***Update: New comment by author Jeb Brugmann added.
Today, David Miller, mayor of Ontario's largest city for nearly six years, announced he will not be seeking a third term in 2010.
Miller had recently been criticized heavily for his handling of this summer's strike of municipal workers and had his share of detractors. But judging from the comments I've been reading on Twitter today, he also had his share of fans.
I asked some prominent Toronto residents, all of them past guests on The Agenda, to send me a few thoughts on Miller's announcement. Here's what they had to say:
John Sewell, Mayor of Toronto from 1978 to 1980
David Miller’s announcement not to seek a third term shows how much job actions can change the picture in unexpected ways. Before the city workers’ strike this summer Miller seemed secure in his position. He had been judged to be a good manager both of the city and the political process, and he didn’t seem to get too ruffled by the world-wide financial meltdown which made some other political leaders look weak.
But strikes always bring uncertainties, and this one brought him extraordinary levels of criticism from those who thought he had not negotiated well, that he had been too soft, or too hard. It’s unfortunate and unfair that the strike seemed to be leveled at him on a personal level, but that’s one of the great difficulties of public life – leaders get blamed for things, however unfairly.
Glen Murray, President and CEO of The Canadian Urban Institute
As I watched David at his press conference I felt an enormous amount of empathy for him, knowing what a difficult decision it is to leave a very public job that you love doing. Retiring Mayors know the price they have paid to be a public servant and a leader. That is because they see it in the eyes of their loved ones who have carried a huge load to allow dad or mom to be a community leader. Today I would just like to thank David and his family for their sacrifices and their years of service to the people of Toronto. This is their day and we should all take a moment to reflect on what we demand of our leaders and be thankful for the people who step forward to take on this difficult challenges. Let’s all wish him and his family well.
Franz Hartmann, Executive Director of the Toronto Environmental Alliance
The new Mayor will have huge green shoes to fill. Under Mayor Miller’s leadership, Toronto Council has become the greenest Council ever (see our Midterm Enviro Report Card).
Mayor Miller’s dedication to a greener Toronto led to Toronto Council to adopting major environmental initiatives, including:
--building Transit City, the largest transit expansion program ever in Canada
--passing the Pesticides Bylaw, which bans the cosmetic use of pesticides in Toronto
--developing an aggressive waste diversion strategy
--passing the precedent-setting Community Right to Know Bylaw that will help Torontonians --know who is polluting their neighbourhoods
--helping Torontonians install renewable power
--moving forward on the Mayor’s Tower Renewal Strategy to retrofit highrise apartment buildings across the City
What defined Mayor Miller’s approach was his ability to come up with a green vision and then working to implement it. Torontonians are now used to a Mayor who leads an environmental agenda. They will be expecting the next Mayor to take that agenda to the next level by:
--increasing green mobility
--making Toronto a leader in energy conservation and renewable power
--building a green economy
Jeb Brugmann, author of Welcome to the Urban Revolution
Toronto is an unfinished city, from its waterfront to the vast 1950-60s suburbs that were planned to evolve into real urban spaces. Instead, over the decades, investment and renewal across the majority of Toronto’s geography, required to make it a thriving 21st century city, has atrophied. Toronto suffers from a lack of capacity to mobilize capital for essential city-building projects and concentrated political power to actually implement bold policies, rather than just passing them in city council.
David Miller is the first mayor to embrace the challenges of the new city of Toronto with a real strategic sophistication. His advancement of a strong mayor system, the Transit City plan, and the establishment of Build Toronto to develop city-owned property are all critical measures to source capital and create the ‘clout’ needed to mobilize renewal in contemporary cities.
The next mayor needs to continue Miller’s legacy of creating institutions and aligning investments behind ‘think big’ efforts. But this effort cannot just stop at the big, centralized level. We need a whole new generation of neighbourhood, business district, and transportation corridor institutions to engage and empower a growing and often newcomer population in renewing the city’s parks, neighbourhoods, and avenues at the citizen scale.
Video: past Agenda programming on Toronto
For a more detailed discussion of the state of Toronto under Miller's leadership, check out this hour-long debate The Agenda broadcast from the Munk Centre for International Studies this past April:
You can also check out that episode's post-show web exclusive chat:
Thoughts on Mayor Miller's decision? Post your comments here.