Interview #7: Toronto, ON Councilor Shelley Carroll

No one is better equipped to give us the director’s commentary on the Toronto city council meeting than longtime councilor and Twitter powerhouse Shelley Carroll.

She told me the scoop on Rob Ford, council drama, and her fantasy hockey team.

Q: How many people usually show up to watch? And follow-up question: how many moose usually show up?

A: It’s been a while since we’ve had a moose. In terms of how many “municipal nerds” are there–

Q: Your phrase, not mine.

A: We have a lot of bloggers–the councilors call them Twitterati. There’s about a dozen of them. If we’re doing something with taxis or Uber, there’s 500-600 people in there. The lowest it ever gets is around 50-70 people.

Q: You are the deputy speaker. I saw what the speaker does and it looks exhausting. What does the deputy speaker do?

A: In my case the deputy speaker doesn’t do a whole heck of a lot.

Q: Nice!

A: The speaker you saw is very, very possessive about being in that chair. She had a rough time during the Rob Ford years. She asked to be speaker again under a new mayor and it was a tough vote. She almost didn’t make it. She is doing a pretty good job with a pretty crazy council.  But I’m lucky if I get to be in the chair ten minutes a day.

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Toronto, ON Councilor Shelley Carroll

Q: Oh boy, you mentioned He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. Obviously the Rob Ford scandal was a tough time for everyone–except late night comedians. After the crack-smoking news got out, were council meetings more hostile?

A: Definitely. Oftentimes he wan’t the most hostile force in the room. His brother was.

Q: When the council was debating what to do with Rob Ford, one reporter tweeted this:

Is that true?

A: Yeah. By the time we were taking his powers away, it was petty on all sides. I’ve been in office since 2003. That two weeks leading up to taking Rob’s powers away were the most “together” council has ever been. He was just completely humiliating us. That was right after he said the horrible thing about his wife to the media.

Q: I saw the video, yes.

A:  I spent a lot of time on Twitter inoculating myself from their bullying.  “Don’t mess with me or I’ll tweet it!”

Q: Are there any councilors you do not like? You don’t have to name–

A: Giorgio Mammoliti.

Q: Noted. Now, suppose the Montreal city council challenged you to a game of hockey. Which five Toronto city councilors would you pick for your team?

A: Oddly, I probably would take Giorgio Mammoliti. He would throw them for a loop the whole time.

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We’d probably match them wit for wit, so we’d have to take Gord Perks.

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I would take Janet Davis. Councilor Davis is obsessed with reading every word of every report. She would read about a year’s worth of every agenda in the Montreal council. She would lay waste to them.

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We’d take Josh Matlow because he’s a part-time Montrealer and he would beat them on their own level.

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My one more pick, I would take Joe Cressy. He’s just the youngest and most nimble person on council. So he would whip their ass athletically.

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Q: I’m a bit surprised that a Canadian just said “ass,” but I’ll let it slide.


Follow Councilor Shelley Carroll on Twitter: @shelleycarroll

#36: Toronto, ON 7/12/16

Oh, baby! It’s Canada Week here at the Chronicles! I hope you packed a passport and your curling uniform, because we’re off to the Toronto city council meeting.

Meeting? Sorry. I meant “endurance test.”

These hardy Maple Leafers hunkered down for T-E-N H-O-U-R-S. And as it turns out, ten hours in Canada converts to ten AMERICAN hours as well. Lucky me.

Speaking of America, Mayor John Tory began by saying goodbye to Toronto’s Philadelphia-bound transportation manager–and good luck. “If there are any circumstances which TRUMP your desire to return home, you’ll always be most welcome here,” he remarked dryly as the room erupted in laughter.

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Oh, yeah? Well…who’s your president? A moose? Ha, burned.

Next came the excruciating process of figuring out a.) who wanted b.) to say what c.) and when on the city budget. (Hint: every. body. wanted. to. talk.)

“On page 10,” Councilor Michael Thompson politely requested, “I’m just wondering, is it possible to have this Thursday morning as a first item–”

Loud grumbles rolled in from councilors who had Thursday morning in their crosshairs.

“There’s also a desire to hold the supervised injection [debate] at that time!” Councilor Joe Mihevc protested.

Council Speaker Frances Nunziata raised a hand. “I’m sorry but Councilor Thompson had his name before yours,” she curtly shut him down. It’s a reminder of that old saying: “the early bird gets the sweet Thursday morning discussion slot.”

It was a minor tiff–but by hour 2.5, tempers really flared.

During routine questioning of the city manager, Councilor James Pasternak casually inquired about sloppy staff recommendations: “What strategies do you have to make sure that shenanigans stops?”

As the city manager defended himself, Councilor Gord Perks perked up.

“Councilor Pasternak just described city staff’s budget process as ‘shenanigans,'” the wavy-haired man complained.  “I ask that he withdraw that.”

“Madam Speaker, Councilor Perks has twisted my words!” protested Pasternak.

The speaker was on his side. “Continue,” she ordered Pasternak. Then she froze. “Councilor Perks is challenging my ruling.” One off-mic councilor hollered what sounded like a profanity. This is amazing–I’m already googling “how to move to Canada.”

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You challenge a Canadian speaker by hip-checking her on the ice rink.

A high-pitched chime pulsed in the chamber–like a creepy kid’s toy–signaling that councilors had to vote on whether to back their fearless leader.

Final tally: 23-9. The speaker wins.

After break to eat lunch and walk off the crankiness, councilors returned to a familiar dilemma: cut services or raise taxes?

“There’s a number of things we do as a city that we don’t have to be doing,” Councilor Giorgio Mammoliti grumbled. “We don’t have to be in the childcare business! Why the hell aren’t we talking about this stuff?!”

Another councilor–ever polite–corrected him. “Heck.”

Mammoliti scowled. “Hell.”

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Others are visibly shocked by Councilor Mammoliti’s language.

It was the bottom of the ninth (hour). The humans were tired but, oddly enough, the machines were even tireder.

As Councilor Thompson spoke, several loud booms rocked the sound system.

Then…dead mic.

“Yeah, I don’t know what’s going on,” the speaker shrugged, not entirely upset at this gentle suggestion by Fate.

“Shut ‘er down!” shouted Councilor Shelley Carroll, chomping to get out of Dodge.

Unluckily for her, the mics rebooted, letting Councilor Thompson inch the meeting across the ten-hour line. Ugh, I’m getting too old for this sh…enanigans.

Final thoughts: Stay tuned! There’s more Canada Coverage on Wednesday and Friday!