Sunday, March 7, 2010

Your City, My City - Toronto Star

Congratulations to the Toronto Star for trying to reach out and involve people in upcoming municipal elections.

They are trying to kick-start debate by having bloggers, columnists and commentators speak to issues relating to our city. It is worth following. Here are some examples:

Why Youth Doesn't Vote : In the last city election (2006), city wide turnout was a mere 39.3% (It was only 35% in Davenport). Anita Li says it is not because youth don't care, but rather: A: They are cynical of politicians who don't follow through on promises and B: There is not easy access to interesting and relevant election information.
*Update article in The Star:

My opinion is that this is naive and a false argument. We are stuck with the system we have right now (though it could benefit from some significant changes):

"No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time" - Sir Winston Churchill, British politician in a 1947 speech.

Information about the election is available. It is and will be in our major newspapers, on radio call in shows, on television stories as well as online. I believe there will be more information available this election than ever before. The one sticking point - and this affects Davenport - is that it will be almost entirely in English, where less than 40% of people say their mother tongue is English. What about the 25% who speak Portugese? Or the other languages in the ward: Spanish, Chinese, Italian, Vietnamese, French, Punjabi, etc ?

There really is an issue in how we can talk to and more importantly, hear from, our citizens in this ward. I am STRONGLY in favour of more and better consulatation on issues that affect us.

Money Shouldn't Be Everything : Rahul Bhardwaj makes an appeal to not have a negative, everything that is 'bad' about our city campaign that focuses only on money issues, "whether it be municipal finance, spending, taxes or public wages". He says that if we want to have a great city, it takes vision and innovation.

I agree, but only to a certain extent. City government should be all about improving the quality of life for its residents, not just about bigger budgets and growth. There has to be a vision of something greater: where we want to be in 5, 10, 20 years. What we do should reflect our values. However, poor handling of finances and adding burdens of taxes (whether that be in the form of 'user fees' or property taxes) does affect quality of life. The city has to be smarter about where and how money is spent.

The Star's Christopher Hume, a very experienced regular commentator on urban issues and architecture, also did an interesting story about how "Toronto's 'little' details (are) a big deal for residents":

He talks about many things I firmly believe in: that we citizens care about it being safe to cross the street, that our snow has been cleared and garbage picked up, that there is somewhere to walk the dog or a bench to sit on. We care about the TTC and whether we can get from point A to point B comfortably and consistently. I think we are willing to pay for that, IF WE GET THE SERVICE !

Make 'Em Work For Your Vote! : Dan Bordonali makes a plea for citizens to not just go for name recognition (Adam Giambrone?), but rather make the effort to conduct the pitch for your vote into a job interview. You are the boss. Ask candidates tough questions, find out if you want them to work for you. It takes work on your part, but it is what will make for a better city.

I agree completely.