Arizona Wants Me

March 16, 2012

So while all you are mobilizing the troops for next week’s transit battle, I’ll be heading out for an extended weekend trip to find me an honest to god LRT. Ride it. Test it. Confirm my bias. Conduct an objective analysis. See if they’re as spiffy as all that plus a bag of peanuts.

Off to Phoenix, I am, to ride the Metro Light Rail. Our friends over at Spacing wrote about it three years ago.

And if said LRT takes me past a ballpark where Cactus League is well under way, well, I just might have to hop off and check it out. A game or two or five. What’s the harm in all that? Why would I possibly turn down the chance to check out baseball where, scuttlebutt has it, even the worst diamond is better than the best diamond over there in the Grapefruit League in Florida? You can’t ride an LRT for 3 days straight, dammit! Although, you could if the only alternative was a subway.

I will be back in time to speak of what I’ve discovered firsthand of this technology called LRT before city council makes a decision on Wednesday. And maybe discuss how Albert Pujols looks in a Angels uniform. Or, if I’m really lucky, what could’ve been if the Blue Jays landed Yu Darvish although, their projected starting rotation is looking just fine without him at the moment…

And of course, who doesn’t want to spend at least one St. Paddy’s day in the Arizona sunshine before they die?

grand canyonly submitted by Cityslikr


Enemy Of Your Enemy

March 14, 2012

Is it me or is TTC Chair Karen Stintz operating like Michael Corleone these days? And I mean, the good, baptism scene, killing his rivals to assume control and avenge his father’s attempted assassination Michael Corleone, not the hyper-paranoid, soulless murdering machine Michael Corleone who offed his own brother. Yeah, as a matter of fact, there is a difference. It’s all about knowing where to draw the line.

At this point, it’s hard to square the cool, confident Councillor Karen Stintz with the pipsqueak who took voice lessons while contemplating a run at former mayor David Miller back in 2006. But hey. Six years is a long time in politics. And maybe this time, she’s more comfortable with her opponent. A far right ideologue, putting his future electability before good governance, threatening to cause irreparable harm to even Ms. Stintz’s brand of moderate conservatism in the process.

The Globe and Mail’s Kelly Grant reported yesterday that the TTC Chair and her newly appointed commission will move to ice the Toronto Transit Infrastructure Limited corporation the mayor revived and drained of money and significance in his bid to come up with a viable Sheppard subway plan. Note how I wrote, ‘her newly appointed commission’ as last week she successfully rid the TTC commission of the five members who’d done the mayor’s bidding and fired then Chief General Manager Gary Webster in reaction to his public expression of support for LRTs. This, during a special council meeting Stintz and twenty-three other councillors called that eventually set aside the mayor’s self-proclaimed transit plans and re-established the more Transit City-like designs on Eglinton, Finch and the Scarborough RT.

It’s a transit file tit-for-tat that is increasingly marginalizing Mayor Ford. So emboldened is the TTC Chair that she walked into a wholly manufactured anti-LRT crowd last Thursday at the Scarborough Civic Centre and calmly, patiently stated her case in the face of shrill shrieking on all sides. Why? She had nothing to gain. There was no way she was going to win over that particular room filled as it was with antipathy rather than curiosity.

She took it on the chin, was heckled mercilessly by not only the audience but by fellow panel members. She got unsurprisingly bad, egregiously biased press coverage. But you know what? A week later, the TTC Chair is busy preparing to close down the last remnants of the mayor’s subway dreams while Mayor Ford… still has no viable plan to build a subway. A fact that Councillor Stintz made over and over again at the Scarborough transit townhall which, despite falling on largely deaf ears, doesn’t make it any less true.

So the councillor faces a hostile crowd as part of her job representing the entire city as TTC Chair while the mayor, in his capacity of city wide representation, retreats to the increasingly no-critics-allowed cocoon of AM talk radio.

This can hardly be the outcome Team Ford foresaw when they handed such a high profile position to someone they must’ve viewed as a mayoral rival in Councillor Stintz. In fact, allow me to hypothesize here for a moment, but this is the exact opposite outcome for them as they probably saw the TTC Chair position as a millstone to anyone’s political aspirations who took it on. Since public transit was not something Team Ford gave a rat’s ass about, if played just right they could fuck with it while taking out any potential suitor to the mayor’s job in 2014.

And up until about October last year, Councillor Stintz played the willing dupe, delivering up the requested 10% departmental budget cut the mayor asked for, the requisite service cuts er, ‘adjustments’ and minimal fare increase. She made the emptily strident call to maintain those service cuts during the budget debate this year in the face of Josh Colle’s motion to take them (along with other services) off the table. According to Ms. Grant’s article, the TTC Chair was even part of the group last year that revived  the TTIL to explore the Sheppard subway option. The TTIL she is now moving to finish off.

Playing along to get along or was the resulting tepid Chong report that emerged the breaking point?

Fissures had surfaced before that, certainly. The TTC Chair was on the vanguard last fall pointing out — what did she call it again? — ‘unresolved technical issues’ with burying the Eglinton crosstown LRT like the mayor wanted. “For one, the change of plans championed by Mayor Ford could trigger a new environmental assessment – a costly and time-consuming proposition,” Councillor Stintz said. “The Don Valley also is a problem. ‘You can’t tunnel there. It’s just not possible.’”

And it’s an issue that still hasn’t been fully addressed by underground fetishists and perhaps is one of the reasons for the TTC Chair’s break with the mayor on the transit file. She certainly gave him enough warning about her unease, raised a warning flag publicly that Team Ford either didn’t see or simply chose to ignore. No one can accuse her of operating by stealth here. She telegraphed this punch months ago. Maybe the mayor believed he couldn’t be knocked on his ass by a girl.

Now that he has been, Councillor Stintz seems determined not to let him back up on his feet. Having been rebuffed on numerous occasions at striking some sort of compromise with Mayor Ford on the Sheppard subway, it looks now as if she’s moving in for the kill come next Wednesday’s council meeting. If the vote goes her way there and LRTs are given the greenlight for Sheppard, she will have, in effect, run the transit table vote, relegated the mayor to the noisy peanut gallery and left the province with very little wiggle room in terms of the ‘will of council’.

It will also mean that Councillor Stintz fully owns the TTC file. Its successes will be hers as will the failures. The chances of the latter are greatly increased since there will be a mayor in office actively pursuing and magnifying her setbacks.

If this were her cunning political plan all along, her Machiavellian strategy to the mayor’s chair in 2014, well, I have to give her a nod, no, a bow of admiration. It is, perhaps, the most perilous route, the one most fraught with possible catastrophes imaginable. Surely to god there has to be an easier way.

But, stranger things have happened. I mean, there was that time just after World War II when nobody believed that war hero Michael would eventually succeed his dad as the Godfather. It was supposed to be Sonny, always Sonny.

admiringly submitted by Cityslikr


Democracy? M’eh.

March 7, 2012

The modern conservative species (genus: WTF?!) has often been a subject of consideration for us here at All Fired Up in the Big Smoke. Our overriding impression is one of a political philosophy that has, ironically, strayed far from its traditional path. In short, theirs is not their grandfathers’ conservatism.

There remains a strain of belief, however, that has survived the centuries relatively intact. It’s that unease with the messy aspects of democracy we can trace back to, arguably, one of the movement’s founding voices, Edmund Burke, although it does him a great, great disservice to lump him in with today’s crowd even on that score. His reaction to the excesses of the French Revolution is what I’m referring to on this point. One, I’m sure, our friend Sol Chrom will take the time to straighten me out on.

Conservatives tolerate democracy, I’m saying. Barely. They boil it down to the basic element of elections. The governance that goes on in between is little more than a nuisance, the vagaries inherent in a system that endeavours to accommodate more than one voice, one point of view is vilified, discounted and suppressed.

For example, the pre-stable majority Conservatives in Ottawa. Twice as a minority government they were faced with parliamentary non-confidence, they sought extraordinary measures to wiggle free from out under it and shut down democracy. Any notion of a coalition replacing them as the governing party was couched in terms of being illegitimate, anti-democratic, a nefarious coup d’etat.

As the Robocalls outrage shows, even their successful bid to form a majority is tinted with an anti-democratic impulse. Rather than endeavour to expand their appeal by persuasive arguments and reaching out for a broader consensus, Stephen Harper’s Conservatives sought to misinform voters and to disenfranchise them. Dirty tricks instead of bright ideas. It’s all in the game, yo.

Here in Toronto, conservative supporters are aghast at a mayor losing control of city council, utilizing similar terminology to their federal counterparts. A coup. Illigetimacy. Back stabbing. Treacherous betrayal.

In recent days there has been some very fine pieces written about the current entanglement at City Hall. Open File’s John McGrath got it started last weekend with his post, Rob Ford, the TTC, and the crisis of legitimacy at Toronto City Hall. Adam Chaleff-Freudenthaler responded with a spirited rebuttal, An Informed Dissent on City Hall. After the TTC debate and vote on Monday, the Torontoist’s Hamutal Dotan weighed in beautifully, City Council is Supreme. The Grid’s Edward Keenan added his voice on the topic, So who’s running this city, anyway?, earlier today.

It is not my purpose to jump into that particular fray now aside from saying I don’t believe we’re witnessing any sort of crisis of legitimacy more than a crisis of leadership. Yes, there are probably some adjustments that could be considered to reduce the fractiousness that arises between the single so-called mayoral mandate and those of 44 councillors. Electing more citywide representatives might be a step in that direction but that’s for another post.

No, my concern here is the reaction of conservative voices to Mayor Ford’s diminishing position on council. The inchoate screeds from the Toronto Sun’s Sue Ann Levy are to be expected. Any reversal of fortune the mayor encounters will always be the devious, underhanded work of pampered left wing, kooky socialists to her mind, such as it is. It only begs for schoolyard nicknames.

But such baseless outpouring of drivel from Marcus Gee of the Globe and Mail is far more troubling. Messy political infighting plunges City Hall into chaos screams the headline of his article on Tuesday. ‘Low rent borgias’, ‘a power-drunk left-wing opposition’, he labelled those who took control of the TTC from the mayor on Monday. He states: The mayor is badly hobbled, but who runs the show in his place? before concluding As fascinating as it is to watch all this ad hocery, it leaves Toronto with a drifting, leaderless government at a time when it needs firm direction more than ever.

I’ve never met Mr. Gee but, from a distance, he seems like an amiable enough chap. While I think it safe to call him conservative leaning, he hardly comes across in his writing as some sort promoter of authoritarianism. Yet, here he is predicating the successful, smooth running of a city with the powerful leadership of one person, the mayor. Without that, well, we’re plunging into the darkness of chaos. Oh my god, the PTA is disbanding!

Such a sentiment is not only highly anti-democratic but it also suggests a very blinkered view of the workings of our municipal government. And to promote the notion that the 29 councillors voting to assume control of the TTC from the mayor who has badly fumbled the transit file are driven by nothing more than left-wing ideology is, well, pure fabrication. Since when did Councillor Karen Stintz become left wing? Or councillors Gary, Crawford, Peter Milczyn, Cesar Palacio, John Parker, James Pasternak, Jaye Robinson, Gloria Lindsay Luby, Chin Lee, Josh Colle? By making such a claim, Mr. Gee is simply propagating the left-right storyline that the mayor regularly spouts.

Aside from the increasingly potent opposition to Mayor Ford not being ideologically cohesive, it spans the entirety of the city, further exploding the divisive urban-suburban myth the mayor so heavily relies on. There is not a former pre-amalgamation municipality not represented in the 29 councillors who stood up against the mayor on the TTC vote. Right of centre Etobicoke councillor Gloria Lindsay Luby joined forces with leftie Scarborough councillor Glenn De Baeremaeker as part of the team with North York centrist Councillor Jaye Robinson and champagne sipping, downtown socialist Councillor Gord Perks.

We should be celebrating this move toward a city wide conciliation instead of shrieking about the collapse of local democracy. Why do we think that one person steamrolling over 22 others to fulfill a mandate or agenda is how a city best runs? While it might fit nicely into a lazy narrative, it is profoundly autocratic loving. Sadly, it also passes as rigid conservative orthodoxy these days.

happily submitted by Cityslikr


Slumps Can Be Contagious

March 6, 2012

It feels a little passé to call a major setback for Mayor Rob Ford at city council historic since it’s become fairly routine, but to lose complete and utter control of the TTC, the number 1 operating budget outlay for the city, is well, kinda, sorta historic. Sure, with enough support at council the mayor can dictate the amount of money the city hands over to the TTC, but even that kind of backing should be considered highly tentative in light of yesterday’s vote. How the commission decides to spend the money the city gives it is entirely out of the mayor’s hands. LRTs, subways, bus route cuts, all are now up to a commission he has almost no sway over.

Imagine former mayor, David Miller, flush with provincial government money, claiming a mandate to build Transit City and his TTC commission members say, m’eh. You know what? We’re going a different route.

You can scream mandate, mandate, mandate all you want but it won’t mask the fact you’ve lost control of the agenda.

If the size of victory for ex-but-now-still TTC Chair Karen Stintz’s motion to dissolve the commission’s configuration from an all councillor board of 9 to a 7 councillor plus 4 appointed `civilian’ board, an eye-poppingly large, 29-15, twenty-nine to fifteen — a photo-finish shy of 2/3s of council voting against the mayor, two-thirds, a number that if replicated regularly would render him largely irrelevant in the running of this city – was not bad news enough for Mayor Ford, the composition of the new board made for an iceberg striking catastrophe.

He doesn’t have an ally on it. Of 14 ears, three could be considered sympathetic. Four of the councillors might take a call from him but probably 2 would keep him on hold for a couple minutes.

Politically, the commission is now as balanced as you could get. There are three right-of-centre members, Chair Karen Stintz, former vice-chair Peter Milczyn and Councillor John Parker. All survivors of the previous commission but none, save perhaps Councillor Milczyn, whose relationship with the mayor made it through the last month or so intact, let’s say.

Councillor Maria Augimeri is the other holdover and was never an ally of the mayor. She is now joined in that corner by councillors Glenn De Baeremaeker and Raymond Cho, both vocal critics of Mayor Ford and both, not coincidentally, representing Scarborough wards. This has been designated the key battleground by the administration and now it’s represented on the TTC by two non-subway proponents.

And right smack in dab in the middle is first term councillor, Josh Colle. As one of the newcomers on the commission, Councillor Colle doesn’t bring as much baggage to the fray except for that minor budget amendment he brought forth in January that snatched back $19 million in cuts from the mayor’s hands, and we all know that Mayor Ford rarely bears a grudge when it comes to perceived disloyalty and betrayal. If Councillor Colle was looking to grow his profile at council, he probably couldn’t have found himself in a brighter spotlight.

The geographic make up of the new commission is also very telling. As much as the Ford Brothers are trying to depict this transit fight as an urban/suburban one, downtown, subway riding elitists bound and determined to deny the rest of the city their underground transit riding right, there’s nary a corist on the commission. Councillors Colle, Parker and Stintz could be considered midtowners, and all three will see the Eglinton LRT being built through their respective wards. In fact, in Councillor Parker’s case, it will emerge from below about a third of the way through his ward 26 at Laird Drive.

The rest of the 4 are all from the inner suburbs. So if anyone could complain about being left out and ignored, it should be the residents of the old cities of Toronto and East York. But we have our subways and streetcars running down the middle of the street to comfort us.

Lest we get too smug however, this fight is far from over. The Sheppard subway/LRT question is not settled although, given yesterday’s lopsided vote, the wounded Team Ford has quite a formidable climb ahead of it. Seven of the twenty-nine councillors who voted in favour of Councillor Stintz’s motion will have to be peeled away back to the mayor’s camp and in favour of building the subway. Mayor Ford has made that doubly difficult on himself by refusing to come up with a viable plan to pay for it. No new evil taxes or fees to be considered while anything off the top of Councillor Doug Ford’s head including building new toll lanes to raise money for public transit, casinos, lotteries is on the table. In other words, a wing and a prayer that only the ideologically hidebound, power mad sycophants and just the plain ol’ scaredy cats could mindlessly embrace.

It’s almost as if Team Ford wants to be defied, wants to be relegated to the sidelines, wants to be the outsider, once more railing against those politicians down at City Hall, the very ones who’ve taken over according to Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti. Sound familiar? Mayor Ford morphs into candidate for mayor Ford and plays up the looking out for the little guy schtick, persecution complex on high alert. They didn’t accept my mandate, folks. You need to elect more councillors who respect the taxpayers as much as me, so that I can really turn this city around, stop the gravy train and… more talking points and stunt sloganeering.

The long game, they’re looking at, using the setbacks of 2011 and 2012 as the platforms for a re-election run in 2014. Losing the battles to win a war. Misgoverning in order to campaign.

Yes, we should remain alert to that nakedly obvious ploy but today, after a day like yesterday, it’s hard to give the benefit of the doubt to Mayor Ford and his brain trust in their ability to execute any sort of long game. Besides, lightning seldom strikes twice, and 32 months is a very long time in politics. The question voters may be asking themselves come October 2014 is if Mayor Ford couldn’t/wouldn’t figure how to run council, why he should be trusted in trying to run a city.

on the ballly submitted by Cityslikr


From Circus To Freak Sideshow

March 2, 2012

You guys see that too, don’t you? Or I mean, you don’t see it either, right? It’s not just me. It’s not not just me. It’s not just not me. Not just me not. I’m not crazy, am I?

Apparently, there’s this tussle going on between two competing transit plans for the city. One side’s pushing LRT technology that a lot of the world is using, and has full funding in place for 3 new lines and another replacement one. In the other corner sit subway proponents, all juiced about burying any new piece of public transit at the cost of 3 of the LRT lines while still being woefully short of money to complete it.

So you see the problem I’m having here. There really isn’t any sort of battle or war between two equal and viable alternatives. One is currently funded and all ready to go, and was from about 2007 until the plug was pulled a little over a year ago by a mayor who didn’t have a workable alternative as much as he had a mirage, a notion, a flight of fancy untethered to any semblance of reality.

So it’s more of a shadow boxing match. No. It’s like a vampire shadow boxing match. Vampire’s still cast no shadows, right kids? Or is it you can’t see their reflection in a mirror?

What I’m saying is that there is no there there. Mayor Ford is attempting to make something fly that wasn’t designed for flight. And the more he continues to hold out, stamp his feet and demand subways, the more surreal the whole thing becomes.

Yesterday was some sort of esquie-esque combination of Kafka/Fellini/Carnival-esque as Team Ford desperately scrambled around to convince anyone who would listen that everything was good to go. You see, the previous day the mayor, having been rebuffed by city council and let down by his very own Sheppard subway report from Gordon Chong, turned to his much vaunted private sector and huddled together for a little confab with his closest developer peeps, some friendly councillors and sandwiches. Emerging from his office a couple hours later, he announced they were good to go, everybody loves subways, everybody’s going to pony up, problem solved.

Except, as with many of Mayor Ford’s transit claims, there was ample space between the truth and full-fledged fantasy. Newspaper coverage told a slightly different story. “[Toronto Board of Trade president Carol] Wilding indicated support for subways wasn’t unanimous…” On the notion of increased development fees, Councillor Peter Milczyn said “…developers in the meeting weren’t keen on that idea…”

City staff has taken the temperature of private sector interest in laying down some upfront bucks on subways and found it more than a little tepid. “This model doesn’t work. There is a huge (funding) gap,” said one staff. “The private sector want certainties (but) these revenue streams are risky. They are based on a ‘build it and they will come’ view. It’s not a sure thing…And there are huge political risks.”

Gulp.

A more deliberate or reflective politician might take a step back at this point, breathe deeply and go to plan B. But here’s the thing. Mayor Ford doesn’t have a plan B on transit. How can you when your plan A doesn’t even qualify as a plan? It’s nothing more than a loose collection of largely contradictory fleeting thoughts being touted as a mandate based not on a persuasive argument but by some creepy sounding ‘moral authority’ that Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong actually tried floating. His Worship does not need to explain himself to you. He’s the Mayor! He shall clap His hands and there will be subways!

If only, huh? Without any divine intervention of that sort, the mayor and his morally authorized mandate is looking down the barrel of new taxes (and some old… Hello, VRT. Where you been hiding, gorgeous?), levies, tolls to get his subway built, and if there’s one thing Mayor Ford promised more than even subways was…

Sigh.

With glimmers of movement that he was willing to budge on the issue of not completely hating taxes with a passion other people hold toward baby killers, the through the looking glass quotient went through the roof. What? Mayor Rob Ford was actually leading us in having an adult conversation on the necessity of taxation in building a better city? That’s crazy talk. Crazy talk.

And then, of course, by yesterday afternoon we weren’t having that conversation. Brother-Councillor Doug went DEFCON 1, pressing the button on any talk about tax/toll/levy increases or any other instruments of the Devil. “We are against all taxes,” Councillor Ford said. “All taxes are evil as far as I am concerned.” Right then. So, I’ll mark you down as undecided then, shall I? Lotteries, casinos are the way we should be going, according to Councillor Ford, TorontoReno. Except folks at the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp. aren’t as convinced that was a good idea. “I would have told them right off the bat,” stated Paul Godfrey, OLG’s chairman of the board, “this is a project that has no chance of being successful at all.”

Undeterred, the mayor fell back into line, snuffing out any future tax increase on cars for the rest of his natural life. “I will guarantee that were will never be a tax on cars again,” he told John Tory. Over my dead body, pushing up tulips. Or maybe that was Doug.

The shitshow didn’t feature just the Ford brothers. Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti said he would send back any money intended to build an LRT along Finch Avenue in his ward, and his constituents would wait 50 years if they had to for subway instead. This, three years after fully embracing the LRT for Finch. The leader of the provincial opposition, Tim Hudak, got in on the act, saying he would disregard any vote by council and build subways. Asked if he would chip in more money to fund that construction, Mr. Hudak demurred, yeah well, no. What do you think? Money grows on trees?

By day’s end, we were right back where we started. The mayor wanting subways he didn’t have the money to build and unwilling to even consider the most logical, straightforward revenue streams to help get the funding in place. And that’s the plan council and its LRT almost Transit City in everything but name was up against.

A couple days ago, we evoked Raging Bull’s Jake LaMotta as the movie character our mayor seemed a lot like in his stubborn drive for subways. Today we’re thinking the resemblance is more Elwood P. Dowd with his invisible white rabbit transit plan, Harvey. “Well, I’ve wrestled with reality for 35 years, Doctor, and I’m happy to state I finally won out over it.”

Evidently, the mayor, his brother and all those still willing to follow them down their transit rabbit hole are hoping to recreate a little bit of that movie magic.

— barkerly submitted by Cityslikr


Raging Bullishly On Subways

February 29, 2012

Following along with Toronto’s ongoing transit struggles, let’s call them, and I have a Raging Bull moment. It’s been a while since I’ve seen the movie but there’s that scene after, I don’t know, the 23rd fight between Jake LaMotta and Sugar Ray Robinson, LaMotta’s lost the middleweight title (or failed to regain it from Robinson), been beaten to a bloody pulp (again) and he staggers over to his opponent’s corner. “I never went down, Ray. You never got me down, Ray. You hear me? You never got me down.”

Kind of reminiscent of Mayor Ford and his Sheppard subway plan, don’t you think?

Leading face first with not much defence to speak of, he just bulls forward, taking shots to the head and body, swinging wildly in retaliation, landing significantly fewer punches than his opponents. “You’ll never take subways from me, Karen. The people want subways, Karen. You hear me? The people want subways.”

Having attended a couple transit meetings and discussions this week and listening to the subways versus LRTs argument, it’s hard not to conclude that it’s really a bit of a mismatch at this point. Proponents of LRTs cite academic studies pointing to the reasons why the inner suburbs of Toronto shouldn’t expect subways, the lack of necessary density being one of the prime reasons why. There’s also the question of money, austere times being what they are. LRTs are less expensive to build and maintain. So, they’ve got cost and suitability going for them.

Subways?

Errrr….. ummmm…. uuuuhhhhhh… They go fast! Downtowners have them. Why can’t the suburbs? Suburban dwellers are not 2nd class citizens. The St. Clair right of way was a disaster! The mayor has a mandate to build subways. The mayor has a mandate!

Did we mention that subways go fast?

Mayor Ford and his councillor brother, Doug, took to the airwaves last Sunday for two hours of unobstructed time (minus the ads, news and traffic reports) to make their subway case. Instead, they talked to Wendel Clark about the state of the Toronto Maple Leafs franchise, chatted Oscars and Norman Jewison and basically recited their transit script (see paragraph 6) over and over again, allowing Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti to chime in with his opinion on the matter. “Hey, guys. Subways are great. Let’s build one under Finch sometime. Talk to you soon.”

No expert testimonials to back their plan. No objective study explaining why building subways would be worth it in the long run. No one-on-one, face-to-face debate with an LRT supporter. Just glib and unsubstantiated rhetoric from a couple knuckleheads with no interest in public transit except as an election issue. Well that, and keeping it off the streets they drive their big vehicles on.

Now, in the final rounds and up against the ropes, the mayor is desperately looking to land a haymaker – boxing’s version of the Hail Mary Pass (in this case case, why don’t we call it the St. Jude) – to try and salvage at least a split decision on the Sheppard subway. Something, anything in order to avoid being completely and utterly sidelined… unless of course that’s exactly what he wants. Like Jake LaMotta, he’s throwing the fight, deliberately losing this battle in order to win the wider war of re-election.

“Now he [Mayor Ford] can argue that, by thwarting him, council denied suburban voters their right to have underground transit like downtowners do,” as Marcus Gee surmised in his Globe and Mail article last week.

So the Sheppard subway isn’t really for the suburbs, the transit deprived Scarborough. It’s for Mayor Ford. Rather than step back and accept the fact that he’s on the losing side of this, that his failure to deliver a feasible, reasonable, sensible plan to replace Transit City that he single-handedly declared dead has left him on the verge of suffering a TKO, he’s picked it up to use a club to bludgeon his way back into the hearts of Ford Nation.

“You never got me down, Ray. You hear me? You never got me down.”

Maybe the mayor has become a little punch drunk.

In a recent Angus Reid poll that showed nearly an even split between those wanting subways and those wanting LRTs, some 57% of those asked said they had no interest in paying tolls, congestion or parking fees, increased taxes to build subways. Pretty much a prerequisite if they’re going to be built. Gordon Chong, the mayor’s handpicked representative to write a report on the viability of a Sheppard subway said as much. As has the mayor in recent days. As has the Toronto Sun.

No, wait. It didn’t. In fact it pretty much called out Mayor Ford for even broaching the subject of increased taxes or any sort of user fees. The Toronto Sun. Called out the mayor. No taxpayer money even if it meant no subways.

The Toronto Sun, people.

But Mayor Ford soldiers on. Even at the time of this writing, he’s holed up in his office with developers, the Board of Trade and a councillor or two, trying to hammer out a deal to get his subway built. There are rumours being floated of a proposal to reinstate the vehicle registration tax that would go to help financing subway construction.

The VRT, people.

This is getting ugly. Somebody outta stop this fight. The mayor’s gonna  get really hurt.

Maybe Mayor Ford shouldn’t be preparing for re-election in 2014. Maybe he should be working on some material in order to play host to some adult cabaret show down in Florida. “I coulda been a contender. I coulda been somebody…”

deniroly submitted by Cityslikr


The Tipping Point

February 28, 2012

The race is on!

Team Ford has climbed aboard the unofficial 2014 campaign bus, now doing weekly radio spots to get the word out to its nation of all the things accomplished in their first year or so power. Things the rest of the media have twisted and bent out of all recognizable shape. Re-Elect Rob Ford in 2014 for all the great stuff he did in 2011!

For its part, irrelevant city council is working to fill the vacuum and get on with the business of governing the city for the next two and a half years in the absence of any positive contribution from the mayor or those still trying to push forward his already shop worn agenda. The 25 or so can muddle through on an issue by issue basis, fending off the worst obstructionist tendencies thrown at it from the mayor’s office, with an eye on the magic number of 30. If council is able to cobble together that number, Mayor Ford would be completely sidelined and anyone who wants to contribute anything whatsoever to the running of this city will man the mayoral lifeboats and leave the ship to sink in the fetid waters of its own pigheadedness.

It’s A Mad Mad Mad Mad political scene here in Toronto. Deathrace 2012. A council with a taste for doing things its own way without any input from the mayor or, at least, any positive input, discovers things run more smoothly without him. Why would it give that power up? So Mayor Ford must beat and berate a few lost sheep back into the fold with promised threats of electoral defeat in a couple years time in order to regain control of the agenda.

Where is the tipping point? If 27, 28 councillors become comfortable regularly working together, from those on the right of centre to the lefties, it’s no longer a black-and-white question of right versus left. The polarity that the mayor thrives on disappears. Those scary, frigid waters of partisanship moderate to more soothing temperatures. Come on, everybody. It’s beautiful in here. The once derided mushy middle, buffed up with increasingly impressive abs of steel, has transformed into a more desirable location. All reasonable councillors welcome.

Twenty-five councillors voted against Mayor Ford’s transit plans, twenty-six had Councillor Gloria Lindsay Luby been present at the special meeting. Let’s say now since the petulant firing of former TTC GM Gary Webster by five members of the commission’s board, Vice-Chair Peter Milczyn has developed second thoughts about his close ties with the mayor. That’s twenty-seven.

And exactly how comfortable are the likes of councillors Michelle Berardinetti, Gary Crawford, Michael Thompson standing tall for a mayor who is clearly floundering and that they aren’t strictly ideologically bound to? Same goes for Councillor Mark Grimes. And the stalwarts like councillors Vincent Crisanti, Frank Di Giorgio and Cesar Palacio, all who gained exposure by their willingness to oust Webster, don’t exactly have iron grips on the respective wards. Any further diminuation of the mayor’s popularity would surely threaten their political futures.

And of course, let’s not discount the protean nature of Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti’s politics. An unconditional supporter now but remember back to those days he despised the mayor when he was just an outsider councillor? Is this somebody you want watching your back when the shit goes down?

I’d say we’re within spitting distance of reaching a critical mass of dissent where what Mayor Ford wants or thinks or says no longer has any relevance. That’s not simply wishful thinking or trying to undo the results of the last municipal election. The mayor himself is responsible for squandering the support he once had at council, support that, frankly, caught me by surprise. Perhaps he looked at the previous megacity administrations and believed that 2nd terms just came with the territory and carried on as if he were untouchable until 2017 or so.

And now he’s put his own political future ahead of that of the city by going all in with his ill-thought out, half-formed subway plan as a wedge issue.

“These guys, politically, they think they’ve got ya,” Councillor Doug Ford told the Globe and Mail’s Marcus Gee. “I was high-fiving Rob, even though he was down and out. I was saying, ‘Rob, this is positive, this is a clear agenda, you’ve got it.’” The mayor’s rivals “think they’re going to slice and dice him,” but defying him over transit was “the biggest political mistake they did.”

It’s not about better transit planning or some phantom mandate voters gave the mayor. It’s all politics. ‘A perfect springboard to re-election.’ “You can’t win the city unless you win Scarborough and Etobicoke. The numbers don’t add up.” So against all common sense and rational discourse, Mayor Ford offers Scarborough a subway, and we’ll get one going along Finch West too. You betcha.

How? M’eh. When? *Shrug* What’ll it cost to build? PPPs forever! How much to operate? Who cares? I’ll be Prime Minister by then.

If the mayor just wants to be the mayor rather than act like a mayor, his council colleagues have no alternative but to move forward without him. He and his brother seem to have decided to run for re-election instead of running the city. They’ve made their choice. Councillors now have to make theirs.

straight shootingly submitted by Cityslikr