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Are Giorgio Mammoliti and Jim Karygiannis that Different from Raccoons?

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Yes, but only in the bad ways.

Few things unite Toronto as much as raccoons. Everyone has a story, whether it be the inventive ways their friendly neighbourhood raccoon cracked the safe that is their green bin, or how the masked critters adorably peek through their patio doors at meal time.

With all due respect to the Trinity-Bellwoods white squirrel(s), raccoons may well be the iconic animal of Toronto. They’re everywhere, after all, and a nuisance, but provide a conversation topic as accessible as the weather or out-of-control real estate prices.

And so, naturally, raccoons became the focus of city hall today as council debated the $31 million contract for new raccoon-proof green bins that are projected to last 10 years.

In particular, two councillors challenged the idea that the new green bins could work, and said they would act like raccoons to prove it.

So they did. Giorgio Mammoliti (Ward 7, York West) and Jim Karygiannis (Ward 39, Scarborough-Agincourt) tapped into their inner raccoons and put on a show, drawing CP24 cameras to their procyon aura with otherworldly skill. Being not-actual raccoons, they broke the bin. But, being actual buffoons, they insisted that in doing so in order to prove the city’s contract with the green bin providers was a bad move. All told, the stunt hijacked the morning and early afternoon of the third day of council’s May meeting.

Maybe we should pay attention and be concerned for these individuals. After all, with their behaviour, these two councillors raised a question of great public interest: are Mammoliti and Karygiannis really that different from raccoons? If we’re worried about raccoons taking over, shouldn’t we worry that their kind have not only infiltrated your green bin, but also city hall?

Not a raccoon. File photo by Giordano Ciampini.

There’s a fearful symmetry to the bro-tandem that is Giorgio Mammoliti and Jim Karygiannis. They sit in mirror seats on either side of the council chamber, and their devotion to civic belligerence is matched only by Rob Ford (Ward 2, Etobicoke North). They may be relatively small in number, but their influence on council can be overwhelming. Whether intentional or not—it is sometimes difficult to tell—the two councillors have the ability to overturn the green bin that is our civic discourse. Like today, they embrace that role.

They, like our more adorable raccoon friends, conduct themselves with a certain air: they are shameless, defiant, and if you ask them to get off your lawn, they will puff out their chests.

But, and this might be difficult to believe, there are differences between real raccoons and the raccoon-like councillors that so often overshadow council meetings.

Not a raccoon.

Raccoons are a natural part of the urban ecosystem, and they’re just trying to get by like anyone else. So long as you secure your green bin and aren’t aggressive with them, they (mostly) won’t bother you. There’s probably a bylaw about this.

Mammoliti and Karygiannis—and this may be controversial—should be held to a higher standard than raccoons. After all, they’re city councillors. There’s any number of serious issues that are more germane to their constituents, like transit, housing, and youth unemployment, than how much media coverage they can generate (which is considerable, if this article is any indication). But unlike raccoons and their redeeming features, Mammoliti and Karygiannis don’t seek to co-exist in their environment, or slink stealth-like in the margins. Instead, they insist on commanding attention they do not deserve, as though speaking loudly is a form of credibility.

If Mammoliti and Karygiannis feel they must act like raccoons, which is their right, then we kindly ask that they find a green bin far away from city hall, and waddle away to where we can safely ignore them and their influence.

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3353 days ago
Mammoliti & Karygiannis—worse than Toronto racoons!
Toronto, Canada
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Ladies & Gentlemen of A.D. 2088

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Back in 1988, as part of an ad campaign to be printed in Time magazine,Volkswagen approached a number of notable thinkers and asked them to write a letter to the future—some words of advice to those living in 2088, to be precise. Many agreed, including novelistKurt Vonnegut; his letter can be read below.

(Source: TIME, 1988; Image: Kurt Vonnegut, courtesy ofMike Schroeder.)

Ladies & Gentlemen of A.D. 2088:

It has been suggested that you might welcome words of wisdom from the past, and that several of us in the twentieth century should send you some. Do you know this advice from Polonius in Shakespeare's Hamlet: 'This above all: to thine own self be true'? Or what about these instructions from St. John the Divine: 'Fear God, and give glory to Him; for the hour of His judgment has come'? The best advice from my own era for you or for just about anybody anytime, I guess, is a prayer first used by alcoholics who hoped to never take a drink again: 'God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.'

Our century hasn't been as free with words of wisdom as some others, I think, because we were the first to get reliable information about the human situation: how many of us there were, how much food we could raise or gather, how fast we were reproducing, what made us sick, what made us die, how much damage we were doing to the air and water and topsoil on which most life forms depended, how violent and heartless nature can be, and on and on. Who could wax wise with so much bad news pouring in?

For me, the most paralyzing news was that Nature was no conservationist. It needed no help from us in taking the planet apart and putting it back together some different way, not necessarily improving it from the viewpoint of living things. It set fire to forests with lightning bolts. It paved vast tracts of arable land with lava, which could no more support life than big-city parking lots. It had in the past sent glaciers down from the North Pole to grind up major portions of Asia, Europe, and North America. Nor was there any reason to think that it wouldn't do that again someday. At this very moment it is turning African farms to deserts, and can be expected to heave up tidal waves or shower down white-hot boulders from outer space at any time. It has not only exterminated exquisitely evolved species in a twinkling, but drained oceans and drowned continents as well. If people think Nature is their friend, then they sure don't need an enemy.

Yes, and as you people a hundred years from now must know full well, and as your grandchildren will know even better: Nature is ruthless when it comes to matching the quantity of life in any given place at any given time to the quantity of nourishment available. So what have you and Nature done about overpopulation? Back here in 1988, we were seeing ourselves as a new sort of glacier, warm-blooded and clever, unstoppable, about to gobble up everything and then make love—and then double in size again.

On second thought, I am not sure I could bear to hear what you and Nature may have done about too many people for too small a food supply.

And here is a crazy idea I would like to try on you: Is it possible that we aimed rockets with hydrogen bomb warheads at each other, all set to go, in order to take our minds off the deeper problem—how cruelly Nature can be expected to treat us, Nature being Nature, in the by-and-by?

Now that we can discuss the mess we are in with some precision, I hope you have stopped choosing abysmally ignorant optimists for positions of leadership. They were useful only so long as nobody had a clue as to what was really going on—during the past seven million years or so. In my time they have been catastrophic as heads of sophisticated institutions with real work to do.

The sort of leaders we need now are not those who promise ultimate victory over Nature through perseverance in living as we do right now, but those with the courage and intelligence to present to the world what appears to be Nature's stern but reasonable surrender terms:
  1. Reduce and stabilize your population.
  2. Stop poisoning the air, the water, and the topsoil.
  3. Stop preparing for war and start dealing with your real problems.
  4. Teach your kids, and yourselves, too, while you're at it, how to inhabit a small planet without helping to kill it.
  5. Stop thinking science can fix anything if you give it a trillion dollars.
  6. Stop thinking your grandchildren will be OK no matter how wasteful or destructive you may be, since they can go to a nice new planet on a spaceship. That is really mean, and stupid.
  7. And so on. Or else.
Am I too pessimistic about life a hundred years from now? Maybe I have spent too much time with scientists and not enough time with speechwriters for politicians. For all I know, even bag ladies and bag gentlemen will have their own personal helicopters or rocket belts in A.D. 2088. Nobody will have to leave home to go to work or school, or even stop watching television. Everybody will sit around all day punching the keys of computer terminals connected to everything there is, and sip orange drink through straws like the astronauts.


Kurt Vonnegut Vonengut
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3771 days ago
24 years on, we are still choosing abysmally ignorant optimists as leaders.
Toronto, Canada
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