Why the mayor's plan to make civilians out number politicians on the TTC board is a bad idea.
1. It's all politics. Forget about what you've been reading about a more civilian board taking the politics out of transit. Ford's motivation for changing its governance structure of the board is purely political. Let's call the mayor's plan what it is - an attempt to get rid of the current TTC chair Karen Stintz. It's no coincidence that the proposal to remake the TTC board was put before the mayor's executive while Stintz was engineering that special meeting of council to shelve the mayor's subway plans in favour of LRT.
2. Who's calling who unqualified? We keep hearing a lot about "skills based" management and other such buzz words to justify changing the composition of the TTC board. Councillor Doug Ford, always good for a laugh, went as far as to suggest on the mayor's weekly radio show Sunday that politicians shouldn't be in the business of running a business like the TTC. They just don't have the smarts, says Doug. By that rationale, let's fire council because what is the city if not a corporation? Besides, up until his Sheppard plans were ditched, I think I heard the mayor say more than once that Stintz was doing a "great" job.
3. He's gaming the system. Supporters of a reconstituted TTC board say fewer politicians would mean less politics on the transit file. In fact, the opposite could be true. You need only look at the recent civic appointments process by which citizens were appointed to the city's boards and commissions. Wasn't it the mayor's friends who managed to scoop prized positions on the library board, for example, whose services the administration wants to privatize? Take a look at the geographical and diversity mix of appointments and it's clear that the mayor's office was asserting its influence over the process.
4. We're not talking about the police board here. Doug Ford used the example of the police services board to make his case for a civilian dominated TTC. The police board is currently made up of seven members, four of them - three councillors and one citizen member - are appointed by council. But Ford's comparison is apples to oranges. The difference is fundamental. In the case of the police board, civilian oversight is mandated by the Police Services Act as a check on the power of police. There's no such requirement on the administration of the TTC - although given the skullduggery orchestrated by Ford & Co. to off former chief general manager Gary Webster, maybe there should be some check on the influence of the mayor's office when it comes to personnel decisions involving senior staff.
5. Accountability! The idea of removing politicians from the TTC board provides good fodder for the smaller government rhetoric of the current administration at City Hall. But making the TTC board civilian dominated won't necessarily mean a more expert operation. On the contrary, there's an argument to be made for having politicians accountable to voters running the show. Last time the TTC board was civilian run, the backroom wheeling and dealing and investments in questionable business ventures were never too far from newspaper headlines. The city funds the TTC to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars a year. It makes sense to have elected members of council watching over our investment.