Friday, July 20, 2007

Bite me David Miller

I've never really cared much about Toronto municipal politics or really paid much attention to then but I'm going to have to start, because this news on transit cuts coming-out of city hall yesterday is total BS, and completely irresponsible political posturing by Miller and company.

Near as I can tell there’s a pissing match going on between the right wing and left wing factions at city hill, most recently over balancing the budget. When the right wingers embarrassed Miller and won a rare motion the other day to defer a vote on tax increases, Miller decided all of a sudden massive budget cuts were needed, primarily to the TTC. For some reason, he never mentioned this before the vote…

In addition to reducing hours for libraries and community centres, the biggest cuts are to the TTC including a major one, the mothballing of the Sheppard Subway line, plus the cancellation of 21 bus routes. And on top of that, a 25 cent fare increase.

Don’t remember Miller and his cronies campaigning last year on slashing transit service either…

This is though, this is all politics. One the one hand, it’s designed to turn public opinion against the right wing councilors that voted against Miller’s $350 million tax increase. Never mind the fact Miller’s side refused to even consider a symbolic pay cut for councilors, calling it a stupid stunt.

But more than that, this is about the upcoming provincial election, and it’s about the fallout of the downloading of the Mike Harris era. Miller wants more money from the province (and feds) to address systemic structural funding shortfalls and help him balance the budget.

This splashy scare mongering is really aimed at Dalton McGuinty and John Tory. Miller wants to make this a provincial election issue, hoping with the pressure of the campaign trail one or both of them will promise to pony-up big cash, saving the city from its manufactured fiscal crisis and letting the subway trains keep rolling.

I’m not unsympathetic to the arguments around downloading, I think it’s a real issue that needs to be seriously addressed. But recklessly playing games with the transit system at a time ridership numbers are finally starting to rise is not the way to do it. Just the news today alone is going to be sending many people back to their cars, clogging the highways and belching exhaust.

David Miller needs to grow-up and approach this responsibly. Is there any adult supervision down at city hall?

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11 comments:

bigcitylib said...

There are cuts everywhere. The biggest are to the TTC because that's the biggest chunk of the budget. The cops lose ten mill, for example.

I rather think the irresponsibility is on the other side. The city is deeply in debt; if Miller's opponents don't want to raise taxes, then the only other choice is to cut services.

Bailey said...

Rick Salutin (of all people) in The Globe today comes out against Miller and says he failed in leadership and failed to get the vote out.

I kind of chuckled when I saw that Miller lost the vote but then I shook my head even more when I saw their response. No where did he ever mention that this would happen if they didn't vote for the new taxes or "revenue tools" as Miller likes to call them.

The entire council is boneheaded. They argue for years to get the right to raise their own revenue and when they finally do, they decide against it. Clearly they are not mature enough as a government to deserve the right for the ability to raise their own revenue if all they want to do is complain and wait for the province to bail them out. I'm beginning McGuinty should take the powers back and run the city himself because I doubt he could do it even worse....

Lord Kitchener's Own said...

This is why it's B.S. when the province and feds claim that they don't need to help Toronto (after downloading millions of dollars worth of service costs to the city in the 90s) since they gave Toronto the ability to raise more of their own revenues. Everyone knows that Toronto needs more funds, and is horribly underfunded. But as soon as someone tries to raise taxes to PAY for all those services, everyone screams bloody murder. Then someone suggest that if they can't raise taxes, they'll have to cut services, and the screaming gets louder.

The city either needs more money, or less services. If we can't get A, we have to accept B. And it's blatantly clear that despite the billions of dollars the city generates for the province and the country every year, and the millions of dollars of services that were downloaded from those levels of government to the city with nary a thought to how the city would pay for them (besides raising taxes, which no one will let them do) that the province and the Feds are quite willing to sit back and watch Toronto go down the tubes, and simply pretend they had nothing to do with it. They'll just conveniently ignore that they (the province and the feds) are now responsible for LESS services than they used to be, and yet they continue to take in the same amount of taxes. Those two levels of government managed to download the provision of so many services to the city, and then simply moved the revenues they used to spend on those services to OTHER services. Meanwhile, the city is forced to figure out how to pay for all these new responsibilities, from a tax base whose provincial and federal taxes haven't gone down, despite the fact that the CITY is now providing many services that the province and the feds used to provide. The upper levels of government keep getting their tax revenues, while the city gets increased costs.

Well, I call B.S.

Thick said...

No where did he ever mention that this would happen if they didn't vote for the new taxes or "revenue tools" as Miller likes to call them.

What planet are you people on? No, he didn't mention specifics, but it's obvious that with a $570 million dollar shortfall for 2008 OBVIOUSLY cuts would need to be made.

Never mind the fact Miller’s side refused to even consider a symbolic pay cut for councilors, calling it a stupid stunt.

That's stupid. How would a "symbolic pay cut" do anything? It's peanuts and it *is* a stupid stunt.

Jay said...

Looks like we ended up with Jane Pitfield after all.

The city does need cash bad but cutting services is not the way they should go.

Vending machines are more useful than the useless TTC staff they have in the ticket booths. If they are not out smoking on TTC property which is illegal, they ignore you at the booth. Axe those jobs. Impose a wage cap because no one should be getting $80,000 a year to operate a street car which incidentally doesn't even have to be steered. Crush the unions or privitize. I am sure a private company will finally balance the TTC's budget.

Ten there is $80,000 given out in the form of free booze for homeless, another 60,000 in free cigarettes for the homeless. Really. Most of these people are probably on the streets from having their lives destroyed by alcohol and then to hand it out free to them as street people?

Then there is the pay raise that councilors didn't want before and now they won't give up. Millers renovation budget of over 1 million.

How about charging commuters from the 905 for their usage of our infrastructure day in and out without contributing a cent. Seems fair to me.

There are tons of ways to save money without making residents pay yet again but it involves the people on the top who refuse to make their jobs less cushy.

mezba said...

This is actually a brilliant ploy. Far from being angry at Miller, I am now angry at the provincial parties. My vote is for sale, whoever ponies up the biggest cash for Toronto, especially transit, gets my vote.

Thick said...

Vending machines are more useful than the useless TTC staff they have in the ticket booths. If they are not out smoking on TTC property which is illegal, they ignore you at the booth. Axe those jobs.

If the TTC had the budget to replace all its ticket booths with automated systems, they wouldn't be in this situation. Even systems with no ticket collectors still have attendants. This idea is insane.

Impose a wage cap because no one should be getting $80,000 a year to operate a street car which incidentally doesn't even have to be steered.

The TTC is having trouble hiring even at its current salaries. Do you think they'll be able to attract drivers by reducing their wages? Can you provide any evidence of this number of $80,000 a year to operate a street car?

Crush the unions or privitize. I am sure a private company will finally balance the TTC's budget.

The first thing a private company would do to balance the budget would be exactly what the TTC is doing - get rid of underperforming routes.

As for city services, around half of the city's work is already outsourced.

Ten there is $80,000 given out in the form of free booze for homeless, another 60,000 in free cigarettes for the homeless. Really. Most of these people are probably on the streets from having their lives destroyed by alcohol and then to hand it out free to them as street people?

OK, suppose we cut these programs and get rid of $140,000 in spending. That still leaves over $550 million to go.

Then there is the pay raise that councilors didn't want before and now they won't give up. Millers renovation budget of over 1 million.

The pay raise is peanuts, and reducing it would not make even a nano-dent in the budget. Miller's renovation has been cancelled.

How about charging commuters from the 905 for their usage of our infrastructure day in and out without contributing a cent. Seems fair to me.

Please explain how this could possibly be done and furthermore explain how this could be done at low cost, how it could be done in time for next year's budget shortfall, and how it could even remotely be politically feasible.

There are tons of ways to save money without making residents pay yet again but it involves the people on the top who refuse to make their jobs less cushy.

Empty rhetoric, no real solutions. None of the cuts you suggest come even close to solving the problem which is that Harris' downloading imposed costs that the province mandates but doesn't want to pay for.

Jay said...

Thick,
I am making suggestions. Alone they are worthless but add them all up and it starts to become a bigger sum.

TTC drivers do make a shot load of cash. It ranges from 60,000 to 80,000 depending on seniority.

Vending machines will be much more efficient. Currently in the mornings I go to the subway and no one has filled the vending machine which gives you 9 tokens for 20 bucks. I went to the booth with 20 bucks and they refused to sell me 9 tokens. Apparently they only opereate on selling 10 at a time. A calculaot would work wonders for these guys. ^0% of the time the booth is unattended, no one to sell me tokens, the machine hasn't been serviced and I need to go to work. What happens is I go on through without paying, along with 20 more people behind me. So if they aren't collecting the money then how can they expect to actually have a cash flow that meets the usage of the system? I have even been waved through the turnstills because lazy fat ass inside the booth is on break.

Its obvious from your support of handing out addictive substances that you have no issue over the wastage of our tax dollars.

Tolls can be placed on our highways and major routes in the city to collect fees to help with infrastructure, boost ridership and reduce GHG's. Don't pretend this cannot be done unless you don't watch news at all and keep your head buried in the sand.

Thick said...

Vending machines will be much more efficient.

I can't comment on your ttc ticket booth experiences, as I use a Metropass. My point was simply that replacing all the ticket booths with vending machines would require lots of money for machines at every station, it would require increased security to make sure people don't cheat, and in the end would save very little money compared the amount that needs to be cut.


Its obvious from your support of handing out addictive substances that you have no issue over the wastage of our tax dollars.

What? What gave you the idea that I support this? I don't know enough about the program to support or not support it. My point was simply that if we cut it, it's peanuts and won't solve the budget problem.

TTC drivers do make a shot load of cash. It ranges from 60,000 to 80,000 depending on seniority.

Not according to activist Steve Munro's site. The top pay rate is around $55,000. (See here: http://www.stevemunro.ca/?p=456 )
TTC Drivers who make more than that are making more because of overtime - because the TTC can't find enough qualified drivers! The fact that they're having trouble finding qualified applicants does not suggest that the pay is too high, it suggests the opposite.

Tolls can be placed on our highways and major routes in the city to collect fees to help with infrastructure, boost ridership and reduce GHG's. Don't pretend this cannot be done unless you don't watch news at all and keep your head buried in the sand.

You're right; I misread your original comment. OK, road tolls could be done, that's completely correct. The problem is that it would take time to set up such a thing and it's doubtful it could be set up in time for January of next year. But if it could, it would still need Council approval and funding. They didn't want to implement the land transfer tax and the motor registration tax, so what are the odds they'd implement tolls? When Miller vaguely suggested simply considering tolls in 2003, he was lambasted. So while technically possible, the question would be whether it would be politically feasible. Even if the right-wing Councillors did vote for it, there would still be additional measures needed to close the budget gap.

I don't like these cuts any more than anyone else. The point I'm trying to make is simply that these cuts are a direct result of the vote not to impose new taxes. None of these proposals would bring in more than a miniscule fraction of the amount needed to balance the city's budget. The problem is systemic and goes back to Harris, and it can't be solved until provincially mandated services are uploaded again.

mezba said...

One thing I want to know is if any one disagrees that the province should upload the cost of transit and give heavy subsidies to TTC, as like most other transit systems around the world. If no one has issues with that, then that's what we should be asking our provincial parties in the October election.

A BCer in Toronto said...

And I thought a post on Toronto municipal politics wouldn't generate much response...

Anyway, I think there's lots of blame to go around here; between the deferring of the tax vote and the doomsday cuts. These two sides should have come together and comprimised long ago. The province does need to take action, and hopefully it will.

But as a frequent transit user, and someone that cares about the environment, Miller's recklessness here really pisses me off. Even if he doesn't believe in these cuts, and I don't think he does, and even if he's hoping/expecting the province to step in before they take affect, just the uncertainty created by the announced cuts and fare increase is going to do significant damage to transit ridership, at a time when it is (was) increasing. Many people will say yeesh, forget it, I'm sticking with my car. That's more congestion on the roads and more pollution, and all the resulting economic and environmental costs, thanks to this political grandstanding.