Getting Back In The Ring But Still Punch Drunk

June 20, 2014

Tick, tock. Tick, tock. Tick, tock.

Can you hear it? flavorflavCan you just feel the pulse of anticipation?

20 days. 19 days. 18 days.

For those of you not regular Twitter partakers, the Rob Ford Campaign has been building the suspense for the big guys return on June 30th with countdown tweets. 14 days. 12 days.

Oh, goodiegoodiegoodie! He’s coming! He’s COMING!!

“News of Ford’s return feels like watching the trailer to the sequel of a bad Hollywood adventure flick that’s about to hit theatres,” writer John Lorinc tweeted a couple days ago.

Exactly. It’s going to be terrible. You know it’s going to be terrible. But somehow, there’s just no way to avoid it.

I will confess. It’s been a joy not feeling compelled to write about Rob Ford for the past little while. impendingdoomSure, his councillor-brother and knucklehead colleague (Giorgio Mammoliti, in case you haven’t been following along) have more than ably filled the ridonkulous quota in any given week. Still, going Rob Ford free has been a pleasure. I’m looking forward to more of it.

But clearly the countdown is on for this peaceful interregnum. Rob Ford is returning, like it or not, and for the next little while at least, we will have to take him semi-seriously. For how long exactly? It’s hard to tell.

We’ve been told again and again that Rob Ford is like no other politician. Scandals and misrule, both great and small, simply don’t stick to him. Any other mere mortal would long ago have been chased from office with the revelations we’ve had about Rob Ford. But not him. teflonThe man’s unsinkable.

Now with this time out taken, the phoenix is on the rise. Forgive and forget. Second chances. Back in fighting shape, the mayor will come out swinging.

Or so Team Ford hopes the narrative plays out.

Just how realistic is this pipe dream?

For the moment, let’s assume the best case scenario for the mayor. That he’s diligently rehabbed himself. That he’s clean and sober, and will remain so for the remainder of the campaign. That he’s indeed a new man with an old record of political accomplishments to come back to.

(I know, I know. Just assume. For the moment.)

Even with that overly-optimistic rosy scenario painted, it’s difficult to see how the numbers add up for the mayor. numbersdontaddupHis favourable rating has tanked in his semi-absence, into the 20s, from where very few politicians successfully re-emerge. But—But—you’ll say. Rob Ford’s like very few politicians. Conventional wisdom does not apply. He defies gravity. He defies basic arithmetic.

While in one aspect that is very true, not all Rob Ford’s math adds up, there’s one equation he can’t really disregard. That’s his recognition numbers.

Everybody knows who Rob Ford is. He’s sits at something like a 98% recognition factor. That’s simply unheard of by most politicians, and especially municipal politicians, many of whom can skate through an entire career in near anonymity. Not Rob Ford. Not now. (David Hains explored this point in much more depth early this year.)

Everybody knows who he is. Everybody has an opinion of him. Mweebleswobbleany of those have very, very strong opinions of Rob Ford. Their minds are going to be very, very difficult to change.

Unfortunately for Rob Ford, a solid majority of people don’t like him and would never vote for him. Few people are going to take a flyer on him this time around. He’s boxed himself in at an unwinnable level of support and has little room to expand it. As unpredictable as these things can be (and as bad as I am at predicting these things), I’d guess his numbers can go nowhere but down from this point.

And that’s the best case scenario, folks. Never mind further revelations of videotaped debauchery or full disclosure about his time spent in rehab. Whatever shot he’s got at making himself a contender once again – and it’s a long, long, long, long shot – it will be just one shot. Any more bad news and the highly improbable becomes the absolute impossible.fryingpanfire

The other formidable challenge the mayor faces is, this time out, right of centre, small c conservatives have other options. Team Ford’s biggest fear in 2010, a John Tory candidacy, is now a reality. There’s every reason to expect that he’ll suck up the donations and volunteers even an incumbent needs for re-election. There’s also Karen Stintz and David Soknacki if Tory doesn’t fit the bill.

So there’s no organization to speak of eagerly awaiting Rob Ford’s return. Only the ragtag bunch of true believers, led by the delusional campaign manager, Brother Doug. The re-election campaign feels haphazard and purely improvisational. Hell, even the Twitter countdown schtick misses days almost like it’s little more than an afterthought.

I see this playing out in one of two ways.

ragingbull1) Sensing insurmountable numbers and invariable defeat, even the wilfully obstinate and shame-free mayor will seek whatever shred of dignity he can get and pull out of the race, citing health and family reasons for doing so. He will be at least partially right about that.

Or 2), and the more likely scenario, Rob Ford soldiers on. You never knocked me down, Ray. You never knocked me down. Rather than being the presumptive favourite, he will settle back into a familiar role. The outsider. The no-hoper, telling it like it is, railing at the career politicians who have no respect for the taxpayers. Just like he did back in 2010. Much like he did during his time as mayor.

When he wasn’t smoking crack, that is.

The Mayor Ford re-election campaign is doomed, in other words. Dead incumbent walking. It will be great when everyone recognizes it. Then, we can’t stop writing about the man as anything other than what he was. An ugly footnote in this city’s history. A novelty gift that quickly wore out its welcome.

In 20, 19, 18, 14, 12, 11…

clock watchingly submitted by Cityslikr


Delivering Low Expectations

February 19, 2014

Don’t look…Don’t look…Don’t look…And if you have to look, don’t look directly into his eyes. Whatever you do! Do not look directly into the man’s eyes!

blankstare

I looked.

I know I shouldn’t have. But I did. I even looked directly into that man’s eyes and saw what I can only assume to be is the eternal abyss of nothingness, swirling deep down inside of them.

Worse, against Ed Keenan’s sage advice, I’m now talking about what I saw when I looked, giving them a free bump, an additional bit of publicity, such as we can offer here at All Fired Up in the Big Smoke.cableaccess

Ford Nation on YouTube.

Exactly why the good Lord in His infinite wisdom created scientists, so they could create the Internetz.

Ford Nation on YouTube.

Having burned all their bridges to access of uncritical and unthinking media platforms, save maybe Sue-Ann Levy and Joe Warmington, including every newspaper in town, AM talk radio, Sun TV – Sun TV, folks! – the Fords, Mayor Rob and Councillor Doug, have turned their mostly undivided attention to the internet for getting their message out to their unswerving supporters and snickering adversaries. No bias there except the good kind of bias. No difficult questions to answer. Not even those squishy-hard ones always lobbed their way by the likes of CP24’s Stephen LeDrew.

The web. The free range domain of conspiracy theorists, rational denialists and amateur political punditry (yeah, I beat you to it) since 1997. internetzI’m pretty sure that’s when the internet was invented.

There’s really no need to offer up any sort of analysis here. Others are doing it more thoroughly and entertainingly. And besides, any evaluation of the merits or lack thereof in the videos, anything that might smack of treasonous disagreement with what’s being said, is simply brushed off as the self-satisfied smugness of a downtown latte sipping elitist dipper leftie subway and Scarborough hater.

Did I leave anything out?

Oh, right. Bike riding, anti-car cyclist. Repetition entirely intentional.

Because if Rob Ford or Doug Ford or any other member of Ford Nation never has to be right, can just make shit up all the live long day, spout nonsense every time they open their mouths without immediately stuffing it with food or drink, why is anyone else held to a higher standard?upyours

Ford Nation is this hermetically sealed place where rational discourse and civil debate are smothered in their cribs. Every number when added together comes out to a billion. The private sector builds a healthy public realm out of the goodness of its own heart. Demands that the mayor do his job and stand up for everyone he was elected to represent, that’s called bullying. War declared on anyone who dared to sanction the mayor for his deplorable behaviour both on and off the clock. Half day, part time work weeks are of no concern to any serious minded denizen of Ford Nation.

Ford Nation on You Tube is amateurish and hackneyed because anything else would come across as slick and too professional and unRob Ford. I mean, frankly, I don’t think at this point Team Ford such as it is could produce anything else. The operations are amateurish and hackneyed. But you go with what you know.

Low production values and low rent drivel is what Team Ford thinks Ford Nation wants to hear. It’s the mark of the non-politician, don’t you know. Sure the mayor fibs every time he’s caught in a lie. Who doesn’t? suaveandsophisticatedYeah, the mayor’s math may be bad but only egg-headed accountants should be expected to get such big numbers right. Of course, the Fords appear awkward and tongue-tied on camera. Who know who isn’t? Actors. Any politician who doesn’t lie, who can do complex math, who looks and talks good on camera is nothing but an actor.

Rob Ford is the real deal. I mean, look at him. He’s just like I would be if I ran this city. I wouldn’t be able to produce some polished, contrived video either. He’s the mayor of Toronto, folks. Not James Cameron.

How exactly we arrived at this juncture, where fumble-assed, know-nothingness with a solid dose of reprobate conduct passes as more than enough qualifications to oversee a city of 2.5+ million people, I’m not exactly sure. We’re told it’s because of the aloofness and disconnect of downtowners to the plight of those living in the inner suburbs. It’s the snark of privilege. We’re out of touch with the needs of the little guy and hard-working taxpayers. They don’t expect much from the city they live in, maybe a returned phone call and occasional visit. Mayor Rob Ford delivers them exactly that and nothing more.

Bargain basement governance, sold as is. The campaign pitch delivered with all the razzamatazz of a late-night informerical. ShamWow, Ford Nation!

insane

It’s the intersection of little effort and low expectations. Even if they were capable of delivering something better, something more informative, something beyond Wayne and Garth in the basement, Team Ford wouldn’t. It’s not their style. Their rock solid supporters wouldn’t recognize them if they did.

It wouldn’t be Ford Nation on You Tube.

under-whelmingly submitted by Cityslikr


Do We Really Have To Talk About This?

January 20, 2014

Point 4. (Following, of course, points 1, 2 and 3.)

Taxes.makingalist1

Ughh.

You know, we’d probably be happier with our governments if they just stopped asking us for money and, instead, concentrated their efforts on delivering the services we demand.

“It’s always the same issue,” Ehtisham Waqar told Jane Gerster of the Toronto Star (h/t David Hains for pointing me in the direction of the article). “Quality of life needs to increase and I think the only way to do that is to decrease taxes.”

Just like anything in life. You want more of it, at a better quality, pay less for it. It’s common business sense.

We seemed to have reached a fundamental divide these days between looking for practical solutions and wishful thinking. Goaded on by politicians of, increasingly, every stripe, we have convinced our collective selves that we pay too much in taxes to our governments and get too little in return. taxburdenWe pay too much or somebody else is paying too little. The point is, from a taxpayers’ perspective, we’re getting a raw deal with this arrangement.

How anti-tax minded have we become? The federal leader of the left-wing party in this country, those supposed tax-and-spenders, Thomas Mulcair sees any individual tax rate over 50% (I guess he’s talking marginal rates here) as confiscatory. Confiscatory, at 50%, which would be on the low side if we look back over the past 50 years or so, and which nowhere in the country do we sit at currently. But never mind. Out of the question. According to our silly socialists.

If we can’t get our loonie left to talk about the benefits and necessity of appropriate taxation applied fairly, then the anti-tax crusaders have won the battle. ducttaperepairOur public sphere will continue to be chronically under-funded, services and programs deemed increasingly inadequate and, having fenced off any talk of increasing revenue in the form of taxation as nothing short of extremism, our only response will be that of the above Mr. Waqar. Everything’s a mess. Cut taxes.

I’m not the first person to say this but I urge anyone who thinks we’re not receiving a good deal on the taxes we pay to go out and stand on a street corner, at a busy intersection and have a look around. Take a moment. Look hard.

If you don’t see, I don’t know, at least 5 services and pieces of infrastructure in place and paid for by your tax dollars that make the difference between living in a relatively accessible urban landscape instead of some ramshackle hut on a dirt road with outdoor plumbing, you’re not trying hard enough. And that’s just at a municipal level. Forget that school up the street or the hospital around the corner. What we get in return for the taxes we pay to City Hall happens all around us every day. badmathmanPerhaps we simply take it for granted.

Four years ago we bought, hook, line and sinker, the very fanciful notion of a confirmed tax hater that we were taxed too much (“The city doesn’t have a revenue problem.”) and all that was really needed was some fiscal discipline (“The city has a spending problem”). We could reduce spending by 5, 10% and not feel a lick of difference. Guaranteed.

Well, how’s that working for you, Mr. Waqar? All those potholes every block or so on the streets you drive. What about you, Mr. Generic Taxpayer? That tree limb that came crashing down in your yard during December’s ice storm, taking out the electricity and leaving you in the dark for 3 days over Christmas. Been cleaned up and collected yet? You been compensated for the food in your freezer that went off when the power took forever to be restored. Your basement now all spic-and-span after the July storm flooded it?

How’s it been, waiting for the Dufferin bus lately, Ms. Generic Taxpayer? Then cramming into the 4th subway car at Yonge and Bloor every rush hour. Imagine how paying even less taxes would greatly speed up your commute.badmath3

Anyone campaigning in 2014 on a flimsy platform built on Rob Ford’s fiscal agenda minus the scandals is doing nothing more than promising you exactly the same minus the scandals. That is, more potholes, less public transit, further weakening of infrastructure, increased user fees. A dirtier, more ragged, more congested city.

That is what’s happened since 2010. A general decline in the quality of life on the streets and in the communities of this city. And here’s the kicker. Spending has gone up with this administration as have property taxes. Sure, we got rid of one new source of revenue, the vehicle registration, which has only put further stress on others including the land transfer tax that the mayor also wants to do away with. We haven’t decreased overall spending or property taxes.

You know why?

Because we can’t.

It costs money to run this city, and no manner of magical thinking or mathematics can change that. You can’t even make do with less let alone do more with less. texaschainsawmassacreThe numbers simply don’t add up.

You certainly can choose to run the city on the cheap. That’s what we’ve been doing since 2010 but, as they say, you get what you pay for. A cheap city. A cheap city doesn’t thrive. It struggles and falters.

Toronto has been struggling and faltering. Doing more of the same, running the city on the cheap, can’t possibly turn things around for the better. It defies logic and common sense to believe otherwise.

So when a politician comes knocking at your door this campaign season and tells you our taxes are too high, ask them compared to what. The answer they give you will pretty much tell you if they’re fit to lead this city. The answer you want to hear will pretty much tell you if you’re serious about living in a vibrant, equitable city.

taxingly submitted by Cityslikr


That Time In The Election Cycle Already?

October 28, 2013

In yesterday’s news some yesterday’s news grabbed some Sunday headlines. Karen Stintz to run for Mayor.

You don’t say.theresasurprise

Nobody didn’t see that coming.

So a full year to the very day, the 2014 municipal mayoral campaign unofficially officially began for someone other than Mayor Ford who’s basically been campaigning since about 2012. I mean, for someone other than David Soknacki who publicly announced his probable intentions to run for the mayor’s office but isn’t actually being treated as a someone just yet. Of course, Olivia Chow’s in the mix too but humbly demurs at any mention of a possible bid next year despite, apparently, having lined up some big guns to run her nonexistent campaign team.

So the chattering has begun, playing out various scenarios about tactics, vote splits, blood sport, dirty pool. And, of course, the months and months and months of tiresome will he/won’t he speculation about the possibility of John Tory entering the race. crystalballNo Toronto mayoral campaign would be complete without it.

The thing is – and I say this with all due respect to those already knee deep in conjecture and theoretical electoral guesswork including yours truly – in the, I don’t know, 363 days or so between today and the election, there’s a very high probability the ground will have shifted dramatically. If history is anything to go by, the terrain will be nearly unrecognizable. Ask George Smitherman how much the fall of 2010 looked like it would back when he was organizing his run in 2009. Ditto John Tory in the lead up to the 2003 campaign.

And let’s face it, there’s never really been this degree of unknowns going into an election as there are right now especially with an incumbent in place and so raring to go. As much as we might despair/rejoice about the seeming Teflon nature of Mayor Ford, to think there aren’t more land mines just waiting to detonate around him before now and next October just seems implausible. A year out, rushing in with the view of Mayor Ford being your main opponent could be a huge waste of political capital and time.

Besides, it just plays right into the mayor’s wheelhouse of all campaigning, all the time. That’s what he does. That’s what he’s good at. downanddirtyWhy extend an already prolonged campaign period that Mayor Ford has been trying to stretch out for more than a year now?

Get down there in the muck and goo and start to mix it up so we can divert our attention from more important issues that constitute matters of good governance. That yucky policy stuff that the mayor and his staff so assiduously avoid dealing with. We’ve known since 2010, and the administration has missed no opportunity to remind us, that democracy is about nothing more than elections. Win it and the ball is yours for the next 4 years to play with however you see fit.

A mandate, folks. It’s never too early to start demanding a mandate.

As usual, such fireworks will hog the spotlight. Election dogfights are much easier to follow and analyse than, say, matters of policy. hohum2So, the sooner, the better, am I right? To use the mayor’s analogy, no time like the present to “… jump over the boards and drop the gloves to fight.”

So, you know what?

Let them go at it but let’s stop immediately jumping up in gleeful excitement at each big campaign 2014 announcement, every blow that’s landed and then trying to read the tea leaves about what it all means. Those gearing up for the grind have to be preparing already. Let them. It doesn’t mean we have to follow along with every twist and turn. There’s going to be a lot of twists and turns over the next 12 months.

In the meantime, there’s still a city to run.

 – disinterestedly submitted by Cityslikr


Another Chance To Get It Right

October 8, 2013

As difficult as it may be to imagine, given the… surreal? wacky? cartoonish? crazy1I’ve truly run out of adjectives to describe the performance of this current city council over the course of the last three years… this week’s meeting could well turn out to represent the… pinnacle? nadir? defining moment? of its entire term.

Check out Neville Park’s cheat sheet if you haven’t already for a most excellent and entertaining overview of what will be going on over the course of the next 3 or 4 days. As always, there’s a boat load of important matters to be dealt with including the appointment of the replacement for Doug Holyday as councillor for Ward 3. His letter to his former colleagues insisting they tap his choice of Peter Leon who was ignored last week by Etobicoke-York Community Council when they opted for Chris Stockwell should make that debate more intriguing than it really should be.

That item, of course, along with every other one on council’s agenda will be overshadowed once more by the topic of transit. backfromthedeadMore specifically the ongoing, drawn out, forever and forever until perpetuity fight over a Scarborough subway. The serial killer of our political scene that just cannot be dispatched.

Yep. It’s back. Just two short weeks ago it seemed like a sure thing too, resuscitated by an infusion of federal cash. But now, with a provincial short fall and the city manager laying out the barest minimum of property tax increases that will be needed for the city to pony up its piece of the funding pie (for a more realistic picture of what we could be paying to build the Scarborough subway, check out David Hains and Hamutal Dotan at Torontoist), not to mention its biggest booster in an ever steepening pot of brewing scandal, a slight pall has been cast over the subway celebrations.

The kicker is, after all the discussion we’ve had on the topic, the monotonous, endless back-and-forth since 2010, there’s still no rational, compelling reason to replace the proposed Scarborough LRT with a subway in either of its current alignments. youcanbeseriousThe case to do so has remained in its under-developed embryonic state.  An a priori argument, of sorts, stating a subway is the best option for Scarborough because, well, subways are the best. World class. First class.

It’s a heaping dose of head shake, bulging with a bloated sense of entitlement and misplaced resentment, encouraged mightily by excruciating political calculation at all three levels of government.

As Matt Elliott pointed out in his column yesterday, the cost of building this Scarborough subway is going to put an undue strain on the city’s budget for decades to come, threatening other programs and services as well as other transit infrastructure builds, many of them a much higher priority than a subway in Scarborough. Any member of city council who votes in favour of proceeding with this project is doing so out of nothing more than pure self-interest. They are signalling a willingness to jeopardize the city’s best interests for the sake of scoring cheap political points.

responsibilityjpg

That’s what this vote comes down to. It will define their term in office. Let’s be sure to judge them accordingly.

pleadingly submitted by Cityslikr


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