As we mentioned here yesterday, the Ford administration is mainly a media driven machine, delivering its baked to bite size perfection message over the airwaves and on the pages of our dailies. Usually the less discerning outlets like the raggedy-assed Toronto Sun and news outlets on your AM dial. After spending 6-½ hours in the chamber gallery last night witnessing council’s marathon special meeting to decide the fate of the remaining TCHC board members, I’m gaining a better understanding of why that is.
And it won’t come as a surprise to anyone who watched many of last year’s mayoral debates during the campaign. Mayor Ford is fundamentally incapable of formulating a coherent thought that cannot be expressed in more than a 3 word cliché. It makes for great radio and newspaper headlines but when confronted by a living, breathing, semi-sentient human being, well, it all just falls apart. The mayor gets flustered, starts to sweat and turns red to a point where you almost start feeling sorry for him. Which he used to his advantage during the debates, quickly scurrying offstage to the welcoming arms of the media scrum, whining about his mistreatment at the hands of downtown, debate-capable elites. There, there, Robbie. Don’t worry. We’ll make sure everybody realizes you actually won the debate.
No, what’s surprising is that the Ford administration is bereft of a single member who can stand up and defend it at council. I know every group, regardless of where they sit on the political spectrum, has its share of dim bulbs. Same goes for the hardcore ideologues inside any political team. They don’t think they have to explain themselves. The far right has the additional problem of not being able to reveal the full extent of its radical intent, so they end up sounding disingenuous, mouthing words they don’t really mean.
Still, what can you say about a group whose best spokesperson at council is Giorgio Mammoliti, a man prone to never passing up an opportunity to miss a point? Ever since he detached himself from his last vestige of personal dignity to become Mayor Ford’s BFF, the smarmy factor has gone through the roof. He wears his smug triumphalism on his sleeve, and the jokes and jibes Mammoliti tosses toward colleagues and the crowd are riddled with contempt, spite and nastiness that can only come from someone fully cognizant of just what a lightweight he actually is.
The mayor’s brother, Councillor Doug, the face of the administration in the media, is as equally awkward and inept at council but, unlike his mayor brother, doesn’t seem to realize it. He flashes a folksy charm that is neither and comes across more like that married guy trolling ladies night at T.G.I.F. (do either of those things still exist?). Rebuffed, he then turns nasty.
Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday appears to be held in high esteem by his fellow councillors but from an outsider’s standpoint? Whenever he gets up to talk at council, he’s just this side of Abe Simpson, veering from incoherently didactic to outraged in a heartbeat. Why don’t you kids understand this? I’m being perfectly clear! Are you on the pot or something?
Of course, no one does outrage and indignation for this administration better than Budget Chief Mike Del Grande. Once or twice every meeting, he’ll stand and berate anyone and everyone for not getting with the program. He seethes with contempt toward all those who refuse to recognize just how smart and hardworking he is. Or. Who. Simply. Don’t. Understand. Basic. Arith. Metic. He doesn’t need to explain his motivations. If you don’t know, you’re just not trying hard enough. Or stupid.
Councillor Michael Thompson tries very hard to make us understand his point of view. Or, more to the point, wants to look like he’s trying very hard to make us understand his point of view. Verbosity and long-windedness are his stock and trade. Minutes of clause and subclauses, followed by memories of how poorly everyone now affiliated with Mayor Ford were treated by the former regime, come together all wrapped up with a coda that essentially says, the mayor’s right, you’re wrong.
Newcomer James Pasternak has recently taken to defending the mayor with a pained obtuseness that reminds one of that really bad calculus teacher we all had in high school who couldn’t understand why the class didn’t understand what he was saying. Councillor Josh Colle rises occasionally to propose a motion which, as often as not, gets voted down by the mayor. Councillor Mary Margaret McMahon takes turns expressing either effusive praise for staff or the mayor and indignation when her motives are called into question. Councillors Frank Di Giorgio and Chin Lee will occasionally take to the floor to announce they’re backing the mayor because he’s a good guy and they trust him.
After that from a near majority of Mayor Ford supporters, it’s crickets. Long stretches of silence punctuated with button pushing almost unanimously to vote along with the mayor. They could be replaced by those drink dunking birds Homer Simpson — a second Simpsons reference in a single post. Whatever could that mean? – used to do his job while he went out. Rarely seeing fit to explain themselves, they are either merely hoping to keep their heads low and ride along on Mayor Ford’s coat tails, unnoticed, so that if it turns out poorly fingers won’t immediately point in their direction or… What? They can’t be bothered? Too shy?
At last night’s meeting, every one of the councillors who ultimately voted against giving the mayor the power to deep six the last remaining members of the TCHC board rose to speak, question or give a motion or amendment. To make a public pronouncement about why they were going to vote the way they did. They weren’t all barnburners or crowd pleasers. But they stood up and let those attending the meeting, the press, their constituents back home, all know their opinion on what was happening.
That may be the nature of being in opposition. Making the case of why you stand opposed. You don’t have to explain yourself so much when you’re in the driver’s seat.
But to remain silent on such an important, divisive matter, to not even make an effort, that is simply unacceptable. It is nothing short of a dereliction of your elected duties. If you’re unwilling through fear or indifference to stand up every now and then for your cause and display the courage of your convictions, you need to be called out, your political cowardice revealed. It’s peoples lives we’re dealing with here. Everyone should know why you did what you did.
So our Dishonourable Roll Call (in alphabetical order):
Councillor Michelle Berardinetti. Shame.
Councillor Gary Crawford. Shame.
Councillor Vincent Crisanti. Shame.
Councillor Mark Grimes. Shame.
Councillor Gloria Lindsay Luby. Shame.
Councillor Peter Milczyn. Shame.
Councillor Cesar Palacio. Shame.
Councillor John Parker. Shame.
Councillor Jaye Robinson. Shame.
Councillor Karen Stintz. Shame.
— chidingly submitted by Cityslikr