In an Ask Me Anything session, the mayoral candidate talked about transit, the police budget, open data, and more.
This afternoon mayoral candidate David Soknacki took part in a Reddit AMA—that is, Ask Me Anything—during which he answered questions from the Reddit community on everything from the Downtown Relief Line to the police budget to Mayor Rob Ford. Here are some raw highlights from the Q and A…
As a mayoral candidate for Toronto, would you support tolls for those who commute into our city with the money directed soley to road and transit issues? Why/why not? — from Myplaidsocks
Soknacki: My position is that I would support tolls for new infrastructure. I don’t think it’s fair to toll for existing infrastructure as that penalizes people who are already living and working in particular places.
I would support tolls for the construction of new lanes, and will be announcing shortly that I would support a toll for single-car drivers to help pay to finish a completed lane (as opposed to the staggered lane now) for transit and HOV traffic on the DVP.
Could you please clarify your position on the downtown relief line? Are you in favour of it? If so will you push to get it built? — from guimonkey
Hi, I’ve been clear from the onset: the Downtown Relief Line is a priority. (Although, I like to call it a Commuter Relief Line since I feel Downtown Relief Line is a bit of a misnomer considering it doesn’t just benefit the downtown core.) And yes, I will push to get it built.
Is a downtown relief line the first transit project you would implement? Or are other subways/lrts a priority over the DRL? — from diakal
The DRL is our highest priority in terms of new infrastructure, whereas the Scarborough LRT is an existing project that is shovel ready.
So, to answer your question, the Scarb LRT would be implemented first because it is ready to be implemented right away.
Why aren’t you actively going after John Tory’s SmartTrack plan or Olivia Chow’s increased bus plan? — from Kittenuppy
My campaign has focused most of its energy on releasing positive ideas. Still, we’ll be prepared to draw some constructive contrasts soon.
For now: John’s plan simply isn’t practical for several reasons. It also will set our transit system back another decade by eating up more valuable time and delaying more projects that have already been engineered. I’ve actually already raised some concerns that were reported with Olivia’s bus plan months ago, including my concern that using older buses isn’t appropriate or practical for passengers with disabilities (which is one reason we were phasing those buses out to begin with).
I’m a software developer that works in the data visualization and analytics field. We frequently work with large data sets to help government organizations and private businesses solve their problems and I’m excited about your initiatives to try and provide more open data in helps of benefiting the city.
I’m curious on getting some more details on how you plan to distribute this data. It can be quite an expensive undertaking to put together data, especially when privacy issues come into play (eg/ making data anonymous). What sort of benefits do you see coming out of the open data program and, if elected, what would be your first steps in getting city organizations on board to distribute their data? — from nocturne81
Thanks for the question, and it’s one of my favorites. I think Toronto has really fallen behind other cities on taking advantage of new technology on all fronts. Some public servants at City Hall are doing great work, but without political leadership that’s friendly to technology, they can only do so much.
1. The issues with privacy aren’t insurmountable. Other cities have already solved many of them.
2. When I’m elected Mayor, I’ll be willing to invest the upfront money to make open data and other innovation policies work, because I believe they’ll pay for themselves in better quality services, better accountability and better civic strategy for the long term.
3. The first step, as recommended by my friends in the open data world (thanks for all your help, Mark R) is to write open data deliverables into every senior manager’s contract.
4. The second step: get the Partnership Office working on the innov8TO competition so that it’s ready to partner startups with city departments within the first year.
5.The third step: get a budget passed so we’ll have funding for an innovation unit to help identify the fourth step.
You’ve released a few policy papers indicating your position on certain issues – what do you think Toronto’s most pressing issue is? put another way, what would your first task as Mayor be? — from travellent
The priority issue is breaking up gridlock on our streets, in our transit system, and breaking up political gridlock at City Hall. But the first thing I will do is meet with the Chair of the Police Services Board, since my plan to invest in transit and other services partly depends on getting work done quickly on plans to save money from the police budget.
There have been a couple of shootings at nights here in my area in the past few weeks. There have been more reported in other areas too. This is really scary for me and my family especially because my brother comes home from work at around midnight and there are times when I stay out until 1 or 2 in the morning. If elected, what can you do to make us feel safer and how are you planning to do this with your arranged police budget cut?
— from IAmThe6thDJ
I do not propose any cuts in our front line officer strength.
While our streets are becoming safer, we have not reduced crime nearly as well as other large cities. My reasons for sitting on the police services board goes much beyond dollars and cents, we have not reviewed how we undertake our policing for a generation. I expect and hope the strategic review that we undertake of our policing will give our police the tools and incentives to further reduce crime and make residents feel safer.
What would you do to make our city more aesthetically pleasing, such as encouraging street art and less ugly condos? — from Amir616
The other day, I confirmed that one of my arts planks will be a plan called “Artcity Wide” to find 416 public spaces – stages, walls for paintings, corners for sculpture, library shelves for new publications, you name it, across all corners of Toronto. These spaces will be permanently accessible for free for individual artists on a rotating basis, or in the long term with arts partnerships. I think this will take four years to pick all 416, by the way, but we can start with some in year one.
A lot of the conversation about public art is focused on how to fund it. I want to start a new conversation about finding more public places for the art that’s already out there.
You’ve been able to excite a lot of people with your honesty (e.g. about funding sources) about detailed (but terribly unsexy) reports. How do you think your campaign strategy would have to change if you were closer to competing with the big 3 candidates? — from GeorgeBrettLawrie
My campaign staff has been straight up with the media and anyone who asked on this as to why we are doing things our way. If we’d run a conventional campaign, we’d have lost steam already.
The policy papers serve to reassure the most committed, engaged voters that I’m serious and that I have real, credible ideas to fix our problems. Most Toronto voters will be making their decision in the fall, and so now that I’ve released a housing policy (for example), I don’t need to spell out eighteen points anymore. Now, I can say “I have a credible housing and homelessness plan” for two months and anyone who wants more detail can have a look. The work we’ve done before August will make it easier to be more crisp and to campaign more conventionally into September.
Also, I like policy papers.
If we’re coming down to the wire, and the polls suggest those voting for you could be a key difference maker in Rob Ford being elected, or not, will you throw your support behind another candidate, to prevent that outcome? — from ElitistRobot
People had already written me off in March or April, and we’re still growing, so I’m going to take these challenges as they come. As my campaign manager keeps reminding me, we still have two months left until Election Day. No one would ask voters to rush to judgment before a campaign for a provincial election without seeing the campaign first. We have two provincial campaigns worth of time left to prove ourselves.
Do you worry that your plan to hold City Hall more accountable for it’s spending/ethics will alienate you and work against you like it did for Ford? — from kyuuzousama
Ford didn’t hold City Hall accountable for its spending and ethics. He did the opposite.
It’s not just a failure by the Mayor, it’s also a failure of his tactics. Take the example of when I got a motion passed when I was on Council to end nepostic hiring by councillors of their own family members into their own offices. There was plenty of opposition, but I was able to get it to passed because I worked constructively with moderates and made reform the priority. For Mr. Ford, picking fights and taking credit has been more important than actual long term change.
An earlier version of this post stated that Soknacki had answered a question about the Wu-Tang Clan. The question was in fact posed during a previous AMA session. We regret the error.