Cover Photo courtesy of Ari For Mayor
Our team recently had the chance to sit down (digitally) with Ari Goldkind, a criminal defence lawyer committed to truth and justice, and those who are least able to defend themselves. He now wants to guide Toronto to success instead of mediocrity, and make sure every Torontonian has a fair shot at the future, so he is running for Toronto mayor.
The True North Times: Why did you decide to enter this race? What unique traits do you bring?
Ari Goldkind: The unique trait I bring is a “No BS” attitude to mayoring. And that’s why I decided to enter the race. I was – and continue to be – absolutely appalled at the lack of leadership currently available in the mainstream collection of candidates. Not one of them has convinced me they are capable of running a city. Campaigns, yes. They can run them. But leadership? I see well-paid politicians who make decisions using a weather vane, and who write policy using an Etch-a-Sketch – easily erased and re-made tomorrow. Personally, in my day job, I make tough decisions every day. I have laid out my plan, and I spend my time trying to convince disillusioned voters that there is actually a sane and responsible choice out there. I have even said that if my principles cost me your vote, so be it. Those are my principles. Just like my luggage, I only have one set.
TNT: Rob Ford is running for re-election. What will you be able to bring to the people of Toronto that he won’t?
AG: Oh, let me see. Pride. Dignity. Accountability. Transparency. Leadership. Delegation. Innovation. Balance. Accessibility. Prudent investment. Sobriety. Advanced standing on the world stage. Jobs. Governance. Social Justice. Did I mention dignity? Tolerance. Organization. Progress. Health. Self-sufficiency. Infrastructure. Cooperation. Truth. Clarity. Comfort. Responsibility. Order.
TNT: You were a criminal defense lawyer, an often under-appreciated public servant. Will you still stick up for the little guy when in high political office?
AG: I always stick up for the little guy. Powerful, wealthy people always do fine. This city is made up of millions of “little guys” and each one deserves to be heard and respected. When I attain “high political office,” I will still be the same Ari – the one who put himself through law school as a souvenir salesman at the SkyDome. I have never had a trust fund or a gold-plated corporate salary to lean on. So of course I will continue to stick up for the little guy.
TNT: As a criminal defense lawyer, what would you say if asked to defend Rob Ford?
AG: I would say, “Yay, this guy can keep me busy for years!” I would take him as a client and then I would ask if I could handle his siblings as well as a package deal. The revenue from this caseload would pay for an express subway direct to the Turks and Caicos Islands from Union Station. Time to give Torontonians a reward for all that “subways subways subways” chatter.
Seriously, I would take him as a client the same way I have taken many other social undesirables. No matter the political, social, or personal cost, I would work as hard for him as I would for anybody else who got in trouble and needed my help. That’s my code. In the end everybody deserves their day in court, regardless what the public/police/media thinks of them. When there’s a chance that your freedom can be taken away, I want to make sure the system works fairly and properly. End of story. I do not drop difficult clients because they are difficult, no matter the price I pay. And if somebody doesn’t like that position, they are free to not vote for me.
TNT: What are the main policies that you are putting forward in your electoral platform?
AG: My complete plan is available online at ariformayor.com/plan. It does not change from week to week. It is a tough plan and as thorough as I can make it. My number one policy is to apply my talents as a problem solver and a tough negotiator. I am not an expert on certain issues, and I actually feel comfortable admitting that, rather than lying or pretending and at the end of the day meddling and getting nothing done. But I know how to pull the right people together. I know how to identify talent. I know who’s real, and who’s a pretender. So, I will apply my talents to transit, traffic, the police budget, deprioritizing the car, cutting where the real gravy is and using tax revenue to pay our way, including adding tolls and additional land transfer tax on the wealthy. Also no jets at the island airport. Those are my top few. But check it out online. There’s a whole lot more.
TNT: What do you expect your biggest challenge will be as Election Day draws closer?
AG: My biggest challenge is convincing the media and debate organizers to understand that there are other people in this race. I don’t blame them for being afraid of the clown, the porn star and the dominatrix; many municipal elections have those types of candidates. But it is unfair to city voters to dismiss serious contenders – those who have proven their viability by creating a solid plan, organizing a consistent campaign and obtaining extremely positive feedback from concerned voters in the community. There should be a middle group between the “established candidates” and the “fringe candidates,” called “the new candidates.” New candidates deserve a chance to be heard – to earn their spot in the limelight at least once.
TNT: The past twelve months has seen Toronto featured everywhere from the Daily Show to the Kuwaiti press. How would you restore Toronto’s reputation on the international stage?
AG: Reputations are restored through achievement, not through promises. By implementing the key elements of my plan from day one we can turn this city around to become a model 21st-Century smart city. I love Jon Stewart’s show and I PVR it every night, but the best way to keep Toronto away from comedians is to not provide them with material. Let’s get Toronto on shows like TedTalks instead.
TNT: Toronto City Council has become famous for shouting sessions, tackling colleagues, drinking milk, dancing, and tickling one another. What type of environment would you try to create in the Goldkind administration?
AG: I have thought long and hard about this, and I have decided that trap doors under every council seat would be best. Unruly councillors would descend down a short tube into a locked room filled with insurance salesmen.
Plan B would be for me to apply the Rules of Order, along with the existing code of conduct and to run a council that allows debate, does not tolerate strong-arming, and which keeps the esteem of the chambers held high. So long as elected officials are compensated by the public purse, they should demonstrate respect, rather than the casual (and sometimes overt) contempt for the public that the current leadership has chosen to display.
That doesn’t mean I lack a sense of poetic justice. I have been toying with the idea of holding council sessions all over the city, not only to allow citizens from every part of town to watch and participate, but also that all councilors would have to travel by public transit. In rush hour.
TNT: It seems like every other day someone new is throwing their hat into the ring. What do you think that says about this race? What makes you stand out from the crowd?
AG: Like I said above, every city gets to have a wide range of applicants. Some of these do it for a thrill, some do it for free publicity, and some do it because they are genuinely motivated to do some good for the city. The long electoral process does a double duty to voters by giving the less-well-known candidates a small chance to make their case, especially by social media, and it also starts the weeding out process.
The two things that I feel make me stand out from the crowd are the completeness of my plan, and the sheer number of people who have communicated with me, both in person and on social media, and who have said, “finally a candidate with some actual substance.” People want a change from the existing mayor as well as from the existing big four. Everywhere I go, when I chat with people in person, they tell me they are not excited about the current choices. When they ask me questions and hear my actual answers, that’s when they get excited.
Good ideas come from motivated people. Also the open-door policy of applying for mayor should help encourage younger voters to think about civic leadership and governance as a career option. It should never be only about recycling the status quo.
TNT: Lastly, if you could impart one piece of wisdom to our readers, what would you tell them?
AG: Vote. Definitely vote. Make the time to form a decision, and vote. If you think your vote means nothing or changes nothing, you’re wrong. If it didn’t mean so much, these big-shot candidates would not be spending so much time and money out on the campaign trail. Ultimately politicians at any level are accountable to the public, but their strongest tools are voter ignorance and voter apathy. It is that, more than anything else, which gives them a free ride to misbehave and mis-spend. So above all, make an informed choice, tell your friends, communicate on social media, and go out and vote. For me.
Update (15/06/2014): The second and third question in our interview were mistakenly replaced with responses from another interview. It has since been corrected.
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