Friday, 2 March 2012

Counting the votes: Gloria Lindsay Luby edition

When Gary Webster was fired last week I spoke to some councillors beforehand and afterwards for a piece on the day's events that I was hoping to sell to a publication. Between one thing and another that didn't happen, but I had a really interesting conversation with Etobicoke councillor Gloria Lindsay Luby. 

I'm reminded of that conversation because chatter on Twitter between Matt Elliott and John McGrath pointed to the March 21 vote on the Sheppard line potentially being close. As McGrath writes at OpenFile, Pasternak will support team Ford on this, but they'll need Lindsay Luby and others to flip too. 

Given how they voted to not excuse her from the special transit vote and the interview below, I say she's not in a sympathetic place when it comes to Team Ford:

How do you feel about this process [of hypothetically firing Gary Webster]?
I think it's disgusting. He's very competent. He's an engineer. I find him- and I've been through two previous managers- to be definitely the best. He listens, he's conciliatory, he wants to help and he's knowledgeable. 

I think they just want to hire someone who is going to kiss the mayor's ring. That's just not the way it works. 

Do you see this as payback for the council vote [to affirm the 2009 LRT MoA]?
I do not understand what goes through their minds, I really don't. I don't even want to try (she laughs). 

There seems to be a governance approach that, for the lack of a better term, has an element of spite to it. 
The vindictiveness is very clear. Whether it is to members of council or to staff. Do as I say. 

Do you feel that personally as well? 
Oh sure. Oh definitely. 

In what ways does that manifest itself? 
Many ways, actually. Whether it's specifically to vote against me on certain things, yeah, I do feel it. 

What advice would you give to the Ford administration to turn this around? 
Learn to work with council. 

So what are the best ways to reach out to council? 
Just because a mayor is elected on a platform doesn't mean all members of council have to follow that platform. We're all elected independently, so I'm going to be following what I think is the right thing not only for my constituents but for the city. We're not a bunch of bimbos that can be led by the nose. We're intelligent people and you have to deal with us intelligently. That's not what I'm seeing happen. 

You were a management consultant for a number of years. If you were doing a report on the management here at City Hall, what would it say? 
Well you have to look at two sides, the elected and staff side. I just can't put it into one word. There would be many, many recommendations. I find the hardest ones to deal with are on the elected side. That comes from an experience I had many years ago in a small municipality in New Brunswick where the elected members didn't get along with the mayor and the mayor basically didn't understand what he was doing. 

So, they had all sorts of issues and they called in the RCMP and it was a very complicated situation. The final analysis is we tried to get them to work together. But their election was coming up. And I said to members of council, if you want to run for mayor, just one of you do it, not all of you. Well you know what they did. None of them got elected. 

Don Cherry on pinkos

On Twitter last night, via Goldsbie, this video with Don Cherry on The Strombo Show was shared. In it, Cherry speaks about his inaugural address for mayor Rob Ford, what he means by 'pinkos' and blames G20 protesters for what happened in June 2010.

If it has any significance at all, Cherry provides an interesting amplification of a Fordian mindset.

Also, Cherry will be joining Twitter, so we might see more of this. 

How can you not trust this photo?

From David Rider/Toronto Star in this article:
Ford, Hudak and Mammoliti meet to discuss how they will not support any new taxes to fund their subway proposal. Nothing can go wrong here.  

Are taxes evil? Not so much.

Here I thought we were making so much progress. As the Ford brothers flail about trying to make their Sheppard subway proposal work, they inadvertently started an important conversation about taxation and revenue sources to invest in the city. When you have Norm Kelly talking about a sales tax and Rob Ford endorsing parking levies for the city, you've made legitimate progress in the conversation. 

Now, the Sheppard subway extension still won't happen for any number of reasons (funding, density and zoning among them) but at least we're going in the direction of talking about building infrastructure with the attached risk sacrifice applied to it. The Grid's Edward Keenan makes this explicit in this piece, where he shows what his family share of the various Sheppard subway plans would be: 
Put another way, the family capital cost for Ford's proposal is the equivalent of paying the VRT for 100 years. 
 This is the basis for a conversation about the value of a proposal and how much one is willing to contribute. To be fair, it's only the beginning of a conversation as it only looks at individual costs and not collective benefits, but it's a place to start thinking.

This, on the other hand, is not: 
 "We're against all taxes. All taxes are evil as far as I'm concerned." -Doug Ford on paying for the Sheppard extension
Whereas Keenan is willing to discuss the amount of taxation needed in real terms (and implicitly concludes it doesn't make much sense for him or his family) Ford rules out a conversation altogether. 

He uses loaded and emotional language to do so, calling taxes 'evil'. As Joe Mihevc said in this piece I did for The Grid, you can't begin to negotiate with something you think is evil. 

But there's a deeper thread here. Ford's sentiment speaks to a view of government that it can do nothing right and says that the social contract is only about individual freedoms and not collective responsibilities. 

We have shorthand sayings for these complex thoughts- Oliver Wendell Holmes's "Taxes are the price we pay for a civilized society" and Genesis' "I am my brother's keeper" come to mind. These sayings aren't fully fleshed out, but they capture the ethos that to belong to or to build something larger one must contribute to something larger than oneself. Without that underlying principle, there's no point in engaging with the likes of Edward Keenan or a conversation on civic discourse or policymaking in general. 

This is about more than just a subway or Doug's childish refusal to pay for something he wants (echoed by the Toronto Sun and real estate developers). The Doug Ford principle reduces citizens to islands where they struggle to defend themselves. 

And curiously, it's where the Ford administration finds itself politically. With an inability to make sacrifices and build bridges to collective interests, Team Ford is stuck playing in its own sandbox, kicking sand at those who pass by.