Thursday, March 28, 2013

Some Great Idea

I work in news, so it's possible I just feel like certain stories are always running, but I don't think it's an exaggeration to say that Toronto's mayor, Rob Ford, is in the news way more than he ought to be. For ridiculous things. I've only lived in Toronto for four and half years. It is, if I'm honest, a city I never wanted to live in. Toronto always seemed so big and impenetrable and busy, but it turns out that once you get out of the car and start walking around (and get yourself a home base) it's a great place to live. I've lived in three distinct neighbourhoods since moving here and my job means commuting from downtown to the north part of the city – part of the city formerly known as North York. The more time I spend here, getting to know different neighbourhoods and learning to better navigate the transit system, the more I love this city. Edward Keenan, author of Some Great Idea also loves this city, and he turned his relationship with Toronto in a book that should be on every nightstand in the city.

Some Great Idea is an analysis of post-amalgamation Toronto – just the past 15 years, plus a few important influencers from the city's history. To describe it broadly, Keenan's book gives a rundown of what happened when the City of Toronto was amalgamated with its neighbouring municipalities (Etobicoke, York, North York, East York, and Scarborough) and then looks at the work and legacies of the three post-amalgamation mayors: Mel Lastman, David Miller, and Rob Ford, who is still in office. Each one brought his own brand of urbanism to bear and, says Keenan, each one mobilized a core of people, exciting his followers and infuriating his opponents and thus drawing an increasing number of voices into city politics. Of course, you can't talk about the city now without talking about its past, and Keenan folds the stories of historically important Torontonians into his narrative, as well as looking at how the various pieces of the new city had been planned and developed. It is, for someone who didn't grow up in Toronto, and incredibly edifying view of the city.

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