Posts Tagged: michelle berardinetti


2
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.


6
Feb 12

Why are some councillors set to vote against transit in their wards?

Councillors Against Transit: How are councillors voting on projects set to pass through their wards?

Councillors Against Transit? Some councillors are set to vote against transit projects that would run through their wards. (The Sheppard East LRT will also skirt the wards of Councillors Del Grande & Moeser.)

Updated Feb 7 2012: The voting chart at the bottom of this post has been updated based on new information. Councillors Moeser and Lindsay Luby are both likely to miss the meeting. Frances Nunziata confirmed which was she was leaning when she called Karen Stintz a ‘traitor’ at council yesterday. And Mark Grimes is Mark Grimes. Jaye Robinson remains the only undecided, and I could see her going either way.

It’s official. As reported by Inside Toronto’s David Nickle:

Toronto Transit Commission Chair Karen Stintz and 22 other city councillors have demanded a special Toronto City Council meeting on Wednesday, Feb. 8, to consider whether to bury the Scarborough-Eglinton Crosstown LRT through Scarborough.

Stintz, who represents Eglinton-Lawrence on council, presented the petition to the city clerk prior to the start of the city’s regular council meeting Monday, Feb. 6.

via TTC chair Stintz calls for special council meeting on Transit City | InsideToronto.com.

Twenty-four councillors signed Stintz’s petition, with James Pasternak and Gloria Lindsay Luby standing as the difference-makers. I expected to see John Parker’s name on the list — he’s been vocal throughout this debate — but he seems to have opted to play it safe. Still, there’s a good chance he’ll vote in favour of the agenda item on Wednesday.

With the majority in place, our attention now turns to the motley crew of councillors who have decided to stick with the Fords even in the face of almost-certain defeat. For some, the motive is easy to understand. Scarborough councillors like Michael Thompson and Michelle Berardinetti have nothing to lose by supporting gold-plated underground transit through Scarborough, even if that support means that other projects lose out. And councillors like Peter Milczyn and Cesar Palacio are so far removed from the projects on the table that they might as well protect their political position and side with the mayor.

But for other councillors, motive is harder to pin down.

Take the councillors in the table above. All of them represent wards that lost out on transit when Rob Ford made his unilateral decision to cancel the Finch West and Sheppard East LRT projects. And yet, even knowing what’s at stake, three of them seem likely to double down on their support for the mayor and vote against bringing improved transit to their constituents on Wednesday.

You can almost excuse Norman Kelly and Giorgio Mammoliti. They’re council veterans unlikely to face electoral consequence no matter what they do. Kelly also has the spectre of a Sheppard Subway to point at. And no one expects Mammoliti make rational decisions.

But for Councillor Vincent Crisanti — still a quiet council newbie with a near-perfect record of Ford support — his vote on Wednesday could easily be seen as a slight against the neighbourhoods he represents in Ward 1. He’s got to know that any talk of underground transit into northwest Etobicoke is pure fantasy. Even the biggest optimist would be hard-pressed to include a Finch subway project in a fifty-year timeframe. He also knows well that the Finch bus route is one of the most crowded and uncomfortable in the city. And he knows that Humber College — a major driver of economic activity in his area — has long advocated for improved transit connections to their campus, something the LRT was set to provide.

Last February, the President of Humber College expressed regret over the mayor’s decision to kill the Finch West LRT project, telling the campus newspaper, “We had a plan in terms of the previous government. Now we don’t have a plan, and we have yet to see one.”

Crisanti has a chance to play a role in bringing that plan to Humber College this week. He’s got a chance to improve transit for the community that elected him. It’s a shame he’s going to pass on it.

Continue reading →


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.


12
Jan 12

In 2011, Council’s middle got less mushy, more lefty

A selection of middle-ish councillors and how their voting patterns changed over the last six months of 2011.

As a follow-up to this week’s City Council Scorecard Update, here’s a look at how various on-the-fence councillors saw their overall “Ford Nation” score shift between June and December. Remember that the June meeting was the last one before things really got heated — after it came Pride, Jarvis, the Core Service Review, the marathon Executive Committee meeting and a handful of 911 calls.

Of the eleven councillors listed above — all of whom float in the council “middle” to varying degrees — only two grew closer to the mayor’s agenda through the latter half of the year. Of the two, Councillor Moeser is more inscrutable — and quiet — so his motivations are harder to pin down. (But he clearly decided to embrace this administration in a big bear hug.) Councillor Berardinetti, on the other hand, seemingly made a conscious choice to double down on her support for Team Ford, and has been very public in her role as a flagbearer for the administration.

The remaining nine councillors on the list all backed off from Rob Ford as the budget process began. Some, like Gloria Lindsay Luby, Mary-Margaret McMahon and Ana Bailão, saw their score drop precipitously as council started voting on cuts to service.

James Pasternak’s eight point drop is probably the biggest surprise. As a new councillor, he positioned himself as a guy with a decidedly right-of-centre approach. And unlike some of the other councillors on the list, he hasn’t had any high profile public disagreements with Ford policy. But in recent months he’s shown himself to be open to independent thinking and, more importantly, independent voting. It will be interesting to see if the trend continues.

How does council as a whole look?

For the sake of completion, I’ve also compiled the same table as above showing data for all 45 members of council. There’s not a whole lot to glean from this — does it really matter that, for example, Giorgio Mammoliti’s Ford Nation score dropped from 100% to 97%? — but, really, it’s not like it’s possible to have too many charts or anything.

Does any of this matter?

For a few reasons, I think it does. First, the eleven councillors listed at the top of this post make up, under the broadest definition, council’s middle. They’re the guys you need to call if you’re trying to swing an issue in a certain direction. That so many of them are trending solidly away from the mayor’s agenda is important.

Second, one of the big knocks against the whole idea of Rob Ford as Mayor of Toronto was that he’d never be able to command enough support at council to pass anything. Howard Moscoe famously said that Ford wouldn’t be able to pass gas at council, much less get his agenda through.

That Ford and his team have managed to broker the support they have is a hugely significant political achievement for this administration. But it’s fragile. Teetering on the edge. All it’ll take is one good push.

Lastly, we’re heading into a council budget debate in a week’s time that has real potential to be a total catastrophe for Rob Ford. He was already handed several defeats in September when council voted on various Core Service Review considerations. He lost seven whipped votes during that meeting. He could lose a hell of a lot more next week.

It’s a good bet that a lot of people are doing a lot of scrambling right now to ensure the council votes are in place to get the 2012 budget through without serious alteration. For those of us watching, January 17 is shaping up to be one hell of a show.


16
Dec 11

Councillor Michelle Berardinetti doubles down on supporting the mayor

When I first started following the crazy mixed-up world of Toronto City Council, I flagged two Ford-allied councillors — and Executive Committee members — as likely to move away from their support for the Ford administration in 2011. It felt like a safe bet. Both Michelle Berardinetti and Jaye Robinson were new councillors with political histories that didn’t really lend themselves to loyal support for a mayoral administration that would inevitably define itself with a series of deep service cuts.

I was mostly right on Robinson, who in her pre-council life was a City of Toronto staffer linked to Nuit Blanche and other city events. She’s currently in a slightly maddening in-between stage where she’ll sometimes leave the room during council votes, preferring to be recorded as ‘Absent.’ But it’s hard to hold that against her too much, given that a record of publicly opposing the mayor could very well cost her a seat on Ford’s Executive Committee. And it was her public stance against Doug Ford’s Ferris Wheel Dream that finally swayed things on the waterfront file in September.

But my other pick, long-time Liberal Party member Berardinetti, has blazed her own trail. In the past couple of weeks, she’s come out smiling as the “compassionate” flag-bearer of Rob Ford’s 2012 budget, a role that requires some giant-sized leaps of logic and ideology.

To wit: She waged a vociferous public war against the availability of “Hollywood” movies at the Toronto Public Library, calling for a $2 charge for titles like — and these are her examples — Rambo and Little Fockers. She acknowledged that such a charge would require a change to provincial law, but when she attempted to get MPPs on board, her efforts were roundly shot down. She later engaged in an on-air battle with Councillor Adam Vaughan on NewsTalk 1010, in which she denied voting to close a library in his ward last year, despite the official record indicating that she did, in fact, vote to close the Urban Affairs Library. She denounced Vaughan’s use of the phrase “War on Children” to describe the 2012 budget, despite her own council campaign pushing a message that David Miller waged an “attack on motorists.” And on Josh Matlow’s radio show on Sunday, she spoke glowingly of Ford’s former Chief of Staff Nick Kouvalis, and raised no immediate objection when the spin doctor suggested cutting the entire Toronto Environmental Office to pay for school nutrition programs. Her December 2011 newsletter to constituents includes a section on the 2012 budget that reads like it came directly from the mayor’s office.

Perhaps the best example of her new brand of compassionate fiscal conservatism came when she floated (to the Toronto Sun) a proposal to encourage retailers to donate revenue from the mandatory five cent plastic bag fee back to City Hall, to cover the cost of programs that are currently on the chopping block. Not a terrible idea on the surface of it, but it continues the disturbing trend where Ford-allied councillors seek to boost recently-eliminated city revenues with voluntary fees and donations, as if you can run a $10 billion corporation like a branch of UNICEF.

(In the midst of all this, Berardinetti also appeared alongside the mayor in a National Ballet of Canada production of The Nutcracker. This might be notable as an indication of just how deep into the mayor’s inner circle Berardinetti is these days, but she and Ford deserve nothing but praise for their appearance. It was a really cool thing for both to do.)

All this brings to mind only one question: Why? After Berardinetti’s husband was returned to Queen’s Park in October — the venerable Liberal brand victorious over the once-mighty Ford Nation — there was a reasonable expectation that she may start pulling back. The mayor’s less-than-stellar poll numbers in recent months certainly don’t make for a compelling case for throwing your lot in with the Rob Ford crew. And while the mayor is definitely more popular in Scarborough than he is in other parts of the city, neighbouring councillors like Raymond Cho and Glenn De Baeremaeker (and sometimes Chin Lee) don’t seem to be taking much flack from constituents over their opposition.

So maybe Berardinetti’s support isn’t a game of political calculus or hedging her bets but rather just, you know, sincerity. Maybe she’s found a way to reconcile her Liberal Party roots with the Ford brand of politics at City Hall. But then again: if it’s possible for a card-carrying Liberal to unreservedly embrace the policies and outlook of one of the most conservative mayors Toronto has ever seen — a guy with a photo of Mike Harris hanging in his office — what the hell does that say about the Liberal Party?


15
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.


24
May 11

Berardinetti doing all she can to fly under the radar

One of the opposition’s many victories at council last week came on Thursday, when councillors voted 18 to 17 to use ultraviolet light technology at the Ashbridges Bay treatment plant. Staff had recommended the city use the same chlorine process they use at other treatment facilities which, plainly, sucks for the environment.

Though Giorgio Mammoliti gave the item his trademark thumbs down, it still passed narrowly. Helped along by the ten councillors who were absent at the time of the vote — six of whom would, presumably, have sided with the mayor and Mammoliti’s thumb –, the deciding vote came from a somewhat unlikely source.

The Toronto Sun’s Don Peat:

While Ford and his loyalists tried to sway the vote, a member of his own executive committee, Councillor Michelle Berardinetti, cast the deciding vote for the costlier option.

Berardinetti told the Sun Friday she felt the UV technology made sense.

“Is it a notch up? I think that it is,” she said.

But knowing now that she was the deciding vote, Berardinetti, a budget committee member, said she probably would have voted differently.

via City opts for costlier, cleaner way to treat water | Toronto & GTA | News | Toronto Sun. [Emphasis added.]

First: What kind of politician admits to the media that their vote on an important environmental measure would have been different, had said politician known the measure was actually going to pass?

Second: I hope the residents of Ward 35 are proud of their councillor, who stands by her principles but only when she’s pretty sure her vote won’t make a difference.

Third, and confidential to Berardinetti: From what we’ve seen, we rather like your principles. I understand that the politician calculations you’re making hinge on a number of things — the mayor’s huge support among your constituents, your husband’s electoral future, and the committee seats you’ve been given by the mayor’s office — but why even hold the office if not to stand up for what you believe in?


18
May 11

Burning bridges at Fort York

The Toronto Star’s Daniel Dale:

Despite the support of developers, history buffs and hundreds of local residents, Councillor Mike Layton’s effort to save the Fort York pedestrian and cyclist bridge was rejected by council Wednesday.

City staff will now try to find a lower-cost alternative to the $23 million bridge that had been scheduled for completion in 2012, the bicentennial of the War of 1812. But a different bridge could not be built until 2015, and Layton said he considers the project dead.

via Fort York bridge dead, councillor says – thestar.com.

So it’s dead. They killed it, following a 22-23 vote. (It wasn’t as close as it might seem — a two-thirds majority was required to save the item.) It was obvious that, despite near-heroic efforts, Councillor Mike Layton wouldn’t be able to command the votes after Councillor Michelle Berardinetti twittered the following:

Fort York Bridge would be beautiful if not a $2.5billion debt that will expand to $4billion in 3 years. As Member of Budget can't support.
@CouncillorMB
MichelleBerardinetti

Berardinetti, along with Councillor Jaye Robinson, has served as a good indicator of the strength of the mayor’s whip on any given item. With her on side, it was clear that this was going to come down to the same old left-versus-right divide.

Very disappointing, and not a good sign at all for those of us who value the innovative and ambitious work going on across the city’s waterfront.


14
Mar 11

Family matters at City Council

The Toronto Star’s Robyn Doolittle speaks to Councillor Michelle Berardinetti, who in addition to being a total Ford loyalist also happens to married to a Liberal MPP:

By accepting the position on Ford’s executive, Berardinetti says she was agreeing to side with the mayor. So far, it hasn’t been a problem, because Ford has strong support in her ward.

But would that change if the mayor sics “Ford Nation” on her husband’s seat?

“I don’t think he will,” she said.

But if he does?

“I really think that was just Rob being Rob,” said Berardinetti.

via City councilor must choose between Rob Ford or her husband — in politics – thestar.com.

I knew there was a reason municipal politicians tend to stay out of provincial and federal races. It can backfire.

With this upcoming provincial election, though, Ford wouldn’t be able to stay out of it if he wanted to. The Progressive Conservatives are already using him symbolically — cut the gravy! Respect for taxpayers! Blah blah blah –, and the “Respect for Taxpayers Action Group” that Nick Kouvalis is putting together seems to be gaining steam.

If the provincial election pushes Berardinetti away from the mayor and into the ‘mushy middle,’ it becomes a whole lot more difficult for the mayor’s office to wield control.