Meet A Mayoral Candidate XX

July 9, 2010

Rainy days on Fridays always make me… want to read Meet A Mayoral Candidate!

This week a special double feature: Giorgio Mammoliti & Rocco Achampong!

OK, so we’re not going to really spend much time on the former mayoral candidate, Giorgio Mammoliti, as he’s withdrawn from the race and is heading back to seek reelection as councillor for Ward 7. But as we wrote here earlier this week, when Mammoliti announced that he was exiting he expressed hope that Rocco Achampong would have a greater presence in the campaign. Ostensibly, Mammoliti was endorsing Achampong to take his place along side the 5 other front running candidates.

How effective this endorsement of legitimacy will be is hard to tell. It came from Giorgio Mammoliti after all. A candidate very few took at all seriously which is why he is no longer running for mayor. It’s difficult to imagine why the remaining front runners would welcome a new face into the midst given the difficulties most of them have had mustering a whole lot of support and enthusiasm for their respective campaigns. Aside from Rob Ford that is, and he may welcome anyone up on stage with him who isn’t Giorgio Mammoliti, a constant thorn in Ford’s side and aggressive caller out of Ford’s steady stream of bullshit.

But Mammoliti’s attempt to shine whatever light he had on Achampong will make it increasingly difficult for debate organizers to continue ignoring the other Rocco. CBC’s Metro Morning picked up the thread almost immediately, interviewing Mr. Achampong the very next day. CP24’s next mayoral debate is schedule on July 20th. Has an invite already been extended to Rocco Achampong?

For our part, despite having already profiled his candidacy a couple months ago, we’re going to accept Giorgio Mammoliti’s challenge and do our first ever re-profile here at All Fired Up in the Big Smoke.

As we wrote here earlier about Mr. Achampong, he has all the tools to be a very compelling candidate. He is articulate, passionate, confident and has a great biography. Born in Ghana, he came to Canada with his family at the age of 9 and grew up in one of the toughest, poorest neighbourhoods in Toronto, managing all the obstacles inherent in that environment to work his way through to becoming a lawyer. He was very politically active while at U of T, serving as both president of the Black Students’ Association and the Students’ Administrative Council. It is a resumé fit for a career in politics.

And yet, we remain underwhelmed. Having seen and heard Rocco Achampong a couple times since we wrote the first profile, nothing he’s said has alleviated our concern that his platform is built on the flaccid legs of empty rhetoric. When talking to Metro Morning’s Matt Galloway on Tuesday, Mr. Achampong spoke of a need for a mayor who was not “a person reciting from rote from a political handbook”. We couldn’t agree more, Mr. Achampong. So would you mind closing up that political handbook you’re reciting from?

The Issues section of the (other) Rocco for Campaign 2010 website shows a candidate who is very concerned with social matters. Transit, housing, job creation and culture all figure prominently. But it still lacks some need to know specifics. Mr. Achampong wants to freeze TTC fares for two years and add subways to Transit City. Where’s he going to get the money to do that? Ditto the doubling of grants to city cultural and arts groups. Great idea. Where’s the money going to come from?

None of which would be all that troublesome at this juncture of the campaign (especially since the other leading candidates have similar gaping holes in their platforms) but we find it hard to gibe these noble intentions with the anti-tax/anti-City Hall sentiments that shone through Mr. Achampong’s kick off speech back in February. Many of his words could’ve just as easily emerged from the mouths of Mssrs. Ford, Smitherman, Rossi and Ms. Thomson. While Rocco Achampong may be a fresh face on the campaign trail, his ideas most certainly aren’t.

This isn’t to suggest, however, that Rocco Achampong is not ready for and hasn’t earned a shot at mayoral primetime. He may fit in a little too neatly for our tastes. The race is in desperate need of someone of Mr. Achampong’s intelligence and perspective. There is no reason whatsoever that he continue to be ignored as future mayoral get togethers are organized.

And if not Rocco Achampong, why not HiMY SYeD? Or Colin Magee. Or Sonny Yeung? Or Keith Cole? Or Wendell Brereton? Or George Babula? There are plenty of interesting choices out there. Let’s get the opportunity to explore them.

dutifully submitted by Cityslikr


Ciao Giorgio. C U In November.

July 6, 2010

Giorgio Mammoliti has left the building. Figuratively speaking of course. Out of the mayoral race as of yesterday, he announced he was returning to the hinterlands to seek re-election as councillor in Ward 7 and if the voters so chose (as they almost always do with their incumbents), he would be back at City Hall after the October 25th election.

Gone with him is much of the colour and panache that he provided in the campaign. As things stand now, without him, it promises to be a dreary affair. Doubly so as the palpably overt contempt Mammoliti never shied away from showing for fellow candidate Rob Ford was rarely matched by anyone else up on the dais with them during the debates. The two men clearly loath one another and the tension between them was almost sexual in its sweatiness if such a thing can be pictured without causing one to lapse into a self-protective coma.

To say that the Mammoliti, Outrageously In Touch brand never really caught fire is simply committing to bytes a firm grasp of the obvious. His problems as we saw it stemmed from the fact that it was difficult to get a handle on his candidacy. Part bat shit crazy, part go for broke bold, he was never able to reconcile the two into a workable platform. For every audacious waterfront plan he threw out there, he tripped himself up with countless panderings to the fearful and the tax haters. His dismissal of bike lanes as being not a serious, ‘meat and potatoes’ issue in his speech yesterday revealed his stunted thinking about an overall transit strategy. Although he is not alone in that amongst the other mayoral candidates, it was just tough to get a sense of where exactly the Mammoliti campaign stood. Perhaps his motto should’ve been: Giorgio Mammoliti, Outrageously Touched.

Still, we will say this much about Mammoliti’s run for mayor. For the most part it was one, if not of vision, at least of forward thinking. At times he seemed to be actually trying to figure shit out and not simply offering empty platitudes and easy bromides. This was most apparent when we watched him wrestle with the more nuanced, intricate issues last month at the AGO’s Mayoral forum, A New Mayors Vision For Architecture, Design and Planning In The City Of Toronto. As we wrote here about the event, Mammoliti seemed the most engaged and willing to talk about matters that clearly weren’t his strong suit. What he displayed was passion rather than calculation.

He drops out now leaving a largely listless pack of contenders who mostly seem content trying to convince Toronto voters that they best can restore Toronto to its glory years of the 1970s by bringing back 1970s levels of taxing and spending. And Joe Pantalone, who has developed a serious knack for delivering the right message a day later than he should. Mammoliti probably deserves the fate that has befallen him but if that’s true, all 5 of the other front running candidates warrant similar outcomes. Certainly none of them have earned the right to be taken any more seriously than Giorgio Mammoliti.

Further to his credit, Mammoliti didn’t exit the race quietly. While refusing to endorse any other candidate, he did suggest that the previously considered “fringe” candidate, Rocco Achampong, be allowed to take his place at future mayoral debates, doing his best to not allow the media and entrenched mayoral camps from using his departure to narrow the field down to simply five. Whatever his motives, he used what will probably be his highest level of media attention to try and keep the proceedings that much more open and democratic. For that he should be applauded.

How likely anyone will take him up on the challenge will be interesting to watch. Clearly much of the media hadn’t spent any time examining candidates outside the Six Pack, some not even getting the spelling of Mr. Achampong’s correct. (LIVE on CP24 ROCCO ACHANPONG asks CP24 to be included at July 20th Mayoral debate – in place of Mammoliti.) Heaven forbid that someone like HiMY SYeD begins to garner a higher profile. Imagine the spelling slaughter on that. In that light, I guess Giorgio Mammoliti should consider his aborted mayoral campaign an unqualified success. At least they got his name right.

send offingly submitted by Cityslikr


Meet A Mayoral Candidate XVI

June 4, 2010

It’s Friday and time for another edition of Meet A Mayoral Candidate! But not just any old edition. A Better Ballots Mayoral Debate Meet A Mayoral Candidate!

As some of you regular readers will already know, we attended Tuesday’s mayoral debate, hosted by the good folks over at Better Ballots, and wrote about it here on Wednesday. There was talk of the general atmosphere at the event, how it was the first debate of this campaign that opened up to the wider swath of registered mayoral candidates past just the anointed frontrunners and, ironically in hindsight, how those same frontrunners fared during the course of the evening. We decided to talk about the “other” candidates in a separate post, here today.

Was the segregation necessary and did it serve to simply perpetuate the completely arbitrary division that’s keeping lesser known candidates from gaining wider public exposure? Yes, perhaps. But in our defense the post on Wednesday bordered on being unreadably long. If we had made it any longer with fuller coverage of the “outsider” candidates, no one would’ve read it anyway and they’d all be back at square one, wallowing in obscurity. With their own post now, there’s every possibility that one, two or maybe all of them will break out to be a serious contender on So You Think You Can Be The Next Mayor of Toronto?©®™

Owing to an online poll conducted by Better Ballots last month, candidates Rocco Achampong and Keith Cole earned themselves the right to share the stage on Tuesday with the other “regular” six. Neither Achampong nor Cole fluffed their opportunity to be looked at for further serious consideration. From our vantage point, both men easily fared better than at least 2 of the other candidates on stage.

Not that this should be surprising to anyone paying attention. For Mr. Achampong’s part, he has more hands on political experience than either Rocco Rossi or Sarah Thomson, having been president of both the Black Students’ Union and the S.A.C. during his time at the University of Toronto. No small feat the latter, as he had to contend with an often times fractious 50+ member council.

What was surprising was Achampong’s stagger out of the starting gate, given his political background and the fact that he is a lawyer who, presumably, argues cases in front of an “audience”. He clearly underestimated the 1 minute time limit (strictly enforced) candidates were given and delivered a fuzzy, rambling opening statement that was breathlessly finished in an attempt to get every last word in. That behind him, Achampong settled in nicely, playfully jostling with the other Rocco, and appearing far more prepared to talk about the electoral reform issues on hand than almost all the other candidates on stage. I would advise Mr. Achampong to refrain from quoting obscure theologians in the future for fear of stumping most of the audience although the baffled look on George Smitherman’s face when Achampong mentioned William of Occam may have been worth it.

In his e-vite to the sweaty soiree that Keith Cole sent out, he expressed concern that his appearance at the debate “…could either be fabulous or a train wreck – or a combo of both. A Fabulous Train Wreck!” Well, no worry as Mr. Cole’s appearance on stage tilted heavily to the former. Again, not that surprising as he is a performer and very obviously comfortable on the stage. He brought lightness to the proceedings and sense of fun to battle the room’s heat. When things got a little testy between two other candidates, Cole delivered a tasty bon mot.

“Tonight started out as a cocktail party and it’s become a family reunion.”

More than the merry prankster, though, Mr. Cole brought a couple things to the stage that should not be overlooked. One, was a sense of humility as he confessed confusion at a number of the proposals that were being discussed, asking that the other candidates to explain it for him. At one point, Sarah Thomson obliged but it was clear that many of the others on stage were equally at a loss at times but none had the nerve to admit that publicly. Secondly, Keith Cole displayed a love of this city none of the other candidates did. Sure, they might love to be mayor or love the politics of a campaign but no one expressed the degree of enthusiasm for Toronto that Cole did and he deserves to continue to be heard because of that.

After this debate, if anyone suggests that it was all fun and games, the fringers had their shot in the spotlight but now it’s time to get back to the serious business at hand and let the “real” candidates (or as the Toronto Sun phrased it, “quality declared candidates”) continue flailing away at one another, they are simply attempting to quash outside voices and a much wider discussion about this city’s future. If you’re going to refer to the likes of Rob Ford, Sarah Thomson, Giorgio Mammoliti, Rocco Rossi as “quality declared candidates” – and I’m being unusually generous not including George Smitherman on that list – Keith Cole and Rocco Achampong have earned a spot amongst them.

And not only Cole and Achampong. While we were surprised that less than half of the other 20 declared mayoral candidates used the opportunity of the debate to introduce themselves in a one minute statement, there were some who struck us as deserving a closer look. As the son of an Irish immigrant, Colin Magee spoke very eloquently and concisely about the need for extending the municipal vote to permanent residents. George Babula fought through an apparent case of severe stage fright and talked enough sense to earn a further hearing. And we highly encourage everyone to check out HiMY SYêD next Tuesday as he pushes off his campaign. He killed on Tuesday with his line: “We’ve sent enough Cowboys to City Hall, Now, It’s Time for an Indian.” Who wouldn’t want to hear more from him?

Despite the Better Ballots move toward a wider candidate inclusivity, the “official” debates continue next week in their sanctioned format. Only Frontrunners Need Appear! Making matters worse is that debate on Thursday is going to be moderated by the ultimate mayoral media darling, John Tory who, mysteriously, is still being wooed into entering the race. So we’re back once again to independent voices and ideas being shut out of the race. That is not good for democracy. That is not good for this city.

So we say, let’s boycott all future mayoral debates that remain the sole domain of illegitimately designated frontrunners and lazy media favourites. Let’s stop allowing nebulous entities to arbitrarily dictate to us some pre-approved list of who we can listen to and vote for.

Boycott! Boycott!! Boycott!!!

stridently submitted by Cityslikr


Better Ballots Mayoral Debate 6 + 2

June 2, 2010

Attending my first mayoral debate last night, thrown by the folks at Better Ballots at the University of Toronto’s Hart House, it’s difficult to properly assess the proceedings. There’s no baseline to measure it against as the scientists say. Are they all like this because if that’s the case, debates are a lot of fun. More people should make a point of attending them. It was infinitely more entertaining than, I don’t know, Iron Man 2, although in reading that sentence I realize it could be taken as less than complimentary toward political debates.

I do know that this one was different than previous debates so far as it introduced some of the other 22 candidates who have registered to run for the office of mayor. Two, Rocco Achampong and Keith Cole, had won an online poll to join the 6 main contenders up on the stage while the other 20 were given the opportunity to give a 1 minute speech throughout the course of the evening. (We’ll go into more detail about how the “other” candidates fared in our Friday ‘Meet A Mayoral Candidate’ post, only to say now that Mssrs. Achampong and Cole acquitted themselves very, very well on stage last night.)

Held in the very proper Debates Room, the atmosphere was both stuffy and almost carnivalesque. Stuffy, owing mostly to the lack of A/C in the place. It was warm, close. To the point where I was half expecting a wet-pitted Huey Long to appear on the podium, exhorting a radical redistribution of wealth.

Yet, at least metaphorically speaking, the event felt light and airy. Finally allowed access to a wider audience, many of the previously overlooked mayoral candidates who were present took the opportunity to mingle with the crowd, some handing out their campaign literature, others promenading down the middle aisle of the room, holding up handmade campaign posters. Candidates on parade! Place your vote for mayor here!

Doing their level best to dampen the upbeat mood, however, was the Red Menace. A group of youthful red t-shirted Rocco Rossi supporters, hogging up chairs by the row full, wrestling the loose vibe in the room to the ground, harshing the mellow. As the jostling swirled around me, I realized they were in a pitched battle with equally young but perhaps even more doe-eyed, undercover George Smitherman (only one of them sported their team’s purple shirts which he quickly removed) backers. I fought the urge to ask one of these youngsters why on earth they were wasting their formative years working for such soulless candidates but fortunately resisted, not wanting to ruin the evening with fearful thoughts of our future well-being.

As for the debate itself, it was a tightly run operation based around the 14 electoral reform proposals that Better Ballots have been working on, ranging from extending the municipal vote to permanent residents and online voting to term limits and campaign finance rules. If I can offer up two bits of constructive criticism, it would be as follows:

  • One, since Better Ballots had held 4 town hall meetings throughout the city in April for interested members of the public to discuss and vote on, I might’ve used the numbers to eliminate the issues that least caught peoples’ attention, i.e. municipal parties, at-large councils, even possibly term limits. That way, there would’ve been more time to discuss the remaining issues in more detail and not allowed any of the candidates to simply agree or disagree without giving the reasons why.
  • Two, again to afford more time to delve further into details, I would nix the 6-10 minute open portion after each of the candidates were given their 1-1½ minutes to speak on a specific issue. It only opened the door to pre-packaged digs between candidates and empty, rhetorical posturing that often had little to do with the issue at hand.

That said, for much of the evening all the candidates seemed to be in the spirit of things, offering up thoughtful opinions on electoral reform. Except maybe Rob Ford who came across as completely uncomfortable and out of his element. To be fair, he was the main target of shots from the other candidates and the Hart House crowd was not his crowd and the room grew increasingly hot so he was sweating a lot but I still half expected him to break out into a Chris Farley “I live in a van down by the river!” routine. Ultimately, if I were voting for the candidate who I thought would make the best Walmart manager, Ford would be my candidate.

Sarah Thomson struck me as a high school valedictorian. Whenever she kept pointing out that she’d built a multi-million dollar business, I wanted to stand up and scream, “But government isn’t a business, Ms. Thomson!!” Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti drifted in and out of lucidity, constantly badgering Ford, dismissing his incessant call to reduce the number of councillors to 22 as nothing more than empowering the unelected bureaucracy and calling for (I think) publicly funded elections. George Smitherman was smooth, said pretty well next to nothing (a voting reform package sent to a council committee) and struck me as extremely unlikable.

I must admit that, despite the presence of his Redshirts, Rocco Rossi caught my attention with his thoughtfulness and passion. So much so that whenever he talked I found myself thinking, if we only could get him off this whole selling of public assets nonsense… Then came his final statement where he tried to convince the audience that the real reason for voter disaffection is due to the choices the current mayor has made, and then proceeding to dismiss plastic recycling and public toilets as unimportant. Clearly the man had no read on who he was talking to on this particular evening and his ideas of civic engagement are wildly antithetical to mine.

Leaving us with Deputy Mayor Joe Pantalone. Neither here nor there, pretty well lost in the shuffle, he didn’t seem out of place so much as content to go along, surf the various tides as they swell up in order to be one of the last candidates standing come October. He seems non-ideological and cordial enough to work well with a fractious council. But I just wish he’d stand up (no pun intended) and be more forceful about why he thinks government matters, why he would be a good mayor and that after 29 years in office, the city he’s represented is not doing too badly despite what the gaggle of naysayers on the stage around him are saying.

It is still just June yet. Lots of time remaining for policies, platforms and personalities to coalesce. Onward and forward to future debates!

dutifully submitted by Cityslikr


Better Ballots Mayoral Debate

May 15, 2010

From the This Just In (To Us) Department.

Doing a quick email check this evening in between Chinese destinations and we were alerted to this from candidate Sonny Yeung.

http://www.betterballots.to/mayor_vote.htm

The folks over at Better Ballots are hosting a mayoral debate on June 1st with the 6 duly anointed frontrunners. Two of the other 20 candidates will be invited up on the stage to join in on the proceedings. You can help pick them by voting at the above link.

We here at All Fired Up in the Big Smoke have profiled 4 of the 5 contenders, so if you want to brush up on them, search the names on our home page and find their respective posts.

We’d try and be more helpful but have a bus to catch.

dutifully submitted by Cityslikr