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Miller's Legacy

Was David Miller a good or bad mayor for Toronto?

  • Good

    Votes: 46 64.8%
  • Bad

    Votes: 15 21.1%
  • Average

    Votes: 10 14.1%

  • Total voters
    71

Irishmonk

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Face it, Torontonians: Miller time was good

http://www.thestar.com/opinion/editorialopinion/article/880076--face-it-torontonians-miller-time-was-good

Hugh Mackenzie

"One of the more puzzling features of the local political season this year is the constantly repeated refrain that the Miller years were an unmitigated disaster for Toronto.

Puzzling, because there is little or no relationship between the rhetoric of David Miller’s critics and the reality of his two terms as Toronto’s mayor.

The focal point of the charge against the Miller years is financial, so let’s look first at the financial facts.

In 2003, the year before Miller was elected, the City of Toronto spent $109 million more than it raised. And the deficit would have been even higher had the city not transferred $615 million — more than 9 per cent of its budget — from non-capital reserves. In 2008, the city ran a surplus of $81 million, and depended on transfers from reserves for only 2 per cent of its budget.

The critics say Toronto’s taxes are too high; Toronto’s residential taxes are the lowest in the GTA.

They say Toronto’s expenditures are out of control; Toronto’s expenditures have increased at a lower rate since 2003 than have local expenditures in the rest of the province.

Yes, spending is up, because services were improved after a decade of neglect. But the city raised the revenue it needed to pay for them. Current and wannabe federal and provincial politicians taking pot shots at the city’s finances might reflect on that fact, and on the fact that in the teeth of the recession Toronto has balanced its budget every year, before they open their mouths.

The city’s finances are in such poor shape that the 2011 fiscal plan of every one of the candidates for mayor starts with a description of what they’d do with the surplus expected at the end of 2010.

The critics seem to forget what civic Toronto was like in 2003. Miller’s campaign symbol wasn’t a broom for nothing. Toronto’s streets were dirty. And so was its politics.

Years of deferred maintenance had made their mark, and when the streets got dirty, they stayed that way because there weren’t enough people to clean them.

On the political front, corruption was the word of the day; and not the pretend corruption that regularly gets thrown around in the overheated shouting matches that pass for debate this year. The real kind, with public inquiries and findings of fault and police investigations.

In 2003, waterfront revitalization was an endless series of empty photo ops. Today there’s a lot happening on the waterfront, from the new Corus Entertainment building to a spectacular new park. The eastern end of the Gardiner Expressway has been cleaned up. The Don Lands, a political football since the Peterson years, are humming with activity.

The Distillery District, launched in 2003, has emerged as a cultural gem. Yonge and Dundas Square has been transformed from an ugly duckling into a vibrant hub in the downtown.

After years of fruitless hand-wringing about the state of the social housing Toronto inherited in the Harris government’s download, spectacular redevelopment projects are under way at Regent Park and well into the planning stages at Lawrence Heights.

After decades of denial about troubled communities in Toronto’s inner suburbs, a concerted focus on those vulnerable neighbourhoods, in partnership with the United Way and other agencies, is beginning to pay off.

After decades of neglect, we are finally investing in Toronto’s vital public infrastructure. Construction delays may drive everybody crazy today, but the renewal is long overdue, and it will pay off for decades into the future.

We’re getting ready to welcome the Americas to our city, in the 2015 Pan American Games.

Toronto hadn’t had a coherent plan for improving public transit in the city since the mid-1970s. Transit City isn’t just a plan; it is a plan with a funding commitment from the provincial government that’s already under way.

Ten years ago, Toronto was a laughing stock as the city that had to call in the army to get rid of a snowfall. Today, the city is recognized around the world as a leader in the effort to address the issues of air and water pollution and global warming. Once again, we are learning from the world; once again, the world is coming to us to learn.

Of course, the city’s not perfect. In the past seven years, we could have done more and been more.

But there’s no question that Toronto under Miller’s leadership passes the Ronald Reagan test — it’s a much better place than it was when he was elected.
"

I agree with most of this article, particularly the final conclusion.

I'm curious to see the responses to this article, and general opinions about his tenure. Is Toronto a better city now than it was 7 years ago? And will history be kind to the Miller legacy?
 

jn_12

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I agree whole-heartedly with that article. I hope that Miller's legacy will be a strong one because I think he did a fantastic job, and wish he would have stuck around for another term to finish some of his projects. The thing is, if he only did what was in that article then we'd be pleased but it leaves out so many key initiatives. He was a leader in national municipal issues. There's the Mayor's tower renewal project, the new subway cars and street cars, the improvements to TTC services, Nuit Blanche, Luminato... and so on. Ya, some people dislike Transit City or (for some reason) blame him for the garbage strike, but you can't deny that he was ambitious and believed that Toronto can and should be a better place and he did as much as he could to do that. I'd rather that in a mayor than someone who believes the city shouldn't strive to be something better.
 

TOinTO

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Entirely agree.

The article also fails to mention that in 2003 we were exporting our garbage to Michigan, we knew that would be blocked sometime soon, and we had no alternative. In one of his least appreciated maneuvers, Miller solved the crisis purchasing a landfill in Ontario. I don't know if its operational yet, but in short order, other municipalities will be paying Toronto to dump in our landfill. A pretty substantial accomplishment.

(Typically far sighted commentators, like Marcus Gee, use the fact the new landfill has 20 years capacity to argue against recycling).

People who really believe that there has been no improvement in the city during Miller's terms must be blind. Or at least blind to everything but the roads they are driving on. I see that significant maintenance and improvements have been undertaken in sewer system, parks, libraries, community centres and transit infrastructure.
 

nfitz

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I don't know if its operational yet, but in short order, other municipalities will be paying Toronto to dump in our landfill. A pretty substantial accomplishment.
It's been operation since the 1970s. It was around long before Toronto purchased it.


According to the city website, they were sending garbage there in 2007 - http://www.toronto.ca/garbage/green_lane.htm

Thank god we didn't elect Tory, who wanted to build an incinerator in Ward 32; I'm surprised to hear that he was campaigning in the ward recently for McMahon.
 

old boy

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Has the civilizing direction of a Miller on this city even been challenged by the likes of a Ford ? So far, the election has played out angrily on Ford's turf alone, and Smitherman has been all too adroit in accommodating. The city of Toronto deserves neither charlatan.
 

Glen

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Redroom Studios

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saw this fantastic interview of the outgoing Miller on The Agenda with Steve Paikin just a few days ago... we were so lucky to have this educated, intelligent, progressive and visonary mayor for 2 terms!

[video=youtube;dDbLWyVLNNo]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dDbLWyVLNNo[/video]
 
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Irishmonk

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^I wish I had seen that, Redroom. Maybe they'll have it on the TVO website.

I too will be missing Miller. Thinking back to the day he was first elected, that was incredible luck and good fortune, considering how far behind he was just weeks before the vote. It didn't take long for it become clear that Miller had a compelling vision for the city and that he had its best interests in his heart. That's something that I can't say for any of the candidates today--not even Pantalone since he's about to stick us with 4 years of Ford.

I dunno, I'm feeling very pessimistic today about this city's future. I'm still not sure why Miller decided to pack it in after just 7 years because so much of his vision is just getting off the ground. I think one more term would have solidified his legacy. Now, it's vulnerable and may be put on the backburner for awhile or junked all together. I think "I Will Survive" could be Toronto's unofficial anthem right now. (And not the ironic Cake version).
 

Redroom Studios

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not sure why you are wishing it was on the TVO website??? that is an active link to the video, just press play! And if you listen to what Miller says about quitting after 2 terms it is 100% family related. The job of mayor just takes so much dedication and time that he has hardly been able to spend any time with his family...
 
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jn_12

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taal

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So he's an idiot because of that one issue? right... Just because it's your pet project that you go on and on about doesn't mean others have to.

About that one issue I agree with Glen - it's was a dumb comment - I'd think the evidence regarding all the negative effects our relatively high commercial tax rate has on the outer 416 would be indefeasible at this point.


That being said Miller was a great mayor and he'll be missed for a long time - regarding the tax issue - I'm fairly confident he was well aware of it - but decided to throw it under the rugs to 'improve' other aspects of Toronto - social and the like. Some would argue this is good.

But at this point - we've had such little job growth in the outer 416 it needs to be remedied NOW ... I have no idea why Glen think Ford would accomplish this - he's more of a 'people's mayor' - he's more likely to lower the residential tax rate - it takes someone with a lot of vision to attempt to address this issue - politically it bears no fruit for 4+ years - in other words, if someone addressed it's like the next mayor's Toronto he/she would improving.
 
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jn_12

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^ oh I never said it wasn't an issue. I just think it's absurd to call someone an idiot because they disagree with another person (who happens to be agressively obsessive) about tax policy. It's rather immature in my opinion.
 

Glen

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^ oh I never said it wasn't an issue. I just think it's absurd to call someone an idiot because they disagree with another person (who happens to be agressively obsessive) about tax policy. It's rather immature in my opinion.

If this was a layperson I would have not bothered to comment. He is an economist that clearly does not understand economics. That makes him an idiot.
 

Irishmonk

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not sure why you are wishing it was on the TVO website??? that is an active link to the video, just press play!

Severe brain cramp on my part, probably due to reviewing this thread before my morning caffeine injection.

Anyhow, not a bad interview; I wish Paikin hadn't led with that douchebag article from The Star. I'm not sure I'm completely buying Miller's leaving-to spend-more-time-with-the-kids-story. But, whatever the reason, it's a goddamn shame he's leaving before completing his legacy projects: Transit City and the Waterfront. (And I'm not a huge fan of TC but at least it's progress on something that is desperately needed.)

Now I'm off to vote, grudgingly, for Smitherman.
 

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