George Smitherman: Open Government Candidate? #voteTO #opendata #gov20

I am impressed to see this statement come out of the George Smitherman campaign. Smitherman is the only leading candidate for Mayor of Toronto committed to mandate the release of municipal data in machine-readable formats as a key pillar of his go…

I am impressed to see this statement come out of the George Smitherman campaign. Smitherman is the only leading candidate for Mayor of Toronto committed to mandate the release of municipal data in machine-readable formats as a key pillar of his government transparency and democratic renewal policies.

In these final days of the Toronto municipal election, citizens and advocates looking for more open, transparent, innovative and effective government have had some difficulty sorting through the platforms of the leading mayoral candidates, looking for the signals they need to make an informed choice. Until Smitherman’s announcement, the words “open data” have yet to make it into the language of the other leading candidates.

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Continue reading “George Smitherman: Open Government Candidate? #voteTO #opendata #gov20”

A response to @chadandy on #PrideTO and the Mammoliti motion

Toronto City councillor Giorgio Mammoliti’s motion to defund Pride Toronto (PT) as punishment for its decision to rescind its ban on the words “Israeli apartheid” in Toronto’s Pride parade passed at city council today after a vote of 36-1. But the…

Toronto City councillor Giorgio Mammoliti’s motion to defund Pride Toronto (PT) as punishment for its decision to rescind its ban on the words “Israeli apartheid” in Toronto’s Pride parade passed at city council today after a vote of 36-1. But the motion was changed significantly before it came to a vote. ??

In response to this news, I tweeted:

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I was compelled to respond to a question from @chadandy on Twitter:

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Because I like and respect Chad, I thought I would put my thoughts down in a fuller form and invite him and others who share his feelings into a conversation.

My concern is not with the City’s right to enforce its policies, it is about Mammoliti’s motivations behind his original motion.

Continue reading “A response to @chadandy on #PrideTO and the Mammoliti motion”

“Toronto: walking wounded” How do we heal?

A must read piece by Shawn Micallef: http://www.eyeweekly.com/city/psychogeography/article/96101 My comment: Thank you Shawn for putting words to the feelings felt by so many of us. I too fled the city to avoid having to witness the inevitable dis…

A must read piece by Shawn Micallef: http://www.eyeweekly.com/city/psychogeography/article/96101

My comment:

Thank you Shawn for putting words to the feelings felt by so many of us. I too fled the city to avoid having to witness the inevitable disaster of G20. I too was compelled back to the city when I learned how she was being hurt.I also felt that same reassurance of healing from joining thousands of average Torontonians at the rally that began in front of Police HQ on Monday evening.This event is a psychic trauma. That trauma comes from the realization by many that the freedom we take for granted is so fragile, so tenuous and so conditional in the face of fear and power.We need more healing. We need to restore the Toronto we know and love. We need truth and reconciliation.Who will lead us through this process? What is the next step?

More speech, not less, is needed at Pride Toronto

via xtra.ca Pride Toronto’s board and executive appear hapless in the face of threats to their organization’s funding that come with even greater threats to the community’s core values. The ironic attempt to spin censorship as a form of inclusion …

Pride Toronto’s board and executive appear hapless in the face of threats to their organization’s funding that come with even greater threats to the community’s core values. The ironic attempt to spin censorship as a form of inclusion is baffling and Orwellian, especially considering the history of Pride and the struggle for LGBT rights in Toronto and elsewhere. This crisis has the potential to tear Pride Toronto apart at the seams and is a caution to all of us about the state of free speech.

I wanted to add background relevant to the specific use of the words “Israeli apartheid” by QuAIA. Many see these words as inflammatory, which they no doubt are. But are they hate speech? Is there a truth within these words? How can we know unless we have free speech and open discourse?

You don’t have to do much Googling to find factual, intelligent and hate-free analyses that show very effectively and clearly that Israel finds itself at a very difficult crossroads in its history. Perhaps the best recent example of this kind of analysis is that presented recently by John J Mearscheimer: http://mrzine.monthlyreview.org/2010/mearsheimer300410.html

http://blip.tv/play/AYHapjUC

To summarize the argument: due to demographic factors, the ongoing rejection of a two-state solution in Israel and Palestine and a policy aimed at establishing so-called Greater Israel, Israel faces what appears to be an impossible existential dilemma. Either it will continue to be a democratic state or a Jewish state, but it will no longer be able to be both. Israel risks, according to Mearscheimer, becoming an “apartheid state”. It is a grim, but very sober analysis.

The accretion of land in the occupied territories to Israel proper and settler communities along with the buffer zones and control points required for Israeli security create pockets of Bantustans across the West Bank. The lines between Israel and the occupied territories are being intentionally blurred by settlement activity, creating new “facts on the ground” which some Israelis see as important to increase bargaining leverage but are in fact disabling their ability to bargain.

If this “Greater Israel” is a de facto reality now or in the forseeable future, then the nature of that state should be seen plainly for what it is or might become. It is very reasonable to look to apartheid-era South Africa as a comparable kind of state.

This Greater Israel scenario is completely reasonable given an analysis of the available facts and a sober assessment of the probability of a final peace settlement based on the principle of two independent states living side by side. Even many who are defenders of Israel are (or should be) rightly concerned about its slide towards this Greater Israel future as a threat to the vision of modern Israel and an affront to both Jewish and liberal democratic values.

Stating this point of view and using the word apartheid has become a lightening rod for those who would banish this speech as unacceptable or hateful speech. It is clearly political speech. It is definitely aimed at influencing attitudes and opinions on issues of human rights and global politics. But hateful? Most definitely not.

How did we get to this point where freedom of speech and thought can be so threatened within the heart of a community’s celebration of the very ideas of equality and freedom of expression? In the West, in Canada, in Toronto – the most diverse city on the planet?

We should all be concerned about the threat to free and open dialogue this case demonstrates, not only those of us who are queer or have an opinion about the future of Israel and Palestine.

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Changing Toronto’s Political Culture

This is my first post for the Toronto Star’s Your City My City blog. It is reposted from here: http://thestar.blogs.com/yourcitymycity/2010/04/changing-torontos-political-culture.html

Toronto, the city and the region, is being transformed. Like many global urban regions, we are growing rapidly and that growth is changing the face of our community. A recent StatsCan study tells us that by 2031 we can expect the people of the Toronto region to be 63% visible minorities.

We are experiencing rapid and accelerating change on many fronts, but our political culture isn’t keeping pace. If it doesn’t catch up, we risk creating a city plagued by systemic problems stemming from exclusion, political dysfunction and the growth of a permanent underclass alongside a confused dominant class trying to reclaim an idea of Toronto based upon a mirage from its past.

Others have argued, and I agree, that the people who govern our city ought to reflect the diversity of the city itself. All adult permanent residents of Toronto should have the the opportunity to vote municipally and fully participate in civic life, regardless of their Canadian citizenship status. Despite the many commenters to the post by Gelek Badheytsang linked above who find the idea offensive, it is an idea whose time is coming. Newcomers and their children need better on-ramps to civic participation.

Beyond specific political reforms, I argue that we also need a cultural shift.

Torontonians are a reserved people. Visitors often comment on our city’s coolly aloof attitude, while at the same time lauding our diversity and the vibrancy of our multicultural assets. How do we reconcile these two impressions?

My hunch is that the dominant culture’s tolerance of diversity has for the most part been made easy by social distance and relative prosperity. When difficult decisions press us – hard choices forced upon us by limited resources – how well will we perform at reconciling our differences?

It’s not just our leaders who need to change. We need to change. “We have to engage”, John Tory said on this blog post, “WE have to listen to EACH OTHER”. I agree.

I believe that we change the realm of possibilities when we shift the dialogue we have about this city and our place within it. We need to talk about our responsibilities to each other as well as our rights and individual needs and desires. We need a movement for civic engagement powered by people.

We need to have difficult conversations that acknowledge our differences and we need to transcend these differences in ways that help us make collective decisions. We need to recognize that our futures are shared, and we need to seize the opportunity to participate in shaping that shared future.

My vision of the future of Toronto as a livable city is a place where citizenship, civic life and community are re-imagined and reinvigorated, where the potential of our diversity is realized as a strength and an asset for our future prosperity. For the experiment of Toronto to succeed, we as a people must become world leaders in civic engagement and civic innovation that embraces an inclusive diversity.

This will be difficult. This is a job for all of us; not only our City government, our elected officials and our civic leaders. In future posts, I will propose specific ideas for how to realize this vision. I invite you to share your own ideas in the comments.

About Mark Kuznicki