Monday, July 13, 2009

Hey Ho Hey Ho - Miller's curious problem

Apparently, City union protestors were recently heard chanting Hey ho hey ho Mayor Miller's got to go.

Interesting business. After all, Toronto Mayor Miller is well known as the labour Mayor, as a union supporter and as the so-called NDP mayor. Miller is about as left of centre a mayor as CUPE is going to get, no?

Now that Mr. Miller, who has been a spender, is trying to cut back, first freezing management salaries and now fighting for a less expensive sick leave plan for City workers, he has a problem, finding himself at loggerheads with his support base. The folks at CUPE should be careful what they ask for, though. A different Mayor may not help their already unpopular cause.

A recent Ipsos-Reid poll suggests Miller's support has dropped off and that he would lose to either John Tory or George Smitherman if either potential candidate ran against him. Interesting. Tory wants to be a politician but he's had trouble winning, both in provincial and municipal politics. I think Smitherman would be an excellent candidate, but he has dismissed speculation that he will run next municipal election.

Beyond obviously wanting a settlement in the civic worker dispute, I'm very interested in watching the municipal politics unfold. Can Miller salvage his support with a strike settlement? Will residents forget the strike by the time the election comes along? Who will run against Miller next election? He came into office with broom in hand, apparently to sweep away the old stale politics of the past, but beyond pushing forward his transit agenda, it seems as if he hasn't done all that much.


Candy Minx said...

Well, I'm glad he stopped the bridge to the island airport...which is why I voted for him in the first place.

Unfortunately...a lot of people think they know how to "fix" a city and they usually use a selffish yardstick to make their opinions known about their ideas for "urban life". Most people don't have a clue the reason they have a weekend is because of Unions. Most people don't know they have a few sick days in their benefits because of Unions. Toronto does have a lot of people who are sincerely interested in urban life and community and many of them do study it's history.

But the mental block...or brain fart is strong. The higher the taxes, the more saisfaction is ususually associated. I am not against big spending...but am against spending on office furniture, anything for civic workers, lunches budgets, travel budgets and high annual pay for politicians and head honcho city staff.

For example a $100,000 can be saved by not giving Miller's staff raises.

I want Miller to spend on jobs...
-like getting more benches for people to sit on in the city.
-By hiring more street cleaners: people walking around and sweeping.
-Train, hire, and open three facilities for people who live outside to shower and have gyms. That could create 500 new jobs for the city.
-pass 200 more busker permits (for free) per year specifically for artists to take their wares outside to busy areas to exhibit and peddle
-promote more bike usuers by offering a tax credit for those who ride their bikes to work or school.
-implement large carbon tax
-implement road usage tolls on every road outside the roncesvalles/lawrence areas
-construct separated bike lanes on streets for fast and slow bikers
-build parking facilities for bikes
-build pedestrian bridgesffrom the suburbs to the city core
-create cycling lessons and workshops for immigrants and newcomers to Canada
-adjust traffic light timing to bikes not cars
-make separated cycle lanes that extended into the suburbs on major multi-lane roads
-make clear concise signs that make cycling with cars less stressful

Well...I could go on and on...and think of all kinds of jobs Miller could make. (and I have sent him several notes on how to spend and create jobs...I'm also sending a similar list to Rahm Imanuel)

I want him to SPEND like crazy!

zydeco fish said...

I'd hate to see John Tory as mayor. He is a multi-time loser, for good reasons.

Candy Minx said...'re way kinder to John Tory than me. I have some real special names for him.

Oh completely random...and here is a fun article about cats:

Ink Casualty said...

interestng problem indeed but nothing a match and a can of gasoline can't fix
think they did that a couple of times in New Brunswick back in the day to deal with a similar situation

Candy Minx said...

Well, Ink, in a metaphoric way I agree with you. Sometimes we need to walk away. Or let go of bad habits.

the thing is...and I've responded to Mister Anchovy on my blog about this too...the issues aren't about Mayor David Miller.

It's bigger.

People aren't adding up all the details of the city.

Mister Anchovy says it takes a lot of money to pay for those streetcars and all our city fees help pay for infrastructure. True. In fact, in many ways the idea of Toronto streetcars and atists being allowed to sell their art as a means of freespeech isn't too bad a metaphor. There is a corelation, but not one I believe that I can agree with Mister's a different corelation between the two...

But our cities help the health of our countrysides and small tons too. We set standards for public transit and human community and tolerance in big cities.

You see...the crooks with Stephen Harper helped bail out the car companies. Canada HAD to help bail these car companies out or the jobs would leave the area. Are you with me? they help bail out the American and Canadian car factories. Did you would have been cheaper to pay everyone their pensions!

Yep. Pay the complete pensions of all the workers and managers. Let it go. That way people got their pensions. No harm, no karma. The car companies would just fade away. Or reconvene...back to "the drawing table".

They could either rise from the ashes as fresh new entrepreneurs or innovators to personal vehicles would begin anew. No big deal.

THEN...the Minister of Transportation doesn't support public transit in Toronto. Do we see a connection here?

Everytime a politician kicks Toronto...they build votes. You see, the rest of Canada hates Toronto

So the Minister of Transport wants to build votes so they first bail out the car companies for their rich supporters. Then they refuse to subsidize public transit in Toronto.

This is a way of breaking unions, proper safe working atmospheres and the high standard of workplace morale that Unions have struggled for decades...that affects ALL workplaces. It is also a complete insult for all the hardworking Toronto residents who have chosen or do not drive cars. They have realized the public transit is faster and safer than driving and cheaper. Not subsidizing their transit is breaking their morale as well.

This has nothing to do with the mayor of Toronto who has many things that are shit about him too. But...he made a deal with the devil (Ministery of Transport) and the Ministry of Transport kicked order to break morale and to build votes. The financial troubles the mayor of Toronto is having are related to both the bail outs and the lack of public transit subsidy...and now there is a city wide strike by the Unions. This is all connected.

This is a win-win situation for the rich people in Canada.

Torontonians often don't even follow or are aware of this connection.

In the same way...punishing and preventing the artist from showing their work outside and choosing the public as their audience (rather than rich people in galleries)...undermines the hold right wing, conservative life-hating rich people have on the art markets.

It's a kind of matrix that is repeated in all kinds of social structures.

We've allowed politicians and paperpushers to decide how we get to many hours we work, and what is art and where and how should it be marketed.

We put our own souls into the hands of these politicians...maybe we deserve how they tell us to live...and travel...

Radmila said...

If anyone has ever negotiated a contract in these times, some of the union types could turn you even if you were on their side to begin with.

There's nothing that can turn management faster than a union who decides that they're running your business not you.

The dirty tactics aren't just on the management side as so many like to believe.

Miller just learned the first lesson in dealing with's all good until you tell them no, and then they'll come together and stab you in the back. All fair in love and war.

This Mayor is the worst one in the history of this city, and I agree with the unions, he's got to go.
The problem is that they've just stabbed their best friend in the back...oh oh.

Candy Minx said...

Radmilla, I agree with you that Unions haven't always made the best choices. In fact, I wish the Unions had waited and continued talks before striking this summer. I wish they had not taken strike on Canada Day weekend. It would have been to their advantage to have parks and activities running that long weekend. I believe they lost a lot of sympathy because of that timing.

I agree with you that Unions and labourers can be every bit as tough as managements.

But...the Union IS running the business. The business IS the workers. We don't even hardly need management like we apply to most businesses. People work like swarms...what makes a company function well is the swarm of movement of the workers...not the queen bees. A good company is one that hardly needs the managers actually.

I have to disagree with you about Miller being the worst mayor.

Mel Lastman was the worst mayor we ever had. He outlawed basement apartments in North York...sending all those people who only need a small apartment to live in...out into the streets. You see half those homeless folks sleeping downtown? Thank Mayor Lastman.

He also was behind the idiotic idea of a Megacity. Enlarging the surrounding roads mass of Toronto is a huge feeling is based on comraderie and common interests and needs. The needs of disperced suburban areas are quite different than those of city cores. Toronto has become an almost powerless city to make decisions. Provincially funded programs were dispensed with, and contradiction between priorities has governed the city since.

Mel Lastman was also an outspoken racist "I'm sort of scared about going there, but the wife is really nervous," he said to a reporter. "I just see myself in a pot of boiling water with all these natives dancing around me" and in cahoots with organized crime (the infamous photo of him and a Hells Angel).

So really, it's not like i agree with David Miller on lots of things. He's made some major mistakes, for sure. But sorry, I call racism a deal breaker. Miller is just an overwhelmed they all are...but he ain't a racist. In fact, he's fairly open minded...and that might be his problem. He needed to spend money ona an urban workshop if anything.

Meanwhile, no wonder public transit is such a low priorty of Canada's right wingers...they all live in "bedroom communities" or suburbs. They want Toronto suffer so they can get votes. They are glad Miller is THEY can get votes and so they can step back into leadership.

This frightens me because the even worse politician in Ontario was Mike Harris...who was dear pals with Lastman. These two have done things to Toronto that we still haven't repaired by cutbbacks and cheap attitudes towards caregiving of our city.

But most important...we need people having this kind of very discussion and doing research and walking downtown in our cities. We need people looking at the patterns of good cities. We need people studying happy healthy cities like Copanhagen and Staolkholm. What makes those cities so good?

And why isn't Toronto in a list as a great happy city?

This is doable...but it takes reflecting on past mistakes, on avoiding greed and on caring about a community.

And making sure the people who actually WORK on our city get safe beautiful job benefits.

btw...Canada is in the top 20 happiest countries in the world...let's not lose our belief in caring for our communities. And lets not forget HOW we came to be one of the happiest countries in the our universal health care, by our fantastic social programs, paid for with high taxes, and our quality of labour environments and education.

Radmila said...

You know, you make some good points Candy...but, there are a few that I disagree with.

I don't agree that unions "run the business". They put nothing into it financially, and they often create problems to justify their existence.
Listen, I've been in more than one negotiation where it was clear to me that the union cared less for their members than they did how they looked to their members.

Hiding the reality of a situation from them, and often to their detriment. I'll tell you in all honesty that I don't believe that unions belong in the non-profit sector. My employees could make a better deal without their union as the grandstanding and provoking has often made management dig in their heels when they were on the verge of getting what they wanted.
I disagree that we don't hardly need management as my experience, people left to their own devices are worse to each other than you can imagine.

One of my favourite jokes is that they don't need a union to protect them from me...they need one to protect them from each other...only it isn't a joke. In fact without the union, I'd be able to address issues that staff bring a lot quicker, with less bureaucracy. We have employment standards in this country...and while we acknowledge that unions were needed at one they are a business onto themselves, and function like businesses aimed at making profits as well. Don't kid yourself about that.

As for the raises that council got, they were cost of living which is less than what all of the strikers were offered, and got in previous years.

Also, Miller is my least favourite Mayor for so many reasons that there isn't room in the comment section of this blog for me to even get started.

I see that you enjoy a good debate, and I can't guarantee that I'll be up to it, because it's simply too large and it raises my blood pressure and makes my head explode thinking too much about it.

I'll be back for more've made some valid points.


We also disagree

Candy Minx said...

Radmila, I don't mean to suggest that unions run the business. Let me make myself clear. The workers are the meat and life force. I wouldn't begin to suggest that managers are not useful...they can arrange payment and schedules which are very important.

Managers are like politicians. They work for US.

Somehow in all this stuff of life we have put managerial and political jobs on slight pedastals. Silly humans. No, those are civil servant jobs. Politicians are our servants. They are there to arrange payments and schedules which are critical. The slaves need to pay their bills and raise families.

I'm not interested in defending David Miller. He may very well be an awful mayor. But he is as rotten as we let him. We let Mel Lastman ruin our city and throw people into the street. I am proud I didn't vote for him.

I am not ashamed I voted for Miller (as I said earlier I just wanted to stop that bloody bridge to the island airport). I could probably write a long list of things I am unhappy with in Millers office too.

That crappy newspaper The National Post (or the National Fascist as I like to nickname it) says that Miller is likely a failure because he isn't showy.

“This is a mayor who has chosen not to be in the public eye a lot. He doesn’t have regular scrums with the media. He tends to work behind the scenes as opposed to in front of the scenes, and that may have hurt him. He’s not really well defined,” Mr. Wright said. “I’m not sure you see or hear where [Mr. Miller] is for sure, and politically speaking, you’ve got to be out there and
championing something, or you’re going to be eaten.”

You know, I had to laugh out loud when I read that...because I've often described the major difference between U.S. politician and Canadian politicians is that we do not like flashy show off politicians. In fact, let me tell you something...Obama may be losing popularity simply because even for Americans...he is too media oriented!!! He is in a press media photo op every day. More than Lindsay Lohan (as Bill Maher likes to say)

I am aware of many of the complaints about David are some:

-user fees for everything.

-st clair streetcar.

-proposal to take down a major expressway serving the city.

-proposal to close a lane on a major city artery to traffic and spend over $6 million dollars on planting some trees and widening the sidewalks.
-waste taxpayers money by doing useless public works --ie. ,replacing sidewalks in chaplin estates, davisville, when the roads are full of massive, car damaging potholes.

-giving himself a raise while we are in the worst economic downturn in decades.

-retrofitting garbage trucks for large garbage bins that are useless in the core parts of the city.

-land transfer tax- a tax on a very small percentage of people

-He is allocating scarce monies into the wrong areas: bicycle lanes in a city with is too hot or too cold for most cycling ten months of the year. The transit system is archaic. The unions are getting crippling contracts in a major recession. He is regulating and taxing citizens and businesses out of the city. Hundreds of homeless people obstruct businesses and sidewalks, driving tourists away. His solution for unending gang shootings? Close legal shooting ranges with safety records going back decades and ban starters pistols.

-Autocratic decisions by inner circle of city council; overspending; unfair taxation; expensive green initiatives yet to prove viable; settlement over island airport bridge, rabid support of unions, antagonisation of drivers; catering to special interest groups such as cyclists.

Candy Minx said...

These are just some of the complaints against Miller found in various places on the internet.

Guess what?

Except for his raise (which he has turned down) I support all of the above platforms of his office.

I shall try to address them here...

I believe in a lot of user fees. I'm not sure what "user fees for everything" means...but I am not against charging for many services...and I assume that means higher taxes.

I LOVE the Spadina right-of-way ttc lanes. At first...I was against such a right-of-way for Spadina and for urban centers. I thought it would kill business and would ruin the atmosphere of jumping on and off the old Spadina bus to shop. I was wrong. The life of Spadina is stronger than ever. Even after SARS! The right-of-way on Spadina is something I enjoy and use all the time. I shp, bar hop and walk all up and down. It enlivened the street if anything. Businesses did'nt close, they got more customers. And I supported the right-of-way for St. Clair. Cars always blocked the flow of public transit on St. Clair. Public transit needed a boost.

The proposal to take down a "major expressway" is not David Miller's idea. It's mine. and several other thousands of people who have lived in the east end and use the beaches. We walk all over the are but it wasn't safe feeling or practical with that useless expressway. When I first moved to Toronto and drove a car...people joked about how useless that Gardiner Expresway was and broke the city apart from the lake.

I WANT the bike lanes. Bicyclists are not "special interest groups". You can ride a bike almost 365 days a year in Toronto. We need more bike savvy lanes and bridges. From Oakville to downtown Toronto!!!!

I wanted the garbage trucks retrofitted. In fact, I helped with spreading the word on this retrofit because it was for allowing our old garbage trucks and recycling trucks to separate the organic garbage from the cans and bottles. This had been an issue in Toronto since the 80's. Recycling wasn't as cost-saving or as beneficial (having city mulch and compost potential) in our old recycling trucks. This way we didn't have to buy new trucks in order to have organic waste collection.

I WANT the focus of money to be diverted away from people who drive cars. I WANT the lane on Jarvis turned into a bike lane.

I WANT the sidewalks repaired even if it means cars have potholes and roads wait for repairs.

I LOVE land-transfer tax.

And then one complaint was "Autocratic decisions by inner circle of city council; overspending" It wasn't an autocrat inner circle. Many many of the things that people don't like about David Miller are things that many of us have worked really hard at changing and fixing in Toronto for years. We have spread word of mouth and environmental issues and urban planning issues that have been in the hearts of innovative myself ha! Not Miller. He's just one of the people that people like me might work for.

I WANT him to do most of the things I have worked at talking about the city for years. I don't care if the taxes seem "unfair".

This: "Autocratic decisions by inner circle of city council; overspending; unfair taxation; expensive green initiatives yet to prove viable; settlement over island airport bridge, rabid support of unions, antagonisation of drivers; catering to special interest groups such as cyclists."

Thats not Miller...thats me, thank you very much!

Candy Minx said...

Now...that we can see the blame isn't on Mayor Miller...but rather people of like minds to myself. ...let's get back to unions and managers.

Radmila, I am sorry to hear about your blood pressure. Lets see if we can find a way of looking at the situation that isn't so frustrating?

First, I respect that you feel your employees would do better on their own negotiating. I also understand that you feel people left to their own devices are worse to each other.

I don't feel that way. People are very uncomfortable negotiating with their management and bosses. At least under historical understandings of status. I also do not believe that people are naturally normally awful, cruel or worse when left to their own devices. We could certainly say the same thing about managers...or owners...not just employees.

So can we use both yours and my worldview about the human condition in order to imagine negotiations? The idea of any manager or worker in negotiations is itself a benefit we have gained from the history of work places, especially union history.

While unions may seem selfish and decadent to us today...a managers position would hardly have been a position like it is today if workers hadn't improved the concepts of status in the workplace.

Even managers have the past struggles of union history to thank for their good jobs today. (I'm sure you have read Dickens or Marquis De Sade or Dostoyevsky...and will know that there was once the barons and serfs ONLY before unions)

Unfortunately most people are invested in negotiating and in deciding what is "fair" based on selfish views of the situation...whether it's politics, municipal spending or union/manager behaviour.

How can we work around this human problem? With imagination! Lets construct a magical reality where...

Unions and management should negotiate each others wages and benefits. A little like two young siblings who have to share a piece of cake. One sibling cuts the cake knowing the other sibling is able to choose which slice.

And watching over a non-profit structure should be a board comprised of homeless people, and people who have housing for the handicapped apartments.

Let the non-profit workers and schedulers (okay unions and managers) decide their benefits and wages...and weigh it against a fairly estimated budget at city hall. Whatever they don't take goes to the homeless facility that provides good priced meals, a gym and a shower.

Something like that.

The matrix for negotiations has been wrong. We need to align negotiations with humanitarianism and community. It's not a valid yardstick to use the jealous selfish opinions of those who don't work for unions, or the oppressive judgmental philosophy of managers, or the exhausted needy workers as gauges.

Radmila, it's not at all that I like a good debate but rather ...I believe in this quote...

"Experimentation must give way to argument, and argument must have recourse to experimentation" Bachelard.

Candy Minx said...

And...if my imaginary scenario doesn't fit...aren't Union Reps and managers supposed to use change facilitators?

“People do not resist change, systems do.”

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