Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Could the debacle of Mayor Rob Ford in Toronto lead to Toronto's de-amalgamation?

The planner in me likes "efficiency" so I am attracted to the idea of city-county amalgamation for a variety of reasons like cheaper services, better harmonization of tax revenues so that as people and business leave "the city" the city isn't crushed by the loss of revenue, etc.

But the downside of such amalgamations is that cities tend to be more "progressive" politically than suburbs, even if by comparison to exurban and rural areas, suburban residents are still more "liberal" than they are conservative.  For example, in Virginia, Richmond, the Hampton Roads area (which is dominated by military bases), and Northern Virginia all vote pretty Democratic, which is why the State has Democratic senators and voted for President Obama.  But it's all relative.  They are less progressive than DC residents, say.

2010 Election Results, Toronto Mayoral raceImage of the 2010 election results in Toronto from Torontoist.

So this means that in amalgamated city-counties, suburban more conservative voters demographically overwhelm city voters, and the likely result is a more conservative mayor from the suburban regions.  This happens in Toronto and it happens in London in the UK.

The core of the city votes progressive, the outskirts conservative, and the conservatives win because more people live in the outer city.  See the past blog entry, "City-county/County-city" for more discussion on thsi.

This article, "How Rob Ford's Meltdown Could Save Toronto: Mayor's latest outrageous behavior may be catalyst city needs to open de-amalgamation debate," from The Tyee, posits that the reason that Ontario's Premier forced the amalgamation of Toronto in the late 1990s was deliberate, designed to ensure that the suburban voters would dominate the inner city, and elect conservative mayors.

But because the current mayor, Rob Ford, is such a wacko, the author posits that maybe, just maybe, Toronto could get de-amalgamated.  This would cut costs and help the transit system, which is being forced to serve less dense suburban areas, which is much more costly than serving Toronto's dense core.

So much for my theoretical desires for efficiency.

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At 12:06 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

over the years as more affluent people move into DC proper I expect the city's political stances to change- albeit-gradually to more conservative. As the surrounding suburbs become home to more less well off one would expect more liberal voters in the long run. These changes are all too recent for this to happen- but they might.

At 12:27 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

also- I think that it might be an interesting outside of the box idea for DC to consider exapanding instead of seeking "statehood"- perhaps emlarging the city out to the beltway. This would give us millions of residents and make it one of the largest cities in the US. Stranger events have taken might be a better alternative to the quagmire we are in now.

At 1:13 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

that would be great (expansion) but it will never happen.

Although I had an interesting conversation with one of my grand jury mates, who hypothesized about DC getting back Alexandria and Arlington County VA. There's lots of money there, but by losing those two communities, NoVA would become a bit more conservative and that might appeal to VA's rural dominated legislature.

It'd be great for DC though.

2. wrt the other point about DC becoming "more conservative." It is happening. First, with successive waves of Republicans and the staff etc. that follow along, the city captures more of these cohorts over time. (It's one reason why I think that property rights sentiments increase, and historic pres. runs into problems.)

The second is the kind of libertarian technological determinism of the young in-migrants (the kind of people who write for GGW, etc.). It has a conservative edge to it maybe.

At 2:54 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

yes you are correct and I hav enoticed this conservatism happening a lot more and more in DC. The upside to this is that the Congress would more likely give us more rights as conservatives are seen as more upstanding and less flagrant WRT urban affairs- just look at Marion Barry as example. The democrats following him are democrats in name only.


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