Stumbling Toward Progress

Wow!

And what a week it was.whirlwind

Under the steady, competent and business-like stewardship of John Tory, this kind of wild ride at City Hall was supposed to be a thing of the past. Granted, not your garden variety, crack-fueled, more-than-enough-to-eat-at-home sort of melodrama we’ve previously witnessed. Purely political, up and down the daily calendar. But still.

It all began with a fairly standard bit of annual budgeting that’s happened for the past few years. Ix-nay he-tay alk-tay bout-ay ew-na evenue-ray. Pilfer reserve funds. Continue to squeeze a little harder on the stone in the hopes of getting blood this time around. Circle three times, click you heels twice. Declare the budget balanced in the fairest, most reasonable, prudent manner possible.

Then it started to rain staff reports and the going got crazy.

SmartTrack. Redrawn options for the Gardiner East hybrid. The Scarborough subway extension. New numbers and projections. countNew configurations. New realities. New respect for expert staff advice, depending on the project, of course. Proposed compromises that could cost hundreds of millions of dollars more than the original plans. Fewer subways. More LRTs. More developable waterfront land. Tighter turn radii.

Somewhere in the midst of all that doubling and tripling back mayhem, the man who should be chief of police leveled a broadside against his organization, demanding fundamental reform of the way it goes about its policing business. He then went silent or was silenced. The head of the Police Services Association responded with a public pout. The former reform-minded chair of the Police Services Board filed a complaint against the actual chief of police and the Police Services Board for not clarifying statements the police chief made during a year end interview questioning the accuracy of statements the former TPSB chair made about implementation of proposed reforms. joustingWe then learned the police were deploying some 50 combat ready assault rifles for front line officers as tools of de-escalation and in no way was militarizing policing in the city.

Mayor Tory deemed it all to be reasonable. Nothing to be alarmed at. As you were.

You could look at all this and conclude that it was simply the result of an industrious administration dealing with the inevitable array of issues that come from governing a growing and busy metropolis. Shit happens, am I right? Roll up your sleeves and get down into the goo. This city isn’t going to run itself.

But it doesn’t feel like that at all to me. At week’s end, it kind of feels like a reckoning. Bills have come due and need to be paid.

The mayor’s refusal to have a serious discussion about proper revenue streams, holding tight onto his campaign promise of keeping property tax rate hikes to at or below the rate of inflation, continues to hamstring the city for yet another year in dealing with a wall of serious fiscal matters, both on the capital and operating sides of the ledger. madscrambleIt’s even more ridiculous in light of how he’s backtracked on other hare-brained campaign promises, mostly revolving around public transit. He’s insisting on putting off a tax and spend conversation that will only get more difficult the closer we get to another election.

On the policing front, the mayor took his spot on the board rather than designate a council colleague in his place. So he was right there, hands on, to change the culture both on the board and in the services itself. A shot at serious reform, which he keeps talking about, within reach. A new, forward thinking chief waiting in the wings, reports and recommendations for implementation of change on the table in front of him.

But he blinked, retreated, embraced the status quo. More business as usual.

Where there is some brightness, some hope for more positive outcomes is on transit, a file the mayor, and as a candidate before that, made even more problematic and difficult to negotiate, layering on additional fanciful talk and plans in his bid for the job. headlesschickenBut he’s backtracked on SmartTrack. He’s rethought his once adamant support of the Scarborough subway extension. Having joined the crowd in politicizing transit planning, he’s now attempted to hand it back, tattered and somewhat worse for wear, to those who actually know a thing or two about transit planning.

The retreat comes with some potentially good results. The city could end up with an Eglinton Crosstown running from Pearson airport right through to the Scarborough campus of the University of Toronto. We might build fewer subways in Scarborough and more LRTs. So much new transit could be in the offing that we as a city will have no choice to not only talk about new revenue sources but to actually implement some in order to help pay for and operate it.

This comes, unsurprisingly, with a whole boatload of caveats. The new SmartTrack mock up is still so dependent on unknown variables like capacity and fare pricing as to remain highly theoretical, and yet, is something of a linchpin for the new proposed Scarborough subway alignment to work properly. chaseyourowntailIs $2 billion (or more) for one subway station too steep a price to pay to try and ensure a non-fractious majority of city council buy in? All the delays and false starts have pushed timelines further and further down the road, past upcoming elections cycles, leaving most of today’s proposed projects susceptible to future political interference, still just lines on a map.

Unlike the budget process and the policing news, however, I don’t see this week’s transit resets as steps back or no steps taken at all. At least in the light of recent transit upheavals in Toronto, what’s occurred over the past few days is something akin to progress. If not forward momentum, let’s call it forward motion.

It shouldn’t have to be this fucking hard, and I will not absolve Mayor Tory of any blame for contributing to the ongoing difficulty. fingerscrossed1If he had’ve met the parochial chest-beating of the Ford’s head on, and not derided and sneered at his opponents who did so, none of this would’ve been necessary. We wouldn’t have lost so much time and money while he and his team pretended SmartTrack was actually a thing, that the Scarborough subway had any legitimacy whatsoever.

But, there it is, and here we are.

Try as I might to wrap this up on an optimistic note, I can’t bring myself to do it unless you consider It’s Not All Bad News upbeat. In the flurry that was this week, there may be some cause to be hopeful. Maybe. When it could be worse is not good enough, it will have to do.

Open ended. That’s all I’ve got.

unfinishedly submitted by Cityslikr

SDS

The holiday season is now fully upon us. With it, comes the spirit of giving. salvationarmyIn a world seemingly gone mad, descended into a cesspool of despair, sadness and disorder, it is difficult, if not near impossible at times, to decide upon where to deliver your dedicated bounty of benevolent compassion.

This year, might I suggest, you bestow your gift of kindness close to home, here in Toronto, to a newly diagnosed local malady. SDS. Or, Subway Derangement Syndrome.

A relatively new ailment of the heart and mind, little is known about SDS, its causes, its pathogenic qualities. Initially, medical professionals thought it to be hypochondriacal in nature, affecting mainly the political class of this city. A mental affliction seeing personal and professional advancement entwined with the building of subways where none were necessary. diagnosisThis belief evolved into something of a persecution complex. Subways weren’t essential. Subways were ‘deserved’. Denying subways to those suffering from SDS was seen as tantamount to denying them civic citizenship.

Manifestations of SDS varied. For some it led to incessant chanting, like football hooligans, of a single word, the single word. Subways, Subways, Subways! (Chant along with us, won’t you?) The people want Subways! Others simply made up words or phrases like Surface Subways. Some even went so far as to see their political future in a sunflower.

Psychological projection is also a symptom of SDS. You see your glaring weaknesses in others, and accuse them of actions which you yourself have partaken in. Your self-serving motivations, say, become their self-serving motivations. sunflowerYour ambitions are laudable. Theirs, dishonest and deceitful, driven only for personal gain.

Darkly and menacingly, SDS has lately been seen seeping into the professional ranks of the city. Those whose work would largely benefit from politically-motivated subways not being built are now exhibiting the same irrational behavioural outbursts as their similarly troubled political counterparts. Numbers are fuzzy to them. New, untested ways of managing reality are sought. Once outspoken, SDS induced professionals withdraw behind an impenetrable bureaucratic wall, never to be seen or heard from in any meaningful way again.

Unchecked, Subway Derangement Syndrome can grow in proportion to a point where an individual embraced in its destructive grip can become unrecognizable to their former self. Only SDS can explain such confusion, such mental to-and-froing in one individual over the course of barely a year!

At such an advanced stage of SDS, these particular victims also begin to display troubling signs of delusions of grandeur, wrapping themselves in flags of local pride and disenfranchisement. Modern day William Wallaces, if you will, defenders of their people, the disaffected, the subway-less. “They can take our lives but they will never take our subways! …. Which we don’t have in the first place … except for two or three stops … But we want more! We deserve more.”

Local Man Searches For Lost Dignity And Ethics

Local Man Searches For Lost Dignity And Ethics

So far gone are such individuals that they no longer even bother to try making rational arguments in favour of their beloved subways. Ridership numbers are totally irrelevant to them. Chosen routes are neither here nor there. Just so long as there is a subway somewhere near them. A subway they can call their own. A subway to make them feel whole again.

Now, where would your generous donation to SDS go? Certainly not to the billions of dollars being asked to deliver that subway. That would be like giving candy to cavity-ravaged children in order to keep them quiet. As soon as it’s gone, they’ll demand more and more and more.

No. Your money and time would go to those prepared to make an intervention in an attempt to stop the downward spiral of budgets and reputations. Organizations holding firm to the fact that there are better options on the table, that an SDS subway would represent a step backward not forward. helpIndividuals standing at the ready to unseat politicians undermined by a disease of their own making, who are no longer making a positive contribution to the public good.

While Subway Derangement Syndrome is an individual ailment, it has proven to be highly contagious, resistant to reason and what was once called common sense before the term became corrupted by misuse. We can no longer idly wish it away, hope it burns out in its own virulent malignancy. Only you, we together, can defeat this threat to our future well-being. By giving generously this holiday season to others, you will be giving yourself a gift. The gift of transit sanity.

pledgingly submitted by Cityslikr