A morning at city hall

City Hall has decided to hear Deputations from the citizens of the city itself on how to spend a budget surplus. They will then consider the proposals brought to them, and make a decision. Democracy in action.

Or at least, the Rob Ford version. Where Democracy should be less time consuming then High School sports.

Deputants where given 3 minutes to explain their proposal, then, if any member of the council wanted to ask, the questions were limited to 1 minute. That 60 seconds INCLUDES the time it takes to ask the question itself. Somehow, this group of “leaders” were supposed to be making informed decisions about the proposals, without being able to ask multiple questions, or take more than a single minute to receive a proper answer.

The new face of Democracy... disinterest with a side of boredom

The new face of Democracy… disinterest with a side of boredom

Over the course of the morning, many people came forward with a myriad of interesting and thoughtful proposals, which Chair Mike Del Grande (pictured above, staring intently at his own hand) deftly reduced to a 1-5 word name, and a cost on the board.

The scribble of pen on paper was heard, and was they click click click of keyboards and phone screens being poked with vigor… but that was only from the press. Very few council members seemed interested enough in any of the proposals to actually go through the trouble taking notes, or typing things up. No fan of democracy could watch the councils actions without a pang in the chest. The purest form of hearing the people out, couldn’t even be met with actually Listening to what they had to say.

Where the council seemed determined to suck the hope out of the room, the deputants themselves came forward undeterred. Men and women of all ages, and many cultures, all bringing forward the things they felt passionate about.

From the very beginning, you could hear the feeling in peoples voices. The second speaker, one Mike Rosenburg, clearly felt very strongly about how much money the city spends on Information Technology. Namely, that they spend too much, and should shift focus elsewhere to the tune of 40 million dollars per annum.

Next came 4 passionate speakers on women’s issues, each bringing to the table not only problems by solutions, as did many of the speakers today.

First, was the proposal to revamp the Section 37 website, so that it was more easily readable, and more accessible to all. Strangely, this simple motion garnered the most life out of the panel all morning, as councellor after counsellor  teed off on the young woman bringing the motion forward. Section 37 information can be found here.

The next proposal seemed to garner much more support, and dealt with implementing Timed TTC fares. There was almost a complete exchange of ideas and information, but Council Chair Del Grande was keeping time closer than a playoff ref, and, in one of the rare moments he seemed to be actually alive, and not a sophisticated marionette, quickly sprang into action, shouting down those who would use an entire 80 seconds to answer a complex question, before simply informing the deputant that he had to add more cost than presented because… well, because he doesn’t understand how math works.

That was a startling moment to see. The head of the budget committee not realize that even an 80 cent fare subsidy on a $3 fare, leaves the city $2.20 to the good. Math, it just adds up.

There was a proposal to turn old city buildings into vibrant community centers for economic development, and promotion of new canadians, women, and youth. Claire Crossley presented it beautifully, but again Del Grande cared only about numbers. How could anyone sum up something with the potential to MAKE the city money, if it spends some now, into a simple “revitalize unused buildings —  3 million up front”, without even noting what it would do for the city culturally, economically, and socially.

The Women In Toronto Politics also spoke to the idea of using a Gender Lens on the budget. A fantastic idea, that costs nothing, and gives copious benefits.

A man came forward to share his experience of homelessness, being HIV positive, and the help that saved his life.

A group of seniors came to speak on the importance of their social groups at St. Stephens, for both their physical and mental health.

It was moving to see people from so many walks of life, speaking with passion, on subjects so clearly close to their hearts. How anyone could hear them and not be moved is a mystery.

Could always just Ask Del Grande, he seems able.

Spending more on housing….. 40 million
TTC time based Transfers….. 15 million
Reducing the needs of a city of over 6 million to less than 1 excel line, and a price…. Heartbreaking

Toronto needs, and deserves, the council to show the same passion as the deputants.

Now THAT would be priceless.

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