Monday, March 14, 2011

Ana Bailao Rates a C+

So... How is Our New Councillor Doing?

Ana Bailao has now been the ward 18 Davenport south City Councillor for about 102 days now, a timeframe that usually means the honeymoon and learning phase is over and a reasonably accurate assessment of who and what we conbstituents voted in can be made.

There is a pretty fair (but not very hard-hitting)  interview at BlogTO by  Tomasz Bugajski,
A somewhat accurate comment by another reader adds: "Despite the efforts during the campaign of local documentary filmmaker Scott Dobson to highlight Bail√£o's reliance on developers for campaign contributions, a strong desire for change helped her take the Ward 18 seat from Giambrone's former executive assistant."...
I disagree. The fact that Ward 18 is around 50-60% Portuguese is what helped her. And yes, I'm saying that a large amount of Ward 18's Portuguese residents voted solely based on Ana being of the same background as them and not on her individual merits. (A truth: not being/speaking Portugese in this ward will continue to be an extreme liability to get elected)

Some personal observations by me based on watching Ana in action at City Council and visiting her at her current constituency meetup place (Abrigo Centre, Dufferin Mall, Saturdays 10am-noon):


* Ana is a hard worker who takes her responsibilities very seriously. I believe she really thinks through and sometimes agonizes over every vote (something I wish every councillor would do).

* Ana has had a steep learning curve - despite her previous experience as Mario Silva's Executive Assistant (1998-2003). The terrific speed of the budget process pushed by Mayor Ford undoubtedly handcuffed all the rookie councillors in doing due diligence. For that reason, I give Ana a pass (this time) on not being able to do her frequently campaign-promised 'line by line" analysis of the budget to maximize city resources. Nonetheless, Ana seems to have a pretty good handle on what is going on at the new council.

* Ana's voting record shows a little initial confusion in that at first she seemed to vote aligned with the right wing Ford group, but she abruptly changed sides when the Toronto Community Housing Corporation (TCHC) issue hit the fan at the March 13 spcial meeting. Averaging out overall, Ana seems to belong to the "mushy middle" voting block that is being strongly courted by both the right and left wings of council - a typical position for a Liberal party supporter. (I still suspect she may be leaning right more than left, since she sits between Fordite councillors Denzel Minnan-Wong and Michael Thompson. The latter seems to be teaching her the ropes, a lot) Ana's constituency staff is robust and skilled, sprinkled with both Liberal and Conservative types Info here

* Ana belongs to the 'wait, watch and learn' group of quiet rookie councillors. She rarely speaks at council and follows the debates closely, actively listening to points made by those who are more bold. So far, she is definitely a follower and not a leader. I fear this will continue.

* Responsiveness to contituents is excellent so far. Given that more, better and timely consultation with constituents in ward18 was probably the number one issue last election, Ana has done well. She returns emails and inquires quickly, has held a town hall on the budget and makes her office very available to people.
(Still waiting on a proper website and a regular constituency office, other than 2 hours on a Saturday)

* No doubt because of her centrist political positioning and her refusal to attack Rob Ford during the election campaign, Ana has snagged some reasonably good committee spots for a rookie: Affordable Housing, Planning and Growth, Artscape, Toronto Arts Council, Exhibition Place, Canadian National Exhibition, McCormick Playground Arena. How well she uses them still remains to be seen. Note: Ana could have used her Affordable Housing chair position to really have an impact on the TCHC special meeting debate, but did not do so, Ana is only a bit player in the political power game at city hall, so far.