Straight Talk
 SUE-ANN LEVY - Toronto city council 2012 report card

Credits: QMI Agency

SUE-ANN LEVY | QMI AGENCY

TORONTO - I'd like to say Toronto City council deserves a C this year simply because it has descended into almost complete chaos in the past few months.

But it has more to do with the inability of this cast of characters to compromise, behave with civility and to respect the fiscal agenda Torontonians overwhemingly voted to support in 2010.

Blame must be placed on all sides.

Let's start with Mayor Rob Ford.

As mayor, he has been unafraid to tackle the city's debt and put Toronto on a more sustainable fiscal footing, to kneecap the unions and to contract out garbage collection.

While there's no doubt he respects taxpayers, he does not respect the office of mayor.

Leadership is about compromise.

It's about being able to concede the small battles to win the war.

It's about recognizing that if you are prepared to bring in a strong dose of tough medicine, you'd better know that you, yourself, will be subject to closer scrutiny by those who don't want to swallow that medicine.

Ford has done himself no service, for example, by stubbornly refusing to give up coaching football - at the very least during council and executive committee meetings.

There's something to be said about keeping your friends close and your enemies even closer.

While I've repeatedly said I find the campaign against Ford by the left-wing media bordering on cruel and abusive, there's nothing to be gained by running away from it all. I've always believed in dealing with one's detractors head-on.

We will agree that Ford is not a deep thinker. Neither was Mel Lastman.

But at least Lastman recognized that he needed strong people around him to get his agenda through council. Lastman's arm-twisters were very adept at working councillors and their over-inflated egos to ensure they got a consensus on issues of importance to them.

Ford is too frugal to hire seasoned staff who have the ability to work with council. His mistrust of those he perceives are not 100% behind him - aided and abetted by his brother Doug - has created this "Us vs. Them" mentality at City Hall.

It's no wonder his mayoralty is in tatters and may not survive beyond January's appeal.

Sadly for taxpayers, instead of articulating a vision for the rest of his term, he has been completely distracted by the sideshow that swirls around him - one largely of his own making.

But councillors have been far from innocent - starting with his own inner circle.

It must be awfully difficult to work with a team who put what's in it for them ahead of a basic ability to abide by the Respect for Taxpayers agenda that got Ford elected.

I'm thinking specifically of David Shiner, John Parker, Michelle Berardinetti and Karen Stintz - all of whom are loyal when the mood strikes them.

I had high hopes for The Moronic Middle - the group of newbie councillors who swept into office in 2010 on a wave of change.

But most quickly lost sight of the public mood. They also lost their nerve. They've used Ford's distractions to boost their perceived power at City Hall.

At least, for the most part (other than Josh Matlow), they appear to be too busy handling the demands of the new job to be destructive.

Council's left-wing kooks have never gotten over the fact that Ford was elected. They refuse to accept responsibility for what led to their demise - namely their disdain for taxpayers and their arrogance.

Their jealously with no longer controlling the cookie jar and their lust for power has motivated them in the past two years rather than a genuine desire to publicly serve their constituents.

Like a pack of vultures, they have existed solely to be obstructive. Whenever Ford has managed to make good on his promises and cut costs, they sulk like a bunch of petulant children - trying to create hysteria about issues that do not exist.

While council's right-wing is far from perfect, I remember that they took their opposition status like adults.

The delusional musings of councillors Shelley Carroll and Adam Vaughan that they could do better as mayor are laughable. I can't help but wonder how they manage to get any real work done when they're so busy talking to friendly media and positioning themselves for a mayoralty run.

Sadly, I don't see any of this getting better in the next few months, particularly if the mayor loses his appeal.

The left would be extremely happy if Ford's fiscal agenda was derailed.

Ford, for heaven's sake, has done nothing, absolutely nothing, to save himself.

*****

REPORT CARD 2012

It's that time of year when constituents deserve to know how their councillors fared in 2012.

Considering that council has become more dysfunctional than ever before, our grades are based not just on the role councillors took in seeing through the mayor's agenda and understanding the city's pressing issues - its' precarious fiscal state and decrepit infrastructure - but their decorum at council and in committees.

MAYOR ROB FORD C+

We're being generous because the mayor did exactly what he promised this year: He contracted out garbage in District 2, tackled the city's debt and brought in two affordable deals with CUPE without any strikes. But sadly, his good work has been overshadowed by the constant and frustrating sideshow that surrounds him - the court cases, his disappearances to coach football and what seems like a controversy a week. We find the verbal abuse and attacks hurled at him from the left-wing media and his detractors despicable. However, it's growing more difficult to sympathize with someone who is too darn stubborn to learn from his mistakes. He has to concede the battles to win the war. Let's hope he realizes this before it is too late.

PAUL AINSLIE (Ward 43): B+

Deserves Brownie points for consistently voting to keep spending under control. But there's no doubt his more prominent role on council has gone to his head. A spoonful of humility wouldn't hurt Paul.

MARIA AUGIMERI (Ward 9): F

We knew this long-time NDP trougher had lost all sense of reality when she compared TTC management and their plans to contract out the cleaning of buses to the pigs in George Orwell's famous Animal Farm. This is from a woman who's lived high off the public hog for 30 years.

ANA BAILAO (Ward 18): D-

Ana, we had such high hopes for you. But first you cried for the cleaners making $64,000 a year. Then you ambushed an attempt to sell off 600 TCHC homes in disrepair. You really outdid yourself, however, when you refused to show any contrition for your DUI charge. Bad year all round.

MICHELLE BERARDINETTI (Ward 35) C

Her fixation over retirement plans for three Toronto Zoo pachyderms may have overshadowed the real elephant in the room: Berardinetti really doesn't have the right stuff to make tough choices. In 2012, she bolted from budget and executive committees and voted with the left for the plastic bag ban.

SHELLEY CARROLL (Ward 33) F

Earth to Carroll. Reality is calling. You don't have what it takes to be mayor. You were a terrible budget chief. That hasn't stopped this insufferable ‘know-it-all," who looms large at council and committee meetings, hurling insults at members of the mayor's team and at the ready to blab to the anti-Ford media.

RAYMOND CHO (Ward 32) F

Just call this 76-year-old opportunist, Sybil. Cho consistently votes with the NDP faction at City Hall. Yet he has run federally as a Liberal and Independent candidate. Now's he been nominated as a Ontario PC candidate in his Scarborough riding. We're left wondering which of his split personalities has time to pay attention to his constituents.

JOSH COLLE (Ward 15): C

There's no doubt Mike's boy fancies himself an honest broker on council. That's fine if his efforts are used to further a fiscally sensible agenda. Trouble is, he lost us when he led the charge last January to reinstate $15-million of minor cuts back into the operating budget.

GARY CRAWFORD (Ward 36) A-

A true gentleman, Gary will be a welcome addition to the executive committee. While he understands the need to protect tax dollars, we wish, as chairman of the Theatres Task Force, he'd been tougher on the three large, city-owned theatres that need to be far more sustainable on their own.

VINCE CRISANTI (Ward 1) B

He always respected tax dollars. But Vince came out of his shell this past year and made it his mission to clean up City Hall and Nathan Phillips Square - literally. His MO? To get city workers to do their jobs thoroughly. The building now shines thanks to Vince's efforts.

JANET DAVIS (Ward 31): F

Sister Janet reminds us of one of the jealous stepsisters in Cinderella who finds she's no longer Belle of the Ball. After all, her beloved union pals have been kneecapped and the tax dollars aren't flying. She's become bitter, and histrionic. Recently insisted Torontonians could swallow a 5% tax hike.

GLENN DE BAEREMAEKER (Ward 38): D+

Talk about having a one-track mind. Discovering that his constituents weren't overjoyed with his devotion to LRTs, Glenn tried to backtrack with a short-lived OneCity plan which called for replacing the Scarborough RT with a subway.

MIKE DEL GRANDE(Ward 39) A+

One could say he's been somewhat like the Archangel of the same name for his almost religious devotion to getting city spending under control. Taxpayers owe this man a debt of gratitude for the endless hours of work he's done and the discipline he's shown to say, "No." There's been no budget chief like him in recent memory.

FRANK DI GIORGIO (Ward 12) B+

Quite frankly, Frank deserves a heap of credit for maintaining his cool and staying on course with the agenda of fiscal restraint during constant chaos at City Hall.

SARAH DOUCETTE (Ward 13) C-

Sarah reminds us of one of those prissy schoolmarms whenever she stands up to defend the rights of her union friends and firefighter election sign team. Knows very little about city's pressing financial problems and doesn't care to. Redeems herself by behaving with decorum at council and committee meetings.

JOHN FILION (Ward 23) F

This over-the-hill trougher had a very busy year. From his unwavering support of the plastic bag ban, to an integrity complaint about Ford, to his part in a devious back-door manoeuvre to help pad his $30,000 expense budget, it's a wonder he had time to do much else.

PAULA FLETCHER (Ward 30) D-

Although she's toned down her rhetoric, how quickly this Commie forgets. After barely re-capturing her ward by 258 votes in 2010 she's been right back at it fighting for the little guy. Taxpayers, you say? Nah. She's been deeply concerned about the plight of city cleaners and garbage workers making more than $50,000 a year.

DOUG FORD (Ward 2) B+

It's been a tough year for the brother of most targeted mayor, ever. He can't help himself. Sometimes out of loyalty and genuine frustration, he jumps into verbal scraps with the left - ones he best avoid. Doug needs to re-focus on what brought the Fords to City Hall in the first place: Ending the culture of entitlement.

MARY FRAGEDAKIS (Ward 29) F

Mary who? After two years in office, this good union sister has had little impact at City Hall.

MARK GRIMES (Ward 6) B+

Mark has come into his own in the past two years. An asset on the works committee and happy doing his work as 2015 Pan Am Games chairman, he stays a safe distance from the thrust and parry that often occurs on the council floor - which is a good thing.

DOUG HOLYDAY (Ward 3) A+

Classy and level-headed, Doug's been an oasis of calm in the midst of chaos. A long-time advocate for contracting out, he finally saw garbage collection in District 2 go to a private contractor. He was also the point person on two affordable contracts with CUPE, negotiated without any strikes.

NORM KELLY (Ward 40) B+

There's life in the 71-year-old politician yet. Norm seems to have reinvented himself since Rob Ford came to power. He actually makes sense when he speaks at council and seems to have toned down on his expenses.

MIKE LAYTON (Ward 19) B-

Like father (and step-mom), like son. There's no question Mike is married to the NDP ideology at City Hall. A dedicated cyclist, he vociferously fought against removing the Jarvis St. bike lanes. Unlike many of his NDP colleagues, however, he is respectful of other opinions and just plain nice.

CHIN LEE (Ward 41) D-

Here we thought the former member of the Scarborough Needs Accountable Politicians (SNAP) group was a fiscal conservative. But he's been one of the biggest disappointments on council, consistently choosing the politically expedient route instead of voting with a fiscal conscience.

GLORIA LINDSAY LUBY (Ward 4) D-

The one-time fiscal conservative, who allied herself with the David Miller regime to get herself a plum post, recently told an Etobicoke newspaper she thought herself "qualified" to be interim mayor if Ford loses his appeal. Evidently, delusions of grandeur is a common affliction at City Hall.

GIORGIO MAMMOLITI (Ward 7) B

Life is never dull with Giorgio at City Hall. He changes his political stripes as often as his immaculately pressed shirts. He can get petulant. But the born-again fiscal conservative has been loyal to the spending restraint mantra. Besides, he can laugh at himself - a rare trait amongst the left.

JOSH MATLOW (Ward 22) D+

What can we say about a politician - who while insisting that he's trying to be peacemaker on council couldn't wait after the judge ruled on the mayor's ouster to slag him on TV and in an e-mail to constituents. Hypocrite? Opportunist? Classless? Childish? All of the above?

PAM MCCONNELL (Ward 28) F

Her constant abuse of taxpayer dollars aside, there is something wrong with a councillor who, when exposed for buying a prime unit in the revitalized Regent Park, continues not to declare a conflict whenever the subject comes up at council. Proof of what happens when politicians think they own their wards.

MARY-MARGARET MCMAHON (Ward 32) C-

It didn't take long for the woman who wanted to raise chickens in city backyards to turn chicken herself. A supposed fiscal conservative, McMahon voted to reinstate $15 million of cuts back into the 2012 budget. She also insisted on continuing with the bag ban despite the threat of two costly lawsuits.

JOE MIHEVC (Ward 21) F

We shudder every time we hear this great pretender talk about ethics considering the sleazy way he managed to increase councillor office budgets through the back door and all the talk of how he's working behind the scenes to make himself interim mayor should Ford lose his appeal.

PETER MILCZYN (Ward 5) B

Loses marks for being too cowardly to support the firing of TTC CGM Gary Webster early in the year-a move even he would admit has set the TTC on a far more positive course. But for the most part, fiscally responsible and a dependable planning committee chairman.

DENZIL MINNAN-WONG: A+

It is so refreshing to have someone at the helm of public works committee who, unlike his predecessor, is focussing on what constituents want - bike lanes that make sense and well-maintained roads. Did an excellent job shepherding in the contracting out of garbage in District 2.

RON MOESER (Ward 44) F

On the injury list for more than a year, Ron recently returned to council as much as a dud when he left. Proof that it's best to go when the getting is good.

FRANCES NUNZIATA (Ward 11) A+

Small but mighty. Frances has outdone herself as speaker of an unruly council. Often forced to deal with childish temper tantrums and nasty heckling from the left and right, Frances is firm but cool as a cucumber. One of the few bright lights at City Hall.

CESAR PALACIO (Ward 17) A+

Like the Roman general and statesman of the same name, Cesar has proven himself unafraid to take on the tough jobs at City Hall, voting to axe former TTC CGM Gary Webster and working on reforms to Toronto's highly dysfunctional taxi industry.

JOHN PARKER (Ward 26) C

John's fingers must be near frozen for the all the times he's stuck them up to the wind this past year. The alleged fiscal conservative formed an unholy alliance with Karen Stintz to support LRTs and has had trouble showing discipline on budgetary matters. Often wimpy as deputy speaker.

JAMES PASTERNAK (Ward 10) B-

Hold that thought about James' concern for taxpayers. In his second year in office, he voted to put $15-million in cuts back into the operating budget. He was also all-consumed with getting his Antibes community centre named a priority centre - which allows residents to access programs free of charge.

GORD PERKS (Ward 14) F

He may be wearing a better suit these days. But the man who once disrupted a premier's press conference in 1990 still behaves like a professional protester and a bully at City Hall. Never mind fiscal sanity. Gord "Guard His" Perks needs to learn some basic manners.

ANTHONY PERRUZA (Ward 8) F

Each and every time this professional politician stands up to speak in council, we wonder how the heck he's managed to get voted in so many times. It certainly wasn't for his intelligence.

JAYE ROBINSON (Ward 25) B+

She got caught meddling in May in a demolition of a Lawrence Park home she thought had heritage value. But to her credit, Robinson has evolved in the past year as someone who truly understands the fiscal problems facing the city and the hold unions had over City Hall.

DAVID SHINER (Ward 24) D+

It's hard to believe that a councillor would be so desperately in need of attention, he'd throw retailers and the plastics industry into complete chaos for months with his impetuous plastic bag ban. But that about describes David. Other than that, he's been operating mostly like council is no longer his bag.

KAREN STINTZ (Ward 16) D

Undercover boss? TTC Turncoat? Subways? LRTs? Will the real Karen Stintz please stand up and tell Toronto what the devil she supports? The infamous subway fiasco of the past year has proven one thing about Stintz: She is loyal to no one but the image she sees in the mirror.

MICHAEL THOMPSON (Ward 37) A

We give Michael lots of credit for keeping his head down in the midst of a constant circus and doing what he's been asked to do on the police services board and as chairman of the economic development committee. High marks for taking on the police chief and holding firm on cuts to the police budget.

ADAM VAUGHAN (Ward 20) F

Beware this dangerous breed of political jackal. Likes to prowl City Hall howling for attention. Enjoys being photographed. Preys on developers and fiscal conservatives. When cornered, known for baring his teeth and hissing vituperative (nasty, personal) remarks at his opponents.

KRISTYN WONG-TAM (Ward 27) D-

There's a reason we nicknamed her Wrong-Turn. She thinks her role as councillor includes foreign and federal policy - gun control, shark fin bans and tributes to victims of the Nanking massacre. It's so typical of socialists like her to spend more time on distractions than actual city issues.

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