Mar 12

The week that was: Ford loses major transit vote as Sheppard gets LRT

Council Scorecard: Transit Votes

While I was out: Rob Ford experienced yet another spectacular defeat on the floor of council. True to form, the mayor refused to endorse any workable revenue plan for building his beloved Sheppard subway – even the one that came from his council allies. Instead, Ford stuck with what the political strategy that has sustained him since he was first elected councillor over a decade ago: yelling and losing.

Here’s how it happened.


March 18, 2012

Rob Ford devotes much of the time on his crazy boring radio show toward the transit discussion. As recapped by OpenFile Toronto’s David Hains, the mayor and his co-host Councillor Paul Ainslie hit all the same notes you’d expect: people want subways; St. Clair’s a disaster; all glory to the private sector; and the power of repeating the word subways endlessly.

Notably, Ford and stalwart Ainslie agree that the Sheppard Subway should be funded with “creative financing because people don’t like taxes.” This attitude would continue throughout the week, and sink any remaining chance Ford had of winning the council vote.


March 19, 2012

With the special council meeting just two days away, subway advisor and noted dentist Gordon Chong again makes public his opinion that the mayor must support new tolls and taxes if he wants to see a subway extension on Sheppard Avenue. Ford continues to ignore the advice of the man he picked to make the case for subways in Toronto.

Meanwhile, many of the swing vote councillors begin to make their opinions known. Councillor Josh Colle tells reporters he’s just looking for some kind of indication of where the mayor will get the money to build subways. “A pie graph would be nice, just something that would show where the source of funding would come from.”

But the mayor’s “plan,” even presented as a pie chart, would prove unconvincing. It’d end up looking a lot like this:

Ford's Subway Plan: As A Pie Chart (Artist's Representation)

Ford's Subway Plan: As A Pie Chart (Artist's Representation)


March 20, 2012

More mighty middle voices tip their hat toward the LRT plan. Councillor Mary-Margaret McMahon tells the Toronto Sun’s Don Peat that she’ll be supporting light rail because “Nothing has been concretely brought forward and I don’t see a [subway] plan.” Councillor Ana Bailão also hints that she’ll be a light rail vote.

In a bit of a surprise, Councillor Ron Moeser joins the group of councillors supporting the expert panel’s recommendation for LRT. Moeser has been battling an illness for several months that has caused him to miss virtually all council votes relating to transit. His support for the mayor had been widely assumed, but the mayor may have pushed things too far with the Scarborough councillor.

At this point, a majority of councillors have firmly pledged their support for light rail on Sheppard.


March 21, 2012

Council begins its session by endorsing the use of Skype as a means for Professor Eric Miller to take questions from councillors. Miller was the lead on the expert panel that ultimately recommended the light rail plan. After much debate, Skype finds strong bipartisan support, though the mayor objects.

Soon after, battle lines are drawn. Councillor Glenn De Baeremaeker moves the motion that will support the panel’s recommendations. As a counter, budget chief and Scarborough Councillor Mike Del Grande proposes what we’ve all been waiting for: new revenue tools to fund transit.

Del Grande’s motion includes a levy on non-residential parking spaces, and seeks to raise $100 million per year for transit funding. The proposal is rightly criticized for being light on detail and short on scope. Those kinds of revenues would only fund about 300 metres of subway construction every year.

But, still, the motion is welcome news, acknowledging that even the most thrifty of suburban councillors have recognized the need to build public transit with public money. Del Grande finds support from most of council’s right-wing, but is stymied when the mayor — stubbornly, foolishly, inexplicably — refuses to lend his support to the plan.

Del Grande would end up attempting to withdraw the motion the next day. Without Rob Ford’s support, he knew it was doomed.

In another bit of procedural pettiness, Ford’s allies end the day with a good old-fashioned filibuster. The plan, which nobody expects to work, is to run out the clock and force a continuation to Thursday, with the hope that they can use the time to convince some councillors to support them.


March 22, 2012

Having exhausted all his remaining options, Ford pulls out a would-be trump card: a loud and rambling speech in which he uses the word “subways” repeatedly. The point, buried in amongst the repetition, was to convince council to delay any decision until after the release of the federal and provincial budgets. The mayor appears to actually believe that those governments – both of whom are in full-on austerity mode – may announce billions of dollars in transit funding for Toronto.

As has become their custom, council mostly ignores the mayor.

The vote happens shortly after lunch, with the results breaking down mostly as expected. With 24 votes in favour, council supports the recommendations of the expert panel for light rail on Sheppard. Nineteen councillors stand opposed. Notably, Giorgio Mammoliti, who had promised on Wednesday that he would fight against the light rail plan on behalf of his constituents, ends up missing the vote on Thursday.


March 23, 2012

The fallout from the vote comes quick and looks obvious. The mayor declares, yet again, that his election campaign begins today. The plan is to foster so much support for subways that he gets yet another strong mandate from voters in 2014. By Sunday – on his still-boring radio show – the mayor will even go as far as floating the idea of running a slate of Ford-supporting candidates in wards across the city, in the hopes of ridding council of those who oppose him.

This brings to mind two immediate questions:

  1. Would any legitimate candidate actually want to be part of a slate backed by a mayor with a terrible approval rating and a record of refusing to work with his allies to accomplish anything?
  2. If Ford’s going to be in full-on campaign mode for the next two years, then who the hell is running the city?

Ford’s stubbornness on this issue has made for even more alienation. Councillors like Jaye Robinson, Peter Milczyn and David Shiner went as far as to publicly question the mayor’s leadership on the transit file. Their comments were tinged with the kind of frustration that comes about when a mayor refuses to support a revenue tool that he recently championed in an editorial. It’s the same frustration that comes when someone ignores advice from everyone, even in the face of overwhelming reason and common sense.

It’s the kind of frustration that comes when the guy you’re trying to help ends up spitting in your face.

Despite protests from the mayor and his brother, this chapter of the Rob Ford mayoralty appears to be over. There’s little chance the province will re-open the subways debate and even less chance that more money materializes for subway construction. As was originally endorsed by Mayor David Miller and council, Toronto will see light rail transit built on Sheppard, Eglinton, Finch and the Scarborough RT corridor. Transit City lives again.

Mar 12

Shocker: budget cuts can negatively impact services

Councillor Michelle Berardinetti, member of Rob Ford’s executive committee and the city budget committee, in her December 2011 newsletter to constituents:

Taxpayers want City Hall to reduce expenses and for the first time ever, we will spend less next year than we did this year. It is a balanced budget that will help rebuild our fiscal foundation. There is a rate of inflation property- tax increase of 2.5% which will be approximately $5 a month for the aver- age tax payer. There are inflationary increases which the city cannot avoid addressing, and we have kept the property tax increase down to the level of inflation.

Through the Core Service Review, service efficiencies and modest service level adjustments we found $355 million in savings. Some of the services being cut were identified as outside of the city’s function.

via Councillor Michelle Berardinetti’s Newsletter – December 2011.

The centrepiece of that budget, of course, was a 10% cut across all city departments — including the TTC. Ford’s move to cut the transit subsidy despite record and ever-growing ridership forced the TTC to make several cuts to bus service, most of which took effect in February.

Which brings us back to Berardinetti’s newsletter. From the March 2012 edition:

I have written a letter to TTC Chair, Karen Stintz, to voice my opposition to the impacts of all bus route schedule adjustments. Residents in my ward have reported to me that signs have been posted at the Warden subway station with respect to a reduction in service specifically affecting the Warden 69 bus route. A large number of people rely upon this route for travel to work and school and the proposed reduction in the frequency of service will significantly and negatively impact their commuting time.

In the context of the considerable 2012 Budget surplus allocations of $139 million made to the T.T.C. for the purpose of purchasing new surface vehicles and the significant nature of the impact reductions on this route will have on the constituents of Ward 35, I am requesting that this decision be reviewed and that the service reduction be cancelled.

via Councillor Michelle Berardinetti’s Newsletter – March 2012.

During the budget debate, Councillor Josh Colle moved a motion that sought to reverse many of the route cuts on the table. Berardinetti opposed it.

This looks like a sign of things to come. Many councillors supported the 10% reduction target as an abstract budget-busting measure, but now that the impacts to services are starting to emerge, how many of them are going to change their tune?

Another example: 311 announced recently that, in order to meet their reduced budget, they would eliminate email service at their support centres. They’re going to force anyone with a question about city services to call in and listen to their hold music. This prompted Mike Layton to ask “What decade are we in? I wonder if they’ll accept faxes.”

Layton, backing a motion by Kristyn Wong-Tam, will attempt to reverse this cut to customer service at council next week. They should have the support of at least one Ford ally — and enthusiastic supporter of the mayor’s 10% cut — in Paul Ainslie, who told the Toronto Star that he was “certainly going to push for putting [email service] back in.”

It’s easy to support budget cuts. It’s hard to support service cuts. Councillors may want to consider that there’s a link between the two.

Nov 11

Everyone has fundamental beliefs: Janet Davis, Josh Colle & Josh Matlow on ideology and good governance

Josh Matlow’s radio show on NewsTalk 1010 seems to be flying under the radar of a lot of council-watchers these days, but it’s been very solid in providing a ton of good insight into the minds of councillors and how they approach various issues. The past three or four weeks especially have been very good, as the show has moved past some of the Giorgio Mammoliti theatrics and gimmicky stuff that marked its early days and brought on some councillors who tend not the very vocal in the press. If they’d stop taking calls from people who seem barely informed about the issues, I’d have few complaints.

The show hit an all-time high this past Sunday, when Councillors Janet Davis and Josh Colle were in studio with Matlow. The last quarter-hour of the episode was devoted entirely to a very frank — sometimes heated — discussion on ideology, centrist politics, and how good governance works. Some of the discussion was reminiscent of the debate surrounding Dave Meslin’s initial optimism regarding the Ford administration earlier this year, before that all went to hell.

Because I’m nothing if not an incredible nerd — and because this may prove to be a good reference for later on — I’ve transcribed the entirety of the discussion Matlow, Davis and Colle had on air. As with any transcription, I’ve made small edits to clarify crosstalk and eliminate the ums and uhs that, you know, plague our speech. Any errors are my own. To get a real feel for the tone of the conversation, I highly recommend you listen to the segment yourself. It starts at about the 31 minute mark of this mp3.

Thanks to City Hall journalist Jonathan Goldsbie for bringing this segment to my attention.

The Transcript

Josh Matlow: By the way, one thing I wanted to mention: I, sometimes — like Josh, and Mary-Margaret and Ana Bailão and a few of us — we’re regarded as, well, we like saying the Mighty Middle others will call us the Mushy Middle. Certainly I’ve heard the term fence-sitter. I just want to clear that one up too.

Josh Colle: That could hurt.

Janet Davis: You don’t sit on fences, you straddle them?

Matlow: I don’t know if I’ve ever sat on a fence. I’ve jumped over them at times, but I’ve never actually sat on one. So factually that’s not true. I have not sat on a fence. Second: every month — unlike those on Twitter and others that might mention the term ‘fence-sitter’ including Sue-Ann [Levy] — I vote very publicly in a recorded way on every issue that we’re debating and take very public stands on all those issues.

Where I think this [‘fence-sitter’ talk] comes from is that when one is on the radical left or the radical right, those of us in the centre will not always meet your needs. We will not always come down on the side you’re hoping us to do.

Davis: You know, unfortunately, this whole characterization of there being such a polarization is perpetuated by the media. But also I think, Josh, you perpetuate this.

Matlow: Why’s that?

Davis: You often characterize the people who take certain positions — as you have just done — as the “radical left.” I don’t think that’s necessary. You know what I’d rather do, Josh —

Matlow: You don’t think there’s a radical left in Toronto?

Davis: Do you know what I’d rather do, Josh? Let’s move on and talk about the important issues that are before council this week. We’ve got budgets on water and solid waste coming before us —

Matlow: I want to go there in one moment. But do you not believe, though — you heard Nick Kouvalis [earlier on the show], would you not say he’s further to the right than somebody like John Tory?

Davis: I don’t think it’s helpful to have a preface in front of everyone: left-leaning, mayor’s ally, middle-of-the-right/mushy middle. I don’t think it’s useful. And I don’t think that  when people continue to characterize it that way… and you do. You often talk about “the people on the left” and “the people on the right” and the virtuous middle. And it’s not helpful. It’s not.

Matlow: (Laughing) Josh Colle, what do you think?

Colle: (Joking) The virtuous independents? You know —

Davis: You know, you’re branding yourself as much to your benefit to try and create the belief that there are those out there who are ideologically driven and then there’s you, in the middle, who votes purely on the merit of “thoughtful debate.” And, you know, all of us participate in thoughtful debate — I do too.

Matlow: Hold on, you believe that every councillor…[“participates in thoughtful debate?”]

Davis: Okay. I take that back. Not every councillor. [pause] But I certainly do.

Colle: I understand that [the polarization of council] is a fun, easy story. Especially because we got a press gallery that’s encamped there and they need something to write about and everybody loves kind of plunking people on teams and doing the math on votes. But at the same time, I know when I arrived at City Hall — and I have no problem retelling this story — that I was told by people that I had to pick a team. And I was told this — and I won’t mention the names now — both by people we would describe as “the right” and “the left.” They sat me down in the chambers and said, “Okay, this is nice. You got to pick a team.” So while we don’t want that to be there — and we shouldn’t focus on it, I agree — there are some of our colleagues who are focused on it, and kind of see our chamber through that lens.

Davis: Well, there’s a reality of the 23 votes that have got to be found on every single vote. And there’s no doubt when the mayor came in and his staff came in and I can actually say that Nick Kouvalis came in to me and said, “These are the things we want your vote on.” And he — and other staff in the office, Mark Towhey and others — went and visited councillors and said, “Here’s our agenda. You’re either with us or against us.” And that’s not the way they should have entered into this new administration. They polarized people. There is no representation geographically from the whole Toronto & East York area on all of the key committees. And, yes, there is polarization.

Matlow: To sound like the personification of a centrist right now —

Colle: You fence-sitter, you.

Matlow: …I would submit honestly that there is no one perspective that is completely more virtuous than the other. For example, I know that my colleague Gord Perks comes from a leftist perspective on most issues. And, you know what? He’s honest and sincere and backs up his points and genuinely believes that that’s the way the world should be. Just as, when I hear from a colleague on the right who believes that, you know, unions are getting too much or whatever but they honestly believe it. They sincerely believe it. And that is virtuous because they are sincere in their argument. Now, the way that Josh Colle and I operate — and a few others — is that we don’t look at the world from one ideology or another. We really struggle and consider and deliberate over everything in front of us.

Davis: Everyone has fundamental beliefs, Josh. And you must have some. They must be there somewhere.

Matlow: I do. But I put good governance and evidence before anything else.

Davis: I agree. And I believe I do my best to represent the interests of my community and the interests of the city as a whole. I gather the information as much as I can, taking into consideration professional advice. And obviously I overlay on it some of what’s in my gut — my fundamental beliefs. And we’re always struggling with how you do that and do it well.

Matlow: Even if I personally believe something — I can tell you this right now — if I see evidence in front of me, and this is the problem with narrow ideology —

Davis: Are you saying I have narrow ideology?

Matlow: I wasn’t referring to you.

Davis: Well, then who are you referring to?

Matlow: I’m not referring —

Davis: Who are you referring to?

Matlow: Well I wouldn’t want to —

Davis: On the left?

Matlow: On the left or the right, no matter who you are —

Colle: We shouldn’t get to naming names here. I mean this is…

Davis: No really, I mean it’s a bit of an airy-fairy argument you make.

Matlow: Airy fairy? You don’t believe that you have an ideology? Do you not believe that Rob Ford has an ideology?

Davis: I can’t believe that you don’t.

Matlow: I wouldn’t call it ideology.

Davis: Well, you have some fundamental beliefs, I trust.

Matlow: I do. And I come into any conversation with my fundamental beliefs. But I am completely open to looking at evidence that may contradict what I came into the conversation initially believing. And if that evidence is strong, if that argument has merit that demonstrates that I was wrong, then I will admit it. I will accept it. And I think that that is the way to provide good governance. You shouldn’t just say, “This is the way I want the world to be. And, you know, darn any evidence in front of me. I’m not going to actively listen to other people’s positions. I’m just going to make the world the way I believe it should be.” I think sometimes the world isn’t that simple. It often isn’t. And I don’t believe that the average Torontonian running a household budget thinks about running a budget based on what is left-wing or right-wing. They just go: what’s my reality? What are the difficult decisions I’ve got to make and where do I need to go?

Discussion Questions

1) Josh Matlow does get a particularly hard time from a lot of us — “those on Twitter” — online. I feel a bit guilty about that, particularly because I much prefer Matlow’s openness and constant communication to the fly-under-the-radar tactics other councillors use. Are we sometimes too hard on the guy?

2) Where does one draw the line between being non-partisan, which some would say is a good thing, and being unprincipled, which is most certainly a bad thing? It’s easy to see how blurry that line can get, isn’t it?

3) Do people like political parties at the provincial and federal level because: a) they make it easy for low-information voters to determine who to vote for; b) they instill a certain sense of security in the values of the candidate on the ballot; c) people love to root for teams; or d) some sort of mixture of all the above plus other things and, hey, it’s complicated so shut-up?

4) Is it really all that ideological or partisan to admit publicly that Rob Ford is not the right guy to be mayor of this city? To take that as truth, and build your opinions regarding policy from that perspective?

Sep 11

The Port Lands vote: the first significant defeat for the Ford administration

Updated Sept 16, 2011 — 9:27 p.m. The Toronto Star has now reported that Michelle Berardinetti and Karen Stintz are likely ‘no’ votes. I’ve also moved Frank Di Giorgio to the ‘maybe’ column. The remaining 15 ‘yes’ votes are the most bedrock Ford supporters, so I don’t expect to see much change from this point onward. It’s obvious at this point that the item as originally presented is doomed. The mayor’s office must now scramble to find a face-saving compromise motion.

A quick update on the voting chart from last week:

Lots of movement on the chart: previously up-in-the-air Councillors Colle, Bailão, and Lee were switched to presumed ‘No’ votes. Councillors Berardinetti, Lindsay Luby and Parker have been re-listed as questionable votes after sources indicated they are all feeling rather conflicted about things.

The big news, though, is Councillor Jaye Robinson who, despite sitting on the mayor’s executive committee, announced that she would not be supporting the Ford-driven item to seize the Lower Don Lands and Port Lands from Waterfront Toronto. This is an important development not only for waterfront watchers but for council as a whole, as it severely weakens the mayor’s ability to obtain a majority going forward.

It remains to be seen whether this is only a minor blip in the relationship between Councillor Robinson and the Mayor — which has always felt a bit awkward and forced, she a rather centre-left type with an interest in the arts and he an iconoclast with a hate-on for government programs — or a significant sea change. How the mayor’s office responds to this outburst of independent thinking is the thing to watch. (When former councillor Brian Ashton, as an executive committee member, voted against one of Mayor David Miller’s key items, Ashton was quickly cast into the wilderness and removed from the committee.)

The Fords now face a looming council vote that looks very challenging for them to win. With 22 likely ‘No’ votes, their only hope is that all of the remaining available votes go their way without any absences in the chamber when the bells ring. This is a very unlikely scenario.

Councillor Peter Milczyn — a Ford guy — has been rather frank about their failure on this one. He told the Toronto Star’s Royson James that this “blew up in our faces” and, also, that “there is egg on our faces for allowing this.” Their collective faces have definitely seen better days.

So what happens now? It’s unlikely the item will make it to vote when council meets next week, unless something drastic or daring happens. Expect a deferral motion or another stall tactic to send this to staff for further study. A 1,333-word epic of an email from Milczyn’s office appears to lay out a future compromise that would see Waterfront Toronto and the Toronto Port Lands Company work together to review the collective plan for the Port Lands. Why TPLC needs to be involved at all is a fair question at this point.

It continues to amaze me just how many political missteps the mayor and his brother are making these days. There were probably dozens of workable strategies that would have resulted in the technical and contractual changes necessary to wring more value for the city out of Port Lands development. None of those strategies involved the councillor from North Etobicoke trotting out to the media with visions of a giant ferris wheel and an honest-to-god plan for a monorail. What kind of political strategy is that? What kind of meeting ends with everyone agreeing that the answer is sending Doug Ford out there to really wow ’em with some razzle dazzle?

Despite all this good news, I will caution that nothing is set in stone and a lot can change in the week ahead. Keep watching CodeBlueTO for further updates, and — if you haven’t already – sign the petition.

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 Baiḷo (Ward 18 РDavenport)

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

Jul 11

Councillor Josh Colle misled constituents in lead-up to Jarvis vote

In the frantic lead-up to last week’s vote on the Jarvis Street bike lanes, Councillor Josh Colle told at least two Toronto residents via email that he would not support spending money to remove the lanes. “The City of Toronto currently faces a projected deficit of over $700 million dollars and will have many tough decisions to make in the coming year,” wrote the councillor. “In light of this, I do not believe it would be an appropriate use of limited City resources to eliminate bike lanes on Jarvis Street.”

Colle later reversed from this position, voting with Public Works Chair Denzil Minnan-Wong and the right-wing of Council against an amendment moved by local Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam that would have saved the lanes. He also supported the 2011 Bike Plan as a whole, even once it was clear that his support would mean approving spending limited City resources to eliminate bike lanes on Jarvis Street.

Councillor Josh Matlow, who had previously made a commitment to saving the lanes, also voted against Wong-Tam’s motion to preserve them. He later clarified that this was a mis-vote, and his intention had been to vote “Yes” on the item. Fair enough.

Worrying that perhaps Colle too had made a mistake, I emailed the councillor for clarification. His response read, in part: “In response to resident concerns to secure a north-south passageway in the city centre, I felt that separated bike lanes on Sherbourne Street with better connectivity north of Bloor was the best alternative. I made it a priority to ensure that nothing would happen to the Jarvis Street bicycle lanes until separated bike lanes were fully installed and operational on Sherbourne.”

This is disappointing behaviour from a councillor and works only to diminish valuable and critical trust between residents and elected officials. I would cheerfully suggest to Councillor Colle that any advantage he or his family gets from being seen as a “team player” with the Ford administration could very well be erased if the electorate starts to perceive him as lax with his convictions.

May 11

Council moves to take out the trash after 32-13 vote

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/TOMayorFord/status/70644442498998274″]

The Toronto Star’s David Rider and Paul Moloney, whose article is accompanied by a great picture:

Mayor Rob Ford has won his biggest victory since storming into office, setting the stage for a new era of privatization with a garbage contract that slashes 300 unionized city jobs.

“We’re getting this city turned around,” Ford crowed Tuesday night after council voted 32-13 to start a bidding process that, if it unfolds as predicted, could see a private waste hauler collect garbage from 165,000 households between Yonge St. and Etobicoke’s eastern edge.

via Toronto votes to contract out garbage pickup – thestar.com.

Ford’s spinning this as a hard-won victory for his administration, but I’m not sure I buy it. What happened tonight was not a vote to contract out garbage collection, but rather a step towards receiving quotes from qualified bidders. Council will have another opportunity to review and debate before awarding the contract for private delivery of service sometime in 2012.

The proposed process was always my biggest problem with this item, so I’m happy to see that Ford and his allies made a concession on this one.

In addition to that, Team Ford were also on the losing end of six votes relating to amendments on the item, including:

  • A recommendation by Josh Matlow that would see the City manager provide annual progress reports relating to the contract
  • A recommendation by Matlow that staff not accept any bid from the private sector company that recently hired former General Manager of Solid Waste Management for the City of Toronto, Geoff Rathbone
  • A pair of recommendations by Matlow that that require any bidder to meet or exceed existing and future diversion targets for solid waste, and to essentially guarantee a minimum level of savings
  • A recommendation from Josh Colle that the City ask the Auditor General to perform a post-implementation audit on the awarded contract
  • A recommendation from Ana Bailão that will require the City manager to “conduct an independent review of both the bid/contract numbers and the cost for identical services provided by the City”

Council also ended up deadlocked, tied 22-22, on three other amendment votes. Ford’s whip proved to be less effective than ever tonight, which is certainly something that can be seen as a victory for his opponents.

Of course, the vote that mattered wasn’t even close. I feel that most councillors — especially suburban councillors — could not ignore the fact that contracting out garbage is a massively popular idea with many people in this city. In addition, now that the contract will return to council, there will be another chance to review the numbers and make a more informed decision. (I suspect this is why councillors like Shelley Carroll and Raymond Cho ended up voting in favour.)

So what happens next? Seemingly not a whole lot, at least for a while. The union will hope that the bids that come in don’t show savings at the level the mayor anticipates — and some of the amendments passed today will make savings challenging –, while Ford and his allies will continue to not really care about the numbers, because for them this is primarily about revenge.

Mar 11

Tapdancing Josh Colle

Writing a column for the My Town Crier newspaper, Councillor Josh Colle lays out a good argument for the importance of building rapid transit on Eglinton Avenue:

It seems that anyone and everyone equipped with a pen, napkin and visions of transit lines criss-crossing the city has become an expert and is pushing one preferred transit plan over another. The fact of the matter is that Toronto can no longer afford only to talk and plan. The time for action is now and the most obvious starting point for a new era of transit building is Eglinton Avenue.

While Mayor Rob Ford has committed to additional tunnelling on the proposed Eglinton line beyond Laird Avenue, all parties involved agree that this is a priority project. The provincial funding is in place, Metrolinx and the TTC are working collaboratively on the design and planning of a line, the mayor is very supportive, and businesses and residents along the route want the line now.

via Let’s make rapid transit on Eglinton a reality now – TownNEWS – MyTownCrier.ca – the online home of Toronto’s Town Crier Group of Community Newspapers.

He takes enormous care to gloss over the fact that there is only one person who has stood between the Eglinton LRT and its construction: Mayor Rob Ford. These delays aren’t the result of  bureaucratic wrangling, but rather a new mayor who has opposed the line.

Mar 11

Council’s middle gets organized

Robyn Doolittle at the Toronto Star obtained a copy of the Team Ford “cheat sheet” (or “recommended voting strategy” if you prefer) handed out on Wednesday morning. She produces only a low-resolution version in her article, but it’s clear that the strategy during this week’s regular meeting was to refer all items to committees to prevent the possibility of a filibuster strategy on the TCHC item.

MM5.1, a motion by Josh Matlow and seconded by Josh Colle regarding council salaries, was a recommended ‘No to waiving referral’ vote which is interesting only in the sense that Josh Colle has seemingly tried to play nice with the mayor’s office. (He ultimately voted in favour of dissolving the TCHC board on Wednesday night.)

Doolittle also indicates that some of the fence-sitting councillors are looking at forming their own voting bloc:

So far, this [middle] group has swung right, but that may be changing. These middle-of-the-road councillors have been organizing their own bloc, “the mighty middle,” in hopes of ending the voting pattern.

Right now Ford holds a majority. There are 15 on the hard left and 22 on the hard right. The mayor’s vote tips the scales. If the “mighty middle” comes together and even one of those Ford supporters drifts centre the bloc would be broken.

“Some of us are talking. Let’s just say we’re going to be more organized going forward,” said Councillor Josh Colle (Eglinton Lawrence).

via Ford hands out cheat sheet to his team – thestar.com.

Doolittle pegs the number of ‘middle’ councillors at seven, which I guess would be Colle, Matlow, Mary-Margaret McMahon, Ron Moeser, Ana Bailão, Chin Lee and Raymond Cho. I’d argue that Raymond Cho is pretty firmly on the opposition at this point.

Cho, Bailão & Matlow voted against the mayor on Wednesday night. Moeser was absent. The rest voted for.

Feb 11

Horse trading at city hall

CitySlikr — whose coverage of this week’s events on Twitter was awesome — details a small story about Councillor Josh Colle from yesterday’s session:

Josh Colle, one of the freshman councillors and political moderates, voted with the mayor on every budget item save for the Parks and Forestry and Library budgets. That’s not blind adherence but pretty solid support. In turn, when Councillor Colle’s motion came to a vote, a motion, let me add, that bore no financial impact on the budget, it just asked for a report on front yard parking fees and was shepherded through with the help of Councillor Cesar Palacio, a councillor plucked out of well-deserved obscurity owing solely to his slavish devotion to the mayor, it lost by one. You know who voted against it? Mayor Ford.

When the results were announced, catcalls could be heard directed at Councillor Colle. “They’re not your friends, Josh!”

via Notes On A Budget Debate From The Peanut Gallery « All Fired Up In The Big Smoke.

Two things about Councillor Josh Colle, who took over Howard Moscoe’s old ward in Eglinton-Lawrence. First, there’s this interesting story Josh Matlow tells about the time, soon after the election, that he met with Nick Kouvalis. Kouvalis, thinking Matlow was Colle, started trying to butter him with tales of his father — Liberal MPP Mike Colle — before trying to get him to agree to vote with the mayor on the budget.

Second, there’s the small matter of probably the only election promise Ford has broken since he took office. During the campaign, he promised to stop the proposed redevelopment of Lawrence Heights. He even yelled into a megaphone about stopping it. But at the end of December, he declared that he wouldn’t actively work against the project, saying that he didn’t want to step on the local councillor’s toes. That councillor? Josh Colle.

I don’t profess to know if any of this, or what CitySlikr noted above, is related. But it does paint an interesting (if faint) picture of the kind of horse trading that seems to go on between councillors and the mayor’s office.