I kinda miss Mel Lastman.
Mel wasn’t afraid to think big. As Mayor of Toronto, he called in the army to deal with a snowstorm. In Canada.
Before flying to Kenya to lobby for the 2008 Summer Olympics, he uttered this legendary quote: “What the hell do I want to go to a place like Mombasa? I'm sort of scared about going out there, but the wife is really nervous. I just see myself in a pot of boiling water with all these natives dancing around me”.
The games subsequently went to Beijing.
A guy like Mel is hard to replace. Fortunately, there must be something special in the city water supply, because the former furniture mogul appears to have a successor.
Meet Georgio Mammoliti, Toronto councillor and former mayoralty candidate who is not afraid to be like Mel.
His platform included a casino, a lottery and a red light district, but — amazingly — that wasn’t enough to nudge him out of last place in the polls, so he withdrew to focus on retaining his seat. He did promise to try again in the future, though, so all is not lost.
And his latest big idea is worthy of Mel Lastman. If council gets behind it, he’ll finally come first in the 'poles': We’re talking about North America’s largest flagpole, to be located in the middle of the urban wilderness at Finch and the 400. If you’ve spent any time at all in Toronto, you’ve never been to Finch and the 400 unless you were hopelessly lost.
An odd target for urban renewal as there’s nothing there to renew.
But all that will change, as Georgio champions the, um, erection of a pole that may not challenge the CN Tower for Toronto’s largest phallic symbol, but will definitely own the phallic/patriotic showoff category. The $2.5-million entity would thrust 125 metres tall into the North York smog, about the height of a 40-story building, topped with a Canadian flag the size of a football field.
The only other poles hoisted higher than Georgio’s dream petard are in the Middle East, the two tallest in Jordan, of all places, at 130 and 126 metres respectively.
This formidable flagpole will no doubt cement Toronto’s status as a world-class city and give the folks in Jordan something to worry about, but the guy who stands tall, who isn’t afraid to be measured, is Georgio Mammoliti.
Move over Mel! Finally, someone beats the Bad Boy at his own game.
Paul Sullivan is a Vancouver-based journalist and owner of Sullivan Media Consulting;