The Essential Eight — Council Challenger Endorsements V

October 7, 2014

We begin down our homestretch of city council challenger endorsements. The Essential Eight, we’ll call them. makingalist1These are candidates who, if elected, would alter the dynamic of city council for the better regardless of the name of the next mayor of this city.

That’s not to diminish our previously endorsed set of challengers. Every one of them would make a positive contribution to the political life in this city. It’s just these 8 candidates represent an enticing combination of strong, issued-oriented platforms, electoral opportunity and a seeming sense (mostly subjective on my part) of seasoned readiness to tackle the job of being a city councillor right out of the starting gate.

Admittedly, as you will discover, there is a preponderance of white maleness to this list. Perhaps I didn’t dig deep enough, scour the candidates’ list thoroughly enough and just simply, I don’t know, acquiesced to my establishment bias. I’ll own that. So factor that into your consideration as you read on, if you do read on.

 

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Ward 6 Etobicoke-Lakeshore

Etobicoke is in a state of electoral flux. Four-ish of the six wards are open (I don’t know what you’d call Ward 2). There are exciting, new voices making themselves heard during this campaign. (We’ve already endorsed some in Wards 1, 2 & 3). A good turnover here would mark a significant change in direction city-wide.

Ward 6 is one of the two with an incumbent seeking re-election. That incumbent is Mark Grimes. His ouster would represent a serious blow against the old guard at City Hall.

Russ Ford would be a huge step forward in terms of civic engagement and right-thinking rather than mob-mentality governance. We sat down and chatted with Ford in August. He was thoughtful, not given to either meaningless overstatement or other campaign platitudes. His concern for the ward wasn’t based on taxpayer respect but for finding a place at the table for everybody, whether they were residents concerned about development or residents worried about keeping an affordable roof over their heads.

We here at All Fired Up in the Big Smoke endorse Russ Ford for city councillor in Ward 6 Etobicoke-Lakeshore.

 

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Ward 24 Willowdale

Forget the Fords for a second. One of the original small government, anti-tax cranks who invaded City Hall from the inner suburbs with amalgamation was David Shiner. Incredibly, he’s still around (long after Mel Lastman’s gone, long gone). Still around and looking for another kick at the can.

It just doesn’t have to be this way. Dan Fox, a quiet, fact-based versus ideology-based, candidate has been plugging away on the campaign trail since February. We talked to him back in May and our impression of him has not changed since. He knows his stuff. He’s willing to defend his ideas eagerly but reasonably. He’s free of the crust of disinterest that’s hardened around the incumbent he’s out to defeat.

We here at All Fired Up in the Big Smoke endorse Dan Fox for city councillor in Ward 24 Willowdale.

— hopefully helpfully submitted by Cityslikr


Shiner On To Greener Pastures

September 8, 2014

On Friday, one burning question about Toronto’s October 27th municipal was answered. Will David Shiner be seeking re-election as councillor for Ward 24 Willowdale? whyYes. Yes, he will be.

Leading to the inevitable and next logical train of thought. Good god in heaven, why?

Over the course of the past 4 years, we have all been witness to the wanton destruction wrought down on the city by what I’ll call the antediluvian, pre-amalgamated mindset of the Ford brothers, Rob and Doug. A low tax, user pay services, car-first approach to local governance that sees red at money spent on anything they don’t attach value to. Clear and pave the roads. Pick up the garbage. Keep the city safe.

Much past that and it’s pretty well everybody for themselves. If you want something, pay for it out of your own pocket. tightwadIt’s called, Respect For Taxpayers.

But before Rob Ford moved from the fringes of crank councillor, and brother-Doug took part-time off being a private sector magnate to grace City Hall with his presence, Councillor David Shiner represented the height of suburban Toronto reactionism. In his defence, he comes by it by it naturally, as son of former North York politico, Esther ‘Spadiner’ Shiner. Just a couple years ago, in fact, during one of the countless transit plan debates, he stood up and proudly boasted of marching in favour of the Spadina Expressway, back in his anti-flower power days.

Shiner descended on Toronto city wide, flocking down Yonge Street with the Mel Lastman horde, in 1997, resolute nothing should change for the lives of residents in the former municipality with amalgamation. Nothing at all. Nothing whatsoever. Nothing.

He’s pretty much maintained that belief for nearly 4 terms now, willing to sacrifice all but the barest of civic essentials in his pursuit of keeping taxes as low as possible. pieinthefaceHe sandbagged rookie councillor Mike Layton, back in early 2011, leading the rear-guard action against a long planned Fort York pedestrian and cyclist bridge. “Too fancy”, he called it.

Although later reworked to everyone’s seeming satisfaction, the Fort York bridge incident is a good example of Shiner dual destructiveness. A less than collegial relationship with fellow councillors and an absolute penury of public spirit. If that’s not bad enough – I mean, he isn’t alone in that — fellow Lastman era North Yorker, Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong has a similar knack for blind-siding his co-workers and openly attacking plans and development of the public realm, over the course of the last term, Shiner has displayed an open disregard for ethical behaviour.

Last October, it was reported that, along with Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti, Shiner was paying below market rent for an apartment leased from a company who does some business with the city. He shrugged off questions, saying he wasn’t exactly sure what the rent was he paid. Mayor Ford, no stranger himself to questions of ethics, stepped up to the councillors’ defence. “It’s a private issue, it’s between them and the landlord,” he said.questionsquestionsquestions

A few days after that allegation, it was revealed Councillor Shiner worked as a federal lobbyist for a company “… that was competing for millions of dollars in municipal contracts,” Daniel Dale wrote in the Toronto Star.

“It is common for councillors to maintain their private businesses while in office,” according to Dale. “It is also common for councillors to become lobbyists after leaving office. It appears rare, though not illegal, for a councillor to work as a lobbyist while still serving as an elected representative.”

Nothing illegal but most certainly in an ethical grey zone. As Guy Giorno, a lawyer and ‘an expert in lobbyist legislation’ said in the article: “Nothing in the law prohibits a municipal politician from holding another job, even if that job is to lobby another level of government. However, given the fact that councillors in Toronto receive full-time pay, it is legitimate to question why they should hold second jobs.”citybuilding

It’s bad optics, to say the least and does raise concerns just how much time Councillor Shiner dedicates to representing the interests of those who elected him to public office. Who does he work for, himself or for the residents of Ward 24?

Perhaps most egregious of David Shiner’s questionable behaviour during the past 4 years is his continued support of Mayor Ford.  Last November, he was the only non-Ford on city council to vote against stripping the mayor of most of his powers in light of the admission of crack use. Shiner was adamant in his tepid support of the mayor, insisting he’d “done a reasonable job.”

A reasonable job? Only if you view the main purpose of the job of a member of city council to be keeping taxes low and making sure the future of Toronto doesn’t get too fancy.timeforchange1

While the focus of the 2014 municipal campaign has been on the unsuitability of Rob Ford to continue leading this city, the dynamics at City Hall won’t change significantly if his enablers, and David Shiner has been among his most ardent enablers, are returned to office. He remains a throwback to an earlier time, one that is no longer up to the task of running a city of this size, this complexity and in need of adapting to the 21st-century. As much as Toronto has to move beyond the Fords come October 27th, Shiner time must also be relegated to a thing of the past.

hopefully submitted by Cityslikr


Challengers To Watch

May 6, 2014

Dan Fox must feel as if he’s politically shadow boxing these days. As the only registered candidate for city councillor in Ward 24 Willowdale, shadowboxinghe’s had the whole place to himself since late-February. You’d almost think the guy was some deeply entrenched incumbent nobody was prepared to take on.

Actually, that’d be Councillor David Shiner, a long time city councillor, going back to the pre-amalgamation days of Mel Lastman’s North York. In fact, Councillor Shiner served as Mel’s 2nd term budget chief when the gang moved down Yonge Street to Toronto’s City Hall. No one’s sure if the councillor is planning to run again this year as he likes to keep his cards close to his chest. In 2010, he didn’t jump into the race until the very last moment, ultimately breezing to a comfortable win.

Wily. That’s how you could think of Councillor Shiner. At least, that’s the most flattering descriptor I can come up with. mellastmanA wily veteran.

Councillor Shiner remains as part of the dwindling rump of that former municipality mindset who have no place conducting city business in 2014. His views are antiquated. His era is long past. Councillor Shiner came to City Hall with Mel Lastman. He should’ve done us a favour and left with Mel.

It also seems like the councillor has, I don’t know, gotten a little too cozy in his job. As Daniel Dale reported in the Toronto Star last year for five years (2006-2011), Councillor Shiner worked as a registered federal lobbyist. While not illegal or overtly unethical, it does smack of distraction, let’s call it. The smell doesn’t exactly dissipate when, in the same story, it’s revealed that the address the councillor registered as a lobbyist from is an apartment at Yonge and Eglinton rented out below market value and owned by a company that does business with the city.

Yeah. Take a sec to wipe some of that oil off you.

I guess it wouldn’t seem all so self-serving if there was much evidence of Councillor Shiner working hard for his constituents but if there is, I can’t find it. vintageposterHe has absolutely no web presence outside of the city’s site. His council expense report suggests he does little other than engage over the phone. A search to see if there were any Jane’s Walks or Doors Open events in Ward 24 came up empty.

To an outsider’s eyes, Councillor Shiner isn’t going out of his way to represent his residents in any obvious way.

So, is Dan Fox the candidate to oust him?

He’s certainly everything the incumbent isn’t. Young and enthusiastic. He cut his political teeth as a constituency assistant in the office of a local MPP. Currently, Mr. Fox is working in the federal civil service. So he is familiar with the mechanics of government.

His campaign material and website are certainly snazzy. And by snazzy, I mean professional. If that sounds like I’m being snotty or dismissive, I’m not. This is the kind of basic, on the ground stuff that wins council level campaigns. There are few high profile debates (especially if the current councillor doesn’t get around to registering to run until late in the race). There’s no glossy TV ads or radio spots. givethemthebootJust the tough slog of getting out to meet as many of the ward’s residents as humanly possible and introducing yourself to them.

Fox has been doing just that.

The question is, are enough voters in Ward 24 ready to break out from their complacency after so many years, decades even, of Shiner (but hardly shining) representation? The ward has experienced a serious bump in growth and development along its two subway connections, around the Yonge and Finch station and the stretch of the Sheppard Avenue west of Bayview station through to Leslie and eastward. But at its heart remains sleepy ol’ Willowdale, still very much the single family dwelling, stubbornasamuleauto-oriented neighbourhoods that reflect the approach to city governance of their long time representative at both North York and Toronto City Halls.

Unseating a municipal incumbent, especially one with such strong local name recognition as David Shiner is never an easy task. Generally speaking, I’m not a fan of the concept of terms limits. But watching Councillor Shiner go about his business this term makes it difficult to argue against them. He remains defiantly old school when what this city needs right now are new ways of thinking, new approaches to governing.

We tend to focus on the mayoral campaign during municipal elections as the prime indicator for the direction we want the city to move, leaving ward races to their respective residents to decide. timeforachangeThat’s change only partially done. Regardless of who’s elected Toronto’s new mayor, nothing would better serve the best interests of city council in October than the enforced retirement of the likes of David Shiner by Ward 24 voters.

Dan Fox represents a solid alternative. His election to city council would signal a whole new way of thinking and a noticeable shift in direction at City Hall. If you’re looking for ways to contribute to change from your local government, donating some time or money to helping elect Dan Fox would be a good place to start.

hopefully submitted by Cityslikr