Today Sat Sun
It is forecast to be Partly Cloudy at 11:00 PM EDT on August 22, 2014
Partly Cloudy
24°/18°
It is forecast to be Chance of Rain at 11:00 PM EDT on August 23, 2014
Chance of Rain
21°/18°
It is forecast to be Partly Cloudy at 11:00 PM EDT on August 24, 2014
Partly Cloudy
23°/17°

42 Comments

politics

Dear Councillors: Please Keep it Together

On Monday, city council will debate changes to the TTC. Councillors who are committed to rational transit planning must set aside personal ambition, and maintain their unity, in deciding who should sit on the new board.

As became abundantly clear on Friday afternoon, the coalition of councillors who came together nearly a month ago to rescue light rail from the dust bin of Toronto’s failed transit projects is facing a new and urgent challenge. On Monday, city council will debate wholesale changes to the TTC board, including a proposal by current chair Karen Stintz to dissolve it and reconstitute a new board with seven freshly endorsed councillors (four citizen members would join the board later this year). This, in turn, is a response to Rob Ford and his Executive Committee allies, who want to shift to a board where citizen appointees hold the majority, or perhaps all of the seats. If the coalition is to ensure their light rail decision sticks, they will need to show the same kind of resolve and unity on Monday that they have demonstrated previously, set aside personal ambition, and agree on a slate of candidates that can ensure that light rail decision is implemented properly.

The cost of failing: lose all the momentum that has developed for evidence-based transit planning, and cede a great deal of ground to Ford and his fiscally irresponsible, ideologically blinkered commitment to build underground, or nothing at all.

The risks inherent in Monday’s vote became apparent last week, when the coalition that supported light rail revealed itself to be uncomfortably disorganized. The Globe and Mail reported that Councillor Josh Matlow (Ward 22, St. Paul’s) had worked with Stintz to create a slate of councillors that they would be putting forward as the proposed new members of the TTC board. That list—which the Globe got from Matlow, and which it reported he had passed along with Stintz’s blessing—included the four existing TTC board members who had supported Gary Webster (Stintz, John Parker, Peter Milczyn, and Maria Augimeri), along with three others: Glenn de Baeremaeker, Joe Mihevc, and Josh Colle. That slate—comprised of three left-leaning councillors and four centre-right councillors, and included representation from all four regions of the city—would have stood a good chance of being approved by council had it come before council.

Unfortunately, minutes after the news broke, that plan fell entirely apart. First Josh Colle said he didn’t think Stintz would put forward any such proposal. Another councillor on the slate didn’t know they were on it until they learned of the Globe‘s article. And by the end of the afternoon, Stintz issued a statement in which she said she would still move for the seven councillor, four citizen plan, but not propose any slate of candidates to fill the TTC board seats.

This is a recipe for disaster.

Debates on the floor of council can be messy at the best of times. Debates when 44 individual councillors are potentially angling for one of the most influential assignments available to them, without any concerted plan for apportioning those seats to reflect political or geographic diversity, are doomed to devolve into shouting matches in which everyone loses sight of the larger goals in play.

The TTC needs a board which is stable, and which is aligned with the will of council. To that extent, Stintz is right to propose that the board be dissolved and remade. In light of last month’s light rail decision—a vote which council endorsed and the TTC board’s members rejected—the current situation is untenable. As we saw with Gary Webster’s dismissal, this is a TTC board that is actively seeking to undermine the decisions of city council, and that way further chaos lies.

Council has taken a while to find its footing as it tries to navigate the contentious mayoralty of Rob Ford. As attested to by the repeal of the Vehicle Registration Tax, when only six councillors opposed Ford, many even left-leaning councillors were willing to back him on issues that were central to his candidacy in his early days in office. But ever since Doug Ford showed up one day with fantastical plans to replace mixed-use waterfront development with Ferris wheels and monorails—sacrificing years of careful planning and community consultation on an altar of impatience and faith-based mathematics—they have shown themselves increasingly confident in their voices, increasingly capable of bridging political (and sometimes personal) divides to come to consensus on key issues.

It isn’t the same group every time—Stintz supported the mayor on his budget, for instance—nor does it need to be. But over a sequence of key decisions (the waterfront, the budget, light rail, community housing) we’ve seen a stable and growing alliance of councillors who are earning the trust their constituents put in them, by proving that they will decide based on evidence and constituent engagement rather than a show of hands at Timmies.

This vote, about the composition of the TTC board, will be tricker than most. Appointments always are, for there are always more people who want the high-profile jobs than there are seats at the table. That is why this is the biggest test the coalition has yet faced, and why they run the largest risk of seeing the goals they share undermined. Some councillors will need, simply, to give up their ambitions. In a free-for-all debate, that is just not going to happen. The councillors who are committed to an evidence-based future for transit planning in Toronto need to settle on a slate of candidates for the TTC board, and they need to stick to it when they get to the floor of council. It won’t be fun, but it is necessary.

Leadership doesn’t always mean taking the chair at the front of the room. Sometimes it’s the decision to let someone else take it.

Comments

  • David

    Who sets the qualifications of the citizens who will sit on the board, who decides whether an applicant meets the qualifications, who decides the term of the appointment and who decides the circumstances that allow a citizen to be removed before the end of the appointed term. This question applies no matter how many citizens sit on the board.

  • Guest

    “Some councillors will need, simply, to give up their ambitions.”
    So… basically we’re screwed.

  • Anonymous

    If there’s a lesson in this, it’s in the importance of sound leadership. As the past few weeks have shown, ad hoc coalitions of councillors can find ways to work around the mayor on this issue or that, but frequently it’ll be at the cost of a coherent vision for the city. And ideally, it wouldn’t be necessary.

    John Michael McGrath and Adam Chaleff-Freudenthaler are both worth reading on this.

  • Davidalexander

    I wish rob ford would get a clue and start being the mayor rather than trying to play dictator. This is beyond tired, the whole ttc issue. Council has voted and debated too many times, start building lrt already! We have the money for lrt so I dont get why the mayor is so obsessed when everyone voted for lrt and they represent the city. This is all suspicious and tired at this point, I wish we could just start expanding transit already. Lrt all the way! I dont want to pay for a subway Im not going to use or could have lrt for free. I take whats free!! (except for the transit fare, which is already going up, up, up, enough already!!

    • D Lorac

      If you want to build LRT’s build them in Downtown Toronto but keep them out of Scarborough, Etobicoke, and North York!!!!!!

      • Anonymous

        This is possibly the dumbest thing I’ve ever read on this issue, excluding comments from the twinmayors, of course.

      • http://piorkowski.ca qviri

        We’d love to. Can we start with Jarvis?

      • Anonymous

        I live in Scarborough, and I want many kilometres of LRT, not a couple of more stops cobbled onto the end of the Sheppard line before we all go broke.

        Thanks for asking.

      • Anonymous

        You said you’re from Scarb? I’m from North York – STFU and don’t speak for our community.

      • Anonymous

        Someone has missed the entire point.

  • D Lorac

    I really do not care who is on the board as long as they drop any plans for LRT’s!!!
    I agree with not spending more than one can afford but I find it disturbing, though, that the downtown city counselors led by Stintz are thumbing their noses at the suburbs and, as they ride their fast already completed subways, effectively tell the rest of the city to “Eat Cake”. If we don’t have the money now then only build part of it until the money can be found to do the rest, but don’t do as Stintz is trying to do, spend good money to force cheap LRT’s on a suburb population that doesn’t want them!!!!!

    • Anonymous

      Councillor Stintz is not a downtown Councillor.
      Councillor Parker is not a downtown Councillor.
      Councillor Pasternak is not a downtown Councillor.
      Councillor Robinson is not a downtown Councillor.
      Councillor Lee is not a downtown Councillor.
      Councillor Colle is not a downtown Councillor.
      Councillor Matlow is not a downtown Councillor.
      Councillor Cho is not a downtown Councillor.
      Councillor Peruzza is not a downtown Councillor.
      Councillor De Baeremaeker is not a downtown Councillor.
      Councillor Carroll is not a downtown Councillor.
      Councillor Augimeri is not a downtown Councillor.
      Councillor Filion is not a downtown Councillor.

      All of these suburban Councillors voted for the LRT plan. (Councillor Lindsay Luby is also not a downtown Councillor and would have voted for the LRT plan if she hadn’t been on vacation for the special Council meeting.)

      Why? They listen to their constituents, and not the mayor.

      • D Lorac

        Stintz’s riding is in an older part of the City around Lawrence between existing Spadina and Young Subways. To me this is definitely Downtown! (Yes It was called North Toronto before the suburbs joined.) Anything in the old City of Toronto and especially near an existing subway line I consider Downtown.
        It is my information that not ONE of the controllers who voted for LRT’s is from a riding where they are going to be put!!! I think we have a very different definition of what we consider “downtown”.

        • Neil

          LRTs (assuming Sheppard as well) will go through the wards of Parker, Carroll, Lee, Cho and Peruzza who all voted for it.

          Ford’s Sheppard subway will go mainly only through Carroll and Kelly’s wards, only one of which did.

        • Anonymous

          is Finch considered “downtown”???!11?!?!?!?!!? Don Mills???!?!?!?!?!!? last time I checked they had subways stops!!!!!!!!

        • Fred

          I guess to you, “downtown” includes everything between Mississaugua and Pickering south of Newmarket?

    • Anonymous

      Really! Your argument is downtown has a subway, a subway that also goes into the suburbs, There should be one built in the suburbs, I am assuming it is the Sheppard line you want. Regardless of the need for one, you just want one.
      What else is there downtown that you want, a union station, build one in Etobicoke, Northyork and Scarborough, no need for them but why not they just build them Do you also want a Rogers centre, a CN tower, City Hall, Queens Park. Hey what about ripping a Gardiner Expressway through the suburbs, bulldozing those bucolic cul de sacs and build 50, 60, 70 story towers.
      Why not build what is really needed that is downtown also, affordable community housing and shelters.

      • D Lorac

        If you read carefully I didn’t ask for anything, only to PLEASE Do Not spend the good money Toronto is getting from the Province to give the suburbs something ( the LRT’s ) that they don’t want!!!

        • Anonymous

          I live in Scarborough, and read my lips: I DO want LRTs. So do lots of others who live here. People who understand that LRTs are our best, and perhaps even last hope of getting better transit in our lifetime.

          If you want subways, you pony up the dough for them. Scarborough does not have a claim to all of the $8.4-billion committed by the province for transit in all of Toronto.

          Stop acting like a selfish two-year old.

          • D Lorac

            Being from Scarborough also, I have met the odd person with views such as yours but not many.

          • Anonymous

            I have been to all the shopping malls and Tim Hortons in Scarborough on the weekend, and trust me on this, all the people are saying they want an LRT running down the middle of Eglinton Ave E.. They’re very jealous of the new streetcar line on St. Clair, but they want something that’s even better: LRT. They don’t want subways, and they especially don’t want a fake subway (buried LRT). They were running after me chanting “LRT! LRT!” They just want LRT, and they don’t want new taxes to pay for subways — that’s a guarantee.

        • Anonymous

          I did read it, you will need to be clearer about what you are getting at. You say you don’t want ‘cheap’ LRT’s. That rules out buses, streetcars, dedicated bus lanes, these are all cheaper the LRTs. Leaving subways. That leads me to concluded you want subways or public transit in the suburbs.

          • D Lorac

            To be very clear. You are Wrong when you say I rule out Buses and Dedicated bus lanes. I think these are much preferable to LRT’s and at a fraction of the cost (especially for the suburbs). If I had my way I would scrap all new LRT’s in favor of Express Busses and rush-hour Dedicated Lanes and put the savings towards expanding the Subway System.

          • Anonymous

            So you have changed you mind, LRTs are not ‘cheap’ just less costly then subways. You would prefer a less efficient transit model that will move less people and take longer to get people to their destination. Maybe you can explain how a dedicated bus lanes take up less room then a LRT, and how buses sharing the road will help re-leave congestion and make faster more reliable transit?
            Since you say you support subways, does that mean you are not in support of an unneeded subway along Sheppard and will support a downtown relief line. One that starts in the east/west end, makes it way to union station and back to the east/west end

          • D Lorac

            LRT’s are definitely “cheap” and I mean it in the broad sense, not just in terms of money to build. In terms of the long term value that they offer to Toronto I could easily argue that LRT’s are perhaps the most expensive route to go.
            - In answer to your question about my support for the Sheppard Subway, although I definitely support the shorter extension to meet up with the Spadina line and to Victoria Park (the boarder of Scarborough) I am afraid that at this time, based on cost and need, it is hard to justify the expense of extending it further (even though it can probably be justified more than the Spadina extension we are currently building). That said Please do not take this that I favor a LRT instead.

          • http://piorkowski.ca qviri

            Just wondering how you feel about a Downtown Relief Line, in terms of value that it offers to Toronto?

      • D Lorac

        PS. Personally, although I favor extending the Sheppard line the short distance to Victoria Park to get it past the DVP and alleviate that current congestion. From the Scarborough border along Sheppard I believe that an Express Buss Route would be the superior way to proceed at present at a fraction of the cost of LRT’s.
        PPS. Yes I do live is Scarborough.

        • Anonymous

          Lemme guess!!!??? too!!!! you don’t use the TTC???!!!! because it’s not reliable!!! right???!!!???

          • maltodextrin

            Could you please cut down on the unnecessary extra punctuation? Or maybe just take your meds?

        • http://twitter.com/natekelly Nathan Kelly

          Here’s your choice, D Lorac, you can have:

          (a) A dedicated line LRT system that has been carefully planned, funded, and can be built in your lifetime.

          OR

          (b) You can wait 45 minutes for a bus stuck in traffic while hoping for an unfunded subway dream that will never happen.

          Everyone wants subways. All the actual, legitimate planning and figures support LRTs. It’s not an ideological decision. It’s the right decision based on all available evidence.

          • D Lorac

            Sorry Nathan! Agree that there is a limit to what we can afford regarding Subways but STRONGLY disagree that LRT’s are the best alternative.

          • Anonymous

            The best alternative is to buy each citizen their own car and pay for the insurance.

            Better yet, how about teleportation?

    • Anonymous

      What specific page of the analysis in the Sheppard Finch LRT Benefits Case do you disagree with? It justifies the current LRT plan in a very clear, evidence based way.

      • D Lorac

        As a starting point the “Sheppard Finch LRT Benefits Case” considers five different options all which include LRT’s and doesn’t look into alternatives. I could make a lot of other comments but that, I think, speaks for itself.

        • Anonymous

          One of the options includes a subway extension, and the opening analysis gives the reasons why subways didn’t make the final cut. So respond to those reasons, if you think they’re wrong. I’ll give you credit for actually looking at a document, which is a degree of effort that most subway advocates seem incapable of.

          • D Lorac

            I’d like to continue this discussion as it seems there might be someone out-there that doesn’t have a closed mind, but I have an appointment and have to go for now.

          • Anonymous

            Run away and hide, just like Ford.

        • Anonymous

          After literally decades of debate and study, we finally reached a point where we had/have a plan (formerly known as Transit City), that was recently approved by Council.

          The province has committed the funding and is standing by. We need to get started on it now, so there will be desperately needed improvements to transit in the foreseeable future.

          I’m really sorry (and mystified) you missed all that, but to demand a time out so you can go back to square one and reconsider “alternatives” to your personal satisfaction just smacks of obstructionism.

          • Want A Better City

            The Report we are referring to is dated June 17, 2009. (Hardly decades) This was an election issue and the people voted to go a different direction, I hardly call reconsidering one’s alternatives, in these circumstances, anything but prudent.

          • http://piorkowski.ca qviri

            I thought The People voted to stop the gravy train and respect the taxpayers, not to bury money in the ground.

  • Anonymous

    Bears on trikes juggling bowling pins. That’s all I think of now when council debates anything.

  • Anonymous

    One of the first things Ford did as mayor was kill off citizen advisory committees, now he wants to replace councillors with them?