Randy McDonald (rfmcdpei) wrote,
Randy McDonald

[URBAN NOTE] Why one Torontonian voted for Ford, and its import

Over at Spacing Toronto, journalist and photographer Rick McGinnis wrote a fairly controversial post explaining why he voted for Ford. It comes down to McGinnis' skepticism about the practicality of the Transit City plan, and a hope that, maybe, Ford's lack of vision would be conducive to a less charismatic, more practical style of urban government.

Light Rail Transit, or the LRT, was the shiny totem of Transit City – a network of new streetcars running on dedicated lines pushing ever deeper into the suburbs, and (hopefully) providing the downtown with as near as it would ever see to the subway line that was desperately needed but never built. The first problem was that they would never be run as true LRTs – at top speed and on dedicated lines – but as tramways, plain and simple, stopping and starting at the same traffic lights as a bus, car, or bicycle.

The second problem was that these call-them-what-you-want-but-they’re-not-LRTs would be built by the same people responsible for the upgrade of the St. Clair West streetcar line to a dedicated tramway. I left Roncesvalles Avenue just as the local pain of the streetcar upgrades was starting to bite, and moved to St. Clair at the dregs end of the years-long, over budget construction there, where the anguish of shopkeepers and residents was painful and prolonged. As visions go, you can’t blame voters for suspecting that it might be more in the nature of a nightmare.

[. . .]

Ford’s plan would probably do almost nothing for me, but once I let my self-interest slip, I realized that, in an imperfect world, it was probably the best idea out there. A line along Queen or King would be infinitely preferable to me, but apart from being wildly expensive and disruptive, it would drain resources away from servicing that part of the city where transit use ranged from the inconvenient to the purgatorial.

(The below paragraphs met with particular displeasure.)

Many people who voted for Ford might explain that they wanted to pay fewer taxes, and while that would be nice, I’m enough of a pessimist to assume that it’s in government’s nature to assume an ongoing entitlement to your largesse. After years of concentrating on his message of municipal waste, Rob Ford might not lower my taxes, but I can at least anticipate that the money City Hall gets might be used more carefully. That said, every vote is an expression of the purest pink-cheeked hope and optimism, and a part of me is, as ever, prepared to be disappointed, but what I don’t expect is ever more expansive – or expensive – vision.

The most stubborn criticism against Ford, though, is that he’s a bully and a clod, inept, uncouth and stupid. In tone, it most resembles the more vicious attacks made on Sarah Palin, and the similarity has inspired tenuous attempts to link Ford’s victory with the Tea Party in the U.S. On the most practical level, it’s undercut by Ford’s three successive terms as a councillor, and his apparently unaccountable failure upwards to the highest municipal office, against every expectation and the furious opposition of much of the city’s media.

What Ford clearly lacks is eloquence, and for that I’m grateful. Vision is given wings by eloquence, and history is full of poor ideas given inadequate criticism thanks to a carapace of pretty words. We’re long overdue for a debate over what government should and should not provide, and what our own city can and cannot afford, and since that debate will be harsh and uncivil at times, I have no problem with my choice for mayor.

I agree somewhat with McGinnis on the subject of LRT expansions disrupting traffic on major arteries--I think it's worth the disruption in the end, mind--and I don't think at all that Ford's quite suited to be a technocrat. McGinnis' position is one I don't agree with, but it's defensible. This makes what I did notice, in the comments at the Spacing Toronto blog particularly, rather disturbing. Saying that, as a self-professed public transit fan who supports Ford, he's no different from a man with non-white friends who's also a racist, is inflammatory at the very least. Yay! elevated political discourse.
Tags: democracy, politics, toronto
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