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3 min

Rob Salerno drops city council bid

Writer/actor calls the patter of some politicians 'distasteful'

Rob Salerno has formally withdrawn from the race to become the next city councillor of ward 27.

Salerno, an outspoken journalist, actor and former Xtra.ca blogger, was straight out of the gate, submitting his nomination papers in the first week of January. He now says he will be focusing on his one man show, Fucking Stephen Harper, which will be touring Western Canada this fall.

Ward 27, an extremely diverse area that includes the Church-Wellesley neighbourhood, St James Town and parts of Rosedale, has been represented by Kyle Rae for the last 19 years.

Salerno says Rae carved out a space at council for the ward 27 representative to be a strong voice for gay issues, and he hopes that Rae will be replaced by a gay or trans candidate.

All the same, Salerno has so far declined to endorse one of the other queer candidates (a list that includes Kristyn Wong-Tam, Ken Chan, Enza Anderson and Susan Gapka.)

Here’s Salerno on the reasons for his departure and the issue he most hopes will be raised in the remaining months of the municipal election:

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ROB SALERNO: I’ve realized that this is a calling that doesn’t play to my strengths as a person right now. There’s a certain skill set to being a politician and dealing with constituents and asking for support that I just don’t have.

I have a real difficulty asking people for favours, so asking people to donate to my campaign, asking people to volunteer to help, and even to vote for me — it’s one of those skills that I simply haven’t developed. But yes, the other stuff too: when someone tells me that they want to pay less tax and have better city services, I have a very difficult time not telling that person that they’re stupid.

I don’t have the skill set that — I won’t name anybody right now, but — somebody who is able to answer a question without actually answering a question, making it sound like they support all sides on an issue. I find that so distasteful.

I looked at my options of what I could be doing. As I think you know, I have a tour booked for my theatre company, doing my solo show Fucking Stephen Harper out west. The tour dates got booked after I filed my nomination; I had kind of always thought to myself that if this campaign is going really well, I could always pull out of these tour dates and focus my summer on just being a politician.

I realized, during my time in Winnipeg in late July, that I felt like I was really having an impact doing my show there, particularly because my show is political, and because it raises a lot of political issues, and I was reaching a lot of people who aren’t necessarily the choir, you know?

Every night, I had conservatives come out to the show, and they would tell me, you know, I just had no idea about these issues that you raise in the show. I felt, if I’m being honest with myself, where am I having more impact? Doing this show, and taking it out to conservative bastions like Edmonton and Victoria, where I might actually be reaching people and changing minds? Or running a race against a baker’s dozen of candidates who have a lot of experience running campaigns?

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One of the things that I addressed that nobody was talking about was what we’ve done in creating the entertainment district in Toronto. Now, I’m not sure if you’re familiar with this, but the city has created a by-law that prevents all businesses that operate as clubs from opening north of Queen St. And this has been a significant factor in what people are calling the death of the Village, at least in my opinion.

When I was first going out ten years ago, there were seven or eight clubs that were on that Church St strip that made it such that there was variety, that there were different things to do in the neighbourhood. You didn’t have to go to Fly every week, that sort of thing. And now that, as far as clubs, there’s really just Fly and Buddies along that strip, people aren’t going there that much, they’re finding the other neighbourhoods.

It’s a citywide issue, it’s not just a ward issue, because the partying that’s going on in the city — because it’s never going to stop — has turned the entertainment district into almost a nightmare scenario every weekend down on Richmond. And I don’t mean nightmare as in we need to call in the riot police every weekend; it’s a nightmare in terms of the sheer number of people who are there every weekend, the traffic chaos, the vandalism, the rowdiness. It’s a residential neighbourhood down there now too, so you know, so the noise, all of the problems that are associated with that have become concentrated on one little neighbourhood.

And on top of that, you find entrepreneurs all over the city that get around this restriction by opening smaller bars that aren’t officially clubs but for all intents and purposes operate like clubs, and they’re opening in new neighbourhoods around the city that are up-and-coming, like Ossington, like Queen West was just a few years ago…