Archive for the ‘Municipal Politics’ Category

Pig-headed Ideology Trumps Cost Saving Concerns

Wednesday, August 22nd, 2012

The recent story about Rob Ford reading while driving emphasizes how he has an ideology that trumps the cost-cutting ideology that he rode into office on.

Ford subscribes to a belief that one who owns a vehicle has every right to drive it when and where they want, do so alone, do whatever they want while driving it, and not be impeded by anything else on the road. Well, it is a free country, and if some of this makes one look like an asshole, it is one’s right to look like an asshole.

What really burns me about this attitude when it comes to Ford is that his belief in it supersedes his belief in saving tax payers money, the very belief that got him elected. I made fun of this when he first cancelled Transit City with this cartoon:


The point of the cartoon was that he has made a big production out of saving on things that amount to pennies per household while doing things like cancelling Transit City that involve millions in costs. All of this is because of his misguided belief that Transit City was “streetcars” and that meant delays for him in his SUV.

Respect for the tax payer! Though, if that means my drive might be slower, damn the tax payer!

Don’t get me wrong, I am all for saving money. When it comes to fiscal matters, I lean pretty far to the right, especially for someone involved in transit activism. Quite frankly, I don’t see Ford as fiscally right-leaning. He may attempt to lean to the right in this area, but he ends up leaning backwards, usually enough to fall flat on his ass.

Getting back to Ford driving himself around. He loves to tout the savings of not having the costs of a driver, but let us not forget that there are costs of this decision. The first that comes to mind is his parking spot. Not a huge cost, but what does a parking space at city hall cost? This translates to an annual income that is lost when the space is reserved for Ford. The bigger cost is the loss of Ford’s productivity during the time he is driving himself. This is the mayor who wears is ability to call back people like a badge. Some of that could be done during his commute if he were not at the wheel.

A better solution, in the opinion of this fiscal conservative, would be to use public transit. Setting aside Ford’s priority of “my car, my empire” over fiscal conservatism, this would make the most sense, especially given that he also touts himself as a “common guy” type of mayor. His commute would give him all sorts of face-time with the constituents that he loves to speak face-to-face with. I suspect that the annual cost of using transit is similar to the lost revenue from his reserved parking spot, so this would be a net zero cost to the tax payer. With his personal vehicle off the road, there would be a tiny savings that his vehicle has in terms of wear and tear on the roads that are maintained by the tax payer.

Ah, but nothing trumps his “all by myself in my vehicle” ideology.

Council Approves Sheppard East LRT

Thursday, March 22nd, 2012

It required over another half day of debate, but at about 2:40 pm, the main motion on going with the LRT plan for Sheppard East came to a vote and was passed 24-19. Here is a photo of the results of the vote (click on it to see a larger version):

 Vote results

The day started with some comments about the attempts to filibuster on Wednesday before continuing with the questions on Councillor Thompson’s motion to defer everything. There was a motion to amend his motion by adding a deadline to the deferral that required a report back to council for the May 8 and 9 meeting. At 11 am, the deferral and its amendment went to a vote. The amendment passed, but the main motion itself failed and discussion returned to the main motion.

There were a few “no strings” motions put forward to essentially create a committee or mechanism that would be on-going to study ways to create on-going funding for transit development and even look into studying the priority of future projects. These are “no strings” because they were not tied to whether Sheppard East would be LRT or subway. Personally, I believe this is a good idea as it could create a way of doing things that keeps looking to the future for transit needs instead of just coming up with a new line on a map when it either makes a good election promise or another level of government is waiving some cash at the city.

I suspect that the lack of any 3P way to fund Ford’s plan whatsoever may because the city has lacked this sort of initiative until now. After all, if you had a load of cash to invest and the city came to you looking for it and you asked what sort of planning structure they had in place, what should your reaction be when they respond with, “Uh, our plan was to just ask you”?

These motions were intentionally left open-ended to allow what ever body exists to explore all possible sources of funding. Anything goes - be that going to the province or feds to beg, make use of existing or asking for new revenue tools, going to the private sector, or even holding a bake sale. Still, Councillor Ford had to ask if it would include looking at 3P sources. When told ‘yes’, he continued to ask, until he became frustrated and made a comment about “working with a bunch of monkeys.” He had to apologize for this comment, but his lack of understanding what the word ‘yes’ means shows that Councillor Cho was correct on Wednesday when he asked Doug Ford if he understood the language.

Council Meeting on Sheppard East

Wednesday, March 21st, 2012

Today was the special meeting of Council on the transit choice for Sheppard East.

The morning, and part of the afternoon, was spent on questions for staff. The chair of the special panel on Sheppard, Professor Eric Miller, was not present as he is at a conference that was arranged long before this meeting was set for today (it was originally set for March 15). In order for him to be asked questions, a teleconference connection was to be used, but as this has never been used by Council and there are no official rules regarding it, Council needed to approve it. Councillor Minnan-Wong rose on a point of order questioning what the long term effects of this vote would mean. The City Clerk indicated that the vote would only apply to this one situation and would not be precedent setting. The vote to allow the teleconference questioning passed.

Councillor Kelly had a motion to allow another speaker to answer questions. Since this was an agenda change, it required a 2/3 majority vote and did not pass.

Councillor Glen De Baeramaeker presenting motion

A little after 3 pm, the main motion was finally presented by Councillor De Baeremaeker, followed by questions on the motion. After this, other councillors either spoke on the motion or presented other motions.


The Case for LRT

Thursday, March 15th, 2012

Toronto badly needs a new subway.

That is an odd opening statement for a position in favour of LRT. To clarify it, let me state that I did not say that Toronto badly needs any subway. What Toronto badly needs is transit expansion that looks at the network as a whole, and the one and only subway that fits that need at this time is the eastern leg of a Downtown Relief Line. This would be a line into downtown, possibly somewhere between Queen and King, running from the University line, connecting with the Yonge line, heading east and curving north to the Bloor-Danforth line somewhere between Pape and Coxwell, then continuing up to the intersection of Don Mills and Eglinton. Eventually, a western segment will be necessary, but the priority at this time is the eastern segment.


Transit City Back On the Rails, Sort Of

Wednesday, February 8th, 2012

Today, Toronto City Council voted 25-18 in favour of the one part of a motion brought to a special meeitng by TTC Chair Karen Stintz. This part of the motion dealt with returning to more or less the previous design for Eglinton, subject to engineering recommendations, returning to an SRT conversion to LRT that included an extension to Sheppard with looking into the further extension to Malvern Town Centre, and a return of the Finch West LRT route from Keele and Finch to Humber College.

The second part of her motion asked for a panel to be created to investigate what is best for Sheppard East, and this was also passed.

My “Sort Of” in the title comes from making the point that ‘Transit City’ involves a plan for eight LRT corridors. Four of those corridors were identified by Metrolinx in their “5 in 10 Plan” (the fifth is the YRT/VIVA rapidways). Three of the corridors have been restored and Sheppard East will be under review that must report back to council by March 12, 2012.

One comment of note was something that Councillor Raymond Cho said (ward 42 - Scarborough-Rouge River) when speaking in favour of the motion. He said that originally, he was in favour of Rob Ford’s plan of a Sheppard subway as he thought that meant the subway would go all the way along Sheppard to Morningside (or Meadowvale). Now, if a city councillor thought this, just how many people in Scarborough thought this? Worse yet, how many STILL think this?