Sunday, April 10, 2016

Grace notes and missed opportunities

Rob Ford has died. Rest in peace.

After a pause, a very brief pause, in the interests of decency, the negative assessments of Rob Ford's performance as mayor have started. And indeed, Rob Ford's tenure in the mayor's office was a disaster, most of all for Rob Ford. Edward Keenan's got it mostly right. Heck, nearly everybody has it right. Rob Ford's talents, his outlook, did not match the skills and the perspective a mayor needs.

Rob Ford believed in servant government. Politicians should believe in servant government. If more politicians really wanted to serve the people, instead of socking away money in off-shore tax havens, we wouldn't just have better government, we'd have a better world. Rob Ford wanted to solve people's problems. He wanted to serve as the kindly scullery maid handing leftovers out the back door. He wanted to answer phone calls and get potholes filled. Despite his lapses, he did a good job as a councillor.

Tuesday, April 05, 2016

Four words closer to the safety of life

In one of his more recent screeds against cycling, Jim Kenzie, the Star's car reviewer, wrote this chilling sentence: "We still kill more pedestrians and motorists on Toronto roads than we do cyclists."

We shouldn't kill anybody. I'll say that again: we shouldn't kill anyone. We should never accept death as a price for anything. Any violent death, any injury, in the course of any activity means that something went wrong and needs correction. When it comes to automotive technology, and the million odd deaths it causes world-wide, we need to do a lot of correcting. We need a safety culture.

The safety cultures I know best, marine and aviation, have four defining principles, summed up in four words: priority, transparency, authority, and accountability.

Start with priority, as in the safety of life has absolute priority. Nothing trumps the word unsafe. Not convenient, not fast, not efficient, not cost-effective. Having a deadline does not justify an unsafe act. Money does not justify a lack of safety.