Sunday, 31 July 2011

Closing food banks dumb idea

Closing food banks dumb idea | Comment | London Free Press
Yes, as I said in my previous post, closing food banks is a bad idea with nothing in place to provide alternate support.
The food bank world was suddenly hit with a broadside this week with the Elaine Power's Toronto Globe and Mail article headlined "It's time to close Canada's food banks."

Nothing comes closer to irrelevance than her opening statement that food banks represent a serious obstacle in the fight against poverty in Canada. As the London Food Bank's co-director for the last 25 years, and a past chair of the Ontario Association of Food Banks, I have never encountered one food bank director who believed they were ending hunger or that they were the ultimate solution.

Power is associate professor in the School of Kinesiology and Health Studies at Queen's University and has served as a board member of a food bank.

It's true, as Power claims, that food banks were designed to be temporary solutions to a hunger problem that multiplied in the recession of the 1980s. Today they are still with us - a testament to the inability of communities and various levels of government to find effective solutions for poverty overall in Canada.

But to suggest that food banks be closed down won't result in any kind of solution but a sudden flooding of need to other social agencies that will be required to absorb the damage. ...

Click the link to read the rest of this.

Saturday, 30 July 2011

Ontario NDP still rising in the polls

Hudak’s lead shrinks, poll shows - thestar.com

All the polls since Jan. 2011 have shown the Ontario NDP steadily rising (Nanos, Ipsos, Forum) from a low of 13% in January, to a high, so far, of 24% in the latest Forum Research poll.
Latest Forum Research poll July 26-27, 2011 with 2,256 Ontarians.


The NDP are closing in on the Liberals (at 28%), and the PCs have dropped to 38%.

Leader approval ratings:
Andrea Horwath: 63% (rising)
Tim Hudak: 49% (dropping)
Dalton McGuinty: 39% (rising)

Leader disapproval ratings:
McGuinty: 61% (dropping)
Hudak: 51% (rising)
Horwath: 37% (dropping)


Friday, 29 July 2011

Hey, Mayor Mud! I want my vote back!

Toronto News: James: A thousand times no - thestar.com
For those who couldn't or wouldn't see the writing on the wall during the election campaign, and ended up believing Rob Ford's promises and voted for him, many now want their votes back.

Ford said he could find billions in savings (from money being wasted at City Hall), and he guaranteed that no services would be cut. Ford becomes mayor and instantly cuts about $300 million yearly income for the city. KPMG, hired by Ford, has found that no money was being wasted. So, instead of looking to fix the revenue problem he created, Rob Ford is going after the services he guaranteed to not cut. People who voted for him are beginning to realize they will be affected by these service cuts and are starting to cry foul. If only these people had read the label before buying the product.

Decisions about further cuts have been deferred until the next meeting in September.

People, it's time to start pressuring your councillors to stop the blundering Ford Nation steamroller.

Can you balance the budget (for Toronto)?

Meat or gravy: Can you balance the budget? - thestar.com
The Toronto Star has put together this interactive budget calculator. Although it seems they put this together with good intentions, they are missing some key items:

Missing as a choice from the Revenue column:

- putting the Land Transfer tax back = over $200 million income per year

- putting the Vehicle Registration tax back = over $50 million income per year


Also not taken into consideration here is the fact that critics,
including Ford supporters I've spoken to, believe the projected deficit
of over $700 million is exaggerated, that it is actually about half this
amount.

Taking all these things into consideration, it is very easy to balance the budget without cutting services.

Assuming the projected deficit is about $450 million, and adding into the Revenue column the 2 missing/removed taxes, you can balance the budget easily by using the Revenue items, excluding both surplus items, having no tax increases or TTC fare increases, and no service cuts except for slightly reducing the police budget (crime has been steadily dropping and the police budget is the biggest expense for the city budget overall).

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Rob Ford sleeps through deputations

Just saw this on FB via Mark B "Rob Ford sleeps through ... on Twitpic



On July 28, 2011, The Executive Committee of Toronto City Council, agreed to hear citizen deputations, as invited by the mayor, Rob Ford. 344 people managed to register to speak. Originally, Ford had agreed they could each have 5 minutes to speak. But, come the day, that was changed down to 3 minutes. By evening, only a fraction had been heard, all speaking out against proposed service cuts.

This picture was taken sometime during the day (at least before 9pm) of Rob Ford totally ignoring the people he had invited to speak. Yes, he is sleeping.
Earlier today, one of the speakers told the Toronto Star that councillor Mammoliti said that he was only listening because he had to, and that she saw that the mayor and other members of the committee were not listening.

Ford and his followers on council show nothing but contempt for the city and it's citizens. They put on a show of "listening to the people" and then they don't even listen. Just how blatant does Ford have to be with his contempt for the citizens and taxpayers of this city before his supporters among the public start to admit that he is bad news for Toronto?

Update:
By the end of the meeting, 168 of 344 people managed to speak. 2 or 3 spoke in favour of the proposed cuts, the rest all spoke out strongly against the cuts, even saying they would gladly pay a tax increase to maintain and improve services.
Rob Ford was often not in the room, sleeping or made rude comments about speakers - "I can think of one word that starts with B" - see the video at the Globe & Mail.
At the end of it all, the committee decided to defer any decision about cuts to the next meeting, in Sept. 2011.

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Opinion piece blaming food banks misses the point

It's time to close Canada's food banks - The Globe and Mail
Elaine Power may be an associate professor, but that doesn't mean she isn't on crack.
In her piece (link above)l, she goes to town blaming food banks for various problems and says they should be closed.
What she misses out in her piece are solutions, and the fact that they do more good open than closed.

Food banks exist because of a failure of support by the government. Not everyone can rely on family members when they get in a rut. If people had proper basic support to live while in between jobs, then they wouldn't need food banks.

From the comments on this article:
A delegation of Swedish adult educators visited Victoria several years ago.

When I showed them a community garden, they asked what happened to the produce and I said it went to food banks.

They asked what food banks were! They don't have food banks in Sweden.

I said the produce went to food banks for the unemployed and people on welfare or low wages.

They
were astounded that the Canadian welfare system did not provide living
wages or welfare levels - and that food banks provided , on a charity
basis, the basic food supply of the disadvantaged!

...
Interesting article. Will the author be the one to tell the mom's who
come in with hungry kids - 'Sorry, food bank is closed. No food for you
anymore. We're hoping closing them will bring about a change in policy
that will be better for you in the long run but 'till then may I direct
you and your kids to that dumpster over there...'

I don't know if
they should be closed or not but I feel there should be something in
place for people (especially kids) who need food BEFORE you pull the rug
out from under them.

I know I'll get all the flame warriors now
saying it's their own fault, they should get a job, etc. but tell that
to a hungry 6 year old.

...




The main assumption of this article, that
the intended purpose of the food bank is to end hunger, is false. As
such, the article is irrelevant and meaningless.

The food bank is
supposed to serve two purposes: a stop-gap measure for those who are
willing to use it as such, and a means by which individuals or families
that need help beyond the food bank can be identified and helped
(assuming they want help). The food bank cannot do more than this, nor
is that the intention (except by some misguided volunteers, apparently).

I
was at a point in my life once when I had no option but to use a food
bank. For one year I had to live off of welfare, which let me either
pay my bills or buy food, but not both. The food bank allowed me to
survive during this time and let me get past the point where I needed
its services. I now donate regularly to the food bank in the hope that I
can help out even one other person who might be in the same situation I
was. My story is not unique.

Yes, food banks will be abused.
That is part of the cost of their existence. The real question is not
whether or not food banks help people get through difficult times, not
whether or not they will be able to end hunger, and not even whether or
not people will abuse “the system.” The real question is whether or not
even one person will be helped to get past their circumstances, and if
so then what value is that to the rest of society?

...
Until big business and governments accept the concept of reasonable
wages and pay reasonable wages to workers, there will be a need for food
banks.

Monday, 25 July 2011

Rob Ford refused to pay election fines

City officials waived fines related to Ford’s election campaign - The Globe and Mail
Rob Ford was fined $13,362.25 for 483 infractions of the bylaw governing the placement of election signs.
He delayed almost a month past the due day for appealing the infractions before he appealed them. He had to be prompted by officials to appeal. The other mayoral contender who had similar fines (Smitherman, $8,559.75) has paid. In the past, other mayoral contenders have paid these fines.
Officials decided, back in the Spring, to wave Ford's fines.
See Also:
http://torontoist.com/2011/07/if_youre_looking_for_a.php

Rob Ford Gravy Train amount: $13,362.25

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Is Mayor Rob Ford a liar, con-man or just ignorant? The facts say yes

The Grid TO | Top five Ford truthiness fact checks of the week
Most of the article by Edward Keenan at The Grid:

This week, the brothers Ford have had a particularly bad week with
fact checkers. Here’s a rundown, in no particular order, of their
greatest misses:


 


1. Toronto spends 80 per cent of its budget on payroll


ROB FORD SAYS: “The last thing we want to do is lay
off, Johnny, but when [payroll] makes up 80 per cent of your budget,
there’s a lot of gravy there.”


THE TRUTH: Labour costs account for 48 per cent of the city’s budget.


FACT CHECKER: Margus Gee, in the Globe and Mail.


 


2. Ford has already cut the Toronto budget by $70 million


ROB FORD SAYS: In his first six months in office,
“We have saved over $70-million… And so if we can find 70 million, I’m
sure we can find 700 million”


THE TRUTH: $64 million of that money was not cut
from spending, as Ford seems to claim, but cut from revenue, in the form
of the elimination of the Vehicle Registration Tax. This does not save
the city money, it costs the city money—the exact opposite of his claim.


FACT CHECKER: Gee, in the Globe.


 


3. Libraries in Etobicoke outnumber Tim Horton’s Franchises


DOUG FORD SAYS: “I’ve got more libraries in my area than I have Tim Hortons.”


THE TRUTH: Tim Hortons franchises outnumber public
libraries in Etobicoke—where Doug Ford lives—by a margin of three to
one. There are 13 public libraries in Etobicoke, and 39 Tim Hortons
franchises.


FACT CHECKER: Maureen O’Reilly, Our Public Library


 


4. Toronto has more libraries per capita than any other city


DOUG FORD SAYS: “We have more libraries per person than any other city in the world.”


THE TRUTH: Vermont has more than seven times as many
libraries per capita as Toronto. Halifax has 4.3 libraries per 100,000
people, while Toronto has 3.9.


FACT CHECKER: Maureen O’Reilly, Our Public Library


 


5. Labour costs should make up no more than 1/5 of an enterprise’s spending


ROB FORD SAYS: “In business the first thing you look at is the labour. Your labour should be making up maximum 20 per cent…”


THE TRUTH: The ideal labour cost as a percentage of
total spending varies wildly depending on the industry the company is
operating in. As KPMG—a consulting firm Ford presumably trusts, since he
hired them to investigate the city’s spending—notes in their Competitive Alternatives study,
“For manufacturing operations, labor typically represents 46 to 60
percent of total location-sensitive costs, while for non-manufacturing
operations this range is typically 74 to 85 percent.” Meanwhile, in the
construction equipment industry, in 2008 average payroll costs were
about 58 per cent, according to this report. Second Wind consultants say that a lot varies by industry, but that 30-38 per cent of revenue is “a good place to be.” Apparently celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay says restaurants should aim to have labour costs be about 1/3 of the total budget.


FACT CHECKER: Me. With help from the sites linked above.


Also, check out the running total of our money that Ford has wasted since taking office:
Rob Ford's Gravy Train

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Poster > Cyclist response to "Rob Ford's Bike Plan"

Fuck Ford poster protests Rob Ford's bike plan
At the link is a poster created in response to Rob Ford's bike plan (removing bike lanes from convenient streets for cyclists, and then building bike lanes in out-of-the-way places).

Ironic how Ford's bike plan calls for the removal of bike lanes. This reminds me of when Mike Harris brought in a "Tenant Protection Act" that actually removed protection from tenants.

Rob Ford will raise taxes next year

Ford opens door on 3% tax hike | Toronto & GTA | News | Toronto Sun
After promising to not raise taxes or cut services, and, after finding that there is/was no waste at City Hall, and, after squandering over $533 million, Rob Ford is eyeing raising taxes next year by 3% WHILE still cutting services. A good mayor/manager of city funds would usually leave services intact BY raising taxes. David Miller left the city with a large surplus which Ford immediately squandered. Then Ford went on to waste over $533 million. Now he is trying to blame Miller for his own financial mismanagement. Will he ever own up to his own mistakes? I don't think so.

Ford's administration is all about blaming the previous administration and about tearing down anything put in place by the Miller administration whether it makes sense to do so or not (and so far, none of what he is doing is making any sense).

Making most decisions to spite the previous mayor is not good management. Making decisions based on benefit to the city and it's diverse population is good management. Mayors have found that, especially since amalgamation (which KPMG said would save money, but it didn't really) and the downloading by the Harris government, the city has had a funding problem. The population is steadily increasing, so the infrastructure and services to support these people are steadily increasing. Mayors of Toronto have found that you can't really get by without a small tax increase every year. When mayors have decided to not increase taxes one year, they have had to increase it all the more the next year. Miller planned on a 3% tax increase per year and that was the average increase while he was mayor. Ford actually decreased taxes his first year, so he will probably find he will have to raise taxes more than 3% next year (or bring in user fees and cut services). Cutting services and laying off city staff is not sound management when your population is ever-growing, and thus, requires more services, which means more labour and more staff needed to do the increasing amount of work.

I predict the taxes will go up by much more than 3% next year in order for Ford to make up for decreasing them and for his wasting money this year. We're in for a bumpy ride, no doubt about it.

Trying to make sense of Rob Ford

Trying to make sense of Rob Ford, his followers on city council and the reasons behind the cuts and spending.

We now know beyond a shadow of a doubt that there is/was no significant waste at city hall in Toronto. The Service Review done by the consultants hired by Ford, KPMG, concluded this. We also know that every year things are pretty tight for the city budget - expenses keep growing and income must be smartly managed to make ends meet.

But, what is baffling many people, including conservatives, is, the reasoning, or what seems to be the lack of reasoning, behind some of the decisions Ford and his followers on council are making. Cancelling millions of dollars in income and spending needlessly to change things when money is tight doesn't make any sense.


Here is one explanation, which is summed in that Ford may be trying to apply rules to what might apply to one business model, to the city administration - which would mean he is ignorant of business in the way of how different types of businesses will have different levels and types of expenses.

Here are 3 more articles trying to make sense of the reasoning behind Ford [Thanks to Orwell's Bastard for bringing these to light.]

The first one, from All Fired Up In the Big Smoke, points to the gangster/Sopranos-like political games Ford could be playing in order to win more support from specific councillors by threatening, indirectly, projects in their wards, and making examples of other councillors and their projects in their wards. Read the post for the details.

The 2nd one is from Toronto Standard, entitled There's a Word For This: Uncompetence, This article explores how Ford is being wilfully and knowingly incompetent because competence is something the elites do, so he must do something else. Read the post for the details. Here are some excerpts:


Meanwhile, in the next circus ring over, the consultants the Fords hired at great expense to hunt down all the waste in the city’s budget are reporting back this week. The results are being dribbled out day by day. So far, we’re on day three.


The surprising results are not surprising at all: The gravy is a lie. While the reports from the consultants at KPMG suggest nips and tucks, the fact remains that the city has to deliver a lot of services that are required by the province, and it’s already running a fairly tight operation. Cuts will be tough.
...
Incompetence is mismanaging city departments and letting costs get out of hand in the first place. Uncompetence is running on a bogus platform. Uncompetence is cutting taxes in a budget crisis, mandating deep service cuts. Uncompetence is having a better option to fix the situation, but ignoring it because it’s not your style.
...

The 3rd article, Searching For Council's Conservatives, from Ford For Toronto, looks at how Ford and his Conservative allies on council, are not following any Conservative ideology or reasoning. The conclusion of this article (I've included the excerpt at the end below in bold) pretty much sums up my thoughts on this.
Excerpts:

The consultants — who already have a checkered history with this kind of thing, having once produced a report arguing amalgamation would save the Toronto municipalities a significant amount of money — are clear that they aren’t even really looking at efficiencies as much as they’re laying out a list of things that could legally be cut from the city’s portfolio of public services. That this stands contrary to an election promise made by the mayor seems to have been tossed to the curb. 

[Yeah. What's up with the Ford supporters suddenly being gung-ho behind him to cut services, when one of his big campaign promises was to NOT. CUT. SERVICES. !!!???]
...
I’m not sure what you call the ideology that drives these decisions, but it can’t be conservatism, can it? Certainly not principled conservatism. A conservative would demand to see a business case before spending public money modifying infrastructure. In the case of Jarvis, Birchmount and Pharmacy, there wasn’t one. A conservative wouldn’t turn away provincial money — which the city has said it needs –, especially if there was a guarantee in place that the new positions could be eliminated should the funding ever be removed. (Which was the case.)  A conservative wouldn’t call on the provincial government for funding only months removed from electing to decrease the city’s own revenues, and hours removed from opting out of committed, ongoing provincial money for public health.
...
I don’t lean even slightly to the right politically, but I would like to think I understand the merits of conservative thinking. It’s about mitigating government risk, off-loading ambition to the private sector and, in times of economic hardship, turning to austerity as opposed to reinvestment. That’s fine. As much as I disagree with that line of thinking on an ideological level, I respect it. I can hold it in my hands and argue against it. It feels firm.


But what we’re seeing at Council these days isn’t that. It’s a weird mishmash of spite-based decision making and conservatism-when-convenient, held up by the enthusiastic wishes of a “silent majority” that only communicate through the cellphones of the mayor and his brother. It’s all glazed over with a slapdash of pseudo-libertarianism, the kind that exists in the minds of high school students who are like halfway through reading Atlas Shrugged.


Rob Ford is Rob Ford. I can’t fault him for that. He’s maddeningly consistent in his anti-government views and has been for years. What disappoints me — and continuously surprises me — is that he has commanded the support of a cabal of once-sensible Liberals and conservatives on Council, and has driven them to this point where Toronto is now governed by a Council with no consistent guiding ideology, principles, or direction.

Saturday, 16 July 2011

Toronto Cuts Just Beginning

Here is a note Mark MacLennan posted on Facebook.

Toronto Cuts Just Beginning
by Mark MacLennan

Please circulate this any way you can. I took the time to read through all of this stuff so it would be less of a slog to get through for anyone who is interested.

The cuts in Toronto are just starting. The city just quietly published these reports which highlight "opportunities"  that they are considering. These"opportunities"  include radical withdrawal of funds to health care, emergency health care, child care, child care standards, economic development, social development, cuts to public works, infrastructure and the arts.

Skip to page 5 of each report for the important points:

Cuts to Child Care, Medical and Fire Services (inexplicably titled, "Community Development and Recreation")
You can comment directly to the city or request to speak at the committe meeting (July 20th) by clicking on this LINK

Cuts to Infrastructure and Public Works
You can comment directly to the city or request to speak at the committe meeting (July 18th) by clicking on this  LINK

Cuts to Parks and Environment
You can comment directly to the city or request to speak at the committe meeting (July 21st) by clicking on this  LINK

Cuts to Economic Development
You can comment directly to the city or request to speak at the committe meeting (July 19th) by clicking on this  LINK


Almost all of these suggestions are in diametric opposition to the results of a city conducted survey which show:
  1. Which issues residents are actually concerned about.
  2. Many residents are happy to pay more in taxes to keep our services (see below - skip to pg. 4, 6, 7, 8)
  3. The majority of residents want to make our city BETTER than others (pg. 11) (also see pg. 39 for highlights).
That survey is here: Public Consultation Report

The government is considering budget cuts and privatization of services despite the fact that this is EXACTLY what residents DON'T WANT. Please get the word out.

Rob Ford continues to lie to the public as he wastes more money and increases the deficit

Ford’s financial numbers don’t add up - The Globe and Mail
Rob Ford claimed the other day to have saved the city $70 million in the first six months. In this Globe & Mail story, they reported that most of that was the money from the vehicle registration tax. So, this is not a savings but a loss of income for the city.

In actual fact, Ford has wasted over $533 million in the first 8 months in office, by either cutting income for the city or spending money in wasteful ways (see Rob Ford's Gravy Train sidebar on this site.)

Let's look at the money he has wasted so far (see the Gravy Train link above for the details)
- Cancelling Transit City - money spent so far + penalties (there will be more penalties and costs to come, but this is the minimum money wasted in cancelling Transit City) = $179 million
- Abolishing the Land Transfer Tax = $204 million
- Abolishing the vehicle registration tax = $50 million
- Not raising the property taxes this year by a very small amount = $3.5 million
- Hiring consultants to do the work city staff and councillors already do = $3 million
- Hiring a friend to do work the TTC already does = $100,000
- Overgenerous raise to the police (and then he wants to lay some off! I'm not opposed to giving the police a raise, but he gave them a raise that was above and beyond reasonable, especially in consideration of the cost cutting he plans and the layoffs) = $50 million
- Painting over artwork that was commissioned by the city = $2,000
- Removing the Jarvis, Birchmount and Pharmacy bike lanes (this amount also includes the original cost of installing the Jarvis lane, as this is now wasted. I don't know what the other lanes cost to install) = $469,000
- Taking over management of an arena that is greatly in debt, thinking that they will be able to turn things around and make millions renting it out = $43.4 million
There is more, but these are all I have the numbers for so far.

TOTAL = OVER $533 MILLION DOLLARS WASTED BY ROB FORD AND HIS SUPPORTERS ON COUNCIL

The city is looking at a deficit for next year of over $744 million. Imagine if the above money was not wasted. The deficit next year would be in a much more manageable range.

The Globe article says:
Either Mr. Ford is misleading the public or he simply does not
understand the apples-and-oranges difference between money taken in and
money saved.


I think it is a bit of both. I can sort of understand that Ford disliked the previous administration so much that he wants to tear down things that it put in place/built. But, what I can't understand is why he wants to punish everyone in the city, especially those in his old ward in North Etobicoke, by tearing down the good and useful things in the city, by stopping things that would help people, especially in North Etobicoke (Transit City would have brought a lot of much-needed rapid transit to all sections of Etobicoke). What boggles the mind even more is that the majority of city councillors are supporting his plans to destroy Toronto. If I was one of these councillors constituents (luckily, my councillor is one of the few fighting for reason at City Hall these days), I would be giving him/her an earful and voting them out of office next election.

The clincher to the Globe & Mail story is that here we have the Globe & Mail, one of the main corporate media companies, who are staunch Conservative supporters, who usually love this kind of action from a Conservative politician, saying that he has gone too far - that Ford is either malicious or ignorant and that is why he is doing what he is doing.

Wake up Toronto, the city is burning. Talk to your councillors to get them to stop supporting the Ford madness.

Torontonians to Rob Ford: Hands off our libraries!

Poll shows Torontonians oppose closing local libraries and library privatization – councilors take note < Libraries, Privatization, Ontario | CUPE
The Toronto Public Library Workers Union commissioned Forum Research to ask Torontonians about Ford's plan to close and or privatize libraries (poll conducted July 4, 2011). The people of Toronto responded - no way!

The poll found that 74 per cent of Toronto residents disagree with the
idea of closing local library branches as a way of solving the city’s
deficit. When it is their own local branch that is threatened, the
proportion of those who ‘strongly disagree’ is 64 per cent.


The poll was commissioned by the Toronto Public Library Workers Union
(TPLWU), Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Local 4948. The local
represents 2400 Toronto Public Library workers.



Not only are library branch closures off the table as far as Toronto
residents are concerned, 55 per cent disagree with privatizing the
delivery of any city services, and more than one third disagree
“strongly”.



When the Toronto Public Library is mentioned as a privatization target,
seven-in-ten or 71 per cent of Torontonians disagree, and more half (55
per cent) disagree “strongly”.



"We are concerned about threat of further branch closures and the
prospect of privatization, so we wanted to learn what the public really
thought about these issues," says Maureen O'Reilly, president of the
TPLWU CUPE Local 4948.



The poll also shows that Torontonians feel branch closures are a
political issue. More than half (55 per cent) say if they knew their
local councillor supported closing library branches, it would affect
their vote in the next municipal election
“a great deal”. In total,
seven-in-ten (71 per cent) Torontonians say knowing their councillor
supported library branch closures would affect their vote.

So, when there is a vote on the issue in council, I will post who voted to close or privatize the libraries.

There is also a petition you can sign to say you don't want the libraries closed or privatized:
www.ourpubliclibrary.to.



Friday, 15 July 2011

Ford's consultants: Miller was right

The Grid TO | Ford's consultants: Miller was right
Look wait-and-give-him-a-chance people and Ford followers: even the consultants, who Ford wasted a lot of money on, agree with David Miller, 1/3 of the councillors, and just over half the people in Toronto who voted in the municipal election last year: there is/was no waste!

Rob Ford said he would not raise taxes or cut services but cut wasteful spending in order to find money for Toronto. But, there was/is no wasteful spending. So, he is breaking two of his campaign promises (he said he would find waste - there is none, and he said he would not cut services - yet he is).

Toronto is an ever-growing city - the population keeps increasing at a significant rate. More people, along with usual cost increases, means that the cost of running Toronto will steadily increase. You can't reduce (cut the land transfer tax and the vehicle registration tax already) the income of the city and expect to continue to maintain services. Ford also plans on reducing the staff of Toronto significantly. To do this he plans on offering people severance packages. The problem with this is that a)there goes another waste of money, since b) we will need to hire these people back since you can't significantly reduce staff when you have an ever-increasing workload due to an ever-growing population.

If anyone is wasting money here, it is Rob Ford - over $533 million since December 2010.

The article in the Grid tells it like it is:
The report by KPMG for Rob Ford could just as easily have been written by the former mayor Ford hates so much



As no doubt you’ve heard,
today, the first phase of the Core Services Review carried out by
consultants KPMG at the behest of Mayor Rob Ford and city council was made available [PDF].
You’ll read a lot over the coming days—you may have read a lot
already—about the debates over the cuts it suggests are possible. But at
a glance, the most astonishing thing about it is that it could have
been written by the campaign to re-elect David Miller, or by councillors
like Shelley Carroll, Gord Perks, Adam Vaugahn and Janet Davis.


That is: the conclusions drawn by the consultants hired by Rob Ford
are the same as the talking points of Rob Ford’s opponents: that there
is very little inefficiency in Toronto’s government (KPMG says 96% per
cent of services in Public Works—the area covered by this phase of the
report—are required) and that finding savings for taxpayers will require
cutting services.


Seriously, that’s what it says. Rob Ford, of course, campaigned by
saying repeatedly that he would lower taxes without cutting services. He
said repeatedly that simply making the functioning of government more
efficient and eliminating waste would realize huge savings. He said, “we
don’t have a revenue problem, we have a spending problem.” KPMG, after
being paid handsomely by Ford’s city hall, would beg to differ, it
seems.


The report does not recommend any cuts, rather it identifies places
where cuts might be possible without violating provincial law or
abandoning the basic necessities of municipal life. So: we could save
money by spending less on cycling infrastructure. We could save money by
not fluoridating the water. We could save money by reducing the level
of street cleaning or the level of snow removal. All these and more are
contained in the report. We could save money by eliminating the green
bin program. These items do not necessarily look like waste. The
possibilities discussed have nothing to do with efficiency.


The risks of each possibility are noted (for example, KPMG notes the
“High” risk of an epidemic of tooth decay that would flow from the “Low”
savings of stopping fluoridation). Virtually all of the possibilities
will generate a “Low” level of savings, according to the report.


Another interesting thing: the public consultation results
released alongside the report today could have been written by the
committee to re-elect David Miller, too: they rank quality and
consistency of service highly across the board, and rank low taxes as
the lowest possible priority.


One further thing, as reported by journalist Jonathan Goldsbie: Mike
Del Grand, Rob Ford’s budget chief, today said, in discussing the
report, that “We have the lowest taxes in the GTA, with the greatest services provided.
That was a David Miller talking point too. And what it suggests is that
Toronto has a revenue problem. And that solving it without raising
taxes will mean cutting services. It will be interesting to see if the
further phases of the report carry on the theme of proving the entire
premise of the Ford campaign wrong.



Possible explanation for Rob Ford's ignorant blunders

Is he running a government or making widgets? - Peace, order and good government, eh?
This is Ford explaining
to talk radio host John Oakley why he thinks Toronto's labour costs are
too high and there should be large reductions in staffing:
In business, the first thing you look at is the labour and
your labour should be making up, you know, maximum 20 per cent. Not,
well, we're at 80 per cent. It's just unheard of.

Now don't you think that might depend on the business you're in? If
you're manufacturing, it's quite possible that raw materials, plant and
equipment will account for 80 per cent of your costs while labour
represents the other 20 per cent. And if the raw materials represent the
biggest chunk of that 80 per cent, it's entirely possible that's the
first place you should look when you're trying to reduce costs.

Yes, as POGGE points out, it depends what business you are in. Much of what the government provides is labour intensive - services. So, it makes sense that labour costs take up the majority of your expenses.

POGGE's conclusion:

I've had the impression that Ford is one of those who thinks you ought
to run government like a business. But last time I checked, that
involves actually examining the business you're in and making
intelligent decisions based on what you know and observe, not pulling
numbers out of your ass and pretending they mean something.

Ford is trying to apply force manufacturing business knowledge on an altogether different structure. You would think that being on council for years he would have noticed the differences by now. An even bigger problem is that a majority of city councillors also can't tell the difference and they support Ford's blunders.


Noncommittal Rob Ford brushes off $130 million + $49 million wasted in cancelling Transit City

Metro - Ford deals death blow to Transit City

Toronto must pay at least $49M to cancel LRT plan

I was waiting for more numbers to come in before posting this. So far, we have a waste, by Ford, of $179 million.

From the Metro article:
Ford was noncommittal when asked who will be responsible for the $130
million already spent on Transit City as well as the penalties on more
than $1.3 billion worth of signed contracts


On Rob Ford's first day as mayor, he cancelled Transit City. The city had already spent $130 million dollars on it.
In addition, the city will have to pay penalties for breaking contracts related to Transit City.
From the CBC article:

Toronto is currently on the hook for at least $49 million for
cancelling the Transit City light rail plan, says the head of the
regional transportation agency tasked with implementing Toronto Mayor
Rob Ford's new transit plan.


That outlay is likely to rise, said Bruce McQuaig, the CEO of
Metrolinx. The city would have to pay for any penalties incurred for
breaking or altering contracts secured in the previous Transit City
plan, he confirmed.


"$49 million is what would be known at this point in time and then
there would be additions based on how the discussions go with some of
the suppliers," he told reporters Thursday.

So, it will be more than $49 million.


Rob Ford Gravy Train amount: $179 million


Thursday, 14 July 2011

Rob Ford's Gravy Train - another $43.4 million please

City takes over debt-ridden Leafs practice facility - thestar.com

The City of Toronto will take over interim management of the
debt-plagued Lakeshore Lions Arena while it seeks to find a new operator
for the four-pad rink that opened two years ago.


The facility, also known as the MasterCard Centre for Hockey
Excellence, carries a debt of $43.4 million. The city, which guaranteed
the loan, stepped in because the facility was in danger of defaulting.

....
And this part is the funniest part, if it didn't cost so much:

Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday predicted a rosy future for the facility.


“I think in the end it will still be there for the community, it
won’t be run by the city and it won’t cost the taxpayers any money,”
said Holyday, who plays recreational hockey there.


Does anyone smell the hypocrisy here, in regards to the recent cost cutting and layoffs?

Rob Ford's Gravy train amount: about $43.4 million

RCMP to investigate the Looters In Suits $50 million expenditure 100km from Huntsville (un-approved G8 spending)

RCMP finally investigates Muskoka’s G8 ‘Legacy Infrastructure’ « the reeves report
Excerpt from The Reeves Report:
Because of an election-time early leak of the Auditor General’s G8 report which I wrote about here, many opposition MP’s were suspicious of the way in which funds were spent during the G8/G20 debacle. According to the Montreal Gazette,
“the audit also found millions of dollars worth of projects — including
construction of public washrooms and gazebos — were authorized without
approval from department officials, and ended up having little to do
with their original purpose, presented to Parliament as funding for
‘border infrastructure.’”



$50K for a gazeebo 100km from Huntsville. Border Infrastructure. Huh.


What it comes down to, G8/G20 rioting or no, is that
Canadian taxpayers from coast-to-coast should not be paying for
“beautification projects” from a “legacy fund” in the Conservative
riding of Perry Sound-Muskoka just because the riding is held by a loyal
Conservative whose constituents didn’t embarrass the Prime Minister
when Obama was looking.
These kind of rewards simply
reinforce the notion that patronage payments will be made to
Conservative ridings, and if you’re stupid enough to live outside the
Tory world, well nuts to you.



And while I am not suggesting that Toronto should have received funds because of the rioting, I am suggesting that as a good will gesture to the citizens of Toronto from their
Prime Minister, whether they voted for him or not, Stephen Harper
should not have been so callous as to tell Toronto to go to hell and
sleep in the bed they made. Which is pretty well what happened.



While there is no way for the RCMP to investigate the motive
behind the decision to award Perry Sound-Muskoka for not causing a
fuss, that would be amazing. Sadly, an investigation into the sketchy
truth of the matter will have to suffice. I won’t hold my breath for
restitution on behalf of the City of Toronto, but if something
unscrupulous led to our being left to lick our wounds alone, I am in
favour of finding out what happened.


Wednesday, 13 July 2011

NDP warns against Conservatives' snooping law

NDP warns against Conservatives’ snooping law
This is what fascism looks like. Decreasing rights and privacy of the people and increasing the powers of the state and the police.

Conservative voters and people who didn't vote - this is what you support.

Rob Ford Must Go - Campaign to Impeach Mayor Ford

Rob Ford Must Go - Campaign to Impeach Mayor Ford - Petition Online Canada
Rob Ford definitely won't be impeached due to this petition (I don't think the mayor can be impeached. I think he can be removed from office if he breaks certain laws - see Oh, suddenly Rob Ford DOES have something to hide), but it might bring more attention to his ineptitude and raise the awareness of some of those who voted for him.

Jarvis Bike Lane dead. Ford's war on cyclists continues

Jarvis Bike Lanes Saved for One Year, Birchmount and Pharmacy Bike Lanes to be Removed - Torontoist
Today, Toronto City Council voted 28-9 in favour of removing the Jarvis, Birchmount and Pharmacy bike lanes.

Excerpt from the link:
As per the language in today's city council agenda, this decision does
not follow any recommendation or guidance provided by staff or outside
planning consultants. It is the result of implementing the mayor's
preferred approach to cycling infrastructure
—"a 100 km network of
off-street bike trails and completion of critical on-street bike lane
connections where the community supports them and where they do not
impede traffic flow"—itself not a policy that resulted from any
environmental assessments, traffic studies, or advice from urban
planning experts
(at least not any on public record).



As a cyclist who rides every day all over the city, I am usually riding to get from one location to another (as opposed to recreational cycling). So, I need to travel on the quickest, shortest, most direct routes. Due to this need, I'm often travelling on routes that are popular for cars as well. When there is a bike lane, that is a bonus, and it also makes it safer for those who aren't as experienced. To build a network of off-street bike trails is counter-productive. Most current off-street bike trails, and places where they could build more off-street bike trails, are out of the way and don't follow directions I need to take back and forth across the city. And, for many who travel by bicycle now to and from work and school, off-street bike paths will be inconvenient as well. Rob Ford and his war-on-cyclist supporters don't understand this issue. They don't listen to the facts and studies about cycling and cycling routes. And, for all their bluster about a gravy-train and wasteful spending, they certainly are not paying any attention to wasteful spending. It would be far more useful, efficient and cost effective, to put bike lanes on well-used routes for cyclists, than to build a large network of bike lanes in out-of the way places where they will not be used by the majority of cyclists in the city.

It will cost a lot of money to remove bike lanes that currently exist and are not causing any problems on the roads. It will cost much more to build a network of off-street routes that will not be used by most cyclists. Neither of these projects will solve any problems of car gridlock or bicycle safety, and they will not improve traffic conditions for cars or cyclists. The solution would be to build on the existing network of bike lanes, not tear them down.

More views, news and ideas on this topic at:
The Reeves Report: Compromising on Bike Lanes at Toronto City Hall: Pt. II

The Jarvis vote: what the hell happened?

Those who supported the elimination responded by generally just wandering around the council chamber and not listening. The hundreds of taxpayers who came to City Hall to support maintaining the lanes were dismissed by some councillors — notably Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday — as “bike people.”

Toronto Star: Council Votes to Scrap Jarvis Bike Lane

http://www.globaltoronto.com/City+council+votes+remove+Jarvis+bike+lanes/5096020/story.html
Many of the councillors who wanted to save the lanes walked out of City Council before the final vote, resulting in a lopsided, 28-9 vote in favour of killing the lanes. [Note: that would be 8 councillors, who after 7 hours of debate with 27 councillors and 1 mayor who were going to vote to remove the lane for no reason, and could not be reasoned with, walked out in disgust.]
Also of note from the Global video story is that there are a number of Bixi bike stations installed on Jarvis. Jarvis is a busy cycling route and it has become 3x as busy as it was a year ago. And Bixi rentals are booming. So, here is yet another reason to keep the Jarvis bike lane.

http://www.cp24.com/servlet/an/local/CTVNews/20110713/110713_bike_lanes/20110713/?hub=CP24Home
One of the councillors pushing for the bike lanes to be removed was Coun. Denzil Minnan-Wong. He said it would be safer for cyclists and motorists to have separate bike lanes away from major streets.
This is unbelievable. I've read many news accounts of the vote and this is the only reason for removing the lane? If this is the reasoning, why are they not removing all the lanes that still exist on major streets downtown? And why are they going to build a fancier lane on Sherbourne then? The real reason they removed the lane is out of spite for the previous, Miller, administration.

How council voted
Voted to remove the bike lanes (28):
Paul Ainslie, Ana Bail√£o, Michelle Berardinetti, Josh Colle, Gary Crawford, Vincent Crisanti, Mike Del Grande, Frank Di Giorgio, Doug Ford, Rob Ford, Mark Grimes, Doug Holyday, Norman Kelly, Chin Lee, Gloria Lindsay Luby, Giorgio Mammoliti, Mary-Margaret McMahon, Peter Milczyn, Denzil Minnan-Wong, Ron Moeser, Frances Nunziata (Chair), Cesar Palacio, John Parker, James Pasternak, Jaye Robinson, David Shiner, Karen Stintz, Michael Thompson
People of Toronto: If one of these people is your councillor, please ask them what reason they had to vote to remove the lanes - lanes that provided a more safe cycling route, that had shown increased cyclist traffic, that showed no decrease in car traffic, and would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to remove and zero dollars to let them remain. We deserve a real answer.

It is interesting to note that in all the news stories about this vote in council, and, although the issue was debated for many hours, there are no reasons cited from the side that voted to remove the lanes for removing the lanes. Outrageous.

Some media has spun the story to say that this was a win for cyclists (wtf?!) - since the Jarvis bike lane with stay there for a year while the Sherbourne lane is revamped. But no, this is a loss for cyclists and a loss for reason, and taxpayers, and logic.

Voted against removing the bike lanes (9):
Maria Augimeri, Raymond Cho, Glenn De Baeremaeker, John Filion, Mary Fragedakis, Josh Matlow, Joe Mihevc, Gord Perks, Anthony Perruzza

Walked out in protest (would have voted against removing the bike lanes) (8):
Shelley Carroll, Janet Davis, Sarah Doucette, Paula Fletcher, Mike Layton, Pam McConnell, Adam Vaughan, Kristyn Wong-Tam



CONCLUSION
What it cost to install the Jarvis Bike Lane originally: $59,000
How much it will cost to remove it: $200,000
How much it will cost to remove the Birchmount and Pharmacy bike lanes: $210,000
Total addition to Rob Ford's Gravy Train: $469,000
Reason for removing the lanes: none.


Rob Ford: Bad math and police layoffs

Layoffs loom for police and city staff - thestar.com
Back in May 2011, Rob Ford gave the Toronto Police a big raise. Now, he wants to lay them off. The need for police layoffs could have been greatly reduced if he hadn't given them such a big raise. Ford is already having to deal with the mistakes he made earlier this year.

People, please take note. Did you vote for Rob Ford? Is the councillor you elected voting in support of all Ford's mistakes? Next time, don't just vote for sound bites, take a little time to review the candidates' policies and records.

Could the vote on the Jarvis Bike Lane be a turning point for Ford's support on council?

Fighting for Bike Lanes at Toronto City Hall: Pt. I « the reeves report
Earlier today, Mayor Rob Ford voted against all the community grants, while council voted unanimously to continue the grants (with one vote exception where Doug Ford voted along with his brother).

Council also voted (24-17) to protect graffiti alley (near Queen and Spadina).

The group of councillors in the middle just might begin to stand up for their constituents instead of continuing to kowtow to Rob Ford.

The vote for the Jarvis Bike Lane takes place July 13th. Since the bike lane was introduced, car traffic has not decreased, while bicycle use of the road has tripled. This to me would say - the bike lanes are having no negative effect on vehicle traffic, while making the road much more efficient and safer for cyclists. Why spend a lot of money to remove the bike lane only to make it less efficient and safe for cyclists, and to make no difference to motorists?

The reason that Ford and his supporters want to remove the bike lane (from the main link at top):

To those who push for the removal of the Jarvis bike lane, it is
worth considering that the Ford plan will not bring back the two-way
centre lane: rather, it will see the removal of the bike lane and the
introduction of a left turn lane. That is all.


And if this seems a petty reason to remove important cycling
infrastructure, that’s because it is. Councillors could be overheard
this afternoon stating that this was
politics – pure and simple. It is part of a larger drive of the
right-wing Ford administration to simply undo the remnants of former
Toronto Mayor David Miller’s time in office.

And speaking with Garcia, you can see she tends to agree. “There is
really no reason to remove [the Jarvis bike lane] other than an
ideological position against having a bike lane on an arterial [road],”
she says. “This will set a negative precedent that we can do bicycling
planning based on ideology rather than evidence.”


UPDATE

The Jarvis, Birchmount and Pharmacy bicycle lanes will be removed (at a large cost to Toronto and to cyclists on these routes). The vote July 13, 2011 was 28-19 in favour of removal.


Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Hey Rob! Cutting these will result in higher costs down the road and result in insignificant savings

All Aboard the Gravy Train: Business, Culture, Employment, Medical Supplies - Torontoist
Cutting these services (listed at the link) will result in higher costs for Toronto in the future. And, they won't amount to much savings for Toronto. It would make more sense financially to
- put back the land transfer tax and the vehicle registration fees
- have left Transit City (which was fully budgeted) alone instead of cancelling it (thus incurring large $ penalties), and planning a very costly, un-budgeted and un-financed, subway extension (that will service far fewer people than Transit City routes would have serviced)
- stop paying consultants hundreds of thousands of dollars for reports like this that tell council things they already knew.

But, we have Rob Ford for a mayor - onward to destruction!

Monday, 11 July 2011

Ford continues to nickel-and-dime while Toronto burns

City bosses face buyout offer in Ford's quest for cuts - thestar.com
Rob Ford continues to make little cuts here and there while ignoring the elephant in the room of his own creation. While he nickles and dimes cuts to employees, he has also cut large incomes for the city and he is spending on his own gravy train. All of this of course so he can make huge cuts to services (that he promised would not be cut).

Saturday, 9 July 2011

Rob Ford does not compute

Ford’s expenses report questioned in complaint - thestar.com
One way for politicians to cover up bribes would be to funnel those bribes into paying for expenses and not keep track of those expenses or where the money came from. This is one of the reasons that city councillors have to keep track of their expenses even if they pay for the expenses from their own money.

Rob Ford didn't keep track of these expenses when he was a councillor, and now he is not keeping track as the mayor. He didn't follow the rules for his campaign expenses either.  I guess he figures that the people who voted him into office, since they knew he had bad math skills and that he was never accountable for his personally paid expenses in the past, won't care.

Ford is proving to be terrible with the City's finances. It stands to reason he would be bad with his own accounting too.

Thursday, 7 July 2011

The Rob Ford supporters never paid attention

Mapping Toronto's Wellbeing - Torontoist
Okay, first, no one is surprised that they didn't and don't pay attention.

Here is a smoking gun of inattentiveness:
Scroll down to "Overcrowded TTC Routes". Notice that the most overcrowded public transit routes are in the heartland of Ford Nation - Mainly Northern Etobicoke, but also in South Etobicoke, NW North York and in Scarborough. The worst overcrowding being in Northern Etobicoke.

These people voted AGAINST building the already planned and budgeted Transit City rapid transit routes into these overcrowded areas. I guess they must love poor public transit service, because Ford said (and he has since done) he would take away the already budgeted Transit City plan that would have given these areas vastly improved public transit.

You're not defending our freedoms

An Open Letter to the Troops: You’re Not Defending Our Freedoms: Information Clearing House: ICH
Stephen Harper, Conservatives and Liberals : you should take heed of this letter too. The situation in Afghanistan with Canadian troops is also pointless, is not defending our freedoms, and jeopardizes the safety of Canadians all over the world.

Monday, 4 July 2011

Rob Ford to Toronto - Pride's over, who can I snub next?

James: Toronto elected a mayor, not a priest - thestar.com
Those huge numbers of supporters who argue that the mayor should have
the right to go where he wants and support whichever events he chooses,
choose to forget this: Tomorrow, you will be the one snubbed.