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David Miller exits with a bang: Granatstein

Outgoing mayor on who fumbled the ball on transit

by Rob Granatstein

For seven years, Mayor David Miller has taken it upon himself to call many of the families of victims of crime in this city.

It’s the part of being mayor he found the hardest.

And, in the past week, he’s had more opportunities than he’d care to count as a series of shootings have rocked the city.

Earlier this month, Miller spoke at the memorial service for Sultan Dailey. Miller’s known Sultan’s mom, a teacher, for more than 20 years, and met the boy shortly after he was born.

Dailey was murdered in Parkdale. Police linked the murder to drugs, and noted the 20-year-old was known to police.

“God, his poor mother,” said Miller, the father of a 13 and 15-year-old himself. “She’s a lovely woman. An incredible woman.

“It’s really hard and it’s heart breaking, the number of people I’ve phoned or gone to a visitation and had to look them in the eye and say ‘I’m truly sorry.’

“After seven years, that’s an awful lot of tragedies.”

Miller said the city’s safer since he became mayor. More police are on the streets.

But this recent violent stretch has been indicative of his entire exit. Things Miller believed were done are coming undone.

And, come Wednesday, with the anti-Miller, Rob Ford, waltzing into the second-floor mayor’s office, the crumbling of his so-called legacy will undoubtably continue.

It’s been a rocky exit for Miller. The criticism really ramped up during the civic workers’ strike in 2009, and culminated in the Miller-endorsed, Miller-light candidate, Joe Pantalone, taking a pummelling at the ballot box.

Why not? Kicking David Miller has become a sport in this city.

Candidates across the city did it for months during the election.

Our City Hall columnist, Sue-Ann Levy, made a career out of kicking His Blondness — usually in a sensitive region — and don’t expect the hoofing to stop now that he’s leaving the job to travel the world for the good of the environment, or at least the good of the World Bank.

The new taxes, higher fees, higher property taxes, enormous spending, big garbage bins, St. Clair right-of-way project, war on the car, his environmental globe-trotting to set up his post-mayor job, and steadfast refusal to bend on ideas citizens didn’t want all rankled Torontonians.

The time for change had arrived. Even if Miller didn’t see it that way.

Miller always figured he’d be remembered as the Transit Mayor. The guy who refreshed the TTC’s buses, subways and streetcars, and set the city on a path forward with Transit City.

When the city chose Ford, Transit City became a question mark.

“People often in Toronto say why don’t we have the transit network of London or Paris or Berlin or Madrid,” Miller said in our exit interview. “Well, the answer is, it seems in Toronto every 30 or 40 years we get around to doing it, then we fumble the ball.

“Transit’s been unfinished in this city for 40 years. It’s kind of time we collectively grew up a bit and just built it.

“I thought the premier fumbled the ball last year when he didn’t let us go ahead. All three of those lines would be under construction right now and it would be unstoppable.

“I hope it’s unstoppable anyway.”

Eglinton and Finch could have been under construction in 2010, he said, but the province slowed things down with changes to the financing and Metrolinx.

“My regret there a little bit is because I announced I wasn’t running, I think it allowed the premier to get away with this,” Miller said. “If I was running again I would have been out on the Finch bus every day, saying the province wants you to stand here for 20 minutes waiting for four buses to come all at once, when you should be getting an LRT every seven minutes that would get you to the subway quicker.”

Still, Miller stands by his transit baby.

“On most of the roads where you’re going to see the Transit City lines, you won’t see a change. The roads are wide enough that it’s not going to take away a lane of traffic.”

Miller agreed his fumble on Transit City is not presenting it to citizens properly so people can differentiate between the snail-like Queen or King streetcar and what’s coming to Sheppard or Eglinton.

Most of all, he said, instead of a city-wide improved street-level transit system, for the same money Toronto would get one subway line.

“Surely we should be using our tax money to spend for impact,” Miller said.

But, with Miller exiting, the biggest impact could be the burly Etobicoke legacy crusher coming down the tracks.