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.

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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':

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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:

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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!

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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

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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:

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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

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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

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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.