Monday, August 9, 2010

City Hall pipeline: Levy Seeking to jump from second banana to councillor, does an endorsement from a departing politician help?

What do councillors Mike Feldman, Michael Walker and Adam Giambrone have in common?
They are all retiring from office on Oct. 25.
They have also all endorsed their executive assistants as the best candidates to follow in their footsteps.
Which begs the question: Does being a right-hand man or woman to the Big Kahuna on council automatically qualify one to be the “heir apparent”?
Certainly in elections gone by, it didn’t hurt to have a ringing endorsement from an outgoing councillor — not to mention strong ties to the ward’s constituents.
But this year, the landscape is very different.
People are anxious for change, for fresh meat.
One wonders if being tied to a councillor is more a liability than benefit.
I dare say an endorsement by Giambrone — the controversial TTC chairman and former mayoralty candidate who was forced to drop out of the race amidst lurid tales of trysts with a variety of women — might be the “kiss of death.”
Kevin Beaulieu, 39 — the EA captured on camera reading the rest of Giambrone’s speech when he resigned from the mayor’s race — says not so.
He claims at the thousands of doors in Ward 18 on which he’s already knocked people want to talk “overwhelmingly” about local Davenport issues and bigger city issues — not his former boss.
Not one door has slammed in his face, he contends, when he mentions his association to Giambrone. He adds it’s too early in the race for people to be talking about the track record of the left-leaning cadre of councillors at Socialist Silly Hall.
Now Beaulieu is a likeable guy. And at least he actually lives in the ward.
But I find it hard to believe counting Giambrone and a cast of such council lightweights as Maria Augimeri, Shelley Carroll, Janet Davis, Paula Fletcher and Gord Perks as his supporters will put him out in front of his nine opponents — even if this is an NDP-leaning ward.
Chris Sellors, who resigned in the spring to run to replace Walker in Ward 22, lives outside the ward.
But the 36-year-old says his experience working for the St. Paul’s councillor over the past 10 years more than makes up for that.
He agrees the public does not want to vote for an incumbent — they want fresh faces and new ideas — but “Michael Walker is a little different ... a lot of people still like him.”
He says he doesn’t have to distance himself from the councillor because a lot of people “respect him” for earning their trust over the years.
“I’m not Walker ... I’m my own man but I’ve learned from him,” Sellors said, insisting his knowledge of City Hall is also a “definite plus.”
I live in the ward and I think Sellors, who has a formidable opponent in publicity hound and school trustee Josh Matlow, is deluding himself if he thinks Walker is that well-respected. The 28-year councillor, best known for being council’s curmudgeonly contrarian, was well beyond his best-before date.
One can only hope Sellors has not learned how to use taxpayer dollars like Walker — who consistently spent virtually to the limit of his $53,000 office budget and used his expense account to donate to (buy votes from) community groups — while preaching restraint and ethical conduct.
Nancy Oomen, 54, who just a few days ago registered to run in Feldman’s Ward 10 seat against eight opponents — at least two of them strong campaigners — said the fact she doesn’t live in the ward doesn’t matter.
She says she’s been working there for 10 years and has a “reputation” for getting things done.
“I am extremely responsive to constituents,” she said, adding her already established strong relationships with city staff is a plus in her favour.
“She preserves the culture of the ward,” adds Feldman. “She is well-respected.”
Now I can’t speak for how responsive the retiring 81-year-old Feldman and his office have been to York Centre constituents as of late. But from my vantage point at Socialist Silly Hall, I suspect his office has been on auto-pilot for a long, long time handling a ward that hasn’t been all that demanding.
As much as I have a lot of time for the retiring councillor, I think he’s been largely warming his council seat this past term — something I believe will come back to haunt Oomen as she attempts to carry on the torch in Ward 10.

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