Friday, September 25, 2009

Mayor David Miller Announces He Will not Run in 2010

I awoke this morning to the surreal rumours that Mayor David Miller will be resigning. It sounded like he was resigning today, which to me immediately begged the question of who will lead Toronto for the next year. Bill Carroll on CFRB said he'd have to as would be a lame duck leader if he won't seek re-election. I disagree. I feel that would free him up to govern without one eye on the campaign as Prime Minister Stephen Harper is always doing.

I turned on CFRB to listen to the announcment live just as Miller stepped up to the podium to applause. Miller will not be seeking a third term as Mayor of Toronto. He's confident in his vision of the city that he loves, but after re-election in 2006, he realised that both of his kids were born after he was first elected in 1994; the pressures on him as father and husband became immense after 2006. If he were to become Mayor in 2010, his daughter would be in university and his son in high school, and he'd have missed most of their lives. He made a private decision then and there in 2006 not to run. But intense media attention in last few months -- since the strike -- and meeting last week with his core campaign team from 2006 who were so enthusiastic and shared his broad inclusive vision for a better Toronto that he consulted with his family and decided he had to make this announcement today.

Miller said that he had accomplished what he'd set out to do -- if he ran again it would be about him and his electoral success not about the city he loves. Today, every major policy that was at the foundation of his campaign (in past elections) has been accomplished or is underway, he asserted in his speech to major applause. He said that Toronto has the most ambitious transit expansion plan in North America with 120 km of light rapid transit, with $10 billion committed. Under his leadership, the city has replaced virtually all of the TTC bus fleet and is in the midst of replacing streetcar and subway cars, thus creating jobs all over GTA and places like Thunder Bay. He says we are the leading environmental city in the world. (OK, that's a pretty low standard if we're leading.) The city has set up policies to create green jobs. Toronto is a safer place -- crime is down in almost every category, proving proactive policing works. At this point, Miller's voice broke as he said the city is now creating hope for underprivileged youth and recalled that he was the only son of a single mother and how important this initiative is to him.

He will not abandon his vision as a private citizen, he continued, and then went on to describe more of accomplishments under his Mayoralty. We've placed more than 2000 homeless in homes -- it's an UN-award winning program that's a model for other cities in the world. We've lowered business tax rates every year and addressed the imbalance in commercial taxes between 416 and 905 areas. In short, he said that the city has attracted new investment and created jobs for Torontonians. His policies have sparked a renaissance in development -- more tall buildings are under construction here than in all other Canadian cities combined. He was first elected to clean up Toronto and to make it more open (remember the computer scandal?). We're first to have a lobbyist registrar and an ethics commissioner. Second to have an ombud. Now we have a 311 (he just squeezed that in there as it's been live for mere days). Apparently, he has also worked to change the face of boards etc. in Toronto and is starting to change the face of city staff. Even police are looking more and more like the Torontonians they serve. We now have two black deputy police chiefs and the chair of police board is an immigrant from India (mind you, the Chair of the Police Board decades ago was a Chinese woman, so this is nothing new). The Toronto Community Housing Chair is the first tenant to grow up in TCH and to become its Chair, an African Canadian.

He thanked the Councillors who supported him and standing with him during difficult political decisions, like introducing two new taxes. He said we're moving in the right direction, but there's much more left to do in the next 14 months. For him, there's governing left to do during the next 14 months while others campaign.

The pundits may not like him staying on as Mayor, may call him a lame duck, but as a Torontonian, I don't feel like having some appointee leading my city; people elected him to serve till the 2010 election. And regardless of my personal feelings for the way he's governed Toronto, I'm glad he's staying committed to running Toronto till then.

He ended with thanking his family and their love and understanding during his political career. Livability, prosperity, and opportunity for all -- more alive, more relevant, more widely shared -- was and is his vision for Toronto. Toronto is a progressive city with progressive values, he emphasized. Safe, strong, green, and clean it is. He sees it in the way Torontonians are passionate for our city and in their -- our -- compassion and belief in one another. He will continue to work every day to keep building a city that's prosperous, livable for all.

"Toronto has never been better and our best days are yet to come." Mayor David Miller's final words.

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