Didn’t You Use To Be… ?

January 31, 2014

The final budget of the Ford administration has now been signed and sealed, marking a full circle for the mayor. Full circle? Half circle?

He came in like a lion and went out like a lamb, is what I’m trying to say. tickletickletickleA bleating, scruffy, possibly orf ridden lamb. Nothing you’d want to cuddle up to (unless, of course, you’re Budget Chief Frank Di Giorgio) or use the wool to make a hat and scarf set with, but generally harmless.

However, don’t let the mayor convince you he had nothing to do with the 2014 budget. His mutton smeared fingerprints are all over it, evidence of a time not long ago when he was fearsome enough a force to… a-hem, a-hem… ram his will through that of city council. Echoes of days gone by when he was a man with a mandate.

This is a budget still with lower than needed property tax increases (or other revenue sources) to meet the demands of growth in Toronto. This is a budget still where the soft services like youth initiatives, student nutritional programs, shelter, support and housing, all vie for the crumbs left behind after the big ticket items such as the TPS and TTC have had their fill of the shrinking pie. scarceThis is a budget where tax revenue starts being diverted to build a Scarborough subway.

Let’s call budget 2014 a Ford-lite document. Not too tax-y and with a slight hint, a whiff really, of compassion. Something, if not for everyone, only the zealots and numerically challenged could be indignant about. A true election year budget, living as we are in the Ford era.

(I highly recommend you link over to Social Planning Toronto for a much more thorough analysis of the budget fallout than I could possibly give.)

Getting there was not without its bumps and outbursts and histrionic hissy fits. Mostly from the usual suspects. The mayor. His councillor-brother. Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti. Oh, Giorgio. Knucklehead, knuckle-dragger, numbskull and the scourge of good governance everywhere.

After all his time as the local representative, it’s amazing frankly that Ward 7 is anything but a crater in the ground. To hear Councillor Mammoliti bitch and moan, it may well be. A crater filled with impoverished senior citizens, transport trucks and a flag pole. clownshowHe got his ward that flag pole, right?

Despite his best efforts to be the biggest bane of reasonable, civil debate over the course of the last couple days, I can honestly tell you that at about 6 p.m. last night he was upstaged in spectacular fashion. Nope. Not by the mayor. Not by Councillor Ford. Not even by Councillor David Shiner’s Bullshit Bag.

Nope.

All that paled in comparison to the real warrior of division, newly minted in the intense heat of battle known as the struggle for a Scarborough subway.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Councillor Glenn De Baeremaeker, Ward 38 Scarborough Centre (courtesy of Graphic Matt):

No, but wait. It gets better. From March 2012, less than 2 years ago. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Councillor Glenn De Baeremaeker, Ward 38 Scarborough Centre (courtesy of Himy Syed):

I don’t know the language but I’m beginning to think De Baeremaeker is Dutch for ‘fucking hypocrite’.

Set aside the craven 180 performed in just over a year. What politician hasn’t done an utter about-face when they think it politically expedient? In the face of a fearsome Ford Nation back in 2010, how many councillors voted to eliminate a source of revenue with the Vehicle Registration Tax, only to openly regret it a couple budget cycles later?

What about fellow Scarborough councillor Paul Ainslie Ward 43 Scarborough East? nopledgeDuring the great transit debate of 2012, the one where Councillor De Baeremaeker spoke so lovingly of LRTs, Councillor Ainslie was all about subways, burying the Eglinton crosstown for the entire route. Even in the early stages of the latest Scarborough subway skirmish, while De Baeremaeker was tucking his tail between his legs, worrying about some Ford Nation backlash that would turf him from office in 2014, Ainslie appeared to be falling in line with the otherwise unanimous demand of the other 9 councillors from Scarborough for a subway extension of the Bloor-Danforth line.

But he didn’t. Instead, he stood up at council last year and said that after examining all the facts available to him, he’d decided on both fiscal and transit planning grounds, an LRT was the way to go.

How did Councillor De Baeremaeker explain his conversion in the opposite direction?

Deserve.

Deserve.mineminemine

Scarborough deserves a subway. Anything less, including those sleek, iPad-esque LRTs, would be an insult. A slap in the face of Scarborough residents who’d been waiting out in the cold for too long, waiting for their fair share of 1st-class, world class transit technology.

Deserve.

It’s the last refuge of scoundrels. At least when it comes to transit planning.

When you don’t have the numbers, when the facts and figures really don’t make a case for your demands, reach back into the bag of resentment, deep down into that parochial pit and left fly with the sword of petulant division. You have one! Why don’t we? It’s unfair! We pay and pay and pay, and get nothing in return. We deserve a subway!

Or else.

We’ll de-amalgamate. We’ll take our ball and go home. principledWe’ll hold our breath until we turn blue and get our way.

This kind of divisive, two year-old temper tantrum approach to politics I expect from the Fords. It is, after all, their bread and butter. Consensus is not part of their repertoire. Divisiveness is all they have.

But honestly, there’s a kind of unprincipled principled…ness to how the Ford’s go about doing their business. Everybody knows what they’re doing. They know what they’re doing in sowing the seeds of division throughout the city in the hopes of manufacturing enough of an us-versus-them base to keep them in power. Most of the time, I actually think they believe what comes out of their mouths.

The likes of Councillor Glenn De Baeremaeker? Not so much. He apparently has no principles past getting himself re-elected. That’s pure Giorgio Mammoliti territory. Remember how much he hated Rob Ford before it became apparent he was going to be Mayor Rob Ford? Now, they’re inseparable, attached at the thumb almost.

Whichever way the wind’s blowing, right?hollowman

Councillor Glenn De Baeremaeker has become a hollow politician. A destructive shell of a councillor who is putting his own interests before those of the city he was elected to represent. The whole city not just Scarborough, not just Ward 38.

Scarborough doesn’t deserve a subway. It deserves better representation than the likes of Glenn De Baeremaeker.

indignantly submitted by Cityslikr


On A Need To Know Basis

January 14, 2013

I don’t think it much hyperbole to suggest that budgeting is the most important aspect of governance, especially so at the municipal level. alookatthebudgetIt pretty much determines a city’s quality of life. The number of police and firefighters on the street. The state of good repair for important pieces of infrastructure. How many people will die on the streets in any given year.

The budgets here in Toronto are complex and complicated, no question. It just sort of comes with the territory when the annual operating budget comes in and around $10 billion and the capital at roughly $1.5 billion. That’s a lot of moolah that needs to be found and services that need to be funded adequately.

So it’s curious to me when councillors fail to reach out to their constituents in any meaningful way during the lead up to the council budget debate and vote. Hey, everyone. Here’s what’s happening. Here’s how I’m going to vote. Any questions? Concerns? Opinions as to what you think is and isn’t important?

Running down the list compiled earlier this month by Social Planning Toronto shows that less than half of our councillors organized any sort of budget forum for their constituents although that may’ve changed in the last few days. (We are happy to be corrected and updated to any omissions we make.) publicconsultationsAm I over-reacting to think there’s something wrong and neglectful about that?

By my estimation, some twenty of the councillors I’d expect to vote along the fiscal lines of Mayor Ford (yes, I’m including Councillor Karen Stintz in that group) had no public consultation on the budget process. There were six councillors on the other side of the political fence who didn’t although I’ll give Councillor Joe Mihevc a pass on his ‘maybe’ as he doesn’t seem averse to public consultations. And I’ve thrown Councillor Raymond Cho into the latter category despite having no idea where he’s going to come down on budget votes since seeking the provincial Progressive Conservative nomination in the next election.

Now, I could rush to the ideological conclusion that right wing politicians, once in office, don’t care to fraternize with the hoi polloi. Don’t bug me in between elections, folks. We’ll talk again in 2014.

But I won’t. Let’s just chalk that discrepancy up to the nature of being in power versus not. This is Mayor Ford and his supporters’ budget. They don’t need to consult the public’s opinions or fully inform them because a ‘mandate’ is why. shhhI’m sure the roles were reversed back in the day David Miller was in power.

But what I will note is the urban-suburban, geographic divide.

In Scarborough, only Councillor Chin Lee held a budget town hall. Councillor Gary Crawford was planning on attending one while also offering to meet up with groups at City Hall. Up in North York, 4 councillors either held formal sessions or met in for smaller budget get-togethers. In York, Ward 13 councillor Sarah Doucette was alone in holding a public meeting. None of the elected representatives in Etobicoke deigned to put together a budget town hall for their constituents.

In fact, in Ward 6, Councillor Mark Grimes declined to attend last week’s community organized budget session. Why? Your guess is as good as mine if you read through a statement he issued.

patronizing“Every year the capital and operating Budget seems to be the most contentious issue we deal with at City Hall,” he said.

“It’s difficult to comment on any one item without looking at its context as part of the whole. I’ve been gathering feedback from around the ward, meeting with city staff and I’m looking forward to the (budget) meeting. There is going to have to be a give and take from all sides of the debate, but I think at the end of the day we’ll find ourselves with a budget everyone can be proud of.”

It seems Councillor Grimes believes the budget’s too ‘contentious’ to be discussed in a public forum outside of a city council meeting. Leave the ‘give and take’ up to the councillors, folks. That’s what they’re elected to do. You can’t possibly expect a councillor to give any sort of budgetary context in just two or three hours, am I right? Next thing you know, people’ll be standing up on chairs and the like.

Meanwhile downtown, in the former cities of Toronto and East York, only the above mentioned Councillor Joe Mihevc and Councillor Paula Fletcher didn’t hold public budget sessions (again, all this is subject to updates and corrections). Setting aside the left-right politics for the moment, it shouldn’t escape anyone’s notice the wildly divergent degrees of engagement based on location. letmefinishThe broad strokes suggest politicians in the core engage with their constituents. Those in the suburbs don’t.

Which leads me to ask one very pertinent question.

When we talk of political alienation as a part of the rise of what we once referred to as Ford Nation – suburbanites being left out of the conversation, neglected, ignored – should we really be pointing the finger at out-of-touch, downtown elitists? Overwhelmingly it seems councillors from the suburbs failed to consult their own constituents on such an integral matter as the budget. Perhaps political disengagement begins much closer to home.

inquiringly submitted by Cityslikr


Counting Heads Ahead Of The Budget

January 4, 2012

On Monday Social Planning Toronto released a list of councillor budget forums planned (or not) to give (or not give) their residents an opportunity to express their views (or not) about the upcoming budget. I think it’s instructive to see who’s doing what (or nothing) to reach out to citizens (or taxpayers) as part of their duty as an elected official.

Since all Scarborough councillors seem to be involved in a Scarborough wide forum – although be sure to do a headcount to make sure there aren’t shirkers trying to ride in on others’ coattails – let’s give them not only a pass but a shout out to those who’ve already had or are planning their own additional budgetary town hall. That would be Budget Chief Mike Del Grande.

Of the 34 remaining, non-Scarborough councillors, there is no mention at all of nine, Shelley Carroll, John Filion, Doug Ford, Doug Holyday, Giorgio Mammoliti, Peter Milczyn, James Pasternak, Anthony Perruzza, David Shiner. I attended a budget session with Councillor Carroll in December where she vowed to occupy anyone’s kitchen she was invited to to talk about the budget, so I figure she’s out there and involved. As for the other 8, I’ll withhold passing judgement at this point.

Seven councillors have already held budget meetings for their constituents. These include councillors Ana Bailão, Janet Davis, Sarah Doucette, Mike Layton, Joe Mihevc, Denzil Minnan-Wong and Gord Perks. Nine more have meetings scheduled between now and January’s council meeting on January 17th. That list is made up of councillors Maria Augimeri, Josh Colle, Mary Fragedakis, Josh Matlow, Pam McConnell, Mary-Margaret McMahon, John Parker (2), Adam Vaughan and Kristyn Wong-Tam. Councillor Vincent Crisanti has one in the works, time and place to be determined while Councillor Paula Fletcher is planning a tele-town hall.

That leaves 7 on record so far stating they have no plans to hold any sort of forum to discuss the upcoming 2012 budget with their constituents. Now, I don’t want to jump to conclusions here but looking at the names, I can’t help notice that they, more often than not, are part of the mayor’s team. Why wouldn’t they be out there explaining to their residents the ins-and-outs of the budget implications? Why aren’t they actively seeking an open discussion with those that elected them to office? In short, why aren’t they doing their jobs?

Something people might want to ask them.

Councillor Frank DiGiorgio. Councillor Mark Grimes. Councillor Gloria Lindsay Luby. Councillor Frances Nunziata. Councillor Cesar Palacio. Councillor Jaye Robinson. Councillor Karen Stintz.

helpfully submitted by Cityslikr


A Toonie For Your Troubles

December 7, 2011

All levels of government have been nickel and diming taxpayers.

— Rob Ford, 2010

$2 proposed fee for a dip in the city’s outdoor swimming pools.

$2 proposed fee for renting a Hollywood type movie from the city’s libraries.

$2 proposed fee for a visit to the city owned Riverdale farm.

Chalk it up to inflation, I guess. Now that he’s mayor, Rob Ford has upped the ante, finding a certain comfort zone toonie-ing Toronto taxpayers to death. Remember back during the salad days of 2010 when we didn’t have a revenue problem?

Never mind the boldfaced about-face on this issue. Never mind the blatant hypocrisy in filling that supposed non-existent revenue gap made gappier with last year’s repeal of the Vehicle Registration Tax and a below inflationary property tax hike with the combined 2011 and 2012 budgets. Never mind that none of these proposed user fees need to be introduced, none of the proposed service cuts need to enacted if Team Ford actually took an even-handed approach to the budget. If the whole process wasn’t gamed from the very beginning, this so-called crisis real instead of manufactured.

I hesitate to call it all-out class warfare, citing the move away from collecting money for city services from those owning homes and cars to those who are less likely to. Sure, lots of people struggling to make ends meet in the city drive cars (many have to, given the sorry state on TTC service in the areas they live). And I am aware renters ultimately pay more when their landlords’ property taxes are increased.

But the items up for consideration to be dinged both with proposed user fees and cuts in service tend to be those that benefit Mayor Ford’s vaunted ‘little guy’. Libraries. City run pools and programs. Public transit. I am open to being corrected on this but it looks an awful lot like a transfer of wealth upward and offloading of responsibility downward. The true face of trickle down economics.

If you’re uncomfortable with that angle, how about this one? The proposed 2012 budget is another step toward a commodification of the public sphere, a penalization of community engagement. Money flows from the public coffers to subsidize private spaces. Cars. Homes. Taxes as a form of payment toward the common good held in check and replaced by user fees which are doled out only for a specific purpose. You don’t use it. You don’t pay for it.

We’re being rewarded for retreating away from each other, back into our little cubby holes of selfishness. Hey. You want to get from point A to point B? Drive your car. Want to read a book? Buy it at Amazon. Watch a movie? Download it. Sweltering hot on a summer day? Head up to your cottage.

Public spaces cost too much to maintain except, of course, when it comes to roads and they’re really just extensions of my home to work personal corridor. Public spaces are ‘nice to haves’, a little too European for our tastes and look what’s going on there right now. Do you want to be another Greece? You want ‘nice to haves’, you pay for them. $ 2 a pop.

Under Mayor Ford, we may not be nickel and diming taxpayers to death in Toronto but we’re sure intent on sticking it to the city’s citizens.

highway robberly submitted by Cityslikr