Thursday, February 3, 2011

Sympathy for the TTC Chair

Being TTC Chair Takes Its Toll

Photo and story from The Toronto Star "Ease off on ‘essential’ and we won’t strike: TTC union"

Given the terrible press that the Toronto Transit Commission has encountered ever since Adam Giambrone, the previous TTC Chair, took control and the angry public reactions to threats of TTC fare increases and service cuts and the terrible customer service attitudes of some frontline union workers - being the person seen to be in charge of the TTC is not an attractive job, nor a healthy one in my view.

I have followed Karen Stintz for some time and although her speaking style can seem quite abrupt and off-putting, she does seem dedicated to her job and professional in how she handles it. By following photos of her since she first started on City Council in 2003, you can see the aging toll it is taking on her. She seems almost expecting negativity from the public as a given, which is sad.

Info from Wikipedia :

Karen Stintz is a city councillor inToronto, Canada. She represents Ward 16, one of two municipal wards enclosed within the federal-provincial riding of Eglinton—Lawrence. She grew up in North York. After receiving a BA from University of Western Ontario, she obtained a Master of Science degree in Journalism from Boston University and worked briefly as a journalist. Returning to school, she received a Master of Public Administration degree from Queen's University, and obtained a job in the Ontario Ministry of Health. She lives in the North Toronto neighbourhood with her husband Daryll Parisien and their two children, son Jackson, and daughter Hailey.

In the lead up to the 2003 municipal election, longtime incumbent Anne Johnston became unpopular because of her support for a controversial development project to build very tall condominium towers at the intersection of Yonge Street and Eglinton Avenue. The development, now known as the Minto Midtown project, was appropriate for the location according to Toronto's official plan but was vigorously opposed by a local NIMBY group. No challenger was immediately obvious, and the local ratepayer organization advertised for a candidate to oppose Johnston. Stintz had no political experience other than occasionally volunteering for the Progressive Conservative Party, and she had only lived in the area for three years. With the backing of the ratepayer groups, Stintz defeated Johnston in a close race

Stintz is seen as one of the right-wing members of council, and backed John Tory for mayor. On council she has been a leader of the conservative Responsible Government Group with Case Ootes. She is a member of the both the provincial and federal Conservative parties

In March 2009, Stintz came under scrutiny when it was revealed that she spent $4,500 of her councillor's office budget on voice lessons. She defended her expenditure of taxpayer's money by saying that it improves her speaking during council meetings. Some of her constituents had pointed out that she came across as speaking too fast and sounding "shrill"

Another Toronto Star story tells us that Karen Stintz is kind of a 'regular person' who cares about the TTC.
" Porter: New TTC Chair Karen Stintz cleans up"

Karen Stintz so far this year has been tasked with handling the most difficult and contentious issues facing ordinary citizens, even more so than Mayor Rob Ford.. She has to fix a number of poor decisions made by her predecessors (Miller and Giambrone), like multi-million dollar deals signed just weeks before the election:  TTC will try to unravel HQ Deal and the whole Transit City debacle.

Some may say if you want such a the high profile job nd the power and status that goes with it, the troubles come with the job. However, why does Mayor Rob Ford seemingly get off the hook for the biggest, costliest piece of the Toronto city budget with the greatest citizen complaint ratios?

Then again - some political leaders sometimes need sacrificial lambs.

Meanwhile: Disgraced former ward18 City Councillor and TTC Chair Adam Giambrone takes pot shots from a safe distance in lefty Now Magazine. When oh when will this man just be gone! He has done nearly as much damage to the City of Toronto as Mike Harris.

* Update: Karen Stintz @TTCChair is active on Twitter. A few moments ago  6pm Friday she tweeted this:  TTCchair Karen Stintz  #TTC Complaint? Compliment? Suggestion? Call 416-393-3030 or this link  If you don't like the answer you get,tell us."

Indicates to me she is at least trying to change the old TTC culture that says engineers count, moving buses from point A to Point B in Time X counts, but riders do not.

* Update: Prood from a Toronto Star article Feb 6, 2011 that the NOT-customer-friendly culture is ingrained and prevalent everywhere: DiManno: TTC drivers kick courtesy to the curb. "Too many drivers, in my experience, handle their honking big vehicles as if they were muscle cars. They intimidate motorists and pedestrians with sheer size and a presumptive right to the road. And, while some drivers are certainly pleasant and polite — I watched one on the busy Queen St. route Saturday leave his seat to help an old lady exit — a great many are, frankly, rude, thoughtless, cantankerous and easily provoked to annoyance." Too true in my experience as well. Karen Stintz has a big job and a cleanup to do. Hope she cleans up uncaring drivers like the one written about in the article.