When all is said and done, there is only one real test of a political leader: Did he leave his country/province/city in better shape than he found it? That’s the true legacy of a leader.
Mayor David Miller announced last week he won’t be seeking reelection in 2010. He still has 14 months left in office, but I’d argue that in three crucial areas, in particular, it’s already clear he’ll be leaving Toronto in far better shape than he found it.
First and foremost, David Miller cleaned out the corruption at City Hall. He put that famous broom from his 2003 campaign to good use.
Before he took office, the city was being run by moneyed interests and backroom fixers — as we saw at the MFP inquiry. Miller put a stop to that. He put in place tough new rules like the lobby registry. Even more important, he has set the example of ramrod personal integrity. Miller has also presided over a quiet revolution in policing in Toronto. Crime is down 30 per cent in the last four years.
A lot of that is due to the community policing approach Chief Bill Blair has implemented. The days of confrontation and us vs. them policing are over. Cops are walking the beat. They’re also increasingly as diverse as the city itself. That just wouldn’t have happened without David Miller as mayor.
Miller has also showed his tough side, standing up to the gun nuts and shutting down shooting ranges in Toronto.
Finally, and maybe most important of all to readers of this newspaper, Miller has ushered in the biggest transit expansion this city has seen in half a century. It’s just starting now — and the final results are years away. But thanks to Miller’s bold Transit City vision, and his cajoling of provincial and federal governments, we’re finally making the big transit investments we need — after decades of neglect.
There are other successes, like the city’s big environmental shift. And challenges too, like last summer’s garbage strike.
The work of a mayor in a city like ours is often unglamorous and always grinding. For every big speech, there are hundreds of hours of quiet, thankless work, uniting disparate interests.
What matters most, though, is that David Miller took a great city that had lost its way and got it back on track. The challenge for his successor will be to keep it going in the right direction.