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Who's Running City Hall?
At a public forum to discuss the Union Station deal, Globe and Mail columnist John Barber was asked about the shadowy forces behind the goings-on at Toronto City Hall. He responded that the newspaper has to be careful in what it says, but that any careful reader can easily see who's in the cartel by seeing which names are continually repeated. Some people just seem to find their way into everything in this city. Well, former mayor and eye columnist John Sewell goes Barber one better. His article today comes right out with a pretty direct primer of how things work in the new megacity. Here's a sample of the most important bits:
[Former New York City powerhouse] Tammany Hall worked on the boss system. Some strong person (usually not elected) was surrounded by a crew of lesser figures who helped select candidates for public office and ensure they were well funded. They influenced voters so those voters felt their electoral choices were the only reasonable ones; organized city business to have certain outcomes, using staff selected for that purpose; and rounded up votes at council meetings to ensure business was directed in certain ways. It was a cozy way of keeping control. Tammany didn't mean that politicians were paid for their votes. It was more sophisticated than that. The system was subtly arranged to have certain outcomes, and the reward for the participating political players was power, or rather the illusion of power. Each element was perverted in a small way not readily noticeable so it looked as though everything was operating normally. That model seems to fit Toronto City Hall under Mayor Mel Lastman. The strong person in the background behind the mayor and council is Paul Godfrey, whose name keeps coming up at the MFP computer-leasing inquiry. Last week there was mention at the inquiry that Dash Domi arranged a lunch between Paul Godfrey and Jim Andrew (of the city's information technology department) because Andrew wanted a promotion. Apparently he thought that was the best way to get one. Godfrey has played a strong role in getting Toronto mayors elected since 1980, when he joined forces with David Smith (a confidant of Jean Chrétien, and recently appointed to the Senate) to successfully run Art Eggleton as mayor. Godfrey was the main force behind spending half a billion dollars of public money to build the SkyDome, making it seem like the most reasonable use of public funds anyone could think of. Godfrey is allegedly the person who first proposed to the Mike Harris government that the way to obliterate civic opposition to the Harris government was by creating the megacity. Godfrey has been close to Mel Lastman for 30 years. Then there's the second tier of influence. Jeff Lyons figures largely here, as do [likely 2003 mayoral candidate] John Tory, James Villeneuve, Ralph Lean and various other characters who pull together the money needed to support the candidates they like. Then there's a long rank of senior staff there for support, people like former treasurer Wanda Liczyk. The first few years of Mel's mayorlty saw a clearing out of all senior staff who were independently minded -- particularly those from the former city of Toronto, which prized intelligent professionalism -- and the creation of a solid machine at city hall that would make the recommendations the system wanted. The litany of reports in the last few years that reached dubious conclusions (remember the report recommending private water and sewage services?) is a result of this system. What's remarkable is that with details already spilling out at the MFP inquiry, the attempt to award the long-term contract on Union Station to the Union Pearson group has crossed the line to such an extent that the Tammany structure of the Lastman regime is laid bare. Nothing looks subtle any more. Everything looks obvious.
I've reproduced almost the entirety of Sewell's article here, but it is just too important to miss.

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