It’s not complicated. #LeashYourDog

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Maybe I’m coming across as too angry about unleashed dogs in leashed areas. Maybe so. But you know what? I don’t give a fuck.

 

My boy is huge, black, and easy to demonize. Same goes for any other unfairly stigmatized breed. OK, he’s a giant Russian guard dog, and owning him in Toronto can be a challenge. I get that. When I walk him, I keep him on the leash and stay out of off-leash dog parks. I’ve done intensive training with him and keep him under control at all times. And yet, if some off-leash dog runs up to him and starts something, even in a leashed area, whom do you think is going to get blamed? I can do everything right and follow all the rules, and STILL lose my dog just because some entitled asshole doesn’t feel like following the leash law.

 

I’ll say that again. I COULD LOSE MY DOG because some irresponsible shitwaffles think they’re special and the rules don’t apply to them. (We used to have a mayor like that. You’re in pretty good company.) So guess where you can stick your “Way of the Dog” bullshit.

 

(“Really Sol, don’t you think you’re overreacting a little bit? You’re getting hysterical.” — ed.)

 

Special h/t to The Dog Snobs for this.

 

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Dog people: pick up your dog’s shit. FFS. | #TOpoli #dogs

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Koba and I are asking you nicely.

Really, people, it’s a no-brainer. We shouldn’t even have to ask. It’s part of living in the city and being a good neighbour.

I touched on this a few weeks ago in a post about my attempt to get part of a local green space declared an off-leash area. The upshot of that was that it’s not going to happen any time soon, but in terms of on-the-ground realities, local residents and users of the space — parents, kids, students, dogs and dog people — have established an informal modus vivendi whereby everyone lives and lets live. We look the other way, we keep our dogs under control, we pick up the empty booze bottles, and we try to keep it cool. It’s that old spirit of generosity and accommodation. To the extent that the no-dogs rules are enforced, it’s on a haphazard and occasional basis, and it’s complaint-driven.

So it stands to reason, then, that it’s in all of our interests not to generate reasons for complaints. Which brings me to the prosaic and yucky trigger for this little rant: people who don’t pick up after their dogs.

Seriously, people? Seriously? No, really. Seriously? Do I have to walk you through this?

If you leave dog shit where kids are playing, sooner or later someone’s going to get it on them. Angry parents complain, as they have every right to do, and before you know it the neighbourhood is up in arms and the by-law officers are handing out tickets and a nice neighbourly vibe is poisoned. All because some asshole couldn’t be bothered to assume the most basic responsibility of dog ownership / dog stewardship.

Come on, folks. A lot of life’s little aggravations can be avoided if you just follow one simple rule. Remember the old truism about how it only takes one asshole to ruin things for everyone? Don’t be that asshole.

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Cycling in Toronto and the toxic effect of consistent anti-bike rhetoric | #TOpoli #BikeTO

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Bit of a change-up here, folks.

Usually it’s Daren who gets into the specifics and applies his wonderful witty blend of deconstruction, observation and analysis, while yours truly drops in every now and then with the windy, sententious “let’s all take a step back and put this into a bit of historical context,” yada yada yada.

Bit different today. I had some friends over yesterday, and one of them, a far more committed cyclist than I, was describing a confrontation she recently had with a motorist. She brought video. Because the matter’s still before the legal system, I won’t name names or get into specifics.

In brief, she had words with a guy in a van who yelled at her to get off the road, arguing that “roads are for cars.” Now where have we heard that before? She retorted, quite correctly, that as a cyclist she had just as much right to be on the road as him. Next thing you know, the son of a bitch literally ran her off the road with his truck. On purpose. She had to be hospitalized. She needed stitches. Thank god she didn’t break any bones.

But there’s a lesson here, and it goes beyond the specific circumstances of this one incident. Anyone who rides a bike in Toronto’s more than likely to have had words with a hostile motorist or gotten the door prize or any of a number of hazards that cyclists have to face on a regular basis.

Now, recall one of Daren’s recent posts about some of the people who drive private automobiles and their sense of entitlement:

There’s no war on the car going on. It’s the exact opposite. This is all about the over-weening sense of entitlement and primacy in the minds of those using their private vehicles as their sole source of getting around the city. … a car driver’s sense of their right to the road is boundless.

That’s part of the context. Add to that the consistent drumbeat of hostility and vindictiveness toward cyclists from certain sectors of Toronto’s political sphere and it’s not too hard to draw the connection to my friend’s experience. In brief, as I’ve argued previously,

it’s become more socially acceptable, among a certain segment of the population, to abuse, threaten and even assault cyclists and other users of the road.

Now, maybe it’s just me and my white male privilege talking, and / or my middle-class upbringing, and / or my fetish for principled conservatism, and / or maybe even just my bourgeois nostalgia for civility, but how is this making our city better? Isn’t it in all our interests to push back against this? We’re all in this together.

Happy Canada Day, y’all.

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#cARTographyTO and Astral Media: subverting the commercial colonization of public space | #TOpoli

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Via The Grid and Torontoist, news of an inspired and inspiring guerrilla action over the weekend.

Dozens of sidewalk-blocking, ad-filled eyesores, laughably known as “info pillars,” were repurposed and turned into art installations, social and political statements, and focus points for satire.

It’s hard not to sympathize with cARTography Toronto. Public space and public amenities are under relentless pressure from the advocates of privatization and the purveyors of commercial messaging; with the dogma of “austerity” comes more and more pressure to find new sources of revenue, especially when we’re saddled with a municipal administration intent on choking off one of the most traditional sources.

I’m sure these goddamn things are good for someone. No doubt they’re good for Astral. And perhaps they get the advertisers’ messages in front of more eyeballs. And who knows, maybe they bring in a dollar or two in licencing fees or something. But, in the words of one of the activists:

They’ve done a lot of permanent damage, tearing up sidewalks, cutting down bike posts, and creating a sightline hazard for pedestrians, drivers, and cyclists…

How you see this depends, as do many things, on how you define terms and how you frame the questions. If we’re committed to making the public good paramount, then the reclamation of public space from those who seek to colonize it is something to be encouraged. And while aesthetics are admittedly subjective, it’s hard not to be disturbed by the incessant, intrusive, and garish invasions of public sightlines, the cheapening of the visual environment, and the cumulative assault on our senses.  Factor in the removal of bike posts, the destruction of trees and the interference with pedestrian traffic and it’s hard to see how the community as a whole comes out ahead. Surely we’re surrounded by enough vulgarity already.

Of course, that’s only one viewpoint. If we buy into commercial orthodoxy and the gospel of privatization, then anything that brings in revenue is good, and anything that questions the underlying assumptions or interferes with the sacred operation of the market is suspect, elitist, anti-capitalist, and quite probably a threat to national security. And by that logic, it won’t be long before the corporate media are pounding that drum day and night, the activists (already a word with negative connotations for some) are demonized, and the resources of the criminal-justice system are marshalled in their pursuit.

It would be easy to reduce this to competing visions of what public space should be. And while that’s certainly part of the discussion, not all such visions are advanced with the same energy. Not everyone has the resources for lawyers, lobbyists and SLAPP suits. Not everyone has the same degree of access and influence to the decision-makers or conversation-shapers. And not everyone has the same fluency with the technocratic, class-biased language that informs so many public-policy debates.

As we work for more inclusive and democratic conversations, it’s worth keeping that in mind.

(Image via torontoist)

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Public space, public amenities and the public good, or corporate colonization? | #onpoli

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So I’m driving along the lakeshore this morning and my daughter, who’s loved going to the waterpark and the waterslides and such, notices the signs and landmarks leading to Ontario Place. Which is going to be, if not closed, then transformed into an innovative provincial landmark. In any event, the Ontario Place grounds, Cinesphere, waterpark, rides, attractions and restaurants are out of business this summer for “revitalization.”

Which is a drag, but, well, you know — shit happens.

But keep going and it’s pretty much impossible to miss the signs for the Honda Indy. And later this summer, we’ll probably be hosting the air show

Not going to talk at length about noise or extravagance or inconvenience, because this isn’t about pissy downtown elitists wanting their peace and quiet or anything, and, well, tourist dollars.

No, for the moment I just want to compare and contrast. If I understand this right, then spending public resources on the public good is a bad thing, so in the name of fighting the deficit and tightening our belts and living within our means, as the austerity prophets like to browbeat us, we’re closing public amenities like Ontario Place. Private events with corporate sponsors up the wazoo, on the other hand, are a good thing — despite whatever noise and inconvenience they may imply, and despite their obvious encroachment upon public space.

(Hey, it brings in money. What are you, some kind of effete downtown socialist?)

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Wall Street Firms Spy on Protesters in Tax-Funded Center | #OccupyWallStreet | AlterNet

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“Wall Street’s audacity to corrupt knows no bounds and the cooptation of government by the 1 per cent knows no limits. How else to explain $150 million of taxpayer money going to equip a government facility in lower Manhattan where Wall Street firms, serially charged with corruption, get to sit alongside the New York Police Department and spy on law abiding citizens.”

Anyone still not sure about the extent and intensity of the current class war? Anyone still have any doubts about the nature of power in the United States, and why and on whose behalf it is exercised?

Video: Queen West Art Crawl – celebrating the idea of public space

Times like this, with their depressing talk of “taxpayers” and “efficiencies” and service cuts, call for a recommitment to the notions of citizenship and the public sphere.

Earlier this month, a public park was the setting for a public art show, animated by live music, food, and thousands of people strolling, getting some sun, having conversations, and taking it all in. 

These are the things that make a city livable. This is what makes a community. This is where the public sphere comes from. Citizenship and leadership should be measured by commitment to this, not by empty slogans about gravy trains or finding efficiencies.

Special thanks to Joel Schwartz and Bret Higgins for letting me use their music.

(Yeah, I know, I should have gotten this done sooner, but, well … learning curve … )

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What happens when you design cities around cars

Bad design kills people.

That’s right. It’s not a matter of aesthetics, or of politics, or of opinion. It’s a plain fact: When you design streets solely for cars, people die as a result. The underlying conditions that are responsible for those deaths are rarely or never challenged. The victims often get blamed for their own injuries or deaths.

Not that there’s a lesson in this for Toronto or anything. (h/t @HiMYSYeD)