A quiet (and short) week at City Hall comes to a close. Here are some of the stories I didn’t write about.
Stratcom poll shows Ford’s popularity down – and a city with strong opinions
Mayor Rob Ford’s populist messaging still seems to be mostly unpopular, per a May 15 poll by Strategic Communications. The pollster pegged Ford’s approval rating at 35%, a level David Miller got to only after giant piles of garbage started accumulating in neighbourhood parks.
To be fair, the other polling firm that covers municipal issues showed Ford’s fortunes heading in the opposite direction just last month. In April, Forum Research’s poll had 47% of the city approving of the mayor’s performance, up from 41% the month before. But that poll also indicated that the mayor’s popularity was up 20 points with the 18-34 demographic – an inexplicable jump that probably means that poll will stand as a weird outlier. (Due to differing methodologies, the numbers from Forum and Stratcom are not directly comparable, but the trends are.)
Either way, anything below 50% is not good for a municipal politician that isn’t facing a major scandal.
Another tidbit from the Stratcom poll: the percentage of people who feel strongly about the mayor – either positively or negatively – increased from 45% in March of 2011 to 57% this month. People have strong opinions about Rob Ford.
Casino no jackpot
Stratcom also released poll results on the issue of a Toronto casino, and the results were fairly decisive. Only 32% of those polled approved of a waterfront casino, which is overwhelmingly the preferred location for both the province and major casino operators like MGM. Given the relative unpopularity of the idea and the dubious fiscal benefit to Toronto, I continue to wonder why councillors waste time with this issue.
Gardiner falls to earth
Making for a striking metaphor, chunks of concrete are falling off the Gardiner Expressway. At first, city transportation staff said it wasn’t a big deal, but this week they changed course and have embarked on a new plan to chip away the loose pieces on the underside of the Gardiner and prevent future issues.
Recent discussions about the Gardiner have made it clear that there’s no momentum at all on a Miller-era proposal to look at dismantling the highway east of Jarvis Street. Which makes sense, as the proposal was never all that popular, but it’s a shame that no one is talking about big ideas as we get set to embark on a major program to refurbish the expressway. In its easternmost section, the highway is overbuilt – designed for a Scarborough expressway extension that will never come – and prevents access to developable waterfront land that could be worth a whole lot of money.
Drawing attention to QuAIA
It’s time once again for Toronto’s annual tradition where the provactively-named Queers Against Israeli Apartheid (QuAIA) starts making noise about marching in the Pride Parade. As always, this has prompted some councillors to threaten to withdraw Pride funding, which they may not even be able to do. I bet QuAIA just hates all the extra attention and profile this trumped-up controversy gets them every year.
In a surreal side story this week, Councillor Josh Matlow attempted to make it legal for children to play road hockey in Toronto. In doing so, he pulled back the curtain and gave Toronto a glimpse at just how absurd the city’s system of bylaws and legal protections can be. City staff’s plan for legal hockey – involving a survey of neighbours and a traffic study – was so ridiculous that everyone, including Matlow, has agreed to forget about this whole episode and live with the status quo.