The true believers and just plain curious gathered in the cold more than an hour before the doors were open to take in the Public Conversations Event at Convocation Hall on Monday.
Most came to see shoot-from-the-lip former London, UK mayor Ken Livingstone discuss the weighty question: Cities of Tomorrow: Is Progressive Politics Alive?
The answer to that question was, of course, a resounding yes. Otherwise, it would seem a waste to come.
It's from cities where all things progressive now spring, even if it is for all the wrong reasons, most of those reasons having to do with the fact cities have been abandoned by senior levels of government. They're on their own. T.O. knows that reality all too well. Will the Tory budget safe us?
Livingstone shared his experiences as chief magistrate in London, where he was the driving force behind road tolls, along with Denise Simmons, the first African-American female mayor of Cambridge, Massachusetts, whose talk focused on the role cities can play pushing social justice issues like gay rights. Hers was the first city in the U.S. to allow gay marriage.
But it was Mayor David Miller who stole the show, painting with broad strokes an inspiring future world for cities in which seemingly simple projects like retrofitting buildings to save energy can help spruce up needy neighbourhoods and spark the kind of development that will create green jobs and attract public transit.
Miller makes it sound so simple. After all, it's being done right here, the mayor didn't mind reminding the crowd.
Notable politicos in the crowd: former T.O. mayor Barbara Hall; former Don Valley West Liberal MP John Godfrey (in Dylanesque leather floppy); Councillor Bill Saundercook.
Downer of evening: post event wine and cheese at Hart House was opened only to U of T poli sci students and glitterati among the assembled.
Interesting aside: in a segue about his recent trip to L.A. to drum up support for the city's television and film biz, the mayor mentioned plans for an ABC pilot program to be shot in Toronto.
On the meaning of the election of Barack Obama
On the future green power being, wait for it, China - now the leading nation in the world for investment in renewables
Mayor David Miller
On his reasons for optimism for the future of progressive politics
On the extraordinary things Los Angeles is doing to pave the way for greener cities