Josh Matlow City Hall Diary
Most city councillors, aside from those in the mayor’s inner circle, are far too often sidelined when it comes to many of the big decisions at city hall.
For example, last week city manager Joe Pennachetti, budget chair Mike Del Grande and a consulting firm recently hired by the city to go on a hunt for wasteful “gravy” known as the “core service review” held a media briefing.
As the city hall press gallery assembled at a table to learn details about potential cuts from the city’s public works budget, a handful of councillors not aligned with Mr. Ford sat at the back of the room.
Some were there just to listen in, while others were perhaps hoping for a quote in the ensuing news articles.
What struck me most about this event was that most councillors had not been offered the same briefing from staff prior to the media being granted that opportunity. And ironically, once the meeting had concluded, the media quickly turned to the visiting councillors for comment.
Then, only a day later, there was an announcement about a new buyout package available for 17,000 city workers, if they choose to leave the employ of the city. This was unveiled before ever coming to council for a vote.
I understand now that this downsizing program will indeed come to council, in some form, this September. I may even choose to support it. But the problem with announcements like this one is that the public can be left with the impression that the matter is already a done deal.
During the first few months of Mayor Rob Ford’s term in office, there have been several examples of unilateral declarations made before a vote at council, including the death of Transit City and the move to privatize garbage collection.
To justify this practice, some on council’s governing right wing regularly tell me of how poorly they were treated by David Miller and his allies during the past two terms of council.
The once disenfranchised right now seem to relish their newfound ability to dismiss the left and overturn much of what was done during Mayor Miller’s tenure, and honestly believe that if they give the “opposition” any slack, Ford Nation’s “cultural revolution” might be impeded.
However, the right’s determination to fulfill their agenda, and their desire for revenge, only continues the hyper-partisan politics that Torontonians recently rejected. It reminds me of how many revolutionaries around the world have acted after overthrowing a dictator. They often become tyrants themselves.
The mayor was elected by the people of Toronto and has a mandate to advocate for what he believes is good for our city. He, and his loyalists, often disagree with the left and believe them to be frustratingly ornery — and they often are.
But I believe, for most Torontonians, winning isn’t always about “beating the other side.” Rather, it’s about finding solutions.
In our municipal democracy, the mayor is one of 45 members of council and would better serve our city by working with all of his fellow elected colleagues — rather than around them.
Josh Matlow is the councillor for Ward 22, St. Paul’s.
To read this column at thestar.com, please click here.