How next mayor can relate to Torontonians
Sharing a meal, public forums, citizen debates
By Kris Scheuer
I was watching the new Kids in the Hall comedy show premiere tonight and it gave me ideas of how Toronto’s next mayor can best relate to and get input from the public.
Give me a second to explain my ideas here.
One of the main characters on the new show is Mayor Larry Bowman of Shuckton played by comedian/actor Bruce McCulloch. He plays a sleazy mayor so I am not suggesting Toronto elect this character in the 2010 race. But he did something that at first seemed like a good idea.
He walks into the local diner and says, “who’s it gonna be?” I assumed mayor Bowman was going to pick one local Shuckton resident to share a meal with. It didn’t turn out that way, but it got me thinking of ways the next mayor could engage the public. 1. What do you think of Toronto’s next mayor picking one resident to have a coffee with each morning at city hall?
2. Or having a weekly town hall meeting where the public shares ideas with the mayor?
3. Perhaps picking a different venue across the city every month to have a debate where residents get to talk about their ideas for how to build a better city? It could be a seniors residence one month and a university hall the next or each of the city’s civic centres or an old theatre.
4. Back in 2003, I interviewed the late Ben Kerr who was running for mayor yet again. The busker was a common sight at the northeast corner of Yonge and Bloor where he would sing the dozens of songs he wrote or improvised on the spot.
He told me that if elected, he would do away with the red tape of formal deputations and invite any Torontonian up to a public microphone each Saturday to share their ideas with him.
Maybe Kerr’s ideas and mine are not practical. And I am not suggesting that we do with deputations to city committees and community councils.
I am just fantasizing aloud about how the next mayor can invite input, passion and debate about the city we live and work in. The city that many people, myself included, love.
What do you think Toronto? What is the best way for the next mayor to get the public involved in civic engagement?
I love the idea of a regular Toronto citizen having a coffee with the mayor and shooting the bull about what ails their community or the entire city.
Unfortunately, the way our political machine is now constructed, most politicians are afraid of a lot of public involvement from what I can tell. Where we see community involvement and engaging the public, most of their handlers see exposure to more criticism, increased vulnerability and being held accountable to more than they might be able to possible deliver.
Despite what I just said above, I do think a mayor can afford to have a weekly or bi-weekly town hall meeting in different areas of our great city.
Vince, yes it is easier not to engage to the public too much. But I’m glad you like to the town hall idea. Maybe it’s a bit unrealistic for a city this size. It’s not like 2.6 million can all pour into city hall…