Didn’t You Use To Be… ?

January 31, 2014

The final budget of the Ford administration has now been signed and sealed, marking a full circle for the mayor. Full circle? Half circle?

He came in like a lion and went out like a lamb, is what I’m trying to say. tickletickletickleA bleating, scruffy, possibly orf ridden lamb. Nothing you’d want to cuddle up to (unless, of course, you’re Budget Chief Frank Di Giorgio) or use the wool to make a hat and scarf set with, but generally harmless.

However, don’t let the mayor convince you he had nothing to do with the 2014 budget. His mutton smeared fingerprints are all over it, evidence of a time not long ago when he was fearsome enough a force to… a-hem, a-hem… ram his will through that of city council. Echoes of days gone by when he was a man with a mandate.

This is a budget still with lower than needed property tax increases (or other revenue sources) to meet the demands of growth in Toronto. This is a budget still where the soft services like youth initiatives, student nutritional programs, shelter, support and housing, all vie for the crumbs left behind after the big ticket items such as the TPS and TTC have had their fill of the shrinking pie. scarceThis is a budget where tax revenue starts being diverted to build a Scarborough subway.

Let’s call budget 2014 a Ford-lite document. Not too tax-y and with a slight hint, a whiff really, of compassion. Something, if not for everyone, only the zealots and numerically challenged could be indignant about. A true election year budget, living as we are in the Ford era.

(I highly recommend you link over to Social Planning Toronto for a much more thorough analysis of the budget fallout than I could possibly give.)

Getting there was not without its bumps and outbursts and histrionic hissy fits. Mostly from the usual suspects. The mayor. His councillor-brother. Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti. Oh, Giorgio. Knucklehead, knuckle-dragger, numbskull and the scourge of good governance everywhere.

After all his time as the local representative, it’s amazing frankly that Ward 7 is anything but a crater in the ground. To hear Councillor Mammoliti bitch and moan, it may well be. A crater filled with impoverished senior citizens, transport trucks and a flag pole. clownshowHe got his ward that flag pole, right?

Despite his best efforts to be the biggest bane of reasonable, civil debate over the course of the last couple days, I can honestly tell you that at about 6 p.m. last night he was upstaged in spectacular fashion. Nope. Not by the mayor. Not by Councillor Ford. Not even by Councillor David Shiner’s Bullshit Bag.

Nope.

All that paled in comparison to the real warrior of division, newly minted in the intense heat of battle known as the struggle for a Scarborough subway.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Councillor Glenn De Baeremaeker, Ward 38 Scarborough Centre (courtesy of Graphic Matt):

No, but wait. It gets better. From March 2012, less than 2 years ago. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Councillor Glenn De Baeremaeker, Ward 38 Scarborough Centre (courtesy of Himy Syed):

I don’t know the language but I’m beginning to think De Baeremaeker is Dutch for ‘fucking hypocrite’.

Set aside the craven 180 performed in just over a year. What politician hasn’t done an utter about-face when they think it politically expedient? In the face of a fearsome Ford Nation back in 2010, how many councillors voted to eliminate a source of revenue with the Vehicle Registration Tax, only to openly regret it a couple budget cycles later?

What about fellow Scarborough councillor Paul Ainslie Ward 43 Scarborough East? nopledgeDuring the great transit debate of 2012, the one where Councillor De Baeremaeker spoke so lovingly of LRTs, Councillor Ainslie was all about subways, burying the Eglinton crosstown for the entire route. Even in the early stages of the latest Scarborough subway skirmish, while De Baeremaeker was tucking his tail between his legs, worrying about some Ford Nation backlash that would turf him from office in 2014, Ainslie appeared to be falling in line with the otherwise unanimous demand of the other 9 councillors from Scarborough for a subway extension of the Bloor-Danforth line.

But he didn’t. Instead, he stood up at council last year and said that after examining all the facts available to him, he’d decided on both fiscal and transit planning grounds, an LRT was the way to go.

How did Councillor De Baeremaeker explain his conversion in the opposite direction?

Deserve.

Deserve.mineminemine

Scarborough deserves a subway. Anything less, including those sleek, iPad-esque LRTs, would be an insult. A slap in the face of Scarborough residents who’d been waiting out in the cold for too long, waiting for their fair share of 1st-class, world class transit technology.

Deserve.

It’s the last refuge of scoundrels. At least when it comes to transit planning.

When you don’t have the numbers, when the facts and figures really don’t make a case for your demands, reach back into the bag of resentment, deep down into that parochial pit and left fly with the sword of petulant division. You have one! Why don’t we? It’s unfair! We pay and pay and pay, and get nothing in return. We deserve a subway!

Or else.

We’ll de-amalgamate. We’ll take our ball and go home. principledWe’ll hold our breath until we turn blue and get our way.

This kind of divisive, two year-old temper tantrum approach to politics I expect from the Fords. It is, after all, their bread and butter. Consensus is not part of their repertoire. Divisiveness is all they have.

But honestly, there’s a kind of unprincipled principled…ness to how the Ford’s go about doing their business. Everybody knows what they’re doing. They know what they’re doing in sowing the seeds of division throughout the city in the hopes of manufacturing enough of an us-versus-them base to keep them in power. Most of the time, I actually think they believe what comes out of their mouths.

The likes of Councillor Glenn De Baeremaeker? Not so much. He apparently has no principles past getting himself re-elected. That’s pure Giorgio Mammoliti territory. Remember how much he hated Rob Ford before it became apparent he was going to be Mayor Rob Ford? Now, they’re inseparable, attached at the thumb almost.

Whichever way the wind’s blowing, right?hollowman

Councillor Glenn De Baeremaeker has become a hollow politician. A destructive shell of a councillor who is putting his own interests before those of the city he was elected to represent. The whole city not just Scarborough, not just Ward 38.

Scarborough doesn’t deserve a subway. It deserves better representation than the likes of Glenn De Baeremaeker.

indignantly submitted by Cityslikr


Can We Have A Conversation About Buses?

January 27, 2014

“Toronto may need to have an urgent conversation about its bus system.”

humantransit

So said Human Transit’s Jarrett Walker at last Thursday’s transit session, Abundant Access: Public Transit As An Instrument of Freedom.

Of course, Toronto won’t, at least, not in the near future. Too caught up are we in the bright and shiny lure of technology porn, parochial resentment and world-classism. It’s a subway or no way in every corner of the city. Scarborough. Finch Avenue West. Some ludicrously titled, the North York Relief Line (Councillor James Pasternak Ward 10 York Centre, take a bow!)

Even those who should know so much better like Councillor Glenn De Baeremaeker (Ward 38 Scarborough Centre) set the debate back with his own late to the subway conversion, insisting that residents of Scarborough were somehow entitled to a subway. willywonka1Entitled! As if transit planning is based on nothing more than goodie dealing and score settling. For such a poisonous contribution to what Mr. Walker referred to as a ‘transit toxic landscape’, Councillor De Baeremaeker deserves a serious run for his money in this year’s municipal campaign from someone who challenges his misguided transit priorities.

It’s hard to imagine how a segment of the population who sniffed at LRTs as nothing more than glorified streetcars would be open to any talk of enhancing our bus system. Buses have never really had much cache when it comes to being seen as an acceptable transit alternative. Chopped liver in a environment where people are demanding filet mignon.

But as Mr. Walker suggests, a revamped bus system could provide relatively inexpensive, short term relief to some of the congestion woes we’re are currently face. While we tussle with the logistics of financing and building the big ticket items like a subway or the Eglinton Crosstown, solutions for 5, 10, 20 years down the road, we could also be easily implementing quick fixes right now. All it would take is some paint, road signs and a whole bunch of political will.

The public transit renaissance now happening in the least public transit oriented city in popular imagination, Los Angeles, was kick-started by improvements in its bus networks. anotherwayBy providing more frequency and connectivity with less waiting times, enhanced bus service helped create a positive atmosphere for the idea of real public transit in an oppressively car-oriented region. Remove the theoretical by providing the practical. It doesn’t need to take decades and billions and billions of dollars.

Noted public transit advocate, Councillor Doug Ford, suggested a couple weeks back that we replace the crammed packed King Street streetcars with buses. To which I say, fine. Let’s do that along with providing rush hour bus only lanes while removing on-street parking and left turns during that time. Do we have a deal?

How about along Finch Avenue? Why don’t we give over a lane going in each direction over to buses, create an actual rapid transit lane for that well used route(s)? It wouldn’t cost the city very much money and we could have it up and going over night.

The unpleasant but entirely necessary fact of the matter is, much of the suburban core of this city wasn’t built or designed to support higher order of public transit beyond a bus network. brtSo be it. That’s not something we can change with a flick of a switch to power up a subway extension. But we can provide a better bus service. We should provide a better bus service.

That can only be accomplished though if we stop rating modes of public transit based on how fast it goes or the kind of technology it uses to get there. We also need to establish public transit on a par with the private automobile, and accept the fact that, given an equal footing, it could deliver more people to more place more reliably in many neighbourhoods and communities than cars can.

We could start doing it almost immediately and at a fraction of the cost we’re talking about now with subways and LRTs. We’d have to grow up a little bit for that to actually happen, however. Right now I just don’t see it happening.

At a Ward 10 town hall meeting a couple weeks back, the above mentioned Councillor James Pasternak just shook his head at a suggestion by a resident that maybe a lane of traffic be given over to the Bathurst 7 bus during rush hour gifthorseinthemouth(a trip that took me over an hour to make north from the Bathurst subway station during rush hour to get me to the meeting). It wouldn’t happen, the councillor assured his resident. Impractical. Not even worth considering.

But a North York Relief subway? Now, you’re talking.

We can hardly be expected to have an urgent conservation about our bus network when we continue to be distracted and transfixed by pie in the sky transit planning.

bus(t)-a-movely submitted by Cityslikr