The no-politics councillor questionnaire: Maria Augimeri vs. James Pasternak
Doug Ford’s decision to slash the size of city council means that this October’s election will include a number of head-to-head battles between sitting councillors, whose formerly separate wards have suddenly been consolidated into one. For voters who are flummoxed by all of this, we present the ultimate tie-breaker: a questionnaire that has very little to do with politics. If you can’t decide which way to vote based on policy, let personality be your guide.
Current councillor for Ward 9, York Centre
Current councillor for Ward 10, York Centre
What’s your most impressive trait?
Augimeri: I have a passion for poetry. I love writing it and I love reading it. I was honoured to read a poem about the late Al Gosling this year at Joe Fiorito’s launch for his book, City Poems. Joe knows my passion for poetry, and Al was one of my residents.
Pasternak: I like to leave a positive impression.
What’s your worst trait?
Augimeri: Inability to sleep some nights. And, during the day, sometimes impatience.
Pasternak: Looking like I just woke up when in fact I’ve been up for hours.
What time do you wake up?
Augimeri: Sometimes in the middle of the night if something is on my mind. My staff know this too well. But usually around 7 a.m.
Pasternak: Let’s say 6:30 a.m., but many times closer to 7 a.m. On council days, much earlier. The earliest is when I’m meeting the mayor at a morning event.
What do you typically eat for breakfast?
Augimeri: A warmed up muffin and cappuccino at home.
Pasternak: A pot of coffee and a bowl of oatmeal. When I don’t have the time for oatmeal I’ll have a banana. When I don’t have the time for the banana I’ll have a nutri-bar.
What’s your favourite dinner spot in the city?
Augimeri: Home is where the best dinner is, always, but a close second is Speducci Mercatto, any time of day. It’s one of Toronto’s best kept secrets.
Pasternak: Tov-Li dairy and Mediterranean food on Bathurst Street. Great falafels and other treats. Pantry Foods and Milk ‘N Honey, also on Bathurst Street, are a close second and third.
What’s the last book you read?
Augimeri: Former city councillor Howard Moscoe’s book, Call Me Pisher. Hilarious insight into the ins and outs of city council.
Pasternak: The last three: The Return, by Hisham Matar; Chasing Hillary by Amy Chozick; Shattered, by Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes.
What’s your major hobby?
Augimeri: Singing. Last term we formed a band with various characters at council called the Clamshell Quintet. We played many shows and even did performances for charity. It was a blast.
Pasternak: Politics, reading, the occasional golf game and trips to the gym.
What don’t people understand about you?
Augimeri: A lady at the store the other day saw me shopping for mundane things and literally said, “You’re a real person too!” People don’t understand that we politicians are just like everyone else. Most people think politicians don’t have a heart and are just objects for criticism and disdain. We think and feel and love and care (and shop) just like anyone else.
Pasternak: How hard we work on each individual file—and what I’m saying when I try my best to speak in a language other than English to local residents.
What form of transportation do you rely on the most?
Augimeri: Being a politician in the suburbs necessitates using a car, for the most part. Everything is so spread out, and relying solely on transit would make attending all the community meetings I need to be at impractical.
Pasternak: Public transit. I’m a regular subway user to city hall. I bike to my constituency office and in my neighbourhood. These days, walking is king, as I’m knocking on thousands of doors.
What would you be doing if you weren’t a city councillor?
Augimeri: Teaching at a university.
Pasternak: Working in some capacity to help people. My leisure would be writing, reading and backpacking.
Complete the sentence: Doug Ford is…
Augimeri: A controversial leader. But, politics aside, he returns my calls when I need to speak to him, and I consider him a friend.
Pasternak: A complex person.
What irritates you?
Augimeri: Decision-makers who ignore process and don’t think things through enough.
Pasternak: When people aren’t pulling their weight. Stale coffee is a drag as well.
What delights you?
Augimeri: Nothing stops me in my tracks and warms my heart more than a baby’s smile.
Pasternak: When we succeed in helping someone, or when we open a new community centre or playground in our area. Or when I win a vote at city hall. A freshly brewed cup of coffee.
Who needs to be stopped?
Pasternak: Those who are running stop signs and red lights, and speeding. Traffic chaos is growing into the city’s biggest problem.
Who’s your dream date?
Augimeri: Robert Redford, for his looks and career—and I think he would provide an interesting conversation.
Pasternak: My wife Lynn, of course.
Curveball time: of all the characters Tom Hanks has played in movies, which one do you most identify with?
Augimeri: Jimmy Dugan, who is the manager of an all-female baseball team in A League of Their Own. I like groups of people who have an unrealistic goal, and I like helping them reach it.
Pasternak: Politicians go into battle every day looking to solve complex issues. Sometimes even “rescuing” people from dire situations. I guess that would mean the Captain John Miller character Hanks plays in Saving Private Ryan.