2014 grade: B+
2013 grade: A-
2012 grade: N/A
There’s a view of the role of municipal government to be merely fixing the potholes and cutting the grass in parks. From this point of view, social issues are better left with the province: As enshrined in the “service agreement” of the 1990s, the province runs the social service department, the city plows the streets.
This is stupid. Social services are best delivered at the community level, where people know their neighbours and the problems they face. Moreover, social issues are entwined in everything the city does. How can we talk about transit services without considering how affordable housing is spread across the community? How can we talk about running rec centres without knowing that seniors have certain needs, immigrants others, children others yet?
Thankfully, Mike Savage is helping to stretch the old understanding of city government into a new premise that the city can indeed help deal with social issues. A couple of examples stand out.
In October, Savage initiated the Mayor’s Conversation on a Healthy and Livable Community, which will result in concrete good. For example, it promises to focus on addressing the bike lane problem on the end of the Macdonald Bridge---now the city is insisting that the redecking project scheduled to start next year will also end up with a bike lane that ends up on North Street, and not at the bottom of the hill beneath the bridge. Similarly, the Healthy and Livable Community initiative will bring a sorely needed focus on accessibility issues. Savage also enthusiastically joined the United Way Partnership on Affordable Housing, which has made a goal of ending chronic homelessness within five years.
He has demonstrated he understands the issues, the challenges and the role the city can play. Such government activism was incomprehensible for previous mayors, and Savage deserves great praise for it.
Unfortunately, Savage is a True Believer when it comes to the new convention centre. He is too much of the establishment to see the narrow bureaucratic empire-building that led us to this point, and he’s too close a friend with Fred MacGillivray, the former Trade Centre Limited president who championed the convention centre, to seriously question the need for it. Savage’s commitment to the convention centre will, we fear, forever stain his legacy. a
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