Monday, September 13, 2010

Conflicting Debates: Local and Mayoral

Why Can't I Be In Two Places At Once ?

Active18 set a so-called "All Candidates Debate" for today Sept 13 Monday 6-8pm ... so-called as they preferred to only allow 8 of the 12 duly registered candidates to actually debate at Queen West and Dovercourt. I was told I could ask my 'questions' .. at the end of the debate. Seeing that I was shut out, I decided to go to the Mayoral Debate instead (probably the right decision). Hope there will be a story so I can learn what residents' concerns were...
*** UPDATE: Toronto Observer covered it -
and NOW makes their bioased slant on it:

Mayoral Debate set for today Sept 13 Monday 6:30pm-9:00pm at 90 Croatia (near Dufferin Mall). There was a crowd of about 200 ... 100 if you took out the candidates' cheerleaders. Surprising of the 'usual suspects' of five media-labelled frontrunners, George Smitherman did not appear and was represented by an empty chair. The other, of course, were:
Rob Ford, Joe Pantalone, Sarah Thomson and Rocco Rossi. The moderator was the unbiased (sorry, didn't see that) Sue Ann Levy from The Toronto Sun.

Organizers point out that debate in honour of former City TV reporter Tara Weber who left Toronto for the friendlier wheelchair accessible city of Calgary See:

Nothing we haven't heard before in the candidates' introductory speeches, except Rocco Rossi went out of his way to compliment Sue Ann Levy for being "the official opposition" for city council. A dig at Rob Ford ?

Some (FINALLY !) new questions were asked:

* BEDBUGS : Mary Milne of Bread and Bricks Davenport West Social Justice Group asked what they will do about this growing city wide problem. I heard...Pantalone: would ask for provincial help; Thomson: Will do something, suggests non profits better at helping, blames TCHC for not being diligent; Rossi: Quick to blame Ford, Pantalone for not already having done something; Ford: TCHC should have put out private tender to get fixed, if left up to tenants they won't do it. Really got the sense none knew what they were talking about, especially as they all tried to duck the question by saying it wasn't a health risk - though Ford said he'd leave it up to Dr. McKeown, Toronto's Medical Officer of Health. Disappointing deflections from all.

* ELECTRIC TRAINS : Mike Sullivan, National Spokesperson for the Clean Train Coalition, stated that the public has made it abundantly clear that they demand electric trains along the Georgetown corridor for both GO Transit and the Air Rail link, asked how candidates would work to make that a reality. I heard... Thomson: is a centrist and thinks it important to build good relations at provincial and federal level, said being heard in the Provincial elections is what people should do; Rossi: ? Talked about the need to remove politicians from TTC operations and put in a skills based board (did he hear the question?); Ford: All in favour of electric but wants to know the cost first, not clear what it would be (followed by attacks from others that he should know already?); Pantalone: Pointed out Metrolinx is not TTC and is not elected or accountable and this is wrong, said we should never sacrifice public health for public dollars; Thomson: Chastized Rossi for not knowing clean electric trains is not the TTC, yet went on to talk about fare systems on the TTC ? (Presto vs open fare)... followed by more sniping at each other. Not a clear answer here either.

* AFFORDABLE HOUSING : Chrissy D., and Marcelo Castro of Davenport Perth Neighbourhood Centre asked if candidates would increase targets for more affordable housing and would advocate for more federal funding. .. I heard...Pantalone: praised Streets to Homes program (then bashed about shelter costs by Ford); Ford: There is housing on the market looking for tenants right now, why do we need shelters, help people find housing in the market. Thomson: Concerned about creating pockets of poverty, her solution is a portable rent subsidy, not so dissimilar to Ford; Rossi: not sure what he answered as I got a call I had to take. Got the impression no clear answers here either.

* ? Boys and Girls Club Dovercourt was to ask a planned questions but no one there to ask it... moving on...

SUE ANN LEVY exercised her status as (ubiased) moderator to bring up one of her long time pet peeves: Who will ban aggressive panhandling and clean up the streets?
I heard... Rossi: supports ban; Ford: Supports ban, make addicts go to rehab, get meds for mental illness, make them get a job; Pantalone: Praised Streets to Homes program again, pointed out that Supreme Court says its not illegal to ask people for money; Thomson: Talked about couch surfing when young, then because she was attacked by aggressive panhandler at 25 she supports ban. Except for Pantalone, not much compassion to be had here.

Audience questions:

1. (Me) I expressed my disdain for mayoral candidates who spend a lot of time trying to tear each other down, and asked why any of the other mayoral candidates aren't at debates with their ideas, especially since we've heard the same things over and over from the 'front 5'.
Ford: says he is open to it, will write letter to agree, pointed out the one debate with Rocco Achampong was a good one; Pantalone: dismissed the idea saying there are 41 candidates running, would take too long; Thomson: says she is for inclusion, would agree, pointed out HiMY SYeD perhaps should be invited; Rossi: SPoke of how polls decide on the froint runners (I couldn't resist saying 'Polls are not Votes'. On rebuttals, Ford mused that perhaps groups of debates could be arranged to hear from other mayoral candidates.

2. CLOSING SCHOOLS, USE OF PUBLIC RESOURCES: Theme of question was that since schools are public taxpayer funded, why can't hey be turned over to local communit for other public purposes - mentioned West Toronto and Kent. All candidates took great pains to point out that this was a provincial responsibility and that it was in the purview of SChool Trustees and the Province. Pantalone: Went further to say that perhaps schools should be transferred to cities at discounts instead of the current must be at market value.

3. There were other questions, but sometimes difficult to hear all answers because of microphones cutting in and out. To be fair I didn't get a complete sense of all candidates replies so I won't post just some.

4. Wheelchair Accesibility: Candidates were asked to commit to making Toronto more wheelchair accesible and all said Yes.

5. CYCLING, BIKE LANES: To great applause in this cycling friendly ward, candidates were asked what they were going to do to make more complete bike access, particularly protected from cars and vice versa.... I heard...Ford: What the local people want they get, can see that downtowners want lanes, but noy in the suburbs; Pantalone: praised bike lanes initiatives, University, Jarvis (for which he got attacked on disputed costs by others), spoke of BIXI initiative; Thomson: need a balance where it makes sense, spoke of "complete streets"; Rossi: I was getting a little fatigued herte so don't know if I got this right... he went on about building a tunnel to complete the Spadina Expressway ?

Think I'll stop now as I'm getting punchy about remembering who said what. No doubt mainstream media will report. Good night.

PS: I saw Kirk Russell, also a candidate for ward18 at this debate. He felt strongly we should all see what the mayoral candidates are up to, and regretted that Active18 scheduled their debate at the same time. I agree.

Photo from the Big on Bloor Festival, Rocco Rossi, Himy Syed and Ken Wood
discussing issues of poverty in ward 18:

Here is an Inside Toronto community news story on this debate:

and here is local Dufferin Grove/CELOS story: