Dave Meslin Talks to Open Book: Toronto about Editing and Activism

In an interview with Open Book: Toronto, Dave Meslin discusses the perils and pleasures of urban activism, he explains why this past year has been a surprisingly exciting one for political geeks in Toronto and he offers a shocking revelation about his reading habits (or lack thereof).

Meslin is the co-editor of Local Motion: The Art of Civic Engagement in Toronto, and he is the author of the popular blog Mez Dispenser.

Open Book: Tell us about your book, Local Motion.

Dave Meslin: I’ve always been a huge fan of the uTOpia series, published by Coach House. Those books provided Torontonians with a vision for where Toronto could go, and forced us to dream of a better city. Local Motion is the final book of the series, and the idea behind it was to create a road map and to shift from ‘what’ to ‘how’.

OB: So how did Toronto do in 2011? Should we be looking into 2012 with excitement or apprehension?

DM: Being a libra, I try to look at everything with both excitement and apprehension. 2011 was a fascinating year at City Hall. Because we don’t have political parties at the local level, things can get quite unpredictable and I often find myself describing City Hall as a soap opera: Lots of interesting characters, non-stop conflict, passion, dirty tricks, grudges and surprising plot twists. The most important vote of the year was the Operating Budget, where 23 Councillors essentially outvoted the mayor on his own budget cuts. It proved that democracy works and that citizens, when organized, do have a voice at City Hall.

OB: What advice do you have for readers who want to get involved municipally but are overwhelmed or unsure where to start?

DM: It depends how much time they have. For those with little time to offer, I would suggest finding an existing group and offering to help out. First, of course, you have to identify your own passion. What do you want to change in Toronto? What motivates you? Food policy? Transportation issues? Energy conservation? Poverty? Discrimination? Once you’ve identified your passion, start attending events within that community. Meet people, and find out where you fit in.

Read the full interview here.

The uTOpia series consists of:
uTOpia: Towards a New Toronto
The State of the Arts: Living with Culture in Toronto
GreenTOpia:Towards a Sustainable Toronto
HTO: Toronto's Water from Lake Iroquois to Lost Rivers to Low-flow Toilets
The Edible City: Toronto's Food from Farm to Fork
Local Motion: The Art of Civic Engament in Toronto

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