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A recap of Rob Ford’s weekend in Hollywood, from the airport, to the Sunset Strip, to the studio

If Hollywood were to get its hands on Rob Ford‘s story, would the resulting movie be an inspirational one? Would it be the tale of a mayor who was once ashamed to admit he’d smoked crack, but who overcame his fear in time to embrace his new life of international infamy?

That’s the angle the mayor seems to be working, at any rate, and never has that been more apparent than right now, as he prepares to make his much-publicized appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live tonight. Even though the show tapes today, Ford has actually been in Hollywood since Saturday evening, along with a retinue consisting of both of his brothers (Doug and Randy) and at least two staff members. His every step has been dogged by reporters and gawking Angelenos. The former have been wondering just who’s paying for this lavish trip to the left coast (Kimmel? And if so, could this be considered a campaign contribution?), while the latter have mostly been seeking photos with Toronto’s most famous citizen, other than maybe—maybe!—Drake.

The mayor has said that he sees his trip as a way of enhancing Toronto’s reputation, but so far the effect has seemingly been the opposite. Here’s a chronological rundown of the whole transcontinental adventure so far.

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Toronto named most youthful city in the world, out-youthing New York, Paris and London

Youthful-City-of-the-Year-TorontoSince the Rob Ford crack scandal kicked off, many have been searching for a feel-good story that could counter the impression peddled by late-night talk-show hosts and Taiwanese viral videos that Toronto is the drunk-drivingest, crack-smokingest, Ford-electingest city on the planet. Such a story came out today, with the announcement that Toronto has a new superlative to add to its CV: most youthful city.

YouthfulCities, an organization that helps young people create better urban communities, collected data from 25 cities this past spring and ranked them according to criteria in 16 categories (diversity, safety, mental health, food, nightlife, etc.). The results put Toronto on top, beating out Berlin, New York, Paris, Chicago and LA. “Toronto has a lot of assets when it comes to youth,” Robert Barnard, co-founder of YouthfulCities, told the Toronto Star. “It’s the number one city when it comes to diversity.”

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Strombo is getting his own show on CNN this summer

(Image: CBC)

George Stroumboulopoulos sure has come a long way from his days as the cooler-than-thou host of The New Music on MuchMusic. Canadian TV’s most eligible vegan has been tapped to host a new 10-episode series on CNN this summer. The hour-long show, whose name has not yet been released, will be filmed in Los Angeles, and will air during prime time on Fridays starting May 31. The format will be similar the one on George Stroumboulopoulos Tonight—namely, celebrity interviews conducted in front of a live audience (the CBC show is still scheduled to return for a tenth season in the fall). The addition to CNN’s summer line up is part of the broadcaster’s ongoing efforts to appeal to a younger audience by bringing in younger, hipper hosts—no word, yet, on whether that includes Strombo’s signature red armchairs. [Deadline]

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Toronto’s traffic is allegedly improving—it’s not even the worst in Canada anymore 

We guess we ought to pipe down about how closing Queen and Spadina is causing a carmageddon—Toronto’s rush hour gridlock is nothing next to the snarls in oh-so-livable Vancouver. A recent study by GPS-maker TomTom compared the difference in travel time between non-peak and peak periods for 26 cities. After noted car-loving town Los Angeles, Vancouver had the worst rush hour delays, while Toronto came in a distant ninth (a marked improvement from its number three finish last year). In case you were curious, Toronto’s traffic is worst on Thursday evenings and the roads are clearest on Friday mornings. [Globe and Mail]

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Soho House: club of great fabulousness or the Starbucks of nightlife?

The patio at the New York Soho House (Image: Peter C)

Soho House’s chief executive Nick Jones spilled some details about the new super-exclusive-extra-special V.I.P. club planned for Toronto in the New York Times last Friday. In a feature looking at the global expansion of the members-only club, Jones spells out some of the décor of the new Toronto digs: a 19th-century bar from Pennsylvania, reclaimed wood paneling on the walls, a club bar and a drawing room on the ground floor—all a fitting match for the historic exterior. But with the company’s expansion comes murmurs of brand dilution and confusion (the phrase “nightlife equivalent of Starbucks” has been bandied about). According to the Times, the New York City spot never quite lived up to the hype (the company purged memberships in 2010 to try to fix its image of a playground for hedge-funders), with one nightclub watcher quoted as saying, “As far as the cachet of fabulousness overall, I think it eluded them.” Still, the Hollywood Soho House has been a hit, so the success of the club seems pretty location-specific. Which raises the question: is Toronto a New York or a Los Angeles? [New York Times]

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QUOTED: Josh Matlow on Doug Ford’s fairy-tale approach to transit funding

(Image: Rob Boudon)

I know that some councillors slip into the divisive rhetoric with promises of building subways and delivering unicorns to every child. I know it’s controversial … but I’m just tired of a false debate of ‘let’s build things!’

Councillor Josh Matlow, comparing the likelihood of building a subway without a transit expansion fund to that of gifting kids with creatures that don’t exist (amounting to a jab at Doug Ford, who strongly opposes levying new road tolls to pay for transit). Matlow, who’s backed by transit rogue TTC Chair Karen Stintz, wants to bring tolls and regional sales taxes to next month’s council agenda, with a view to creating a permanent fund to bankroll transit projects. This isn’t the first time the rookie councillor has floated the contentious idea, either—as the Globe and Mail points out, he failed to get council’s support for tolls on the Don Valley Parkway and the Gardiner last fall. However, Matlow believes this time will be different because “the appetite is much larger now to get real about funding.” That, or the city’s getting embarrassed for lagging behind notoriously gridlocked Los Angeles. [National Post]

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Even gridlock-plagued Los Angeles is kicking Toronto’s butt in transit development

If Rob Ford is right about light rail transit, then Los Angeles must be teetering on the brink of certain doom. Since 2008, the car-dependent city has used a half-cent sales tax hike and an inventive federal loan agreement to start building or planning—brace yourself, Mr. Mayor—12 light rail and bus rapid transit lines. Toronto could learn from the city’s ambitious transit overhaul, John Lorinc argues (for the second time) in today’s Globe and Mail; the city pushed through its plan using creative taxation, compromise and cooperation with higher levels of government—all three somewhat foreign at Toronto city hall of late. But hey, the article features a photo of L.A. mayor Antonio Villaraigosa riding public transit with the common folk—at least T.O. has that one covered. Read the entire story [Globe and Mail] »

(Images: Los Angeles, HarshLight; Toronto, elPadawan)

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