City Council is Supreme | politics | via @Torontoist and @hamutaldotan | #TOpoli

… we are optimistic. We have a government that is working. It is making decisions based on evidence, and it is defending those decisions over time. It is a government that has set a direction on the most fraught and most important policy file we have. It is a government that is doing its job even though Rob Ford isn’t doing his, and if it keeps on doing so Toronto may come out of this mayoralty in better shape than many of us had feared.

Hamutal Dotan puts the events of the last few weeks in a calm and well-reasoned perspective. What follows is, for the most part, from a comment over at the Torontoist site.

Really, it’s got nothing to do with Karen Stintz and where she falls on the left / right spectrum. The most important thing about Hamutal’s analysis is the counterpoint it provides to the narrative being pushed by more than one corporate media outlet, which is one portraying Toronto’s city government as being chaotically adrift. Any comment or suggestion that describes council as akin to a bunch of kids squabbling in a sandbox just helps to reinforce that narrative, and let’s not have any illusions about whose interests THAT serves.

Just think about who benefits from that perception. Who do you think wants everyone to dismiss government, civil servants and the public sphere in general as dysfunctional, ineffective and corrupt? Just listen to the radio on Sunday afternoon sometime as Brother Doug tells his listeners that he wouldn’t trust any of his fellow councillors to run a kid’s lemonade stand. Not hard to see where he’s going with that. Once again, if you haven’t read what J.M. McGrath and Adam Chaleff-Freudenthaler have written in this regard, take a few minutes and go through it.

So no, what we’re seeing now isn’t the ideal situation, but council is showing that for all its disparate elements and conflicting interests and personalities, it is capable of conducting the city’s business in a mature and responsible manner. Sure, it would be nice if the mayor would play ball and show leadership, but what the last few weeks have shown is that council can function, albeit untidily, even if he doesn’t. That’s a good thing.

Ultimately, what it’s demonstrating is that just because something is “political,” it isn’t inherently icky and sordid. As Shelley Carroll pointed out on Monday, governing is an inherently political process. Setting budgets, allocating resources, balancing interests, determining civic priorities … all of these are political acts, properly situated in the public realm. Pretending that they’re conducted in some rarefied space that’s only recently been soiled by politics is the height of hypocrisy. In order to believe that, you’d have to believe that the firing of Gary Webster had nothing to do with politics. 

We may or may not get a rational and well-thought-out transit plan out of this. And god knows we’re nowhere near out of danger in terms of the damage that Team Ford can still do, both to the institutions and processes of governance in this city and to civil public discourse. But at least we know council can function cooperatively and democratically, with or without the mayor, and that government isn’t something to be viewed with contempt. 

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One Comment

  1. ChefWendyB
    March 7, 2012

    Council proved we have democracy this week. One man’s strangely idle thoughts on lemonade stands not withstanding. The majority ruled and for one glorious moment a lot of people seemed to remember what they are there for. My great fear is the in-fighting that can so easily fracture an alliance as tentative as this one. These are a group of people who don’t necessarily come from a place of similar tastes and intentions. One can only pray that the lessons of the last weeks settle in their minds. Imagining the Mayors position is one of ultimate power as Rob did is a dubious motivation at best. He is not king and we are the losers if they do not continue to keep the cat belled.

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