Josh Matlow, City Hall Diary
Two months into a new job as a city councillor, life feels like a perpetual motion machine.
At City Hall, there’s a busy schedule of committee meetings that go on for hours. Behind the scenes, councillors and their staff visit each others’ offices daily to seek support for motions, discuss issues and gossip.
There are also days of being office-bound with people requesting assistance, organizations needing attention or gatherings with city staff to review everything from large-scale development applications to a resident’s request for front-pad parking.
Still, City Hall is never boring. On any given day, one can find school groups, tourists, newly-weds or self-identified “transit geeks” roaming the hallways. Many reporters who cover City Hall have offices there and are always looking for the next story and keeping us politicians honest (or trying to).
It’s an organizational challenge and my staff and I meet every Friday to manage our schedules, local and citywide initiatives and review meeting agendas. All the while, staff briefings help to fill my head with the background information needed to keep up with the issues.
It’s vital that councillors make an effort to understand the issues they’ll be asked to vote on. Last week, I wrote about an impromptu public meeting I held on a city bus. What I didn’t mention was that it could have been a scene in a John Hughes film.
The TTC recently considered reducing service to bus routes throughout Toronto. So, in an effort to hear from the transit riders who’d be affected by these cuts, I boarded the Mt. Pleasant 74 bus that runs through my ward. This route, on Mt. Pleasant between St. Clair and Eglinton, takes 15 minutes to complete and I ended up having a lively “town hall” conversation with about 20 people, most of whom take this bus daily.
Our driver Massimo, fondly known as “Max” by his passengers, exclaimed loudly that working for the TTC should be about public service. His passengers erupted in enthusiastic applause. No disputing which side of the fence they sit on.
On Sundays I co-host a talk-radio show and once a week, often late at night, I sit at my dining room table and write this column to offer readers a candid, insider’s look into City Hall.
All in all, it can also be bruising, competitive and even surreal at times and for a politician, having the support of family and friends is a must for staying grounded.
Ultimately, being a city councillor is a true privilege and a great adventure. You really never know what the next day will bring.
Josh Matlow is the councillor for Ward 22, St. Paul’s