Voters want municipal experience at council’s helm: Pantalone

Longtime councillor positions himself as the only progressive mayoral hopeful amongst five candidates.

Joe Pantalone says he’s running against four right wing candidates in the mayoral contest, which will bode well for him on Oct. 25.

Pantalone told a Town Crier editorial board he offers a clear choice for voters whereas Rob Ford, George Smitherman, Sarah Thomson and Rocco Rossi offer varying degrees of the same.

“I’m the only progressive candidate for mayor,” Pantalone said.

“I’m running against a bunch of mini-Mike Harrises. All of them want to sell something. All of them want to contract out something. All of them want to shrink the city in terms of what we spend while the population is growing.”

Pantalone railed on several of his opponents’ ideas, including Smitherman’s idea to privatize some TTC bus routes, Rossi’s pledge to sell Toronto Hydro and what he says is Ford’s unrealistic notion of spending.

Meanwhile, the left-leaning Pantalone insists he’s not a prototype of Mayor David Miller but does share a similar vision for Toronto.

“I consider myself the heir of David Miller, Mel Lastman and Alan Tonks. In our society you build on the past,” he said. “(But) I am quite different than David Miller.”

Pantalone was quick to point out he supports several Miller initiatives and will continue to foster them.

Under Miller, the city has introduced an integrity commissioner, ombudsman, lobby registrar, and a new code of conduct.

But Pantalone said he will differ on Miller on taxes, vowing as mayor to phase out the personal vehicle registration tax and keep property tax increases at the rate of inflation.

Pantalone pointed out the city’s financial woes are due to a lack of revenue coupled with downloading.

“We are still suffering from the downloading of (former premier) Mike Harris. We have $500 million we spend on services the provincial government used to provide that Mike Harris downloaded and they have never been uploaded.”

Pantalone also stressed senior levels of government collected most of the taxes but haven’t reinvested enough in Toronto.

“As mayor of Toronto I want to insist they (senior levels of government) invest in our community.”

The current deputy mayor is pushing for investment in Transit City. He railed against the province for postponing $4 billion that would install new light rapid transit lines connecting the suburbs to downtown.

In fact, he said he’ll know he’s been successful as mayor if Transit City is well on the way by the end of his first term.

He said the city’s doing well when it comes to completing most construction projects on budget but has a problem getting work done on schedule.

One quarter of construction projects are late and he plans to change that by implementing what he referred to as project leaders.

“(The project leader) will have the ability to say no. So if Toronto Water says, ‘gee whiz you are digging that street? I forgot to tell you, I want to put in some additional pipes.’ They can say, ‘sorry that will delay the project, come back five years from now.’”

Pantalone has been on council for 30 years and likes his chances of becoming mayor.

“The present polls show Ford first, Smitherman second and me third,” said Pantalone.

“Six years ago at this time in the schedule when Miller ended up winning closely over John Tory the person first was Barbara Hall, second was John Nunizata and then this guy Tory and this other guy Miller.

“By election day, it had been completely reversed,” said Pantalone.

He also points out every Toronto mayor since 1902 started off as a councillor first.

“In 108 years there has not been a mayor of the City of Toronto who had not been previously a member of city council,” said Pantalone.

He also said he’ll have an easier time reaching consensus as mayor than his opponent and current mayoral candidate front-runner, Councillor Ford.

“Toronto city council is a team sport,” said Pantalone. “The mayor has to be a team captain.”

“Of all the votes at city council, Mr. Ford has been on the winning side 14 percent of the time, 86 percent of the time council voted against him. He’ll be a team captain without a team.”

When Ford came to a Town Crier editorial board Aug. 24 he said there will be 20-25 new councillors elected on Oct. 25.

Currently, nine councillors are either retiring or running for mayor. Pantalone said Ford is off-base in his calculations another 10-15 incumbents will be defeated.

“Rob Ford is dreaming in technicolour. He has his own dream and none of us are part of it. In the history of Toronto, the people who get defeated are rare.”

Pantalone also disputed the perception that most of his support is in the downtown.

“The Italian community is not downtown it’s North York, parts of Etobicoke and Weston,” he said the same of other ethnic communities he expects to support him.

“I’ve spent more of my time in Scarborough for example (in the election) than any other municipality accept where I sleep, downtown.”

Pantalone, who advocated the BMO soccer field, said he’s pushing for a cricket stadium, which he said will be popular draw for many immigrants living in the suburbs.

He’ll also push for voter reform so the 250,000 permanent residents who aren’t Canadian citizens can vote in future city elections.

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Posted: Sep 1 2010 7:32 pm
Filed in: NEWS
Edition: Toronto