Sick of Transit Inglorious Bumbling

February 10, 2015

If someone had said to me back in October 2013 after our city council had just narrowly voted to scuttle the planned Scarborough LRT extension of the Bloor-Danforth line in favour a subway that we’d be back debating it in early 2015 even with a new administration in place, my response probably would have been, Fer sure, dude. illbebackNot just because Toronto has a history of protracted, feisty, divisive transit debates. But because this Scarborough subway decision was idiotic, politically cynical, and hostage to the loudest, most ill-informed voice in the room.

So yeah. Let’s keep rehashing this fucker. Keep banging the pans until maybe we get this right. Maybe get it right.

I want the subway defenders up on their feet again, massaging ridership numbers. I want to hear their outraged indignation at the price tag of the sunk costs for cancelling the LRT, numbers we all knew going in. I want city staff to tally up those numbers, line by agonisingly detailed line, publicly, so we can all hear what we’re paying for not to have.

I want to hear again how world class cities make monumentally bone-headed infrastructure decisions purely to placate a handful of self-interested politicians who are willing to sacrifice the good of the wider city for nothing more than parochial pandering. notpossibleWorse yet, misguided pandering it would seem.

And let’s hear from our new mayor who, during last year’s campaign, blithely shrugged off Scarborough subway-vrs-LRT questions with an unconcerned We’ll Not Reopen That Debate Again. Uh huh. That debate, she be reopened again, Mr. Mayor.

Since it is, what will the mayor say when it’s pointed out (and it will be pointed out) that his own signature transit plan, SmartTrack, puts further stress on the already dubious viability of a Scarborough subway extension, the southeastern section of it possibly eating into ridership?

Or maybe he’ll address the lost money in sunk costs, some $75-85 million, coming out of this year’s budget, roughly the same amount he needs to balance that budget. That really worth not reopening this debate, I wonder? Just going along to get along is what passes for fiscal prudence these days, I guess.

It’s never too late tnotlisteningo rewrite a mistake, especially this early in the process. As far as I know, the signed Master Agreement between the city and Metrolinx remains in place. We already know what’s going to happen if it gets opened up. Subways for everybody! This madness could be stopped.

Do I expect it too?

Not really. There’s too much vested interest in place, beyond just at City Hall to see at least the subway extension happen. It’s hard to imagine a mass Paul on the road to Damascus moment with this.

Still, stranger things have happened on the floor of council when things heat up. The October 2013 vote was a close one, some of the prime subway supporters have moved on or seen their status diminished. onemoretimeThere may be a big enough opening on hand for one or two of the fence-sitters to change their minds without losing face. Maybe a few of the council newcomers might want to make their mark by not joining in on the stupidity, not falling into line and shouldering the burden of cleaning up the mess they weren’t responsible for creating.

It may be the height of insanity to demand another transit do-over with the expectation of a different outcome. Magical subway thinking has taken a strong hold on common sense in this debate. But given the costs at stake in pursuing this ridiculous blunder, it’s worth a try.

smooth sailingly submitted by Cityslikr

 


Let’s Just Disagree To Agree

October 16, 2013

Watching as the wagons circle tighter around Mayor Ford, what remains of his loyal footmen launching darts at the most recently exiled from the base camp, iwonderI wonder if I too am being politically opportunistic. While the likes of councillors Giorgio Mammoliti, Denzil Minnan-Wong and (of course) Doug Ford along with the faithful stenographers at the Toronto Sun attempt to diminish and denigrate their colleague, Paul Ainslie, with school yard name calling, I embrace him as one of ours. A principled, well-informed participant in our local democracy.

Yeah. That’s how I see myself when I look in the mirror in the morning. After applying a little spit and polish. Don’t you?

I wasn’t alone yesterday in finding myself wincing slightly while taking in Councillor Ainslie’s press conference denouncing the mayor’s robocall response to Ward 43 residents after the councillor had voted against the Scarborough subway plan.

“What I’ve been about as a Councillor is the value of taxpayers’ money,” Ainslie said, “I’m with this mayor in fighting the gravy train at city hall…Many people like the Ford agenda, and so have I. That’s why I backed Rob Ford from the outset, and was a member of the Mayor’s Executive Committee. I’m proud of all that has been accomplished.”

There’s so much about that statement that makes me want to scream. The gravy train! simpsonsshudderWhat accomplishments? I’m sorry, councillor. You backed Rob Ford from the outset?

Looking back at some of my posts from early on in this administration, I clearly had a low opinion of Councillor Ainslie. Confession time. I was the brains behind a Twitter parody account mocking the councillor. (A sidebar: parody accounts are really, really hard to sustain. My hats off to all of those who can pull it off.) For me, he represented that largely silent block, enabling the administration’s worst instincts.

But as I pointed out in my post yesterday, Councillor Ainslie was also quietly going about interesting business in terms of civic engagement and participation as chair of the Government Management Committee. Earlier this year, he pushed forward with the Nathan Phillips Square revitalization (which he had originally opposed back in the day) complete with a new bike parking station. “If you’re getting people off the road, out of their cars using either public transportation or their bikes, in the long run, I think it is worth it,” he said. reconsiderAinslie’s been instrumental in trying to alter the approach the city takes with development charges in order to direct growth in areas that have been long neglected.

I can’t believe I actually have to write this — for my sake as much as anybody’s – but times being what they are… Gradations of political approaches, let’s call them, actually still survive out there in the world of imaginary black and white. Only those thriving on an us-versus-them divisiveness want to pretend otherwise. Despite the attempts at easy to understand packaging that highlights a brand, it’s counter-productive to try and govern in such a manner. As we’re currently experiencing.

Look, I’ve already said that, given the importance of subways to the very viability of the Ford administration and just how vocal Councillor Ainslie was in opposing this particular one in Scarborough, there should’ve been a parting of ways. But the unnecessary attempts to vilify him, the Burn The Witch squeal is nothing but scorched earth policy. paintswatchesDefy us, Defy Ford Nation, and there will be dire consequences.

That’s not how things get done. That’s how things get undone.

Councillor Ainslie and I arrived at an agreement that the LRT option for extending the Bloor-Danforth subway further into Scarborough was the best way forward for entirely different, if related reasons. His was financial. It was a needless imposition on municipal taxpayers. “For the record, I have always supported a subway for those who live in Scarborough,” the councillor said in his statement. “Just two and a half months ago I joined the Mayor and voted in favour of a subway. I voted for a subway based on sound financial transparency, disclosure and the commitment there would be no tax hike for people in this city and especially my constituents.”

I don’t happen to agree. Scarborough doesn’t need or deserve a subway. consensuspieIt needs better transit and it needs it 20 years ago. In my opinion, LRTs are a much better fit. I’d be perfectly happy with a dedicated property tax increase that built more LRTs running all through Scarborough and York and North York and Etobicoke.

Despite that difference of opinion, Councillor Ainslie and I ended up in the same camp. That’s how democracy is supposed to function. Reaching a workable consensus through negotiation and horse-trading.

That’s just a basic civics lesson we seem to have forgotten, much to our detriment.

kumbiyahly submitted by Cityslikr


Standing Up To The Mayor

October 15, 2013

Here’s why I’m not a gambling man.

kennyrogers

Back in the early days of the Ford administration if you’d offered me the longest of long shot odds that Councillor Paul Ainslie would be a likely candidate to publicly break with the mayor, I’dve turned you down flat. Not possible, I’d say. There aren’t odds oddsy enough to make me take that bet.

Well, here we are.

On Friday, Councillor Ainslie not only resigned his chair of the Parks and Recreation committee exitstageright(automatically walking away from the powerful Executive Committee in the process) but he did so in a very loud and public fashion.

According to the councillor, Mayor Ford “ran out of ideas a long time ago” and has a “lack of strategic objectives.”

Ouch.

Councillor Ainslie isn’t the first former ally and Executive Committee member to part ways with the mayor but he might be the noisiest. Both councillors Michelle Berardinetti and Giorgio Mammoliti slipped away gently, citing their own reasons for doing so. Councillor Mammoliti has already crawled back onto the Executive Committee, directly replacing Ainslie.

Only Councillor Jaye Robinson’s departure from the inner sanctum back in June made a similar kind of splash. She was turfed for suggesting in her outside voice that maybe Mayor Ford should take a little time away from his position to deal with any sort of personal issues he might be having. pileonRobinson has not shied away from her break with the administration, weighing in on her colleague’s exit and the subsequent robo-call roll out from the mayor’s office that followed.

“We should be encouraging independent thought at City Hall,” she said in the radio interview and referred to Mayor Ford’s ‘leadership style’ as nothing more than “bluster and intimidation” “The farthest thing from transparent and accountable government.”

Along with Ainslie’s transition from an almost Tommy-like support (deaf, dumb and blind…actually, let’s call it Gary Crawford-like support) at the beginning of this term to a bona fide outspoken maverick of Mayor Ford, Councillor Robinson’s increasingly pointed criticism may well represent the soft support that put the mayor over the top in the 2010 election. It’s now evaporating and that should be of some concern to those dreaming of a second term. tommyThe simple fact of the matter is, there isn’t one without at least some of the mushy middle voting public across the city.

Of course, for some this latest schism with a former ally is no fault of the mayor’s. After Councillor Ainslie’s resignation on Friday, councillor-brother Doug went on full smear alert, chalking it up to Ainslie being miffed for having been overlooked to replace outgoing budget chief, Mike Del Grande (who himself kicked up some dust leaving the position. It didn’t amount to much as he seems to just have retreated into a sullen surliness). Frankly, I’d be pissed too if I’d been passed over for the job by Councillor Frank Di Giorgio. If anything is proof of Councillor Ainslie’s assertion that the mayor lacks strategic objectives, it would be his appointing of Frank Di Giorgio as budget chief.

As with almost everything that comes out of the mouth of councillor-brother Doug, the truth about the rift between Ainslie and the Ford administration is much more robust, let’s call it, beginning a lot earlier and in a far more nuanced way.

While Councillor Ainslie was enabling the mayor to run roughshod through the halls of City Hall, cutting this tax and that service, he was also steadily tinkering as chair of the Government Management Committee. yourefiredHe pushed through small but important things like getting wireless service throughout all of City Hall that helped further citizen engagement to the bigger enchilada on that score: sending a request to Queen’s Park for permission to start using alternative voting methods in forthcoming municipal elections. He was actually helping Mayor Ford keep a campaign promise of delivering a more open and transparent government.

But then things seemed to come unglued with some back stage mayoral shenanigans at the Garrison Ball in March. Ainslie was knocked from his post as Government Management Committee chair a couple months later and served briefly as chairs of the Parks and Recreation Committee until this week.

Until his decision to reject the Scarborough subway on Tuesday and opt for the already in place subway. When he stood up at council to make his case for the LRT, he said that he’d gone into the previous weekend fully intending to vote for the subway. Then he started really reading the staff report and just saw the mounting costs that had no definite end to them. yourefired1He found himself weighing his options between a fully funded LRT, ready to go, with no extra costs lurking in the corners versus a subway proposal dripping with unknowns and a much higher price tag.

However, subways have become so integral to the Team Ford brand that to vote against them and vote against them so overtly couldn’t be seen as anything other than an outright rejection of the administration. Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong, another member of the Executive Committee, also voted against the subway but did so in a more low key fashion, so escaped notice.

Or maybe as a potential rival for the mayor’s job next year, he’s being allowed to keep close relations so he doesn’t have much distance between himself and the mayor if they have to campaign against one another.

Or quite possibly, Councillor Minnan-Wong shares enough of Mayor Ford’s loathing of government and taxes hediditthat he’s allowed a longer leash in order to wreak all the damage he can while the clock’s running down.

That’s not the kind of fiscally conservative politician Councillor Paul Ainslie is, obviously. Plus, he’s from the holy land of folks in Scarborough. So he was expendable. He needed to be made an example of.

It’s nothing personal, according to the mayor, although it seems voting against the Scarborough subway was nothing short of a ‘personal attack’ on Mayor Ford according to Councillor Ford. Go figure. *shrug* It’s about politics and political calculation. Plain and simple. The plan is to ride the subway issue to re-election and anybody seen as standing in the way? Electoral road kill.

This couldn’t come as any sort of surprise to Councillor Ainslie. He too must’ve made some calculations and decided to roll the dice on his political future, prepared to face his constituents as a careful custodian of their tax dollars rather than just another mayoral flunky. Again, I’m no betting man but if I were, I wouldn’t put my money against the councillor on this one.

rollthedice

fingers crossedly submitted by Cityslikr


Suburban? Moi?

October 11, 2013

Just in case you think city council’s Scarborough subway decision put an end to the conversation once and for all, justbeguntofightlet me disabuse you of that flightful bit of fancy. While the LRT plan to replace the aging SRT may’ve had the plug pulled on it, we’ve now moved to which subway are we going to build. That battle’s just begun and, as reported in Spacing yesterday, doesn’t look like it’ll be resolved any time soon.

*sigh*

A more theoretical and interesting discussion cropped up following the subway decision in, of all places, Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly’s Twitter timeline. No, no. That’s no typo. And let me be clear, it was not a conversation intentionally instigated by the long time Scarborough councillor but one, like much of the city business that swirls around his presence at City Hall, grandboulevardhe just occasionally and unwittingly runs smack into.

You see, the deputy mayor like most of the Scarborough subway supporters have embraced the technology almost exclusively for its world classiness. They take every opportunity to point out all the glitzy international destinations that have subways running underneath their grand boulevards. New York. London. Paris. Madrid. Ipso facto, if Toronto truly wants to consider itself world class, it needs to start playing subway catch up.

The fact that many of these same cities are also building LRTs as a part of their transit network is usually greeted by silence when it’s pointed out to the likes of Deputy Mayor Kelly and other subway-philes.

But yesterday, he chimed in with a new counter-argument. whome1“Madrid builds subways in the city,” the deputy mayor tweeted. “Scarborough is IN the city. Madrid builds LRT’s in the suburbs. Our suburbs are in the GTA.”

Wow.

That is either the dumbest assertion I have heard in a while or a stroke of pure ingenuity in rationalization.

Given the source, I’ll assume the former but, probably not coincidentally, it’s a line of reasoning I encountered a few days earlier. Another subway advocate told me he was all for LRTs but “… in the ‘burbs (like Markham, Durham and Oakville)”. Apparently, with the expansion of growth out into the wider GTA, almost exclusively built on a suburban model, the former suburban municipalities that are now part of the legacy city of Toronto should no longer be viewed as suburbs and therefore, need to be treated accordingly.

With subways. Like they have in every other city worth mentioning.

It reminds me of the punch line to a joke never told in Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead. “I’m not Saul. I’m Paul. And this guy’s the Jew.”

Scarborough’s not a suburb. Markham’s a suburb. They should be the ones getting an LRT.suburbandream

You can’t just simply ignore intensive post-war design and development based almost exclusively on private automobile use and single family detached housing by pointing out that newer cities around you are more car dependent and single family house-y. That doesn’t make a place any less that because other places are more so. Inner suburb. Outer suburb. Note the similar word in both those descriptors.

It’s as if grafting a transit mode associated with a densely populated urban core will magically transform the suburban landscape of Scarborough into Manhattan. That’s like me envying a bird and wanting wings sewn to my back so I can fly. It doesn’t work like that. I’m simply not built for flight.

I know this is not your grandpa’s Scarborough. Much has changed over the course of the last four decades. attemptedflightThe demographics. More intensification. A bigger population.

But just a head’s up. Subways aren’t going to make you any less suburban. No one’s going to suddenly mistake you for Madrid. Or downtown Toronto even.

Besides, as long as this kind of stuff keeps happening, any claim that Scarborough has moved from its suburban roots is kind of suspect. In reaction to an application to build 50 townhouses on a vacant lot in his Scarborough East ward, Councillor Ron Moeser said, “I’ve got a single-family community that wants to stay that way.” For the record, Councillor Moeser voted in favour of the Scarborough subway.

This is not to say Scarborough (or Etobicoke or North York) can’t change. That the city’s suburbs shouldn’t endeavour to build healthier communities and neighbourhoods by decreasing their reliance on private vehicles. lookinthemirror1It’s just that there are better approaches that reflect the current reality on the ground than mindlessly demanding a type of transportation designed for an entirely different built form.

Scarborough is now a part of the city of Toronto, a big chunk too, nearly a suburban quarter of it, occupying its eastern boundary. Insisting on more subway stops isn’t going to alter that. Demanding better transit sooner will go a whole lot further in making the entire city more connected, more inclusive and, yes, maybe even a little less suburban.

non-judgementally submitted by Cityslikr


So You Say You Wanted A Subway, Eh?

October 9, 2013

When Scarborourgh city councillor Paul Ainslie stood up yesterday to announce that after much deliberation he had decided to vote for returning to the signed Master Agreement with the province and begin building the LRT extension to the Bloor-Danforth subway line, poodlesit kicked Mayor Ford and his councillor-brother Doug to life and up onto their haunches. Howling indignantly, both men vowed electoral retribution on their colleague for his betrayal of the transit-deprived residents of his and the other 9 wards of Scarborough. Later, on-again, off-again bestest friend of the mayor, Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti attempted to revise history and say that Councillor Ainslie was trying to defy the 2010 mandate given to Mayor Ford who’d been elected almost exclusively on a platform of Subways, Subways, Subways.

He wasn’t.

But no matter.

After the council vote in favour of the Scarborough subway (presumably the council approved one running up the now-dubbed McCowan corridor), I say this time around let’s actually make the Scarborough subway an election issue in 2014. Not in the sense of trying to stop it in its underground tracks. letsdothisNo, no. It’s been voted on. We don’t change transit plans once they get approved, do we.

Instead, we start talking turkey. Just like Councillor Ainslie did when he stood his ground against a wall of nonsense and invective, insisting we make a decision based on facts and evidence. It’s all well and good to blithely promise subways with vague notions of how we don’t have to pay for them. Now we’ve got some concrete numbers, some actual costs we have to talk about. Property tax increases. Debt obligations. Shit we did not have to take on if we’d stuck with the original LRT plan.

Already Mayor Ford is trying to wiggle out from behind the obligation side of the equation, saying he’ll find a way to only bump property taxes .25% next year, half of what was recommended by the city manager. This, despite having had more than 3 years to come up with such magical math. stepbackOffering up some laughable solution, he will attempt to vilify anyone pushing a higher increase than that and prove to be something of an unreliable ally to the 23 councillors who helped deliver him “his” subway.

Or the mayor just might use the recommended .5% increase to argue for a lower overall property tax hike that will result in cuts to programs and services, as well as jeopardizing other capital expenditures the city also faces. Then those 23 other councillors will have to face a very unappealing election year choice of coming out in favour of higher taxes or reductions in services and expenditures. I want to see the likes of Councillor Vincent Crisanti knocking on doors in his ward way up in Rexdale, about as far away from Scarborough as you can get while remaining in the city, and explain to his constituents exactly what they’re getting in return for the subway in Scarborough. Ditto, Councillor Ana Bailao in Ward 18.

I want to see all the subway proponents now have to start selling the nuts and bolts of the Scarborough subway to their constituents. Tell them what it’s going to cost on their tax bills. In terms of the services they may have to do without. The infrastructure needs that may well have to be delayed just that much longer.

Hell’s yeah, let’s make this an election issue. Let’s start talking about fiscal prudence and responsible city building. buttheadsThe subway’s a done deal but the devil’s in the details. Let’s start spelling out those details, what we’re getting, what we’re sacrificing to get it, how much it’s going to cost us to get it.

Led by Mayor Ford this council somehow just committed to a nearly one billion dollar infrastructure investment lacking oh so many of those important details. Now we must insist all those who voted in favour of the subway start filling those details in. We should all pitch in to help them do it. The following 24 said Scarborough wanted subways. Let’s make sure they explain to their voters exactly what they’re getting.

helpfully submitted by Cityslikr


Another Chance To Get It Right

October 8, 2013

As difficult as it may be to imagine, given the… surreal? wacky? cartoonish? crazy1I’ve truly run out of adjectives to describe the performance of this current city council over the course of the last three years… this week’s meeting could well turn out to represent the… pinnacle? nadir? defining moment? of its entire term.

Check out Neville Park’s cheat sheet if you haven’t already for a most excellent and entertaining overview of what will be going on over the course of the next 3 or 4 days. As always, there’s a boat load of important matters to be dealt with including the appointment of the replacement for Doug Holyday as councillor for Ward 3. His letter to his former colleagues insisting they tap his choice of Peter Leon who was ignored last week by Etobicoke-York Community Council when they opted for Chris Stockwell should make that debate more intriguing than it really should be.

That item, of course, along with every other one on council’s agenda will be overshadowed once more by the topic of transit. backfromthedeadMore specifically the ongoing, drawn out, forever and forever until perpetuity fight over a Scarborough subway. The serial killer of our political scene that just cannot be dispatched.

Yep. It’s back. Just two short weeks ago it seemed like a sure thing too, resuscitated by an infusion of federal cash. But now, with a provincial short fall and the city manager laying out the barest minimum of property tax increases that will be needed for the city to pony up its piece of the funding pie (for a more realistic picture of what we could be paying to build the Scarborough subway, check out David Hains and Hamutal Dotan at Torontoist), not to mention its biggest booster in an ever steepening pot of brewing scandal, a slight pall has been cast over the subway celebrations.

The kicker is, after all the discussion we’ve had on the topic, the monotonous, endless back-and-forth since 2010, there’s still no rational, compelling reason to replace the proposed Scarborough LRT with a subway in either of its current alignments. youcanbeseriousThe case to do so has remained in its under-developed embryonic state.  An a priori argument, of sorts, stating a subway is the best option for Scarborough because, well, subways are the best. World class. First class.

It’s a heaping dose of head shake, bulging with a bloated sense of entitlement and misplaced resentment, encouraged mightily by excruciating political calculation at all three levels of government.

As Matt Elliott pointed out in his column yesterday, the cost of building this Scarborough subway is going to put an undue strain on the city’s budget for decades to come, threatening other programs and services as well as other transit infrastructure builds, many of them a much higher priority than a subway in Scarborough. Any member of city council who votes in favour of proceeding with this project is doing so out of nothing more than pure self-interest. They are signalling a willingness to jeopardize the city’s best interests for the sake of scoring cheap political points.

responsibilityjpg

That’s what this vote comes down to. It will define their term in office. Let’s be sure to judge them accordingly.

pleadingly submitted by Cityslikr


A Second Chance To Get It Right

October 4, 2013

Hey Toronto.

What do you say we kill this Scarborough subway nuttery once and for all? steakthroughtheheartWith city council meeting next week to consider the City Manager’s subway report it requested back in July, there seems to be a real opportunity to put a fucking nail in the coffin of this nonsense. A silver bullet through its already malfunctioning heart.

We can chalk the underground madness up to a giddy summer revelry. The heat and mint juleps got to our better judgement. Our collective fever’s now broken and we can come to our senses. A little bit self-conscious about our embarrassing outburst of irrationality but, hey, who hasn’t at least once followed a very bad idea down the rabbit hole?

“The purpose of this report,” city staff writes, “is to inform Council that the terms and conditions for supporting the McCowan Corridor Subway have been met crazyfromtheheatwith the exception of the $1.8 billion ($2010) commitment from the Province [italics mine].

“With the exception of”, in fact, negates the very claim that statement makes of all the terms and conditions for supporting city council’s preferred subway route in the McCowan corridor. Not all the funding from the two senior levels of government has been secured and, in an ideal world, that would automatically kill the subway plan and revert back to the LRT. There was a lot of chatter about the poison pill motions that were voted in favour of at the July council meeting that would ensure the city wouldn’t go ahead with building a subway without all the other money it asked for in place.

Taken at their word, a majority of council is obligated to vote against a Scarborough subway.

Yeah. My eye just popped a blood vessel writing that last sentence.

Even assuming that ain’t going to happen, the city manager’s table for the necessary property tax increases to pay for the city’s portion for the subway build, .5% in each of the next two years and .6% the year after that, dedicated solely to the Scarborough subway, should give many of the councillors pause.bestcasescenario

Let’s call those numbers a best case scenario. It doesn’t include cost overruns, interest rate increases, credit rating changes, capital maintenances, etc., etc., that the city would have to assume with a subway (that it wouldn’t with the LRT). We’ll refer to the city manager’s numbers as ‘for starters’.

Even if they were spot on, these property tax hikes will pressure not only other demands for revenue tools to build more necessary transit infrastructure throughout the GTA as part of the province’s Big Move but for the basic ongoing operations of the TTC and its capital budget for things like state of good repair. The TTC chair is already demanding more money for the transit system after years of a flat lined budget from the city and fare increases. In an atmosphere where voters are still only very reluctantly willing to consider new taxes and levies to go to enhanced transit infrastructure, saddling the public with property tax increases for a vanity project of dubious need seems counter-productive to the wider goal.

Never mind the kind of pressure this would put on the rest of the city budget. You start with a .5% property tax increase for the Scarborough subway, how much more will council be willing to stomach to help pay for other basic city services and capital outlays? takeastepbackGoing into an election year, it’s difficult to imagine many councillors signing up for the kind of bump needed in order to avoid cutting programs and other infrastructure needs.

And that’s what this is all about, all that it’s ever been about. Next year’s election. A handful of councillors have bought into the notion that being on the bad side of the Scarborough subway issue will imperil their political future. Fearful in the face of an angry Ford Nation, they’ve traded in common sense for a slab of red meat to feed their constituents. They’ve jeopardized the city’s transit planning prospects for nothing more than individual advantage.

But I truly believe they’ve miscalculated.

The biggest proponent for the Scarborough subway has put himself into an awkward position, re-election wise. Mayor Ford has held steadfast in his view folks can only afford a property tax increase of .25% and not one per cent more. Clearly, that’s well short of what’s needed. droppedtheball1So, he’s either going to have to get behind a tax increase he’s made a career of railing against or be a subway supporter in name only, unwilling to cough up the dough to make it happen.

While logic hasn’t always been the strongest suit of those supporting the mayor, I think there’s another factor his council colleagues need to consider going into next week’s transit debate. Just how potent a force is Mayor Ford going to be in 2014? With the news of his occasional driver and full time friend Sandro Lisi’s arrest Tuesday on drug related charges and today’s whammie about the police following the mayor’s movement with air surveillance, it’s increasingly impossible to see him remaining a viable candidate outside of his hardest of hardcore support.

So let’s move beyond the crass political calculations of this transit debate where one of the variables is the mayor and his Scarborough Deserves A Subway legion. In a letter to the city earlier this week, Metrolinx once again points out that the preferred option remains the Scarborough LRT. More stops providing better access to more people. No property tax increases to build it. No money burned in sunk costs. All costs overruns and other financial changes picked up by the province. Ready to go now and not 5 years down the road.

Andy Byford, the TTC CEO, has been very emphatic if diplomatic in pointing out that the next subway Toronto actually needs is a relief line, bereasonableproviding transit users in the north and east of the city (including, yes, Scarborough) a less congested route into the downtown core that by-passes the already at-capacity Yonge line. It could easily be called the Scarborough Relief Line. Here, Scarborough. There’s your subway.

A genuine do-over has presented itself to city council next week. An opportunity for councillors to re-right a previous mistake, made with the worst of intentions but under a lot of self-inflicted duress. That’s a situation that doesn’t happen very often in life. Let’s make the most of it and put this sad, sorry spectacle behind us.

 — hopefully submitted by Cityslikr