Meet A Mayoral Candidate XV

It’s Friday again and—wait, wait. Friday? Really? Didn’t the work week start, like, just 3 days ago? Oh well. If you say so. Friday it is then, bringing another installment of Meet A Mayoral Candidate!

Up this week: Rocco Achampong!

Voted by those in this office as the Candidate Most Likely To Break Out From The Back Of The Pack And Start Running With The Big Bulls (you mean your office didn’t have a similar pool?), Rocco Achampong appears ready to fulfill that destiny. He’ll be appearing along with Keith Cole at the Better Ballots Mayoral Debate on June 1st at the University of Toronto’s Hart House with the 6 top dogs, acronymously known as TRFMPS. His time in the shadows is about to be a thing of the past as steps out into the glaring limelight.

Mr. Achampong should have somewhat of a home field advantage at next Tuesday’s debate as he is a graduate of U. of T. where he co-founded the Black Students Association and served as the president before being elected president of the university’s Students’ Administrative Council (now known as the Students’ Union). In fact, so at home with the place is he that Achampong even announced his candidacy for mayor earlier this year in the very room where the debate will be taking place. He’ll be well versed with where the puck bounces unexpectedly off the boards into the slot in front of the net.

There is little question that as a candidate for mayor Mr. Achampong has all the goods. He is young, driven and possesses a compelling and uplifting biography. Born in Ghana, his family immigrated to Canada when he was nine years old. Some of his youth was spent in Toronto’s rough-and-tumble Jane-Finch area, where Achampong was well aware of the violence that sometimes flared up in the community.  But with a strong family bond steeped in love and faith, he overcame these struggles to make his way through school, eventually graduating from Osgoode Hall with a law degree in 2008.

It is perfect political pedigree, bestowing a can-do under dog, over-achieving mantle on him that Achampong clearly relishes. “I think of myself as Rocky,” Achampong has said. “As long as I’m still on my feet after 12 rounds, I’ve won.” Strike up the Bill Conti theme music, we say, because up that flight of stairs we go!

Yet for all the fresh-faced, new blood, rising star qualities enveloping Achampong, there’s a whiff of familiarity upon closer examination. Imagine my surprise when glancing through his biographical material that Mr. Achampong campaigned for John Tory back in 2003 in that mayoral election. I say, what? Tory may be a nice guy and genuinely decent human being but what’s a bright-eyed, impressionable young thing doing going to work for the consummate insider, an official member of the unofficial kitchen cabinet for the execrable Mel Lastman regime? What does that say about Achampong’s politics?

It speaks volumes.

From Mr. Achampong’s speech announcing his intention to run for mayor: I have no experience when it comes to raising your taxes – time after time after time. No experience when it comes to looking for ever more innovative ways to separate our hard-working citizens from their hard-earned money. I have no experience when it comes to wasting these same hard-earned tax dollars through reckless and irresponsible spending. I have no experience when it comes to selling our city out to special interests, no experience in caving in to demands, to sitting idly by and complacently while union bosses hold our citizens hostage with outrageous demands.

Unlike my professional politician opponents, I have no experience when it comes to running government agencies rife with scandal and corruption. I have no experience when it comes to hiking transit costs for hard-working citizens to pay ever higher salaries to overfed employees who sleep on the job.

Words that could just as easily be emanating from the mouth of George Smitherman, Rob Ford or Rocco Achampong’s former boss on the John Tory 2003 campaign team, Rocco Rossi. For a new kid on the block, Mr. Achampong sounds awfully shopworn, clichéd and hackneyed. Where is the new vision to accompany the new face? Even his answer to the question we’ve been asking all our candidates, If the present mayor would like his legacy to be that of the Transit Mayor, how would a Mayor Achampong like to see his legacy written? strikes us as somewhat generic. “A Mayor Achampong would like his legacy to be that of economic growth, prosperity for the many, and hope for all…when they look back, I  would like them to not forget that times were great under my administration”.

Yes, there is much to admire in the compassionate and progressive elements of Achampong’s platform. A national housing initiative. TTC fare freeze. Doubling of the city’s arts funding. Dedicated bike lanes.

We just do not see how all this gibes with the anti-tax, anti-union stance Mr. Achampong’s touting right now. The hope is with a new voice comes a new vision. Rather than trotting our all the old sawhorses about this city’s out-of-control spending and being held hostage by union layabouts, we’re looking for someone, anyone, to point out how the fiscal straits Toronto is facing presently are largely beyond its control. We’re looking for a candidate to stand up for our interests in the face of recalcitrant and negligent senior levels of government and state categorically that we refuse to play delivery boy to the heartless and harmful effects of the neoliberal policies that they’ve been pursuing for decades now.

And somewhere in our peabrains we lodged the idea that a candidate such as Rocco Achampong might be that one. Now, we’re not so sure. It saddens us. Maybe over the course of the election campaign we will be proven wrong.

dutifully submitted by Cityslikr

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