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article imageMeeting the Toronto mayoral candidates: Howard Jerome Gomberg Special

By Andrew Moran     Oct 6, 2010 in Politics
Toronto - An actor, a professional-wrestler, a public speaker, a Buddhist and a former hippie. Howard Jerome Gomberg has had a colourful life, but his concern for the environmental future of Toronto is what has prompted him to run for mayor.
Howard Jerome Gomberg may not be on the front-page of most newspapers like frontrunner Rob Ford, or have weekly press conferences like Rocco Rossi. But the fringe candidate, an actor from Brooklyn and founder of the Canadian Improv Games, is “rocking” in the race for mayor on a “campaign of new mind.”
On Wednesday, had the opportunity to speak with Gomberg about his mayoral campaign, his views on the important issues facing Toronto and what he thinks about his opponents: Rob Ford, Joe Pantalone, Rocco Rossi and George “Slitherman.”
Personal background of Howard Jerome Gomberg - Why run for mayor?
“In my life, I have been a beatnik, a hippie, a wrestler, a Commie – I no longer eat the cow but I love the pastrami – I have been a Buddhist, a nudist, a yogi on pogi, I’ve whirled like a thermos, I’ve worked with Ed Mirvish – don’t mean to make you nervous – I wear the red string, but that’s a whole other thing,” rapped Gomberg.
“To bridge the generation gap, I decided it was time to rap. So I’m an old rapper, I’m a word trapper, a finger snapper, a toe tapper, you’ll crack a smile and I’m libel to go tribal and do it the old school style. So I’m rapping my way through this election.”
This is how he introduces himself to Toronto voters by rapping about specific issues facing the city of Toronto.
When asked why he wanted to run for mayor, Gomberg – who is also known as his hippy name Laughing Heart – immediately took out newspaper articles that highlighted the environmental damage and hazards currently occurring in the city and said he wanted to have “a breath of fresh air.”
“My life is being threatened by the inability of our governments to make the choices necessary to protect the health of their citizenry. How do we allow something like that to happen? How do we allow headlines like that to happen?”
The platforms
Gomberg is the first to admit that he doesn’t know a lot about politics; however, he has worked with the best of minds, including Dr. Jean Houston, a principal founder of the Human Potential Movement, who now works for the United Nations. Furthermore, if elected mayor, he would establish a general consensus with the mayoral candidates and City Hall councillors.
One of his methods of building a consensus in City Hall is to give each of the candidates, Ford, Pantalone, Rossi and Smitherman, a quarter of his mayoral salary to find out what needs to be cut, how to bring more experienced entrepreneurs to the municipal government and even to show Gomberg how things get done at City Hall.
“I don’t believe one person, no matter how smart they are, is smarter than everybody else put together. My idea is consensus, and literally paying it out of my own pocket.”
Toronto mayoral candidate  Howard Jerome Gomberg and his campaign umbrella.
Toronto mayoral candidate, Howard Jerome Gomberg and his campaign umbrella.
In municipal politics, candidates are not affiliated with any political party but pundits attempt to identify the hopefuls to an ideology. When people ask Gomberg what he is, Gomberg tells them he’s “the whole bird; the beak and tail feathers included.” He adds that holism is the only way to go because “everything is interconnected, interrelated and interdependent.”
“My campaign is the campaign of the new mind. The old mind is reactive, the new mind is proactive. The old mind separates, the new mind joins together. The old mind is short term; the new mind is long term. The old mind says I, me, my, mine but the new mind says we, us, altogether. The campaign of the new mind acknowledges the genius of wisdom of the hundreds of nations. My job as mayor would be to call it forward; the genius.”
One of Gomberg’s innumerable innovative ideas is to incorporate wisdom councils, which is made up of the “genius of the indigenous peoples, wherever they are from” in order to establish ideas that tackle the issues from “potholes to potheads” and ask questions such as: “What can we do about graffiti? What can we do about the situation on the streets?”
These principles are something that have been put forth by Gomberg for many years because he has not only been an actor but has also worked in industry for decades where he attempts to “grow your brain.”
When friends, family, colleagues and potential voters listen to Gomberg’s words, he is told: “Howard, we love you. Howard, we love your ideas. But you’re not a politician, how could you be the mayor?”
For a brief moment, Gomberg did question his bid for mayor but researched the Toronto City Act – an act passed in June 2006 that is basically a charter – and it outlines what a mayor does: Running council meetings and representing the city of Toronto.
Even though he has ruled out a possible run for a city council seat because their work is much harder than the mayor, Gomberg believes he is a better fit for mayor because he “knows how to represent,” has “represented all kinds of people for all kinds of different things,” is a “public guy” and knows “how to use the media.” Gomberg went onto iterate that he thinks that, in the end, he could definitely be mayor: “I think I could, I think I could, I think I could."
“I know more importantly what people can be, what they can do. My campaign is not about me, it’s about you.”
Personal choice
For years now, there have been public movements across the nation calling for the legalization of marijuana. Gomberg supports the legalization of “vices” as long as the person doesn’t impose his or her lifestyle on him.
Gomberg argues that the government is wasting hundreds of millions of dollars by trying to eliminate drugs and throw people in jail, which costs a lot more money than sending them to college. He further notes that drug usage is a health, education and socialization issue “but it is not a criminal act issue.”
“Try making homosexuality illegal again and see how that works out.”
The political campaign
Gomberg may not have the funds to hold a press conference, air political advertisements on television or on the radio or hire a professional campaign team to run public relations, but Gomberg has two serious volunteers.
One student from the Canadian Improv Games, came forward and asked to volunteer. He is his publicity campaign manager. The other is a volunteer who organizes the mayoral candidate’s Facebook, Twitter and YouTube accounts, which is something he notes he couldn’t do on his own.
The Gomberg mayoral campaign has produced 12 YouTube videos. Several videos record Gomberg sitting in a rocking chair where he discusses issues that occur on the campaign trail. Other videos are still images that highlight his “new byztanium” and a “world municipal university.”
The future concerns Gomberg very much. He says the only thing that will stop us from continuing the insanity is to receive a letter from the future that tells us what to do and not to do:
“Dear Mr. Mayor shmuck, didn’t you know that what you’re doing we inherit? Didn’t you know once you bury something in Niagara, we get it now? Didn’t you know that everything is down wind and downstream?” He letter would further state that the child was taught about the middle ages, iron ages and the “stupid ages (us).”
If elected, what would Toronto look like in the next 10 years?
If elected mayor on Oct. 25, the city of Toronto would be much different in the next 10 years because the city would be much cleaner, greener and be the place to see the world. Gomberg would establish several initiatives:
• Cab fleets would be green.
• Airplanes, buses and trains would not run on diesel.
• Fruit and nut trees would be planted all across the city.
• There would be much more bike lanes "and fewer cars the better."
• Whoever wants to come to Toronto must be environmentally clean.
• Contemporary wind turbines would be installed.
What’s next?
You can see Gomberg in the film “Barney’s Version,” which is based on the book by celebrated Canadian writer Mordecai Richler. He is also in a Cialis commercial that plays nightly on television. His next role will be a lawyer in the U.S. television-movie “Breakout Kings.”
Gomberg concluded the interview with a story that occurred after a series of murders broke out in the city’s west-end in the Jane Street and Finch Avenue area.
“I did a kind of a talk on behalf of Martin Luther King and afterward this young African-Canadian kid came up to me and said, ‘Your talking was really good but you don’t know what it’s like up here. Things don’t change up here.’ I had a piece of the Berlin Wall in my pocket and I took it out of my pocket and said, ‘Things do change, here’s the proof.’ I broke a piece off and handed it to him and said, ‘Go change your life, things can change. You’re not a victim.”
Toronto voters go to the polls on Oct. 25.
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