Recently, I did an interview for Adam Bemma from Montreal, and it’s posted on rabble.ca. The session was boiled down from about 25 minutes to a little under 12. If you get tired of listening to me, you can always close the window.
After my appearance on Metro Morning today, an interesting question came up from a caller — am I paid for the work I do by the TTC?
The answer, quite emphatically, is no. The last time the TTC paid me for anything was in 1969 when I left a clerical position there to return to school.
My professional life throughout the entire period of my transit activism has been in the Information Technology sector, most recently as Operations Manager for the Toronto District School Board’s IT department. I have my opinions about how TDSB was managed, but I keep them to myself as befits the role of an employee, and my advocacy has been in other sectors, mainly transit. I retired at the end of March. And, yes, as a manager I appeared on the “sunshine list” for 2008.
Over the decades, I have co-authored a few small reports for non-TTC agencies and have received small honoraria for appearing at community events. A $50 Chapter’s gift card is not going to change my lifestyle or buy my opinion.
I’ve been to countless meetings where the refreshments ranged from pizza and sandwiches, cookies, coffee, cold drinks (if you get there early), water or nothing at all. People buy me a beer now and then. Oh yes, Bombardier bought me breakfast once. I think it cost them about $15. Dinners at the Ritz are not my lot.
I am actually paid, but not much, for the articles I write in spacing magazine. The hard copy version, not the blog.
Part of being a “transit advocate” is to talk to people, to advise them on the details of my thoughts on issues. These have ranged over the years through the media, many parts of City Hall and Queen’s Park, community groups, even people within the TTC. Some listen more than others, but an advocate can’t expect to hit 100%. It’s the consistency and credibility of the message that matters.
I must say that the current environment both at the TTC and City Hall are a vast improvement over the days when talking to me was a firing offence at the TTC. That was a few Chief General Managers ago, and it’s not hard to figure out which CGM might have been so insecure as to have such an attitude. David Gunn was a huge breath of fresh air by contrast.
There are times that what I say supports TTC policies, and more times when I am highly critical. Indeed, there have been occasions when I do a better job of explaining what the TTC is up to than their own staff do (or can, given constraints on what employees can say).
Would I like to be paid for all of this? Well, at times I wonder why I do it, particularly all the work of maintaining this site, but it’s for a good cause. My cause may not align with the views others have of Toronto’s planning and transit. They are free to advocate on their own, although I have a few years’ head start.
The moment I get paid, my role would be suspect, and after a long period as a pro bono advocate, showing up as a paid spokesman might confer a credibility undeserved by the client. I’m not selling my reputation.
The 2005 Jane Jacobs Prize was a special honour in recognition of years of work. When I did a quick calculation, the $15k award came out to well under $1 an hour, although it was tax free. The honour was to receive this from Jane while she was still alive, and that I share it with so many others of distinction in our city. There is no formal requirement of the prize, although continuing my effort is likely assumed. It’s hard to imagine anyone on that award list treating it as a chance to retire from public life.
If I ever take on paid work, I will be the first to declare it here so that any possible conflict of interest is visible to all.
There is an article on blogTO about me by Crystal Luxmore for those who wonder what I do when I am not blogging.
Today’s Star contains an article about yours truly. While I’m really not one to bang my big bass drum (I will leave that to the politicians), I felt that some of you who either don’t read the Star or are further flung than its circulation territory might like to know about it.
Many thanks to Tess Kalinowski for such a flattering piece and to others for their kind, if occasionally frustrated, words.
On Sunday, I celebrated my sixtieth birthday by spending a great deal of time at the Film Festival. You will all have to put up with a series of reviews later in September as is my wont at this time of year. Yes, there was a party, but on Saturday and the hard core who stayed up late enough got to hear the City Hall clock chime in the day itself.
To my many friends and allies in the transit wars, thanks for helping to make this site a vital part of Toronto’s transit discussions. It’s not just my opinions that make the site work, but the interplay among the comments left by many readers.
To those who regard my views as hopelessly misguided, you’re welcome to your opinion, but I don’t have to publish it. Certain newspapers in this town don’t exectly line up with my political views. I may read them now and then, but I don’t waste my time on letters to the editor, and if I did, they certainly wouldn’t get printed.
Yes, I can be feisty at times and give ground rarely in debate. Over the decades, I have learned that feisty works with consistent, well thought-out positions. Being ever so concilliatory in the “please, Sir, will you read my humble submission” manner is a fast way to be ignored.
Underlying all of my activism on transit and other fronts is a strong desire to see a better Toronto. We have been waiting far too long for far too much. Toronto basks in a reputation earned when I was young, and we are still nowhere near building a 21st-century Toronto that comes up to the city’s mythology.
Retirement from my “real” job will come next April, but there’s much to do on the transit scene and retirement there is a long way off.
Send to steve (at) stevemunro (dot) ca. You can reassemble the email address yourself.
Who is Steve Munro and why should you read my stuff?
Well, let’s take the second question first. I hope that you’re reading this site because you are interested in transit (or any other topic I happen to take on) and its role in making Toronto a great city. You may not agree with everything I say, and I’m more than happy to listen to alternate opinions. In fact, there are some issues where I really can’t take a hardline position on one side or another. That’s one of the things that make a city work: that people care enough about it to discuss what we do well now, what we screwed up in the past, and where we should go in the future. That discussion, the exchange of ideas is what’s important so that we can build a better city.
Now if we happen to do so with more of my ideas than the contrary ones, I will grin and be happy. Continue reading