As of this morning I am a candidate for city councillor in Toronto’s Ward 27. After months of consultation and contemplation, I’ve come to the conclusion that this municipal election represents an exciting and unique opportunity for us as residents to, in one small but significant way, seize control of our own democracy and build the kind of community we want.
In one sense, city governance is about a set of very practical things like roads, garbage collection, sewers, and so on. It’s important that these areas are addressed properly and with sound judgment. In addition, however, city governance defines the kind of world we live in. We interact with municipal government services more than those of any other government, and in many ways those services have the largest immediate impact on our quality of life. When we talk about city building and when we elect a city council, we’re deciding what kind of neighbourhood we live in, what our commute to work is like, what kinds of activities we can easily enjoy on the evenings and weekends, what kind of education our children receive, and what it means to exist as a diverse community of equals.
And yet, we tend to pay very little attention to municipal politics, and I doubt there are even many city councillors who would argue we have the kind of governance we can be proud of, the kind of vision we should aspire to, the kind of representation we deserve.
I’m running to be Ward 27’s next councillor because I’ve lived here for a decade, I attended and graduated from university here, and I think we deserve better.
Recognizing that there will be a lot of time to discuss specific policy positions throughout the campaign, in these early days there are three areas I would like to lift up.
First, anyone elected to city council will need to address the very serious and imminent financial crisis. The city must get its house in order and Torontonians expect to see better value for their tax dollars. That will mean finding new creative sources of revenue as well as targeted cost containment. The unrelenting wave of perpetual property tax increases we’ve become used to is not only bad policy, it’s unimaginative. In short, through smart development and planning I will focus on expanding the tax base, not the tax burden.
Second, we expect more from our transit system. Too many of us know the frustration of waiting for a bus that never comes, or watching a full streetcar pass us by as we stand with our Metropass or transfer in hand. While it is true that the TTC is underfunded by provincial and federal levels of government, we need to move from making excuses to finding solutions. We don’t do that by blaming others or creating divisions, we do it by articulating the kind of system we want and a plan to get there together.
Finally, much of what a city councillor does is concerned with building the kind of city we want, whether that means working with developers and residents on a new residential or commercial building or negotiating how our streets are equitably shared among pedestrians, cyclists, transit users and drivers. I will approach these conversations in a way that is open and inclusive, seeking to build common ground. And I will be mindful not only of our ward’s current needs, but also the kind of city we’ll be proud to have created further down the road.
In addition to these larger areas, I’ll enter into dialogue with residents and stakeholders from each of our neighbourhoods about what specific issues we should work on together over the next four years. For example, a conversation about Church Street’s accidental evolution is long overdue, and as a community we need to address what kind of Church Street we want. (Update: conversation about this in the comments.)
Let’s be clear: we can win this campaign, and I can’t tell you how grateful I am to those of you who have already offered your support. It’s a long time until election day on October 25th, and there’s much to be done. Let’s get to work.