Though Del Grande says the choice to throw his support behind Ford was, in essence, making do with “the best of the worst [remaining candidates],” he’s responsible for doubling the number of Fords at City Hall: “It’s my fault—basically, I convinced [Doug Ford] to run. Rob didn’t really feel comfortable trusting anybody down here. I said to Doug, ‘Look, I think your brother needs you.’
The TwoFer: How MDG brought us DoFo.
Res ipsa loquitur.
Fiscal discipline, @cityslikr and Toronto’s endless budget follies | #TOpoli #onpoli
My pal @cityslikr has a thoughtful post over at his place, riffing on the whole Moody’s municipal credit rating thing. If you’ve been reading his stuff regularly, as you should, and keeping abreast of the #TOpoli big picture, then you know: contrary to the edge-of-the-abyss picture regularly presented by certain political camps and their tabloid-media enablers, city finances are not one bad cheque away from fiscal Armageddon.
(I sometimes hesitate to talk about @cityslikr and his take on discipline. He’s got a tendency to stray occasionally, like that time he started talking about Karen Stintz and her safe words. But never mind all that just now.)
That we’ve been subjected to overwrought misleading language on the municipal finance file isn’t news, of course. The relentless pounding isn’t about informing us so much as it’s about softening us up and getting us braced for a nice tall glass of the Kut Kut Koolaid. If anything, the events of the past few months ought to have demonstrated that the whole thing is, like the Austerity Agenda (TM), a manufactured narrative. The lead spokesthingy, of course, is budget chief Mike “No cupcakes for you, widows and orphans” del Grande.
Daren’s analysis is dead-on, so I’m not going to repeat it here, but there’s one detail in it that bears a closer look, and that’s Moody’s call for
a permanent solution to the existing operating budget pressures.
And that’s where this perennial bit of municipal theatre really challenges the audience; it’s in establishing and assessing the context. (Yeah, there he goes again.) Because you really can’t have a worthwhile and comprehensive discussion about “existing operating budget pressures” without addressing Toronto’s continuing structural deficit. And that goes beyond Team Ford, David Miller, and/or Mayor Mel.
Such a discussion must necessarily involve the role of senior levels of government, and the dysfunctional mess that governments of various political stripes have made of municipal finance — indeed, of the entire municipal-governance file. I like to start with the Harris government’s ill-advised municipal amalgamation in the 1990s, coupled with the uploading, downloading, sideswiping shemozzle precipitated with the Common Sense Revolution. But if you want to suggest that the fecklessness of the McGuinty approach hasn’t made things better since then, well …
You may very well think that, Mattie. I couldn’t possibly comment.
So, in order to make Moody’s really happy, we need to examine and correct the mistakes of previous provincial governments. And while we’re at it, we might want to revisit that whole constitutional municipalities-as-creatures-of-provincial-legislatures thing.
Anyone want to give odds on how likely we are to see that?
- @JohnLorinc and @thekeenanwire on the city budget, and dealing with Team Ford | #TOpoli
- Watching Core Services Review process at York City Centre | #TOpoli
- @dmrider cuts through the #TeamFord spin | #TOpoli #TObudget
- Busy Times. Little Time To Post. « All Fired Up In The Big Smoke | #TOpoli #TObudget
- In defence of the public sphere | #TOpoli #TeamFord
@dmrider cuts through the #TeamFord spin | #TOpoli #TObudget
Yeah, I think that pretty well sums it up.
Oh, and …
City Council Scorecard: The night Rob Ford lost big « Ford For Toronto | #TOpoli
Can’t really improve on @GraphicMatt’s work here. In his words:
Council has now shown a willingness to ignore and overturn key mayoral directives. The question going forward isn’t whether Rob Ford will be a good mayor or a bad mayor, but whether Rob Ford will be relevant at all to the important day-to-day decisions that matter in Toronto.
Democratic governance and that troublesome ‘deserve’ thing | #TOpoli #cdnpoli
In brief, his account suggests that Scarborough residents are feeling screwed. Again. They voted for Rob Ford because they thought, finally, that they’d get a mayor who would stop coddling the downtown elitists and start putting some of their tax dollars to work in their own neighbourhoods. We’ve all seen how well that’s worked out.
Nothing new there. But something one of the readers said has stuck with me. In the comment thread, Matthew Harper argues that Scarborough voters
I’m not singling Matthew out for criticism here, because God knows I’ve been pretty self-righteous about disengagement, laziness and shallow thinking. If Rob Ford merits our scorn and resistance for his ignorance, his vindictive immaturity, his simplistic thinking, and his uninformed, inchoate resentment, not to mention what he wants to do to our city, then so too do the people who voted for him. His campaign did a ruthlessly effective job of tapping into those toxic sentiments, but voters who bought into his bullshit and enabled him are just as blameworthy. So you think Rob Ford’s screwing up the city? Boo fucking hoo. Should have thought of that before voting for him.
That’s the argument, anyway. I don’t really enjoy making it, because it comes across as facile, smug, and condescending. Moreover, it’s not especially constructive, and it’s not going to help build bridges to the people we need to reach. It doesn’t do much good to call people names because they didn’t vote the way I think they should have.
Someone once said that in a democracy, people get the government they deserve. I don’t know whether it was H.L. Mencken, Alexis de Tocqueville, Thomas Jefferson, or someone else, but the whole question of “deserve” keeps nagging at me. It’s easy to wonder, rhetorically, whether progressive citizens who take the obligations of involved engagement seriously really deserve to have a civic administration like the current one foisted upon us. We didn’t vote for these clowns. Why should we have to sit and watch as they attack the bonds of our community with chainsaws and blowtorches? Did we buy into their bullshit? Did we fool ourselves into thinking we could get something for nothing? Did we walk around telling each other that we could have respectable public services, well-maintained public infrastructure, and a functioning civil society without having to pay for it?
The quick answer to that is, no, we didn’t, but guess what? You voted, and you lost. If you can’t live with it, then maybe you have a beef with democracy.
The rejoinder to that, of course, is that the game was rigged decades earlier when the Harris government smooshed the old City of Toronto into a soggy megacity mess, amalgamating it with Etobicoke, North York, East York, York, and Scarborough. We’ve been living with the consequences of that ever since. You can put five dogs and one cat in a room, let them vote, and call it democracy, but you can also more or less predict how things will turn out.
And this brings us back to that nagging “deserve” thing. We didn’t ask for amalgamation. We didn’t ask for provincial and federal governments that ignore urban realities and urban needs. We didn’t ask for municipal politicians who like to torque downtown/suburban divides for short-term political gain. Why, then, do we deserve to suffer as our city is dismantled, damaged, and neglected by these morons? Why are we saddled with the consequences of other people’s shortsightedness, stupidity, or failure to show up?
And it’s at this point that I run out of the easy answers, because in truth I just don’t know a way out of this that doesn’t involve major logical and ethical dissonance. On the one hand, citizenship’s obligations require that we abide by the decisions our community makes, as long as they’re made openly and democratically. (You can certainly argue about whether they’re truly open or democratic when half the voters don’t even bother to turn out, or the choices left to them are basically set by the 1 per cent, or a guy can win a majority government with less than 40 percent of the vote, but I’m talking about first principles here.) We get to have our say, but if the decision isn’t one we like, we don’t get to just withdraw and blow off the decisions of the community. We’re all in this together. Deserve’s got nothin’ to do with it.
On the other hand, the obligations of citizenship also require thoughtful reflection, careful consideration, and genuine engagement. When you make stupid, thoughtless and short-sighted choices, you’re not just hurting yourself — you’re damaging your community and hurting your fellow citizens. They don’t deserve that.
I still haven’t worked this out. Anyone?
- In defence of the public sphere | #TOpoli #TeamFord
- Ignore the trolls, or engage? Mudwrestling with pigs and other dilemmas for 2012 | #cdnpoli
- @Cityslikr, @NickKouvalis, and the need for civility in public discourse | #TOpoli #TeamFord
- Voting dysfunctions and the Greens: a response to @meslin and Erich Jacoby-Hawkins | #onpoli
- @Cityslikr may have #TorontoLife’s number, but we’ve got bigger problems than an urban/suburban divide | #TOpoli #onpoli
- Citizenship, critical thought and Giorgio Mammoliti | #TOpoli #TOcouncil #PlanetFord