The Great White Hype’s long farewell

The predictable but long-dragged-out finish to a disappointing term of office has been announced and we won’t have David Miller to complain about—in a year. There was so much hope when he stood with his broom in surprising victory at Harbourfront in sight of the Island airport he opposed and pledged to tame.

He did have an immediate win on that front, kyboshing the ambition of Canada’s elite to have a bridge to the airport. But the forces Big Business and Big Government brought Big Money to the table and the airport seemingly has thrived. So Miller limps away from that battle as the city’s elite and the corporate print media—enriched by daily full colour Porter Airlines ads—aggressively call for a ludicrous and fabulously expensive tunnel just for the airport.

Toronto had elected a mayor who said he was going to take over city hall for the people. All that back-door silliness that went on under Mel Lastman and the political backroom wrangling that went on with Paul Godfrey was to be banished under Miller’s broom.

But he didn’t seem to know how things worked at city hall and perhaps had to depend upon some of those who should have felt the straws of his broom.

Instead of reform, he tightened freedom of information, spent a million bucks on a scheme to invite lobbyists and bagmen through the front door and started doing what neocons and their corporate masters love the most: He privatizes. Yet still he’s called a socialist by some columnists and right-wing talk-show commentators.

With the city cash strapped by his wasteful spending on things like insanely expensive streetcars and trains, he let our infrastructure continue to erode; an overstressed treatment plant recently dumped raw sewage into Lake Ontario.

The transit extravaganza was clearly to be his legacy. It was felt that few would opt to drive those coffins on four wheels when silky-smooth streetcars would whoosh people to their destinations. The St. Clair Ave. W. dedicated streetcar line was the showpiece and it’s a costly mistake. The time savings are piddling and the affected merchants have suffered serious losses of trade.Desperate for money, he sold off to a cable company the city’s WiFi operation that should have helped all Torontonians. He’s selling off development lands right now. Are some valuable assets being dumped for a temporary cash injection to pad the budget?

The problem with privatizing the commons—those assets in public ownership that are for us all—is that we lose their value and usefulness to private interests. It must be done sparingly and in full public view with ample opportunity for public input and possible veto long before the sale is final and the asset is lost.

Empowered by Premier Dalton McGuinty with near-presidential clout at city hall, Miller has been able to rule pretty much his way. He brought us monstrous suburban-style plastic garbage and recycle bins that clog Downtown streets and challenge residents to find places to store them.

He brought us an unnecessary strike, which probably stung him most by the public criticism it generated. On that note he announced he won’t stand for election again.

Let’s hope his successor is able to do those things that seemed so gloriously within reach when David Miller stood on the platform, his hair glowing white-gold in the spotlights, his broom held high, as he propelled our hopes with him that night he was first elected.