The Meddling Public Sector

August 26, 2015

While governments at every level and of every political stripe spend our money like it’s theirs, threatening to send all us hardworking taxpayers to the proverbial poorhouse, it is the private sector, the merchants of free enterprise, muckingupthewordswho keep the ship of state upright, generating the wealth which floats all our boats. With a laser-like approach to finding efficiencies, customer service and competitive pricing, the profit motive greases the wheels of a functioning society, pretty much as God and Milton Friedman proclaimed. “In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem,” actor-turned-politician Ronald Reagan crowed, “government is the problem.”

Allow me to introduce exhibit A.

Right now in Toronto, City Hall sits guilty of stifling not one, but two heroic businesses, trying their best to make this city a better place to live for all of us. lucyBack in 2009, city council demanded to pay Bombardier nearly a billion dollars in return for 204 new streetcars. Clearly, it was an unreasonable 10 year delivery timeline with 37 of the vehicles expected on the road by the end of 2014, 60 by the time 2016 rolled around. To date, only 8 are up and running along the streets of Toronto.

Obviously the only reasonable explanation for such a delay and overwhelming under-performance on the part of Bombardier is the intrusion of government into the sphere of the private sector. The company has also been forced to delay orders of new subway cars to New York City and Montreal. What’s the common factor in that equation? (Aside from the delays, that is.) Ethrowingmoneyaroundxactly. Cities, and government.

Where the hell are all these public pension bloated fat cats with their hands out full of money, offering to buy planes from Bombardier? Because of this stingy, public transit-oriented attitude of municipal officials, the company’s aviation arm has been hindered in its honest pursuit of an honest day’s capitalism. Reduced to near ‘penny-stock status’, according to the Globe and Mail, Bombardier sits helplessly on its stock of beautiful C-series flying technology, waiting for somebody, anybody, from the public sector to step up and perform as it was meant to do. Write big fat cheques to private companies with as few strings attached as possible.

Here’s the kicker.

Rather than sit around complaining about how Bombardier isn’t living up to its streetcar contract, Toronto city council could be channeling that negative energy into something positive. greasethewheelsSuch as, for example, bulldozing ahead with approval of the island airport expansion. This would allow another valiant private company, Porter Airlines, now obstructed by a pernicious officialdom, bureaucratically hung up on ‘proper environmental assessments’, ‘public input’, ‘people oriented waterfront development’ and other make-work, nonsensical jargon, to green light its order of Bombardier CS-100 whisper jets and expand its reach and, fingers crossed, bottom line.

In turn, flush with cash, Bombardier could ramp up its street and subway car assembly lines, delivering to the politicians what they’re really in the business of: vote getting. That’s what they call, out here in the real world, a win-win-win for everyone. Government keeps spending money in order for the private sector to make money. Wealth is then spread accordingly in the immutable law of Economics 101. lenderoflastresortAs it should be.

We elect our representatives to pay up, step back and observe the miracle of commerce. Nothing more. Until we learn to do that, and that only, we will continue to hinder the real engine of our well-being, leaving us empty-handed with fingers pointed in blame at the wrong people for delays, cost overruns, contract breaches and an underwater tunnel taking too few people to too few places.

If that comes to pass, who will be left holding the bag? In the end, somebody’s got to pay. That’s just the way of the world. Governments need to accept that responsibility, their responsibility, and fall into line, knowing it is always better to be the payer of first resort than it is the lender of last resort.

matter-of-factly submitted by Cityslikr


Call The Question

July 21, 2014

If they want to make it a campaign issue, I say, bring it on. Let’s have the discussion we should’ve had in 2010. replayAll that talk of gravy and the city’s spending problem. The mayor, his brother, Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong all want to put it back on the table again this time around. Fine. Let’s revisit the conversation.

The current object of their fiscal hawk ire is Waterfront Toronto, and its spending practices on a couple projects as part of the wider waterfront revitalization. I’ll try and ape their tone of outrage. $12,000 on umbrellas!! Half a million dollars on rocks!!! $600,000 for a washroom!!!

Resign! Resign!! Resign!!!!

You see, when it comes to the public realm (of the non-road related kind), everything can be done more cheaply. Some parks build public washrooms for 25 grand. Why does Cherry Beach need one for 600 grand? Half a mil for rocks? mockoutrage1Councillor Doug Ford offered some from up at his cottage for a fraction of that cost.

Never mind that Waterfront Toronto has some perfectly legitimate explanations for the cost. The umbrellas at Sugar Beach are permanent, all weather umbrellas intended to last for 25 years. The sports field washroom was installed in a spot away from any sewer infrastructure that needed its own septic system to deal with the large number of people using it.

But as a Toronto Sun editorial warns us, “Too many appear prepared to take whatever Waterfront Toronto says at face value. Bad idea.”

Absolutely. Instead, take at face value what a handful of grandstanding-happy, campaigning politicians tell us.

As Waterfront Toronto CEO John Campbell points out, the agency is overseen by all 3 levels of government. demagogueWhere are the other outraged voices at all this profligacy? Why are we just hearing the loudest and the crankiest? Or more to the point, why are we giving them any sort of credence?

Even many fellow city council conservatives aren’t onside with this shameless bit of pure self-promotion. Economic Development and Culture Committee Chair Michael Thompson gave one of the best speeches I have seen him give in a fiery defense of Watefront Toronto earlier this month. By investing public money into previously derelict areas of the city’s waterfront, some $2.5 billion in private investment in the area has happened.

“Notwithstanding,” sniffs the Toronto Sun.

Notwithstanding?! That’s the entire fucking point. While not technically a public-private partnership, it’s kind of the theory in practice. Public money used to improve a public asset which, in turn, encourages private investment and development.

notlistening2Not to mention improved public spaces although it’s more difficult to put a price tag on that.

“What taxpayers know is that when it comes to revitalizing the waterfront,” the Sun goes on, undeterred by reason or even simple observation, “politicians, bureaucrats and publicly-funded agencies from all levels of government have been over-promising and under-delivering for years.”

So when those ‘politicians, bureaucrats and publicly-funded agencies’ do start delivering, as they have with the steady march of development along the waterfront, as indicated by $2.5 billion in private investment, you stand back, unimpressed, and moan about the cost. Did it have to be so expensive? Couldn’t you have done it cheaper?

Geez, I don’t know, Toronto Sun, Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong and the Ford Brothers. Could we? Tell us all about how you would’ve done it while saving the taxpayers’ a bundle. neverhappyHow about just slapping up, I don’t know, an outhouse at the Cherry Beach sports field would’ve accomplished the same result.

It’s time Councillor Minnan-Wong, who’s been a city councillor for nearly 20 years now, step up and start telling us, not what’s wrong, but how exactly he’d make it right. It’s time Councillor Minnan-Wong told us about the positive contributions he’s made to the life of this city, how he’s served to make the residents’ lives better. It’s time Councillor Minnan-Wong start justifying his continued public presence.

And if, in the end, all he can point to are numbers with dollar signs on a ledger sheet and refer to those he represents as ‘taxpayers’, I’ll suggest that’s not enough, not even close. As we have seen with a similarly small-minded, monstrously narrow-focussed, anti-government conservative in our current mayor, big cities need big pictures not just the itty-bitty ones that spark indignation fueled solely on fallacious resentment. texaschainsawmassacreNay-saying is an easy political platform to build. Unfortunately, it collapses under the weight of governance.

So yeah, if Councillor Minnan-Wong, the Fords and the Toronto Sun want to try and re-hash the 2010 campaign, pitting their self-proclaimed record of stinginess against the idea of productive city-building, let them. This time, however, demand they show the results of their actions. Demand a full accounting of the costs and benefits. Demand actual leadership and not just mindless, crowd-pleasing axe wielding.

daringly submitted by Cityslikr


Pretty Straightforward Until It Wasn’t

December 14, 2012

Can I make what should be a pretty innocuous, perhaps even vapid statement, but may come across as something almost audacious, given the political times we live in?idodeclare

No single one is to blame for the crumbling pile that is the Gardiner Expressway.

There. I said it. I stand by it even two seconds after writing it.

The current state of disrepair we find our southern most arterial thoroughfare in is the result of a confluence of neglect, disinterest and pusillanimity, traversing decades now. Senior levels of government never really answering why a municipality should be responsible for the maintenance of a thoroughfare that serves a significantly wider regional interest. A municipality trying to put off the hard decision and hard cash of keeping the thing properly functional as the battle rages over its ultimate fate. Restore? Demolish? Bury?

Still…

This most recent dust up pitting the current administration in power at City Hall – let’s call them Team Ford – against the previous one – Miller’s Minions – hediditis a wholly manufactured in Toronto melodrama. Replete with finger pointing, name calling, innuendo insinuating, answer evading that more resembles… well, a political pissing match which is what it is. There are no good guys in this tale. Only those dedicated to not having an open and honest discussion on a spectacularly important matter affecting this city for the next generation or so.

The saga (at least this chapter of it) can be traced back to July 2008. Recommendation 1 of an Executive Committee item that went to city council that read as follows:

Council authorize the City to act as co-proponent with Waterfront Toronto to undertake an individual environmental assessment (EA) of Waterfront Toronto’s (WT) proposal that the elevated Gardiner Expressway from approximately Jarvis Street to east of the Don Valley Parkway including the remaining Lake Shore Boulevard East ramp be removed and an at-grade waterfront boulevard be created.

Ground zero in this tear down-keep up debate. The call for an environmental assessment Team Ford now cites as proof of the Miller’s Minions’ anti-car agenda. Never mind the fact that by the time people got around to assessing, the scope got somewhat broader. Quoting from Waterfront Toronto’s Environmental Assessment Terms of Reference (approved by city council in 2009):takealook In contrast to some EA studies, which limit the number of alternatives to be considered, the Gardiner EA will bring the following broad but defined range of options forward for study… Including three options to keep the most eastern part of the expressway up and going, As Is, Enhanced and Replaced.

A car killer? Hard to come to such a conclusion reading, you know, the words. So people really need to stop saying that if they expect to be considered, you know, a serious part of this conversation.

Further down the 2008 Executive Committee item list, another couple highly relevant recommendations that are now playing out before our very eyes. Recommendation # 3 (as pointed out by Matt Elliott):

Council defer the total rehabilitation of the Gardiner Expressway east from Jarvis Street, except for essential works required to provide safe operating conditions, and direct the General Manager, Transportation Services to adjust the 2009 Capital Program submission and 2010 to 2013 Capital Works Plan accordingly.

butwaittheresmoreAnd Recommendation #4 (as pointed out to me by Hamutal Dotan):

Council direct the Executive Director, Technical Services to conduct annual, detailed condition surveys of the Gardiner Expressway east from Jarvis Street to identify the minimum maintenance required to maintain safe operating conditions, and to make appropriate adjustments to the annual maintenance spending, until such time as City Council makes its decision on the future of this section of the Expressway.

My terms of reference on these two paragraphs.

We’re only talking about, and have always only been talking about, the most easterly section of the Gardiner, the least travelled on portion, from Jarvis to the Don Roadway.

Any unspent money for maintenance on it had more to do with a sound fiscal decision – why pour money into something that might just be pulled down in a couple years, pending the EA? – than deliberate neglect. I mean, ask yourself. What would any member of Team Ford be saying now if boatloads of cash had been spent restoring the eastern Gardiner only to have council decide to now tear it down? Waste! Gravy!

The decision of what to spend and what not to spend seems to have been given over to the discretion of city staff, the Executive Director of Technical Services specifically followthebouncingball“…until such time as City Council makes its decision on the future of this section of the Expressway.” We can hurl accusations of the quiet nefariousness of Miller’s Minions to strangle the concrete life from the Gardiner but until there’s a smoking gun providing some evidence of that, it’s all just hearsay and narrative spinning.

That we now have to spend oodles of cash to either totally redo or tear down some or all of the Gardiner should hardly be surprising. It was inevitable. The decision of what to do and how to do it is the key point here.

And it’s where it got awfully fucking murky.

At some point of time over the course of the past two years the Environmental Assessment got shelved, leaving the city staff’s discretionary spending on the Gardiner open ended. Who was the impetus behind that decision is a mystery. Although, the Public Works and Infrastructure chair, Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong was surprisingly frank about it with NOW’s Ben Spurr.

[Councillor] Minnan-Wong said that Waterfront Toronto staff decided to suspend the assessment “in consultation with the city of Toronto” after Rob Ford won the 2010 election. 

“Given that there was a new mayor elected who was committed to keeping the Gardiner Expressway up – because he spoke about it quite publicly in his platform – Waterfront Toronto was no longer making that a priority,” he said.

“In consultation with the city of Toronto”? Who? The Mayor? gettothebottomofthisThe Mayor’s brother? The Public Works and Infrastructure chair?

On those questions, the councillor is a little more hedge-y.

What we do know is that it wasn’t city council that was consulted before the EA was put “on the far back burner”. For that somebody has to answer. Certainly before anybody hands over a half-billion dollars to get the expressway back into ship-shape including the eastern section where a decision has never been made to keep it standing or tear it down. Proper democratic process was circumvented. That is one fact that cannot be lost amidst the finger pointing and name blaming which has swallowed up the debate so far.

not donely submitted by Cityslikr


Disorder In The Ranks

October 2, 2011

(On a lazy Sunday, we post our piece from this week’s Torontoist. Think of it as the director’s cut.)

*  *  *

Mayor Ford emerged from his waterfront cash grab gambit (or maybe it belonged to his renegade councillor sibling – Sorry, bro. Did I get any on you?) with his brand new consensus suit a little ill-fitting. On Monday after last week’s fiasco, he stood before council at a special Core Services Review meeting more than a little feisty. Spit and vinegarish even

Clearly over the weekend he and his advisors, with the first real debacle of his mayoralty in place and favourability numbers dropping precipitously, decided that the taxpayers of Toronto preferred candidate for mayor Rob Ford to the actual Mayor Rob Ford. So he reverted back to campaign mode, all vitriolic rhetoric and new pithy catch phrases. In introducing the Core Services Review items to kick off the proceedings, he stood and called out the ‘loonie left’ councillors who dared to defy his wishes. Stay The Course was a brand new mantra, chanted over and over again. Under questioning, he blustered, rambled, frequently contradicted himself within a single sentence. Just like the glory days out on the hustings in 2010.

The mayor even cited some new, unofficial polling data. According to people he met everywhere, 90% told him, begged him, exhorted him to Stay The Course. Suck on that, Ipsos Reid. Maybe you need to take your random samplings from the line ups at Tim Horton’s.

But for all the chest beating, name calling and bully boy posturing, the tone at council had shifted noticeably. While never exactly orderly, Team Ford had been able to deliver a rough hewn obedience, always managing to wrangle a majority of councillors into its corner on important issues. This week? A sense of disarray descended. Tried and true allies tested the waters of independence. Items and amendments came fast furious, some from very unexpected corners. I’m sorry, was that Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday introducing an item on road tolls? Yes, yes. I get that it was nothing more than an attempted poke in the eye of Councillor Josh Matlow who had put forth his own motions asking for a review of a road toll idea but it put the mayor on the defensive, having to explain (idiotically, IMHO) his opposition to the concept of generating revenue through this particular type of user fee.

The biggest eye-opener, however, was Councillor Gloria Lindsay Luby. A fellow Etobicokian and self-proclaimed right of centre suburban politician, she openly stood up and questioned the mayor about the entire process they were being asked to undertake. “Flying blind”, she called it, having to make consequential choices without any numbers in front of them, sounding almost Perksian at times. She didn’t wilt under the withering but ineffectual show me the money line of questioning from the budget chief. When it came time to push through the items she had introduced, Councillor Lindsay Luby gleefully flashed a thumbs up, sitting right next to Team Ford QB-clown, Giorgio Mammoliti and his downturned thumb of mayoral disapproval.

That said, Mayor Ford suffered no devastating setbacks during the two day meeting. There was no knockout blow, as the pundits like to say. Yes, the cuts he was hoping to inflict in the process fell woefully short of the intended mark. The $28 million or so he did get doesn’t even rate as a drop in the bucket. And in my darker moments, I might view the fact the Voluntary Separation Program – a “coerced” retirement offering to city staff as Councillor Gord Perks suggested in an unfriendly environment with a threatened 10% across the board reduction to all departments hanging in the air — moved on relatively unscathed gave the mayor a jump on the budget process, initiating cuts by stealth under the guise of attrition rather than layoffs or firings.

Still, as the mayor insisted somewhat disingenuously to quell fears of the slashing and burning taking place no decisions were being made at this point. It was all about reviews and studies. In other words, he remained in place, knocking down the easy to reach, low flying fruit. But now, Team Ford was bleeding support and the tough choices remain to be made.

Not only were stalwarts like Councillor Lindsay Luby drifting, so were Executive Committee members Councillors Berardinetti and Robinson. The mushy middle stopped being cowed. As Adam Chaleff-Freudenthaler pointed out to me, even more worrisome for Mayor Ford, the already soft but principled conservative Chin Lee representing heavy, heavy Ford friendly Ward 41 in Scarborough quietly but decisively voted against the mayor on a surprisingly large number of items over the last couple days.

Support jumping overboard even before the ship hits really choppy waters. An already tenuous majority grown skittish. A summer of discontent turned to an autumn of disregard. All the ingredients for a disastrous budget process and a severe blow to the tattered mandate flag Mayor Ford keeps trying to hold high.

resubmitted by Cityslikr


Skirmish Won. Battle Still Ongoing. Victory From From Secure.

September 27, 2011

(As we were in absentia for Team Ford’s waterfront retreat, we turn to colleague Sol Chrom for a summary of last week’s important but very, very fluid victory on the waterfront.)

*  *  *

If Team Ford’s Port Lands plans are truly dead, would someone mind driving a stake through them?

The plans, that is.

That’s how a tweet from Torontoist’s Hamutal Dotan is describing things, linking to a quote from Councillor Paula Fletcher.

This is a triumph for the public…This is a Toronto moment, a Jane Jacobs moment.

Can’t argue with the sentiments, but I’m inclined to agree with a comment left on the Torontoist site by one dsmithhfx:

Don’t celebrate quite yet… I don’t trust this cabal of scumbag opportunists as far as I could throw them. It’s a setback, to be sure. And much as we’d like to think of it as a turning point, the point where the wave of ignorance, resentment, stupidity, and short-term greed that the Ford approach taps into finally broke, let’s not start the happy dance just yet.

The Port Lands/Waterfront fiasco has captivated our attention for several weeks, to be sure, and we can’t underestimate its symbolic importance. But it’s also possible to think of it as this week’s Shiny ObjectTM — something thing that attracts our attention and keeps us all occupied while other things are going on.

A thoughtful essay by Dylan Reid in Spacing last week discussed the slow decline of a community through a process of dozens of little cuts. Cancel a minor program here, put less resources into something else there, cut back on the scope of something else over there. The examples Reid cites include things like litter pickup, tree planting, neighbourhood improvement programs, snow clearing, and making bylaw enforcement reactive rather than proactive. As Reid writes:

Individually, the impact of each of these is small. And it’s quite possible some of them could be reasonable proposals for a city with a screwed-up budgetary process if they were thought through properly (e.g. all parks could have citizen committees that take care of flower planting and care, if the city provides the flowers and eases up on regulation). But done all in a rush, and all together, the overall impact will be a gradual degradation in the walking environment. It will get dirtier and trickier, and many programs that make it more attractive will be abandoned. People will still be able to walk, of course. They just won’t want to walk as much, unless they have to. And since walking is how people experience their city most directly, Toronto will feel a little bit more like a city in decline — which, given the amount of building going on and people moving in, it really shouldn’t.

By themselves, these measures may not amount to much. They don’t have the impact or the visibility of the Port Lands clusterfuck, because they don’t carry the same scale or price tag. That’s why they’re mostly off the radar. Cumulatively, however, their effect on our quality of life could be just as serious. The places we love and live in, whether they’re downtown or in the suburbs, would become dirtier, more threadbare, and less welcoming.

But this is what happens when the function of government is entrusted to people with no commitment to the public sphere. I’ve already written that the current administration seems colonized by people with no interest in using the power of government to advance the common good, and the events of the past few weeks have done nothing to suggest otherwise. When you start pulling at the threads that hold a community together, you never know when the whole thing’s going to unravel.

This is not to take anything away from the the people whose efforts forced a retreat on the waterfront, of course. And the folks involved in CodeBlueTO deserve a special shout-out. Let’s just remember, though, that this is a long war that has to be fought on many fronts. These guys aren’t done yet. There’s still a long slog ahead.

submitted by Sol Chrom

(Not only is Sol Chrom an occasional commenter here but he’s also been known to blog over at Posteroustumblr and OpenFile.)


The Bigger They Are

September 16, 2011

Credit where credit’s due.

Mayor Ford, his brother and their closest coterie certainly do things in no half measure. Go big or go home should be their motto.

From last year’s oversized campaign that ultimately swept aside his competitors in a noisy, boisterous march to the mayor’s office to the blustery early successes this administration’s had in crushing much of the previous administration’s doings under foot, they have made their presence felt. It has been relentless, the busting up and dismantling of things. Big time ‘doers’, as Mayor Ford might likely say.

So it appears will be the case next week when Team Ford faces what could be its first significant setback. Short of serious amending and de-fanging of the Executive Committee item instructing city council to grant the Toronto Port Lands Corporation authority to seize property from Waterfront Toronto, a resounding, flashy and high profile defeat looks very, very likely. A spectacular flameout might not be too much of an overstatement.

Go big or go home.

Perhaps had the mayor and his brother attempted this move more quietly, it might not have been successful but the failure wouldn’t be so garish. What had worked for them before, a combination of bullying and bad mouthing and a little bit of glitzy, Vegas style showmanship ran into a solid wall of established resistance on the waterfront portfolio. Badly misjudging both those they were up against and the growing attachment the general public had toward what was going on down by the lake, the Ford Bros. did not have their normal bogeymen to excoriate. The downtown elites. Left wing kooks. Cycling pinkos.

Instead, the mayor and his brother found themselves on the receiving end of the body blows and head shots from very well respected urban thinkers and planners, former mayors. Even normally friendly media types have been conspicuous in not rushing to defend the mayor’s waterfront plans. The mayor’s interview with Jerry Agar yesterday brought to mind the Fawlty Towers episode where a German group was staying at the inn and Basil spent much time telling his staff ‘Not to mention the war’. ‘Don’t mention the waterfront, Jerry. Don’t mention the waterfront.’ He dutifully didn’t.

The pushback to Mayor Ford’s waterfront plan is so significant that normally pliant and quiet allies on his Executive Committee have been freed to publicly announce their intentions to oppose it. To lose support at that level suggests it’s now open season for defections. In fact, the item has become so repugnant to the general public that it could be seen as a detriment to back it. What councillor will risk being tarred with the ignominy of following the mayor down this path?

There’s Doug Ford, of course. Arguably the architect of the fiasco. Deputy Mayor Holyday has hitched his wagon to Team Ford. Councilllor Giorgio We Don’t Blink Mammoliti. The ever obedient Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong.

But who else? This could be some heavy baggage to carry around for the next three years. Voting to pull the plug on Waterfront Toronto is not simply some ward specific attack that will be remembered only by local residents like the Jarvis bike lanes or the Fort York Bridge. This will have reverberations city wide even in places far from the battleground. Is that a risk Councillors John Parker and David Shiner are willing to take? How about the budget chief? The entire city’s going to be watching you Councillors Grimes, Moeser, Crisanti, Di Giorgio, Pasternak, Lee, Ainslie, Nunziata, Palacio, Kelly, Crawford, Lindsay Luby, Thompson, Milczyn.

I know it’s early in this term yet but some matters are not easily forgotten three years later when voters will go to the polls again. This could be one of those defining moments. Are you going to be for the mayor or for the city. You can’t be both on this.

demandingly submitted by Cityslikr


Waterfront Waterloo

September 15, 2011

It’s far too early to write off the Ford administration. So early that I really, really wanted to write, It’s way too early to write off the Ford administration. But I really, really detest that adverbial use of the word. You sound like a teenager. Or sportscaster.

More formally, reports of the Ford administration’s death are greatly exaggerated. Premature ejection from the seat of power. I think what we’re witnessing is a wheel coming off their ride, maybe two. It’s broken, just not beyond repair.

For the first time probably since Rob Ford announced his intentions to run for mayor back in March of 2010, he has lost his ironclad grip on the narrative. Reality is no longer bending to his will. Facts pile up, making it increasingly difficult for Team Ford to frame the debate to their advantage. The story they’ve spun to great success so far is crumbling, the scaffolding upon which it was built, too flimsy to bear the weight. Thin air and pixie dust prove to be fickle, unstable elements.

This often times happens when a protest movement assumes the reins of power. As anyone who’s ever taken an improv class knows, the easier option is always to say no. It also leads to the least interesting outcome.

A protest movement coalescing around a faulty premise is especially prone to an early flame-out. The mayor campaigned against out of control spending, waste and gravy. Turns out he may’ve been exaggerating just a smidge. Even outside consultants, KPMG, couldn’t uncover much of the stuff. Certainly nowhere near the amount the mayor removed from the city’s revenue stream by axing the VRT and freezing property taxes.

So cuts became efficiencies became nice to haves. The plain speakin’, tells it like it is, looking out for the little guy persona that the mayor had expertly cultivated begins to lose its populist sheen. The more he tries to plug the holes in his story, the more he starts to sound like a seasoned insider. Macbeth like, he’s now knee deep in the blood from the corpses of lies he’s had to kill in a vain attempt to stop them from turning on him.

Oddly, it’s the waterfront, an issue the mayor barely expressed any interest in while campaigning that seems to have caught him most effectively with a shot to the chin. Perhaps he and his brother made their move too soon when Doug started calling Waterfront Toronto unflattering names back in the spring. It left ample time and space for its advocates and defenders to mount their defense. And these weren’t the usual suspects that Team Ford could easily dismiss. The downtown elite. The left wing kooks and unionists. The statistically invalid.

No, these were players. Urban planners. Respected academics. Richard Florida is set to break his silence about governance in his adopted home town in defence of Waterfront Toronto. David Crombie. David Fucking Crombie.

So strong has the pushback been, the barricades so robustly manned, that once mute and pliable allies are now emerging from their hovels to speak out against the mayor’s plan. Councillor Peter Milczyn did so meekly, referring to the Ford waterfront idea as ‘a visionary exercise’ that, unfortunately, ‘blew up in our faces’. Councillor Jaye Robinson was much more forceful, stating outright her confidence in Waterfront Toronto and that she would not be supporting the mayor when this item goes to council next week for a vote.

A close vote, Councillor Robinson predicts, but frankly, I don’t think it’s going to come to that. This is not the hill Mayor Ford is willing to die on nor will he want to see his brother hung out to dry on a losing end of an issue he was so front-and-centre on. No, before council gets to knock this one out of the park, it will be amended to the point of meaninglessness, tossed under the bus of further staff review and committee study where it will die a quiet, unnoticed death.

The mayor has bigger fish to fry and is now stepping into the fall of our growing discontent, the haunting spectre of budget battles looming, weakened by a terrible, terrible summer. But it is early still. Much political capital has been expended yet the mayor has powerful tools at his disposal. In fact, if he plays this right and can back off gracefully, be seen to concede and bow to the will of public support, it could ultimately help him continue to push his agenda through. See? I listened. I made concessions. I’m a reasonable guy. I can play along nicely with others. What are you going to do for me now?

It could happen although that doesn’t seem to be part of the mayor’s constitution, to admit he was wrong and to backtrack. Instead he will probably attempt to change the channel, lumber forward having learned almost nothing from this set back. This administration does not blink, we’ve been warned.

What the mayor’s opponents need to take away from this show of democratic muscle is that it’s not simply enough to stand up to the mayor and say no. There needs to be a plan in place to counter each and every one of his ill-advised proposals. Power, like nature, abhors a vacuum. Mayor Ford has succeeded in sucking all the air out of the room. It is now a race to fill it back up again. By virtue of the powers of his office, the mayor still has a leg up against his competition. The self-inflicted wound he’s just administered, though, has hobbled him and added a new bounce into his challengers’ step.

elbaly submitted by Cityslikr