Sunday, February 19, 2012

CodeRedTO: Saving Gary Webster

After City Council's dramatic moves two weeks ago to rescue Toronto's LRT plans from the clutches of Rob Ford's underground-only transit "vision" (which, amazingly, I did not post about), the mayor is about to strike back by terminating Gary Webster, the highly respected manager of the TTC. See CodeRedTO for the whole sorry story.

There are five members of the TTC Board doing the mayor's bidding, instead of looking out for Toronto's interests: Vincent Crisanti, Frank Di Giorgio, Norm Kelly, Denzil Minnan-Wong, and Cesar Palacio. They really need to hear from the public. So too do the four members expected to support Mr. Webster: Chair Karen Stintz, Co-chair Peter Milczyn, Maria Augimeri, and John Parker. I just sent the following e-mail to all members of the Board.

Dear Councillors:

I am writing to express my support for TTC Manager Gary Webster. Mr. Webster has done an admirable job steering the TTC through some very challenging times, growing ridership in spite of budget pressures, improving customer service, and providing much-needed expert, fact-based opinions to Council as it plans the expansion of the system.

The move to axe Mr. Webster is transparently political, and I have no doubt that it originated in the mayor's office. If successful, it would send a terrible message to this city's senior civil servants, who should feel empowered to offer the best professional advice possible to our representatives. Moreover, it would represent a significant loss to the TTC and incredible disrespect for taxpayers, certainly costing us hundreds of thousands of dollars in severance and possibly exposing the city to further legal liabilities. It pains me to think about how many service cuts are being foisted on the public to make up for this kind of truly wasteful spending.

The TTC Board needs to display professionalism and rise above these ugly politics. I strongly urge you to vote against Mr. Webster's removal.

I sent a separate message to Karen Stintz, with this extra bit urging her to bring to bear the full weight of Council:

Moreover, I believe it is Council's responsibility to ensure that the TTC Board is acting appropriately. If it fails to do so, its membership should be changed. To that end, I encourage you to seek support once again for a Special Meeting of Council at the earliest possible opportunity. All indications are that five members of the Board are ready to act against the city's best interests; however, I think they would be less inclined to do so if they knew their actions were about to be reviewed and acted upon by Council.

Thank you very much for all of your dedication to the TTC, and I hope you will continue to demonstrate inspiring leadership on this file.

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