@Cityslikr, @NickKouvalis, and more on controlling the narrative: the runup to 2014 | #TOpoli
Well, another week, another messy and avoidable scandal in Ford’s Toronto.
The whole reading-while-driving thing is getting tired by now, of course. Yeah, it was fun (in the way that only reckless endangerment of others can be fun), but it was also predictable, and while it’s pretty easy to follow the arc these things take, way things are going, there’s sure to be another embarrassment before long.
I’ve been meaning to set this out for several days, ever since an impromptu late-night beer with Daren prompted a couple of synaptic twitches. A couple of events have brought things into what passes for sharper focus among guys our age in the interim, so … a few observations on the state of politics in Toronto, circa late summer 2012.
The advent of private waste collection west of Yonge Street earlier this month brought one of Daren’s typically trenchant and well-written observations: in short, he argues that Rob Ford’s political future depends, in large part, on garbage. Amid much smirking and triumphalist chicken-dancing from some of Ford Nation’s er, “brighter lights,” Team Ford has delivered a giant FU to the city unions, following through on one of the currents of resentment it tapped in its successful election campaign in the fall of 2010. Take that, lazy overpaid socialist union thugs! End of the line for this gravy train!
While this provides an undeniable emotional jones for the union-haters, the jury’s still out on whether it’ll amount to more effective and efficient delivery of service, and in a larger sense, whether it will play out in terms of better overall municipal governance. That the private operator’s had some settling-in difficulties is a matter of record; Daren argues, quite reasonably, that while it’s only fair to cut GFL a little slack, Team Ford’s success will be judged, in large part, on whether the contracting out actually saves millions of dollars without any reductions in service. This is what Rob Ford ran on, after all.
We’ve been told, guaranteed actually, that the contracting out of waste collection to Green For Life will save us $11 million annually with no reduction in the service provided. That is the benchmark privatizing proponents gave us. That is the goal that must be met. I will argue that the mayor’s ‘mandate’ depends on it.
The Tweetr (that is what the young folk are calling it these days, yes?) being what it is, it wasn’t long before a lively discussion ensued. A full and frank exchange of views, I think they call it. My respect for the people involved is also a matter of record, but part of what prompted the segue from that to this was the participation of our friend Nick Kouvalis.
Full disclosure here: notwithstanding the way he’s regarded in some circles at City Hall, my thinking is pretty similar to Daren’s when it comes to Nick. As Daren puts it:
Although I’ve never actually met Nick Kouvalis and, in all likelihood, oppose almost everything he purports to stand for in terms of governance, I think I just might
admire like fear… what’s the word, I’m looking for here?… respect? Hmmm. Grudgingly respect him? OK. He’s a guy I’d like to sit down and have a beer and shoot the shit with. What’s the word for that?
What Daren said. Dude passes my beer test too. The guy’s good at what he does, if you define success in terms of electoral results (more on that in a minute). We don’t have to like or agree with what he does, but he’s got insights we can learn from, and I’ll say this for him: on the occasions I’ve engaged with him, he’s answered directly and candidly. Whatever else I may think of him, I have to acknowledge the straight answer instead of the bullshit smokescreen.
Again: disagree with the man, but respect his effectiveness and don’t let the disagreement turn into scorched-earth hatred. (That may say more about my bourgeois naiveté — er, my lingering nostalgia for civility and old-style conservatism — than it does about anything else, but let’s leave that be for now.)
And as we all know, Nick ran an effective and successful 2010 campaign for Team Ford. I’ve argued, however, that the municipal election of 2010 marked one of the lowest points in the history of Toronto politics, in large part because of Team Ford’s success in establishing a dominant narrative of resentment, pessimism, shallow thinking and belligerent divisiveness. The city’s falling apart. Lazy unionized workers with their culture of entitlement and jobs for life. Waste, inefficiency and gravy trains. Downtown elitists sneering at the hardworking suburban taxpayers. War on the Car. Time to blow up City Hall and start over.
I said a couple of sentences ago that Nick’s good at what he does. What he’s done, unfortunately, has diminished us as a city and as a community. The ascendancy of Team Ford has lowered the tone of public conversation, poured sand in the mechanisms of governance and devalued the currency of citizenship. We’ve been paying the price ever since, in both the regular mayoral embarrassments and the continuing day-to-day fraying of the social fabric. I’ve never tried to hide my thinking on that.
One of the fundamental themes here, both in the context of this essay and a larger overarching analysis of Team Ford’s tenure, is the difference between campaigning and governing. Once again, campaigning isn’t about nuance, but about framing your message, delivering it effectively, and mobilizing the vote in the run-up to election day. And there’s no denying the impact of simple, emotionally resonant messaging; a lot of people thought the idea of Mayor Rob Ford was a joke, but here we are.
When it comes to governance, however, simplicity and catchphrases have to give way to reflection, analysis, and critical thinking. Interests have to be balanced, stakeholders identified, objectives defined, and resources allocated in a way that produces the greatest good for the greatest number. It’s complicated. It’s not as easy as repeating bumper-sticker slogans like “Respect for Taxpayers.”
So here’s one of the fundamental themes for 2014: The Difference Between Campaigning and Governing.
And here, too, is one of the yardsticks whereby Team Ford’s performance will be judged come Campaign 2014. Have they delivered effective governance? Have they managed a coherent and co-ordinated operation of public institutions? Have they demonstrated the ability to work the system efficiently and collegially? This is where Nick’s record, and his own words, become particularly relevant.
Another question that will define Campaign 2014, then: Effective Governance.
Whether the current municipal structures are designed for optimal delivery of services is a larger question than we have room for here. (In that regard, though, it’s worth revisiting a couple of compelling arguments from J.M. McGrath and Adam Chaleff-Freudenthaler.) We needn’t resolve that question, however, to observe that a large part of effective governance, within the current context, is the ability to build coalitions, to bring people on board your team, and to work collaboratively. In short, it’s about negotiating, persuading folks to buy in, building support, and Getting Along With People.
Well then. Anyone want to try charting Team Ford’s record in that regard over the last couple of years? Anyone want to lay odds on the mayor’s chances of success in advancing his agenda over the next couple of years? You can look at big things like transit or little things like plastic bags, but the pattern’s pretty clear; Team Ford’s control of city council is tenuous to non-existent. And if you’re going to claim operational competency in municipal governance, you need to be able to work with council. It’s part of the job.
Whatever you may think of them, it’s something both David Miller and Mel Lastman were able to do. Contrast that with Team Ford’s performance. Once again, back to Nick:
To Nick’s credit, he doesn’t try to dissemble or hide this. In it to win. Take no prisoners. I’m here to get things done, not make friends. No substitute for victory. From there it’s not that far to the end justifies the means. Maybe there are aspects of this I’m not seeing, but it’s hard to reconcile an approach like this with effective team-building. In effect, it’s almost guaranteed to kneecap the mayor’s ability to build coalitions — never one of Rob Ford’s strong points to begin with.
Another overarching theme for 2014, then: Working With Council.
Team Ford’s strategy in that regard, predictably, hasn’t been that encouraging. In fairness, this isn’t about Nick; I’ve listened to enough iterations of the #FoBroSho on Sunday afternoons to recognize one of their consistent memes. Every week, it seems, Rob and Doug go on about getting different councillors in 2014, setting up a lame excuse for their own inability to bring people onside. “Sorry folks, we know we haven’t gotten any subways built, but it’s not our fault. Those people on council won’t work with us!” You can see the same impulse at work when Doug Holyday tells us not to send any more activists, unionists, or cyclists to City Hall.
I hate to get all Donald Rumsfeld here, but you work with the council you’ve got, not the council you wish you had. If you can’t do that, you’re not a successful mayor. It’s part of the job. Building consensus, putting together a team, fashioning a majority to help you implement as much of your agenda as you can. Miller did it. Mel did it. You don’t get to alienate everyone, spend the next two and a half years sulking on your radio show, and then campaign on the basis of divisiveness, resentment, and “just send me a bunch of different councillors.”
From a pragmatic point of view, folks like Daren and Adam and Hamutal Dotan are right: if you can cobble together a coalition of 23 councillors, then the mayor doesn’t matter. As the events of the past year have shown, the councillors we’ve got are quite capable of controlling the agenda and governing around the mayor if they have to. It’s not ideal, and as John points out, it raises questions about competing mandates, but it is workable.
On the other hand, Ed Keenan’s argued, persuasively, that the mayor’s record of gaffes has consumed far too much energy, focus and attention. In the wake of the Danzig shootings, for instance, Ed wrote:
With his customary bravado, the mayor proclaimed on Monday, “I’m taking a very simplistic approach.” That is the problem, I’d suggest. And so instead of discussing these very complicated issues, we’re spending time discussing the mayor’s inadequacy. What a load of BS.
Much as we might wish it were different, Ed’s got a point. Instead of chuckling about Rob Ford being in over his head or toying with the bright lights of Ford Nation on Twitter, we could be doing something constructive. Are we enhancing civic life? Are we strengthening the bonds of community? Or are we arguing about stupid shit?
So there’s one more possible storyline in the run-up to 2014: The Focus of Public Conversation.
By any of these criteria, Team Ford’s record ought to be instructive. But once again, friends: narratives. Framing. Messaging.
- From Campaign 2010 to Campaign 2014: framing the #TOpoli narrative
- #TeamFord’s two-years-and-change horizon, and a proposed two-track strategy | #TOpoli
- When thoughtful people engage with Sun readers | #TOpoli
- @Cityslikr, Riverdale Farm, and getting business out of government | #TOpoli #publicgood
Update: Now playing over at Toronto Citizens.
#TeamFord’s two-years-and-change horizon, and a proposed two-track strategy | #TOpoli
My friend @cityslikr’s got another fine piece at Torontoist today. In it, he neatly dissects the discrepancies between Team Ford’s apocalyptic predictions of fiscal disaster and the fact that our benighted city somehow manages to return an operating surplus year after year.
Matters aren’t helped, of course, by The Brother’s inexplicable characterization of Toronto’s financial condition as bankruptcy. JM McGrath’s already picked it apart for factual inaccuracy, and in terms of formulating a reasoned and measured response, I think Ed Keenan’s shown us the way.
(Aside: while I like and respect Ed a great deal, I’m not sure I can commit to two years of daily Keenans.)
Well, what is there to say, really? Can’t argue with Daren’s analysis, and since I can’t really add much to it, maybe it’s time to step back and, as I do from time to time, try to put this in a larger context. (Christ. There he goes again.)
That Rob Ford’s grasp of the workings of municipal governance or the basic principles of citizenship is somewhat, er, limited isn’t news by now. And it’s fairly straightforward to suggest that we should work to limit and contain whatever damage he can do between now and 2014. Council’s already doing that on several fronts: working with him when possible, working around him when not.
But that’s not all, because if we’re really interested in the good of this city, we need to pursue a two-track strategy. The first is already clear to most of us. The second — and this is where it gets tougher — is to do whatever we can to encourage him, to reinforce him, and to enable him in anything that helps him act like a better mayor. And that’s regardless of whether we think he merits a second term. (Kristyn Wong-Tam is showing us the way in that regard, too.)
No illusions. He’s going to backslide. He’s going to disappoint. He’s going to make us all want to do a Keenan from time to time. And this two-track strategy is a difficult path to walk. It demands much more of a commitment to civility, generosity of spirit (I keep going back to this piece wherein Hamutal Dotan sets the benchmark for that), and the greater good than anyone on Team Ford has displayed thus far, or is likely to display in the months to come. If it helps, perhaps focusing on the long view might make the day-to-day cringeworthy stuff a little more palatable.
- On Rob Ford and generosity of spirit | #TOpoli #Jack
- Fiscal discipline, @cityslikr and Toronto’s endless budget follies | #TOpoli #onpoli
- An open letter to Councillor Doug Ford | #TOpoli #TeamFord
- Politics, decency, and finding common ground: the restoration of civility
- @jm_mcgrath, Rob Ford, and municipal governance | #TOpoli
- @AdamCF and @JM_McGrath talk governance, institutional reform, and #TOpoli
It is fairly absurd to be writing this—that we have to write this. “Rob Ford Should Participate in Pride.” It shouldn’t be a question. We would prefer that Toronto hadn’t elected a mayor about whom such questions arise. But we did, and it is incumbent upon Ford to put them to rest, immediately.
If you’re not following Hamutal Dotan, start.
Conservatism: is it a label? Is it a brand? Or maybe just a little bit more? | #TOpoli
That smartypants fancypants @Cityslikr is forcing me to put on my crankypants. I warned you youngsters what would happen if you didn’t get off my lawn!
All right, all right, so I telegraphed that one. Indulge me.
The #TOpoli twittersphere / blogosphere / wankersphere (my usual preserve) has been all lit up over the past few days, thanks to John Michael McGrath and his thoughtful essay about legitimacy. We’ve heard from several folks in response, among them Ed Keenan, Hamutal Dotan, John Lorinc, and Adam Chaleff-Freudenthaler, for starters. All worthwhile reads, and I’d encourage you to click on every one of these links.
But it’s today’s post from Cityslikr that’s prompting this grumpy-old-man lecture, admittedly because he’s all but dared me to correct him. Dude may be surprised, therefore, to learn that I agree with most of his argument today (probably because it’s substantially similar to the one I made yesterday). I think we’re all in agreement that while what’s been going on at City Hall over the past few weeks isn’t ideal, it’s a reasonable and workable response to a mayor who can’t or won’t work and play well with others. And it’s important to stress, as Ed and Hamutal have, that this isn’t a case of unworkable dysfunction. There’s a great deal invested, I’d submit, in advancing a narrative which paints all politicians as a bunch of fussy children squabbling in a sandbox, and in prompting exasperated voters to blow off the obligations of citizenship because, what the hell, they’re all crooks and liars.
Indeed, I seem to recall some young whippersnapper taking exception to that kind of talk some time ago. Where was it? Oh. Yeah.
But that’s not what the young scamp’s called me out about. And it’s here that I have to confess, it’s this particular debate that’s fuelled many late-night beer-enhanced conversations.
I’ll admit to a pedantic, perhaps even obsessive focus on the meanings of words. (One of my many annoying qualities, I know. Too much education and not enough wisdom, perhaps? Whatever.) But I fixate on it for a reason: words are the foundation of public discourse, and public discourse is the most basic currency of citizenship and civic engagement. If we’re to converse with each other like rational adults, we have to be able to agree on the definitions of the terms we’re using.
And by the same token, when we allow others to strip words of their meanings and repurpose them for their own ends, we’ve given away the game before it’s even started. It’s why I keep harping on winning back the words.
Which brings us to the term “conservatism.” Cityslikr’s already tried to anticipate where I’m going with this, with his fancy-shmancy Edmund Burke references. (Geez louise. You cite Reflections on the Revolution in France once, and the rest of your life, you’re shlepping around this giant freakin’ statue on your back.)
But I’m not going there tonight, because for the purposes of this argument, there’s no need to get all academic and elitist-like.
What is conservatism, at its heart? The way I’ve always understood it, it’s about identifying the best and most worthwhile parts of our history and our tradition, and working to preserve and enhance them. It’s informed, I’d submit, by a devotion to the principles of stewardship. We want to leave things the way they were when we found them, or preferably a little bit better, for the next group to come along. If that’s conservatism, and I believe that it is, then sign me up.
In Canada (pardon me while I get mythic), that carries elements of generosity, civility, caring, and community spirit. It’s something that we’ve worked for generations to build, to advance, and to extend to as many of our neighbours and our fellow citizens as possible. It hasn’t come without struggle, and it’s sometimes easy to gloss over some of the less savoury aspects of our history in honouring that, but the bottom line is: we’ve got something here - a culture, a national character, a way of relating to and caring for one another - that’s taken years to build, to develop, to foster. This is our identity. This is who we are. You don’t get to come along and sweep that all away for the sake of some ideological or financial agenda.
And that’s why it’s so important to reclaim the mantle of conservatism from those who have hijacked it over the past few decades. Because whether you’re talking about think tanks pushing the austerity agenda and lecturing us about tightening our belts, or tabloid screed-writers fulminating about waste and mismanagement and cultures of entitlement and gravy trains, what’s at work here is a focused and disciplined campaign to dismantle, to tear things apart, and to weaken the bonds of community. If these folks are conservatives, then I’m two steps left of Joe Stalin.
So, while my pal Cityslikr is right about the sort of autocratic bullying we’ve seen from Team Ford passing for conservative orthodoxy, I think he’s wrong in the way he’s set it up. (But he’s such a nice boy. He means well.)
In his opening paragraphs, he gives a vivid description of the anti-democratic impulse, and the bare tolerance of democracy. You can see that at work every day, whenever people complain about how messy and inefficient it is and then vow to keep its practitioners away from their kids’ lemonade stands. Where I differ from him is in his characterization of it as conservative. Disdain for democracy or popular sovereignty has nothing to with liberal or conservative or right or left; fundamentally, it’s about power and privilege. In that context, those are just labels. And it’s because I don’t want to see honourable traditions and intellectual currents stripped of context and meaning, and reduced to mere labels, that I’m arguing against the misuse and misappropriation of the term “conservative.”
The folks currently losing their shit because Team Ford’s losing its grip aren’t conservatives. They’re not valiant culture warriors, and they’re not courageous champions of Joe Lunchbucket Subway-Wanting Beleaguered Taxpayer. They’re just part of the noise machine, and they don’t merit any more respect or attention than that.
- Winning back the words: reclaiming ‘elitism’ in the age of Rob Ford | #TOpoli #onpoli
- In answer to @graphicmatt – no, this isn’t conservatism | #TOpoli
- Team Ford goes Godzilla on the waterfront: this ain’t your grandpa’s conservatism
- Not Your Grandaddy’s Conservatism
- Why conservatism needs to be rescued | #cdnpoli
City Council is Supreme | politics | via @Torontoist and @hamutaldotan
… we are optimistic. We have a government that is working. It is making decisions based on evidence, and it is defending those decisions over time. It is a government that has set a direction on the most fraught and most important policy file we have. It is a government that is doing its job even though Rob Ford isn’t doing his, and if it keeps on doing so Toronto may come out of this mayoralty in better shape than many of us had feared.
Hamutal Dotan puts the events of the last few weeks in a calm and well-reasoned perspective. What follows is, for the most part, from a comment over at the Torontoist site.
Really, it’s got nothing to do with Karen Stintz and where she falls on the left / right spectrum. The most important thing about Hamutal’s analysis is the counterpoint it provides to the narrative being pushed by more than one corporate media outlet, which is one portraying Toronto’s city government as being chaotically adrift. Any comment or suggestion that describes council as akin to a bunch of kids squabbling in a sandbox just helps to reinforce that narrative, and let’s not have any illusions about whose interests THAT serves.
Just think about who benefits from that perception. Who do you think wants everyone to dismiss government, civil servants and the public sphere in general as dysfunctional, ineffective and corrupt? Just listen to the radio on Sunday afternoon sometime as Brother Doug tells his listeners that he wouldn’t trust any of his fellow councillors to run a kid’s lemonade stand. Not hard to see where he’s going with that. Once again, if you haven’t read what J.M. McGrath and Adam Chaleff-Freudenthaler have written in this regard, take a few minutes and go through it.
So no, what we’re seeing now isn’t the ideal situation, but council is showing that for all its disparate elements and conflicting interests and personalities, it is capable of conducting the city’s business in a mature and responsible manner. Sure, it would be nice if the mayor would play ball and show leadership, but what the last few weeks have shown is that council can function, albeit untidily, even if he doesn’t. That’s a good thing.
Ultimately, what it’s demonstrating is that just because something is “political,” it isn’t inherently icky and sordid. As Shelley Carroll pointed out on Monday, governing is an inherently political process. Setting budgets, allocating resources, balancing interests, determining civic priorities … all of these are political acts, properly situated in the public realm. Pretending that they’re conducted in some rarefied space that’s only recently been soiled by politics is the height of hypocrisy. In order to believe that, you’d have to believe that the firing of Gary Webster had nothing to do with politics.
We may or may not get a rational and well-thought-out transit plan out of this. And god knows we’re nowhere near out of danger in terms of the damage that Team Ford can still do, both to the institutions and processes of governance in this city and to civil public discourse. But at least we know council can function cooperatively and democratically, with or without the mayor, and that government isn’t something to be viewed with contempt.
- @AdamCF and @JM_McGrath talk governance, institutional reform, and #TOpoli
- … the mayor and his brother are looking to replace actual governing by out-and-out campaigning some two and half years before the next election …
- From Grover Norquist to Gary Webster: putting #TeamFord’s #TTC jihad in context | #TOpoli #Toronto
From Grover Norquist to Gary Webster: putting #TeamFord’s #TTC jihad in context | #TOpoli #Toronto
By now, the initial shock and outrage occasioned by the firing of Gary Webster has probably subsided. Most of the observers whose work I follow have had their say and given their analyses, and in truth, I can’t really add much to it. Yes, it’s vindictive, childish and grossly unfair, and based on a fundamental misconception of the role of an impartial and professional public service. And yes, it sends a terrible message, and yes, it’s going to have lasting and damaging effects upon the future of public transit and upon municipal governance.
So? Really, did we honestly expect anything different from Team Ford? We’ve seen the way they conduct public affairs.
No. Once again, it’s time to take a longer view. We may be too late to help Gary Webster (although I suspect he’ll be fine), and we may not be able to save Team Ford from themselves, but if we are to save our city from their depredations, it’s important to understand the historical and intellectual foundations (such as they are) for their approach to governance.
Remember Grover Norquist? During the Reagan years in the 1980s, he was head of Americans for Tax Reform, a pressure group instrumental in helping the Gipper get government off the backs of the downtrodden rich. If you’re ever curious about how the tax-policy goalposts got shoved so far off-centre, and why we can’t have an adult conversation about raising taxes without provoking mass hysteria, Grover’s a big part of the reason.
I’m citing him because of his motivations. Nothing encapsulates them better than my favourite Groverism:
It’s not hard to draw the connections between that and more recent currents in governance and public policy. The common theme running through all of them is a hatred of government and the public sphere per se, expressed in pseudo-populist soundbites like “red tape” and “stop the gravy train” and “get government off our backs” and “more freedom through less government.” Always, there’s a carefully cultivated undertone of resentment, and a sense that the public sector is inherently wasteful, inefficient, and corrupt, if not actually evil.
And how does it play out in practice? Well, we’re seeing it now. Perhaps Team Ford, through its unique combination of clumsiness and tone-deafness, takes it to clownish extremes, but you don’t have to look too far for more illustrations. The Harper government’s hostility to inconvenient facts and impartial advice is revealed in its muzzling of scientists on the federal payroll and its approach to the long-form census. And we’re still dealing with the damage remaining from the Harris era.
Invariably, there’s an impulse to make government as feckless, dysfunctional, and ineffectual as possible. Forget about advancing the public good. Norquist’s bathtub analogy may seem a little over the top, but when you see governments reducing their capacity to act for the common good, surrendering control over a huge range of issues and voluntarily forswearing a whole range of policy tools, it’s easy to see how things like Walkerton can happen.
Again, it helps to view things through the lens of class analysis. The discussion needn’t be academic or theoretical; there’s plenty of real-world evidence that kneecapping government and crippling its ability to act hurts everyone except the 1 per cent. (That’s why the Occupy phenomenon’s had the impact it’s had, and why it’s not going away.)
Just take a look around. Who benefits from this? Whose interests are served by a crippled government and a hollowed-out public sphere? By a frayed and disintegrating civil society? Who can afford to buy their own social infrastructure? Privileged enclaves? Private security? A captivated mass-media complex that drums it into our heads, over and over, that this is the way it’s supposed to be, it’s just the magic of the market at work, and if it’s not working yet, the only answer is more austerity, more free trade, more tax cuts for corporations and “job creators?” Ringing a bell yet?
Democratic and responsible governance is supposed to be the counterbalance to all that. A healthy and vigorous middle class doesn’t arise from the benevolence of society’s overlords, so it’s no surprise that the policies, social conventions, and progressive legislation underpinning it - the products of decades, even centuries of struggle - are under attack. And we’re not going to be able to fight back effectively unless we recognize it for what it is.
The scandalous treatment of Gary Webster, and by extension, any other public servant with integrity, doesn’t have to be viewed as one of the front lines in class struggle. All I’m suggesting is that we consider it in context: a cumulative gutting of one of our most crucial public services, coupled with mindless repetition of discredited mantras about the efficiency of the private sector. All we need to ask ourselves is: cui bono? Because it ain’t us.
- Another Rob Ford gem, and its bearing on the #TTC | #TOpoli #saveGaryWebster
- Don Drummond’s austerity medicine: suck it, Ontario | #onpoli
- Let’s stop fetishizing “The Market” | #cdnpoli #TOpoli #classwarfare #austerity
- In defence of the public sphere | #TOpoli #TeamFord
- #TeamFord and our city: Can no one talk sense to these guys?
- Does anyone really get what they “deserve” in a democracy? | #TOpoli #cdnpoli
Time for a #TransitCity happy dance? | #TOpoli #TeamFord
Last summer I wrote a short post about Jack Layton’s legacy of generosity.
There are many elements to citizenship — respect, engagement, critical thinking — but of all those elements, it’s hard to top generosity of spirit. It’s something we can all aspire to, even if we fall short. I’m going to give props, yet again, to Hamutal Dotan’s marvellous piece in that regard on Torontoist.
Just so my own biases are clear, I’ll set out my definition once again: Generosity of spirit does not look for external validation or reward. It is extended without any expectation of a quid pro quo. And it is extended to those who do not deserve it precisely because they do not deserve it. That is what makes it what it is.
It’s a high bar to clear, and I’ll admit right now that I don’t often meet it. I wish I could. I’d be a better person if I did, but today I just can’t.
Transit City is officially back from the dead. #TOpoli— Neville Park (@neville_park) February 9, 2012
We’ve seen the results of today’s vote at City Council. Whether it means we can truly move forward with the development of public transit remains to be seen, but if it does nothing else, at least it will serve as an unambiguous repudiation of Team Ford’s approach to government and to the conduct of public affairs.
Doug Ford is being abusive with Gary Webster. Any other speaker would step in.— Jonathan Goldsbie (@goldsbie) February 8, 2012
It’s hard to pick the three stars of Team Ford from today, but perhaps we might start with Doug’s hectoring of Gary Webster. (Whatever we’re paying Mr. Webster, he more than earned it today.) Add to that his bullshit about the St. Clair ROW being a disaster, and his coarse, vulgar talk about the TTC needing an enema, and you have to wonder — just what does this guy add to public life in Toronto? What good is he accomplishing?
And then there’s Giorgio Mammoliti’s idiotic posturing about a Finch subway and unmoral (h/t Ivor Tossell) attempts to torque the downtown-suburban divide yet again. (I know, I know, I’m breaking my own rule by talking about him.)
Mammoliti sincerely believes that a private sector partner would totally jump at the chance to build a subway along Finch Ave.— Matt Elliott (@GraphicMatt) February 8, 2012
“Have you considered a subway on Finch?” “Yes.” “But have you considered a subway on Finch?”— Matt Elliott (@GraphicMatt) February 8, 2012
And then there’s this classy bit:
Ohhh. Mammoliti says this is a Giambrone proposal. Then refers to leather couch.— Matt Elliott (@GraphicMatt) February 8, 2012
If anyone wants to nominate a third star, I’m all ears.
In the larger picture, perhaps it’s time to start fashioning a definitive rejection of the entire Fordist philosophy. I can’t give a comprehensive list of what that will entail, but we can start, I’d submit, by affirming support for well-paying unionized public-sector jobs, both as a critical element of our community’s economic base and as an example for private-sector employers to follow. We can flesh that out in the days to come.
In sum, maybe — just maybe — we’ve finally come to see the limits of resentment as a governing philosophy. It’s what put Team Ford in control, but take it away and they’ve really got nothing else. And as we learn more about the gulf between campaigning and governing, its shortcomings become more and more apparent. It’s the easy path — it requires no critical thinking, no empathy and no engagement beyond the predictable hissy-fits of tabloid screed-writers — but it diminishes us all.