Category Archives: Community Organising

Under new management: Meet the 2015 RaBIT team!

Layout 1Eight years ago, I printed 500 copies of a flyer called “Let’s bring Instant Runoff Voting to Toronto”. I was tired of seeing distorted results after each election and I was frustrated by the negative campaigns, the lack of diversity and all the chatter about ‘splitting the vote’ and ‘strategic voting’. I was hoping to spark a discussion about our local voting system and simply let people know there was a better way to run our elections.

I never imagined that within a few years we’d be on the verge of becoming the first city in Canada to abandon the so-called “First-Past-the-Post” system, creating a new election culture that will be more fair and friendly.

PrintAlong the way, hundreds of volunteers have helped out with RaBIT and some have become part of our core team. This week, that core team is formally taking over the entire project!

Today is my last day with the RaBIT campaign as I’ve decided to step away from the project to focus on a book I’m writing about democracy, to work on a national campaign for proportional representation, to continue my work on the Reform Act and to coordinate a new provincial network of ranked ballot campaigns across Ontario.

nwvLkUVwKN2ULjYs1kWw4u_7zNAjxPgWBVKmRlCDc5o,Wf25X-ZHSGWbQqjanUuwOrfr1uP2GpUB-GNyHQBYwTo,mNAo3oYKC5Yb3gb58TVsvP4SWzKZC-67AjmuSHZzmPYRaBIT is moving forward from our grassroots beginnings and we’re formally registering as a non-profit organisation with a Board of Directors. The new board will be lead by our two top organisers, Katherine Skene and Desmond Cole. Together with the other ten board members (listed below), they’ll guide our campaign through the next stages.

I just want to take a moment to thank everyone who has helped out with this campaign, even in the smallest ways. Hundreds of you have e-mailed your City Councillors and many of you have attended our public events or volunteered at one of our information tables. Some of you have donated money to our campaign and over 8,500 of you signed our petition to the province.

I’ve learned so much on this campaign and your support has inspired me every step of the way.

I hope you’ll stay connected and involved. If we can maintain this momentum, we’re guaranteed to see ranked ballots being used in the 2018 municipal election.

2015 RaBIT Board of Directors:

    Desmond Cole (co-chair)
    Katherine Skene (co-chair)
    Chloe Doesburg
    Chris Drew
    Evan Dean
    Jeff Dennler
    Katherine Janicki
    Marjan Farahbaksh
    Michael Urban
    Miriam Fine
    Rodney Merchant
    Sarah Rimmington

Social Media Coordinator:
Michael Wheeler

Metrolinx continues to push for increased driver distraction

accidentThis week marks the National Day of Remembrance for Road Crash Victims.

Every single day Canadians of all ages die on our roads.  Surprisingly, the leading cause of fatal collisions is not speed nor alcohol.  The #1 cause of death on our streets is driver distraction.

That’s why governments, health agencies and community groups are trying desperately to reduce driver distraction.  Yet stunningly, Metrolinx remains the only government agency that is actively trying to increase driver distraction on our provincial highways. Continue reading

Colour in the streets • Bringing street murals to Toronto!

final
Across North America, neighbours are coming together to paint murals – on the road! The idea was born in Portland Oregon and has now spread to cities from coast to coast.

Screen Shot 2014-11-17 at 2.22.29 PM
The idea is simple: Street murals are a great way to slow down traffic, make the road safer and also to engage neighbours in a creative process to beautify the community and build stronger connections.

Screen Shot 2014-11-17 at 2.22.11 PM
Inspired by the folks down at Intersection Repair, we’ve started a street mural project in our neighbourhood, Regal Heights.  We’re hoping to paint our first community street mural during 2015, but for now we’re promoting the project and building local support with temporary chalk installations.

This weekend, we took over the intersection of Regal Road and Westmount Ave, in front of Regal Road Public School, and we created our first full-scale intersection mural.

11am
drawing_spiral

noon
 1pm
girls1
girls_2
Continue reading

If a billboard falls in a forest… Part 1

[note: this is cross-posted from spacing magazine]

Bathurst and Davenport cross each other just below the steep shoreline of ancient Lake Iroquois. The intersection is lush with greenery and steeped in history.

On one corner lies the TTC Hillcrest Yards, where our streetcars have been repaired and rebuilt for ninety years. A recent makeover has transformed the landscape adding new shrubs, trees, interlocking brick and public benches to the corner.

TTC yard_WIDE

Across the street is a public park, the home of Toronto’s historic Tollkeeper’s Cottage museum.

tollkeepers park

Just steps away you’ll find the Wychwood Park neighbourhood, a former artists’ colony and the first residential zone in Ontario to be granted heritage status. Walking north on Bathurst, you’ll find yourself in a picturesque Toronto scene with large trees leaning across both sides of the wide street casting a broken leafy shadow on the streetcar tracks below.

And then suddenly, like one musical instrument terribly out of tune with the rest of the band, something sharply interrupts the thick green grove of trees. Steel structures protrude from the maple branches, inserting two massive commercial billboards into the scene.

two_billboards

Someone might ask themselves “Who would possibly allow billboards like this to get a sign permit?”. It turns out the answer might be: nobody would, and nobody did. In fact, I have been told by City Staff that they do not have any records of permits for these signs. This is not an isolated scenario.  It’s quite possible that dozens of billboards across Toronto, if not hundreds, are illegal signs without any proper permits.

Continue reading

‘Empower LA’ research tour • DAY ONE

Empower tour

I’m in Los Angeles, spending an entire week with the Department of Neighbourhood Empowerment.  I’ll be posting updates each day!

Four years ago, I was researching innovative methods of citizen engagement for the upcoming Fourth Wall exhibit, hosted at the Urban Space Gallery.

Screen Shot 2014-05-03 at 10.03.26 AMI stumbled upon a group in Los Angeles called the Department of Neighbourhood Empowerment.  It sounded too good to be true: a city-funded program that promotes public participation in government and coordinates 90 autonomous locally elected Neighbourhood Councils.

Four years later, I decided that I needed to see it for myself!  So I’m here in LA for one week, embedded at the Department as a foreign researcher/admirer.

Continue reading

Two Neighbourhood Fence Removals: West & East!

Before_After_smaller

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)

Continue reading

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.

“I’m a geek, you’re a geek” • RaBIT on TV

Paikin_TV

This week, I had the privilege of spending some time with Steve Paikin, and talking about the merits of municipal ranked ballots and runoff voting.

Watch here.

Thanks for your support

UPDATE (June 2013) • Sometimes you just have know when to walk away.  Despite the positive update I posted in April (below), the situation at Fair Vote has gotten worse and I’ve decided to quit the organisation after seven years of volunteering.  I’m working with an amazing team of people to start a new national campaign for proportional government, called Unlock Democracy.

I’m not gonna go into details here, because we don’t need to air dirty laundry (and there is a LOT of dirty laundry here), but I’ll just mention four major turning points for me:

• The only group that actively campaigned against the RaBIT campaign, was Fair Vote Canada.  I’ve never seen a movement so committed to shooting itself in the foot, and attacking its own peers.

• The Toronto Chapter Executive didn’t hold a single meeting for an entire year.  Then they organised a rigged election for the 2013 Executive, by rejecting all the candidates they didn’t like.

• A recent meeting of the National Council ended with two young female members in tears, after being verbally attacked by a male colleague.  Sadly, this type of bullying and harassment has been happening for years.

• I reached out to one of the key members of the National Council, and offered to sit down over lunch or coffee to discuss the situation.  The offer was repeatedly turned down.  If people aren’t prepared to talk, then there is little possibility to build consensus.

For these reasons  – and hundreds more – I’m done.  I wish Fair Vote the best of luck.  There are some really good people working there, including the Executive Director Wayne Smith and the current President Doug Bailie.

But you gotta know when to fold ’em.  And I’m folding. The movement is big enough for two groups, and hopefully we can all work together at some point.

UPDATE  (April 2013) • Good news, in regards to this story.  The National Council of Fair Vote Canada has voted to reinstate Desmond Cole and Katherine Skene on the Toronto Chapter Executive. Also, they have accepted the nominations (previously rejected) for National Council, for Sarah Lambert, Gautam Lamba, and others.

There is also now a comprehensive agreement in place that allows both RaBIT and Fair Vote to work collaboratively.

I want to personally thank Jim Harris who has been working tirelessly to forge a consensus and encourage a healthy dialogue and required compromise on all sides. He is truly a master of mediation.

As someone who is a committed volunteer for both RaBIT and Fair Vote, I’m thrilled to see everyone on the same page. Thanks Jim, and also thanks to our Executive Director, Wayne Smith. And thanks to all members of National Council who supported this positive step forward.

Now, let’s get to work. If you support proportional representation, and you’re not a member of Fair Vote… join today! It’s only $10:

_______________________________________________________________

Original post:

Sarah_banned

Thanks for your support

A couple of weeks ago, three members of Fair Vote Canada were expelled from their elected positions on the Toronto Chapter Executive (myself, Desmond Cole and Katherine Skene).  One week later, three members were told that their nominations for the Fair Vote National Council had been rejected (Sarah Lambert, Gautam Lamba and Katherine) – simply because they had volunteered with an external group.

Des_expelledI’ve been involved with community organising for 15 years.  I’ve volunteered for dozens of groups in Toronto, I’ve been employed by about 15 non-profits, I’ve served as a Director on boards such as the Mayworks Arts Festival, and I’ve been a member of two political parties.  I’ve seen my share of conflict.  But in all that time, I can say that I’ve never experienced this kind of exclusionary, top-down, anti-democratic behaviour.  It’s stunning, and the worst part is that it’s happening within an organisation called “Fair Vote”.

Continue reading

Attack of the Three-Storey Podium!

Have you ever wondered how your neighbourhood would look with a brand new three-storey podium?  I have.  I think it would look really weird.  I have serious concerns about the practicality of such a podium, the inevitable noise pollution, and the lack of integration with the surrounding architecture – not to mention a complete lack of retail space.

podium_street

Continue reading