TTC Citizen Input: Dumb Questions

Normally, I would put hot links in a post to help you. This time, I cannot. To find the relevant Toronto Star article, you need to google

Toronto Star citizen input hard to pinpoint

I can’t give you a hotlink because the google result goes to PressDisplay and conceals the parameters used to find the specific article. So I’ll give you a few quotes as we go along.

Basically, there are two claims here:

  1. Having citizen input on TTC matters is of dubious value
  2. It is expensive, considering the value received.

I propose to rebut both statements. Citizen input’s value first.

They were the chosen four: an entrepreneur, a lawyer, the head of a non-profit agency and an IT specialist — private citizens hand-picked from 485 applicants to sit among the seven city councillors on the Toronto Transit Commission.

You will note that all of these individuals likely own cars and can afford taxis. Who hand-picked these four? Why not go to a typical bus, subway, go train, and streetcar stop and pick the most intelligently responding person there?

Dumb question number one: do you believe these four (assuming you use what passes for ‘transit‘ in Toronto) represent your interests?

Now for costs.

For their trouble, the citizen members get $450 for each monthly meeting they attend. Three earn $5,000 annually. Vicechair Maureen Adamson, the head of Cystic Fibrosis Canada, earns $10,000 a year. It all adds up to about $47,000 from the TTC budget.

This is a bit obfuscatory, to be kind. Three earn $5,000 – impossible at $450 per meeting. One earns $10,000. Add that up and you get … $25,000. That’s a long way from $47,000.

Dumb question number two: were these four chosen for their likely lack of concern re TTC?

Dumb question number three: Is this article, planted on the front page of the GTA section of the Monday Toronto Star, an excuse to get rid of citizen input based on bad payback for money?

Councillor Gord Perks, who watches the TTC closely and has been critical of Stintz’s leadership, called the vote a minirevolt of sorts. “Watching that and having seen the TTC for a long time and participating in mixed-model boards,” he said, “I really get a sense that the citizen members are not equal partners at that table.”

Dumb question number four: are the citizen members of the board being overridden? Many Torontonians will remember Rob Ford beginning his ‘path’ as mayor by declaring, on day one, that ‘the war on the car is over,’ and scarily, council fell into line with this anti-transit viewpoint. If a mayor can do this to our council, can a review board do this to the four, appointed, citizen members?

Dumb question number five: is my claim that non-TTC users dominate the board fair?

“I think we bring at least the right questions to the table,” said Adamson. “I think we get enough information to make good decisions. I think it would also be better if a few more commissioners actually used transit once in a while.”

Finally, not all councillors think citizen input is a waste of time. My own councillor, Peter Milczyn, had this to say: “The citizen members bring more of a sense of fiduciary obligation to the company and more of a due-diligence approach to what staff are bringing forward.”

Final dumb question: Is Milczyn alone here? And if so, why?

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