In the confusion of the election, it's easy to forget where we've come from. Just three years ago, the city was in the clutches of Mel Lastman and his backroom profiteers, and a herd of fibreglass moose were Toronto's calling card. In 2003 we elected David Miller with the highest of expectations. At last we'd have a mayor who understood that our city is not a private slush fund for the mayor's hangers-on but a living room for all its inhabitants, a shared place to which everyone has equal access and whose public spaces reflect our common desire for beauty and congeniality. We were not disappointed. Every move our mayor made, he made with this vision intact. Yet we know that no one mayor in one term could turn around the long-standing neglect of Toronto. The Mike Harris government's provincial downloading isn't going away any time soon, and, yes, flights from the Island Airport have increased and the Harbour Commission is now fortified with Tory appointees. But one thing is certain no one in sight is going to fight harder and longer and meaner for this city than David Miller.
Don't let this dull campaign and its lacklustre challengers make you think there's nothing to be won. Miller needs a powerful mandate to shake up the federal and provincial politicians who at best take the city for granted and at worst are virulently hostile. He needs a mandate so massive that minority-minding federal Tories and election-imminent provincial Liberals will finally have to deal. A victory so decisive that when Miller says we need more for transit, an end to the absurd Island Airport and affordable housing, they'll listen and act, not dodge and weave. Let's give this inspiring pol a chance to build on his successes, because we have a feeling David Miller is going to have one hell of a second term.
Need reasons to mark your ballot for Miller? Here are eight great ones:
1. HE DIGS PUBLIC SPACES
Finally T.O. has a mayor who grasps the fact that the places we share express our commonality. So he's prioritized. Not only has his signature initiative tackled litter (city-wide efforts have reduced sidewalk trash by 40 per cent since 2002), but Clean And Beautiful is also about greening and arting up Toronto's more barren bits. He's spiffed up 1,500 parks, planted 400,000 trees and revived derelict corners with industry-funded murals designed by local artists (expect way more of this in the next three years). And now, all new development is going to have to justify itself to a Design Review Panel.
2. HE LEVELS THE PLAYING FIELD
This is a pol who's serious about equal access for all. Not only has he set up a permanent round table on access, equity and human rights and developed an "equity lens" to fold anti-racist, gender-based analysis into the budget and services, but he's also tackling the roots of gun violence by investing in 13 priority neighbourhoods heavy on poverty and light on services. He's hired more social workers and created new rec centres as well as education, training and job ops for at-risk youth (the city's created 1,000 such jobs to date). On the housing front, he promised to build 1,000 affordable units in three years, and he's nearly there, at 900 (not to mention the ambitious overhaul of Regent Park). Miller is also lobbying to ensure that 20 per cent of all housing development is affordable as mandated by Toronto's Official Plan. Oh yes, and give the man kudos for killing off Pitfield's outrageous panhandling ban.
3. HE KNOWS HOW TO MOVE US
TTC ridership has grown by 40 million since David Miller became mayor. He finagled $500 million from the province and feds through a share of the gas tax for transit. And he helped create transferable weekly and monthly Metropasses as well as the upcoming discounted U-Pass for college kids (coming January 2007). He's expanded bus routes, and his new Transit City plan proposes quick and affordable light rapid transit and dedicated bus lanes versus costly, snail-paced subway construction.
4. HE GETS GREEN
On Miller's watch, Toronto was voted Low Carbon Leader in 2005 by the international Climate Group. He banned chemical pesticide use on lawns, fending off efforts to create a laughable loophole for spraying dandelions. He promised to kill the island bridge, and he did, and he has duked his heart out to defeat the Port Authority and its Island Airport. He brought in North America's most comprehensive green roof strategy and green building standards, and put a stop to random felling with a private tree bylaw that regulates the removal or injury of any tree over 30 cm in diameter. The good mayor battled the Portlands Energy Centre tooth and nail to the bitter end, and his intense lobbying secured cash from the province to fund 300 megawatts of conservation in the city. Oh, and on the indoor air pollution front, the man weathered the wrath of the restaurant lobby to push through the city-wide smoking ban. Our lungs thank him.
5. HE'S DOWN WITH ARTISTS
You could not find a better cultural advocate if you searched all the galleries and artsy hangouts in town. Kick-ass events like Nuit Blanche, the Humanitas fest and the two-year-long Live With Culture series have transformed Toronto into a creative force to reckon with. That's not to mention that Miller boosted funding to our cultural institutions by $2 mill (it was one of only three major areas that saw an increase), pumping more dough into the Toronto Arts Council as well as setting up street-level initiatives like Arts In The Hood in troubled parts of town. Bonus points for setting up the Toronto Film Board and film commissioner to revive the movie biz.
6. HE'S STOOD FIRM AGAINST INCINERATION
While half the city and its media get suckered in by industry propaganda about "clean, green modern incineration," Miller's held his ground against this Trojan horse tech. Finally, a pol who listens to environmental experts, not industry sales reps. He also staved off a garbage crisis at the border by buying the Green Lane landfill in London (which will cut our fossil fuel use for trucking in half). At over 40 per cent and climbing, Toronto has one of the highest residential waste diversion rates of any major North America city.
7. HE SUPPORTS DEMOCRATIC POLICING
We love a leader who brings accountability to policing, and that he has, especially when it comes to the Police Services Board. Putting gutsy lefty Pam McConnell at the helm finally opened the door to monitoring the use of stun guns, strip searches and cameras in cop cars. He's also working to make sure that Toronto's boys in blue aren't all the same damn skin colour. And perhaps best of all, Miller executed a skilful excision of hysteria-milking, demo-busting Julian Fantino and replaced the reactionary chief with the more responsive and measured Bill Blair. Applause all round.
8. HE'S A BETTER BOSS
After years of bare-knuckle boxing between the city's unions and Mel Lastman, Miller managed to patch up divisive relations, saving us from a strike by inside workers for the first time since amalgamation and just one month after forging an agreement with outside workers.