Apr 11

“Vaughan amendment” wreaks havoc on city boards and agencies

Motion to Reconsider Item 2011.EX4.7
The recorded votes on Gloria Lindsay Luby’s motion to reconsider Adam Vaughan’s amendment. 29 votes were needed to re-open the item.

By most accounts — including mine –, council’s left-wing opposition won a major victory last week when they successfully passed an amendment to an Executive Committee motion that would have eliminated some council positions on several of the city’s boards and agencies. The amendment, moved by Adam Vaughan, called for a minimum membership of 11 on all such boards, including three members of council and one designate of the mayor. This passed 24-19, despite a Mammoliti thumbs down.

The victory was marked by a clerical error, as it was realized it applied far too broadly — to neighbourhood BIAs and arena boards other such things. Gloria Lindsay Luby moved that Council reconsider the amendment to fix the area, but Mammoliti again whipped the vote and her motion failed. (See above.)

And so today we have an unfortunate briefing note from staff relating to the matter, that attempts to make sense of the logistics of filling an incredible 319 newly-created positions on 107 of the city’s boards. Of these, 103 of the positions are to be filled by the mayor or his designates, 169 are to be councillors nominated by the striking committee and approved by council, and 47 are trapped in a mysterious void. No one is sure who is supposed to fill these positions, or how they should be appointed.

For his part, Mammoliti has been spinning this as a good thing. He told InsideToronto’s David Nickle that he is “certainly looking forward to sitting on the Dundas Square BIA,” which is not a thing that actually exists. There’s also something about ‘gravy googles’:

“I’m certainly looking forward to sitting on the Dundas Square BIA,” said Mammoliti. “So in an attempt by Vaughan to detract from the mayor’s agenda, I think he’s increased the value of the agenda.”

Mammoliti said “The gravy goggles will come on and we’ll wear them in the appointments we get on these other agencies, boards and commissions.”

via InsideToronto Article: Debate focuses on size of boards, councillor commitments.

I assume the gravy googles he refers to would be worn to identify and then eliminate gravy. They would probably not be goggles made of literal gravy. (Viscosity would be a problem, and also the optics.)

It’s challenging to determine reasons why councillors would vote against Luby’s motion to re-open the item and fix the mistake, aside from vindictiveness and spite. Appointing more than 300 new board members across the city certainly doesn’t fit with the mayor’s “small government” mandate.

Apr 11

Team Ford loses vote, takes ball home

Confusion marked the end of today’s city council meeting, coming after a morning where everybody was best friends and also a little bit Jamaican. The drama began when the Executive Committee motion that would change the make-up of the city’s boards and agencies was amended by left-wing councillors. Surprisingly, these amendments were passed by council despite the Fords and Mammoliti attempting to whip the vote.

The Globe & Mail’s Patrick White:

Mr. Vaughan’s amendment, which passed 24-19, sets minimum sizes for all municipal boards, commissions and corporations at 11 members, including at least three city councillors. It spoiled a motion spearheaded by the executive committee, a group heavily stacked with Ford loyalists, that would have shrunk the boards of several cultural organizations down to nine and trimmed the number of councillors on the city’s library board to one from three.

A hush of disbelief fell over council chambers after the vote as Mr. Ford and his brother, Councillor Doug Ford, huddled over a screen displaying the names of council members who sided against them.

via A victory for left-leaning bloc of Toronto council – The Globe and Mail.

White also quotes Vaughan after-the-fact: “That was our best day yet.”

Unfortunately, Vaughan’s amendment had an unintended consequence, in that it applied too broadly. Under the wording, even BIAs and arena boards would require representation from three city councillors.

After losing the vote, Team Ford got vindictive and refused to allow the item to be re-opened so that it could be amended to fix the error. A two-thirds majority was required to bring the item before council again — the vote was lost 26-17, as reported by Jonathan Goldsbie. Which would seem to indicate that there are roughly 17 hardcore ready-whip votes available.

Giorgio Mammoliti then embarrassed himself in interviews, pulling the ‘I meant to do that’ card and claiming that this will, I guess, serve as a lesson to left-wing councillors not to mess with the executive committee’s agenda items:

“In an attempt by Vaughan to detract from the mayor’s agenda, I think he’s increased the value of the agenda,” Mr. Mammoliti said. “I think next time they stand up and try to move a motion, just for the sake of moving a motion, they are going to think twice because this has really backfired on them.”

Yeah, that makes sense.

Mar 11

Unspecified lessons to be learned

The Executive Committee today voted (of course) in favour of various reforms to the city’s boards, agencies and committees. I wrote a bit about this last week. This isn’t surprising, nor is it necessarily a good or bad thing. The real impacts of this move won’t be felt for a while.

My favourite part was the justifications members of the executive committee used when endorsing this move. The Toronto Star’s Paul Moloney had this great bit:

The reforms were endorsed Monday by the powerful executive committee, chaired by Ford, and go to the full city council next month for final approval.

The public supports a clampdown amid revelations about thousands of dollars being spent by the housing company on gifts, spas, manicures, Muskoka planning trips and Christmas parties for staff, said Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong.

“There’s a lesson to be learned and applied through recent events such as the TCHC,” Minnan-Wong, a member of the executive committee, said in an interview.

via Ford moves to rein in agencies – thestar.com.

So these reforms are necessary because of the TCHC scandal. Except that council still hasn’t received the auditor general’s report on mismanagement at the TCHC, nor have they had an opportunity to question TCHC staff about the allegations. And in the case of the former board and CEO, there’s no longer any opportunity to ask questions, because they’ve all been fired.

There are probably literally hundreds of important lessons to be learned from the TCHC scandal. But thus far the mayor and his allies have seemed indifferent to actually figuring out what those lessons are. (John Lorinc has actually done a good job digging into the TCHC thing beyond the surface “my tax dollars” sheen.)

Fire everyone and hope things get better is a pretty lousy management strategy. Also lousy? Using the spectre of an unrelated spending scandal to justify reforms like these.


Mar 11

Deputy Mayor: “Seizing control” of library board would be “great”

Let’s not bury the lede on this one. Here’s InsideToronto.com’s David Nickle, writing about proposed changes to the structure of the Library Board:

Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday said he wasn’t aware of any attempt to seize control of the library board away from Toronto Council’s left.

“If we did seize control from the left it’d be great, but I don’t know anything about it,” said Holyday. “But I think we’re going to have some serious choices next year and if there’s a bunch of people not willing to make serious choices, then they should step aside.”

via InsideToronto Article: Council to restructure boards.

Emphasis added.

Lots of buzzing over the weekend about this item, set to hit Executive Committee at the next meeting. Agenda Item EX4.7 is a report from the City Manager that calls for numerous moves that would change the composition of the city’s boards.

Some councillors and city-watchers have seized on this as an attempt by Team Ford to exert greater control over these boards, in response to what I guess would be called “subversive” moves by boards (notably the Library Board, but also Public Health and the Police Services Board, among others) who voted against the mayor’s cut-everything request during the 2011 budget process.

Specifically, the Manager’s report calls for a reduction in the size of the Library and five other boards. It also calls for a change in the way board members are recruited. (Here’s a quick glance at the proposed changes to council representation on these boards.)

I’m willing to give the mayor’s office the benefit of the doubt on this one — I doubt this is part of a coordinated attempt to tighten control of these boards. That feels too sneaky and megalomaniacally evil, even for this bunch.  This report was commissioned by the David Miller council, and it includes a bunch of positive changes, notably a recommendation that boards seek a more “youthful perspective” by recruiting members between eighteen and thirty, and a new restriction on former councillors sitting on specific boards.

That doesn’t mean this report won’t ultimately be taken and twisted as a way to wrangle control of these boards, however, and it’s certainly something that has to be watched closely. Especially in light of Holyday’s comments.