Category Archives: Community Organising

An Evening with Mike and Friends • Tues Nov 27

I’ve always had trouble with partisanship.  In 2006, I was labelled a ‘promiscuous endorser‘ by NOW magazine for endorsing Adam Vaughn, Helen Kennedy and Desmond Cole – who were all running against each other. I thought each one of them would each make a fantastic City Councillor.

In my teenage years I was a young Liberal.  In my twenties I was a New Democrat.  For most of my thirties I’ve been multipartisan, or as I prefer to call it, ‘transpartisan’: transcending the notion of politics as a team sport and working towards less polarisation and more collaboration.

The prefix ‘trans’ is often used to describe a bridge between two places, or something that unites many things together (ie: the Trans-Canada Highway).

And so it is, on November 27th my highway will be taking an exit at the “Third Annual Evening with Mike and Friends“.  Mike who, you ask?  Mike Schreiner.  Mike Schreiner WHO, you ask?  Mike Schreiner – the leader of the Ontario Green Party, and you’re not to blame if you have never heard of him.  Mike is an articulate and inspiring leader, but he suffers under the weight of a political system that discriminates against new voices:

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My mom: Chief Director of Customer Service

With all the talk about increasing “customer service” in Toronto, you would think that our own City Hall would have a couple of full-time receptionists who can help people find their way.  In fact, you would think that in a city of 2.5 million people, our City Hall would have three or four receptionists! Hey, why not even go a step further?  We often hear that we should run the city “like a business”.  Well, the smartest businesses are the ones that have swarms of customer service reps and ‘greeters’ who are readily available to offer assistance.

But here at City Hall we have one part-time receptionist on duty, sitting behind an enormous desk.  Often, her chair sits empty and there is simply a sign that says:

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Salt in the Wound • Jarvis and the City’s bike budget

Over the last year, I’ve written extensively about the pending removal of the Jarvis bike lanes.  There are so many reasons why Council should back down on this plan: reasons related to safety, fair process, wasted dollars, and community support for Complete Streets.

Now, we can add another reason.  Not only is the removal of the Jarvis bike lanes a colossal waste of money (the lanes are brand new) – but guess where the money is coming from?  I’ve been able to confirm with the City that the money to REMOVE the lanes is being pulled directly out of the limited budget the City has to INSTALL bike lanes!  So not only are cyclists losing a major bike lane, serving 1000+ cyclists during rush hour, … but we’re seeing our own capital budget reduced at the same time.

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“I’ve got no quarrel with that” • Would the real John Parker please stand up?

“Do you think we should be consulting the local residents before we make this decision?”
~ City Councillor Mike Layton

“I’ve got no quarrel with that”
~ City Councillor John Parker

During the 13 years that I’ve been following meetings at City Hall, I’ve learned a lot about how the democratic process is supposed to function.  It’s a complicated process – one that I’ve tried to de-mystify for my readers last year by writing “Inside Baseball: The rules of City Council” and a chapter in Local Motion called “Finding your way through City Hall”.

The process can seem complicated and burdensome, but every part of it exists for a reason.  The process is designed to include input from a variety of sources, such as from expert staff or from residents who will affected by a decision.

When procedural steps are avoided, or ignored, the system breaks down and the process is no longer democratic.  One of the worst cases I’ve ever seen (and I’ve been watching Council meetings since Mel Lastman was mayor, and Jack Layton was a rogue Councillor), was last year when John Parker moved the motion to remove the Jarvis bike lanes at the June meeting of the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee.

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The first DNA award goes to…..Pemberton, BC!

Village of Pemberton CAO Daniel Sailland, Communications Coordinator Jill Brooksbank & Mayor Jordan Sturdy.

Last week, I had the privilege of delivering an award to the Mayor of Pemberton, British Columbia.  Here’s the story behind the award:

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Drivers for Jarvis • Batch #3!

Since I first posted about Drivers for Jarvis, I continue to receive new requests from across TO from those who want to join the campaign!

I’ve pasted some recent photos below, and the full list can be found on the Cycle Toronto website.

Wanna add your name to the list?  Get in touch:

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Crowd Funding: Help bring the Fourth Wall exhibit to life!

Six months ago, the Fourth Wall exhibit was installed at the Urbanspace Gallery for a successful three month visit.  The exhibit explores 36 proposals aimed at transforming our local democracy.  At the end of January, the exhibit was removed from the walls of the gallery, and we’ve been trying to figure out how to bring it back to life in other formats. Continue reading

Two perspectives • One goal

Nick Cluley (a great guy, in my opinion) has written a long blog post explaining why he supports changing the name of the Toronto Cyclists Union to ‘Cycle Toronto’.  As I’ve already written, I’m a fan of keeping the name as it is.  But more importantly, I’m a fan of democracy and debate, and I’m glad Nick has contributed to the online debate, and I think it’s great that this choice is being carried out in a democratic way, with all members having a say.

I encourage members to take the time to read Nick’s post, and then vote however you wish.  The main thing is that after the vote, we all get back to work and focus on our shared goal: more bikes on the streets, and safer roads for everyone.  Continue reading

Stickin’ with the Union

On May 2nd, members of the Toronto Cyclists Union will vote on a proposal to re-brand the organization and change the name to Cycle Toronto.  I’m encouraging members to vote ‘no’, and this blog post explains why.

First, let me say that I think the discussion is a healthy one to have, and I think it’s great that the Board of Directors has put this proposal forward.  Re-evaluating a brand, and exploring re-branding is a positive exercise for any non-profit or corporation.

In the end, there will always be benefits and drawbacks to a name-change.  So, the question is simply: do the benefits outweigh the drawbacks?  So, let’s explore both. Continue reading

The Election Quilt (Behind the scenes)

A couple of months ago, I was thinking about how difficult it can be to explain the ways in which our voting system is a total scam.  When given 15 or 20 minutes, it’s easy to break down the mathematical insanity that we call “first past the post”.   But if you’ve only got 2 or 3 minutes, it’s hard to describe the polarising, divisive and unfair characteristics of ‘vote-splitting’ and ‘strategic-voting’.

So I designed an “Election Quilt” that would allow someone to easily facilitate an interactive presentation, in mere minutes, that clearly shows why our voting system is a national disgrace.

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