London, Paris Welcome Toronto to League of World Class Cities
LONDON, UK (SP) — Following years of whining by Toronto, the League of World Class Cities (LWCC) has finally given a reluctant, exasperated "oh, all right" in answer to the city's incessant requests to join the group.
Capitalizing on the recent spate of free worldwide publicity surrounding Toronto's SARS ordeal, Mayor Mel Lastman and his staff bombarded the LWCC's London head office with phone calls, faxes, and emails. "We just want everyone to know that this city of ours is THE GREATEST CITY IN THE WORLD," Lastman explained in a locally televised address. "We've been on the Simpsons, for cryin' out loud. I've been on CNN. We have everything here, hockey, baseball, Chinatown. And believe me, there is no SARS in Chinatown, even though there are Chinese people there —", he continued, before his microphone was turned off by an aide.
London Mayor Ken Livingstone, current holder of the rotating LWCC presidency, admitted that the decision to accept "Hog Town" was made at a moment of weakness, during the eighth consecutive call with Lastman. In defence of the decision, however, Livingstone noted Toronto's good progress in a key category over the past decade: traffic congestion. "As everyone knows, all World Class Cities have bad traffic. Weak as other areas of the city's claim may be, this is one thing big-city Torontonians can brag about to their country cousins: how long they spend in traffic, or trying to find a parking spot."
Livingstone said it is encouraging that Toronto is not actually doing anything about congestion, ensuring that the city's streets and highways will be traffic-snarled for decades. He added that another deficiency in Toronto's claim — the state of its public transit system — would actually further aggravate the traffic problems, thereby improving Toronto's World Class status. "In a 'glass-is-half-full' kind of way, the transit issue can actually work in [the city's] favour," explained Livingstone, describing a transit system without rechargeable cards or even machine-readable tickets. Tourists are fascinated by the antiquated, patch-work system of tickets, cash, tokens, passes and transfers. Few large cities in the industrialized world, or even Third World, can match that. "It's like a living museum. Work with that. Market that. And people will come."
Paris Mayor Bertrand Delanoë welcomed the newest member of the LWCC. He was emphatic that Toronto be allowed to join the League on account of its many cultural assets. "Look, we in Paris do not even have a Krispy Kreme location, and I hear Toronto has already several. People of France, what would I give for that? Oh là là, and American Major League Baseball! Paris still dreams wistfully of its own ballpark. With a lid that can open, oui."
Berlin Mayor Klaus Wowereit proclaimed an interest in Toronto's approach to its historic buildings. "After the Second World War, Berlin was in ruins, and we had to set about rebuilding and restoring all the historic buildings that were destroyed. To some degree we succeeded, but now we are stuck with these historic old buildings to maintain, nicht?" Toronto, he explained, takes an entirely different approach, and has systematically demolished most of its older, attractive buildings, without even needing any bombs for assistance.
"It may seem a bit sad at first, but once you are replacing a 19th century brick house with a, wie sagt man, nondescript glass-and-steel low-rise office building, you do not need to worry next time someone wants to tear it down. Very much more efficient, really," Wowereit went on. "And when Berlin's rebuilders were filling in the bomb-craters, I wish they were knowing about Toronto's technique of locating attractive, above-ground parking lots in the heart of downtown. Very, very efficient."
Stockholm Mayor Annika Billström said she was particularly jealous of Toronto's CN Tower, a true symbol of World Classiness. "Herre Gud, we have hardly any buildings taller than 100 metres in Stockholm; I am still surprised they let our city join the LWCC without a forest of skyscrapers. Even the tallest structure in Stockholm, the Kaknäs TV Tower, is only 155 metres tall. That is nothing to your 553 metre tall CN Tower. For such a tower, jag vet inte — I would give up all our beautiful buildings, pedestrian shopping streets, cafés, waterways you can swim in, and city squares ringed with patios where people can actually sit and have a beer without breathing in auto exhaust. All of them, for such a World Class tower."
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg was not available for comment. According to senior Mayor's Office staff, the Big Apple is still miffed by British actor Sir Peter Ustinov's 1987 comment that Toronto was like "New York run by the Swiss".