Meet A Mayoral Candidate — Part IV

TGIF! And the next installment of Meet A Mayoral Candidate. Drum roll, please…

Selwyn For Mayor

Now regular readers of this column will know that all of us here at All Fired Up in the Big Smoke think of ourselves as pretty smart cookies. Acaphlegmic is the book smart one. Urban Sophisticat has street savvy. And me? I know my Ps and Qs, if you know what I’m saying.

We’re like the Charlie’s Angels of the Toronto municipal political blog scene.

But every so often (and I’m sure this happens to you out there much more than it does us here) you encounter someone who is just so smart, so intellectually towering that it’s intimidating to the point of pant wetting. You can’t speak in their presence, tongue-tied for fear of saying something utterly and hopelessly inane and stupid. If such a big-brained being so much as looks in your direction, all you’re capable of doing is dropping to the ground, rolling over onto your back in the hopes that The Smart One deigns to reach down and scratch your belly.

Mayoral candidate Selwyn Firth may be that kind of super-intelligent being. So much so, I’m feeling a little hesitant even attempting to outline his platform. He may just be out of my league.

A chemical engineer by trade, Mr. Firth has some very strong environmental views that don’t align with today’s conventional wisdom. He is a big proponent of clean incineration of not only garbage but much of what we are presently recycling. According to the science behind his Clean Incineration, we could save money and produce electricity at the same time. In his capacity as a chemical engineer, Mr. Firth would oversee this program if elected mayor.

Mr. Firth also believes that we aren’t in the grips of a greenhouse effect but rather a direct heat effect. Again, this is uncertain terrain for me but in a letter he sent to Premier McGuinty last month, it seems Mr. Firth is just as concerned about the latter as much of the world is with the former. Uninformed, non-scientific opinion holds that it’s the gases we emit that are causing climate change. Instead, according to Mr. Firth, the problem comes from the heat we generate and he goes into much calculating detail to explain his theory. Still, Mr. Firth admits that ours is an “insatiable energy use” and if we are not prepared to reign that in we will have to start learning how to “geo-engineer[ing] cloud formation[s] to reflect more sunlight” using ballistic missiles and warming the ocean surfaces in order to cool the atmosphere.

With no scientific background outside of the occasional Nova episode, I can hardly attempt to dispute Mr. Firth’s claims but I do find it curious that despite his alarm at the heating of our environment he seems abjectly unconcerned with tempering car use in the city. As mayor he would “evaluate better access routes into and out of the downtown core” including.. including.. I can barely bring myself to say it.. completing the Spadina Expressway!! “Expressway’s are like arteries for the down town heart. Without good ones the down town will suffer and people will stay away,” Mr. Firth wrote.

Not even the pro-car mayoral candidate, Rocco Rossi, has suggested reviving that long dead debate. And like Rossi, Mr. Firth would banish bikes from arterial roadways, believing that too many cyclists disregard the rules of the road. While no one would argue with that fact, if we’re banishing every vehicle from the main streets because they don’t adhere to the law, they would be empty, lonely strips of pavement. Not something I’d be against but let’s apply it equally to car and bike alike.

But again, perhaps I’m missing the thrust of Mr. Firth’s reasoning.

He wants to lessen the TTC’s dependence on streetcars which he feels are a 19th-century mode of transportation in the 21st-century. They snarl traffic when they breakdown, their weight causes unnecessary road damage and are less accessible than something like kneeling buses. None of which I would try to refute other than to state that I’m a sucker for the illogical magic of the red rocket and irrationally back the LRTs and right-of-way roads to accommodate them.

But that ultimately puts me at odds with candidate Selwyn Firth. “Science should trump emotions” the main page of his website states. He’s right, of course. We would be better served if our governance was driven more by reason rather than ideology and gut instincts. I would like to hear more debate about his clean incineration plans. His website is full of other environmentally friendly ideas.

Yet I feel that Mr. Firth’s emphasis on simple cold calculation exposes a certain lack of heart necessary for public service. His response to our incredibly frivolous question, If the present mayor would like his legacy to be that of the Transit Mayor, how would a Mayor Selwyn Firth like to see his legacy written?, was: “I would like my legacy to be that of a holistic mayor who understood the needs of the city as a whole.” A laudable ambition, certainly, but as a less rational being than Selwyn Firth I feel that I may not be part of his whole. I’d like to think a candidate for public office seeks to reach out for my understanding not reach down.

Of course, that may just be me, being densely irrational. But as Jonathan Swift suggested in Gulliver’s Travels, a society that runs on reason alone cannot function fully any more than one that operates purely on passion.

dutifully submitted by Cityslikr

TTC Skidaddler

Although the TTC is already very much front and centre in the mayoral race of 2K10®™©, there has been little in the way of Big Ideas. Grandstanding seems to be the order of the day; eschewing substance for swagger. Tough guy George Smitherman promises to shake up and overhaul Toronto’s transit system in some vague manner. Troglodyte thinking Rocco Rossi vows to put a stop to all Transit City plans that haven’t already broken ground for a rethink. He wowed the crowd at a public meeting on the proposed Eglinton LRT this past week with a greasy sound bite stating that he wasn’t against mass transit, just mass incompetence.

(An aside to candidate Rossi. How about spending more time studying issues and less on coming up with action movie-like catchphrases that merely highlight your ignorance? Start by reading the “Getting It Right” report delivered by Les Kelman and Richard Soberman delivered to the city in January that summarizes the whole St. Clair LRT “disaster” as you call it. According to the report, there were lots of problems, cost and time overruns and plenty of blame to go around between City Hall, the TTC, the Ontario government and self-serving NIMBYism on the part of local residents and businesses but the lessons learned from that will help streamline the process as it unfolds. On top of which, the portion of the St. Clair LRT that is up and going now is apparently working very well. So shut the fuck up until you have something intelligent to say on the matter. And crowds? Stop encouraging this kind of empty-headed sloganeering. While it may make for good campaigning, it makes for shitty, shitty policy once in power.)

Now, where were we?

Right, right. Sleeping ticket takers, unauthorized coffee breaks, general grumpy all round service. The little things that add up to a bad experience.

Since we’re all just dealing with superficial issues here, let me add my own. TTCers out there, riding the Red Rocket? How about if you start cleaning up after yourselves? On the College car the other day, I went to take a seat and was startled to find the remains of someone’s meal. Coffee cup, wrappers, napkins and a crust. A crust!! Just on the seat?! I mean, who does that? In all likelihood, the same person who then bitches and complains about how dirty and littered the TTC has become.

It’s public transport, folks, not a restaurant. If you don’t want to clean up your garbage, bring your mother along with you, so she does. Maybe she’ll wipe the crumbs from your face and burp you while she’s at it. Paying $3 doesn’t entitle you to treat the streetcars, buses and subway like they’re your home. Why stop at just tossing your garbage? Why not take a piss or a shit there while you’re at it?

The TTC doesn’t get dirty all on its own. As far as I know, there aren’t union members going around littering so that their brothers and sisters in the janitorial union can look busy. It takes more than good management and friendly service to maintain a pleasant public transit system. There’s also a need for good citizens. Do your part.

There, that’s my little issue. If you want to start thinking bigger, there’s an article in today’s Globe and Mail which will help get the ball rolling. I highly recommend it especially for you, Mr. Rossi.

beratingly submitted by Urban Sophisticat