One disadvantage of being a former mayor is the number of times one is asked on the street to comment on those running to be the next mayor of Toronto.
There are three leading candidates already declared, and a few more in the wings with the election still 10 months away. When asked about them, I have three kinds of answers.
First, if there’s a candidate running because he or she wants to solve problems at city hall, then I’ll treat that candidate seriously. So far that hasn’t happened. George Smitherman, Rocco Rossi and Joe Pantalone have all said they want to run because they want to be mayor, and not much else. Making the city a better place isn’t as great a priority for them as becoming mayor. Who can respect them for that?
Second, I want someone who recognizes that city council doesn’t work.
The megacity is a mess for everyone — for councillors who find the 2,000-page agendas unreadable, for residents who find city hall untouchable, for businesspeople who find city staff unresponsive. It is time to dismantle the megacity and try something else, preferably something smaller and more manageable with councillors eager to serve the public interest. Why aren’t candidates clamouring to solve this issue?
Third, in the city’s 176-year history, no one has been elected mayor who has not first served on council. Why do Smitherman and Rossi, neither of whom has been a councillor, think they can break that strong tradition? And if they haven’t cared enough to serve in the past, how much do they care for the city now?
The other side of the coin is that Joe Pantalone has been an insider at city hall for what seems like the last century. He’s already made the changes he thinks are needed. No one can expect him to say it’s not working well.
These are three simple answers. Sure, there are big issues candidates must address, but when asked, I judge them right now on these questions.