Leading With The Long Knives

Another Monday (albeit a long weekend Monday), another start (albeit a slow one) to another week and once again I don’t have a fucking clue to what Mayor Ford is up to. I mean, I know what he’s up to, petulantly, punitively striking out at someone who stood up to him and his goofy, loopy public transit plans while striking a blow against bureaucratic integrity in the process. But what’s his over-arching strategy, is what I’m wondering. What’s his end game?

Because, there has to be an end game even from this administration. It can’t just be about this low rent gangster shit… no wait. Let’s use the mayor’s own words… It can’t just be about this low rent Stalinist shit, purging City Hall of any and all dissenting voices. Creating a smaller and ever shrinking circle of obedient foot soldiers, their loyalty directly proportional to their dubious grasp of how a city council and municipal government actually works. Some of the dimmest bulbs that represent us locally will be deciding general manager Gary Webster and the TTC’s near future. Step up into the spotlight, Councillors Vincent Crisanti, Frank Di Giorgio, Norm Kelly and Cesar Palacio.

Even someone as short-sighted and driven on a power panel of spiteful resentment as the mayor seems to be must recognize this situation as untenable. With friends like his, who needs enemies and all that? Mayor Ford can’t possibly be operating under the assumption that if he makes all his bone-headed decisions early enough in his term voters will forget in a couple years. Re-hire master tactician Nicky K. who’ll magically spin electoral gold again from policy dross. Mr. Kouvalis is good but he ain’t that good.

So there’s a bigger picture at work, right?

When news broke on Friday about the special TTC Commission meeting called to deal with personnel issues, I joked on Twitter that maybe it was part of the mayor’s shrinking the size of government agenda. By acting so brazenly irrational, so out-of-control erratic and dictatorial, he’s hoisting up a red flag to our provincial overlords. Hey, guys. Your capital city has gone crazy. If you don’t step in and take over, there’s no telling what we might do. Stop us before we inflict further damage.

A self-manufactured plea and sly manoeuvre to abolish Toronto’s city council. See, folks. We reduced the size of government.

Slightly more seriously, @lifeonequeen responded that perhaps Mayor Ford was making a crafty bid to have the province simply assume control of the TTC. For the sake of public transit here in Toronto and the GTA, please take this off our hands. Clearly we are incapable of managing such a complex file. You must step in before we can inflict any further damage. Irreparable harm. Save Us From Our Silly Sheppard Subway.

That tweet went on to suggest Team Ford wasn’t far-sighted enough for that to be truly the case. But I am steadfast in believing that nobody can be successful in politics as long as Rob Ford has been without possessing a modicum of foresight, let’s call it. It’s simply impossible for him not to have some sort of a game plan at this point, regardless of how bad it might be. He can’t honestly believe that he’ll prevail in an escalating tit-for-tat battle with city council, can he? At least not with the quality of allies he has at his disposal as his team’s numbers dwindle.

I mean, really. Councillor Frank Di Giorgio? With his comments in a Toronto Star piece Sunday, the man practically handed Gary Webster a wrongful dismissal case on a platter.

“Di Giorgio said Webster’s integrity and job performance are not what is at issue.

The issue is a matter of — in my view — whether a bureaucrat has the responsibility to undertake a task as mandated by the people and reflected in the mayor’s mandate.”

If this is who the mayor will have carrying water for him as we lurch forward, the war’s already lost. Councillor Di Giorgio as your point man is akin to a losing army throwing 12 year-olds on the front line in order to beat a hasty retreat. It’s a prelude to a massacre.

So what is Mayor Ford’s pit bull on a poodle attachment to burying the Eglinton LRT and building the Sheppard subway extension that he’s so determined to jeopardize his political future on it? It can’t just be about the very tenuous anti-streetcar/pro-subway ‘mandate’ he claims to have been given with his election in 2010. At least not when it threatens to eviscerate his fiscal conservative, looking out for the taxpayers aura that shone bright during the campaign. And eviscerate it, it will. Spending more money for less transit plus a whole host of new taxes and fees necessary to actually extend the Sheppard subway. A regular profligate spendthrift he will be viewed as if this all comes to pass.

And as Edward Keenan pointed out yesterday in The Grid, this subway mandate was a minor component to the Ford campaign. An afterthought, almost; a throw in when they realized he needed some sort of transit plan. For this, he’s going to the mat?

I’ve never thought of Mayor Ford as a backroom kind of guy in the sense of doing deals with ‘friends’ and such, mostly because he’s seemed largely friendless. A proud lone wolfer on a quixotic quest to reduce the role of government in our lives. But the lengths to which he appears prepared to go to put all transit underground causes one to wonder, even after factoring in other possibilities.

Yes, it’s got the urban-suburban divide the mayor thrives on. The politicization of the bureaucracy at City Hall he might see as advantageous to his cause. There’s probably a certain satisfaction in carrying out a vendetta.

However, the downside to such a grade school minded putsch is enormous. The power of the mayor’s office is not unlimited. It’s not out of the question that council will act to clip his wings (see the last section, Taking Control) before too long, rendering him impotent and irrelevant.

Why exactly would Mayor Ford risk all that? What is it I’m missing here?

confusedly submitted by Cityslikr

8 Responses to Leading With The Long Knives

  1. Ano says:

    A method to the madness. I think not.

  2. Peter MacQuarie says:

    The optics are correct. RF, his brother, and for all of 2011 quite a few other elected officials, are simply incapable of being in charge. None of this should be coming as a surprise to somebody who said as much before. You’ll exhaust yourself trying to make more of it. Stop, move on and re-focus.

  3. I am just as puzzled. It seems like Ford might be settling into a sort of long-term “monkey wrench” role, just gumming up the machinery of government for three more years, but it’s hard to imagine that’s why he got into politics. Right?

  4. Also, that scene early in the first season of Community when Britta pays for Abed’s film class and she gets frustrated with his refusal to explain why he’s not going to class or being careful with her money, and she asks “What is wrong with you? Are you doing this on purpose?” And then she shouts “Why won’t you answer me?” and storms out.

    That scene is resonating lately.

    • cityslikr says:

      Dear Mr. Gilliard,

      We here at All Fired Up in the Big Smoke give you full marks and gold stars for being the first person ever to mention Community in our comments section (although we do admit that you had insider information about our fondness for the show). Coincidentally (or not) it was also the 2200th comment we received here. So that must be a sign of something positive on the horizon, right? Right?

  5. rave dave says:

    maybe the endgame will be the mayor simply running out the clock so that the next mayor has to deal with this steaming pile of shit (sure, he says he’s running but I can easily see the Fords doing a Sarah Palin and walking away, claiming they have bigger things to deal with).

  6. catifsh says:

    Brilliant piece, cityslikr

    So – Draco Malfoy or Mickey Mouse? I too have wondered what on earth is going on between the ears of our Mayor.

    Is the endgame about being in someone’s pocket? Developer(s) but we can’t reveal who (or they have suddenly fled Dodge city)? Higher office? Surely the provincial and federal cons can by now see he’s a total liability.

    If the endgame is to offload city transit to the province, and reduce city admin, wouldn’t he have gone about it an entirely different way? This lurching from crisis to crisis, shedding supporting councillors in droves and pissing off the premier, doesn’t have the stamp of a shrewd political operator.

    Or is it just about being the biggest kid in the schoolyard – the sort of bully who kicks and slaps because he can, but can’t remember what the fight was about any more. In which case there is no strategy, no vision – in which case the endgame is just a personal need for self-aggrandizement.

    Even if RoFo has an endgame in his own mind, his execution of it is beyond bizarre. He doesn’t seem to have any political skill, is stunningly inarticulate, and is demonstrably losing control. He moves on from one simplistic trope (“No cuts. Guaranteed”) to the next (“Subways. That’s it”) without any apparent vision or strategy.

    Whatever benefit of the doubt you can give him – and I am down to about one teaspoonful these days – the endgame that will eventually unfold for Toronto will be something quite different from what the Mayor imagines – and not in a good way.

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