Toronto resident and urban theorist Richard Florida wonders in a tweet: "Has anyone recently quantified the effect of bad/ incompetent leadership on the competitiveness and status of a large global city?" He then finds one, that concludes "good mayoral decisions have a marginally positive effect on econ growth but poor decisions have a significantly negative effect"
We have a good test case going on in Toronto right now, where the Mayor, Rob Ford, is seeing all of his allies in the center and on the right fall away because of his stubbornness and intransigence. Mayor Ford hates streetcars and above-grade transit because it gets in the way of cars. In the debate on the future of transit held yesterday in Toronto, he had only one thing to say:
“The people of this city have spoken loud and clear, they want subways folks, they want subways, subways, subways,” Ford told councillors.
“People hate this St. Clair, they hate these streetcars, you can call them what you want, people want subways folks, subways, subways. They don’t want these damn streetcars clogging up our city!”
“That’s what they don’t want!”
Now I happen to live near the #stclairdisaster, as the hashtag goes, a running joke about the "problems" on St. Clair since the new dedicated streetcar right of way was installed. Tweets like: "One of the hidden dangers of the #StClairDisaster are all the parks, filed with kids when the weather turns nice. Someone save us!"
What we get instead is a mayor and his brother badmouthing the whole neighbourhood, saying things like : "We don't want to St. Clair-ize the whole city." - they should be so lucky; new restaurants and upscale stores are going in everywhere, there are condos being built all over the place, property values within walking distance of the St. Clair line have skyrocketed.
Fortunately, cooler heads prevailed and voted instead for Light Rapid Transit system that runs on the surface, meaning that they can afford to build much more, with more stops. Instead of a couple of subway stops to nowhere, there is now the possibility of building a real network.
John Lorinc watched the drama unfold and writes:
The Great Subway Battle of 2012™ was Mayor Rob Ford’s to lose, and he lost it with such single-mindedness and determination that this episode may well go down in Toronto history as the textbook example of political self-immolation. Future generations of urban government students and ambitious party operatives will sift through the sorry details for shards of insight on how to avoid IEDs and devastating missteps. Indeed, a new phrase – “they really Forded that issue” – should enter our lexicon.
Rob Ford doesn't love transit and subways; if he did, he would have agreed to tax changes and compromises to pay for them. He just hates transit period, anything that gets in the way of his van or his brother's Navigator. The only thing he hates more than streetcars are cyclists and bike lanes.
Perhaps the tide has turned. Now that Toronto is once again getting a network of modern light rail transit, perhaps we will get a few bike lanes too.