Our city was born feisty and free-thinking. The first mayor of Toronto was crusading rebel journalist William Lyon Mackenzie, who wouldn't accept colonial rule quietly no matter how much the powers that be wanted to shut him up.
Even though our current mayor is an embarrassment, the people of this city, pretty much since Mackenzie's time, have been creative stars, bucking authority, thinking free and inspiring each other and the world.
This issue of NOW celebrates Toronto's real legacy and its ongoing identity as a thriving municipality known for its diversity, its advocacy for inclusiveness and community and the richness of its cultural expression.
That's the spirit that gave birth to NOW Magazine over 30 years ago. It's why we proudly claim the tagline Think Free. And it's why we mark the launch of our exciting new subway distribution with this special Think Free issue.
It's a good time to remember that this free kind of thinking has really paid off over time, despite whatever crazy politics are happening.
When NOW started publishing over 30 years ago, the police force had just conducted one of the most infamous infringements on civil rights in Canadian history, the shameful bathhouse raids targeting Toronto's gay community in 1981.
But community action has changed all that. Toronto went on to become a pioneer in embracing same-sex marriage rights, and the City Hall that was once okay with attacking lesbians and gays now carries out weddings - great for tourism and the local economy.
That's Thinking Free, and we see other examples every day that are citizen-directed, not led from the top down. Toronto is celebrated as a city of neighbourhoods, but it wasn't that long ago that developers hoped to level them in the interests of cinder block high-rises. Community activists said no, with thriving downtown 'hoods the enduring result.
A great city has never been a plug-and-play proposition. The active engagement of our magnificent citizenry and a free-thinking media are both critical to the Toronto we love and the lives we lead. We at NOW have been and remain committed to covering and being a part of that conversation. This is no burden, but a life-affirming pleasure.
And so is the fact that NOW has always been free. Free is fun for everyone. We love that. Since before the internet existed, NOW has been known for giving away high-quality ideas and information. We think our readers' investment of their time in our offerings - each week in the paper and every day online - is price enough, and we only hope to keep earning your continued engagement.
Toronto, let's not hang our heads as our chief magistrate shames us. Let's affirm our successful tradition of an engaged citizenry that will not settle for less than excellence. A city this great deserves nothing but the best and never settles for anything less. As Toronto's and the continent's leading alt weekly, that's what we strive to be.
We hope you find some inspiration in this week's roundup of some of the many Torontonians who are challenging us to embrace new thinking. And let's revel, too, in the fact that even in the blast of this winter, there are still lots of free ways to have a good time, and some great deals, too (check out the offers), in this fun and fabulous city we share.