David Miller's mandate revved for liftoff with new Toronto Act and stong exec to boot. Miller gang gets a grip it's the second day of the new council, and the polish is already coming off. A few councillors outside the left's majority are trying to paint appointments to standing committees with the brush of perceived cronyism.
Howard Moscoe will have none of it. "This is an attempt to undermine the strong mayor system," he says.
Undermine the what, now? Join me, if you will, in a brief flashback to March 2006 BCE (before council's ego boost), the time of public consultations on council's new governance structure.
During those meetings, we were reminded, almost peremptorily, that no one was suggesting Toronto should institute a "strong mayor" system. Staff said it. Miller said it. At the time, no one really knew what a strong mayor system was, but we didn't have to - because we wouldn't be getting one.
And if the proposed system of an executive committee made up of appointed council committee chairs did seem to concentrate more strength in the mayor's office? Well, call it a "stronger" mayor system, one staffer remarked. Or maybe he'll just be louder. Ooh, or taller. But strong? Oh my, no. The mayor's just a big kitten.
A kitten with a mandate - and now, the lieutenants to carry it out.
The new system coincides with the impending New City Of Toronto Act, so the timing for Miller couldn't be better. Perhaps most notable is the movement of licensing and standards to the inner executive core. Toss in the appointment of regulation wonk Howard Moscoe as chair of licensing, and Miller's favoured - and often disparaged - strategy of tinkering and tweaking may take on a larger scope.
Moscoe is eager to point out, before I can even ask, that licensing won't be a source of revenue. "That's Mickey Mouse. It's not my intention to license for revenue," he says. "It's to make life in the city better. To spearhead the new act."
Examples? While the city can ban their use, it can't prevent the sale of pesticides. Moscoe says the city could license stores selling them and require warnings that the use of pesticides is prohibited.
Another idea: requiring stores to have "packaging tables" where customers can remove packaging for disposal. Presumably, store owners would then complain to manufacturers. "If the largest market in the country makes it tough to put all this packaging on products, that could have a major impact."
Brian Ashton, meanwhile, Miller's appointment to head up planning and growth management, sees his committee not only as the place to set the groundwork for the TTC, but also as the space for people to become involved in City Hall.
"How do you deal with public space? How do you help people capture that, take ownership of it?" he asks. "[Development] has usually been a sudden opportunity to be filled, not something worked into the culture as a whole."
Kyle Rae, Miller's appointment to economic development, is energized by the committee's newly untethered role, reborn from economic development and parks.
"Most of our time [before] was spent on the restructuring of parks and recreation," Rae recalls. "Economy and culture did not figure prominently in the work we did."
Culture? "I would rather call it the creativity committee," he explains, adding that he sees Nuit Blanche and the new MaRS research centre as part of the same picture.
"We need to draw new investment, especially into the creative clusters," says Rae. "Our design industry is the third-largest in North America. It's remarkable - but what's more remarkable is that people in Toronto don't know it."
Such an inclusive view of economics is a signifier not just of Rae's priorities, but also of Miller's in appointing him.
"The first thing I'd want to do is restructure [staff in the] division so it's more aligned with the mayor's agenda," says Rae. "I'd like them to look at how the pieces overlap."
It's just this that the left's opponents are no doubt doing right now, and Miller seems to have arranged pieces quite strategically. Parks and environment will be chaired by Paula Fletcher, community development by Joe Mihevc, and works by Glen De Baeremaeker. The (mostly) doggedly progressive Pam McConnell remains the city appointee to the Police Board. Shelley Carroll's careful balance of hard nose and bleeding heart will allay any accusations of budget committee mismanagement.
But in terms of the executive, I wonder if Miller has micromanaged just a bit too much. The placement of right-wingers shows some finesse: the appointment to the straightforward general government committee (chaired by Gloria Lindsay Luby) and the "at large" executive appointment of Norm Kelly both acknowledge and contain the right.
But I'm left wondering why someone like Michael Thompson lost out to the lacklustre Kelly. Is Thompson's apparent ambition for a future shot at Miller's chair enough to keep a proficient if bombastic councillor out of the fold?
And in appointing De Baeremaeker to works, is Miller getting tunnel vision on recycling? The Scarborough councillor is dedicated to the file, no doubt, but there's more to works than waste diversion. I wonder if Janet Davis or Paula Fletcher couldn't handle the portfolio with equal environmental aplomb, without his love of funding all infrastructure through advertising.
Which raises another question: with council's new ability - or at least desire - to regulate and reap, have we gained newly empowered advocates or been saddled with a new bureaucracy?
I'm reminded of something Ashton said: "What the province has given us is the ugly taxes, the ones they don't want to use." But we, by god, will use them.
And will the political tenor of council change as opponents learn to use the strong mayor system?
"These are politicized appointments," said Denzil Minnan-Wong from the council floor. "And you know what? I'm okay with that. We wanted the strong mayor system. It's no longer council's defeats or losses. It's the mayor's responsibility. It's his success or his failure."
Minnan-Wong may get to be something better than mayor - official opposition: nearly as much sense of power, but none of the accountability.
Party politics, here we come.