So today begins 4 days of debate, bluster, posturing, finger pointing and maneuvering before the 2011 operating and capital budgets are voted on and put into action. After being fast tracked through weeks of committees, public deputations and PR battles, the day of reckoning is nigh. The expedited budget, Mayor Rob Ford’s first born, is prepped and ready to go.
To be sure, this budget will be passed, pretty well intact. I’m betting the final vote won’t be that close. Even councillors not aligned with the mayor, sitting nearer the mushy middle than the far right, will go along with the budget especially those representing the more suburban wards. They can’t ignore the big fat goose egg of a property tax increase their constituents will hold tightly onto as proof City Hall is finally listening to what they want. The increase in user fees and various ‘minor’ cuts will take some time to poke holes and deflate the belief bubble many voters insist on living within, convinced that yes, you can get something for nothing.
What will be interesting to watch are the votes that occur when various motions and amendments emerge. Again, the mayor will have his way almost certainly 100% of the time. But some of the votes will be much closer than the final yea or nay on the budget. While Mayor Ford has been on the kind of winning streak at council one expects from someone newly minted into the office, there have been times when his team has had to whip enough councillors in place to secure 1 vote victories. Expect to see some of those in the lead up to Monday’s big vote.
Also expect to see the mayor relatively quiet and sanguine throughout the whole process. Aside from the odd moment when his former boisterous councillor self has turned red-faced and threatened to erupt, he’s been congenial, amiable and seemingly happy to oblige. His brother, Doug, will probably bubble over in exasperation once during the course of the 4 days at all the lefties who simply refuse to understand that government’s just lousy with waste.
Deputy Mayor Holyday will riff on that theme as well, more regularly than Councillor Ford. Taking his glasses off, he’ll chide council to be more serious about taking up the challenge of fiscal responsibility. He may not start a statement with an ‘In my day…’ but that’s just what it’ll feel like. Every time he opens his mouth.
Budget Chief Mike Del Grande will grumpily inform every councillor who thinks the cuts in the budget are too draconian that We. Just. Can’t. Afford.
Speak Nunziata won’t be able to mask her contempt for those she disagrees with and will rule them out of order even if they aren’t and brush aside the city clerk who tells her she’s not following protocol. Protocol and procedures are not the Speaker’s strong suits. How many she ignores, steamrolls and/or disregards is anybody’s guess but the over/under currently is 11.
Councillor Mammoliti will rise often and patronizingly tell dissenting councillors that he understands where they’re coming from (he doesn’t) and implore them to just trust him and his newest, bestest friend, the mayor.
Councillors Vaughan and Perks (ably assisted by newcomer Josh Matlow) will all bug Speaker Nunziata, Deputy Mayor Holyday, the budget chief, councillors Ford, Shiner and Milczyn to no end. Perks and Vaughan will be the ones bringing forth motions and amendments that will send Team Ford scrambling to beat back. If anyone is denied a point of order or not voted an extension to speak, it’ll be either Councillor Vaughan or Perks. Someone will inevitably call one of them a Left Wing Kook which will leave things wide open for councillors Carroll and Davis to seem more than reasonable in pointing out the unreasonableness of much of the budget and its proponents.
Oh yes, it’s going to be 4 days of fun and games, made all the more circus-like because of the inevitability of the ultimate outcome. A budget vote with a safety net. Ironic since it will be the first step toward a more sweeping attempt by the administration to dismantle the safety net the city has carefully stitched together over the last 7 years, beginning with an entire budget review process that will start up almost immediately upon passage of this budget. So enjoy the frivolity, folks, because for here on in it just might get loud.
— prognosticatingly submitted by Cityslikr