Vision Quest I

September 17, 2010

This one’s mine.

My colleagues here at All Fired Up in the Big Smoke are too compromised. Too caught up in the race. Too waist deep into the mindset of strategic voting and settling for A.B.F.

I am an old hippie. It’s not a label I shun. In fact, I embrace it.

As an old hippie, I retain a mighty mistrust of institutions, especially those ones that influence us greatly but seem impervious to our presence. Those we can only ignore as our last line of defense against them. The media is one such entity. For our purposes here, the media is the Man.

From the very beginning of this municipal campaign, we were presented a 6 candidate menu. Six candidates and six candidates only. Three sitting councillors. One former deputy premier of Ontario. Two neophytes, picked from the ether of political backrooms and media social circles. A couple of the councillors switched up and another dropped out, leaving us with a choice of five. All neatly wrapped and parceled out for our viewing/listening pleasure/displeasure.

When the people called out, hey, there’s an empty chair at the table, half-hearted measures were taken on occasion to fill it. With a 2nd Rocco, possessor of similar skills to the other five and a comparably uninspiring set of ideas. He proved ineffectual (no less so than Sarah Thomson but she remains) and soon fizzled out.

So there are 5.

Anything more would just be messy, we are told. Unruly. Counter-productive. These are your five choices. These are the ones you will see on your TV and read about in the newspapers. Choose.

I have another idea.

HiMY SYeD, the Peoples’ Mayor. He was featured here back in June, just after he’d popped in for cup of coffee on stage at the Better Ballots debate. “We’ve Had Enough Cowboys in City Hall, Now It’s Time for an Indian!” A hell of a punch line and we could leave it at that except for the fact that Mr. SYeD has proven to be much more than a gag candidate.

Following him since then or, at least trying to, as the man seems to be everywhere at once, it’s clear that he is a candidate worthy of careful consideration. A ferocious Tweeter, his constant updates reveal an individual at home with workings of the municipal government. It is in this writer’s humble opinion that HiMY SYeD is more knowledgeable about how City Hall operates than any of the other candidates save for, perhaps, Joe Pantalone. While council was still in session, he’d be there at meetings, deputations, community councils, all while campaigning. At the debates, he’d give real times answers to the questions that were posed as if he had been invited to participate.

He never has been which remains something of a nagging mystery. Invites have been extended and then retracted with no explanation attached. No one wants him involved it’s clear, from the candidates to debate organizers, begging the question why.

My take on it is simple. For all the talk of change we’re hearing during this election, it’s all nothing more than cosmetic change. No, that’s not quite right. Some of the proposed changes are quite radical in fact. But none meant to make the lives of Torontonians any better. The changes being offered up by Mssrs. Ford, Smitherman, Rossi and Ms. Thomson all amount to nothing other than telling the people of this city to expect less. That’s what comes from tax and spending cuts and hiring freezes.

Change for HiMY SYeD’s is a whole lot different than that. To try and understand his approach to change, one needs to look at the politics of Jaime Lerner. A 3 term mayor of Curitiba, Brazil’s 7th largest city, he is credited with helping turn around what was a typical South American urban environment, dirty, crime-ridden and intensely segregated along a gaping economic divide. By using the immediate, easy accessible tools at his disposal, Lerner transformed Curitiba into a prime example of greener, more sustainable, equitable and more livable city.

Despite what 80% of our front running candidates are bellowing at us, compared to the problems and difficulties cities in the developing world face, ours are mild and we have far more resources to deal with them. Hence, Mr. SYeD’s calm and considered approach to change. Or what he calls, transformation. “Change is no longer enough,” according to Mr. SYeD.

Vision 2020 offers a glimpse into Mr. SYeD’s thinking about change/transformation. Calling it “an integrated 10 year strategy of hope in Toronto” (some of which voters might recognize as recent additions to a few of the leading  mayoral candidates’ platforms and announcements), it consists of 3 simple ideas. Mobility. Sustainability. Identity.

From those come specific ideas. A move to complete streets which is not a War on Cars but rather an acknowledgement that in a healthy city, private vehicles can no longer have primacy on the roads. Designate neighbourhoods that develop and implement sustained and green technology for the city to use. SaTuRN. Sustainable Architectural Technological Urban Research Neighbourhood District. Bring about an elected comptroller for the city to deal with our finances. According to Mr. SYeD, Toronto doesn’t have a spending problem. It has a borrowing problem. In terms of increasing citizen involvement with the city, Vision 2020 proposes neighbourhood councils to be elected annually and with a real say in what happens in their neighbourhoods.

HiMY SYeD wants to bring about what he calls, “Transformational Regime”. What’s that, you ask? I’ll let him explain it.

A Transformational Regime built upon the foundations of three faculties:

1) Strategic Alliance — A stable, highly committed group of political, economic, and social interests that share a common strategic purpose. We have it already: The Toronto City Summit Alliance.

2) Local Practices of Urbanism — The planning processes, technical solutions, designs, and business models that shape the way Toronto is built, serviced and used so as to achieve our defined strategic purpose.

3) Strategic Institutions — A dedicated institutional apparatus responsive to the alliance, for developing, testing, and diffusing our new practices of urbanism.

These three faculties form a practice “regime” with the stability and power to transform urban form, regional markets, and local culture to establish a New Urbanism in Toronto.

The key is putting more power into the hands of the people rather than the top down, institutional change the leading candidates are vowing to inflict on us. Thus, HiMY SYeD, the Peoples’ Mayor. A pie in the sky dreamer? No. I’d call it dreaming little to bring about big changes.

More to the point, HiMY SYeD has proven himself to be a viable candidate who deserves to be heard. Those of us in the city looking for real change deserve to hear him, to see him up on stage with those who’ve been designated as our only choices. Denying him access only heightens suspicion that real change is being denied us.

So start to holler and demand that space be made for you to hear HiMY SYeD. Go to ArtsVote and vote for him to be the 6th candidate at their debate on September 29th. He deserves it. We deserve it.

Last word to Mr. SYeD:

Vision 2020 – Another Toronto is Possible. A Twenty Year Urban Strategy embracing Mobility, Sustainability, Identity — Where Everyone feels and says, “We Belong”.

“We Belong, Here.”

— assertively submitted by Acaphlegmic


The Real Agenda Debate

September 8, 2010

The boys of summer are gone replaced by men of fall (no offense, Ms. Thomson), all in their resplendent autumnal colours and nary a pair of white slacks between them. From the starter’s tower, the white flag has been waved signaling the commencement of the final lap. (If you thought it meant surrender, you’re not a Rob Ford supporter.) Months and months of mindless posturing and can kicking now gives way to grave seriousness and weighty deliberation.

And nothing says ‘weighty deliberation’ more than a mayoral debate on TVO hosted by respected journo, Steve Paikin. He’ll civilize the proceedings, quiet the roar to a more pleasing, easy to follow decibel. There’ll be no grandstanding under Steve Paikin’s watch. The candidates won’t be able to slime their way out of the tight corners Steve Paikin will put them in. This one’s going to be different. Steve Paikin will finally shed the light of truth and reason on the race and we’ll all be the better for it.

Did he?

Well, yes and no. The sound level on yesterday’s debate was noticeably lower than previous televised debates but, then again, isn’t everything more quiet on TVO? They don’t have the money to buy one of them kick-ass volume goes to 11 amps. It certainly felt more dignified, less shouty and aggressively confrontational. Steve Paikin held much tighter onto the reigns, never letting things veer too out of control. Steve Paikin was insistent without being obnoxious. A one hour debate moderated by Steve Paikin brought much more clarity than any two hour debate we’ve witnessed so far.

And just what was that clarity, you ask?

Well, it become glaringly apparent that, barring some minor miracle, some Hail Mary pass being tossed up and caught, Toronto will be led by someone intent on cutting it down to size. Our next mayor is going to want to see blood on the floor and guts exposed. The terms of the debate are now set in stone. It’s no longer if the city has a spending problem but what to do about the spending problem.

Rob Ford is already the winner of this election even if he doesn’t become mayor on October 25th. His endless braying chant of Toronto not having a revenue problem but a spending problem has been whole-heartedly picked up by Mssrs. Smitherman and Rossi and Ms. Thomson and embraced, leaving any other opinion or view on the matter simply peep, peep, peeping quietly and ineffectively out of the mouth of Joe Pantalone. I know conventional wisdom has it that Councillor Pantalone is simply not a good campaigner but the malaise goes deeper than that. His refusal to embrace the last 7 years, both the good and bad, has put him purely on the defensive, reactive not proactive.

So he’s ceded the battleground to the interloping tax-and-spend choppers, the self-proclaimed white knights with a thirst for government blood. Major surgery will be needed, folks, to cure the ailing patient. But don’t worry. It won’t hurt a bit. At least not for you, what with that protective coating of tax cuts. You’ll be fine. You’ll barely even notice the freezing/cutting spending at City Hall because, seriously, what have they been doing for you over the past 7 years? What with all that retirement partying and sole sourcing and gravy train gulping they’ve been doing…

The table is now set. It’s only a matter of what and how much to axe, what to sell off and who and how much to outsource. The last remaining vestige of liberal impulse in any of the front runners (sorry Joe, you’re not really a front runner) was tossed out by George Smitherman yesterday when he said, cryptically, “There will be less Copenhagen, more Scarborough.” As if Toronto’s problems can be traced back to being too Copenhagen-ish. Clearly, Smitherman’s now speaking code to conservative voters, assuring them once he’s mayor there’ll be no more of that smarty-pants, European, environmental, bike riding going on under his watch. Strip malls for everyone!

Enough Of The Downtown Shenanigans®©™ has become the framework of our mayoral campaign. It’s time to get back down to basics; the basics of low taxes and government spending on only the essentials. And then what?

This is where future debates have to take us. We now know what any one of Ford, Smitherman, Rossi and Thomson will do if they are elected. It’s only a difference of degree between them. What we need to discover is once they’ve restored our fiscal house to order, what kind of city will Toronto look like. They are all harkening back to a former time of Toronto greatness which they vow to restore. When was that exactly? The good ol’ days of… ? Mel Lastman? Art Eggleton? David Crombie? Nathan Phillips? William Lyon Mackenzie?

Because if things are as bad as everyone’s assuring us they are, and can only be fixed by returning to a magical, mystical place in the past, just when was that exactly? That’s what I want to start hearing from our mayoral candidates. Paint us a picture of the Toronto we’ll be living in when your job as mayor is done here. A time, like that one in the past you keep referring to, when there were no problems to solve and seldom was heard a discouraging word.

inquiring mindedly submitted by Cityslikr


No More More Of The Same

September 5, 2010

Earlier this week as the mayoral candidates prepared for another series of debates, some questions popped up about the inclusion of 6th placer, Rocco Achampong. Why now? Why not months ago? Nobody ever listened to what former candidate Giorgio Mammoliti said about anything else when he was campaigning. So how come they took him up on including Achampong in the debates?

The most salient argument against including newcomers to the proceedings at this relatively late stage of the game is that now is the time to start winnowing down not opening up. We need to focus in on the front running campaigns, one of which will produce Toronto’s next mayor. To throw the doors open will simply muddy the waters, cause voter disarray and make post-Labour Day clarity and decision making near impossible.

My response to that would be, have the candidates earned such a free pass? Months and months into this, with countless debates already under their belts and exclusive media access, and no one’s yet broken through. So what’s just more of the same going to accomplish?

Of course, that’s not entirely true. Rob Ford has more than broken through. He is the one candidate that has run what must be considered a near flawless campaign so far. How else to explain his turning a mindlessly pea-brained platform that can be re-uttered by even the densest voter – Stop The Gravy Train! – into a 1st place standing? Ford should be the joke of this race and yet the only one to even so much as land a punch on him is, well, Ford himself.

Take this past week for example. Ford bumbled, stumbled and fumbled through 3 debates, two of which, to be fair, were not his strong suit, city heritage and the environment. But what’s the news grabbing the headlines over the weekend? George Smitherman telling a Rocco Rossi campaign staffer to either fuck or screw off after they tried handing him some pamphlet apparently critical of his candidacy.

(To give George some props on this issue, I’ve encountered the Rossi Red Army at a number of debates. Their aggressive chair saving and Pavlovian cheering at their candidate’s increasingly loud, shrill empty rhetoric have made me inclined to want to tell a few of them to fuck off on occasion as well. So that’s a point for Smitherman in my books.)

If anything, this suggests that the mayoral debates need some new blood not a closing of ranks. Achampong has not embarrassed himself even if he hasn’t distinguished himself either. Part of the problem as I see it is that he’s singing from the same fiscal conservative, social liberal songbook as Smitherman, Rossi and Thomson. So it’s difficult to differentiate his views from the rest of the pack. Still, he’s proving that there are other credible candidates out there we should be hearing from.

My first choice would be HiMY SYeD. (Don’t worry, potential debate moderators. The name’s much easier to pronounce than it looks. Simpler than ‘Achampong’ which seems to be giving everyone verbal fits.) Following SYeD out on the hustings largely through his almost superhuman Twitter output, he appears to have more knowledge and ideas about civic governance than any of the leading candidates outside of Joe Pantalone. Let’s see how he fares up under the debate spotlights. He’s earned it.

That’s seven. How be we make it an even number? I’d nominate George Babula or Sonny Yeung. Give them a crack at the big time. Hell, let’s see what Keith Cole is up too as the campaign kicks into high gear. He acquitted himself well at the Better Ballots debate back in June. No reason he wouldn’t again if given another shot.

While much noise is being made over this final summer long weekend about how people’s attention will start to hone in on the municipal campaign as it heads toward the October 25th conclusion, I’m not sure how delivering them the same dog-and-pony show will accomplish anything other than having more people feeling as discouraged and disenchanted as those who’ve been following from the beginning. To borrow an inane phrase Rocco Rossi’s been touting over and over again, isn’t the definition of insanity doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting a different result? What this campaign doesn’t need is more of the same. It needs a shake-up that can only come with bringing in new voices and new ideas.

still hopeful(ly) submitted by Cityslikr


Architecture Of A Debate

August 31, 2010

Seated in a packed Great Hall on the 3rd floor of the St. Lawrence Hall last night awaiting the most recent mayoral debate, this one hosted by Heritage Toronto, I took in the (mercifully) air-conditioned magnificence of the room. Its salmon coloured walls… or were they pink? Hard to tell in the dim light cast by the gas-powered chandelier and wall sconces. Is that what they’re called, sconces?

Politics runs deep in this building, having hosted the likes of John A. Macdonald, Thomas D’Arcy McGee, George Brown and abolitionist Frederick Douglass. Maybe tonight we’d witness a politician rising to the occasion to match the august surroundings. A breakout performance that would signal a turnaround in the so-far dreary race. One has to maintain hope in such possibilities if one doesn’t want to become totally disillusioned with the process.

After two hours, it was obvious nothing of the sort was going to happen but… but… Let me say this as we head humidly toward Labour Day, the unofficial end of summer and beginning of the campaign’s witching hour where carriages turn into pumpkins and us Prince Charmings run around in a desperate attempt to find someone who fits into the glass slipper. George Smitherman looks as if he’s getting into fighting form.

There were flashes during the debate where, for the first since he declared his intentions to run for mayor, we actually caught glimpses of humanity in George rather than a political machine. Hey, I found myself thinking a couple of times last night, the man actually likes this city he wants to lead. Maybe City Hall isn’t just a stepping stone for him on his way to a higher profile political gig. Who knows how much smoother the campaign trail might’ve been had he embraced a more conciliatory stance toward the current governance of this city from the get-go instead of joining the chorus of blind ragers looking to do nothing more than stir-up a pool of discontent with loud bellowing.

Smitherman was primed and ready for a healthy debate, having released his 5-point Heritage Plan earlier in the day. He came across as one-step ahead of everyone else on stage (football fields ahead in some cases), weaving policy talk in with personal anecdotes of living a heritage related life, not always seamlessly but more often than not effectively. His response to the question about the disparity between heritage preservation in the downtown core versus the suburbs, slyly extended an olive branch to the suburbs with his vow to empower community councils to deal with such matters. There was the odd political swipe, left and right, here and there. He also expressed a surprising antagonism to the idea of putting a Toronto museum into the old City Hall building ‘sometime in the future’ after the courts had been moved elsewhere which seemed an unnecessary shout-out to the fiscal conservatives surrounding him.

Still, to our eyes, it was Smitherman’s strongest debate performance to date and should make Team Rob Ford look down from measuring for new curtains in the Mayor’s office (paid for entirely by Rob Ford, of course) and realize that it may take more than name-calling and scandal mongering to put their candidate into office. For his part, Mr. Ford once again looked out-of-place and ill at ease addressing one of them downtown, elitist crowds. Although he did zero to help his cause like, maybe, brush up on the topic at hand a little. He seems pathologically unable to veer from his script and eventually drew derisive groans, mocking laughter and the odd heckle as he refused to answer many of the questions asked of all the debaters, and drifted off onto inane non sequiturs and pat responses.

It’s almost painful to witness over the course of 2 hours. Almost. To the point where I wonder why he participates in these particular debates at all. Then I remember this is primo campaign strategy. The laughing and jeering has nothing to do with Rob Ford being ill-informed and thick-headed and all about the smug, condescending downtowners who’ll get theirs when Rob Ford becomes mayor. So far, it’s been working for him but they may have to add to the repertoire if Smitherman continues to perform like he did last night.

As for the others?

Rocco Rossi, despite his campaign team shake up over the weekend, remains almost as single-mindedly fixated on a ‘single money for value’ issue as Ford although he’s added another neo-conservative trick to his… wherever you add a trick. A trick bag? Voter Recall which has done wonders for places like California. Rossi just seemed louder than he usually does but did pronounce his love of the city’s ravines. Loudly.

Joe Pantalone was performing in front of a supportive crowd and, as usual, had nice moments especially when he responded to a question of ‘cultural landscapes’. But he seems unable to deliver a sustained performance over the course of an entire debate, lapsing back into soft platitudes when he doesn’t appear all that interested in the topic. He’s also developed an annoying tic of punching a single point relentlessly from the morning’s strategy meeting. Last night? The Fort York bicentennial, coming up in 2012. Again and again. Yeah, we get it, Joe. Fort York = Heritage.

Once more, Sarah Thomson appeared out of her depth, saying little more than ‘let’s preserve old buildings’. How can a candidate (aside from Rob Ford) seem continually surprised and caught off-guard at a debate on Heritage by questions about, well, heritage? Last night might represent the weakest we’ve seen Ms. Thomson.

For the second time we watched Rocco Achampong take a spot alongside the front running candidates and are now convinced that it should be his last. While chalking up his underwhelming performance at June’s Better Ballots debate to a case of nerves, once again last night he displayed a knack for not delivering a succinct point in his allotted time. Ever. There’s no focus to his campaign and as a candidate, he seems torn between two instincts: a fiscal conservatism and social liberalism. They seem at war with one another and render him conflicted and ineffective. It’s time to turn over the one measly chair to another outsider candidate.

Debate moderator, former Chief City Planner of Toronto and professor of City Planning at U of T and Ryerson, Paul Bedford, closed out the debate saying that cities need to grow on purpose not by accident and implored all those in the Great Hall to go out and “make passionate love to the city”. Well, we didn’t see a lot of that on display from the candidates but it was interesting and more than a little heartening to watch George Smitherman’s iciness toward it begin to thaw, just a little. With it not even Labour Day yet, we may be seeing signs of the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

dutifully submitted by Cityslikr


Going To Pot

August 19, 2010

Frankly, I’m skeptical about the whole Rob Ford Caught With Pot in Florida story. It stinks to high heaven and not at all in the good way. That nice deep earthy, skunky way.

Firstly, I am not unfamiliar with the weed and have known my share of folks who are regular partakers. Never have I encountered someone of Ford’s personality trait who likes pot. At a party, they’ll wave an extended hand off, saying it doesn’t do much for them except make them sleepy.

Now, maybe there’s a laidback side to the man that very few of us get to see. Relaxin’ Rob, kickin’ it old school in FLA, wearing nothing but a speedo, blowing a doob and scarfing back pounds and pounds of shrimp cocktail.  Maybe, but I just can’t picture it. I just don’t want to picture it.

As has already been stated all over the interwebs, if Rob Ford were an illegal drug user, it would be a drug like coke. Crystal meth. Amyl nitrate poppers. OK, maybe not amyl nitrate. But then again, maybe. Whatever drugs it was that killed Chris Farley, those would be Rob Ford’s drugs of choice. If he were an illegal drug user.

Secondly, who broke the story and the timing of it are both highly, highly suspicious. Like the previous drug related pseudo-scandal involving Rob allegedly offering to illegally buy oxycontin for his new gay best friend, it was the Toronto Sun bringing us the pot tale. (Note the paper playfully chiding him as a Bad Boy.) By breaking this story now, the pro-Ford rag helped their candidate get out ahead of it, call himself yet another press conference to clear up yet another misstep, all well before election day when, hopefully, voters will have long since forgotten it.

More importantly, this minor blip of a controversy comes just 48 hours after Ford took his first real hit of the campaign during Tuesday night’s televised mayoral debate. When the topic of the Tamil “migrants” was raised, Ford stated that until we got our house in order and took care of the people who already live here we shouldn’t be going out of our way to welcome newcomers. Maybe it just came out the wrong way but no amount of spinning by the Ford people could totally obscure the fact that their guy might be a little bit of a xenophobic bigot.

Now, to his rock solid base — the Ford Army — his view on this was not just inconsequential but probably bang on. Everything the man says is bang on. In their eyes, Rob Ford can do or say no wrong. He could be caught strangling a baby while anally penetrating himself with a fuzzy puppy and they wouldn’t so much as blanch. That would just be Rob being Rob. What are you going to do? THE CITY DOESN’T HAVE A REVENUE PROBLEM! THE CITY HAS A SPENDING PROBLEM!! STOP THE GRAVY TRAIN!!!

The question is, however, is his base large enough to elect Rob Ford mayor on its own? One would hope in 2010 Toronto that wouldn’t be the case. Although we may be caught off-guard at just how many hillbillies we live amongst, they still aren’t plentiful enough to sweep Ford into office single-handedly.

So he has to reach out a little toward the right of centre. Not much, especially if the race continues as it is with these 5 front runners and 4 of them not having the devoted following that Ford has. Just 5-10% of those somewhat disaffected uncommitteds who feel overtaxed and underserviced and possess a streak of libertarianism in them. Those people still angry about having had to deal with their own garbage for 6 weeks last summer.

But when they hear Rob Ford being labeled as a mean-spirited bigot, they recoil. Ewww. That’s not right. John Tory would never say anything like that. And suddenly Rocco Rossi and Sarah Thomson begin to look like viable alternatives.

That is the sheer genius of the sudden appearance of the Rob Ford busted for pot and refusing a breathalyzer test in Florida more than 10 years ago story. It wipes the immigration gaffe right off the map and helps no one but Rob Ford. Given his history of boorish behaviour, it wouldn’t surprise me for a minute that he’s got hundreds of these things in his back pocket to use every time he says or does something that could seriously jeopardize his candidacy. With still 7 weeks to go in the election, he’ll probably have to use all of them.

I have now stopped thinking of the brain trust of Rob Ford’s campaign as mouth-breathing dunderheads who hold their daily meetings over hundreds of chicken wings at some Hooters. Whoever they are – and I still don’t see it being the candidate himself – they are proving themselves to be pure evil masterminds and should no longer be underestimated. For those who do not want to see Rob Ford as our next mayor, they have to ignore these insignificant diversionary tactics and continue to focus on all the real reasons he is unfit for the office.

mellowly submitted by Urban Sophisticat


Despite Its Best Intentions CP24 Delivers The Debate Goods

August 18, 2010

In spite of its continued attempts to broadcast yet another substance-free televised debate last night, CP24 might just have inadvertently delivered one of those turning point moments that can define a campaign. Let’s not overlook the fact that it happened in Ben Mulroney’s absence. While not actually hard enough proof of cause and effect, I do think it’s worth conducting the experiment again with the next debate for further evidence. Do Toronto a favour, Ben, and stay home with the kids!

Although to be fair, it was apparently his grade school idea of picking names from a hat that delivered the seminal moment for me. If you haven’t been following along throughout the summer, each candidate picks another candidate’s name from a hat and asks them a question. Yeah, yeah. It is usually as lame as it sounds but last night Rocco Rossi had the great fortune of picking Rob Ford’s name and, surprisingly, he offered up a softball question that Ford, if he possessed an iota of sense amidst all the rage and indignation, could’ve/should’ve taken yard.

Rossi asked Ford to comment on a recent Toronto Sun article that suggested Ford didn’t single-handedly shepherd the Woodbine Live deal through council as he’s been spouting as an example of how he can work well with his colleagues and get votes passed. According to the rabidly pro-Ford rag, fellow Etobicoke councillor, Suzan Hall also had a hand in getting council unanimously on side. Here, Ford was handed the opportunity to reach out, seem collegial and show the city that he can play with others.

Instead, Rob Ford replied: “She had nothing to do with it. I was the one doing all the leg work.”

Yep. For the second time in a week, Ford’s gone out of his way to diminish, dismiss and generally kick in the slats everyone he works with. First, another councillor from Etobicoke and fiscal conservative soulmate, Doug Holyday, was paraded out to dejectedly state that maybe, just maybe, Ford shouldn’t call city council ‘corrupt’, at least not without some proof. And now this big fuck you to Suzan Hall.

So to you fanboys out there, trumpeting the ascension of Rob Ford and crowing about all the ass he’s going to kick and unions he’s going to bash and cyclists he’s going to run over, if your man gets elected, he’s going to be a mayor of one. All red faced and blustery, he’ll spend his time in office, stomping his feet and bellowing how he can’t get anything done, blaming everyone else but himself when the fact is, while pathological assholes who can’t work with others may be an asset when running an inherited business, it simply doesn’t fly at a non-political party municipal government level.

Oh, yeah. And there was that whole keeping newcomers out of Toronto thing that sprung up last night as well.

Now, I’m not going to call the racist card on Ford with this. I won’t even label him xenophobic because none of his followers will understand what the word means. What I will say is that his remarks in response to questions about the Tamil “migrants” on the west coast reveal a level of ignorance about urban demographic flow that no non-illiterate adult should possess. Like it or not, the world is becoming more and more ‘citified’, to use some hillbilly talk that seems highly appropriate, and we can’t or shouldn’t want to call a timeout so that we can make sure the house is all pur-dy for our guests’ arrival.

Spin all you want, Fordites, but it can’t mask the fact that you’re backing a talking horse who spouts Tea Party sentiments and everyone who signs on to the movement are simply porch sitting, AM radio listening, backwards looking Know-Nothings. What’s next? Building a fence around the city?

Despite that, there’s no reason to think that Rob Ford won’t be our next mayor. None of the other front running candidates are rising to match his simple-minded clarion call.

George Smitherman seems to be sharping his elbows and is starting to smother the talk of eHealth scandal and other provincial government nefariousness under his watch with a blanket of facts, figures and examples of positive things he oversaw. Now if somebody would just tell him that he doesn’t always need to use up every second of his allotted time. The more he talks, the more it becomes apparent that he’s not saying anything.

Sarah Thomson is no longer the doe-eyed valedictorian. She now just seems torn between two warring impulses. The more socially progressive Sarah which is the result of having two artist parents and the fiscally conservative Sarah who built a million dollar business by the time she was 30. What emerges is an utterly meaningless ‘Toronto has a management problem’ message. So I guess we should just fire all the managers then?

While being far more eloquent and sounding much more reasonable than, say, Rob Ford, Rocco Rossi is similarly one-note. “Value for Money” may mean something to business school types but to me it just sounds like Rossi’s talking to, well, business school types. We would all like value for money, Mr. Rossi. Sometimes it just doesn’t work out that way especially in government which is not nor should it be a for-profit enterprise.

Leaving us with the most perplexing campaign among the front runners, Joe Pantalone. I do not get what he’s doing at all. With the left side of the spectrum wide open to him, he insists on snuggling up to the cushy but crowded centre along with Smitherman, Thomson and Rossi. I understand with no ideological threat from that angle, he feels free to ignore voters positioned there because where else do they have to go? Still, he’s defining himself as indistinguishable from the other three and getting lost in the shuffle. Their “freshness” makes him seem stale.

Pantalone should just step back and vigorously defend the administration he’s been an integral part of. Despite what his opponents scream and yell, I don’t think there’s nearly the rampant anti-incumbency among voters that the other candidates are counting on. That’s something they have to believe is out there (and stir up) because they’re not offering anything else. Joe just needs to stop giving over to the reality his rivals are trying to create and show us that, despite being in the throes of a nasty economic downturn and the pains that we’re undergoing as we move into a post-manufacturing centre, Toronto remains a vibrant and healthy place to live.

That’s why people will risk their lives to endure an arduous ocean passage to make their way here. For a better life. We have it despite what all the nay-saying contenders for the mayor’s office are trying to tell us.

dutifully submitted by Cityslikr


Tough On The TPS Budget? Crime Lover.

August 17, 2010

Politics these days seem to operate counter to our ingrained, chivalric notion of how to behave during an emergency: women and children first. Maybe it was always thus, nothing more than a lofty ideal, entirely untested under real world situations. As a relatively able-bodied male, I’m all for jettisoning such quaintness when the tornadoes’ are coming and the ships are sinking. Every man for himself! (The gender specificity of the noun was entirely deliberate.)

With our political house on fire — at least that’s what’s being yelled in the municipal campaign theatre of operations by our front running mayoral candidates – it’s all about trampling the slow footed and weak on our way to the exits. Everybody’s vowing to get tough with the easy to get tough with targets. Faceless city bureaucrats who make our existence miserable each and every day. Outside workers bringing hell down upon this city with each strike they subject us to. Snoozing, break taking, booze-sodden TTC workers and their can’t-do attitude. Oh, we’re so going to declare you an essential service! Economics of it be damned!!

In typical bully fashion, however, nary a peep has been heard about what to do about the out-of-control spending the city’s lavished upon the Toronto Police Service. Shhhhh! Don’t mention the Police Service. They might hear us.

According to some numbers being bandied about over the weekend, during King David’s profligate reign at City Hall, the TPS’s budget has grown nearly a quarter billion dollars, from just over $700 million in 2004 to just under a billion dollars in 2010. That’s over a 35% increase in 6 years. In fact, just this past year when budget chief Shelley Carroll was asking all departments for 5% cuts in their budget, the TPS received nearly a 4% increase. That’s the kind of bird flipping candidate George Smitherman vowed to crush if elected mayor yet, so far, it’s been all quiet from him in terms of going to war with the Police Service.

Ditto tough guy Rob Ford. Nothing on the matter from Rockin’ Rocco Rossi’s camp. Sarah Thomson’s been similarly mum on the matter.

Why ever would that be, we wonder?

Now, I’m not here to say that the Police Service is being coddled and mollified, shown far more respect than all other city services. For all I know, they deserve every single penny the city hands over to them. It’s just the glaring double standard that our leading candidates for mayor are employing that has caught our attention.

Hey, hey, hey, you’ll yell at me, and point out the dropping crime statistics over the last decade or so. Shouldn’t we be rewarding a job well done? If we cut police spending, crime will climb. Probably.

Probably although I am no social scientist, so don’t know the ins-and-outs of that line of argument. But if we equate success with increased expenditure, why don’t we start throwing money at other problem areas? Increased spending on social housing could mean decreased homelessness. More money on infrastructure might translate into better roads and fewer water main breaks.

Imagine if we unleashed countless billions on the TTC! We could have a transit system that would be the envy of the—No, wait. We do spend billions on the TTC and everyone’s displeasure with it is near unanimous.

So a money-equaling-effectiveness argument is a tenuous one, as many of the mayoral candidates have stated themselves. We can’t just throw money at our problems, we are told. And yet no one is complaining about all the money being thrown at the TPS. Why the deference?

Much of the discussion about this that I encountered over the last few days began with variations of the familiar disclaimer, I’m as pro-police as anybody, It’s not that I’m anti-police, as if a pledge of fidelity is needed before anyone can offer up a critique of our men and women in blue. Where’s the similar sentiment – I’m as pro-TTC as anybody – when criticizing our transit system? It’s not that I’m anti-garbage collection, it’s just that I think we should open bidding up to the private sector.

You’re either with us or you’re against us is the established parameter when offering up any sort of police-related opinion. We saw that with the G20 fallout earlier this summer. Members of City Council fell over themselves to prove to our besieged police service that they were in no way siding with the criminal element on the issue. The doubters, the panderers to terrorists, simply ducked for cover. In this environment, it doesn’t pay politically to be seen as anything other than the law & order type. It is an easy exploitable sign of weakness.

So our cadre of tough talking front running mayoral candidates tip-toe past the TPS budget numbers without raising so much as a collective eyebrow. Should they? I’m as pro-police as the next guy but it just seems to me that if they’re all going to run around like Chicken Littles telling us that the fiscal sky is falling, there should be some discussion about one of the biggest ticket items in the city’s budget. Otherwise, it reveals either a glaring lack of attention to detail or a knee-jerk cravenness in the face of a powerful interest group. Neither quality is one we really should be looking for in our next mayor.

law and orderly submitted by Urban Sophisticat