Everything’s Fine!

May 16, 2016

These days, this council.

With the provincial government dangling the prospect of ballot reform, tantalizingly, and today’s announcement of the ward boundary review recommendation, giddywe here in Toronto should be giddy with excitement at the opportunity to reshape our local democracy. It’s something that hasn’t been done for 16 years since Queen’s Park pretty much unilaterally aligned all the city’s wards with the federal and provincial riding boundaries. So, we’re overdue, to make an understatement. Seize the moment to try and iron out some of the parochial wrinkles that have accumulated. Sweep out the dust bunnies and moldy odors that have collected in the cupboards.

It’s just… You know…

These days, this council.

With Councillor Justin Di Ciano, as city council’s woefully underwhelming representative, taking his anti-ranked ballots clownshow up University Avenue to speak to the standing committee overseeing voting reform initiatives, there’s some serious concern that Toronto voters won’t get a crack at using ranked ballots. dampenHell, if the councillor has his way, we’ll be robbed of even having a debate about it. His argument against moving from the current First Past The Post system is so full of shopworn bullet talking points, it’s impossible to tell what his real motives are with this antediluvian quest.

Equally unclear are the reasons our mayor, John Tory, seems determined to curtail debate on the ward boundary review ahead of the final recommendation going public. Earlier this year, when five possible new ward alignment options were outlined, he stated his position, which was pretty much as dismissive as you could be. “The last thing we need is more politicians.” Over this past weekend, his rhetoric had ossified into place, suggesting Mayor Tory hadn’t put so much as another thought into the matter.

I’ve maintained my position, which is, first of all, I don’t personally see the need for an expanded number of politicians, and secondly, I have yet to meet a Toronto citizen who has told me that their top priority — or any kind of priority of their’s — is to expand the number of politicians. I think we can make arrangements by reorganizing the boundaries a little bit.

The bottom line is I don’t think we need to have more decision makers at City Hall.

That there? That’s the sound of the door slamming on any sort of serious discussion about the size, shape or reorganization of city council. Maybe ‘a little bit’, John Tory’s incrementalism on full display. draggedIf it ain’t broke, amirite?

Rather than take the opportunity to show some civic leadership, and begin a discussion that might inject some new ideas and life into the governance structure at City Hall, Mayor Tory is intent on belittling the debate to nothing more than the number of councillors. Just like his predecessor did. As if numbers, and numbers alone, are the sole determinant of good, solid and proper political representation.

While it wasn’t part of the ward boundary review mandate to look at the structure of city council, the mayor and councillors could make it theirs, take the initiative and start talking about ways to improve how council functions, how to better represent the residents who’ve elected them to office. One of the biggest glitches plaguing governance in Toronto is the seemingly intractable urban-suburban divide that engenders division instead of cohesion. (Something I suspect is going to be a lightning rod of contention surrounding the ward boundary recommendation today.) Could a move toward at least some at-large, ward-free councillor positions help address that?

Maybe. Maybe not. It’s at least worth some sort of examination, isn’t it?notlistening

Whatever the outcome and final decision city council makes determining new ward boundaries, it’s going to be in place for the next 4 election cycles, 2018, 2022, 2026, 2030. During that time span, the city is projected to see huge population growth – 600,000 new residents by 2031 — and significant demographic changes. Is this Mayor Tory led city council really going to look at that and pursue a redrawing of wards only through the lens of a head count? Will it also brush aside the chance to give voters in the city a new way to elect its local politicians, maybe even in a new type of arrangement that might help reduce the type of harmful geographic divisiveness that has dogged it pretty much from the beginning of amalgamation?

You’d hope not but… well, you know…

These days, this mayor, this council.

same-ol’-same-olly submitted by Cityslikr


You Don’t Say

May 13, 2016

If there were gold medals handed out for stating the obvious, I would nominate Dr. Frank Clayton of Ryerson University’s Centre for Urban Research and Land Development for his not in the least bit surprising blog post, youdontsayDid You Know: Travel Times for City of Toronto Commuters on Average are 60% Longer by Subway than by Car? As friend of our site, John McGrath responded: “Trying to figure out for whom this is news.” Gee willikers, Dr. Clayton. I guess that’s why so many people choose to drive, huh?

Turns out, if you build and redesign a city to maximize car travel, to put the private automobile at the top of your transportation hierarchy, make it near impossible not to need one in some parts of that city, lo and behold, people will tend to drive because it’s the most convenient way to get around. Or, to paraphrase Dr. Clayton, it’s faster and easier to drive than take public transit. We are, after all, rational actors, making rational choices, as we make our way through our daily lives.

Isn’t that how the saying goes?

What I don’t understand, though, is the point of Dr. Clayton’s post.

Why is this important? As Professor Haider explains it in a 2014 blog post, environmentalists and transit enthusiasts routinely overstate the benefits of public transit by claiming more public transit will reduce congestion or travel times, which he states is a myth.

Oh oh, I thought. Professor Murtaza Haider? That Professor Haider?2plus2

Doesn’t this whole argument rest on whose travel times you are measuring? Professor Haider himself writes in the Globe and Mail article Dr. Clayton cites that increased investments in public transit “will reduce travel times by public transit.” So, how is it a ‘myth’ to claim that more public transit investment will reduce public transit travel times?

That it would still be more convenient and quicker to take a car? You don’t transform a transportation system that’s been in place for 70 or 80 years overnight. In almost every part of Toronto and the GTHA, driving remains the best bet to get to where you’re going because that’s exactly what’s designed to happen. Streets and roads built and operated to best accommodate car travel to the detriment of all other users, pedestrians, cyclists, even public transit. Never a lane given over to a bus or streetcar or bicycles uncontested by those seeing such advances as an infringement on the movement of private automobiles. drivingPublic transit wants fast and convenient? Build it underground.

What articles like this one from Dr. Frank Clayton (and almost everything transit-related by Professor Murtaza Haider) smack of is a defense of the transportation status quo. A majority of commuters drive, driving makes for faster commute times, therefore, we must ensure that we do not threaten that delicate balance by offering up more viable mobility options where currently there are none.

It is simply a hand-fisted reading of a very narrow data set that makes no differentiation between the quality of commuting modes, not to mention within the same modes themselves, using time as the sole measurement. You think the experience of driving to work for 45 minutes is comparable to a drive of 10 minutes? Perhaps a 45 minute bus ride where you’re watching last night’s episode of the Daily Show puts you in a better frame of mind when you get to your job than a half-hour grind behind the wheel. sowhatAnd if time and convenience is what we’re aiming for, shouldn’t we be plowing a whole lot more money and resources into cycling and pedestrian infrastructure in the city of Toronto where the commute time is just over 17 minutes, the quickest way to work by far?

Dr. Frank Clayton seems content to tell us where we are without much of an explanation why or even if it’s a place we want to be. I’m not sure what purpose it serves aside from confirming what pretty much anybody who travels around the GTA already knows too well. Cars are king. Long live the king.

m’ehly submitted by Cityslikr


Stumbling Toward Progress

January 22, 2016

Wow!

And what a week it was.whirlwind

Under the steady, competent and business-like stewardship of John Tory, this kind of wild ride at City Hall was supposed to be a thing of the past. Granted, not your garden variety, crack-fueled, more-than-enough-to-eat-at-home sort of melodrama we’ve previously witnessed. Purely political, up and down the daily calendar. But still.

It all began with a fairly standard bit of annual budgeting that’s happened for the past few years. Ix-nay he-tay alk-tay bout-ay ew-na evenue-ray. Pilfer reserve funds. Continue to squeeze a little harder on the stone in the hopes of getting blood this time around. Circle three times, click you heels twice. Declare the budget balanced in the fairest, most reasonable, prudent manner possible.

Then it started to rain staff reports and the going got crazy.

SmartTrack. Redrawn options for the Gardiner East hybrid. The Scarborough subway extension. New numbers and projections. countNew configurations. New realities. New respect for expert staff advice, depending on the project, of course. Proposed compromises that could cost hundreds of millions of dollars more than the original plans. Fewer subways. More LRTs. More developable waterfront land. Tighter turn radii.

Somewhere in the midst of all that doubling and tripling back mayhem, the man who should be chief of police leveled a broadside against his organization, demanding fundamental reform of the way it goes about its policing business. He then went silent or was silenced. The head of the Police Services Association responded with a public pout. The former reform-minded chair of the Police Services Board filed a complaint against the actual chief of police and the Police Services Board for not clarifying statements the police chief made during a year end interview questioning the accuracy of statements the former TPSB chair made about implementation of proposed reforms. joustingWe then learned the police were deploying some 50 combat ready assault rifles for front line officers as tools of de-escalation and in no way was militarizing policing in the city.

Mayor Tory deemed it all to be reasonable. Nothing to be alarmed at. As you were.

You could look at all this and conclude that it was simply the result of an industrious administration dealing with the inevitable array of issues that come from governing a growing and busy metropolis. Shit happens, am I right? Roll up your sleeves and get down into the goo. This city isn’t going to run itself.

But it doesn’t feel like that at all to me. At week’s end, it kind of feels like a reckoning. Bills have come due and need to be paid.

The mayor’s refusal to have a serious discussion about proper revenue streams, holding tight onto his campaign promise of keeping property tax rate hikes to at or below the rate of inflation, continues to hamstring the city for yet another year in dealing with a wall of serious fiscal matters, both on the capital and operating sides of the ledger. madscrambleIt’s even more ridiculous in light of how he’s backtracked on other hare-brained campaign promises, mostly revolving around public transit. He’s insisting on putting off a tax and spend conversation that will only get more difficult the closer we get to another election.

On the policing front, the mayor took his spot on the board rather than designate a council colleague in his place. So he was right there, hands on, to change the culture both on the board and in the services itself. A shot at serious reform, which he keeps talking about, within reach. A new, forward thinking chief waiting in the wings, reports and recommendations for implementation of change on the table in front of him.

But he blinked, retreated, embraced the status quo. More business as usual.

Where there is some brightness, some hope for more positive outcomes is on transit, a file the mayor, and as a candidate before that, made even more problematic and difficult to negotiate, layering on additional fanciful talk and plans in his bid for the job. headlesschickenBut he’s backtracked on SmartTrack. He’s rethought his once adamant support of the Scarborough subway extension. Having joined the crowd in politicizing transit planning, he’s now attempted to hand it back, tattered and somewhat worse for wear, to those who actually know a thing or two about transit planning.

The retreat comes with some potentially good results. The city could end up with an Eglinton Crosstown running from Pearson airport right through to the Scarborough campus of the University of Toronto. We might build fewer subways in Scarborough and more LRTs. So much new transit could be in the offing that we as a city will have no choice to not only talk about new revenue sources but to actually implement some in order to help pay for and operate it.

This comes, unsurprisingly, with a whole boatload of caveats. The new SmartTrack mock up is still so dependent on unknown variables like capacity and fare pricing as to remain highly theoretical, and yet, is something of a linchpin for the new proposed Scarborough subway alignment to work properly. chaseyourowntailIs $2 billion (or more) for one subway station too steep a price to pay to try and ensure a non-fractious majority of city council buy in? All the delays and false starts have pushed timelines further and further down the road, past upcoming elections cycles, leaving most of today’s proposed projects susceptible to future political interference, still just lines on a map.

Unlike the budget process and the policing news, however, I don’t see this week’s transit resets as steps back or no steps taken at all. At least in the light of recent transit upheavals in Toronto, what’s occurred over the past few days is something akin to progress. If not forward momentum, let’s call it forward motion.

It shouldn’t have to be this fucking hard, and I will not absolve Mayor Tory of any blame for contributing to the ongoing difficulty. fingerscrossed1If he had’ve met the parochial chest-beating of the Ford’s head on, and not derided and sneered at his opponents who did so, none of this would’ve been necessary. We wouldn’t have lost so much time and money while he and his team pretended SmartTrack was actually a thing, that the Scarborough subway had any legitimacy whatsoever.

But, there it is, and here we are.

Try as I might to wrap this up on an optimistic note, I can’t bring myself to do it unless you consider It’s Not All Bad News upbeat. In the flurry that was this week, there may be some cause to be hopeful. Maybe. When it could be worse is not good enough, it will have to do.

Open ended. That’s all I’ve got.

unfinishedly submitted by Cityslikr


2016 Budget Launch

December 16, 2015

So yesterday, led by the new city manager, Peter Wallace, staff delivered its 2016 Preliminary Budget presentation at a special meeting of the Budget Committee. My impressions? lookoverthatwayYou’ll have to find out here at Torontoist. While you’re at it, give a read to Neville Park and Sarah Niedoba and Catherine McIntyre. Rather hear words than read them? Brian Kelcey talks about the 2016 budget with Matt Galloway on Metro Morning.

While city staff seemed to be offering up the opportunity to finally have an adult conversation about the kind of city we want to have, and how we’re going to pay for that, early signs coming from the mayor’s office and the point people on his team are not encouraging. Budget Chair Gary Crawford pushed a paper clip motion at committee to see if they can find enough coins under the cushions at City Hall to pay for various initiatives. “Council can make investments and still keep increases at [the] rate of inflation,” Crawford insisted at a press conference after the budget presentation. No, it can’t. That’s pure budgetary fiction.

Councillor Justin Di Ciano, a member of the budget committee, perhaps summed up this approach best and emptiest when he essentially strung together meaningless words and spun a meaningless anecdote for 2 minutes, absolutely devoid of any substance, and echoing Mayor Tory’s campaign chant of ‘prudence’. These people, the mayor’s people, are zealously determined not to have any sort of serious conversation about the direction the city has to go.

The reality on the ground may have other ideas. Mayor Tory (and other so-called ‘fiscal conservatives’ on city council) may have finally painted themselves into too tight a corner. Things cost money. That money has to come from somewhere. Empty rhetoric has been tapped dry. Big investments and ever shrinking revenue sources simply don’t add up.

Councillor Gord Perks begins the conversation this city needs to start having.

ominously submitted by Cityslikr


DesulTORY

January 29, 2015

I detest hypotheticals. (Also, I defy you to say that out loud and not almost say ‘testicles’.) But indulge me this, and hypothetical away with me for a moment.

rodserling

Imagine, if you will, a campaign stop during last year’s municipal election. Candidate Olivia Chow is asked how she’s going to pay for some expensive promise she’s just made, what she’s going to cut or how much she’s going to increase taxes in order to balance the city’s operating budget. Ms. Chow responds, Easy. Imma take a line of credit out from the province, use it to plug the gap. Won’t that just cost us more, an incredulous media asks? With interest charges and all that? Putting off dealing with the shortfall for later? Not to worry, the candidate shrugs.hypocrit What’s a couple of dollars for people in the long run?

Imagine, if you will, her opponent, John Tory, his team’s response to that. Just imagine. The shrieks of outraged joy. TAX-AND-SPENDER!! PROFLIGATE NDP CANDIDATE!!

Just like we heard back last year when Chow proposed increasing buses and bus service. How much will that cost, Olivia? Where you going to get the money, Olivia? If only she had come up with the bright idea of borrowing money from Queen’s Park. Like Mayor John Tory is now to help paper over his increases in spending on things like – I know, right? – increased bus service.

The depths of hypocrisy to which his administration has dug itself into in just 60 days in office is spectacularly audacious. I can’t come close to summoning up the appropriate broadside Christopher Byrd did a couple days ago at the Torontoist. It boils the blood.

John Tory was supposed to be a sober fiscal steward. The municipal budget represented his first real opportunity to make a tough decision, take a tough fiscal stand. He could have decided that City services aren’t worth paying money for; we might sharply disagree with that, but cutting services is at least an honest choice. He could have decided that we all need to pony up for the services we want the City to have. Both of these options would have been unpopular with part of the electorate, but they would have been fiscally responsible.

But Tory didn’t do either of those things; instead, he’s creating additional debt that the City simply did not need to take on—and doing so only to avoid making a difficult call. It’s a cowardly, weak decision, and bodes poorly for his mayoralty.

Yesterday, Matt Elliott laid out 6 ways the mayor could balance the operating budget without resorting to a provincial interest bearing bail out line of credit. reallyWhile time travelling would be lots of fun (and so many problems we could fix without, hopefully, changing the future), I’d say a combination of 1) raising property taxes a little more than the rate of inflation, with a smidge of 2) using some of the 2014 operating surplus might get us over the hump for this year at least. It also might contribute indirectly to 4) convincing the provincial government to reverse the funding cut. Maybe not this time around but in future negotiations. Show the province we’re willing to reasonably tap our revenue sources. In return, maybe they might start looking seriously at other ways they’re putting undue financial pressure on the city. Their half of the TTC operating budget perhaps?

Instead, Mayor Tory took the easy (for now) way out. He goes to the province, cap in hand, and comes back not with chump change, but with an even bigger debt load the city now has to bear. Prudent. I do not think that word means what our mayor thinks it means.

As terrible a mayor as Rob Ford was, even he didn’t try to take out a loan to balance our operating budget. dealwiththedevilHe got up to a lot of tricks, made certifiably outrageous claims, called things by different names to make it seem as if they weren’t what they were, like ‘service adjustments’ instead of ‘service cuts’. But he never took out a loan.

He couldn’t even if he’d thought of it. Can you imagine, with the toxic relationship he had with the provincial government, Rob Ford broaching them for a line of credit to balance the city’s operating budget? They’d laughed in his face. They wouldn’t even have to make up an excuse why not because, as was pointed out this week, the province’s very own law makes it illegal for municipalities to borrow money to balance their operating budgets. Municipal Act, Section 17, subsection C, I believe it is.

Unless… I’m now guessing… you borrow that money from the province?

No, cities can’t go to a financial institution for a loan in order to fund their ongoing expenses. Neither can cities sell of any assets to do that. This restriction does not apply, it seems, if the province is doing the lending or fire sale purchasing.masteroftheuniverse

Leading me to wonder if the Liberal government has come up with a novel approach to assist them in their own current fiscal struggles. Bankrolling municipalities. It’s an effective if ethically dubious strategy. Keep us financially dependent and then cash in loaning us money when we find ourselves strapped. Deliciously IMF-ish.

This presents nothing but upside for the province. The question is, what’s in the deal for cities? Why would Mayor Tory want Toronto more beholden to the province, the senior partner in this relationship, already pulling so many of our governance and fiscal strings?

Three theories spring immediately to mind.

The mayor’s in over his head. While it’s great political rhetoric to demand government operates like a business, the reality is much more complicated. suspicious“Shareholder value” means entirely different things in the two realms. Even balancing public sector books is counterintuitive to self-proclaimed businessmen like our mayor. If Rogers needs more revenue, it just bumps up the price of delivering in their services. The city? More revenue requires tax increases. But tax increases are bad. Square peg meets round hole.

Another possibility is that Mayor Tory is as ideologically hell bent on downsizing the city as his predecessor was. Shrink it into shape and size. Speak of efficiencies and doing more with less. Don’t say as much but all your actions suggest you believe the city has a spending not a revenue problem. Taking on more debt is as good a way to apply downward pressures as any.

The third option might be even more unsettling. Given the mayor’s insistence on deeply entangling the city’s transit plans with the province’s using SmartTrack (Steve Munro provides some examples of that in his interview with Matt Galloway this morning), maybe there’s an even wider convergence, let’s call it, at work here. Further reduce what little independence the city of Toronto currently has in an attempt to wrestle Toronto into a more manageable package as part of an integrated regional form of governance. emptyhandedRather than use the enhanced powers the province granted Toronto back in 2006 to sort out some fiscal sustainability, Mayor Tory chooses to further indebt us to Queen’s Park. Beggars can’t be choosers. Fall into line or we’ll tighten the purse strings.

That one may be too, I don’t know, House of Cards. Sometimes the best explanation is the simplest one which, in this case, would be the mayor’s flying by the seat of his pants, making it up as he goes along. Whatever the reason, it doesn’t bode well for Toronto.

uncertainly submitted by Cityslikr


A Dark Gloomy Day

April 30, 2014

Maybe it was just the rain and the relentless reminder that we’ve been forsaken gloomydayby pleasant weather. Everybody’s lost a little grip on their senses. Or maybe it was the void of idiocy left behind by Mayor Ford after he went all radio silent, having dared the city’s top bureaucrat to run in the election so they could debate the $1.1 billion in savings claim the mayor makes and the city manager disputes. Quick! Say something dumb before a reasonable conversation breaks out.

Or maybe, just maybe, politicians and their handlers all now just assume we’re prepared to put aside critical thought to fall happily for any snappy slogan or nonsensical notion that involves us not having to actually contribute anything to the future well-being of this city. Let’s call it the Ford Factor. No problem too big to pretend there’s not an easy fix for it. And it won’t cost you a single dime, folks!

Whatever the reason, yesterday had to be about the most dispiriting day in the 2014 mayoral campaign so far. stunt1And it hasn’t exactly been an embarrassment of riches to date. Just kind of embarrassing.

It started with Karen Stintz’s transit announ—

No wait.

First it was Team Tory’s PR grab. Olivia Twister (at least, that’s what I’m calling it in the spirit of fun. A pun. Olivia Twister. Oliver Twist?) The classic party game Twister played to highlight Olivia Chow’s apparent policy changes. The Relief Line isn’t a priority. The Relief Line is a priority. The Scarborough subway. No. The Scarborough LRT.

It was hilarious. Actually, it was as hilarious as you’d imagine a John Tory campaign stunt to be. Which is to say, no, it wasn’t hilarious.

As for Karen Stintz’s announcement, she fleshed out how she planned to pay for the city’s portion of the relief line. Sell off a majority of the city’s share of Toronto Hydro. Bring in a parking levy in city owned downtown Green P lots and use some of the revenue from enforcement fees – parking tickets. All things considered, it wasn’t completely and utterly mad. One terrible idea. One intriguing idea. One debatable idea. seeifitsticksNot a bad percentage, coming as it was from the Stintz campaign.

This was followed by Olivia Chow’s speech to the Toronto Region Board of Trade. Pretty much old news. She’d revert back to the original Scarborough LRT instead of the subway, re-directing the already agreed on property tax increase for the proposed subway to start on the Relief Line which, according to transit planning timelines, still wouldn’t be done until 2031. Ms. Chow was also going to lean on the provincial and federal governments to chip in with their fair share… More infrastructure spending… Increased bus service… Nothing new. Nothing particularly exciting or scandalous.

Nothing we hadn’t already heard.

But it was more than enough for some.

Setting aside any credibility she might have garnered from her transit announcement, Karen Stintz fired off an indignant tweet. Today I proposed a war on congestion, while Olivia Chow proposed a war on taxpayers. twisterFollow this if you can… a property tax increase to pay for a subway in Scarborough is a war on congestion. That very same property tax increase to pay for the Relief Line is—Don’t bother. It’s not even supposed to make any sense.

Untangling themselves from Twister, Team Tory was not to be outdone in its outrage and incredulity at the Chow speech. Of course, the NDP candidate for mayor would resort to taxation as a way to pay for a subway. Of course. And in 2031?! Just because it’s part of Metrolinx’s 25 year plan!? We need the relief line now!!

John Tory has officially been in the race for about two months now. From the very beginning he’s made the Relief Line his number one issue. Yet, he still hasn’t told us how he’s going to pay for it. He still hasn’t told us how he’s going to get it built any sooner than 2031. But well, Olivia Chow’s an NDP candidate. That’s the thing to remember right now. Not how John Tory’s going to pay to build a subway on an expedited time line. Hey. emptypromiseDid you see us playing Twister earlier today?

And if that ain’t all underwhelming enough for you, with a provincial election quite possibly looking down the barrel at us as early as mid-June, and the fate of many of these transit plans in the balance, pending the outcome, the opposition leader, Tim Hudak waded neck deep into the dumb with a promise to kill the Hamiliton LRT proposal and replace it with… wait for it, wait for it… a new highway! You can’t load pipes onto a bus, harrumph, harrumph, harrumph…

As we all know, the best way to relieve congestion on our roads is to build more roads. Don’t believe Tim Hudak? Ask Atlanta.

What’s truly amazing about this parade of the ridiculous is that our mayor played no part in it. Not so much as a peep from him during the sad spectacle. He’s just established the route. John Tory, Karen Stintz and Tim Hudak are simply following in his footsteps, hoping it ends up just like it did for Rob Ford in 2010. sadparadeWith them first past the finishing line.

As long as the cheap stunts, empty rhetoric and painless promises prove effective, politicians will return to that well. Why wouldn’t they if we continue to reward them for doing so. We keep acting like chumps, they’ll keep treating us like chumps.

That’s as sure as another gloomy grey day in April.

soggily submitted by Cityslikr


A Section 37 Set-To

October 12, 2012

I hesitatingly wade into the cold and murky waters of Section 37 fees, knowing that almost immediately I will be out of my depth.

But hey! If the Toronto Sun can do it, why not me?

Much has been made recently in the pages of our little tabloid that could about… how did they put it?… ‘the wild west’, ‘shakedowns’, ‘legalized extortion’, ‘bribery’ and ‘… getting away with murder forever’!

Holy cow. It sounds like Tammany fucking Hall down there. Dirty politicians with their greasy, grafty hands, reaching into developers’ pockets to pay for their personal yachts and country estates. Corrupt Ward Bosses.

Or, as many devoted Sunshiners would say: Councillor Adam Vaughan.

Make no mistake, the Toronto Sun’s new found civic activism has less to do with improving the quality of life in this city than it does on zeroing its sights on a potential 2014 rival for their beloved and beleaguered mayor. Councillor Vaughan is knee deep in section 37 funds, his ward 20 in the midst of a development and intensification boom. And of course, Mayor Ford stands vigorously opposed to Section 37 money. “I’ve never liked Section 37 (funds),” the mayor said yesterday. Except when he does. Back in 2010 as a councillor, Ford used $75,000 in Section 37 money to build change rooms at – you pretty much guessed it already – Don Bosco High School.

But look, I’m not here to exchange tits-for-tats or defend Councillor Vaughan. As written, the guidelines on the protocol of Section 37 funds – intended to mitigate the downsides of permitting taller development with higher density than bylaws allow — are both much more thorough than the Sun and critics would have you believe and more open to interpretation than some defenders might care to admit. Although, evidence of nefariousness in the use of the funds or the building of political pet projects is in scant supply in the accusations hurled at Section 37 practitioners.

Still, should the system be examined and other options explored? Sure. “It’s fair to say the process needs to become more clear and it ought to be administered by city staff,” said Toronto’s Chief Planner, Jennifer Keesmaat. “In part, because city staff are not in a conflict of interest when administering it.” (Again, I’d like to see more concrete examples of conflict of interest than simply theoretical possibilities.) Ms. Keesmaat also believes that Section 37 funds could go to city wide infrastructure needs. Not long ago, I was talking to a councillor staffer from a left-leaning, heavy development ward who suggested spreading Section 37 funds more equitably city wide might help in easing downtown-suburban tensions.

Fair enough, I say.

Let’s talk about all that.

While we’re at it, however, I’d like to ask suburbanites and those representing them at City Hall what they’re prepared to give up in return. It seems to me to be all a little one-sided at the moment. Bulk up all you want, downtown wards, Willowdale, Scarborough Centre, Mimico. But share the proceeds with us. A casino would be a great source of jobs and revenue. Put it downtown where we don’t have to deal with any of the negative aspects of it.

It’s almost like, parts of Toronto adapt to being a big 21st-century city, divy up the benefits of doing so with the other parts that just want to remain as is. Give us money from your densification. Accommodate our single rider car travel. Give us subways. Don’t you dare try to impose on our single family, detached homes and cul de sac communities.

“It’s about equity and fairness,” Councillor Mike Del Grande said. (And I’m trying to stifle a derisive snort here.) “This money should improve all of Toronto.”

Absolutely, councillor. But as you might say yourself, shouldn’t improvement start at home? This tilt he’s undertaken smacks a little of the ‘widow and orphan’ syndrome he brushed aside during previous budget cycles. Demanding something for nothing.

I’m all for spreading the wealth. For this city to prosper, it has to prosper for everyone. That can only happen, however, when every part of the city contributes to its evolution from 6 bickering municipalities to a unified whole at the centre of a global metropolitan region. It’s a willingness that has been in short supply from some quarters, who seem more intent on exploiting the inequities for political reasons rather than addressing them for the greater good.

brokeringly submitted by Cityslikr