October 1, 2012
Mayor Rob Ford kicks off a new council session Tuesday with few stated goals and fewer signs he is open to the compromise needed to get them approved by this independent-minded council.
The policy item that got the most attention on Ford’s Sunday radio show was his desire to scrap a planned a Jan. 1 ban on plastic shopping bags. Council approved the ban in June after Ford lost control of debate on his proposal to scrap the mandatory five-cent fee charged by retailers.
Ford got the fee scrapped and will attempt to put the bag-ban genie back in the bottle at the two-day meeting. It follows a three-month summer break that saw the mayor make headlines for his personal conduct and continue to attack non-supportive council members as irresponsible “socialists.”
Beyond bags, Ford has not set much of an agenda beyond a shifting pledge to reduce the land transfer tax and a five-point plan for economic growth that includes lowering commercial property tax rates and continuing to cut spending to ensure a 2013 residential tax hike of no more than 1.75 per cent.
Ford’s efforts to strike bold moves in the previous session, on issues such as Sheppard Ave. subway expansion, were foiled by a majority of council’s 44 other members who rebelled against the administration’s unwillingness to bend.
Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday, for one, wants Ford to embrace compromise and win more votes so they can introduce efficiencies and cut city costs.
“We have to look at compromise and we have to look at 23 votes onside,” Holyday said in an interview Monday. Holyday was key in delivering Ford one of his big wins in the form of concession-filled city worker contracts.
“We want to accomplish many things, and we’re not going to get 100 per cent of them; maybe 70 or 80 per cent is reasonable,” he said.
“But you have to work with some of the people on council to get things passed. That’s the way the system is intended to work.”
Councillor Josh Matlow, a high-profile member of the council centrists who have largely shaped council’s agenda — and who was derided by Ford last term as “two steps left of Joe Stalin” — called Ford largely irrelevant.
“The mayor, by allowing himself to be leading the headlines on football (coaching) and other follies, has impaired himself from being a leader at council,” Matlow said. “He rarely speaks there and doesn’t answer much.
“I personally don’t consider what the mayor wants or doesn’t want when I cast a vote, and I know and more councillors think the same way.”
Matlow said his residents tell him they want the “Ford circus” to end and for council to work together to improve economic development, planning and design, recreation, social services, child care and customer service.
“What I hear from the mayor is he has checked off the box of the list of priorities he had when he was elected and now is all about gearing up for the next election,” Matlow said. “But the majority of us have lots of things we want to get done.”
Other items to watch on this week’s council include: a possible move to save the Jarvis street bike lanes from erasure, debate on the future of the Port Lands, Casa Loma, and the hot-button 2013 police budget.
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