Being Mayor is not about having power, it’s about empowering, and giving your city a voice… as soon as you bring politics into the picture, that’s when you start to divide communities.
– Robb Johannes
In case you missed the live stream of Accessible Media‘s coverage of the civic engagement fair Turnout Toronto on Mosaic City from April 10, have a listen to a podcast here and hear Robb speak about civic engagement in Toronto at 2:35 / 10:05 / 17:30 / 19:50.
A transcript of Robb’s interview is below:
On why he decided to run for Mayor:
I thought the 2010 Civic Election was a great example of what can happen when there’s a disconnect between candidates and communities. I felt there (were) a lot of people in Toronto that didn’t feel there was a candidate that really spoke for them; that could relate to them, that could speak for their issues, and could relate to their lifestyle. And I think that actually discouraged a lot of people — particularly young people — to go out and vote.
I felt that it was just a simple responsibility on my part to do more than just vote this time. I had been involved in the Downtown Eastside Vancouver in a lot of social justice work around the supervised injection site and homeless advocacy. I was able to register people to vote that did not have proper ID, who were not able to access the political process — but were such active members of their community that it almost seemed like a disservice to the electoral process that they could not vote.
I think just reaching out to communities and being more of a voice for Toronto is something that Toronto is currently missing, and that inspired me just enough to step up and get involved.
On civic engagement:
As a citizen it’s not enough to just go out and vote once every four years, which is why I think Turnout is such a great event, because it allows you access to tools that are very simple. Taking a day-to-day involvement in your own community’s affairs is just what being a responsible citizen is.
I don’t think the city is necessarily run by leaders — I don’t think leaders really exist, I think (so-called “leaders”) are supposed to be there as representatives that speak on behalf of communities. Being Mayor is not about having power, it’s about empowering, and giving your city a voice. It’s important for everybody to step up and acknowledge that they do have a voice and that it’s worth something.
On what Robb hopes people attending Toronto walk away with:
A sense of hope, a sense of empowerment, a sense of possibility that they have tools available to them that they can put to use to make their city better.
On the upcoming election:
Let’s get rid of the politics. Let’s have it not be about politics. Toronto is six amalgamated municipalities; you can commute an hour and a half and still be in the same city. There’s so much diversity. As soon as you start to bring politics into the picture, that’s when you divide communities.
The city needs to function well, it needs to be accessible, it needs to have transit that works, it needs roads without potholes — these aren’t political issues. It’s when you turn them into political issues that you start to have people choose sides.
My background coming into it, I’ve done conflict resolution in the federal prison system, I worked on police/community relations in the Downtown Eastside Vancouver — you have to be able to put your own personal politics aside and meet everybody where they’re at. And you have to be a listener and a facilitator. I think that’s what the role of a Mayor or any representative is.
Listen to the podcast at Accessible Media’s website.