George Smitherman proposes expert council to reform city; existing city council apparently unqualified

George Smitherman proposes expert council to reform city; existing city council apparently unqualified

Yesterday, while racking up the endorsement of former mayor John Sewell, George Smitherman unveiled his latest idea for reforming city hall: a group of seven experts that could iron out all the kinks in the whole amalgamation thing, 13 years after the fact. The panel will include a number of local notables, including former chief city planner Paul Bedford and developer Stephen Diamond.

The Globe and Mail reports:

During a news conference Thursday in front of the York Civic Centre on Eglinton Avenue West, Mr. Smitherman said the seven-member group would have to report by April, 2011, and devise proposals that don’t increase spending. “We want them to come back with recommendations that are cost neutral,” Mr. Smitherman said, adding that the millions of dollars the city spends to send lawyers to the Ontario Municipal Board could be diverted to boost community engagement in local planning.

Campaign organizers chose to stage Mr. Smitherman’s announcement on the grounds of the former City of York’s municipal chambers, using the building as a backdrop to illustrate the disconnect between neighbourhoods and city hall.

Of course, the people of Toronto are electing not seven, but 45 people to a group specifically charged with making city hall work better—namely, city council—which we imagine will have to approve any substantial changes anyway.  Why not have the actual people in power try and come up with some ideas?

The success rate of substantial reforms is pretty low when they’re outsourced to third parties in Canada—see the failed electoral reforms in B.C. and Ontario—but the key difference here seems to be that Smitherman would be backing the reforms personally.  Or maybe there’s a simpler explanation to all this: Smitherman’s observed the behaviour of our councillors and has decided that, for a panel of wise elders, none of them could quite make the cut.

• Smitherman proposes panel of brainstorming ‘experts’ [Globe and Mail]
• What the #!%*? – Reforming City Hall [National Post]
• Sewell’s got a job [Toronto Sun]
• Sewell to head reform panel if Smitherman is elected [Toronto Star]
• Ex-mayor Sewell would lead panel for Smitherman [CTV News]