I keep seeing and hearing from progressives and people who want to make Toronto a better place lamenting that the 2018 election is already lost.
Let’s set aside that there are 188 days – just more than six months – until nominations even open for the 2018 municipal election and that there are 369 days – just over a year – until election day.
First of all we should recall how John Tory won. In short: barely, and only with the assistance of a constituency that votes against candidates rather than for them. What has Tory accomplished? For all of Tory’s fast talking, he has nothing substantive to point to in the last three years. Going into 2018 we see Tory on a charm offensive to try to sell hot air and a laughably easy to pop “vision”.
Part of the rationale for amalgamating the six Metro cities into the new City of Toronto in 1998 was that it would realize cost savings and efficiencies. As noted in the Chief Administrative Officers report on the amalgamation process to Council in 1999 seventy three percent of the value of the operating budget at the time of amalgamation had already been harmonized through programs and services operated at the Metro level of government. It was only within the remaining twenty seven percent that efficiencies could be derived.
Nearly twenty years later and the dream of a fully harmonized City of Toronto still eludes us with councillors fighting tooth and nail to preserve historically derived services that are exclusive to only a few communities within the city. Besides the cost implications there is also the questions of equality and fairness by having the residents of the whole city pay for services enjoyed only by residents in parts of the city.
You might be surprised to learn that it is. It is a Privately Owned Public Space – POPS for short – which means that although it is private property and maintained by a private owner it is meant to be a space which is accessible and used by the public.
But more and more owners of these spaces are going to great lengths to discourage the public from using these spaces. Designs that incorporate walls along the street, constructing gates and fences, and displaying signs that gives the impression that the space is for private use only.
Jennifer Keesmaat’s love and passion for urbanism cannot be doubted. Through her speeches she demonstrated a breadth of knowledge and experience that few possess. That she has made herself into a hero to urbanists, progressives, and the media cannot be denied. But as the Chief City Planner, a civil servant, I am glad to see her go.
Keesmaat viewed herself and her role not as being a Director in the Toronto Civil Service but as a Commissioner in an American style strong mayor administration, along with the publicity and prestige that such a public office holds; think Janette Sadik-Khan. However, because of the way that she ran her office, real damage has been done to the trust and integrity of the planning department and to Toronto’s transit system.