Is Ari Qualified to be Mayor?

Tuesday, July 3, 2014

Is Ari Qualified to be Mayor given that he’s not a politician and comes from the private sector?

How can an outsider hope to change a city?

These are comments that I have seen recently, posted by people who have been reading my plan and commenting about me very positively on social media. They appreciate that I have good ideas, but they are wonder if any of them can be implemented. The questions are valid, and I’m a no-B.S. type of guy, so let me answer them directly and honestly by looking at four points that have arisen:

  • Ari does not know enough about certain issues given that he has not been hands-on with those issues or has had a non political day job his whole life.
  • Ari does not have the political experience to make change happen at City Hall where everyone has their own agenda.
  • The Province and the Feds hold most of the power and money, and will not listen to the demands/vision of a Mayor.
  • Infrastructure projects are bigger than any mayor’s term. They will happen regardless.

And now let me answer each:

Ari does not know enough about a certain issue.
That’s true. I do not have all of the facts, numbers and rules in front of me. I have not been involved in any part of these projects so far. But my education and my day job are largely about research. If you don’t know something about a case, you find out what you need to know. You call in experts, and you actively seek out all the facts. You never enter a situation uninformed.

That’s how I will tackle these existing issues. With fresh eyes. And you know what’s good about fresh eyes? You see things others do not see. You ask a lot of “why” questions, which helps root out inefficiencies that tend to leech into the system, particularly an established and inefficient system. You look for solutions, not just regurgitates problems that everybody has understood for years. You choose workable and mainstream solutions without worrying about who/why certain insiders/special interest groups will object.

So, no, I may not have all the numbers. I’m not going to BS that. But as you know from past experience, simply having the numbers does not guarantee that a project will be done right. How many times has a government-run project gone over-budget or over-time, costing citizens millions or billions of dollars? Having access to the numbers guarantees nothing. It just makes empty promises sound more convincing, which is both dangerous and unfair.

Ari does not have the political experience to make change happen at City Hall.
A mayor is supposed to act like the CEO of a corporation. A CEO is not a king, a dictator or the sole member. Instead a CEO is someone who pulls together a team of very different people, and employs their strengths and talents to move the company forward. People have different personalities and different priorities. Some are allies, and some are enemies. But the point of being a leader is to create a vision.

John Tory was a CEO, but my concern is that he has grown too used to (and is still used to) the perks of senior-level compensation to fully understand that to lead, you have to roll your sleeves up. Monogrammed shirt cuffs don’t roll up well. Dithering is not leadership. When Rob Ford was mayor, even before this crazy last 12 months, he employed a staunch negative style: whatever was proposed, he voted against, just on principle. That’s not leading; that’s petulant game playing.

City Council and the average Torontonian have forgotten what great leadership is, because it hasn’t been seen in any level of Canadian politics in a long, long time. That is why City Hall is so ineffective currently. There is no-one for councilors to rally around, no-one for them to get behind, no-one to inspire them, and as such they lose themselves in their own priorities. But people connect under a strong leader. They always do. Pride in the city can be restored. Given the right opportunity, we can re-form and work together. Especially when it is agreed that I have no hidden agenda and am beholden to no outside interest or group. And that I have an extremely clear mandate, plan, and vision. One that smart, hardworking, caring and conscientious councilors could and would rally behind.

The Province and the Feds hold most of the power and money and will not listen to the demands/ideas of a Mayor.
True, but Toronto is not just another town. We are the largest city in Canada. We generate more business, jobs and tax revenue for the Provincial and Federal governments than anyone else. We are the tail that wags the dog. There’s no doubt that many of the plans and initiatives rolled out by the other governments affect many more Canadians than just those in the GTA, but at the same time, we are a big player at the table.

In recent years, Federal and Provincial politicians have distanced themselves from our current mayor for obvious reasons. A simple photograph can suggest endorsement, and no-one in politics wants to be associated with our mayor’s distasteful behaviour. But if a capable person earned the mayors chair, someone with a keen evidence based mind as well as a strong sense of social justice, and somebody who could back up what he/she were saying, then there will be greater willingness for political leaders, up to and including the Prime Minister, to take Toronto seriously again and work with us rather than barely acknowledging us. And I would also add, that my plan involves and includes the people of Toronto stepping up by being willing to and interested in investing in their city. That is a much more powerful negotiating tactic than simply asking for a “handout”, the way ‘name’ candidates’ plans are all based on.

Infrastructure projects such as subways are bigger than any mayor’s term. They will happen regardless.
Some large projects are certainly longer than most mayor’s terms of office. But each mayor has an opportunity to establish a policy or a path along which the city can travel. This means establishing sound financial plans that help pull our city out of debt, and that help us become more self-sufficient; it means ensuring the money we do raise in the form of taxes and fees are applied to projects within the city, for example building roads instead of just fixing potholes; and it means ensuring that the diverse collection of people that make up this city have the rights, resources and freedoms to live the type of life that many other cities envy.

Just as a large house is built from small bricks, large projects will always be influenced by the mayor, council, and citizens. This city deserves a smart, capable thinking mayor; someone who believes equally in progress and justice. Other career politicians have had their chance, and we constantly see how that cycle plays out. Some have failed disastrously, others have merely failed to impress. I can offer you clarity and ability. I will learn what I need to know, and the people I surround myself with will help me make the right decisions. And those people include you. It is time that we stop repeating the same broken electoral/political pattern.

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