VIDEOS: Tales from the Twin Cities

A few weeks ago, I drove for 16 hours to Minneapolis along with two other volunteers from the RaBIT campaign: Sarah Rimmington and Chloe Doesburg.

We spent one week documenting and researching their municipal election.  A new City Council was elected – using a ranked ballot!!

After 40 years on this planet, I’d finally witnessed an actual fair election.  There were no distorted results, negative campaigns or ‘vote splitting’  – the hallmarks of a Toronto election.  They elected a female mayor, 46% female council, as well as their first Somali Councillor, first Latino Councillor and first Hmong Councillor.  It was a breath of fresh air, compared to what I’m used to.


Here are three videos I’ve edited, from the footage that the three of us shot on streets of Minneapolis:

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This ad is vacant

Three years ago, I launched The Fourth Wall exhibit containing 36 practical ways to make our local democracy more inclusive, inviting and participatory.

Recommendation #22 was simple:  “The city should pro-actively promote the nomination process and encourage nominations”.

We have this wonderful thing called “Democracy”, where anyone is allowed to put their name on a ballot and ask the public to support their vision and their ideas.  But it only works if people actually know when and how to participate!

In the exhibit, I pointed out that the city does know to produce good outreach materials, when they are seeking nominations for OTHER things …like the ‘Green Toronto Awards':


Note the effective use of colour, images, pretty fonts, and attractive layout/design.  There’s even an exclamation mark. (!)

As part of the exhibit, I created a fictitious “Call for Nominations” for City Council:


But this ad shouldn’t be fictitious.  We know the City has the capacity to design effective marketing materials.  So I was disappointed to see this ad in today’s newspaper: Continue reading

Two Neighbourhood Fence Removals: West & East!


Hey folks,

The Downtown De-Fence Project is at it again, and we need your brawn to help us out!

No experience required.  Bring a pair of pliers, if you have any.  (Available at Dollarama)

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The Lauder Avenue Conservation Area and Botanical Gardens

There’s an abandoned house on my street.  According to my neighbours, it’s been empty for about ten years.  The front yard has grown into a jungle of weeds, some of them extending more than six feet high, and the City has posted violation notices on the front door.  Weed violations:


Many people view it as an eye-sore, a neglected mess.  But it occurred to me recently that the property is really nothing less than a naturalised habitat!  Rather than fretting about the abandoned property, why not embrace it as a neighbourhood treasure?  So I made my own sign and posted it on the yard.  Voila!! Continue reading

The Professional Guest


Seven years ago, it occurred to me that paying rent was a real drag.

I was putting together the original business plan for Cycle Toronto, and I realised that we’d need to have a full-time staff person for about nine months, being paid roughly $0 per week.  As long as I needed to pay rent, we couldn’t start the new bike group.

So I came up with a fun idea called “The Professional Guest”.  I sent the following letter to all my friends:

November 27 2006


dear friends!

I’m moving out of my house and I’d like to move into yours.  Don’t be alarmed.  My plan is not to be a moocher nor a ‘Couch Surfer’.  As of New Years, I will begin my new career as a Professional Guest.

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Rob Ford proposes 16 new seats on City Council

Mayor Rob Ford was in Winnipeg this week, and commented that “The thing I liked about it, they only had 16 councillors down there and a little, small council chamber,”

Well, that might be because Winnipeg is roughly a quarter of the size of Toronto.


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De-Fence • Sunday June 16

Each time we take down a fence, we liberate a lawn, and our hearts.

Open neighbourhoods say “hi“.  Fences say “go away“.

Learn more about the Downtown De-Fence Project, and then join us on Sunday!!

Neighbourhood Fence Removal
Sunday June 16, 2pm
50 Campbell Ave
Facebook RSVP.