The Long Shots — Challenger Endorsements III

October 3, 2014

Who doesn’t like a cinderella story? A rags-to-riches tale of unexpected triumph over seemingly insurmountable odds or an imposing adversary. The Little Engine That Could. Rocky. Those damn ants and that nasty assed rubber tree plantrubbertreeplant

We love them because such an arc is so exceedingly rare in real life. The best person doesn’t always win. Giving it your all won’t guarantee the podium.

Politics is no exception. Dark horses seldom catch anyone by surprise. Incumbency sits like dark matter, bending elections to its well. You don’t even have to be a very good incumbent. Most times, being an incumbent is all you need to remain in place.

Which is what makes people throwing their hats into the ring despite the improbable mountain they have to climb so absolutely edifying and inspiring. You got to believe in the rightness of your cause to face almost certain defeat and to forge ahead in spite of it. To dream the impossible dream, am I right?

So today, we’re talking long shots in our city council challenger endorsements. Three candidates who, on a level playing field, would be frontrunners based on their ideas, passion for their respective communities and dedication to civic engagement. Three candidates who have dropped the gauntlet on some less than impressive opponents and shown a willingness to fight an uphill battle for no other reason than it being a fight that needs to be fought.

 

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Ward 34 Don Valley East

You’ve all heard this rant before. Long time incumbent Denzil Minnan-Wong serves in the upper echelon of divisiveness and destructiveness at City Hall. He seeks to shrink the efficacy of local government to little more than paver of roads and collector of garbage. He’s been doing that since the days before amalgamation.

His opponent this time around, Mary Hynes, is no stranger to City Hall herself but sits across the committee table from Minnan-Wong, speaking up for all the things he could care less about. He talks about taxpayers. She talks about community. We met and chatted with Mary in July, in the infancy of her campaign. She is well aware of the David versus Goliath aspect of this race but also knows in the past 3 campaigns, Minnan-Wong’s share of the popular vote has dropped.

Perhaps Ward 34 has just been waiting for the right alternative. Mary Hynes most certainly fits that bill.

We here at All Fired Up in the Big Smoke endorse Mary Hynes for city councillor in Ward 34 Don Valley East.

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Ward 35 Scarborough Southwest

Paul Bocking is young, enthusiastic, articulate, with a fresh perspective about local representation. He projects a rosy-cheeked, can-do spirit that isn’t based on the fact he’s running against some entrenched, weezy, old guard councillor. He’s not. He’s running against entrenched, weezy, old guard ideas.

When we met this past summer, Bocking couldn’t stop talking ideas and issues. Almost all of them were in direct opposition to the incumbent he’s trying to unseat, Michelle Berardinetti. We’ve spoken often and never really very flatteringly about the councillor. Although just finishing up her first terms, it seems like she’s been there forever.

Scarborough is what Scarborough is because it continues to elect the likes of Michelle Berardinetti to represent its interests at City Hall. A little bit of Bocking could go a long way to changing perception and attitudes.

We here at All Fired Up in the Big Smoke endorse Paul Bocking for city councillor in Ward 35 Scarborough Southwest.

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Ward 39 Scarborough-Agincourt

It’s hard to imagine worse representation at City Hall than outgoing councillor Mike Del Grande but I don’t think it’s out of line for me to say that the presumptive favourite in the race to replace him, Jim Karygiannis, doesn’t look to be much of an improvement. He retired from federal politics after 25 years in office and is looking to now bring the burning issues and values of 1988 to municipal politics. Exactly what Scarborough needs at this juncture.

The really frustrating thing is, it doesn’t have to be this way. Franco Ng, a former Del Grande staffer, would be the ideal way forward for the ward. He is obviously very familiar with the neighbourhoods and communities from his time at City Hall. His views on modernising the suburbs, revitalizing aging shopping malls and employment lands, are exciting. The afternoon I spent travelling around the ward with him in August was very instructive in how new voices can energize old ways of thinking.

Jim Karygiannis represents, if not a step back for Ward 39, a digging in of its heels or burying its head in the sand. It would be a waste of the next 4 years. Franco Ng would be a real opportunity to step into the 21st-century.

We here at All Fired Up in the Big Smoke endorse Franco Ng for city councillor in Ward 39 Scarborough-Agincourt.

high hopesly submitted by Cityslikr


Challengers To Watch VIII

July 30, 2014

As the municipal campaign begins to gather a little mid-summer momentum of interest, there’s been an uptick in chatter about new faces, new voices challenging incumbents in various city council races. brandnewNOW’s Ben Spurr wrote an article last week, Progressives in the heart of Ford Nation, featuring a group of candidates running up in the city’s northwestern corner. “A group of young, bright candidates are tackling far right politics and voter disaffection in Toronto’s northwest”, he writes.

This is a most encouraging and welcome development. But let me just add that new doesn’t necessarily have to mean young. A challenge to the status quo only needs to be done in spirit and intention. Age has absolutely nothing to do with it.

So it is with Mary Hynes as she has stepped forward to take on the entrenchiest of entrenched incumbents, Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong, in Ward 34 Don Valley East.

For anyone who’s followed along Toronto politics over the last 4 years, you might recognize Mary as ‘Yelly Granny’ as she was pejoratively dubbed after she gave a blazing deputation at the Executive Committee during the Summer of the Cuts in 2011. Although intended, I think, affectionately, it diminished her impact, enabling those in the mayor’s camp to view her as nothing more than one of the ‘usual suspects’, as I think Giorgio Mammoliti took to saying.

It was unfortunate for another reason as it also undercut what has been a lifetime committed to social justice. An elementary school teacher in Scarborough for twenty-five years, she has also worked on and with a whole lot of community causes. Aside from the ones that pop up regularly at City Hall — Social Planning Toronto, Toronto Environmental Alliance, TTC Riders – Mary’s also a busy part of the Ontario Health Coalition, Older Women’s Network and Fairview Food Security Council.

While no stranger to political campaigns, having run previously at both the provincial and federal levels as well as in a 2012 school board by-election, ward34I wondered what compelled her into this race at this time. It’s all about taking ownership of our communities, Mary tells me. “People don’t know what’s possible.”

At the doors, she’s hearing that, after the condition of the roads which to a car dependent area of the city like Ward 34 is, is a very important local issue, residents tell her there’s a definite lack of communication from their city councillor. As we’re discovering on our travels throughout the suburban areas of Toronto, people don’t really expect municipal politicians to come knocking on their doors. Residence associations, when there are residence associations, tend to focus on keeping property taxes low. There’s not a whole lot of community building going on the part of the city councillor.

So Mary sees big chunks of public space, green public space, going unused. There’s very little sense of connection between neighbourhoods in the ward unless you’re driving. yorkmillsWhile the bus service is adequate, this is not a part of the city easily traversed on foot or by bike.

None of which should come as much of a surprise since this part of the city has been represented at City Hall by Denzil Minnan-Wong for a long time now. He is the stodgy, reactionary, get off my lawn candidate in this race. Regular readers of this blog know the level of contempt I have for the man. He is easily in the top 5 on the worst councillors list, a truly destructive, malignant force at City Hall. davidandgoliathThe skies would be a whole lot bluer, the air much, much sweeter if he was shown the door in October.

Still, this is very much a David versus Goliath battle. At a political level where name recognition means a lot, the current Ward 34 incumbent has a lot of it. As chair of the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee, he hogs an awful lot of the spotlight, out grandstanding against almost all sorts of public building and spending outside of roads and bike lanes on roads he doesn’t want to drive on. You might not know why you know his name. You might not even like why you know his name. But you know his name nevertheless.

The one bright spot I’ll take from that, however, is over the past few elections, the councillor’s share of the popular vote has declined noticeably. From nearly 71% in 2003 to just under 54% last time out, it’s a trajectory that might suggest the more Ward 34 residents get to know their councillor, the less they like him. bornoldI know that’s certainly true for me.

Mary Hynes offers up a positive alternative for voters in Ward 34. She is running for city council to build something, to foster a sense of community for every resident not just a select few. She wants to be a councillor who listens first and talks second which is diametrically opposed to the sort of representation the ward has had for nearly 20 years now.

Don’t let the looks fool you. Mary Hynes very much represents the new guard of candidates looking to transform the dynamics at City Hall.

hopefully submitted by Cityslikr


Will No One Rid Us Of This Turbulent Councillor?

April 27, 2014

I had to laugh. One of those chuckles really, a combination of knowing, disbelief and a dollop of self-loathing. laughAlways a dollop of self-loathing.

“Minnan-Wong not running for mayor,” stated the headline of Don Peat’s Toronto Sun article on Thursday.

HeeHeeHeeHee, I chortled to myself. Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong running for mayor. Please. It’s a testament to the era of lowered political expectations we live in that anyone, and I mean anyone, including the councillor himself, actually thought for anything longer than a passing notion or fancy that Denzil Minnan-Wong could be considered a legitimate mayoral candidate.

Now, I know that after electing someone like Rob Ford as mayor, the reasonable response to that view is, well, all bets are off. If Rob Ford, why not, I don’t know, a chia pet? chiapetClearly we’re comfortable scraping from the bottom of the barrel. Whatever else you might say about him, Councillor Minnan-Wong cuts an acceptable figure. His suits aren’t ill-fitting.

The difference is, Rob Ford wears the necessary populism any self-proclaimed far right conservative politician needs to win. I don’t get it either but he’s not trying to appeal to me. Enough of the folks believe he represents their values and views of local governance that a quarter of Toronto voters see him as one of them, always looking out for the little guy. Councillor Minnan-Wong is not that, not even close.

He’s more… ummmm, how would you describe the Minnan-Wong brand of conservatism? It’s most certainly not populist. You wouldn’t consider him a John Tory country club conservative. It’s just, I don’t know, loathsome? Along with the mayor, his brother, the speaker and maybe Councillor Mike Del Grande, loathsomecreatureno one is more divisive, petty and single-minded in their pursuit of small government and low taxes than Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong.

We’ve already written about Minnan-Wong as councillor in our Wards To Watch series but I think it bears repeating now that he’s officially registered to run for re-election in Ward 34 Don Valley East.

Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong is why we can’t have nice things in Toronto. His view of the city seems to come almost exclusively from behind the wheel of his car, out through the windshield. (Or standing, tending to his lawn, evidently.) It’s very telling that in saying why it was he was running again, the councillor said, “There is a lot to do in this city and I’m clearly engaged in gridlock and congestion and trying to make our roads better.”

Trying to make our roads better.

Now, I know it may seem like I’m playing semantics here. Roads could be seen as just a generic word denoting travel or a commuting route. texaschainsawmassacreBut he didn’t say he was trying to make our commute easier or reduce our travel times in the city. No. The councillor’s attitude toward city building is as auto-centric as our mayor’s and just as stuck in the ‘70s suburban mindset of his youth.

He opposes anything that challenges the supremacy of cars to get around the city. Bike lanes. Open streets. Scrambled intersections. Expressway removal. He loves the view of Toronto from the elevated eastern portion of the Gardiner Expressway!

Denzil Minnan-Wong has been a city councillor since amalgamation, having sat on the North York council before that, and I think it’s fair to ask for one positive contribution he’s made to life in Toronto in all that time. citybuildingSince 2010, he’s been the chair of the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee, arguably the third most powerful position on council (4th if you count whatever position it is Doug Ford occupies) and I’m hard pressed to think of anything on the plus side of the ledger he’s done. Even if it’s just saving taxpayer’s money, I’m thinking that for every dollar in contracting out waste collection and the collective agreement with other city unions, there’s a bunch of cash burned in torn up and rebuilt bike lanes and buried Environmental Assessments.

“In the interests of the public and the City of Toronto,” the councillor told the press after signing up for re-election, “I thought the interests of the people was best served by returning to city council as a councillor.”

Well, I beg to differ, Councillor Minnan-Wong. This city’s interests would be served a whole lot better, justoneand our political discourse more civil if you took your low tax loving, government hating detrimental act elsewhere. Over the course of the next 6 months those running against the incumbent councillor in Ward 34 should badger him relentlessly with one line of questioning and one line of questioning only. What has he ever done for the residents of his ward or this city? Name one positive contribution he’s made during his time in office. One.

It’s a question Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong would be hard pressed to answer.

— demandingly submitted by Cityslikr