A Better Bathurst

March 6, 2014

Anybody who’s spent much time in Toronto has at least heard of Bathurst Street. The nearly 60 kilometre stretch of road, bathurststreetrunning from the island airport ferry terminal on Lake Ontario, all the way north up to Holland Marsh. (If Wikipedia is to be trusted.) It demarcates the western edge of the official downtown area of Toronto.

To many, Bathurst Street is probably loathed more than it is loved. But for some of us who cross it daily, we see it as the thinking man’s Spadina Avenue. We do. Trust me.

In actual fact, Bathurst Street is pretty much nothing more than a big line on a map. It offers space to get people to where they’re going. There’s little else it offers up, frankly.

And to tell you the truth, it doesn’t do that very effectively. It’s not much fun to walk. It’s a bit of a terror to cycle and I’m not even referring to the Davenport hill. Congestion frequently clogs it, making it joyless to travel by car, bus or streetcar.

On top of which, Bathurst Street is regularly undergoing massive road work. Regularly. Like I’m talking 2, 3 times a season.

Poor ol’ Bathurst Street.bathurstbus

So when news came last year that the city had brought in a development moratorium along a 3 kilometre portion of the street from Dupont down to Queen in order to conduct a built form and land use study, it was welcome news to many. Hoo-rah! Maybe we can make something of this ratty, tatty, rag tag strip of pavement.

The timing wasn’t coincidental to the fact that plans were already in the works for the former site of Kromer Radio on the west side of Bathurst between College and Dundas. A big box store development that had caught the unhappy attention of nearby residents and businesses including those in Kensington Market a few blocks to the east. There were also rumblings of the sale (now done) and eventual redevelopment of the iconic Honest Ed’s at the corner of Bathurst and Bloor Street.

It’s also worth noting that south of the study area, south of Queen on Bathurst, zoning permits building heights of 50 metres, I believe I heard. Towers are rising there. bathurststreet1This study was intended to set rules in place that would help keep that kind of scale from creeping north into substantially more residential parts of the street.

On Monday night, there was a community meeting held (the fourth, I believe) to discuss the plan as it was to date, and to give a staff report including a third-party retail report. The chairs were mostly full. I’m never good at these estimations but there had to be 17 million people in attendance. (For all you Father Ted fans out there.) I don’t know, a couple hundred? A hundred and fifty? A hundred.

A healthy number, let’s just say on a cold Monday night. The tone, as with most of these kinds of meetings dealing with development, was politely tense. Maybe not tense. Edgy? Suspicious?

Politely tight in a non-alcoholic way although somebody had the nerve to bring in their dinner from Harbord Fish and Chips. Seriously. dougalIf you don’t have enough to share with the entire room. That’s going to fray some nerves.

Councillor Adam Vaughan, whose Ward 20 is bordered on its west by much of the Bathurst study area, stressed that what he was looking for was a street defined by the communities living on either side of it. That sounds good in theory, very participatory and all democracy in action, but also might endorse a little of some not in my back door-ism. Intensification, like an increase use of public transit, always seems like a very good idea for other places, other people.

Although, to be fair, there was not a whole lot of that in evidence at this meeting. People, by and large, seemed curious is a very cautious way, asking questions largely about very specific ideas put forth by city staff. Overt antagonism only manifested itself a couple times. There were none of the aggressive outbursts I’ve witnessed at similar community consultation meetings. This is a part of town not entirely alien to the notion of intensification.

It is early in the process, however.

One bothersome note for me, though, was the subtle framing of the question: “How do we protect our neighbourhood?” The underlying implication of that is a place under siege by change. bathurststreet2There was no feeling of embracing the positive possibilities that might come with an attempt to alter the current streetscape of Bathurst. Of course, things could be made worse along the street. But how exactly, proposed increases in building height in some places to 6 stories from current practice of 3 to 4 on most of this strip would do that is beyond me at this point.

OK. There’s one that springs immediately to mine. A lack of thorough transit studies to accompany these reports might prove to be problematic in the long run. I, for one, was somewhat shocked that there was little to no money set aside as part of this study. How can you do a proper built form and land use study without a full traffic impact analysis?

Anyone who travels or lives anywhere near the study area (I’m a block west from the Kromer radio site where it looks to be the most intense spot of redevelopment) knows what a traffic nightmare that stretch of Bathurst can be throughout much of the day. bathurststreetcarAmidst all the seeming non-stop construction, it’s a mixed use mess of cars, trucks, streetcars and buses, non-advanced left turns, parking, parking and more parking. A combination that leaves little space for bikes or even peaceful strolls.

Whatever manner you use to negotiate Bathurst it’s ultimately just a case of head down and gettin’ `er done and over with.

To talk about further intensification without a proper and vigorous traffic study seems to me to relegate the whole exercise meaningless. More people, more businesses that only succeed in bringing more traffic in the form of cars will in no way make that portion of Bathurst any more desirable a setting to traverse than it is now.

During the great Walmart debate on the Kromer Radio location, there was much chatter about NIMBY elitism with a measure of class conflict thrown in for good measure. My opposition to the proposal, which bore no direct imposition on my dwelling, was more aesthetic and concerned about the effect on the surrounding street life. cmonIt represented a huge failure of imagination from my perspective.

Big box store developments don’t tend to enhance the neighbourhood, especially if they abide by outdated parking requirements. The initial traffic study for the proposal was laughable. Three hundred+ parking spots, underground, with only one entrance that would also serve for deliveries? In an already congested point on the road? Along a route where a streetcar runs and two more lines to the north and south, both less than a 5 minute walk?

I mean, C’MON!

Look, with all the access to public transit in this study area — 4 streetcar lines, 2 bus routes, 1 subway stop – it is a place ripe for further intensification. bathurstcondoIt is a place already undergoing intensification. There is much to like in the report so far.

But if we don’t get the traffic flow right, if we continue to adhere to outdated ideas of planning in terms of what transportation modes are given priority, we’re just going to succeed in making a mess even messier. Let’s not have to endure Bathurst Street any more than we already do.

hopefully submitted by Cityslikr


Coming Soon To A Neighbourhood Near You

April 18, 2012

It’s funny what escapes your notice when you’re looking at the bigger picture. With casinos, transit battles, a general mayoral malaise keeping my mind focussed on city wide issues, I completely missed this for months, right in my back yard. Well, OK. Not right in my backyard. My front yard, actually, and then across the street and into the nearby alley.

RioCan has descended on the west side of Bathurst Street, almost smack dab in the middle of the block between College and Dundas Streets. Nearly 100 metres of storefront, according to the National Post last October (Last October?! Where the hell was I?) and 13, 000 square metres and 3 tall stories of retail-ly goodness. Hanging over right there in my neighbours’ backyards.

Hoo-rah! My first development battle as a homeowner. You will build there over my cold, dead body!

Now, I don’t think anyone would deny that this particular strip could use some sort of facelift. It is a drab run of real estate, shabbily occupying space south of a beer store and incorporating some industrial looking buildings (including Kromer Radio, a local institution that’s been in its current location since 1974) and ending with a parking lot. Largely uninspiring, long in the tooth, somewhat decrepit even, yeah sure, let’s do something with it, gussy things up a little.

But seriously? A generic box store thingie? Really? That’s the best anyone could come up with? As the plan stands right now, RioCan has tossed a bone to local residents and businesses, giving the ground floor to small retail outlets – A Little Kensington Market Just Steps From The Heart Of Kensington Market! – while keeping the upper two floors for the type of franchise they usually favour. Loblaws? Walmart? Target?

Yes, there are probably areas of the city, neighbourhoods where such kind of stores would fit in even less. But not many. If it goes grocery, why? Kensington Market is 5 minutes away. There’s a Metro supermarket about a twenty minute walk west along College Street. For that matter, RioCan’s new development featuring a massive Loblaws is 15 minutes to the south-east by foot at Queen and Portland.

As for some sort of department store? Again, Queen Street West is a hop, skip and a jump away. If you can’t find what you need there, get on the Queen streetcar and arrive at the Eaton’s Centre in fifteen minutes or so.

This kind of development in this area of the city seems so unnecessary, redundant and not just a little intrusive.

The back of the building, ranging in proposed height anywhere from 21 to 24 metres will loom over an alley and, I imagine, similar to its front footing, nearly 100 metres or so of backyards. Aside from the usual issue of shadowing and blocking out of the morning light which the plans attempt to alleviate with the use of some setbacks, as it stands on paper right now, all the building’s mechanicals – heating, cooling etc. – impose themselves on the row of houses to the west, promising residents a motorized symphony of humming, belching and farting not just morning until evening but all through the night.

It also essentially cuts off the east-west pedestrian flow. Where you can now make your way through an alley off Markham Street through the parking lot on Nassau Street across Bathurst and into the middle of Kensington Market, those on foot or bike will have to head up either to almost College or down to Dundas in order to move make the trip. This isn’t simply about inconvenience. Essentially the building will act as a barrier between the eastern boundary of Little Portugal/Italy and the western edge of Kensington Market, serving as a division between the two neighbourhoods.

Now, I’m no Shawn Micallef but I’d say that’s just flat out bad planning. Shouldn’t the idea be to integrate development into its surrounding area? To fill in a missing piece of the puzzle in order to promote proper and sustainable neighbourhood growth? Instead, RioCan proposes to bulk down an edifice on its landing pad like a Death Star, sucking all life forms into itself.

And then there’s the vehicular traffic.

As anyone who’s ever travelled that portion of Bathurst Streets knows, whether by car, streetcar, bike or foot, it already can be a nightmare. Now RioCan wants to introduce some 300 or so underground parking spots into the mix at one entry point (for both customers and delivery trucks) at the south of the development. So picture this, a regular stream of northbound cars on Bathurst, further snarling up traffic, waiting to make a left turn into the parking lot. The southbound right lane bottles up traffic in that direction, waiting to make their way in.

Right now, cars exiting the street level parking lot on that spot are prohibited from turning left onto Bathurst or going straight onto Nassau. The proposal wants two lanes of exiting traffic, north and south but it’s not difficult to imagine drivers, seeing the mess on Bathurst will push straight forward into Kensington Market in an attempt to escape the madness. A radiating circle of traffic snarls in a location already burdened by them.

That the initial traffic impact study submitted was rejected by the city is telling. One of the reasons given, apparently, was that the study didn’t look at traffic patterns on Saturdays, a seemingly egregious oversight since, you know, we’re talking retail here. Saturdays are kind of their go-to time, aren’t they? It causes one to wonder if RioCan was trying to avoid a serious discussion about what could turn out to be a major, major sticking point.

“What I can tell is the result of broader retailers’ desire to locate in the core,” RioCan vice president Jordan Robins said last fall, “is that they had to adjust their prototypical format to suit an urban environment.” He talked of a ‘seismic shift in retail development’ in order to adapt what is typically a suburban approach to an urban setting. Yet there’s little evidence of any sort of shift in mindset with this particular development. It still caters to car dependency in an area surrounding on 3 sides by public transit. The proposed building imposes itself rather than blends in or compliments its surroundings. If one of the usual RioCan tenants sign on as the signature outlet, it’ll bring almost nothing new or original to the area.

Despite their bland assurances to the contrary, it seems like RioCan is attempting to adjust the urban environment to their prototypical format rather than the other way around. Hardly surprising then when they meet with the inevitable resistance from local residents and business. Being a bad neighbour will tend to elicit that response.

residently submitted by Cityslikr


The Real Swing Factor In Trinity-Spadina

April 20, 2011

[Yesterday our email inbox contained a message that so nailed how we were feeling about the federal campaign going on in our riding that, with the author’s permission, we wanted to share it with all of you. Plus, it gave us the day off to head out and enjoy our lovely spring weather.]

*  *  *

I am exasperated!

Today I read yet another article about how the Liberals and the NDP both need to court the centre-right condo vote in order to win Trinity-Spadina. But the “conservative condo vote” has been mentioned for almost a decade as a swing factor, only to disappear when the votes are counted. It is a cliché and it is wrong.

The real swing voters in Trinity-Spadina are independent progressives.

The NDP does not own the progressive vote in Trinity-Spadina, and cannot take it for granted. Many progressives grimaced as the NDP dithered over the long gun registry, or adopted the Tory anti-tax talking points on the Green Shift, or called for cheaper fossil fuels, or sided with conservative unionists who fear environmentalism costs jobs. These progressives really like Olivia Chow, but they also worry that the NDP is perhaps less a party of urbanists and environmentalists, and more that of culturally-conservative rural unionists who think Toronto pinkos can go to hell.

These swing progressives are the people who voted for Adam Vaughan over the NDP-endorsed Helen Kennedy municipally in Ward 20 (Jack Layton had reportedly threatened to “bury” Vaughan if he ran against Kennedy – nice!). These are also the people who voted for Karen Sun over Jack Layton’s son in Ward 19 last year. These alone represent about 12,000 T-S votes, or one-fifth of the voting electorate. These are the people who will decide the results in Trinity-Spadina, not the “conservative condo vote.”

And yet the condo cliché remains. Here’s the Toronto Star talking to Sean McCormick, an inexperienced Fordesque fiscal conservative who had been bizarrely endorsed by the federal Liberal T-S riding association in last fall’s municipal election for Ward 19 councillor. Not only did McCormick place third, even with the supposedly-mighty conservative condo vote, he was so incompetent that he defaulted on his campaign financials, the only front-running council candidate in the City to do so. (Liberal donors to McCormick’s campaign: according to City bylaw, this default means you are no longer eligible for the City’s 75% donation rebate). Bad enough that these Liberals endorsed an incompetent candidate, but the real stupidity is that they are chasing after conservative voters in Trinity-Spadina, and not progressives.

Clearly, the T-S Liberal riding association is still gripped by the dead hand of Tony Ianno, who was the Liberal MP from 1993-2006. He is famous around here for the contrast between his ruthless hold on power locally, and his lack of presence in Parliament. In 1988, he pioneered some disgraceful practices in the nomination process, practices that William Johnston said “strike at the legitimacy of the most fundamental process of our democratic system.” In 1996, as the feds were turning over harbour commissions to municipalities elsewhere, Ianno fought to create the Toronto Port Authority and put it under federal control. One of its first acts was to sue the City of Toronto for a billion dollars, and the TPA has been a continuous “fuck you” to the city ever since. In 2003, Ianno also pioneered new ways of getting around his own party’s campaign finance law, by creating a secret trust fund that was described in the Montreal Gazette as “a recipe for corruption.” In 2006, he shut down campus polls at U of T, the same thing Iggy slammed the Tories for doing in Guelph. To top it off, Ianno now faces stock manipulation charges.

After this Liberal stronghold fell to the NDP in 2006, you might have hoped the Trinity-Spadina riding association would seek a fresh face who could win back progressive Liberal voters. Next door, in Parkdale-High Park, the Liberals replaced a similarly defeated, similarly uninspiring Liberal with progressive Gerard Kennedy, who was able to defeat the popular and hard-working NDP MP Peggy Nash and retake the riding (some people say, “what a waste,” but why shouldn’t voters get to choose between good candidates?). You might also have thought the T-S riding association would be especially sensitive to the fact that their former MP was now facing an OSC probe during a recession caused by securities shenanigans.

Instead, just weeks before the 2008 election, the Liberals replaced their irritating former MP with Christine Innes, the MP’s wife. If you’re a registered Liberal but can’t remember when you agreed to this nomination, it is because you were not exactly asked. The couple apparently decided this between themselves. “It’s my time,” said Innes. This reminds me of how Andersen Consulting changed its name to Accenture following the Enron scandal.

The role of a riding association generally does not come up in election coverage. And perhaps the distastefulness of the Ianno/Innes family compact is simply how the sausages are made. Voters are also expected to vote for the party and not the local representative. But who advocates for the community’s priorities in a party’s caucus if not the MP? Who sets the direction of a party in Parliament if not its caucus? And as the TPA issue shows, federal politics can indeed be local. MPs matter.

Christine Innes seems quite nice, and she is not her husband. But she is not a fresh start either, and her riding association’s overtures to hard-right fiscal conservatives should worry Liberal progressives. Is Ms. Innes herself centre-right politically, or does she just think the voters are? Either way, how can progressives trust her?

Why won’t the Liberals nominate a progressive in this progressive riding? Where’s our Gerard Kennedy? Where’s our Martha Hall Findlay?

It’s time to drop the conservative condo cliché, and its time for the Liberal riding association to pull its head out of Tony Ianno’s ass. Independent progressives are the real swing voters in Trinity-Spadina, and we are the ones who should be courted.

submitted by John Bowker


Mayoral Endorsement I

October 22, 2010

Some 292 days and 270+ posts since the beginning, it has come to this. The final weekend of campaign 2010. They grow up so fast and times passes so quickly.

At the mayoral level, it’s hard not to think of the past almost 10 months as one big, dispiriting cock-up. A year long orgy of slagging and recriminations directed at the very institution a near unanimous number of front running candidates want to lead. Dismal and dreary, I’d call it, enticing only at the level of vitriol generated by the discourse.

None uglier and more bitter and heated than in the office here at All Fired Up in the Big Smoke. Blows have been exchanged. Invective hurled. Precious little meeting of eyes. Unsurprisingly, no consensus is possible at delivering one unified endorsement. (At the mayoral level that is. Still 6 big thumbs up from us for Karen Sun as councillor of Ward 19!)

So, we bring you three endorsements, one a day, Friday-Sunday. Up first, resident hippie, 1968 deifier and Hunter S. Thomspon wanna-be, Acaphelgmic.

My Endorsement For Mayor: Rob Ford!

In the immortal words of the Mahatma Gandhi (or perhaps it was MLK), I say, let’s tee this motherfucker up!

So you actually think Rob Ford is suitable to be mayor of the city of Toronto? A place of over 2.5 million people, representing a wide swath of the world’s populations? You truly believe that a government with over a $9 billion annual operating budget can be managed by pea-brained adages of looking after the pennies and the pounds taking care of themselves? You have no problem handing over the reigns of power to a councillor who readily admits, boasts really, about not reading reports before voting on items? It makes sense to you that slashing the number of councillors in half will somehow bring about a more responsive, approachable form of local governance?

If you’re OK with all that (and so much more lunacy to boot), if you search deep down into your soul and truly come to the conclusion that the kind of change this city needs is a coffer draining, vindictive bureaucracy purging, bring it on then. Give him the keys to the mayor’s office and all the inherent powers that go along with it. Wind him up and let him loose to have at it. Stop the Gravy Train. Respect the Taxpayer. Take Back City Hall!

And when he fails, when he falls, when he crashes and burns spectacularly, all of which he will do, probably sooner than later, because Rob Ford is simply unfit to manage such a complex and difficult task that is being the mayor of Toronto – nothing personal, you understand; anyone with his limited world view and complete lack of curiosity about anything much beyond his BBQ life would be similarly inadequately prepared for the job – when it becomes so glaringly apparent that he is a big-assed bust of an embarrassing mistake of a mayor, and has been marginalized as nothing more than that blustery, red-faced tool we’ll all regret having allowed to have been elected, we can get on with the job of really building the city.

Yes, there will be collateral damage. Repairs will have to be made. Fences mended. Apologies doled out. Probably by the bucketful.

But it will be worth it and let me tell you why.

In the inevitable disastrous wake of a Mayor Rob Ford, his ideological kin will be forced to run for cover. After an initial blush of success when a tax is cut, a union is busted or… whatever else it is that so engulfs his followers with such rage (although that seems to be about the extent of it), the reality will quickly set in, even for those who live their lives operating in the protective, impermeable bubble of right wing, libertarian belief. Governing isn’t just about saying no. A city can’t be run on the basis of simply what’s in it for you and yours. Being a successful mayor means reaching out not slapping away.

Rob Ford’s ineptitude will damage the modern day, small ‘c’ conservative, anti-government cause. Not for the blinkered, unwavering true believers, of course, who will continue to lock their jaws on the stick of dogma regardless of how hard you beat them over the head with a pipe of reason, logic and rationality. They will simply slink away, back into their dank burrows, awaiting for the next opportunity to pop back up and foul the public space with their acrid yapping, yipping and yelping.

The real damage will be done in the eyes of those who are truly justified in their anger toward City Hall. Those left behind and struggling in this city as it slowly pieces itself together from the rubble of an ill-thought out and malignantly intended amalgamation process. Citizens living in neighbourhoods where crime rates are actually too high and their prospects for bettering their lives too low. Citizens left to their own devices, stranded as they are in neighbourhoods without access to functioning public transit. When they realize (and the realization will come quickly) that their anger, frustration and resentment has been hijacked by the likes of Rob Ford and his gang of Etobicokan elitists, the gig will be up.

For a period of time after that, perhaps even with Ford still as mayor, ineffectually blustering and beating his chest and wondering why he ever ventured away from the comfy confines of his daddy’s business… that is, if he did venture away from the family business even as mayor… another solid majority of Torontonians will band together and get down to the task of building a better, more equitable 21st-century city instead of looking back and pining for a mythical town of the 1950s.

We must go forth into the darkness before emerging into the sunlight, my friends.

And for that reason I, Acaphlegmic, endorse Rob Ford for mayor of Toronto.

feistily submitted by Acaphlegmic


Compare And Contrast

October 14, 2010

As Toronto’s mayoral race is being forcibly shoehorned into an ill-fitting two man race, leaving anyone who usually sits happily left of centre with the distasteful choice between worse, worser or simply making a defiant gesture, the time has come to turn our attentions more fully to the council races. To protect the city’s progressive spirit from the nasty onslaught of a His Honour SmitherFord™®© (FordMan®™©?), a council needs to be in place that will resist the worst impulses of such a short-sighted, small thinking regime. Barring some wacky turn of events between now and October 25th, no one is going to assume the mayoralty with a sweeping mandate. So a strong, purposeful council needs to be in place.

We here in Ward 19 (Joe Pantalone’s former stronghold) have already endorsed Karen Sun as our councillor of choice. But a post in yesterday’s Torontoist caught our attention as it featured our particular council race. It interviewed the three perceived front runners and the thoughts and opinions expressed by two of them struck us as typifying the stark divisions at work in the city at the moment. Whoever prevails will go a long way to determining the direction Toronto takes over the next few years.

Karen Sun versus Sean McCormick.

A quick look at their respective backgrounds and experience reflects an important distinction between the two. Sun has worked with the city as part of its Urban Forestry Services and Water and Wastewater Division. She’s the Toronto chapter executive director of the Chinese Canadian National Council and serves on the boards of several extra-governmental community organizations, including Heritage Toronto. McCormick is a media personality who founded the annual summer Queen West Musicfest.

Karen Sun has made a career of active civic engagement with the community. Sean McCormick has a single resume padder. I know throughout this campaign we’ve heard much antagonism toward “career politicians” but it’s safe to assume which one of these candidates will hit the ground running if elected.

Sun and McCormick’s responses to the questions posed by Torontoist also reveal a large gap in knowledge about the issues at work in Ward 19. Simple-minded, misguided ideology informs one while an open, informed, flexible approach is the basis of the other.

When asked about development in Liberty Village, McCormick is generally in favour of it but “…concedes that developers require a certain amount of oversight.” He then focuses on one issue, the pedestrian bridge that is in the works, as if that alone will solve the problems and concerns of increasing density in the area. Like the mayoral candidate he’s fashioning his campaign after, McCormick offers little in the form of insightful ideas that he would bring to the table as councillor.

Same question asked of Karen Sun? “I think there will be more pressure to build denser, and to build towers. And I think that’s fine,” she said. “But if we are going to be building up, I think we need to go to some of those other cities and see how they build tower communities well.”

“Because right now [Toronto is] zoning them as mixed-use, and then building twenty, thirty-storey towers with a Rabba and a Blockbuster on the first floor, and calling that mixed-use. When you’re putting another thousand residents into an area that used to be zoned as employment lands and the only employment opportunities are retail at a couple of stores, I mean, that’s not a community, right?”

On that response alone it’s clear who the more qualified candidate is but it continues for 6 more questions, all of which reveal Mr. McCormick to be as unfit for elected office as Rob Ford is. The Ossington bar/restaurant moratorium? Sun isn’t in favour of it but largely due to the lack of public consultation that was involved. She believes much of the business-resident friction could be alleviated by proper enforcement of current noise by-laws and that the city should work with the province in changing the liquor law licensing to make explicit distinctions between bars and restaurants. Moratorium bad, development good, according to McCormick. He then proceeds to paint the scene on Ossington in its pre-hip days as a hotbed of criminality that suggests he spent more time watching Law & Order at home on TV than he did in the vicinity. And really, Sean? “Ne’er-do-wells”? How old are you anyway? 90?

How about transit expansion? Sun wants to proceed with Transit City because it’s this first massive transit plan for Toronto in decades that has all 3 levels of government on board. McCormick? Subways please and then he goes on to applaud former candidate, Rocco Rossi’s largely discredited plans for selling city assets to finance them. Same theme for the idea of electrification of the Georgetown corridor and Union-Pearson airport link. Sun yes, McCormick no, as it’ll place too much burden on the tax payer, as increased expense automatically translates into increased taxes in Sean’s world. This, despite the fact that, an electrified Georgetown corridor would be highly beneficial to residents of Liberty Village not only environmentally but electric train technology would allow for a stop near the Village which diesel wouldn’t. But, no matter to likes of Sean McCormick and his empty posturing as Angry Taxpayer Man.

While the die may, may, be cast for our disagreeable choice of mayor, we can counteract that by diligently keeping the likes of Sean McCormick out of City Hall. If a healthy majority of Toronto wards elect councillors as intelligent, well-versed and hardworking as Karen Sun, the situation will not be nearly as dire. We can endure a SmitherFord/FordMan®™© as our mayor if we surround them with a council consisting of the likes Karen Sun.

positively submitted by Cityslikr


Our First Ever Official Endorsement

October 6, 2010

After last night’s ward 19 council debate held at the Garrison on Dundas Street West, I have come to the conclusion that we’d have much more clarity at the mayoral level if the debates were held in bars. In the backroom of bars. With access to alcoholic beverages.

Formal structures tend to break down and the audience becomes involved. Candidates have to think on their feet especially when pat, pre-packaged answers are noisily shouted down by the crowd. It’s like a trial by fire for the spot they’re campaigning for at City Hall.

The first thing that became clear last night is that we have an embarrassment of riches for council candidates here in ward 19. Of the 9 running to replace outgoing councillor and mayoral candidate Joe Pantalone, three would easily be up to the task, each bringing a fresh, new perspective as the ward’s representative on council. That situation alone makes me more determined than ever to further the cause of a ranked ballot voting system which, oddly enough, few of the candidates spoke up in favour of when asked the question from an audience member.

But at this point, let me tell you who I will not be voting for. Neither Sean McCormick nor Mike Layton. Both men feel like consummate opportunists, stepping forward into an open ward in order to advance their own personal ambition. Former sportscaster McCormick puts a shiny face to anti-City Hall, Ford-esque politics without adding any substance whatsoever. He quickly turned the crowd — which had been rowdy but largely encouraging — ugly when, in answering the question about the Ossington bar and restaurant moratorium, said how the street’s development had been important because as recently as 5 years ago, he and his wife had been afraid to walk there at night. What?! Are we talking about the same Ossington Street? Our Ossington Street?

As for Mike Layton, well, his pedigree may well be as much a hindrance as it is a help. Possessing the unrelenting earnestness of his father with none of the spark of his dad’s wife, Olivia Chow, Layton the younger comes across as a design model for the “perfect” Ward 19 council candidate. The next generation, chip off the old block replicant, he tosses around empty left wing cant as easily and emptily as McCormick does neo-conservative blather. Mike Layton is part of a municipal machine that residents around here seem to be growing weary of. This became painfully obvious when questioned about the mandatory inclusion of school board trustee incumbent, Chris Bolton (himself an object of attack from his opponent earlier in the evening for being part of this same political operation), name on Layton’s lawn signs. Caught flat-footed, Layton hummed and hawed, seeming to be genuinely surprised that anyone who would be voting for him wouldn’t be voting for Chris Bolton as well.

While Layton and McCormick treated each other with a contempt that suggested they believed they were the only two candidates on the ballot, most of the others up on stage with them delivered a genuine passion for public service that elicited unadulterated warm and fuzzies. David Footman again impressed with what is not a blanket anger toward City Hall but a frustration born of experience dealing with its bureaucracy and elected officials. A frustration that suggests things between residents and the city, and small businesses and the city could and should just work better. Not with a massive overhaul but a basic rethinking and retooling of rules and regulations along with simply opening up and easing access to the officials in order to allow a freer flow of thoughts and ideas. Too often, however, during the course of both ward 19 debates that I’ve attended, Mr. Footman has simply shrugged his shoulders at a question asked him because he doesn’t have an answer. While such frankness about ignorance can be endearing in small doses, it suggests to me that Mr. Footman needs to broaden his knowledge base somewhat before expecting people to throw their support behind him.

Which is the complete opposite of candidate George Sawision. A lifetime resident of ward 19, Sawision ran against Pantalone in 2006 and harbours a lingering dislike of the man who seems to be one of the very few people Mr. Sawision bears animosity toward. Mr. Sawision works tirelessly it seems in, at, and around City Hall in an effort to understand the mechanics of municipal governance and to discover ways to make it work better. The guy loves this community and you believe him whole-heartedly when he pledges that if elected ward 10 councillor, he’d be working for the residents not for himself. He already does. If George Sawision possessed fewer libertarian quirks, he’d be hard to ignore as the best choice on the ballot.

A spot taken in our books by Karen Sun. Possessing all the progressive credentials that Mike Layton has with none of the political baggage, Ms. Sun boasts real life experience in implementing her ideals. An organizer, volunteer and committee member, she represents those ideals Toronto needs to embrace if it’s to move forward and maintain its place as a significant city at the core of a vibrant regional economic and societal hub. Diversity, sustainability, innovation, deeper and more inclusive civic involvement, all comprise the basis of Ms. Sun’s campaign and are why she deserves to be ward 19’s next councillor.

Our only concern about Karen Sun is how her youthful, wide-eyed optimism will fare in the shark tank that is city council. But at last night’s debate, she displayed a quiet steeliness that avoided the loud, personal invective that dominated the stage at times. Her positive enthusiasm transcended the bitter tone toward City Hall which has been the trademark of the entire campaign in 2010. So, who knows? Maybe Karen Sun will change city council more than it changes her.

Our one word of advice for Ms. Sun would be, if you’re elected on October 25th, your first move should be to hire both George Sawision and David Footman onto your staff. Mr. Sawision will give you his considerable knowledge about City Hall and the workings of its various departments while Mr. Footman could serve as your enforcer. He seems to have a gritty, no bullshit demeanour that would serve you well. The three of you would make a winning team.

Just throwing it out there.

Karen Sun for city councillor in Ward 19.

dutifully submitted by Cityslikr


One Councillor And One Mayor Are Not Enough

September 28, 2010

Early on at last night’s Ward 19 council debate, it became clear to me that Toronto’s post-amalgamated governance structure is woefully lacking in delivering us the representation we need and deserve. As the questions piled up (both prepared from business and residents association as well as the audience’s more free form stylings), most expressed concerns about purely local issues. The moratorium on restaurants and bars on Ossington Street. Park upkeep and organization at Trinity-Bellwoods. Traffic congestion in Liberty Village and parking at the CNE.

Undoubtedly, some of these have city wide implications concerning matters like density and park management, but it still felt awfully parochial, if I can use that term non-derogatorily. The debate was held in a parish, after all. So why not `parochial’?

Local matters should be the main duty of those seeking a council seat. To look out for the interests of their constituents. Councillors represent the peoples’ voice at City Hall.

But this leaves the city wide view in the hands of the mayor and the mayor only. Councillors sit on various committees that oversee municipal aspects for the entire city like transit, police, planning but they remain councillors first and committee members second. Leaving us with one voice in the face of 44 who must straddle the line between city building and ward defending. Sometimes these two roles not only don’t jibe but are in direct opposition to one another.

Which may explain some of the palpable anger and discontent at the debate last night toward outgoing councillor for ward 19 and mayoral candidate, Joe Pantalone. He was accused by many of non-responsiveness and unilateral decision making. Perhaps this was always the case but I can’t help thinking that as a high ranking official in the Miller administration, Pantalone stopped looking out for the concerns of those who had elected him while he was concentrating on the bigger picture of Toronto as a whole.

A city of this size and diversity cannot be properly represented by one official and a handful of councillors who are secure enough in their ward positions that they can attend to wider city matters. We need another municipal level of government (yes, I said another level of government) whose sole purpose is for the greater good of the city and to coordinate its place within the entire GTA region. A Board of Control, say, elected from the ashes of the former cities of Toronto, York, East York, North York, Scarborough and Etobicoke. Call it, oh I don’t know, Metro Council. But this thing with a mayor and 44 fiefdoms doesn’t really seem to be fully functioning.

It’s a dilemma I’ll be facing when it comes to deciding where to cast my vote for ward 19 councillor. On one hand, there’s Karen Sun. From her, I get a sense of someone looking to contribute to the building of a better city. That’s not to say she won’t stand tall for the people of this ward. She just seems to have a bigger vision. One that goes beyond the Trinity Spadina border.

On the other hand, there’s David Footman. Having just encountered him last night, it would be presumptuous of me to make sweeping generalizations about his campaign but what I saw at the debate (and read from his campaign literature) is a bull terrier in defense of ward 19 and the people living here. Mr. Footman very likely possesses thoughts about the city in its entirety. Upon first impression however, his strengths seemed to be very much local, on the ground.

Toronto voters should not have to make such a choice. Or rather, there should be a second option. To vote for someone like David Footman whose primary job is to look after our neighbourhood needs. And to vote for Karen Sun as our representative for matters encompassing the entire city. Such a system was in place back before we were all one city. Nothing about amalgamation has ameliorated the situation to the point where we don’t require a similar set up again.

undecidedly submitted by Cityslikr