A Streetfighting Mayor?

April 29, 2016

Oh, to be young again. Young and full of hope, dreams, aspirations. hopeHope. Hope, hope, hope.


You know the difference between someone who’s been around the block a time or two and somebody still standing on the curb, waiting for the light to change so they can cross the street? After a couple key events here in Toronto this week, the second person in the scenario claps their hands together enthusiastically and thinks — really, really thinks — that this could happen in Toronto. The other one, the more grizzled, beaten down fellow? All he’s thinking is that he really needs to figure out a way to move to New York City.

Confused? Not surprising. You’re listening to the ramblings and lamentations of a jaded, former optimistic glass half fuller, as they used to call me back in the barracks.streetfight

Earlier this week, former New York City transportation commissioner and overseer of, I don’t know, 17,000 miles of new bike lanes in 4 months, Janette Sadik-Khan was in town, giving a couple talks, promoting her new book, Streetfight: Handbook for an Urban Revolution. The audience squeed in delight at her tales of transformation throughout North America’s largest city. To paraphrase her rephrasing, “If they can remake it there, we can remake it anywhere.”

Is that so?

At Toronto City Hall, the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee laboured through what should’ve been a breezy debate on a proposal to put in a bike lane pilot project along a 2.5 kilometre strip of Bloor Street west. How is that possible, you ask? Let me try explaining it for you with popular cultural references you’re familiar with.

There are city councillors, many holding key positions within the current administration, who are like those puffy old clients Larry Tate brings in for ad man Darrin Stephens to pitch ideas at to sell their products. dickyorkThey look on while smoking, in disbelief at what they view to be the young man’s crazy, magical thinking. (And it just might be because Darrin’s wife, Samantha, is a witch!)

What? Never heard of Bewitched? It was hilarious! Darrin’s mother-in-law, Endora, who disapproved of her daughter’s “mixed-marriage” to a mortal, could never get his name right. Derwood? Dustin. Dustbin? Comedic gold.

Still nothing? OK. Update. Bewitched = Mad Men. Darrin Stephens = Don Draper. Samantha Stephens = Better Draper. Larry Tate = Roger Sterling. Clients = Clients.


The point I’m trying to make here is that we’ve moved from the stale, toxic air of the Ford era to that musty dankness that hits you when you walk into a grandparent’s room to discover they’ve been dead for a couple days. … What do you mean that’s never happened to you? In my day, that was a rite of passage!

Mayor John Tory just doesn’t get it. I don’t think he truly grasps the challenges (and opportunities, don’t forget the opportunities) cities like Toronto are facing and what needs to be done to address them. endoraHe says words. He mouths the right sounds. Yet, nothing about his actions indicate he has an understanding or inclination of the way forward. Certainly, nobody he’s appointed to positions of power strike you as agents of change. Not his deputy mayor. Not his budget chief. Not his chair of Public Works.

When Ms. Sadik-Khan joined the Bloomberg administration, the mayor there had a detailed agenda on moving the city into the 21st-century. PlaNYC, it was called.

From Streetfight:

The document that Mayor Bloomberg and Team Camelot under Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff (pronounced “Plan-Y-C”) was the first real inventory of the city’s collective resources, assets, and deficiencies. It systematically reverse-engineered the city to accommodate expected population growth, amortizing the costs of investments over decades instead of election cycles, and looked at the impact of growth on health, the environment, and quality of life. From 2000 to 2005 alone, New York City’s population grew by 200,000 people.

To address the increase demands on the city, PlaNYC returned to a central theme: density is New York’s destiny, and city planning must leverage that strength to enhance mobility and the quality of city life and avoid sprawl. Successful urban density isn’t simply a matter of tall buildings stacked next to one another. City residents require both space and privacy, green space and open sky, breathing room and room to run. How cities deliver their services must be organized in ways that can be maintained over decades without depleting their coffers or making neighbourhoods and the environment inhospitable.

Our mayor? He goes to Asia, looks around and comes back to tell us we need more private sector involvement in public transit.emptysuit

So, you see why I’m something of a skeptic when it comes to thinking he’s up to the task of transforming Toronto in any positive, 2016 way? After nearly 18 months in office, what issues has he enthusiastically grabbed and run with? Keeping the Gardiner East expressway elevated and expediting road construction. And racoon proof green bins.

Talk about “a change-based urbanism”, as Ms. Sadik-Khan does in Streetfight, and very little of what our mayor is doing right now suggests he gets the concept or, if he does, is at all comfortable with it. He was elected to change the mayor. Changing the city isn’t really part of his constitution.

There was so much excitement around Janette Sadik-Khan’s visit to our city — it seemed to tap into all the anticipation, frustration, and hope that Torontonians hold for the future of our streets. But armed with new copies of her book, Toronto is now ready to win the streetfight.

This is one Claire Nelischer, writing at the Ryerson City Building Institute blog. God bless, Ms. Nelischer, and her clearly young beating heart, full of hope and optimism. Some of Toronto may be ready for a streetfight, some are engaged in it already. Unfortunately, the elected leadership at City Hall is, once more, proving to be on the wrong side of that fight.


crustily submitted by Cityslikr

Mayor Supercilious

May 14, 2015

In the back of my mind, I’ve always viewed the word ‘supercilious’ as onomatopoeic, sounding just like it means. Silly.twitoftheyear Shallow, nonsensical. Super silly. Really, really silly, shallow, nonsensical, childish in the extreme. Strap a diaper on that thing because I think it’s about to poop itself.

That’s incorrect, I know. And frankly, I think it’s a waste of a very good word. There are far, far better ones at our disposal that give meaning to the notion of arrogance or disdain or contemptuousness. In fact, I prefer those three even to supercilious. How about, lordly, imperious, uppish? You fucking toff.

When I watch our mayor in operation, I immediately think ‘supercilious’ but in my definition of it. He doesn’t project competence or a depth of understanding on any particular issue, just enough to string together a bunch of words on the topic at hand. Words and sentences that, when added up, seldom amount to much meaning of anything in particular.

Look at me, mommie! I’m mayor of Toronto! Stop being silly, Jonathon. Go wash up for dinner. Silly. Super silly.

Listening to Mayor Tory’s take on the Gardiner east removal/hybrid debate, and I’m all like, supercilious. The guy’s a mile wide and an inch deep. He actually has no ability to see more than 10 minutes ahead. toff1He cannot conceive of a future that isn’t almost exactly like the present which has changed little from the past.

Yes, he talks and talks of the challenges of change, the need to adapt but only based on immutable principles firmly anchored in a tradition, a tradition, not coincidentally, that favours people like John Tory.

John Tory cannot imagine a time when car drivers might be further inconvenienced for the sake of simply building and developing a less auto-centric city. It makes no impression upon him that it happened before, right here in Toronto, 15 years ago when another eastern portion of the Gardiner Expressway was removed with little of the deleteriously overwrought fall out he’s now so concerned happening this time. This time. Never mind the evidence from other cities around the world that removed entire expressways and none burned to the ground because of it. This is Toronto. Things are different here.

At a Ryerson City Building Institute forum last night, Mayor Tory also came down against the idea of extending the municipal vote to permanent residents who live in the city. toff2“Tory said citizenship brings with it privileges and responsibilities and he has long advocated keeping voting as one of those privileges,” David Rider of the Toronto Star writes. As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be in the days of the Son of Man, am I right?

When asked by the mayor of Ajax, Steve Parish, if permanent resident voting might help diversify a city council’s make up, our mayor shrugged, couldn’t see how. Teach `em how to get elected, Mayor Tory countered, teach `em how to fundraise. Money makes the world go around, am I right?

It is a view where the status quo can only be challenged by embracing the status quo even tighter. Besides, do you really want to challenge the status quo? It’s done perfectly right by John Tory. We just need to all be more like John Tory, united around a bulging rolodex.

So with the more pressing aspects of running the city left largely untouched (not to mention unchallenged), Mayor Tory busies himself with the appearance of being a serious agent of change, stumping for relaxed rules for food truck vending around the city and the taxi app, Uber. See? Who’s disruptive now? toffThis guy, that’s who.

Food trucks and taxi apps. The silly stuff. Supercilious.

But the truth is, I wouldn’t be far off the mark describing Mayor Tory with the correct usage of that word. He is proving himself to be contemptuous of facts that don’t coalesce with his very rigid view of the world, how they city should run. There’s a certain arrogance reflected in ignoring contrary evidence. His is the privileged disdain of change that could challenge the privileged position he is accustomed to, that he was born into, that he doesn’t believe exists because he can’t see it.

Yeah. Supercilious. Actually, I think it fits quite nicely.

down-to-earthly submitted by Cityslikr