Posts Tagged: gary crawford


6
Mar 12

City Council Scorecard: Rob Ford loses control of the TTC

Toronto Council Scorecard

March 6, 2012: Google Docs (Best View) – Download (PDF)  – Download (PNG)

Last night, the mayor of Toronto lost control of the city’s biggest budget item. He no longer wields influence over the Toronto Transit Commission.

The new TTC board remains much of the same as the old one: the four councillors who voted not to fire Gary Webster remain in place. Karen Stintz is still chair and Peter Milczyn is likely to be Interim Vice Chair. Joining them will be Josh Colle, Glenn De Baeremaeker and Raymond Cho.

While some will buy into the narrative this happened because of a council opposition that’s drunk with power and bears a personal dislike for the mayor, I have to see it differently: what we saw yesterday was a necessary shift following a series of rejected compromises and aborted deals. A majority of council would have preferred to work within the status quo to achieve the transit direction set out and approved by council in February, but a combination of stubbornness and spite made that impossible.

In addition to being a political body that democratically makes decisions, Council is also responsible for ensuring that those decisions are carried out. To that end, dissolving the existing TTC board and replacing it with one more in tune with council’s approved direction was the only responsible move.

The New Vote

TOCouncil Scorecard March 6 2012- New Votes

The Vote Added:

The existence of EX16.8 was a stroke of luck for council’s opposition. Had the item not coincidentally appeared on the Executive Committee’s agenda a few weeks ago, Stintz would have been forced to call yet another special council meeting in order to get an item relating to the composition of the TTC board on the agenda. Since this item — it originally was just supposed to add some citizen members to the board — was already due to come before council, councillors were able to piggyback their plans on top of it.

The process worked very similarly to what we saw with the TCHC board a year ago. With a majority vote of 29-15, council dissolved the existing board and kicked off a process to appoint seven councillors onto a replacement board. They also voted to add four citizen members at a later date.

The mayor was ill-prepared to counter this motion. Never has his team looked so disorganized and out-of-their-depth on the council floor. Michael Thompson was chosen as the guy who would move a counter-motion, suggesting that the TTC instead be made up of all citizen members with no representation from councillors. Thompson spoke at length about how this would de-politicize transit planning and provide new expertise to the operations of the TTC.

This lame strategy never had a chance of getting anywhere near majority support. To further complicate matters, Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday and Councillor David Shiner — both Ford-allies — moved their own conflicting motions.

The alternative motions were ultimately irrelevant, as Stintz’s motion to dissolve came before council first and passed by a huge margin. Even stalwarts like Cesar Palacio and Gary Crawford supported it. Giorgio Mammoliti’s thumb barely made an appearance all day. The mayor, it seemed, had given up.

Trend Watch

With her full-term voting percentage dropping below 70%, Councillor Jaye Robinson is now firmly in “mighty middle” territory. She should feel more at home there.

The mayor needs to start finding some common ground with middle-of-the-road stalwarts Josh Matlow and Josh Colle — their voting records lately are looking more lefty and less middle.

It’s important to note that the new TTC board is still heavy with councillors with very Ford-friendly voting records. Despite her recent characterization as a tool of the left, Karen Stintz has voted with Ford 87% of the time. John Parker is a 92% stalwart. Peter Milczyn beats them both at 95%. Of the other four, Josh Colle and Raymond Cho are hardly flag-waving leftists. Under any other circumstance, this would be considered a very balanced board.

Hell, I can prove it mathematically. Average out the full-term Ford Nation scores of the seven councillors on the new TTC board and here’s what you get: 50.3%.

Questions

Questions about the Council Scorecard? Read my notes on methodology. Also, you can email me.


18
Jan 12

City Council Scorecard: The night Rob Ford lost big

Toronto Council Scorecard

January 17, 2012: Google Docs (Best View) – Download (PDF)  – Download (PNG)

There’s no other way to say it: last night, Rob Ford lost. After two months of spinning his budget as a smart and reasonable approach to improving the city’s financial situation, council quickly and decisively voted to overrule the mayor on a variety of items, adding millions of dollars back into the operating budget to preserve services that were on the chopping block.

This result wasn’t driven by a few lucky motions, but rather by a coordinated approach by a majority of councillors working against the mayor’s agenda. The strategy included careful messaging designed to court middle-aligned councillors, who would end up leading the charge for preserving programs and services. For those involved, the result of yesterday’s meeting was a foregone conclusion.

In the end, what was supposed to be a fractious three-day debate on a contentious budget wrapped up in less than twelve hours. After losing a number of key votes, the mayor was left to give a subdued — and short — press conference, wherein he did his best to save face, claiming he had had a positive impact on the budget, even if the outcome wasn’t what he wanted.

These results are important not only because they stave off what would have been some pretty devastating cuts to city programs, but also because they put the city into unprecedented political territory. 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.

New Votes

The votes added, all of which were individual motions on item EX14.1 — the 2012 Capital and Operating Budgets:

  • Motion 1, as moved by Councillor Josh Colle, was the centrepiece strategic move of the day. Colle moved to take about $15 million from the 2011 operating surplus — which stands at more than $150 million and will be higher when all is said and done — to preserve TTC service, restore daycare funding, prevent pool closures and retain a number other services. The full text of the motion is here. This motion was engineered so that it could receive enough support to pass, and it did, with votes from councillors Gloria Lindsay Luby, Chin Lee and James Pasternak making the difference. It passed 23-21, sinking any hope the mayor’s team had left of emerging from this process with their pride intact.
  • Motion 5, moved by the aforementioned Lindsay Luby, killed what would have been a foolhardy plan to charge two bucks to use all public pools (indoor and outdoor) in Toronto — read all about it. The scheme would have required new staff to operate, and any revenues would have been tempered by the huge cost required to set up and maintain payment infrastructure. Still, this was another narrow vote.
  • Motion 6 came from Mary-Margaret McMahon, who has fashioned herself as a staunch environmentalist. Her motion preserved three positions at the Toronto Environmental Office that were on the chopping block. It also asked that the city continue to implement its Climate Change Action Plan. (Full text.) Her motion won with support from executive committee members Michelle Berardinetti and Jaye Robinson.
  • Motion 9 served as the motion that stopped the library board from having to make near-impossible cuts to its operating budget. As moved my Raymond Cho (full text), this vote saw 22 councillors recognize that, really, Toronto’s library system has been run really damn well for almost a decade now. (Of note: Pasternak abstained because of a conflict of interest.)
  • Motion 21a revealed just how willing council was to tinker with Ford’s budget. Council voted 23-21 to maintain the Live Green Toronto Community Animators program (text), which sees people work within communities to create greenspace and promote environmental initiatives. Ford-ally Gary Crawford along with Robinson were the difference-makers on this item.
  • Lastly, Motion 21b was Ford’s sole major victory — the mayor also lost numerous other minor votes, including a bid by Karen Stintz to kill the city’s partnership with TDSB for community pools — as Mihvec was unable to muster enough support to stave off consideration of contracting out custodial services at Facilities Management and Real Estate Services.

All told, Ford was on the losing end of  five of six major votes related to his 2012 budget. Council grew the mayor’s operating budget by about $20 million.

Trend Watch

As was inevitable, Councillor Mary-Margaret McMahon has fallen below the 30% threshold and is now in the “opposition” category.

James Pasternak and Jaye Robinson both saw their Ford Nation percentage decline. Because she’s on the executive committee, I expect Robinson to continually hover around her current level. Pasternak, on the other hand, is likely only a few votes away from statistically joining the ranks of the “mighty middle.”

And, yeah, the biggest trend coming out of yesterday’s meeting? Council’s middle earned that “mighty” label. There was nothing mushy about them.

Batting Average

The mayor hit a sad 17% yesterday on major votes. For this term overall, his success rate is just over 60%.

Questions

Questions about the Council Scorecard? Read my notes on methodology. Also, you can email me.


10
Jan 12

“Radical” Rob Ford’s Sinking Budget

The City issued a press release this morning touting the budget committee’s decision to approve the 2012 capital and operating budget yesterdays. It’s about what you’d expect:

“It has been Council’s policy since 2004 to use surplus funds to pay for capital costs. We immediately need a good portion of the $154 million surplus to go towards funding buses, streetcars and subways,” said Budget Committee Chair Mike Del Grande (Ward 39, Scarborough-Agincourt). “The City’s efforts in permanently reducing $355 million from its annual expenditures coupled with additional efforts to introduce $700 million in non-debt financing for the capital budget and plan has allowed us to reduce the City’s reliance on one-time surplus revenues from $346 million to $77 million. This is a major breakthrough in bringing the City’s expenses more in line with its revenue.”

“This is simply best practices in financial management,” said City Manager Joe Pennachetti.” With the uncertain global economic outlook, we need to safeguard and restore City reserves to respond to the needs of Toronto residents and withstand the greater occurrence of extreme weather events.”

via City of Toronto on track to build a sustainable, affordable and well-managed city | City of Toronto Press Release.

The whole thing is just an echo of what we heard again and again at yesterday’s budget committee meeting: futile attempts to justify budgetary decisions that are, at this point, almost purely ideological. After spending a year telling us about doom scenarios  — $774 million! 34% property tax increases! Becoming GREECE! — we’ve ended up at a place where the city’s fiscal situation justifies virtually none of the major cuts on the table.

With the surplus figures we’re looking at, the city has enough money to maintain services, keep property taxes low and still set aside significant cash for capital projects and reserve funds. Absent a compelling financial need to cut programs, all we’re left with is the impression that the group of councillors running the city are cutting mostly because they just really like cutting.

Austerity-as-ideology, not austerity-as-necessity.

But don’t take my word for it: just look to the actions of the budget committee yesterday. With the stroke of a pen, they took several items off the chopping block: child nutrition programs, school-based community centres and two pools conveniently located in the wards of executive committee members. There’s no doubt that other programs — like, say, Bellwoods House or the 17% cut to the Toronto Environmental Office — could be reversed the same way.

What’s missing is not the money. It’s the will.

“Radical Conservative Agenda”

Sometime over the holidays, a bunch of left-leaning councillors decided to make use of the phrase “radical conservative” to describe the budget and pretty well everything the mayor does. As cloying and simplistic as this type of repetition can feel to people who actually spend their time nerding about politics, this kind of message discipline isn’t rare and it tends to be more effective than people think. (“Gravy Train” sure worked pretty well.)

Still, let’s ask the question: is there really truth behind the messaging here? Are the mayor and his council supporters behaving in  a way that’s, you know, radical?

Yes and no.

Yes, because there’s definitely an undercurrent where the mayor is cutting simply because he wants to cut. The 2012 budget was seemingly designed with two key mayoral priorities in mind, neither of which seem particularly relevant to people who actually rely on city services: first, that its gross total be less than the previous year’s and, second, that the property tax increase be kept to 2.5%.

That the 2012 budget may be a touch smaller in gross terms than the 2011 budget is totally irrelevant. It’s a stat that only appeals to those who get all excited by right-wing boilerplate. Ford was elected to spend money in a less wasteful way, not to just spend less money. (Anyway: there’s a good chance Ford will lose his ability to claim the gross budget shrunk year-to-year after councillors propose amendments next week.)

The 2.5% figure is similarly arbitrary — it doesn’t seem any analysis was done to show why 2.5% is a more desirable figure that, say, 2% or 3% or even higher.

These type of arbitrary financial decisions — made to fit an ideology that just believes government should be smaller and do less, full stop —  do seem a bit radical. Or, at the very least, kind of radically dumb.

But on the other hand, this is kind of a milquetoast budget. It contains a series of compromises and half-measures to the point where it looks little like the kind of city budget Rob Ford would have approved of when he was a councillor. Perennial Ford targets seem mostly untouched. And every indication that even more cuts will be reversed at council.

There’s no doubt that Ford and his team had their sights set on a budget more radical than the one we ended up with. If the intent was radical conservative budgeting, the outcome isn’t.

Quick Hits: Budget Edition

Library Must Cut More: The big news coming out of the budget committee yesterday was a further request that the library committee cut another $7 million from their operating budget in order to meet the arbitrary 10% target. It’s worth noting that several other departments and boards failed to meet the 10% target but only the library has been asked to go back and cut more. The decision came after a weird speech from the Budget Chief in which he expressed the view that some libraries may be duplicating the services provided by schools and community centres and so there’s room for cuts. Okay.

Ford’s Arts Cuts Will Hurt: Quick Quiz! Guess which councillor said this: “If the cuts go through, things could go into a tailspin.” It was Ford-ally Gary Crawford, who has been a pretty steadfast supporter of the mayor’s agenda thus far. The arts cuts in this budget — like a lot of things — are kind of stealth cuts, as they’re hidden in general 10% reductions to various budgets. In any case, any cuts to the arts fly in the face of the Creative Capital Gains report council unanimously endorsed this spring.

Ford The Program Saver: As Ford has backed off some of the cuts he presented with the budget in November, he’s developed a strategy in which he points to city staff as the ones who wanted cuts to things like nutrition programs. With this narrative, Ford becomes the guy who “saved” these programs from the budget axe. Councillor Josh Matlow summed the whole thing up pretty well, when he tweeted this:

In a missive to his supporters today, Mayor Rob Ford essentially announced that he's protected taxpayers from Mayor Rob Ford's budget cuts.
@JoshMatlow
Josh Matlow

Credit Where Credit Is Due: In his weekly Facebook update, Ford also took some credit for the city’s mounting surplus. In his weekly Facebook message, he wrote, “much of the surplus is a direct result of smart management, as City staff implemented millions of dollars in efficiencies this year.” Which is a true statement, I guess, as long as you indicate that the smart management must have emerged way back in the David Miler era. The city has enjoyed big surpluses for years and Ford’s 2011 budget — which essentially held the line on David Miller’s 2010 budget — didn’t do anything that would directly lead to this year’s surplus.

Cuts On The Table: For those looking to make sense of what’s being cut and what’s been saved, the Toronto Star’s Paul Moloney has a great rundown.


7
Sep 11

City Council Scorecard: How to save the Port Lands

Let’s try to save the world with spreadsheets. Again. If the people of Toronto want to stop the mayor and his brother from seizing control of the Port Lands and pushing forward with a new vision controlled by private developers, we need five votes.

As with the Jarvis vote in July, the above is a best-guess breakdown of how councillors will vote on item EX9.6 when it comes before council on September 21. Again, it’s important to remember that this isn’t written in stone — some councillors could very well change their mind. Some councillors may even hit the wrong button when voting. It happens.

The first column above refers to item EX45.15, considered by council way back in the halcyon days of Mayor David Miller. It represents the only noted instance I can find in recent history of right-wing councillors attempting to slow or stop work by Waterfront Toronto. In this instance, which took place at the July 6, 2010 meeting of council, Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong rose and asked for an amendment on an item related to the Don Mouth Naturalization and Waterfront Toronto’s plan for the Lower Don Lands, a parcel of land within what the larger Port Lands area.

Minnan-Wong’s amendment called for two things: first, that Waterfront Toronto “submit to Council, a Business and Implementation Plan for the Lower Don Lands with priority for Phase 1 (Don River Mouth), addressing capital costs, revenue and expenditures, funding, project phasing and land management.” That language is similar to what we saw in the report associated with the Port Lands item that came before Executive Committee yesterday. The second thing Minnan-Wong asked for was that “no further funding of consultants and studies be undertaken until the funding sources and Business and Implementation Plan are approved by Council.” I’ve included the voting results from the second part of his amendment in the chart above.

More notes on methodology: Councillors who are on the Executive Committee will all presumably vote with the mayor at the upcoming Council Session. The only exception could be Jaye Robinson, who was notably absent when the vote took place in Committee Room 1 yesterday. Watch her closely. Councillors close to or at 100% “Ford Nation” percentage are virtual locks to support this Ford-driven motion, though I’ve left Gary Crawford as a question mark as a long-shot hope. I’m working off the assumption that the traditional left-leaning bloc will all vote against the item, which seems pretty safe. Both Josh Matlow and Mary Margaret-McMahon have tweeted their support for Waterfront Toronto, the latter enthusiastically so.

So, what next? Email or call the councillors identified as undecided or potential swing votes. Their contact information is below. Your voice is especially important if you live in their ward. (But if you don’t, and happen to know someone who does, spend some time informing them of the issue and ask them to contact their councillor.) Consider contacting neighbourhood associations, ratepayer groups and local BIAs as well, and ask them how they feel about a new mall opening up in the Port Lands and the impact that will have on small-scale retail space in the city. CodeBlueTO has a great letter you can use as a starting point for your communications. If you get concrete word on how any councillor plans to vote, please let me know so I can update this chart.

Contact information for councillors

Councillor James Pasternak (Ward 10 – York Centre)

Phone: 416-392-1371

Email: councillor_pasternak@toronto.ca

 Councillor Josh Colle (Ward 15 – Eglinton-Lawrence)

Phone: 416-392-4027

Email: councillor_colle@toronto.ca

Councillor Ana Bailão (Ward 18 – Davenport)

Phone: 416-392-7012

Email: councillor_bailao@toronto.ca

Councillor Jaye Robinson (Ward 25 – Don Valley West)

Phone: 416-395-6408

Email: councillor_robinson@toronto.ca

Councillor Gary Crawford (Ward 36 – Scarborough Southwest)

Phone: 416-392-4052

Email: councillor_crawford@toronto.ca

Councillor Chin Lee (Ward 41 – Scarborough-Rouge River)

Phone: 416-392-1375

Email: councillor_lee@toronto.ca

Councillor Ron Moeser (Ward 44 – Scarborough East)

Phone: 416-392-1373

Email: councillor_moeser@toronto.ca