A Note to Would-Be Politicians

I have received a few comments from candidates for various offices.

Please note that I do not intend to post any of these unless they bear directly on the issue where they appear, and then are comments on the issue rather than advertisements for the candidate.

If you want to publish your candidacy to the world, get your own website, use Facebook and take your chances with whatever traffic you might achieve.

As and when major candidates publish transit policies, I will comment on them, but on my terms.

15 thoughts on “A Note to Would-Be Politicians

  1. Steve,

    Just to play devil’s advocate (or whatever the term is): Isn’t technically speaking what you just posted technically undemocratic?

    I agree with most things you say but there are times when we don’t agree, we talk about it and voila.

    You might not agree with their points of views but under the umbrella of democracy, shouldn’t you allow people to express their opinions?

    You know I am supporting one candidate, would you find it wrong if I comment on how my candidate views transit?
    What about if the other 29 candidates’s supporters do the same?

    You know which media 6 candidate I will never support, just because I don’t agree with him/care for him/think he should be breathing that he should be shut out.

    You are sort of shutting democracy in a way.

    Steve: I refuse to have my site hijacked for self-serving advertising by candidates, let alone having to moderate the inevitable stream of comments that will follow. Let them get their own websites.

    If candidates want to comment on issues under discussion here, they like anyone else can do so and I won’t mind them saying “I am a candidate for Dog Catcher in Ward 57”.

    I have no legal requirement to be “democratic”, whatever that may mean, nor should this be the primary source for a candidate’s platform announcements. You want an announcement? Hold a press conference. Update your web site. Print flyers. Build a Facebook page. But don’t expect me to be the primary host for your message.

    If someone has something interesting to say and worth reporting on, in my highly biased but ever so humble opinion, then I will report and comment on it. If someone thinks that filing for Councillor or Mayor entitles them to free space on my site, they are abusing my generosity in providing the venue in the first place.

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  2. Miroslav,

    I disagree with you totally. It is Steve’s site, he is free to do with it whatever he wishes. He is not being “anti-democratic”, he is not preventing anyone from expressing their opinions, he is just saying “not on my website”. Following your logic, any candidate should be free to place a “Vote for Me” sign on your front lawn, even if you you totally disagree with them, because isn’t not letting them put a sign on your lawn “anti-democratic”?

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  3. Steven,

    I mere decided to see both sides, and it is sort of censorship.

    Putting a sign on my lawn is different.

    I have commented on Steve many many many times. Sometimes he comments, sometimes he doesn’t comment. Just like I am entitled to my opinion, he is entitled to his own opinion. All media outlets and “social media” blogs are biased. In my own opinion if you write an article then you should be open to people stating their differences.

    Putting a lawn sign means you are moving an object made out of plastic and either wood or metal (sign, metal/wooden rods and the nails/screws/plastic ties) on my property, that is the difference.

    There is a difference between……..

    (1) I don’t agree with Steve Munro because
    (2) What the is wrong with you Steve? You are a idoit, .

    Do you see the difference? All this censorship is the reason why we have media 6 candidates and 24 “no one will ever hear candidates because the media will never give them more than one sentence/one minute” candidates.

    Steve stated his opinion, I stated my opinion, Steve stated his opinion based on my opinion, you stated your opinion based on my opinion and now I am stating my opinion based on your opinion on my opinion.

    By the way Steven, if you get me a bus in 20 minutes in front of my house. I will vote for you.

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  4. Oh dear. I fear this may be my fault – for asking an “are you running for councillor” question on another post. I probably should have just pointed out that the link was invalid and left it at that.

    Steven is right – this is Steve’s site and he’s free to do with it what he likes.

    My apologies Steve, if my comment was what tripped this off.

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  5. Uh oh, by the tone of Steve’s post I reckon he got up on the wrong side of the (LRT track-)bed this mornin’ … 🙂

    Steve, I think they’re approaching you because they feel you have an established audience and because transit is such a pivotal issue in this election. It’s the same reason why those residents at Greenwood and Donlands contacted you — to get the message out.

    What did they want you to do that’s got you so riled up? … renounce your devilish LRT ways and push subways from here to kingdom come? … 🙂

    At least give them a little bit of air-time — who knows, a good fight over the details of each candidate’s plan might be fun.

    Steve: It’s more a case of choking it off while it’s a trickle (that I have not let through) and telling people not to waste their time unless they are going to comment on specific issues under discussion here.

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  6. Don’t give them a drop of your ink, Steve. These candidates for public office only acknowledge the existence of an informed transit advocacy community when it suits their purpose. Furthermore, not one of them has demonstrated that they really know or care about the true transit issues in Toronto today. They merely want to milk the public’s interest in the subject as part of the run-up to the election. They’ll just drop us like some cheap pick-up from a bar the morning after the election.

    Since each of these mayoral candidates has suddenly found a deep need to share with Torontonians their concern for and understanding of the issue, then let them come to an all-transit all-candidates meeting that we could collectively arrange. That will give them all a chance to win us over. Let’s see if any of them takes up that challenge. We already know that their handlers read this website, so the answer shouldn’t be long in coming.

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  7. Having run a website with a comments section myself, there is this strange notion amongst some people that they should be able to say whatever they like on your website… freedom of speach does mean other people are obliged to reproduce it 100% verbatim. I totally support Steve in his policy here.

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  8. Why do some people seem to think that every little thing that operates in a democratic society has to be democratic? Though this stems from a comment by Miroslav, I pose that rhetorical question in a more general sense.

    The last time I checked, the banner at the top of pages on this site say, “Steve Munro’s Web Site.” I gather from that name that it is run by Steve and he makes the rules regarding what gets posted here. A person’s web site is not supposed to be a democracy, so technically speaking, that would make it ‘undemocratic’, but I find that term tends to be thrown about as if it were describing something that threatened the fabric of society.

    Then the word ‘censorship’ comes into the discussion. This is just as bad, because the next step is to claim that someone’s right to free speech is being crushed. Newsflash: the right to free speech does not come with the right to have a podium and stage to exercise that freedom, nor does it come with the right to have an audience listen.

    If your words do not appropriately fit into the discussion, as determined by Steve Munro, it won’t be seen here. Get your own site or print your own flyers.

    Quite frankly, I have not seen a single candidate who was in favour of building more subways that can articulate just why they are needed, let alone where they should go. If any were to comment on specifics like this, I suspect Steve would let it through – with his comments, of course!

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  9. Steve’s actions are not anti-democratic. It’s his site and he can do whatever he wants with it.

    It only becomes anti-democratic if Steve went to other ISPs and tried to shut them down to prevent politicians from advertising there. And that almost never happens. 🙂

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  10. Miroslav,

    I don’t understand the distinction you’re making. This site belongs to Steve; just because it is accessible to the public doesn’t make it public property. Just like you have every right to control what is put on your private property, he has every right to control what is put on his private property (his website). A front yard is visible to anyone passing by on the street or the sidewalk, a website is visible to anyone with web access. Just because the means of access is different doesn’t change the fact that both are private property and the owner has the right to control what opinions are expressed on them. If you were to go to Apple’s website and post “Microsoft Rules”, I doubt your post would be there very long. So why should Steve’s site be any different?

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  11. Let me chime in on this if I may. It’s Steve’s site and he can definitely do what he wants, BUT, I feel he’s made a mistake. I don’t know who contacted him but he’s passing up a great opportunity to have an open dialog about our transit problems with some of the people who might actually be positions of power to do something about them next year.

    By essentially telling these candidates to f-off, and that’s what he’s done, he’s closed that door.

    The whole point of this site, as I see it, is to talk openly about issues and each candidate’s plans in the hope that the planning and operations folks over at the TTC and Metrolinx will want to read the articles here and act on some of the suggestions presented. Isn’t that the whole point of stevemunro.ca anyway? Lots of great ideas get posted here, but I don’t see any of them actually being implemented. Why?

    One of the disconnects that I can’t get my head around, and I don’t mean this as an insult to Steve but … in the internet blogsphere his word is gospel (except at UrbanToronto.ca!), but what I hear through the grapevine from the folks at the TTC and Metrolinx about his views is somewhat less flattering. I don’t see that changing unless WE change the tone of some of the discussions here.

    Steve: I am flattered to know that my word is not gospel throughout the TTC and Metrolinx. I have deep concerns about the quality of advice provided by some members of both organizations to their respective Boards (not to mention concerns about how those Boards operate at times). Some people at both organizations are doing good work, and it even shows up from time to time in public reports and proposals. In both cases, institutional “culture” gets in the way of a lot of good ideas.

    On balance, I know that not just my own writing, but the contributions of many others here provide vital information to professional staff, to politicians and to the media. They don’t have to agree with it all, but they are exposed to a variety of viewpoints, including those that disagree with me (although if they want the really vitriolic stuff, they too can read UrbanToronto). I’m not sure that “we” need to change the tone of discussion here. What are “we” supposed to do? Drool over every ridiculous proposal that TTC, GO or Metrolinx makes? Swallow whole the idea that it is impossible to improve service due to the constraints of mixed traffic, congestion and the occasional plague of locusts? If I wanted to be a cheerleader for the TTC, I would demand that they pay me, and the relationship would at least be a formal one in the long tradition of consultants of negotiable virtue.

    I’ve been doing this for a long time, since before the web even existed and my “influence” such as it might be was exercised a few people at a time. Some agencies’ staff didn’t like me then either. I am still here and, dare I say it, reasonably respected by enough to make the effort worthwhile.

    Ideas here don’t get implemented? I’ve been advocating the DRL East since before it was fashionable to do so, and my DRL doesn’t stop at Pape & Danforth. LRT is slowly, at last, gaining acceptance as a technology. The idea that good service should not depend on schedules begins to dawn on a few folks, although it will be an uphill battle. I could go on, but I won’t. For nearly 40 years, I have been content to win a few big battles, but there are far more small advances that come simply from having a growing awareness of how transit works, what questions should be asked, what options might be ignored by too-comfortable transit management or politicians.

    In the four-plus years I have been running this site, the debates in these threads have allowed me to hone arguments, even to shift position on occasion (!!!), but most importantly to have a broad sense of the positions others take “out there”. This is invaluable, although it can make me seem insufferable at times because I seem to have an answer for everything. Try moderating a blog like this for several years, and you will reach the same point whether the subject is public transit, waste management, education, health care or finance. The discussions are long and sometimes tedious, but almost always interesting.

    As for candidate debates, if I am going to host something like that, in fairness I need to seek out all (or most) of the candidates for Mayor and Council, not just those who want to use my site as a platform. That’s a lot of work, and I prefer to review what candidates announce and publish on their own. Let them show they have the initiative to develop a platform. It is more likely that a review of platforms will appear on the Spacing Votes site (possibly with cross postings here) later in the year.

    As I said before, if a candidate wants to comment on a specific issue, rather than just saying “Hi, I’m running” or even worse “Hi, what should my platform be?”, then I will be happy to let such comments through complete with credit for their status as a candidate.

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  12. If I may make a suggestion … say you take one candidate that approached you, do a write-up on their platform and then host a Q & A, where maybe some of our moderated “comments” are forwarded to them as questions. They reply, and then you post those replies here, along with your comments. Or maybe some kind of Q & A in a real-time chat where you’re the host and they’re the guest — that might be something to look into. You wouldn’t be losing control of the site, you’d just be taking it to the next level, and might reach a wider audience.

    When you think about it, this is really the only transit site for the TTC. Urban Toronto is an LRT vs. subway war zone, metronauts.ca died, and Transit Toronto is more on the historical side of things.

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  13. I do agree with Steve on this. Like he said, if a candidate posted a statement with regards to a specific topic, then yes of course it should be allowed, regardless of whether or not Steve agreed – Steve has, and I hope will, continue to correct posts at the bottom if there is an issue. I know I do make mistakes from time to time about information, or with a statement that Steve does not agree with. However, he politely corrects the mistake out (with why it is wrong), or explains why he may disagree with the statement.

    For a candidate to make a general statement (especially something like “What should my platform be?”), then he/she is not reading what is being written and is just trying to get Steve (and/or the rest of us) to create a platform for them.

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  14. Concepts such as democracy, majority rules and censorship are often misunderstood and, with respect to their supposed “virtue” misapplied. One of the cruelest form of tyranny can in fact be the tyranny of the majority. It is likely, for example, that a majority of people polled might want to ban bicycles from arterial roads. This is because it would lead to a minor improvement for a large number of car drivers. However, it would also be a major – indefensible – imposition on the much smaller number of bicyclists.

    When “majority rule” and “democracy” are used as a governance concept without reference to the relative importance, impact and basic fairness of decisions on majority and minority populations, great injustice can result.

    Similarly, the concept of “censorship” is often misapplied. Censorship is generally seen as being bad, but that doesn’t mean the unfettered right to objectionable or self serving speech in any forum at all. If a government banned election campaigning, that would be an unacceptable form of censorship – though even in this case not in all cases. (Do we want a Nazi/Holocaust Denier to have full freedom to spew his hatred?)

    When a private individual choses what discussions can be included in his or her private forum, that is entirely justified. To suggest otherwise is to interfere with the freedom of the host/owner of the forum to have the freedom to speak or the choice not to speak and the freedom to set the parameters of the discussion.

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