Anger Management

July 9, 2014

After Mayor Ford’s attempted campaign press conference was commandeered by the self-proclaimed #shirtlesshorde yesterday (and the below video is just a fraction of the monumental disruption caused by protesters), there was some talk about the effectiveness of the tactic. Much of it was grounded in how it played to the mayor’s base. Would it paint a picture of this poor guy, fresh out of rehab and on the slow road to recovery, once more under attack by jobless, union-backed, trough-slurping downtown elites. Give the guy a break!

And put a shirt on.

Since his unlikely rise to the mayor’s office in 2010, we’ve been told Rob Ford is like no other politician we’ve ever seen here in Canada. He has a fiercely loyal base that believes unwaveringly that he is just one of them and is always looking out for the little guy. angermanagement2The rules of political engagement are, therefore, different.

What exactly those rules are, however, are not very clear. Ignore him? Attack him? Attack his policies? Mock him? Ignore him? Did I say ‘ignore him’ already?

How do we handle this guy?!

In the post-mortem after his election win, the conventional wisdom was that those of us standing in opposition to the Ford juggernaut failed to understand the anger it had managed to tap into. An anger, much of it in the inner suburbs of the city, at exclusion and disenfranchisement, a feeling of disconnect with the rest of the city especially the downtown core which was perceived as the sole beneficiary of the upside to amalgamation. It had all the good transit, the booming economy represented by all the cranes on the skyline, the perks and fancy public spaces. angryvotersAll mostly paid by the hardworking taxpayers struggling to get by out in the suburbs.

Understand that anger and you’d understand the Ford appeal.

If only it were that easy.

It wasn’t so much that nobody got the anger. Only the most smug, self-satisfied Torontonian could think we weren’t surrounded by high degrees of inequality and isolation, political disenchantment and deeply rooted regional antagonism. angryPeople were unhappy, and many of them rightfully so.

The problem was, there were no quick and easy solutions, and none that the city could address all on its own. The Miller administration was pushing better transit further into the inner suburbs with Transit City and a ridership growth plan. Business property taxes were being adjusted in an effort to attract employers into the city and create more jobs. There were programs like the Tower Renewal introduced.

Systemic change takes time, and in 2010 it got crushed under a steamroller of retail politics. Rob Ford wrangled all the disaffection by offering simple solutions and slick slogans. There was no problem that couldn’t be solved by simply Respecting the Taxpayer. angrymobOr Stopping the Gravy Train.

He took the anger, made it angrier and rode it all the way into the mayor’s office.

Now, four years later, we tremble in fear of in any way poking the angry bear we call Ford Nation.

Don’t attack the mayor. It’ll get the base angry. Don’t make fun of the mayor. It’ll make the base angry. Don’t talk about the mayor’s bad behaviour. It’ll make the base angry. And, for godsakes, put on your shirt or you’ll make the base angry.

An angry Ford Nation is a motivated Ford Nation. A motivated Ford Nation means a re-elected Rob Ford.

So, shhhh! Don’t wake the angry bear.angrywhiteguy

I don’t know. Maybe there’s some wisdom in all that. Anger is tough to sustain, and all recent indications suggest there’s no upward mobility for the Ford campaign. Keep your composure, stand back, let him crash and burn, move on.

But you know, there’s a bigger matter at work here. Our local democracy is more than Rob Ford and these last four extraordinary, at times, demoralizing years. Politics here will continue when Ford leaves the stage, one way or the other. I’m not sure we start to repair things in any significant manner by silently holding the door for him on his way out. Here’s your hat and crack. What’s your hurry?

Four years ago – and I say this through gritted teeth – Rob Ford was something of a blank slate. angrymanHis possible mayoralty, theoretical. When he won, there was something of a reluctant hope against hope. Maybe the office would moderate his immoderate views? He’d have to reach out beyond his supporters to secure a workable mandate at City Hall, wouldn’t he? His brother (and this hope turned out to be the most fantastical), newly elected to council, would be a temperate influence. He’d be the smart one.

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!

Well now, that all turned out to be unfounded dreaming. Rob Ford has a deplorable track record as mayor based on a mountain of lies and gross misconduct. Nothing he says is true. He has ripped up more than he has built. angrywhiteguy1By any measure, he is a spectacularly failed mayor.

And he wants to be re-elected.

Meanwhile, we’re advised to keep calm, our eyes averted, fingers crossed and hope this whole tempest blows over.

What exactly does that kind of negligent compliance signal for the future?

Rob Ford’s reckless governance and personal behaviour, his disregard for common decency has degraded the office of the mayor of Toronto and smeared City Hall. Allowing him a free pass, quietly waiting for the end, is tantamount to a dereliction of our civic duty as residents of this city.

That’s what the Joe Killoran incident was all about. Unfiltered anger at an unrepentant, untrustworthy, entitled politician who somehow is still able to hold onto public office and be out asking for 4 more years. What does it say about us that we stand back, questioning the motives and tactics of those speaking out in order to ensure that all the ugliness just quietly goes away?

While we do, the mayor’s so-called ‘sobriety coach’ kicks a member of the public. The mayor continues to pretend his rehab stunt was anything but a campaign publicity stunt. The mayor remains seated during a standing ovation for the success of hosting World Pride this year.

So I say, rage on John Furr and the shirtless horde! Remain angry. Vigil on, Rob Ford Must Go! Keep reminding us that our mayor remains unfit for office. That he remains a lying disgrace of a human being. Time and time again, he’s betrayed our trust and pissed on everything the city touts to represent.

Don’t be angry? How can you not be angry?

angrily submitted by Cityslikr


… And Speaking Of Resigning

July 4, 2014

Think there’s no party politics at play at the municipal level? Look around at what’s going on at City Hall right now, folks. pitypartyTell me we aren’t awash in one great big Pity Party.

According to the mayor’s councillor-brother-campaign manager, there’s a “full out jihad” against the Fords now in response to yet another complaint registered with the integrity commissioner, this time about Councillor Ford’s comments made about autistic kids under care at the Griffin Centre. This jihad comes on top of the media jihad that’s been waged upon the mayor since his planned triumphant return from rehab this week.

Happy Ramadan, Muslims. The Fords feel ya.

Not to be outdone in this woe-is-me parade (never to be outdone when it comes to grandstanding), Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti wants everyone to know that he was sick, very, very, gravely ill, so, you know, don’t be pointing the finger at him about some ‘illegal fundraiser’ as alleged by an obviously ‘unfair and biased’ Integrity Commissioner, Janet Leiper, yesterday.

mybrainhurts

How can anyone have done anything wrong that was in a hospital bed with his head carved open?

If there was some improper, shady shit going on in terms of this so-called ‘illegal fundraiser’ – and that’s a big ‘if’ since the integrity commissioner is obviously out to get Councillor Mammoliti as she is always, always ‘breathing down his throat’ – he’s blameless due to medical reasons.  “Some short term memory loss during this period of time.” “I can barely remember any of it.”

The claim, as full of holes and leaky as it is, might hold some water if this was the councillor’s first ethical lapse in judgement. countingfingersI don’t know. The surgeon must have cut out the moral compass of my brain! But it isn’t. Giorgio Mammoliti has come under scrutiny for at least a couple other violations. He’s currently in court facing campaign finance irregularities. There’s the below market value rent he’s received for an apartment owned by a company that does business with the city. Never mind the illegal re-election signs that have popped up.

That’s just this term alone. Let’s not forget the oldie but goodie from way back when the councillor got the city to pay his legal defense against a challenge of his campaign financing in 2006. So either, the thing that was wrong with Councillor Mammoliti’s head was long term and slow growing or the guy simply operates under the premise that The. Rules. Apply. To. Other. People.

Perhaps the most egregious bit of conduct the Integrity Commissioner laid at the councillor’s feet in her report was his accepting of $80,000 from the fundraiser that was attended by lobbyists and companies doing business with city. whome1Even if he was non compos mentis at the time, wasn’t there anybody surrounding the man, family, friends, staff not busy planning the event on the city dime, who thought such a gift might be, I don’t know, a little out of bounds? I’m not a politician, Councillor Mammoliti, but accepting money while you’re in office seems… not quite right. Especially when it’s from people who might benefit from such a transaction with an elected official.

Even when the councillor had seemingly recovered from his brain affliction and returned to his normal state of assholery, he didn’t bother to respond to the integrity commissioner’s offer of allowing him to return the money. Money? What money? Short term memory loss, remember? Remember what? Money? What money? Short term memory loss, remember? Remember what? Money? What money?

And here’s the real kick in the nuts to any and every right-thinking resident of Toronto (and beyond). Even if the integrity commissioner’s recommendations are adopted by city council and Councillor Mammoliti is docked 3 months pay, slaponthewristthe maximum penalty that can be dealt out to him by the city, he’d still walk away with over $50,000 in his pocket. Money paid to him by registered lobbyists and companies doing business with the city.

“This is as offside as you get when you come to a code of conduct violation,” said Brian Iler, the lawyer who brought the original complaint to the integrity commissioner.

Is it any wonder politicians like Giorgio Mammoliti and Rob Ford continue to disregard the rules put in place to ensure ethical behaviour from our elected officials? Why wouldn’t you if you can still come out ahead of the game. It’s a twisted realm of thinking that, if there are no deterrents to your questionable conduct, if there are no tangible repercussions to your actions, like jail time or being chased from office, then clearly, you did nothing wrong. If you did, where’s the appropriate punishment?

getawaywithit

The system as it’s currently set up at the municipal level may not exactly encourage bad behaviour. I can confidently declare that ethical, upstanding councillors heavily outnumber those who aren’t. Those so inclined to disregard the rules, however, are hardly dissuaded from doing exactly that. Ethics preferred but not required should go with the job description. Cheaters sometimes prosper.

cleanly submitted by Cityslikr


The Lads Doth Protest Too Much

July 3, 2014

So what is it with the Ford Bros. goons and their anti-urban henchman, Ccitybuildingouncillor Denzil Minnan-Wong, and Waterfront TO? Following along at Executive Committee yesterday as the 3 of them took turns taking swipes at the agency in charge of redeveloping the city’s long forlorn waterfront, you had to wonder what the hell was in that tree they were all barking up. Get that squirrel, Dougie! Get that squirrel!!

“This is the old hokey-pokey,” said Councillor Ford about the alleged shenanigans down on the waterfront. Hokey-pokey being, I guess, the kissing cousin to the boondoggle, and a safe way to hint at corruption without the worry of having to prove it.

“Councillor Doug Ford has turned a dark shade of purple as he rants about Waterfront Toronto,” Toronto Sun reporter Don Peat tweeted.

“You’re looking at a million dollars for 36 umbrellas and a rock, two rocks, two big rocks,” Mayor Ford pointed out about the design of Sugar Beach. “Two rocks. Where did these rocks come from?” he asked staff, pretty much rhetorically. “A rock is a signature piece?

“This is a cancer we must cut out,” the mayor declared. sugarbeach1The Gravy Train, yaddie, yaddie, yaddie, switching up into campaign stump speech.

“It is emblematic of Waterfront Toronto that they just don’t get the value of a dollar,” Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong stated, as if he alone in his tight-fisted, small-mindedness, understood.

“You’re missing the point in Sugar Beach!” Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly told the Executive Committee.

Ahh, yes. You’re missing the point. Especially you, TweetleDum, TweetleDumber and TweetleDMW.

My initial reaction was to look for deeper meaning or intentions in such intemperate outbursts although with these guys it isn’t an irregular occurrence. sugarbeachThe Fords have a tendency to turn various shades of bluster whenever they open their mouths. Councillor Minnan-Wong, he develops a certain tone of smug petulance.

But you will remember back nearly 3 years ago, Councillor Ford had big plans for some of the waterfront. Such monumentally huge plans that he appeared to have left his brother, the mayor, out of the loop. Ferris wheels. Monorails. Shopping malls.

You know, a place where people would actually want to go to visit and not some high concept, artsy-fartsy park.

With those plans shot down and the first leg pulled out from under the Ford mayoralty, I immediately thought, so what are these guys up to now? What plans had they hatched that were under threat by the slow but steady march of redevelopment by WaterfrontTO? sugarbeach2What were there wanting to build down there?

Of course, at this point, that may be over-thinking things, giving the boys way too much credit. Perhaps Christopher Hume last week summed it up best when he took exception to Councillor Minnan-Wong’s tirade about WaterfrontTO. “The problem is Minnan-Wong’s Toronto is dull, sterile and cheap,” Hume wrote.

Like the Fords, the councillor’s view of the public realm extends only as far as the roads he drives on. You want green space? It’s called a backyard. With a lawn. The suburbs like those his Don Mills ward is located in were intended to do away with the need for the public realm. Public realm? That’s what we have malls for.

I don’t want to get all high-falutin and world class city-ish here but truly great cities are measured by their public spaces. Think London, Paris, Barcelona, Washington DC, New York, Vancouver and what immediately comes to mind? notredameI’ll let you fill in the blanks but chances are it’s all about public spaces.

“That’s all well and good but do we really need all those fancy gargoyles around the place?” asks the medieval French version of Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong when looking at the plans for Notre Dame.

But Toronto’s no London, Paris, Barcelona, etc., etc. We’re Toronto. We don’t do public space. We keep our taxes low.

What’s really annoying about all this is, these so-called fiscal conservatives cluck, cluck, cluck over $12,000 umbrellas and $500,000 rocks while steadfastly ignoring the fact that, according to Mr. Hume, projects like Sugar Beach have contributed to bringing some $2.6 billion in private investment to the waterfront. The public sector, working with the private sector, to enhance the quality of life for residents of Toronto. Just like Councillor Ford is always on about.texaschainsawmassacre

Maybe that’s what’s really stuck in their collective craws. The very idea that government can work, that government can actually contribute to the well-being of the city it’s in place to serve. Sure, it might cost some money but it isn’t always about a zero sum equation. We can have roads and beautiful parks too!

Or maybe, it’s all just about crass, retail, low rent politics. As has been stated many times by many people during the course of this administration, it’s about the cost of everything and the value of nothing. A sad reflection of the penurious imagination too many of us bring to table when talking about Toronto.

sow’s ear-ly submitted by Cityslikr


It’s Complicated

July 2, 2014

Some things are, for sure.

The reasons why one feels compelled – high or not – to spew racist labels and sentiments itscomplicated(or homophobic or misogynistic ones) may well be complicated. What makes anyone a racist or homophobe or misogynist? There’s probably not one clear answer to that.

It doesn’t change the fact you’re a racist or homophobe or misogynist. That’s pretty straight-forward. You drop the N-bomb or muse publically about ‘jamming’ a female colleague or return to work after a 2 month stint off one day after Pride celebrations end, the fourth straight year you’ve openly ignored the event during your time in office? There’s nothing particularly complicated about who you are and what you stand for.

Confronting that fact, particularly in your role as a journalist, isn’t nearly as uncomplicated or simple or straightforward.

Let me state right here, right now. You could not pay me enough to work as a journalist. thepressNot even a billion dollars.

I don’t say that proudly or boastfully. I in no way mean to denigrate what they do. I just wouldn’t want to do. It’s too hard a job. It’s complicated.

Yes, we can all point to the hacks and sycophants. The toadies who cling to the spotlight with fawning, uncritical words of unflagging support. Journalism does not operate above and beyond the human condition.

But there’s no easy road to take in dealing with a public figure like Rob Ford. With so much of his support (and belief system) based on a mistrust of established institutions and strong belief in their outsider status, legitimate questions can come across as full frontal attacks. In hounding the mayor to start providing actual answers to their questions, it’s easy for the press to be portrayed as jackals and other unflattering predators. They get to play the villains in Ford Nation’s ongoing victimization pageant.

So, just ignore him. Make Ford come to you rather than the other way around. witchuntHe needs the press more than it needs him.

Again, it’s a bit more complicated than that.

I know a couple of the journalists in question who’d like nothing more than to turn their backs on the mayor and walk away. They find the melodrama and sideshow as boringly depressing as many of us do. Of course, they’d rather pursue more interesting and elevated issues than one man’s downward spiral into justifiable obscurity.

But these people aren’t their own bosses. They answer to others who see Rob Ford as a genuine source of news, for good and ill. He continues to sell newspapers, gets eyes glued to the screens. If he’s declared a news conference on the day of his return from a two month rehab stint, it’s hard to imagine any editor or publisher or segment producer simply shrugging it off. Yeah, whatever. clothlessemperorThe guy’s a dick. Let’s move on.

Anybody’s job that involves looking out for the bottom line will not be dismissing Rob Ford any time soon. To do so would, in effect, be creating the news. We haven’t gone so bonkers with our disgust at Rob Ford to think that’s a good idea, have we?

Maybe we’re just expecting too much from journalism. We as a city have this problem called Rob Ford and we want somebody to magically rid him for us. Do your job, press! Hound him from office! Remember Watergate!

Then yesterday’s shirtless jogger, Joe Killoran, runs into the mayor at the East York Canada Day parade and begins berating him for all the questions he refuses to answer and we all say, See Journalists? That’s How It’s Done! Why aren’t you more like Shirtless Jogger Joe, Toronto press corps? diydemocracyIf only there were more reporters with Shirtless Jogger Joe’s chutzpah…

But how about this?

Maybe if more of us were like Shirtless Jogger Joe, confronting the mayor and his team whenever we encountered them or sought them out at campaign events. Maybe if more of us acted like concerned citizens, actively participating in this city’s life, demanding our elected officials answer the questions we posed to them, Rob Ford would be more forthcoming. Maybe he doesn’t answer questions, not because the press hasn’t asked them, but because he thinks not enough of us really care enough to be bothered if he does or not.

Some things are complicated. Some things aren’t. The proper functioning of our democratic process is, at times, confoundingly complicated. We need to recognize that and stop demanding easy answers from our politicians, our members of the press, ourselves.

goadingly submitted by Cityslikr


Redemption’s A Life’s Work Not A Summer Vacation

June 30, 2014

Everybody loves a redemption story. Bad boy makes good. The down-and-outer turning his life around, rockyjust when everything seemed lost. The prodigal son.

It’s as old as the urge to tell tales to keep ourselves entertained in the cold night, huddled up inside the cave.

Think Oedipus Rex. Perhaps the greatest comeback story ever. Boy ordered to be put to death after an oracle warns that he will kill his father (the worst kind of son) but his mother cannot bring herself to do it (the best kind of mother). Instead, she orders a servant to slay the infant. (OK, maybe not the best kind of mother). The servant can’t do it either. (You really can find good help some days). So the servant just leaves the baby out on a mountain to die of exposure. (And other days you can’t). Saved by a good shepherd (shepherds are always good), oedipusrexthe little boy grows up to be a man and winds up triumphantly returning home after killing some old dude on the road and then he meets the woman of his dreams who he…

You know why everybody loves the redemptive narrative?

Because in real life, it so rarely happens. More often than not, you don’t get knocked down and get up again. At least, not to anywhere near where you were before. Loss tends to take its toll. Failure, especially of the spectacularly public kind, leaves a noticeable mark. Maybe not as drastic as, I don’t know, gouging out your own eyes but few walk away unscathed.

Redemption and deliverance tend to be hard won and small in scope. “Didn’t you used to be Mac Sledge? Yeah, I guess I was.” tendermerciesIf you’re lucky, you get to live to tell the tale.

And let’s face it. Rob Ford has been redeemed more than any one person deserves in any one lifetime. He has regularly tripped and fallen, stumbled over his own hubris, willful ignorance, disdain and dislike for almost everyone outside of his small cabal of associates, family included. And that’s just in the last 4 years! Born into a life of privilege (if not the kind of life most of us would want to live), he chose to abuse and exploit his advantage rather than use it to become a better person or make the world a better place around him.

His missteps and misconduct have never seemed to carry much repercussion or consequences. He’s actually been rewarded for being such a categorical failure. Isn’t it redemption enough that someone of Rob Ford’s rigid incuriosity and malevolent world view got to be mayor of Toronto? grandtheftautoHow much grace and forgiveness can fate bestow on one person?

Is that being too harsh on someone with substance abuse issues? Cut the guy some slack. Maybe this time he’ll turn things around, get his life in order, finally redeem himself.

Fuck that.

If Rob Ford actually gained even the slightest bit of self-awareness and the humility that would stem from that, he’d show up at his office at City Hall today and immediately announce his resignation from both the office and the campaign. He’d recognize all the harm he’s done, certificateofhumilityall the bullshit he’s spewed, the venomous misogynistic, racist, homophobic way in which he’s conducted his life, and realize, along with about 60% of us at this point, that he’s unfit to hold the office he was elected into.

Only if that were to happen would Rob Ford be at the point in the story where you might say, Well hey, he’s acknowledged his faults, the errors of his way. It took him some time to get there, burning a lot of bridges along the way, inflicting a lot of harm and damage. Some of which you never fix, you never get forgiven for. But, you know, maybe there is some hope for him after all. Let’s see what he does next.

You just know, though, that’s not how this is going to play out.

In all likelihood, Rob Ford, and his brother and family, all believe in their collective heart of hearts that he’s walked the rugged, rigorous road of redemption. He’s paid his dues. He took a leave of absence from the job he never really took that seriously in the first place, just pretendingand did what you have to do up in cottage country to look as if you might be contrite and a little bit shamed by your actions.

I’ve said sorry, folks. What more can I do? The past is the past. Let’s just move forward. Anything else?

We’ve heard it all before.

You don’t get to proclaim your own redemption. It’s not for you to bestow upon yourself. All you can do is accept the fact that you made a mess of things, try to clean it up as best you can and set out to be a better person. It’s up to others to decide what comes next.

Perhaps someday Rob Ford will genuinely find redemption. He’ll pick up the pieces of his broken life and put them back together in some discernible fashion. That should never include, however, re-assuming public office. There’s too much dirty water under that bridge, too much degenerate behaviour and misuse of power to ever have it restored. redemptionRob Ford displayed a degree of arrogance and contempt toward those who’d put their trust in him to a level you never dial back from, you never get a do-over for. That kind of record doesn’t get expunged.

Rob Ford will find redemption only when he’s humble enough to realize that and moves on to the next stage in his life, far away from the spotlight of elected office.

chidingly submitted by Cityslikr


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


Challengers To Watch III

June 6, 2014

I sure don’t envy any candidate running for city council in Etobicoke, especially Ward 2 where the Ford spectre must loom large. fordcountryNot just because of the family’s dynastic pretensions there but the way their hands-on representation (more Rob than Doug) has surely disfigured residents’ view of how a city functions properly. Got a problem? Call your councillor directly, any time of day, 24/7. He’ll sort it out for you. Who needs more than a one man local government? The rest is, obviously, gravy.

I posed this question to Luke LaRocque, one of the nine council candidates running in Ward 2 this time around. He shrugged. The Ford factor is just a thing in these parts. Something not so much to be confronted as handled.

It’s about gently trying to change the perception of the dynamics of local governance. Where the Fords have built a reputation of what they can do for their residents, fromscratchMr. LaRocque wants to inculcate a sense of how can we do this together. He sees the role of city councillor more as a community leader rather than the local handyman.

In fact, for LaRocque, a born and bred north Etobian, there’s more to public service than just customer service. After receiving his Master’s degree in urban and international development, he worked for a relief organization in Malawi and has served as a volunteer both before and after that here in Canada. Currently he’s working with Matthew House, a group that provides temporary housing for refugees upon their arrival here.

There’s a natural progression to his desire to enter municipal politics. It’s the level of politics where you can most directly affect people’s lives. The nuts and bolts of daily life. Housing. Transit. Safe streets and public spaces.

The community.

Out on the campaign trail, LaRoque feels a little bit like he’s starting from scratch, communityengagementgoing right back to the basics of local governance. What do we have? What do we value as a resident and as a community? What do we want? How do we set out achieving that together?

At the risk of sounding all consultant-y, it comes down to community based consulting. Consulting, engaging and actively encouraging participation in how and what decisions get made. LaRocque points out that the nearest constituency office for either Ward 1 and 2 is the Etobicoke Civic Centre, a fair drive or an even longer transit ride away.

(An interesting side note: during the Griffin Centre kerfuffle a couple weeks back, it should be noted that there seemed to be a definite lack of communication between the current Ward 2 councillor and the residents of neighbourhood where the house was. Some of the pushback might’ve been alleviated had everyone known what was going on. That appeared not to be the case here.)

Unsurprisingly, “better resident communication” is one of LaRocque’s goals as city councillor. parochial1It has to be a two-way form of communication, however, beyond simply giving out your personal cell phone number, only to be used when something’s not working. That’s a very limited scope and doesn’t do much to build any investment in the larger community.

It’s not a question of ignoring the day-to-day matters a city councillor has to deal with. Pot holes have to get filled and fences fixed. Those are the things you hear about when you’re out canvassing door-to-door. But a city councillor should serve in the role of last resort not first. There are other, more efficient, less expensive mechanisms in place to deal with those kinds of things. Only when they don’t get the job done, should the local councillor be called in to deal with it.

It’s this delicate balancing act a successful city councillor needs to pull off. torontocityhallSatisfying the hyper-local needs of your residents while contributing on a city-wide scale to ensuring ease of access and equality of opportunity for everyone. Ward 2 Etobicoke North has had a preponderance of the former to the detriment of the latter from its local representatives lately.

Luke LaRocque is part of a new wave of young office seekers for the suburbs whose formative political years have happened post-amalgamation. While he still catches himself referring to Up Here versus Down There, he’s part of a group who see themselves more as Torontonians than from Etobicoke or North York or Scarborough. They drive and they take transit which may seem like a trite observation but I think it points a much larger trend.

The new aspirants to political office in Toronto don’t tend to see City Hall, being located downtown as it is, as some beast to be tamed or reined in. HQ for some foreign occupiers. digthenewbreedFor the likes of Luke LaRocque, City Hall is a place of opportunity to make the lives of not only residents of Ward 2 better but the lives of everybody across the entire city. In the end, you can’t really have one without the other.

If we finally want to get past this whole urban-suburban divide that continues to plague the forward motion of Toronto, we have to start rejecting the politics and politicians who exploit it to their advantage. Luke LaRocque represents a break with that way of thinking. Both Ward 2 and City Hall would be better off with him in place as city councillor.

helpfully submitted by Cityslikr


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