Ripped from the headlines this glorious Thursday: Smitherman comes up huge with seniors, Ford gets angry, and the Imagine Concert is no more

Originally published in the Torontoist on August 12th, 2010. To go to the Torontoist please click here

If it were up to granny, George Smitherman would be our next mayor—at least that’s what an informal exit poll from yesterday’s mayoral debate seems to suggest. Hosted by the seniors advocacy group CARP, the debate was attended by the five leading mayoral contenders, along with some three hundred citizens who were asked to disclose for whom they would vote, both before and after the debate. Smitherman’s numbers leapt from 18% to 43%, as he promised seniors free TTC service during non-peak daytime hours and reminded his audience of the $1.1 billion Seniors at Home program he helped pass as health minister. Rocco Rossi’s numbers also jumped from 17% to 23%, while Rob Ford dipped a point from 8% to 7% after using the phrase “gravy train” to describe city hall. Lesson: food symbolism is not popular with our city’s elderly, and neither is Rob Ford.

Speaking of Rob Ford, boy, does that guy whip out some antiquated vocabulary when he’s miffed! Yesterday, the mayoral candidate sounded off about a recent decision to award an untendered twenty-year contract to Tuggs Inc., a boardwalk pub operator in the eastern Beaches area. Ford told the Toronto Sun that the in-camera meetings where the deal was made were rife with “skullduggery,” and that the whole thing “stinks to high heaven.” City staff wanted to put the concession up for public bidding, but councillors decided to negotiate a deal with Tuggs instead.

And the vitriolic battle between civic and provincial transit authorities lives to see another day. The Globe and Mail reported yesterday that the TTC is seeking bids from private partners for a multimillion dollar “open payments” fare system that would allow users to pay with credit, bank, or reloadable fare cards. The system would be in direct competition with the provincial Presto smart card, which is currently being implemented on GO transit and York’s Viva buses, and the current council hopes to award the contract before they vacate city hall this November 30. Mayoral candidates George Smitherman and Rocco Rossi have criticized the move as a rush job by an administration on the way out, while the Presto camp is under attack by disability rights activist and lawyer David Lepofsky, who says the card system doesn’t address the needs of the visually impaired.

Remember back in February when we were promised “2 days of love and music” in the form of a mythical beast known as the Imagine Concert? And remember in July when it got delayed? And then, earlier this month, when it got seriously downsized? Well, like most mythical beasts, it seems Imagine doesn’t exist, at least not in 2010. The festival’s Facebook page yesterday announced the fest “has been postponed until next year,” and a former Iron Butterfly, Larry Reinhardt, has been griping about the cancellation all over Facebook. We’ve been chronicling the sad fiasco here.

And a bridge reconstruction on the Gardiner Expressway near Jameson Avenue has left the commute somewhat mangled. Traffic has been reduced to two lanes in either direction until mid-December, with the project slated to be finished in November 2011. Luckily, the Star has detailed exactly what the reconstruction entails, and how best to avoid total gridlock.