Yesterday, I went to my very first Toronto City Council Meeting at City Hall, and I can’t wait to tell you all about it.
WAIT! STOP RIGHT THERE! DON’T GO. HEAR ME OUT.
I know, municipal government. It might not sound like the most riveting subject in the world. But I assure you, it can be. Maybe you’ve wondered what actually happens inside the giant UFO that we call the Toronto City Hall Council Chamber.
Watching a Toronto City Council meeting is like watching reality television, but it actually MATTERS! Instead of voting off some douchebag you’ve never met or rewarding some attention-seeking asshat with an SUV and a briefcase full of cash, they’re voting on whether or not YOUR community will get bike lanes, or if YOUR favourite public pool will still be operational this summer!
You already know that Mayor Rob Ford is endlessly entertaining. But it doesn’t stop there! There’s an entire cast of characters that make City Council the wonderful piece of performance art that it is!
There’s Rob’s sneaky, cocky, almost-twin brother, Doug Ford (Ward 2)! There’s babe-a-licous left-winger (and possible future mayoral candidate, I hope), Adam Vaughan (Ward 20)! There’s smirking class-clown Gord Perks (Ward 14), who gets serious when it’s time to fight for his community (and who walks with one of the best swaggers I’ve ever seen)! There’s red-faced, heckling, sometimes-quite-possibly-on-the-brink-of-insanity-but-sometimes-actually-pretty-clever Giorgio Mammolitti (Ward 7)! There’s the feisty Pam McConnell (Ward 28)! The rumpled professor’s charm of Joe Mihevc (Ward 21)! And then there’s Speaker Frances Nunziata (Ward 11), who rules the Council Chamber with an iron fist!
I faithfully watch Toronto City Council meetings online – but going down to City Hall in person was a whole different story. You can see the councillors working the crowd – working their fellow council members, the media, the audience.
There are even funny moments, like when Nunziata asked us all to make sure our phones were on “vibrator.” And when Rob Ford ran across the room (ran!) to his seat to make sure he could get a vote in on time, and Councillor Shiner was heard to quip: “It was like a lightning bolt! I could hardly see him!” You can FEEL the tension when the councillors debate, even when it’s about something as seemingly boring as the “Transfer of Properties to Build Toronto and Declaration as Surplus” (which, by the way, I still don’t completely understand).
These councillors really are in there for a reason- they CARE about their communities and our city. And, darn it, it’s pretty cool.
Bottom line: If you’re from Toronto, you should go to a City Council meeting. They’re open to the public, they’re free, they’re air-conditioned… and they’re fun. I promise.
In the meantime… here’s a documentary about municipal politics from comedy duo Tim & Eric: