Mount Dennis – opportunity to improve dangerous streets .

A recent and timely article in a Toronto blog named ‘The Local’, features some well-known local characters while dealing with the topic of pedestrian safety and the public realm in the Mount Dennis area. Author, Sam Riches has written for a number of publications including Wired, Salon.com  and Longreads.

Read Sam’s article here.

Padovani is back

Chiara Padovani is keeping her first post-election promise: she’s continuing to fight to improve York South-Weston.

This weekend, she organized a door-knocking campaign at 33 King to advocate against rent increases.

Padovani is also hosting a meeting tomorrow, November 5, to fight for $15 and fairness, and against repealing Bill 148, a pro-workers bill. Tomorrow’s meeting will be at 6:30 at the Weston Seniors’ Centre.

 

Who to vote for? I choose Lekan.

If Doug Ford hadn’t screwed everything up, this would be an easy choice. But he did, and now it isn’t.

For the first time I can remember, we are spoiled for choice in York South-Weston. We have four strong contenders, and three of them are worthy choices.

The recent amalgamation of the ward brought Frank Di Giorgio and Frances Nunziata into close combat. Chiara Padovani and Lekan Olawoye are attacking their left flanks.

Me, I’m going to vote for Lekan Olawoye. I won’t pretend I have good reasons for doing so, though.

I came to this conclusion slowly—although I was able to eliminate most of the candidates quickly. I started by zapping the outside-chance contenders; I’m sure most of them are fine people, but their relative absence and small chances in this high-stakes race make them non-starters for me.

Frank Di Giorgio was next to go. He is too conservative and was too close to Rob Ford. He votes against Toronto’s interests. He attends council meetings infrequently—and opposes bike lanes—and that alone is a deal-breaker for me.

That leaves three: Nunziata, Olawoye, and Padovani.

I like Frances Nunziata, as a rule. She is an excellent retail politician. If you call her, she calls you back. She fixes problems, and she’s given her riding endless hours of underpaid service. Finally, she is an excellent tactician.

But I can’t shake the feeling that Weston has fallen on harder times under her leadership. Certainly, most of these problems are not of her making—she’s subject to decisions made above her pay grade, just like the rest of us. I think, however, that with different leadership, things might have been better. That’s because she is not an excellent strategist.

Take payday loan shops, just as an index of what I’m talking about. We have too many, and they have dubious social value. I think the job they do would be better done by our oligopoly of banks, which enjoy one side of a social contract but are allowed to ignore the other: they get a government guarantee but shirk the social responsibility. Banks are allowed to close, leaving low-income and low-mobility clients (often one and the same) in the hands of high-interest lenders.

I know Frances can’t do much about closing banks. That’s for our provincial and federal masters to tackle. But she could have made Weston, bit by bit, an environment that banks don’t want to leave, with improved streetscapes, better local businesses, and improved transit. She’s been working on these, lately, but too lately for me.

Of course, it’s not about payday loans; it’s about all the things like them—the small, strategic failures that have let Weston down. What happened the long-promised college campus? The Humber River Trail link? St John the Evangelist? Buses on Jane? All are long-term projects; none have happened. Strategy.

That leaves Padovani and Olawoye.

Lekan and Chiara are too close ideologically to fit a card between. I went so far as to create a spreadsheet, and if I recall correctly, Padovani doesn’t have a parks plan but she does want the city to tackle climate change, while Olawoye has a parks plan but says nothing about climate change. Or vice versa.

It really doesn’t matter, because I can’t imagine Lekan (or Chiara) being against the climate or parks.

So, with two equally good candidates, I would normally back the one most likely to win. It seemed, for a moment, that Chiara was in that position. Then it emerged that Lekan had been left off the poll. And Lekan had a handy lead last time… and the polls have been showing wild swings anyway, which is understandable given how small the sample is. Finally, neither Olawoye nor Padovani is likely to defeat Nunziata. So who knows?

That leaves, as far as I can tell, character. Argh. What, really, do I know about character? Nothing.

My interactions with Lekan and Chiara have been vanishingly brief, and both left me with the impression that they were excellent, principled, hard-working and ambitious people. We are lucky to have them volunteering for such a lousy job.

So I’m left peering at the sediments, trying to divine some worthy grounds on which to make a decision.

Here’s what it comes down to: I like Lekan a little more. He seems more grounded, more open, and less partisan. He seems a  little less certain, and I like that. He’s been in the community, working hard, for longer, and he’s had tough positions at MaRS downtown. I like that too.

With so little to distinguish excellent candidates, that’s all I have to work with. We can blame Doug Ford for that—it was not supposed to be like this.

Unless we’re wrong!

Lekan Olawoye issued a press release saying that he was not included on a recent poll of York South–Weston residents. The poll, by Forum Research, showed Chiara Padovani pulling even with Di Giorgio, and Nunziata’s lead slipping.

The published results include long-shot candidates Fred Fosu (4%) and Deeqa Barre (3%), but make no mention of Lekan Olawoye, who almost certainly polls much higher. It certainly seems like he was not included in the survey.

In related news, Frances Nunziata says that she responded to CycleToronto’s survey, but that her results were not included in the published results. CycleToronto said she did not respond.

In Nunziata’s defense, she has been an advocate for cycling of late, and created a pedestrian and cycling committee for the ward.

Padovani support surges

At the end of September, a Mainstreet poll found Incumbent councillor Frances Nunziata with 40% of the vote, fellow incumbent Frank Di Giorgio was at 30%, Lekan Olawoye at 7.2 and Chiara Padovani at 3.8.

In the latest Forum poll, Nunziata has kept her commanding lead over other candidates with 39% but Padovani has built support considerably to 20% with Di Giorgio’s support slumping to 19%.  The margin of error would mean that Padovani and Di Giorgio are in a virtual tie for now.

Padovani’s campaign manager, Riley Peterson told me today that she believes the surge in her candidate’s support comes as a result of intense organizing and canvassing.

The Forum poll is several days old so there is a chance for things to change over the last few days before Election Day on Monday 22nd. It remains to be seen whether Padovani can continue to pick up support from people who want to see change in Ward 5. On voting day it will also be important to persuade people to make the effort to vote. In 2014, nearly half of voters stayed home in what is now Ward 5.

Ms. Padovani should also hope for fair weather – apparently, bad weather favours incumbents. Monday’s weather looks to be partly sunny with a chance of showers.

In other Ward 5 news, Cycle Toronto has released the results of a questionnaire regarding cycling in York South-Weston (Ward 5). Only one candidate bothered to respond to the survey – Chiara Padovani.

Click to enlarge.

Toronto Star pans Ward 5 incumbents

The Toronto Star Editorial Board has made its quadrennial candidate endorsements for Toronto’s newly shrunken wards. The Editorial Board is once again unimpressed with the current incumbents. They bluntly state, “Frank Di Giorgio and Frances Nunziata, should be sent to pasture.”. Four years ago,  The Star said of Frances Nunziata, “Painfully ineffective in recent years, she has been one of council’s most complacent Ford followers.”.  2014’s opposition to Frances Nunziata, Jose Garcia and Dory Chalhoub failed to get their campaigns off the ground. While Mr. Chalhoub successfully argued that Ms. Nunziata had done little to help her constituents, his and Mr. Garcia’s rightward leanings put them on a par with her politically. Despite endorsements from the Star (and Weston Web – go figure) Mr. Garcia and Mr. Chalhoub placed a distant second and third respectively.

This time there are two strong candidates among those opposing the incumbents and both are left-leaning.

The Star’s Board has given the nod to Lekan Olawoye as their 2018 choice for councillor stating, “His work on talent development at MaRS and numerous community organizations make him well placed to constructively address the issues facing youth and marginalized communities.”. The other local candidate, Chiara Padovani has built an impressive campaign and will no doubt take issue with the Star’s pick.

The good news for them is that the vote will be somewhat split between the two incumbents. The bad news is that the anti-incumbent vote will also be spread between multiple candidates, thus diluting any movement for change. That’s why all candidates will be working hard to ensure that as many people as possible get out to the polls next Monday.

Voter participation in 2014 was 53% in old Ward 11 and 55% in old Ward 12. There is plenty of room to improve as some Toronto wards had a voter turnout of over 70% that year. This compared to an average of 60.4% in Toronto as a whole.  A similarly low turnout in Ward 5 this year will probably result in one of the incumbents being sent back to city hall.

Padovani seeks advanced poll extension

Candidate for the new York South-Weston Ward 5 council seat, Chiara Padovani has requested an extension of the advanced polling deadline. Advanced polls are set to close at 7:00pm today but Padovani says that residents have had difficulty in reaching the polls (both in the former Ward 12) because of traffic congestion.