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.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Today is the Mayoral election in Toronto

The likelihood is that John Tory, a more traditional candidate will win as all four of the major local newspapers endorsed him over Olivia Chow, Doug Ford, and other candidates ("There's no excuse to skip this Toronto campaign-season finale," Globe and Mail).

Christopher Hume, the urban design writer for the Toronto Star, suggests that Olivia Chow would be a better choice, because while transit was perhaps the biggest agenda item ("Transit tracks high as voter priority but platforms underwhelm," Star) during the campaign (other than Rob Ford and the Ford Nation), dealing with poverty and inequality is perhaps one of the city's most serious issues going forward.

Toronto's municipal politics have been insane for the past four years with the election of suburban resident Rob Ford as Mayor.  He junked the "Transit City" expansion initiative of the previous government--although it turns out in a weak mayor system he didn't have that power--and on transit and most other issues, including his false statements that billions of dollars of waste present in government would allow for significant tax reductions, and government move towards standstill.

Over the past couple years, Ford was implicated in drug use, and he took a leave of absence for a stay in rehabilitation.  He was running for reelection, but then was diagnosed as having cancer, so he stepped out of the campaign for Mayor and asked his brother Doug to run in his place.

Suburban-urban divide.  Interestingly, the election of Rob Ford shows one of the problems that can come from the merger of center city and suburban jurisdictions into a consolidated "center city" as the suburban electorate tends to be larger than the number of residents in the center city.

In the case of Toronto and London, the suburbs vote Conservative and the inner city votes progressive ("Life after Ford: A City As Divided As Ever," Toronto Globe and Mail).  Although note that the outer suburbs and cities, not part of Toronto's consolidated city, are expected to vote for candidates affiliated with the Liberal Party ("Red wave of mayors expected to sweep across 905 cities," Globe and Mail).

From the article
Mr. Ford’s simplistic promises to fight for taxpayers, run city hall like a business, and “stop the gravy train” struck a chord with many voters. If he had a history of off-kilter behaviour and ugly rants, many voters were too fed up to care. Mr. Ford took 47 per cent of the vote, easily besting second-place George Smitherman, a former Ontario deputy premier, who took 36 per cent. “People took the biggest hand grenade they could find and they threw it,” says pollster Darrell Bricker, chief executive of Ipsos Public Affairs.

Their anxieties and frustrations have not gone away. Toronto is, by almost any measure, a fantastically successful city. ... But as it grows, Toronto is changing, and not everyone is happy about it. Established, older residents in the car-dependent suburbs see their way of life under threat amid all the chatter about the evils of the automobile and the virtues of urban density. New immigrants often find it hard to get a foot on the first rungs of the economic ladder. Young couples despair of ever owning a house in a market where a narrow Victorian on a treed downtown street can go for more than a million dollars. People everywhere fume about the congested roads and crowded subways, buses and streetcars.
Would allowing local municipal political parties help Toronto?  At the local level, Ontario doesn't allow for the formation of municipal political parties ("Province urged to allow municipal political parties," National Post). In other provinces the rule is that provincial and federal parties can't have municipal affiliates.  Instead, locally focused parties can be created and are distinct from national and provincial parties.

Montreal and Vancouver are known for having particularly active and municipally-focused parties. And while local politics isn't necessarily perfect in those cities (Montreal went through a massive pay-for-play bribery scandal recently) by contrast in Toronto, it's a free for all.

Having local parties would be less worse than the current practice of political disaggregation and disorganization.

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At 9:13 AM, Anonymous charlie said...

Another take:

and then to DC:

We have argued before whether Barry=Grey=Bowser, and there is a substantial portion of DC politics that consists of "There is a big pot of money so let's take it and divvy it up".

In fact, you can argue that Williams was the only mayor NOT of that party, since Fenty (and Pratt Kelly) were mostly just about divvying it up to different people.

At 2:48 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

Absolutely. The people supporting Fenty were expecting to get back into the contracting game. Their fury with Fenty in 2010 was not about his "pandering to whitey" even though it was couched that way, it was about access to contracts and their feeling that they got dissed, because Fenty gave contracts to his fraternity buddies and training partners, with a soupcon going to people in W4 that he had worked with as a Councilmember.

Williams had his thing too (Moogoo, the Sang Oh Choi group, etc.) but he was for the most part focused on outcomes.

2. will check out the Guardian piece, thanks for the cite. Haven't read the Post article yet...

At 6:57 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

The G article is interesting and raises a good point. From the articles I've been reading in the Star, Olivia Chow hasn't run a great campaign and isn't good on the stump.

But the general point about immigrants not being seen in terms of elected officials, I think has to do with the reality that first generation immigrants take a long time to be eligible to vote.

It happens I was at a workshop on Saturday, and some late arrivals sat at my table. One was Deni Tavares, who is the Democratic nominee for a council seat in PG County. She beat an old white guy (Doyle Neimann, a good guy), to replace Will Campos, who is term limited out. It was a hard fought campaign with big GOTV efforts.

But I imagine her campaign was majorly assisted by forces associated with CASA de Maryland, which is based in that area and is well organized and well connected. And I guess that part of PG County now has a goodly number of Latinos eligible to vote.

In DC, many of the immigrants aren't eligible to vote.

Look how long it took to get a Hispanic mayor in Los Angeles. But Gil Garcetti, Antonio Villaraigosa, is Hispanic and majority white/Jewish-Italian, so we have a ways to go to see how politics there plays out.

Same with the power of the Hispanic vote in the Southwest such as in Arizona and Texas, etc.


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