Tuesday, November 04, 2003

It’s Miller Time

Like some sort of idiot, I underestimated the popularity of the David Miller / Jane Jacobs extravaganza last night at the Gladstone. (I also thought the room it was being held in was bigger). I got there at 7:50pm and there was a lineup, in the rain at least a block long and the event sold out minutes later. There were so many excess people that we filled the main bar of the Gladstone. Despite promises of wiring sound to the overflow crowd, it became clear such a thing wasn’t going to happen so I went to leave. Walking by the sidedoor of the Gladstone, I noticed a clutch of people huddling and listening. Some kind soul had propped open the emergency exit, and since I’m tall, I was able to see and (mostly) hear the first hour of the fracas. Playwright Deanne Taylor had a funny bit about Toronto’s lack of self-esteem, while the other three panelists (Daniel Macivor, Nino Ricci and Luis Jacob), said some stuff that had the potential to be interesting.

During the intermission, some kind soul snuck us in.

Miller won the crowd over during his lecture on Beauty and The Aesthetic City, mostly by admitting he had no idea what the topic meant. Like many people my age, I have deep skepticism toward politics, but Miller seems like a decent, intelligent guy. The fact that he actually knew something about Parkdale -- citing the success of 1313 Queen West -- was impressive. More important, however, was the endorsement he received from Jane Jacobs, who sat patiently in a warm smoky bar for two hours before being allowed to speak. She talks softly and with some frailty, because she is very old, but it was exciting to be in the same room as the author of the brilliant The Death and Life of Great American Cities. The best thing she said was: "We need someone who can outsmart the Provincial government and the Federal government."

In that regard, I trust Miller more than the unfortunately named John Tory. But whoever wins, Toronto will be in a better position than it has been in a long time, since Lastman couldn’t outsmart a wet brown paper sack.

(For further municipal thoughts from the Toronto blogosphere, visit Last Chance City).