Matera - Mayor Raffaello De Ruggieri offered up a challenge to the Canadian delegation, which he (flanked by his Executive Council), had received in his offices to discuss the MOU on the twinning of Matera-Toronto.
Yes, he said, Matera would accept the MOU as written because the initial intent was to explore opportunities for co-operation between the two cities on matters of cultural significance and/or with tourism implications.
In an hour-long meeting, he offered up two very specific proposals that had not been on the table prior to the meeting. As an indication of his serious intent, he had secured the presence and input of the President of the Chamber of Commerce, the president of the Council of Lucani nel Mondo and that of his respective Executive Councillors responsible for Heritage and IT Applications.
First, he laid out a plan to welcome, immerse and integrate Canadian “budding and accomplished” artists in the “workshop” that Matera had become in the creative and restorative arts.
Second, despite the constraints of time remaining for the bidding process, he invited the delegation headed by York University Professor and former municipal bureaucrat, Frank Miele, to search out Canadian companies to participate in the 5G project. Matera, as part of the “infrastructure build-up” leading to 2019 when it will host the World as the “cultural Capital of Europe, has been designated as a nerve centre for the development of the next generation of IT platforms and communications. The project is international in scope and co-funded by the European Union and the Government of Italy.
Mayor De Ruggieri reached out specifically to MP Francesco Sorbara that he engage his expertise in finance and his access to the Canadian Minister of Finance to promote the economic potential of a Canadian participation in the 5G project.
Matera, along with Bari, will co-host the Economic component of the G7 next month when the Finance Ministers of those countries meet in advance of the Leaders’ meeting in Taormina.
He also specifically singled out the potential roles that the two businessmen/entrepreneurs members of the Basilicata Cultural Society (Dan Montesano and Pat Tremamunno) might play in bridging the richness of what Matera’s vibrant cultural arts community has to offer to what Canadian artists might wish to experience.
In that regard, the region and the national government have already put in place a program – “artisanship to artistry” that aims to recover knowledge of raw materials and techniques in “best use practices” – to maximize productivity of creative and restorative talent.
“It is there for the taking by the willing”, gushed Mayor De Ruggieri, “the rebirth of Matera and its renaissance of the priceless cultural heritage of the past needs to be shared. We have been the site of human activity for 10 000 years and only recently have we begun to peel back the veil covering a patrimony of creativity brought forth from people indigenous to the territory.” “Matera’s potential is exponentially greater than it relatively small population of some 60,000 people”, said his delegate, Michele Grieco, the Mayor’s spokesperson and representative assigned to the delegation. “It is an incubator for creativity, from art, engineering, to music and the culinary inventiveness that traditionally make Lucana cuisine a prized culture world-wide. The potential fruits of this twinning are as diverse as they are unlimited”, he added.
The presentation, live in a tour of the facilities available, included the University, the Conservatory and a Panificio (Bakery) whose service and products date back to 1890 – a fact incorporated in its name.
The University will be the Hub for the 5G project. Led by Professor Vincenzo Crispino, the Conservatory, with its 1,500 students and 110 staff – and a fully funded “exchange program” – will work with international students who aspire to professional music careers. Small and medium sized businesses like Maria Bruno of 1890 will share their command of the slow food business with restaurateurs and others.
The Toronto delegation will have a final copy of the MOU approved by Matera City Council fine tuned to include the outcomes of discussions for the approval delegation in 10 days by Toronto’s delegation.
MATERA - The twinning project started to take the definitive shape yesterday as the delegation headed by Frank Miele and led by Francesco Sorbara, mp from Vaughan Woodbridge, met with local officials from Basilicata at Palazzo San Gervasio, part of the Region of municipality of Potenza.
In display of the commitment of the initiative, the Mayor of Palazzo, Michele Mastro, opened City Hall to the delegation - which included Dan Montesano, President of the club Palazzo San Gervasio, Toronto, and Pat Tremamunno, senior Vice President of the Basilicata Cultural Society, Toronto - despite being the national holiday.
Joining the delegation at City Hall: Michele Grieco, representative from the Regional Municipality of Matera; assessore comunale, Luca Festino, Regional Councillor Aurelio Pace, President of the Commission for the Lucani nel Mondo; President of the foundation “Ente Morale D’Errico”, Dottor Mario Saluzzi; Mario Romanelli, representing the town of Palazzo in the same foundation; and, Lella Piarulli, former Vice Chair of the Regional Council of Potenza, and promoter of the initiative.
The group extended an invitation as well to the Mayor of Regional Municipality of Potenza, dott. ing. Dario De Luca, who, together with his wife, came to show his support.
TORONTO – The city's resources and its ability to raise the necessary funds to develop infrastructures are highly questionable. After all, the city has a cash shortfall of 7 billion dollars.
The mayor talks a good talk. It would be awesome if a mere press conference at Bloor and Yonge would suffice to solve Toronto's traffic conundrum. Unfortunately, infrastructures are built with funds.
Last Tuesday, the mayor discovered a great secret. He stated that without the Province's contribution, the city of Toronto cannot afford new projects. That’s big news?
John Tory knocks at the Province's, door asking it to contribute 40% of the total cost of all projects. Implicitly, he is threatening that Toronto may never fulfill the hope of a subway line extending into Richmond Hill. It remains a dream in the making … maybe … or as the ancient Greeks used to say: it’s "in the mind of Zeus.”
Finance Minister Charles Souza's upcoming new budget may include some spare change for the city of Toronto but, as of recently, the Province is not disposed in the affirmative.
Minister of Transportation, Steven Del Duca, has categorically accused John Tory of playing politics.
No other provincial government has invested more in Toronto's transportation needs as this government has done, claims Del Duca.
His list of projects carries a price tag of 12 million dollars and include the Eglinton LRT (under construction), the UP express from the Pearson Airport to Union Station, funding of the Scarborough Subway and of Tory's Smart Track, along with the purchase of new streetcars.
In the current economic climate, the City will not be able find $7 billion - it would be absurd to raise taxes on properties. Just the very idea of it makes one shiver. 2018 is around the corner. How many voters will rush to the ballot box to support the mayor for having increased their tax load?
Other countries, finance infrastructure programs employing formulae that do not rely as heavily on the Municipality’s input. Rome, for example, is building a new subway line (La Linea C). The national government contributes 70% of the cost, the Lazio Region 5% and the City of Rome 18%.
For the Madrid subway, the central government obtained a long-term loan from Germany that guaranteed to pay their obligations (bonds) in full. Elsewhere, Central governments take on the total cost of construction.
In Canada, the formula tends to split the load equally among the three levels of municipal, provincial and federal government. It puts excessive strain on municipalities because they have restricted revenue streams.
Hard negotiations, with often accentuated political overtones, become the norm.
The Scarborough LRT had been fully funded by the provincial government. It was cast aside by Rob Ford because he wanted the subway instead. John Tory insists with the same crazy idea. If the projected costs of the subway will reach the $5 billion mark, as expected, it may never be built, because for many the cost is not justifiable.
And, under the circumstances, that would be a reasonable outcome.
But reason sometimes takes strange short cuts. In The Betrothed, Alessandro Manzoni famous literary masterpiece, the author recounts the tale of the poor Don Abbondio. Alas, Abbondio, on the way home one day, ran into “I Bravi” (the bullies of the time) who blocked his way. “It is our Right!” the thugs yelled. Don Abbondio thought to himself: "Great locus for Rights to end up”.
John Tory was accused by Minister Del Duca of playing politics. Even if one wishes to absolve him of this sin, something is sure: traffic is getting worse. The Scarborough subway is preventing the realization of other viable projects. The Scarborough LRT, with seven stops, would have been completed in 2019.
Now, as it happens, we don’t have the LRT and the Scarborough subway is turning out to be more and more like a fable, a mere obsession of the mind.
TORONTO - The Scarborough subway is dogma for John Tory mayor and his acolytes. According to the news in recent days it would now seem that the project is in mortal danger.
In 2007, John Tory as Leader of the Conservative Party of Ontario, accused Premier Mc Guinty of not understanding the "real people". As a matter of fact, back then, he organized a tour of the province to meet his "real people".
Even then, he got stuck in another extremely controversial argument: extending public funding to religious schools. The "real people" rejected him during the elections, thus putting an end to his ambitions to become Premier of Ontario.
Today, the “real people” swear that the mayor has put his “faith" in the Scarborough subway. It seems, however, that the mayor has some trouble with math, and potentially with voters.
Let's start with the latter. Scarborough is a large reservoir of votes, and this is an infallible and convincing argument. Without Scarborough’s votes you can’t win. However, three quarters of the city lies outside Scarborough; and those people vote equally well.
The Corriere Canadese, in a recent editorial, pointed out that the West End is regularly ignored. It doesn’t even enter as part of the conversation.
Yet if, after a sleepless, troubled night, perhaps due to a late dinner date, the Mayor would have the unlikely idea to go at dawn and see what happens, so to speak, along Finch West, from Dufferin to the city’s limits, he would realize that many citizens (and these are citizens like everyone else) are waiting for a long awaited bus to get to work.
He would see the bus arriving already crammed with people, take on some passengers, leaving many unhappy others to wait for the next bus ... for hours. But because many of these passengers do not vote, as they do in Scarborough, this will be an unlikely field trip on the part of the mayor.
Last week, however, John Tory held a press conference at the Bloor and Yonge station, a step away from his home, to ask for funds from the Province. He talked about the so-called "relief line" which essentially is a section of subway deemed necessary to connect the Bloor-Danforth line with the center of the city.
During the press conference he literally said that the "relief line” is a 'necessity' because it will provide rapid transport to those who commute to work. At the same time, he said, it will alleviate the pressure on traffic, allowing those who are forced to use the car to go home early and spend more time with the family.
It’s a marvellous idea, and one which the mayor should also extend to the West End citizens who spend hours in the morning to go to work trying to grab a seat on the bus.
These citizens are mostly low-wage workers; many of them earn minimum wage; many are recent immigrants. Someone should discreetly suggest to the mayor that they too are "real people" - and voters. And they too have the right to spend time with their families.
Let’s move on to arithmetic. This is that science that has now become a bit out of fashion and that, when we were students, drove us all mad. That science however, taught us how to do math; add and subtract. Last December, the City of Toronto asked the Federal Government for $13.6 billion to fund infrastructure projects deemed essential.
In the Federal Budget of March, the government allocated $20 billion to be spent in ten years, across Canada.
Toronto has estimated that the city deserves up $5 billion for infrastructures and for the second phase of the Public Transit Infrastructure Fund. However, the criteria that this is based upon are not yet clear.
The federal government will verify the figures, but in the meantime it informed the city that the five billion includes the $660 million already promised for the construction of the Scarborough subway.
If we subtract these $660 million, Toronto will have $4 billion-$360 million to build: (1) the "relief line" - which will cost $6.8 billion, (2) The Scarborough subway, which cost $2 billion and that , according to experts, will rise to $5 billion (3) the Eglinton LRT East which will connect the subway to the University of Toronto Scarborough campus ,(4) the line along the lake (waterfront transit and (5 ) The Smart track that John Tory launched before the last election, which included 22 stations on the Go Train rails.
This was the Columbus’ egg used to solve the problem of city traffic. The engineers didn’t buy it and reduced the Smart Track to 4 stations. They also consider it of questionable usefulness 'and feasibility'.
How will the mayor use these numbers to square the circle?
TORONTO - There is a truism that, repeatedly, is forgotten when emotions are displace reason to justify aggression: “the first casualty of war is truth.”
Whose truth? It depends on the objectives and the consequences – cui bono, who profits. History suggests that there is no such thing as “objectivity” in issues of war.
Trump unilaterally decided to bomb a Syrian airfield to kingdom come – or hell, if you prefer. He did not seek Congressional approval, nor did he apparently ask for a “coalition of the willing” from any recognized international body of countries.
The alleged motivation was to punish the Syrian regime for killing civilians with nerve gas. The Civil War has been raging for 5 years, prompting at least 2.5 million refugees, countless deaths and destruction beyond the pale.
Some think that this display of strength and power is a good thing. The Centre for Research on Globalization, based in Montreal Canada, does not count itself among the cheerleaders. Citing studies authored by the UN Committee investigating the proliferation and use of chemical weaponry in the Syrian conflict, Prof. Michel Chassudovsky accuses Washington and the American Media of lying.
He goes on to say that the chemical weapons issue is a “false flag, a pretext and a justification to wage an illegal war of aggression”. He goes on to say that “there is no basis to the Trump accusations that the government of Bashar al Assad was involved in deliberately triggering a chemical weapons attack with a view to killing Syrian civilians”.
A BBC report, while accepting that five years ago the Syrian Army had the weapons and the potential to use them, further acknowledges that Daesh had captured stockpiles of that weaponry. Unlike the Syrian Army and its Russian Allies, Daesh is not even remotely related to international conventions and oversights on its military capacities.
Not surprisingly, Russia has sent some strong messages both condemning the air strike and supporting its client. Things are getting complicated. One hopes Trump’s team has thought through the entire process before there is an escalation of events and they spiral out of control.
The White House took pains to say that this is a “one off” event. So what was the purpose? Already reports counter-claim the impact of the 59 missiles on the functionality of the airport target. The Russians claim only 23 hit their intended targets. Planes are flying in and out.
Trump supporters still cheer this “show of strength”. Europeans give off rather tepid expressions of support. In other words, they won’t criticize … but they will not help. China characterizes the display as “stupid”.
A “professional” critique might even proffer that the “real target” was China. Its President was Trump’s host when the Americans launched the raid. The timing bordered on a veiled threat that China better co-operate on North Korea (and other matters) or the USA would do anything it wants. He wanted to give proof.
He may even have tired of the on-going setbacks in domestic affairs, and wanted to remind everyone that he is still “top dog”.
Trump snarled and bit because he could. The question is, did he and the US increase or restrict their options in so doing? So far, neither he nor his team have not demonstrated an ability to generate confidence in their competence.
Too bad. He is the Western World’s President, for good or for bad..