Vision Quest I
This one’s mine.
My colleagues here at All Fired Up in the Big Smoke are too compromised. Too caught up in the race. Too waist deep into the mindset of strategic voting and settling for A.B.F.
I am an old hippie. It’s not a label I shun. In fact, I embrace it.
As an old hippie, I retain a mighty mistrust of institutions, especially those ones that influence us greatly but seem impervious to our presence. Those we can only ignore as our last line of defense against them. The media is one such entity. For our purposes here, the media is the Man.
From the very beginning of this municipal campaign, we were presented a 6 candidate menu. Six candidates and six candidates only. Three sitting councillors. One former deputy premier of Ontario. Two neophytes, picked from the ether of political backrooms and media social circles. A couple of the councillors switched up and another dropped out, leaving us with a choice of five. All neatly wrapped and parceled out for our viewing/listening pleasure/displeasure.
When the people called out, hey, there’s an empty chair at the table, half-hearted measures were taken on occasion to fill it. With a 2nd Rocco, possessor of similar skills to the other five and a comparably uninspiring set of ideas. He proved ineffectual (no less so than Sarah Thomson but she remains) and soon fizzled out.
So there are 5.
Anything more would just be messy, we are told. Unruly. Counter-productive. These are your five choices. These are the ones you will see on your TV and read about in the newspapers. Choose.
I have another idea.
HiMY SYeD, the Peoples’ Mayor. He was featured here back in June, just after he’d popped in for cup of coffee on stage at the Better Ballots debate. “We’ve Had Enough Cowboys in City Hall, Now It’s Time for an Indian!” A hell of a punch line and we could leave it at that except for the fact that Mr. SYeD has proven to be much more than a gag candidate.
Following him since then or, at least trying to, as the man seems to be everywhere at once, it’s clear that he is a candidate worthy of careful consideration. A ferocious Tweeter, his constant updates reveal an individual at home with workings of the municipal government. It is in this writer’s humble opinion that HiMY SYeD is more knowledgeable about how City Hall operates than any of the other candidates save for, perhaps, Joe Pantalone. While council was still in session, he’d be there at meetings, deputations, community councils, all while campaigning. At the debates, he’d give real times answers to the questions that were posed as if he had been invited to participate.
He never has been which remains something of a nagging mystery. Invites have been extended and then retracted with no explanation attached. No one wants him involved it’s clear, from the candidates to debate organizers, begging the question why.
My take on it is simple. For all the talk of change we’re hearing during this election, it’s all nothing more than cosmetic change. No, that’s not quite right. Some of the proposed changes are quite radical in fact. But none meant to make the lives of Torontonians any better. The changes being offered up by Mssrs. Ford, Smitherman, Rossi and Ms. Thomson all amount to nothing other than telling the people of this city to expect less. That’s what comes from tax and spending cuts and hiring freezes.
Change for HiMY SYeD’s is a whole lot different than that. To try and understand his approach to change, one needs to look at the politics of Jaime Lerner. A 3 term mayor of Curitiba, Brazil’s 7th largest city, he is credited with helping turn around what was a typical South American urban environment, dirty, crime-ridden and intensely segregated along a gaping economic divide. By using the immediate, easy accessible tools at his disposal, Lerner transformed Curitiba into a prime example of greener, more sustainable, equitable and more livable city.
Despite what 80% of our front running candidates are bellowing at us, compared to the problems and difficulties cities in the developing world face, ours are mild and we have far more resources to deal with them. Hence, Mr. SYeD’s calm and considered approach to change. Or what he calls, transformation. “Change is no longer enough,” according to Mr. SYeD.
Vision 2020 offers a glimpse into Mr. SYeD’s thinking about change/transformation. Calling it “an integrated 10 year strategy of hope in Toronto” (some of which voters might recognize as recent additions to a few of the leading mayoral candidates’ platforms and announcements), it consists of 3 simple ideas. Mobility. Sustainability. Identity.
From those come specific ideas. A move to complete streets which is not a War on Cars but rather an acknowledgement that in a healthy city, private vehicles can no longer have primacy on the roads. Designate neighbourhoods that develop and implement sustained and green technology for the city to use. SaTuRN. Sustainable Architectural Technological Urban Research Neighbourhood District. Bring about an elected comptroller for the city to deal with our finances. According to Mr. SYeD, Toronto doesn’t have a spending problem. It has a borrowing problem. In terms of increasing citizen involvement with the city, Vision 2020 proposes neighbourhood councils to be elected annually and with a real say in what happens in their neighbourhoods.
HiMY SYeD wants to bring about what he calls, “Transformational Regime”. What’s that, you ask? I’ll let him explain it.
A Transformational Regime built upon the foundations of three faculties:
1) Strategic Alliance — A stable, highly committed group of political, economic, and social interests that share a common strategic purpose. We have it already: The Toronto City Summit Alliance.
2) Local Practices of Urbanism — The planning processes, technical solutions, designs, and business models that shape the way Toronto is built, serviced and used so as to achieve our defined strategic purpose.
3) Strategic Institutions — A dedicated institutional apparatus responsive to the alliance, for developing, testing, and diffusing our new practices of urbanism.
These three faculties form a practice “regime” with the stability and power to transform urban form, regional markets, and local culture to establish a New Urbanism in Toronto.
The key is putting more power into the hands of the people rather than the top down, institutional change the leading candidates are vowing to inflict on us. Thus, HiMY SYeD, the Peoples’ Mayor. A pie in the sky dreamer? No. I’d call it dreaming little to bring about big changes.
More to the point, HiMY SYeD has proven himself to be a viable candidate who deserves to be heard. Those of us in the city looking for real change deserve to hear him, to see him up on stage with those who’ve been designated as our only choices. Denying him access only heightens suspicion that real change is being denied us.
So start to holler and demand that space be made for you to hear HiMY SYeD. Go to ArtsVote and vote for him to be the 6th candidate at their debate on September 29th. He deserves it. We deserve it.
Last word to Mr. SYeD:
Vision 2020 – Another Toronto is Possible. A Twenty Year Urban Strategy embracing Mobility, Sustainability, Identity — Where Everyone feels and says, “We Belong”.
“We Belong, Here.”
– assertively submitted by Acaphlegmic