This Is Your Song, Mike Del Grande

May 11, 2011

It’s a little bit funny this feeling inside/I’m not one of those who can easily hide…

… my feelings toward the city’s budget chief, Councillor Mike Del Grande.

And yeah, warm and fuzzy they usually ain’t. I have gone on at some length previously about my general disdain of the man. But this is not going to be a similarly themed diatribe.*

In fact, I have come not to bury the councillor but to praise him. Yes, that’s right. Praise him.

In the game of baseball, players may disagree with a particular umpire on his strike zone but if he’s consistent with it, well, pitchers and hitters both will settle in and deal with it. Yes, Oscar Wilde said, ‘Consistency is the last refuge of the unimaginative.’ Sure, Ralph Waldo Emerson believed ‘A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines.’ And I believe it was Aldous Huxley who claimed that ‘Consistency is contrary to nature, contrary to life. The only completely consistent people are dead.’

But I’m actually serious here in commending the budget chief for his consistency in adhering to the notion that if the city is actually facing a fiscal tsunami and money is exceedingly tight, then everyone has to buckle down and tighten their belts. And. I. Said. Everyone. Widows. Orphans. Bridge designers. Everyone.

And the police. Or at least when it comes to paid duty for Toronto’s finest. Now, I don’t know where the councillor came down on the latest contract agreement with the TPS. We know he didn’t send anyone around to try and derail it. But at yesterday’s budget committee meeting, he appeared quite vocal in expressing his view that the cushions on the police couch must be checked under to find all the loose change. Like every other couch at City Hall except for the one that used to be in Adam Giambrone’s office.

“When we talk about the police, everybody’s kind of timid to talk about it,” Del Grande said. “But you know what, right is right and wrong is wrong.”

Ignoring the simplistic, black and white, patently untrue second sentence, stop and marvel at the one preceding it. It’s not a sentiment that tumbled from the mouth of some left wing, pinko kook still smarting from their mistreatment at the hands of the police at last summer’s G20 debacle. This is Mayor Rob Ford’s budget chief telling us what everybody knows but is afraid to talk about.

Certainly the mayor’s mouthpiece, councillor-brother Doug didn’t want to hear it. “It just seems like we’re pounding away on the police here when there’s so many other inefficiencies in the city,” councillor Ford pronounced. Adding, “Keep in mind [paid-duty costs represent] one-half of 1 per cent of the construction projects that we have to pay for.”

I says, what?! This coming from a guy who has spent his 6 months or so in office railing about paltry office budgets, staff chocolates, excessive retirement parties? (Or was that mayor? I keep getting those two mixed up.) Now he wants to talk small potatoes percentages?

That is what I’d call inconsistency. Brushing off the budget committee’s concerns about certain aspects of police pay with an ‘it’s only a fraction of the cost’ shrug while having derided that same rationalization when it came to almost every other city department. Inconsistency bordering on hypocrisy.

At least with Councillor Del Grande, you know he wants to slash anything and everything down to balanced budgetary size. I may not agree with that approach or sentiment but at least it’s a stationery target. The budget chief (appropriately named Mike – see 1970s Life cereal ad) dislikes everyone and wishes they’d all stop asking him for money. It is what it is and you can engage it head-on for whatever merits (next to none) and weaknesses (many) it possesses.

His boss and boss’s brother are far more capricious, far less willing to spread the pain of austerity around equally. Their respect is really only for some of the taxpayers. They play favourites. As we wrote just recently, the Fords are not fiscal conservatives. They’re fiscal ideologues. Happy to spend money, they’re just particular about where and whom they spend it on.

It’s hard to see how such a focused but cavalier attitude will continue to sit well with the actual conservatives like Councillor Del Grande that make up Team Ford. While the lot of them seem very willing to lay waste to services in the name of restraint, many seem less inclined to spare some the rod of discipline, even the usually untouchable Toronto Police Services. With such a determined and inflexible personalities in the mix, it’ll be fun to watch who blinks first.

*(Normally I sound much like this.)

grudgingly submitted by Cityslikr