Despite recent media reports, I’d like to say that I’m having a good week. In fact, I haven’t been this excited about local politics in quite some time. There’s some really neat things happening across the city, and I’m fortunate to be involved with two specific campaigns that are rolling out the red carpet in April. Seven town hall forums have been announced this week: four for Better Ballots and three for the transit workers’ Let’s Talk campaign.
And what could better encapsulate the theme of public space than ballots and buses? Whether you’re passionate about moving people through the city or moving ideas through our web of local democracy, these two systems are what keep Toronto alive. One is a physical network of tunnels, tracks and routes and the other is a maze-like adventure filled with councillors, candidates, platforms, policies, ballots and regulations.
In both cases, we the people benefit when these networks run smoothly, and with as much accessibility as possible. A good transit system is affordable, reliable & comfortable. A good democracy is participatory, inviting, diverse and fair. The biggest problems facing the TTC are consistent underfunding and a reluctance to change, learn and grow at a quick enough pace to satisfy riders. And the biggest problems facing our local elections are low turnout, low turnover, lack of diversity and unfair results that allow Councillors to win seats with only 20% of the vote.
Well, this is your lucky month. Changes are needed in both systems and now is the time to have your voice heard. While TTC management should be congratulated for setting-up their Customer Service Advisory Panel, the transit union has taken the process one step further by going directly to the riders, and saying “Let’s Talk”. Hopefully, this process could lead to a new sense of trust, communication and mutual respect between TTC riders and workers.
And the Better Ballots forums are your chance to learn about 14 concrete proposals for voting reform in Toronto, and give your feedback and ideas.
If you care about how this city works, and want to make it better, I invite you to participate in both of these forums and contribute your own piece to the discussion!
Facebook event links:
Let’s Talk: TTC Riders and Workers
Better Ballots: Choosing how we choose
North York (April 13): http://bit.ly/betterballots_NORTH
Scarborough (April 20) : http://bit.ly/betterballots_EAST
City Hall (April 26): http://bit.ly/betterballots
Etobicoke (April 27): http://bit.ly/betterballots_WEST
(Disclosure: I earn a monthly honourarium for my work with Better Ballots, and I’m working on contract with the transit workers to develop their Facebook pages)