Pantalone takes a run for Toronto’s top political post
Has been on city council for almost 30 years
By Kris Scheuer
(Written Feb. 25 for Town Crier.)
Trinity-Spadina Councillor Joe Pantalone has worked with five mayors and three Metro chairmen since he was first elected in 1980.
He served with mayors Art Eggleton, June Rowlands, Barbara Hall, Mel Lastman and David Miller plus Metro chairman Paul Godfrey, Dennis Flynn and Alan Tonks.
Now after 29 years as a councillor, Pantalone is running to be the next mayor of Toronto.
“I’ve shown I can work with anyone,” he says in an interview from city council chambers. “You either work logically or there will be a mess here.”
Pantalone said with the city responsible for some much from police, roads, transit, forestry, libraries, child care, public housing, water, sewage and so on, it’s important for council to function well.
“If city hall is working, it means the city is working,” he says.
And he believes he can keep it working well.
“There is a job to be done here in Toronto and the best person (mayor) is someone who can protect what we love about the city,” says Pantalone, who has been deputy mayor for six years. “It’s our baby. There may be some dirty water around the baby, but you can’t throw the baby out with the dirty bath water.”
One way for Toronto to work better, he says, is for the provincial and federal governments to be at the financial table more.
Of all the taxes collected in Toronto, he says only 5.6 percent stay in the city and the remaining 94.4 percent go to the senior levels of government, he says.
“The city can’t pay for all the services including roads (except for five highways) with five percent of the taxes,” he says.
For one thing, he is looking for the province to return to the days when it paid for 50 percent of the operating costs of the TTC. This would translate into $255 million from the province annually.
This would help Toronto’s yearly budget woes where it starts off with a $400 million plus shortfall to eliminate in order to produce a balanced budget.
Pantalone rejects plans by other mayoral hopefuls that mention selling off public assets such as Toronto Hydro.
While he is touting his experience inside city hall as an asset, some voters are calling for change. But he says there’s always a certain amount of change as the current Mayor Miller, councillors Kyle Rae and Case Ootes are not seeking re-election. And other incumbents may not be voted back in.
“We have term limits in the city. They are called elections,” he says.
Pantalone’s priorities include deepening the city’s environmental initiatives such as rebates for seniors so they can replace an old furnace with an energy-efficient model.
He plans to visit every corner of the Toronto to raise his profile city-wide.
Pantalone came to the city from Italy as a teenager. If he’s elected mayor, it will mark a first in Toronto.
“I’ll be the first (mayor) whose mother tongue as a child was not English,” he says.
And considering 50 percent of Torontonians are immigrants, it can be an inspiring message, he adds.
“It speaks well of a city where an immigrant kid of age 13 who didn’t speak English can become deputy mayor and then mayor. What a city.”