Frances Nunziata stands by Ford to the end

You have to give her this: she’s a woman of principle. Precisely what principle is unclear, but Nunziata had nothing to gain today from supporting Ford, and she did it nonetheless. While the rest of council—including Ford’s former allies—turned against the mayor, Frances Nunziata voted with him. It was a fruitless gesture: she, and the Fords, lost, and the Mayor was neutered.

City Council voted today to

  • Gut Rob Ford’s office. Councillors voted to take most of the money that went to the Mayor and send it to the Deputy Mayor instead.
  • Offer jobs in other departments to the Mayor’s staff
  • Give the Deputy Mayor many of the Mayor’s responsibilities

In the final votes of a very long, emotional—and undignified—session, few people stood by Ford. The closest Ford came to victory was a thrashing: a 32 to 9 vote. On every other vote, he was even more completely destroyed. Only his brother, Frances Nunziata, and Vincent Crisanti stood with him to the last. Giorgio Mammoliti was absent on principle, saying that the vote was illegal.

Nunziata said of the motions, “None of this makes any sense at all. This is very vicious, personal.” That said, her votes today were surprising. Last week, she voted to strip the mayor of some of his powers and to chastise him.

 

Why we can’t have nice things.

In Weston, the status quo is far from desirable. Change for the better seems to be almost impossible and for decades, long-term planning has been ignored while property developers suck communities dry with minimal consequences. In a city as dynamic as Toronto, it actually takes concerted planning and effort to bring a community down to the same depressing level as Weston. Neglect needs help, even in Weston.

It’s not just Weston that has suffered. Toronto’s infrastructure has barely changed in 50 years while the population of the GTA (Census Metropolitan Area) has almost tripled. Sewage lines are at capacity, roads are potholed, highways are blocked for much of the day while public transportation is inadequate and underfunded.

The problem lies in the political process with which we attempt to run the city. In a nutshell, it’s broken and unfortunately there’s little hope on the horizon. As a result, we have a collection of comfortable incumbents and a mayor whose inability to get fired has amazed (and amused) the rest of the world. Anyone watching a council meeting in progress can only marvel at the sheer stupidity, petulance and inattention that bogs down the important business of running a city; not to mention those voting the wrong way and then requesting a motion calling for a re-vote. While that isn’t bad enough, on the rare occasions that consensus is achieved by council, decisions are routinely ignored by senior levels of government. Canada’s engine of growth and prosperity has to beg for handouts from the other two levels of government.

Let’s start with the rank and file politicians that we send to city hall. Councillors can be confident of a four-year term if they can persuade about 20% of the electorate to vote for them. That bags them a place on the sunshine list plus 100% benefits. There’s even severance money for retirees or those voted out of office but sadly, it’s rarely necessary. Council incumbents range from right-wing strutting buffoons to left-wing rampant egomaniacs and do-nothing placeholders in the middle. Helping each councillor cope with the day-to-day grind of decision-making, $220,000 is provided for four staff to ease the burden. An ability to tolerate long and tedious meetings seems to be one of the few pre-requisite talents.

If you think about the people who vote for our elected officials, there’s a core of support that’s unshakable, regardless of (or perhaps because of) any nefarious and outrageous behaviour. Mayor Ford can point to the stubborn support of Ford Nation as evidence of his hard core followers. There’s no doubt that despite his many flaws, he has connected with people. Just as Mussolini made the trains run on time, Rob returns his calls. There are many who believe that Mayor Ford has an excellent chance of re-election next October. That solid unwavering wedge of support could easily trump the divided votes of other, more worthy candidates. The Ford brothers’ intransigence is bolstered in large part by this unwavering support.

There is a saying that all politics is local. The feds always seem to have billions for tax cuts, partisan spending and military boondoggles but no long term plans for cities. The provincial Liberals spend money like drunken sailors but can’t manage to extend their profligacy to cities. This is the perfect time to ask our federal and provincial political representatives what they propose for the city and when they intend to start doing something for Toronto other than make vague promises. When can we expect some decent money for infrastructure along with a long-term plan of investment that is not subject to the whims of the next self-serving idiot who manages to lie convincingly to the people?

We can also ask Premier Wynne and Prime Minister Harper to encourage the political process by allowing ranked balloting. ‘First past the post‘ voting has failed us as an electoral system and actually discourages good people from running.

I don’t want to go all Russell Brand, because bringing down the system would be very disruptive and destroy many peoples’ lives. However, change is vital if we are to survive as a city, society and yes, even as a country. Politics, in the right hands can be a truly noble pursuit and we need to encourage talented and thoughtful people to put themselves forward and have a decent chance of success. We also need to let our representatives know that we intend to hold them to account. Let’s not be content with the status quo. Ask the questions, ‘What do you intend to do for Toronto in the long, medium and short term?’ and, ‘Since you are an incumbent, what has stopped you until now?’

It truly is time for a change.

Homework assignment: name the best Toronto mayor in recent memory (City, Metro or pre-amalgamation town / township mayor)  and why.

Nunziata votes to censure Mayor Ford

Frances Nunziata, our councillor and the Speaker of Toronto City Council, rebuked Mayor Ford today. She joined an overwhelming majority of city councillors who asked the mayor to take a leave, apologize to the city, and cooperate with police. Frances Nunziata has been one of Ford’s most steadfast friends and loyal supporters.

Nunziata also had a tough day as Speaker. She drew the fire of Robyn Doolittle, the reporter who broke the crack story, who said, “Councillor Frances Nunziata is widely disliked in the role of speaker. Councillors believe she lets the Fords off and is partisan.”

She was also criticized by twitterers and redditors for not quieting down the Fords quickly enough on a number of occasions. At one point  sure to make the evening news, Doug Ford repeatedly demanded of Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong—the instigator of motions against Ford—whether he had ever smoked pot, as if that were equal to Ford’s crimes.

Doug Ford’s shouting about pot went on and on while people yelled “Frances! Frances!” presumably begging her to use her powers as speaker shut him up. Yet whether she did him a favour or disservice by allowing him to continue is debatable.

Kevin Van Paassen/The Globe and Mail

Ford twice moved quickly—and, if you ask me, a indecorously, if not aggressively, toward Minnan–Wong, and at one point blocked his way. Nunziata tried, unsuccessfully, to get Ford to apologize. He refused at length. When he said in protest and only to Nunziata, “Madam Speaker, I’m sorry…”, she cut off his microphone and said, “Thank you, Mayor Ford…. That’s all I wanted you to say.” Even he laughed a little at having  the rug pulled out from under him.

 

Nunziata says that Ford must step aside

Frances Nunziata, a friend and supporter of Rob Ford, told a constituent yesterday that Rob Ford should step aside and take some time away.

Nunziata said  “I have personally expressed my concerns to the Mayor along with the recommendation that he take some time away from the Office to reflect on his actions and seek the support he needs.”

Nunziata was less forthright in a conversation with the National Post

“Him coming forward to apologize about some of his denials that he has made in the past, I think that’s one step forward… I just think he needs to talk and explain to the public, what does it all mean? Explain it, he needs to address it.”

In the past, she said that the Ford was the victim of media lies.

 

Nunziata responds

Frances Nunziata has long been one of Rob Ford’s greatest supporters. She was the first councillor to endorse his campaign for mayor, and they regularly attend each other’s events. In return, Nunziata was given a plum position on City Council; she is the Speaker, and allowed to shape debate in council meetings.

Nunziata has responded to news that police have a video of Rob Ford smoking crack cocaine. It is short:

“Today’s news leaves me, and many others here at City hall, shocked and disappointed.”

In the past, Nunziata said that  the crack cocaine story was false: “They’re allegations. They’re stories the media makes up,” she said.

 

Priority Neighbourhood funding facing cuts at worst possible time

The recent Scarborough shooting comes on the wake of announcements that millions of dollars of funding for community programs in Toronto will be cut. Weston, one of 13 priority neighbourhoods in Toronto, receives some of that funding, as does Malvern, a community near the recent horrific shooting.

The Star ran a long report about the drying funding, saying

Kids are picking up basketballs instead of guns and community hubs are built or planned in eight of the neighbourhoods….

But a large chunk of the strategy’s initial funding for programs and infrastructure — some $85 million — came in the form of one-time cash injections that will dry up over the next year. No new pots of money have come down the pipe.

 

Premier McGuinty has offered to extend the funding, but Rob Ford appeared to be not interested, telling CP24,  “The best social program is a job. Kids are going to be working until 10 or 11 at night, they’re not going be running around, shooting at each other…. Just handing out money, in these mentoring programs… I don’t really believe that handing out free money is the solution.” Last week, Ford voted against every single social program. He was the only person to vote against them.

Last night, a man was shot and killed at the Eglinton Flats recreation centre in Mount Dennis; Clayton Wright, 42, was murdered after playing in a weekly soccer game. He had no gang affiliations, according to police.

Mike Sullivan, MP, responded to the shooting in an email, saying “this latest shocking incident of gun violence in our city reminds us all that we must deepen our resolve and redouble our efforts to work together, at all levels of government, to bring an end to this kind of violence.”

 

Rob Ford votes against all grants to benefit Weston

City Council awarded hundreds of thousand of dollars worth of grants in its last meeting before the summer. Rob Ford voted against every single grant that would have benefitted York South—Weston. He was the only councillor to do so.

The York Youth Coalition received $40,000 from the City of Toronto to continue projects in Weston Mount Dennis.The coalition is an umbrella organization that works with the Learning Enrichment Foundation, Urban Arts, and area youth, among others; they are using the funding as part of a four-year project “building youth capacity, enhancing community engagement and mobilizing youth.” Support for this grant was nearly unanimous; only Ford voted against it.

The Weston Minor Hockey League was given $10,000 by the city. Your humble correspondent would have thought Ford a sporting kind of guy. Not so. Ford voted against hockey.

The Community Action Resource Centre project to improve safety in YSW with resident consultations, safety awareness workshops, and 25 community ambassadors received $40,000, and Access Alliance Multicultural Health and Community Services, to help minorities and low income people, was given $46,800. Ford was, of course, the only person to vote against these grants.

Rob Ford received 60% of the vote in York South—Weston.