Benign Neglect Is Still Neglect

At a press conference yesterday (a ‘press avail’ in journalese), Mayor Tory announced that progress had been made in reducing the 2016 police budget. mayorjohntoryOf course, when it comes to the police budget, reduced actually means less of an increase. So, an original ask of 5.8% knocked down to 2.76% works out to be a decrease in the police budget. It’s what we call ‘progress’!

The day before, on Monday, the TTC budget committee met, and in discussions about proposed waterfront transit projects, seemed ‘resigned’, in the words of the Globe and Mail’s Transportation writer, Oliver Moore, to some sort of people moving walkway linking Union Station to Queen’s Quay. Yeah, an escalator rather an actual vehicular link like the one that was favoured here, way back in 2013 (h/t Matt Elliot). Why? A serious lack of capital funds. No money.

This is Mayor John Tory’s Toronto, folks. Where police budgets continue to rise despite evidence showing crime statistics declining. nomoneyPublic transit budgets keep growing too but not enough to accommodate the increasing ridership numbers that continue to go up despite a less than optimal service, let’s call it.

Mayor Tory’s Toronto.

To be sure, this isn’t all on him. He’s only officially held the office for some 11 months. Bloated police and insufficient public transit budgets most definitely preceded him.

But the mayor wears this current Police Services Board. The former chair, Alok Mukherjee, left the position before his term was up, and replaced by the mayor’s buddy and former chief of staff, Andy Pringle. Upon assuming office, Mayor Tory dumped the only black member on the TPSB, Councillor Michael Thompson, and took his spot on the board. The new police chief, Mark Saunders, is his choice.

So, yeah. The 2016 police budget belongs to Mayor Tory.

And as the TTC struggles to maintain proper levels of service and plan future transit projects, Mayor Tory has dropped a huge turd into the proceedings, his election campaign ready SmartTrack. whitewashingDraining money and time resources from city and TTC staff, the plan is no less fuzzy and ill-formed than it was when it was pitched for votes some 18 months ago. Reports on it have been delayed. Ridership models adapted to work it. There’s no lid tight enough to contain the stink coming from the project.

None of his gestures toward the TTC, bus service bumped back up to 2011 levels, free transit for the kids, are making any dent in the pressures weighing down on the system. So the ongoing problems facing public transit in this city are now Mayor Tory’s problems.

Is there any reason to believe that he’s up to the task of dealing with them?

His full on commitment to seeing SmartTrack through, regardless, seems nothing but self-serving, an eye solely on re-election in 2018 rather than improving transit for the city. He’s spent much more of his political capital (not to say a lot of the city’s actual capital) catering to the perceived needs of drivers, speeding up repairs on expressways, keeping others elevated for absolutely no reason aside from optics. Being modestly more transit-friendly than the previous administration in no way should be perceived as being any less car-friendly.

On the policing front, Mayor Tory’s wading in to the carding issue was a complete and utter fiasco. He got bailed out temporarily by the province who redirected the focus onto themselves as they figure out how to try and reconfigure regulations. sweepundertherugHis TPSB chair dropped the ball on a KPMG report on police budgeting that’s been on or near the table (depending on who you believe) for nearly a year now. Chair Pringle, in responding to questions about why the report hadn’t been made public yet, referred to it as an ‘internal think document’. “Random suggestions aren’t necessarily something that we report back on,” the chair said.

Mayor Tory has subsequently suggested the KPMG report be made public but not in time to have any impact on this year’s police budget. A budget that will be increasing again despite how the mayor’s office tries to spin it. An increase is an increase no matter how small an increase it is.

Given the current crisis level climate in the city toward its police services, with the laughably light penalty given to the only office convicted of a G20-related crime and the ongoing trial of Constable James Forcillo in the shooting death of Sammy Yatim, Mayor Tory’s not rock the boat approach seems wholly inadequate. The additional strain of his SmartTrack plan on an already over-stressed transit system is the exact opposite. Unnecessarily burdensome in a white elephant kind of way.

This is a mayor completely tone deaf to the reality of the city he was elected to lead. He preaches steady stewardship but practices little of it. whatsthatTimid when he needs to be bold. Heavy-handed when required to be conciliatory. Wanting to be everything to everybody, Mayor Tory is proving to be nothing to anyone.

If the Ford Administration was a reaction to the instability Toronto now faces, brought about by unequal access to income, mobility, opportunity, Mayor Tory’s soothing can-do cheerleading in no way addresses that instability. It doesn’t even provide a band aid. It’s the blank, toothless smile of a nothing to see here sensibility that focuses all its energy looking back over its shoulder instead of at the rocky road ahead.

impatiently submitted by Cityslikr

Everybody’s In Limbo

Well, if there’s any better example of the thorny problems engaging with someone who’s a Mayor Ford supporter than Connie Harrison’s appearance at the Ontario Press Council yesterday I haven’t seen one.thornysituation

This is Connie Harrison writing in the Globe and Mail just over 3 years ago, nearly 2 months before the municipal election in which she voted for Rob Ford.

Now, judging from what I saw in her complaint against the Globe and Mail for the story that newspaper ran about Councillor Doug Ford’s alleged drug dealing days back in the 1980s, I’m guessing her backing of the mayor is soft at this point of time. In fact, it almost seemed as if she was begging the newspaper and those sitting on the council panel to put us out of our mayoral misery. She was willing to accept that maybe the Fords weren’t good for the city but needed more solid proof than anonymous sources or an alleged crack video.

If only the press in general and the Globe and Mail specifically would do their jobs properly.

answersBurn their sources! Go to the police with any incriminating evidence! Get some third party to go over their work!

Good on Ms. Harrison to take her grievance about how the Globe and Mail went about its business beyond just merely bitching about it or writing an angry letter to an editor. She got engaged, delivered a complaint and spoke out at the meeting. That’s 100% more than what almost 100% of us would do or have done. She should be applauded for her effort.

But… but… here’s the thorny part.

She’s wrong on almost every point of her complaint.

The use of anonymous sources is not the mark of tabloid journalism. Google ‘Watergate’. Sometimes there are very good reasons legitimate news sources want and or need to remain anonymous. Google ‘Edward Snowden’ or ‘Chelsea Manning’.tryagain

Even in matters of lesser import than national security, illicit drugs for example, reliable sources may want to keep their profile out of it even 30 years later. Yeah, sure. I smoked a little with Mr. X that we bought from Mr. Y. Is that right, Mr. Z. Let me jot that down in your personnel folder, shall I?

As was pointed out at the OPC meeting, the Ford brothers have a 2 hour weekly radio show that they’ve used to cast attack their political opponents. Who’s to say they wouldn’t do the same to anyone who came out on record with their recollections of youthful indiscretions in Etobicoke during the 1980s? Retribution doesn’t necessarily have to come in the form of physical intimidation.

And this notion of ‘burning your sources’, by which I guess Ms. Harrison means outing them, in order to prove the veracity of the story? Where do you even begin to address that? journalismYou start revealing your sources, you not only endanger them or threaten their livelihood but, from an entirely self-interested angle, your sources dry up. Nobody talks to you. Once that happens, any ability to deliver in-depth news or information becomes impossible. You wind up essentially writing press releases.

Ms. Harrison also wondered why if the Globe had evidence of any law-breaking on the part of Doug Ford, why it didn’t simply go to the police with that information. Seems only logical, if that were actually the job of the press or if we didn’t mind a free press in a democracy trading information back and forth with those with the power of arrest and detainment. Never mind the fact that if all this information was so readily available with some digging on the part of the Globe, why exactly the police didn’t know about it or – fingers collar here – didn’t act on that sort of information back in the day.

Such a skewed view of how journalism works and the role it plays in a functioning democratic society could be laughed off and mocked if it were coming from an obvious wide-eyed Ford-fanatic who’d swallowed whole the notion of a liberal media bias outside of the Toronto Sun and 1010 Talk Radio. hazzardcountyConnie Harrison didn’t come across as that. She seemed to want answers, to know if the man she proudly voted to be mayor back in 2010 and his powerful councillor-brother were fit to be governing this city. If the Globe and Mail could show her that they weren’t, Ms. Harrison struck me as someone who’d withdraw her support.

Right now I still feel as though we’re in some backwoods county in the U.S.,” she said. “We’re still in limbo here.

What Ms. Harrison appeared to be asking was for some clarity so she could make a decision. Are the allegations the press leveled at the mayor and his councillor-brother true? Yes or no?

Unfortunately, Ms. Harrison was demanding answers from the wrong side in all this. barkingupthewrongtreeThe press was simply doing its job, delivering information that in no way so far has been proven incorrect or libellous. The ones who haven’t addressed the matter in any manner suggesting they’ve been unfairly targeted and slandered are the Ford brothers. They are the ones the likes of Ms. Harrison should be directing her frustration at. They’re the ones who’ve left all of us in a state of limbo.

bent-over-backwardly submitted by Cityslikr