7 February, 2018

Best Practices For a Better Toronto (Part 3)

Third in a series.

If you have been following my posts you know that I love learning about, adapting, or outright stealing great business and city building ideas from around the world. Maybe it would be more acceptable to call it “legitimate plagiarism”. You would also know that I believe that Toronto’s resistance to learning from international best practices causes the city to be much less than it could be.

Now don’t get me wrong - - Toronto does have some pretty cool things that other cities definitely can learn from. For instance, I am a huge fan of the excellent speaker series put on by the Toronto Public library, the Munk School of Urban Affairs and the Rotman School of Management. Often free, or at an affordable cost, these institutions host authors, business experts, and influential thought leaders, talking about a range of social, urban, leadership developments and issues. Here are just 3 events you could attend:

  • Toronto Public Library: “A Place Near the Front” by William G Herbert on February 24

  • Rotman: “Journalism and the #MeToo Moment” by three NYT journalists on February 21

  • Munk School: “Gentrification and Displacement in Detroit" by Julie Mah on February 15.

If you believe that great cities need smart educated citizens, then these three speakers’ series are something to check out.

Now I usually like to talk about best practices that have been created by other cities. But not this time. This time I wish to briefly write about 3 great city mayors that possess leadership traits that I believe are required for cities to realize their full potential in the 2st century. In each case these three mayors are visionary, progressive and bold. Over the past three years our city leadership has been largely status quo. With Mayor Tory adopting a way too conservative approach for fear that Doug Ford would hold any progressive actions against him. Toronto Star Columnist Edward Keenan recently authored a column entitled “With Doug Ford out can John Tory now be pushed to the Left?” Since I hope so I would like to briefly highlight three mayors that Tory could learn from.

Anne Hidalgo - mayor of Paris (pop: 2,244,000) is my favourite. Not only is she doing an incredible job as mayor of Paris, but has taken on the additional role as Chair of C40 cities. In her day job as mayor she is openly anti car and therefore liberating Paris from automobiles and the woes they cause - awful smog, traffic jams, unsafe streets. She is also a very “green” mayor and that makes her a natural to head up C40 cities - - one of the most effective organizations working to address climate change. And she sure isn’t just a figurehead she is actively involved in key initiatives like the February 26 “Women 4 Climate” conference in Mexico City.

Bill Peduto - mayor of Pittsburgh (pop: 303,000). You might have heard about him due to his war of words with Trump. When Trump announced he was going to pull out of the Paris Agreement on Climate change he said, “I was elected to represent the city of Pittsburgh not Paris”. To which Peduto forcefully corrected him by telling him that 80% of Pittsburgh voters supported Clinton. Peduto is another active member of C40 Cities mayors and in October called for an American “Marshall Plan” ($132B to rebuild Europe after WWII) for clean energy across the U.S. He also was very present and active at the Al Gore Climate Reality Course I attended in Pittsburgh. And Peduto is no one trick pony. In addition to his climate change action he has revitalized the city with investment in affordable housing, public safety, and many additional investment in programs for children.

Sadiq Khan - mayor of London (pop: 8,788,000). Another mayor who has had words with Trump. After Trump’s decision to leave the Paris Climate Agreement he said, “if only he had withdrawn from Twitter”. When not fighting Trump he is busy championing bold initiatives that will make a very congested and busy London more livable. He has initiated an investment of over $1B in cycling that includes six new cycle super highways. He has committed to build 90,000 affordable housing units by 2021 with 12,500 completed this year. And as Vice Chair of C40 Cities he is firmly behind addressing climate change by working to make London a zero-carbon city.

Three very impressive mayors each taking bold action to address the problems and opportunities in their respective cities. Excellent leadership role models for many cities including Toronto. Now it’s very likely that Tory will get reelected for his final term in office. So the question is - could Tory become a more progressive, bolder mayor once he no longer has to worry about looking over his shoulder at Doug Ford? Unfortunately, since I generally believe that the best predictor of future behaviour is past behaviour I fear he will not. So what I am hoping for is that voters will elect a more progressive council that will take control and aggressively push to build a more sustainable, healthy, inspiring Toronto for all.

Prepared to work hard to bring in a more progressive council for a better Toronto.


A passionate city builder

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