Those of you who don’t live in my neighbourhood will likely not be so interested in this post, so I invite you to explore some of the excellent blogs on my sidebar.
We have a municipal election upcoming in Toronto, so I asked the three registered candidates for the councillor’s gig in my ward 10 questions by email. The first to respond was Michael Laxer. Even though I had sent him the questions in the late evening, he responded with the following answers very quickly, in around an hour. Full marks go to Michael for responsiveness. Here’s what Michael had to say:
1. Why Ward 6? Do you have some history in this area? Please tell my readers a little about your background.
I live, do business and work in Ward 6 everyday. My family and I owned Used Book Paradise at 30th St. from 2001-2009 and then moved it to New Toronto where we operate as Community Roots Books Movies & Art. I live around the corner from my business and my children go to Second St. School. This is my neighbourhood, which I know and love, and I want to represent it and advocate for it.
2. What are your top 3 priorities for our neighbourhood?
My top three priorities for this neighbourhood are increased public transit, greater access to FREE public services for children and adults, and working to ensure that the city services we, as citizens and taxpayers, pay for remain in public hands and are no longer cut the way they have been in the past.
3. This year, we’ve experienced a large number of break-ins in Longbranch. Can you influence change and improvement in this area?
As your city councillor I will advocate for the reopening of 21 division and the implementation of a foot-patrol community based policing strategy on Lake Shore Blvd and other major strips.
4. What is your position on the proposal to run a dedicated TTC LRT line through our community? Do you have alternative ideas?
I support, in full, the Transit City plan adopted by council.
5. Do you think we have adequate community consultation currently in our area? If not, how would you improve this?
I feel that all too often the level of consultation depends on the willingness of the local councillor to engage in it. I personally support the enhancement and creation of local consultative bodies that will play an advisory role to council, but ultimately we hold elections in a democracy to decide these issues. Thus I favour term limits for all council members including the mayor and proportional civic voting.
6. What is good development and waht is bad development? Ward 6 is an unusual treasure in the city. What should be preserved and what should be changed?
Etobicoke Lakeshore is home to the city’s finest waterfront public parks and spaces. Nowhere else in Toronto can you experience Lake Ontario as you can here. It is essential that this heritage be maintained and preserved and that neither development nor unnecessary changes be made to these parks. One clear and essential component in this struggle is to fight for the elimination of the Ontario Municipal Board. However, it is essential that we not oppose necessary development and that we consider the long term positive benefits of growth in our community.
7. Who do you support for mayor?
8. We’ve seen councillors spend their office budgets on all sorts of creative things from French lessons to retirement parties, and we’ve seen others spend nothing at all. What is appropriate in your view? How will you be accountable as a councillor?
We elect councillors to represent and SERVE us. A councillor who spends nothing is, by definition, a do nothing councillor, and the only one who does so also still works for his father’s business! I favour opening an office on Lake Shore Blvd. if elected, with a full time staff to help, everyday, to meet the concerns of citizens when and as needed. This costs money, but it gives representation.
I will say that too often publicly funded events and works are seized as an opportunity for councillors to self-promote on the public dime. Publicly funded events should not be an opportunity for city councillors to advertise their eventual re-election campaigns.
Our councillors need to know what their cuts to services or programs mean to the average citizen. The most direct way to do this is by indexing the salaries of city councillors to reflect the wage made by the average Torontonian. No more, no less.
Many other “perks” of office need review. If council is all too regularly prepared to take away the “perks” that we ourselves pay for as citizens, through the cuts or placing of user fees on city programmes and city services, then they should not themselves be granted perks the ordinary citizen funds but is not privy to, beyond those needed to serve the public.
9. Our City Council has been dysfunctional for a number of years. The behaviour of councillors has often been childish at best. How will you contribute to improvement in this area?
Democracy often appears dysfunctional and I do not believe that people should all strive for consensus. We are entitled to disagree and, as we have been elected by voters we need to continue to advocate for that for which we were elected, not to try to get along with everyone in the hopes of one day being a Liberal or Tory cabinet minister. Ultimately, if you want change then we need to elect new people!
10. What are the top 3 reasons why we should vote for you for Ward 6 Councillor?
My desire to preserve and expand public services, public transit and civic democracy, all of which we pay for, and is our right, as citizens and taxpayers.
Thank you very much Michael for participating and for your prompt and direct answers to my questions. Tomorrow, I’ll be posting the answers sent to me by the second candidate to respond, Pastor Wendell Brereton. So far, I have not heard back from the third candidate, Jem Cain, but I’m still hopeful that I’ll receive a response. At a later date, I’ll offer up some commentary on the answers set forth by the candidates.
If Ward 6 readers have additional questions, feel free to pose them in the comments section here. I expect the candidates will monitor those. One of the reasons I’m creating these Ward 6 profile posts is to encourage people in my neighbourhood to get involved, find out what the candidates think, and to get out and vote in October.