares a dim view of council meetings at City Hall with her right wing bestest friends. “An exercise in sheer madness” she wrote about the debate over the city’s proposed new appointment process of agencies, boards and committees. “Look, I’m all for democracy,” Levy claimed in her article which, loosely translated, means she isn’t really, leading inevitably to this thought finisher, “but it was all just nonsense, grandstanding by a bunch of petulant councillors who can’t get it through their heads they no longer run the show at City Hall.”

In Sue-Ann Levy’s world, democracy is little more than ‘sheer madness’, ‘nonsense’, obstructionism, interfering in the city’s business and a “waste of time and tax dollars”, as duly quoted from the paradigm of democratic thought, Doug Ford.

Which is what makes Sue-Ann Levy more than simply an innocuous albeit annoying wingtard (oops. I meant, wingnut.) As eye-poppingly ludicrous as much of her wrantings are, she has a significant enough platform to amply pollute public discourse. She serves those seeking to push through an agenda with as little democratic input as possible and who believe that winning an election grants 4 years of autocratic rule. By belittling the established democratic process at City Hall, she undercuts democracy itself.

Of course, my good me suggests I may be giving Sue-Ann Levy a little too much credit. Is she really capable of thinking that far through things? She’s probably just writing love notes to those who are paying any attention to her whatsoever. Maybe all David Miller and his allies needed to do was give Sue-Ann the occasional scratch behind the ear and they would’ve had her eating out of their hands. Ooooooo, says ugly me. Listen to good you, getting all catty and stuff. It looks like Sue-Ann Levy brings out the worst in you.

Sue-Ann Levy brings out the worst in all of us.

dividedly submitted by Cityslikr


Don’t Let The Bastards Wear Us Down

June 10, 2010

At the risk of appearing to be indulging in a little log rolling for this site, allow me to pick up on a thematic thread from my colleague’s post yesterday.

Our ever increasing democratic deficit.

After a slight walk on the wild side with the Better Ballots mayoral debate a week and a half or so ago where more than just the Gang of 6™®© were allowed on stage to air their ideas and differences, it’s been back to the business as usual format. The kids had been treated to an evening of dress up and pretending to be grown ups but now playtime’s over. Why, just the other evening CP24 hosted their second mayoral debate (of a conveniently numbered six) featuring their designated six front running candidates. How could you possibly open up the floor to more candidates and threaten that kind of entrenched synchronicity? Even the community held debates like the one in Parkview Hills this past Monday and hosted by John Tory, are opening their doors only to the 6 main candidates as if some hard and fast rule exists to keep interlopers out.

I understand why the media wants this easy to remember, uncomplicated setup. It’s difficult enough for the likes of Ben Mulroney to remember the names of all the candidates on stage, forced to use both hands to count heads while still managing to hold onto his microphone. Imagine what would happen if the numbers got into the double digits. (Keep your pants on, Ben.) I also indignantly understand why the anointed six want to be left on their own. No further sharing of the spotlight while lending credibility to their campaigns even if they haven’t earned it.

But why is the voting public so willing to chip in and contribute to the stifling of debate? Shouldn’t they want to hear a wider chorus of voices offering up a wider swath of ideas and solutions to the problems and concerns they’re facing? Surely we’re not as empty-headed as Ben Mulroney and are able to cope with slightly more complexity.

Then this appeared in our interwebs mailbox earlier in the week. A note from mayoral candidate Keith Cole (and participant in the Better Ballots June 1st debate), announcing his withdrawal from participation in PRIDE’s ALTERNA-QUEER event due to the organization’s banning of the phrase “Israel Apartheid” from its annual and iconic parade. Not really wanting to enter this particular fray, I bring it up only to point out that while every one of the front running candidates ducked for cover and came out in favour of the ban, and in favour of overt censorship through media, government and corporate pressure tactics, there was one dissenting voice with a dissenting opinion. Keith Cole made a stand (and sacrifice) for his principles. Yet he is being arbitrarily shut out for the sake of convenience and whatever other sinister reasons there are for maintaining a manageable status quo.

This is how totalitarian regimes operate, folks, to paint a shiny happy face of a free and open society. They present to their electorate a sanctioned list of candidates for the voters to choose from. Debates range from points A through to B. People cast their ballots. Someone the party has given their seal of approval to wins. No fuss, no bother. It’s what we usually refer to as a ‘sham election’.

But true democracy is messy. It shouldn’t be clean and easy to navigate. Giving voice to disparate views, as many views as demand to be heard, means tolerating – encouraging — a cacophonous din on the march toward forging a workable consensus. That’s how democracy works. The expectation of having everything presented in a nice tidy box is frighteningly short-sighted and narrow-minded especially this early on in the game. And it doesn’t qualify as democracy. What it is, what we should call it is mediacracy in all its appropriately homonymic glory.

urgently submitted by Urban Sophisticat