car owner = tax payer?

Yesterday, Mayor Ford posted this to his twitter account (@ToMayorFord)

There are several major problems with this announcement…the main one being that somehow “taxpayer” is synonymous with “car owner:” for our new mayor.  None of the $64M in savings will go to non car owners including those residents depending on the TTC for their transportation, or on their own self-generated, carbon free volition through walking, roller blading, or cycling.  While this may just be poorly thought out semantics, it seems a dangerous and slippery slope.

In addition to the thousands of Bike Riding PInkos who won’t be benefitting at all from this new policy, there are thousands more whose income levels don’t allow for them to own a money and gas-guzzling car.  This change will only benefit the lower middle class on up to the super rich.  It seems safe to assume that the removal of this fee will also benefit a higher proportion of people in the inner suburb ring that voted for Ford (see map below) where owning a car is a near requirement of life as transit service is less and distance to most destinations greater than for those who predominantly did not vote for Ford who live downtown.  This might appear at first to be politics as usual, playing to supporters but the effects of $64M in revenue being removed from the city makes Ford’s promise not to reduce services all the more unlikely.

The “savings” represents nearly 20% of the $300M 2010 budget surplus (Toronto Star on the Surplus) and exceeds the $60M TTC surplus, effectively handing money from transit users to car owners in a move that goes against modern environmentally friendly common sense.  In a related New Year’s news story, the Toronto Library is facing service cuts (Toronto Star on Proposed Library Service Cuts).  Certainly the librarians whose jobs will be lost, as well the avid readers who enjoy access to free knowledge that for millennia has been a hallmark of great societies, could find a use for the $64M that the city has just taken from itself.

Interestingly, there are no proposed cuts to libraries in the areas where Ford’s support base reside.  They will again only affect downtown, including the Urban Affairs branch consisting of thousands of books and theses on how best to run a city.  Irony run amok.

All of this combined begs the question: where is our city?  Is it the downtown core with its culture, arts, transit, professional sports, and the density of an extremely diverse group of people who through their daily walks and rides interact and converse with each other?  Or is it the Pro-Ford horseshoe made up of a higher percentage of car owners who, through no fault of their own, are isolated from many of the effects that result from policy at City Hall?

In research released recently by U of T professor David Hulchanski and reported by Steve LaFleur on NewGeography.com,, Toronto’s wealth distribution has inverted to the downtown core since the 1970’s (Oil Crisis, anyone?).  The world’s top talent and heroes of tomorrow no longer want sprawling houses located along major freeways…they want livable cities (as reflected in the map below)and they are taking their high earning power back to densely populated urban areas.  While the ability to connect from anywhere continues to expand and change, the human need to be around other people is getting stronger as well..  This is a trend reflective of how cities in the rest of the world work.

If Mayor Ford really wants to build subways (CTV on Transit City), the $64M he has just taken away from city taxpayers and given to car owners could have been a great start in overcoming the broken contracts that will result from his plan to kill Transit City.  Amalgamation made Toronto a bigger city, a more populous city, and a city with much much larger coffers because of that increase.  Sharing those funds equally amongst the parts of the city is critical for it’s success but so is making all residents of that area feel like they are part of the same, collective city through shared spaces, shared connections, and the ability for all residents to reach all parts of the city efficiently.  It looks like we have much work ahead to reach that point.

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