What’s that I hear squeaking?

The following comment appeared in response to yet another article by Christopher Hume, slamming Toronto for being too choosy about what gets built and where it gets built in our City.

“Sad to say, but the squeaky wheel gets the politicians’ attention. It is politically safer to be led by a group of naysayers, than to stand against them… a group of organized naysayers can seriously complicate a re-election bid.”

Let’s get real.  What’s really sad is that this commentator doubts his or her legitimate right to support or oppose anything they choose, regardless of what Hume thinks.

There’s no squeakier wheel than Chris Hume, writing in the country’s most widely read newspaper. He’s been beating this drum for years.

Now he’s determined to get the Mirvish/Gehry buildings greenlighted, and this is just another in a series of his articles telling people that their reasons for living where they live, and their desire to preserve something of the place they chose, are invalid.

Sometimes he supports specific developments and sometimes he opposes them. He can write lyrically in defence of heritage, and just as lyrically about its demolition. But when you look for a common thread through a series of his columns, one general principle emerges:

Citizens, their elected officials and bureaucrats shouldn’t have the right to oppose a development scheme that Hume deems to be sensitive, timely, needed, altruistic, or beautiful.

That’s it. Plain and simple. There’s no other way I can make sense of his ramblings.

It explains why he feels entitled to used ad hominem arguments to attack the decisions of the Toronto’s Chief Planner, slighting  her experience, character, and ability. In his most recent installment, he accuses the entire population of sharing the planning department’s small-minded timidity. He seems surprised and angered to discover that the planning department of a municipal government appears to be aligned with its constituents in opposition to a proposal he favours.

Isn’t that how a representative government is supposed to work?

Maybe his problem isn’t with NIMBYism at all. He seems to be more troubled by the last democratic impulses still twitching in our battered city planning system.  It’s amazing it can exert much influence at all as it’s pressed to the wall by powerful developers and crushed by the OMB’s provincial authority.

In what he calls “the spectator sport” of architecture, democracy just gets in the way. It ruins the game, like having commoners tending their gardens where aristocrats wish to run their polo ponies.

I agree that Toronto’s planning system is dysfunctional. Who wouldn’t?  But it’s wrong to blame the victims as Hume does, using his Toronto Star soap box to bully Jennifer Keesmat and shame his readers into sympathy with the developers.

This commentator doesn’t have to take this crap from Hume. Stick your head out the window… every crane represents a “yes” from the people of Toronto and their government. We lead North America in the proportion of citizens living and working in buildings over 10 stories, so Hume’s accusations about fear of height are simply more plops in the journalistic pantload he’s dumped in this column.

Calling volunteer groups “squeaky wheels,” when they oppose the overwhelming influence of columnists and developers, is just silly. Proponents of downtown airport expansions, casinos, big box stores, and mega-condo developments squeak louder than anyone because they, not their puny opponents, stand to win all the cheese.

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