The Mammoliti Meter

June 2, 2011

I’ve written Rob Ford off before. Often and with a great deal of certainty. Gleefully, I’ll admit. As a mayoral candidate. As a newly installed mayor. He’ll never get elected. He’ll never command a majority of city council.

And I’ve been wrong. Each and every time. So I am hardly in a position to pass any sort of judgment at this juncture, at least not accurately or in a manner that would be deemed noteworthy, worthwhile even.

But I do think it safe to say that May was not the kindest month to Mayor Ford.

Now, that shouldn’t be all that surprising. Politicians have their ups and downs. None are capable of burning as hotly popular over the long haul as this mayor has seen himself since his election last fall. There will be dips, valleys. It’s inevitable. Only an idiot would stand up, just half a year into the mayor’s mandate and declare the man finished, done like dinner, fork sticking in time.

Still, I can’t turn down the opportunity to idiotically divine the near future just a little.

Suddenly last month, Mayor Ford started to lose the occasional vote at council. Nothing monumental or game changing. But the iron grip with which he pushed through the repeal of the vehicle registration tax, have the province declare the TTC an essential service and squeeze out the 2011 budget has clearly loosened a little. Councillors occupying the so-called ‘mushy middle’ weren’t falling in line as pliably and even some right of centre allies were not marching in lockstep.

When the mayor tried to by-pass council in his push to outsource garbage collection, he met some resistance in the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee and was forced to bring the idea before city council. Once there, it squeaked through but not without significant amendments. Getting the matter passed is now no longer the slam dunk Mayor Ford and his people might’ve thought it was a month or so ago.

His head-scratcher of a bid to eliminate all citizens advisory committees hit a bump in the road while in Executive Committee and was further delayed pending a staff report when it went to council. Good buddy Jim Flaherty came to town and essentially thumbed his nose at the Brothers Ford’s dim view of Toronto’s waterfront development. Appointee Gordon Chong openly mused about road tolls and congestion charges as ways of financing the mayor’s Sheppard subway line which the mayor seems to think only needs the power of positive thinking and the private sector to make happen. City Clerk Ulli Watkiss defied the mayor’s wishes to proceed with a by-election in Ward 9, choosing instead to appeal the ruling. Police Services vice-chair Councillor Michael Thompson asked Chief Blair to look at the implications of laying off 400-500 of his people, directly opposite Mayor Ford’s campaign promise of 100 new police officers.

And Transit City, long since pronounced dead and buried, is back, zombie-like to hound the mayor. As Matt Elliott reported a couple days back, in response to inquiries from Councillor Janet Davis, City Manager Joe Pennachetti raised the spectre of multiple votes that might have to go through council before the stake can be officially driven through the heart of Transit City and the mayor’s Transportation City (I still laugh when writing out that lacklustre name) plan anointed its true successor. With the viability of the Sheppard subway coming under closer scrutiny, Mayor Ford might just find that simply clapping his hands and chanting Make It So no longer constitutes a sound method of implementing his agenda.

Let’s not forget the order from the Compliance Audit Committee to examine Mayor Ford’s unorthodox financing of his mayoral campaign last year. All, hey, I’m an open book with nothing to hide, audit away last week, the mayor and his lawyer filed a last minute appeal to have the audit quashed in court. Even if successful, the real outcome may be tarnishing his common guy, I’m just one of you, folksy image that has served him well in the past.

Reality may well be crashing in on the mayor. It had to happen sometime because that’s just the nature of reality. Only the misguided and deluded believe otherwise.

How Mayor Ford deals with this altered landscape will ultimately determine the fate of his term in office. Edward Keenan over at The Grid last week saw the possibility of a softening toward consensus building not in the mayor himself but in his right hand man and older brother, Councillor Doug. Seen as more politically astute, Doug Ford may accept the fact that the winds are a-changing, and trampling over foes and striking fear into the hearts and minds of possible friends may no longer be the best course of action. The far-right territory Team Ford has staked out may not be comfortable enough for a workable majority of councillors, so the mayor is going to have to settle on a more moderate course.

Mayor Ford moderate, you say? Does not compute. C’est impossible. Leopard’s changing their spots and all that.

The thing is, if the mayor wants to avoid being reduced to little more than a sideshow freak as the city governance circus goes about its business around him, he might not have a choice but to reach out to at least some of those he has no natural political affinity toward. Failure to do so could put him into a position of ineffectual isolation many of us stupidly and ignorantly predicted he’d assume from the get-go. It’s adapt or die time.

As an outlying rogue figure of little consequence during his time at council, no doubt adaptation is foreign soil for Mayor Ford. He hasn’t had to play nicely with others before because, well, no one cared what he thought or how he voted. He’s the mayor now, so keeping at least 22 councillors on side matters. That’s been possible so far by power of his perceived popularity and ability to wield it threateningly. Do this or face the wrath of Ford Nation! Those councillors who don’t adhere strictly to his right wing doctrinaire will begin to wander once they feel there will be no consequences in doing so. Moreover, if supporting him starts to adversely affect their popularity, his fair-weather friends will make a point of publicly abandoning him.

Enter the Mammoliti Meter. Perhaps the most nakedly opportunistic member of the current city council, after his failed mayoral bid last fall Giorgio Mammoliti casually tossed aside a career of heated enmity toward Rob Ford and threw his lot in whole-heartedly with his one-time adversary. Seated to the right of the mayor, Councillor Mammoliti now proudly dubs himself Team Ford’s quarterback, helping to whip votes and giving a big thumbs up or down to signal which way his team mates should vote. He basks in the mayor’s status.

But it’s hard to imagine he’d be willing to go down with the ship if it starts taking on water. No, I won’t follow that analogy to speak of rats. As a measure of the tenuous nature of the alliance Mayor Ford has forged through division and intimidation, I’m willing to suggest that as goes Giorgio Mammoliti, so goes the Ford administration. It is a nation built on dodgy landfill.

prognosticatingly submitted by Cityslikr