Nothing Against Councillor Mary Fragedakis But…

There’s a moment in Peter Cook and Dudley Moore’s One Leg Too Few sketch, about a one-legged actor auditioning for the role of Tarzan, where Cook, conducting the audition, tells Moore, the actor, “Your right leg I like. I like your right leg. It’s a very lovely leg for the role. A lovely leg for the role, and I’ve got nothing against your right leg. Unfortunately… neither do you.”

I’ve got nothing against Councillor Mary Fragedakis (Ward 29 Toronto-Danforth). Unfortunately… that’s hardly a rousing ring of approval, is it? That’d be the very definition of damning with faint praise, if I understand the phrase properly.

I should say right here that I truly do try and cut the freshman class of 2010 some slack. Birthed onto council in a fiery tempest of toxic partisanship brought down upon them by a strictly by the book, us-versus-them administration. trialbyfireThey had to make some hard choices, and make them quickly.

They were either with the mayor, ag’in the mayor or ducking for cover in the much derided mush middle. Imagine gazelles, born onto the savannah just as the herd bolts in fear at the approach of a hungry, hunting lion. Get up, junior. Get up! This is no time to learn how to walk. Run! Run!!

It was evident early on where Councillor Fragedakis came down on that spectrum. Despite going along with stripping the city of revenue by eliminating the vehicle registration tax (many, many confirmed anti-Fordists made that mistake), she clearly took a spot hanging out with the non-friends of the mayor.

But she did so with little distinction. She got lost in the crowd. Try as I might, I can’t come up with one thing she took hold of, made her own. Councillor Fragedakis, champion of… ?

It’s not like she sat silent, disappearing Esmeralda-like (ask your parents, kids) into the background. More often than not, the councillor made her opinion known during council meetings. milfordmanIt’s just… it’s just…

Her voice was like an echo, a reverberation of something that had already been said. Nothing particularly offensive to these ears but little to be distinguished from things already stated. Councillor Fragedakis strikes me as the dutiful political daughter of Councillor Paula Fletcher (Ward 30 Toronto-Danforth) and niece of Councillor Pam McConnell. (Ward 28 Toronto Centre-Rosedale).

It could be worse, no doubt. I have nothing against Councillor Mary Fragedakis but…

Again, it’s worth noting that she could be a superb constituent councillor, attentive to the needs and concerns of the residents in her ward. Not everyone elected to council needs to be a firebrand and on the forefront of city wide issues. Councillor Fragedakis may be happily and effectively tucked away, doing the more mundane tasks of municipal governance.

Her re-electability too is something of a mystery. me tooI may be horribly off the mark seeing her as vulnerable. She is just in her first term, so not entrenched as the incumbent. Ward 29 shouldn’t necessarily be seen as some safe, left wing seat. Remember, the long time representative from the area, for like 150 years, was Case Ootes, an old Lastmanite and noted anti-David Miller foe. Unless there’s been a dramatic shift in demographics, this ward can’t be considered a walk for any left of centre candidate.

In the 2010 election, Fragedakis benefitted from a right of centre split between former councillor and 2006 mayoral candidate, Jane Pitfield, and the Rocco Rossi endorsed, Jennifer Wood. Animosity flared up, in fact, involving those two camps, with a member of Ms. Pitfield’s team sending off an email request for Ms. Wood to step down in order that she not take votes away from Pitfield and ‘let an NDP council (candidate) Mary Fragedakis win’. stumpedWood didn’t withdraw and ended up with over 4200 votes. Fragedakis won by almost 2500. So it is conceivable that played a part in the outcome.

So it is conceivable that a single strong right of centre candidate in 2014 could seriously challenge Councillor Fragedakis for Ward 29. If that happens, the question will be has she shored up her incumbent bona fides to stave such a charge off, to increase her percentage of the popular vote? Like many things to do with her time in office, I remain simply stumped for an answer.

confusedly submitted by Cityslikr

Another Photo Finish in Ward 26?

Just a quick clarification before I jump right into the next instalment of 15 Wards to Watch (Previous entries here and here.)reminder

This in no way should be interpreted as a list of worst councillors or bums that need to be tossed out. As I wrote at the beginning, if it were, the likes of councillors Frances Nunziata (Ward 11 York South-Weston) or Mark Grimes (Ward 6 Etobicoke-Lakeshore) would feature front and centre. While I’ve certainly weighted the calculations to reflect my opinion of the work councillors do at City Hall, it’s not what this about.

I’m looking at 15 wards that could be seriously contested in the upcoming municipal election based on a combination of councillor competency, the strength of their incumbency and the degree of their plurality in 2010. Obviously, high marks in category one is my way of subjectively skewing the results but as with the above mentioned councillors, primerincumbency and the ease of victory last time out also contribute.

Think of this as a primer, if you will. An All Fired Up in the Big Smoke guide to prospective candidates pondering a run for city council. The information contained within should be considered 85% reliable, 19 times out of 20.

*  *  *

Councillor John Parker (Ward 26 Don Valley West) seems like a nice guy. Well spoken, thoughtful and with a dry sense of humour. His biggest contribution to this term at city council has been in his role as Deputy Speaker. In what could only be best described as a perpetual and ongoing clusterfuck, Councillor Parker always brings a sense of calm, civility and decorum to the proceedings when he assumes the Speaker’s chair.soothing

It also should not be overlooked that he quietly helped derail Mayor Ford’s plan to bury the Eglinton crosstown for the entire length of the route including, somehow, as it crossed the Don Valley. “We’re buying LRTs and asking it to do what a subway does,” Councillor Parker said back in December 2011. “It’ll be the goofiest LRT line known to man.” Parker helped TTC chair Karen Stintz take control of the board from the mayor and oust Ford loyalists who’d turfed then TTC CEO (and LRT supporter) Gary Webster.

He then stood opposed to the TTC chair’s move to build a Scarborough subway her way and was very vocal on the council floor, speaking out against the ultimately successful bid to abandon the planned and paid for LRT replacement of the Scarborough RT with a subway. So he’s got transit working for him. texaschainsawmassacreAs long as you don’t consider cycling and walking an integral part of a transit network.

There’s the rub. Councillor Parker is still what you might call a fiscal conservative with an OK sensibility of city building but not outstanding. Money first. Ideas next.

And we cannot forget that he was a member of the Mike Harris government back in the 90s when subways were filled in, costs downloaded to the city and enforced amalgamation. Much of this burden we’re still living with currently. So it’s annoyingly ironic that here he is, a decade and a half later, contributing (or not) to cleaning up a mess he as an MPP helped create. Such a mess that Councillor Parker, during a 2012 budget debate, had the gumption to suggest was severe enough to force him to float visions of Detroit and Greece if we didn’t clean up our act.

John Parker is much smarter than that.johnparker

As mixed as I’d call his time at city council as, the real factor in making Ward 26 one to watch is his tenuous hold on it. He was first elected in 2006 with just over 20% of the popular vote. In 2010 in another tight race, this time a 3-way one, Parker increase his share popular vote share to over 31% but only 600 votes separated him from the 3rd place finisher.

Slight shifts in either of these elections would’ve kept him from winning. Is he as vulnerable this time out? While I’d think his profile has been elevated (always a plus for an incumbent) especially in his role as Deputy Speaker if nothing else, does it move in a favourable direction for him?

He’s certainly become increasingly vocal in his opposition to Mayor Ford to the point that during the ice storm cleanup cost debate, the mayor’s brother-councillor-campaign manager told Councillor Parker that he was pathetic and a joke. photofinishSo Parker might not want to count on any Ford Nation bump to help him out in a close race. That ship seems to have already sailed.

Will it matter?

I’ve said that regardless of what happens at the mayoral level, the mayor isn’t going to have long enough coat tails to settle many council races especially ones that aren’t in Etobicoke or Scarborough. So Ward 26 is Councillor John Parker’s to lose. Depending on who lines up against him and if there’s another vote split like occurred in both of Parker’s previous victories, I’m pretty comfortable in calling this one a nail biter.

helpfully submitted by Cityslikr

Who’s Nickel And Diming Us Now?

And in other city news, little league baseball teams, along with other youth organizations, will now have to start paying permit fees to use city parks.

Lost under the heavy din of the subway v. LRT skirmish, fallout from the 2012 budget has begun. In raising the hourly rate for park permit fees and applying them to groups previously exempt, the city is now balancing its books on the backs of those who, for too long, have shirked their fiscal responsibilities: the children. More specifically, freeloading children who expect us to pay for their frivolous pastimes. Enough is enough, you prepubescent freeloaders. Didn’t your parents tell you? We’ve Stopped The Gravy Train.

Before you start screaming bloody murder, Mayor Rob Ford was elected with an overwhelming landslide mandate to nickel and dime us to death. Remember? So pony up that $13,000, Leaside Baseball Association. It’s only about $80 extra a player. If we have as many little leaguers in this city as we do car owners, that would more than make up for rescinding the vehicle registration tax that was totally nickel and diming them.

Talk about your robbing (would be) Pete (Roses) to pay (would be) Paul (Hawkinss).

And yeah, I went there for that joke.

To be fair to the mayor, it was the taxpayer he promised to respect not snot nosed playground warriors. Maybe when they start paying taxes, he’ll start respecting them. Until then, consider this a lesson learned. There are no free rides or free lunches unless, of course, it becomes politically expedient to provide such things. Playing a sport or participating in some form of activity should be seen as a nice to have not a need to have. Keeping a property tax increase below the rate of inflation doesn’t come free, folks.

We can only not have a revenue problem if we generate revenue, and we can only generate revenue through not raising taxes appropriately or cut services significantly, or both. In order to not raise taxes appropriately means having to do it in a more untaxing manner. Call them user fees instead. Sounds perfectly reasonable, right? You use it. You pay for it. What could be fairer than that.

It wasn’t like out there on the campaign trail then candidate Rob Ford hid his intentions from anybody. He was upfront and forward about who was going to pay and how much and how often. All about accountability and transparency. Nobody could be surprised about any of this now.

“I think it’s unrealistic to hit them now with a cost that they didn’t see coming,” Councillor John Parker said of the new increases in permit fees.


Somebody didn’t get the memo.

Somebody didn’t read between the lines.

Somebody’s been had.

This was all supposed to be so painless, yeah? Simply a matter of better bookkeeping, really. Two, three, four percent gone, easy. We wouldn’t even notice. Money was being spent that didn’t need to be spent. Once that was tracked down and eliminated, like, in a heartbeat, the mayor knew where the deadwood was hiding out, stinking the place up, we’d be as right as rain. No fuss, no bother.

Nothing drastic changed for Rob Ford upon assuming the office of mayor. There were no large, unexpected gaps between revenues and spending. In fact, he was greeted with a surplus. Only the terminology changed. Cuts in revenue streams were called tax cuts and freezes. Cuts to services were now referred to as ‘adjustments’ or ‘efficiencies’. Annual surpluses that had been previously thought of as a sign of good fiscal stewardship became hideous oversights and lamentable accounting errors known as ‘one time savings’.

We can’t count on ‘one time savings’ that happen every year to bail us out all the time, folks.

Nothing changed except the tune. Campaign guarantees became more, m’eh, fuzzy guidelines, nice to haves not actually anything concrete. Shrinking the size of government turns out not to be such a snap. People tend to notice when things they depended on suddenly disappear or cost more to use.

Elect me and I promise to reduce the services the city provides while charging more for the ones we maintain.

I wonder what kind of mandate Rob Ford would be touting now if, as a candidate, he’d talked openly and truthfully about how he actually planned on governing this city.

genuinely curiously submitted by Cityslikr