Today I attended City Hall to witness and support deputations by citizens in response to the report of a $3M external review of services. The report recommends a wide range of destructive cuts and privatization of services which Torontonians value deeply. I am so impressed with the quality, vigour, and clarity of the city's engaged, conscientious citizenry, as we declare our values to City Council. More than 250 people registered to make deputations, and the council will meet through the night to hear them all (so they say).
I am heartened and impressed by the enthusiasm of the audience, spilling into multiple overflow rooms, cheering each speaker's strong points. Some of our councilors are excellent leaders, logical thinkers, sometimes fierce, sometimes funny. I think of Adam Vaughn in particular, in each instance his questions making clear connections: A+B+C=D. The city is a mosaic, city services are interconnected, and we are all interconnected. Other councilors are embarassing obfuscators, either ignorant of the city and how it works, or making that pretence in order to emphasise an obtuse financial point. "Someone else should pay" is Mammoliti's theme, eyes rolling, and wingeing that the other councilors might be laughing at him behind his back. His childish petulance is appalling.
When I look at mainstream media, "the message" has been firmly in the control of our Mayor, who is an ignoramus and a buffoon. Perhaps a never-ending stream of offences from the Mayor and his brother will finally turn that tide, and media and the general public will truly take them to task for their ignorance and thuggishness. (This week alone, the Mayor flipped the bird at a mother and her 6-year-old as they objected to him driving, illegally, while talking on his cell-phone. The Mayor's brother, an elected Councilor, also this week dismissed our most internationally famous novelist as an unimportant plebe who he wouldn't recognize on the street, when she challenged his equally fatuous dismissal of the importance of libraries.) This is a loathsome team, outrageous, bullying, and dishonest. I am continually amazed that they succeeded in being elected at all. And I despair at the state of this place, that would choose such fools for leaders.
It is so important nonetheless to break from a pattern of despair, and also of reaction. Some of us are shaken to a action, blood boiling, but it is often action AGAINST more than action FOR. In every social gathering I have attended in recent months, conversation has been dominated by head shaking and hand wringing over the shame, horror, and real threat my community of urban creatives feels with the election of this mayor in late 2010. It is a genuine reaction, and it is important for us to support each other and our shared concern for our city.
It is more important that we creatively, proactively, and assertively work toward a way of living that is respectful of our most fragile, that is honorable and just, that is expansive, open-hearted, open-minded. There are so many ways that our city has been moving, until recently, in a positive direction of care and inclusiveness and vibrancy. But it could do better. It is NOT a time to regress further toward the dark-hearted, neo-con model that insists upon public penury for private gain. This theme has dominated discourse for too long. It is not a viable, sustainable, or humane direction for our city, nor for our nation, nor for our planet. Canadians care about each other, we know we are our brothers' keeper and that when our most vulnerable falter, so do we all.
We must creatively imagine solutions that look at the whole system, including civic taxation, and provincial and federal funding models. We need to look at wide sources of revenue, rather than cuts. We need to look at our successful programs and grow them. We need to visualize our ideals and bring them to fruition. The challenge is great, with weak and uninspiring leadership at every level of politics: leaders who would ask only "which cuts will you tolerate", not, "what is our vision". Yet we are up to the challenge. I hear it today, in the loud and clear-headed voices of our citizenry. Democracy and capitalism may fail us. Certainly the myth of "City as Business, Citizens as Customers" is a fallacy, an inept metaphor, and I would argue, a morally bankrupt one. In the mission to build a just society, our humanity, creativity and interconnectedness are what will prevail, and many, many of us know it.