"Incumbents have all the advantages" says Sue-Anne Levy in the Toronto Sun: http://www.torontosun.com/comment/columnists/sueann_levy/2010/03/17/13268761.html
Sitting councillors in office can:
- Book and use public facilities to promote their campaigns, even using taxpayer money out of their office budgets, while challengers are prohibited from using the same facilities for their campaigns, even if they want to pay for it themselves
- Use their $53,100 office budgets "to send out glossy newsletters or calendars chock full of their pictures, hold barbeques and other parties this summer" (as Levy says)
- Donate taxpayer money to the charities * of their choice and get 'photo ops' and their names prominently attached to the good deeds (see another story in the Globe and Mail, 'Councillors Spend Thousands in Public Cash On Donations That Boost Their Profile' http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/toronto/councillors-spend-thousands-in-public-cash-on-donations-that-boost-their-profile/article1505395/
- Use office budgets to finance taxi rides while not on city business by calling it a "ward survey" Read Toronto Star 'TTC Chair Takes Taxi Home After Taping Show On Streetcar' http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/article/781032--ttc-chair-takes-taxi-home-after-taping-show-on-streetcar
- Plan events, meetings and announcements in a controlled fashion so as to enhance their profile and candidacy
Aside from the fact that our previous councillor, TTC Chair and failed mayoral candidate, Adam Giambrone, expensed more than $3,000 on cabs last year - something that angers me when we expect such a position to show leadership and promotion of public transit, I find it blatantly unfair that in a hopefully open election, challengers are such 'second class' candidates.
If we want an open, fair and equitable city we must start by ensuring open, fair and equitable elections. We need to sharply reduce the advantages of incumbency.
* Here's an idea to make sure charities in our ward don't suffer. Let's transfer the money from councillor office budgets to a city run local grants program that everyone can apply to. It could be a simple lottery or a well-thought out procedure where points are used to award grants where local neighbourhoods would see the most 'bang for the buck' and would be fair to everyone.
On another related note, we need TERM LIMITS. 30% of city councillors have been on council for more than 20 years (See Eye Weekly, 'Bring On The Toronto Democratic Revolution' http://www.eyeweekly.com/blog/post/82646--bring-on-the-toronto-democratic-revolution ).
When I was a director on non-profit boards, they had a forward-thinking policy of limiting board membership to a few terms, The reason was to ensure fresh ideas and community participation in their deliberations. A board member could always sit out a term and come back if they wished. Why don't we do this with Toronto City Council?
I am strongly in favour of term limits because we are a large city, complex in its diversity and full of talent. Let's share the wealth of that with each other. We need to do this because...
DAVENPORT DESERVES BETTER