A Little Opaque Is Not A Little Transparent

How’s that old saying go? You can’t be half-pregnant? Same principle applies, I think, to being half-transparent. To be half-transparent really means you’re opaque.

So it is with our Mayor of Transparency, Rob Ford. As he awaits word of his court challenge to an audit of his campaign finances word comes of questions about his office expenses for his first four months in office. As John Lorinc writes today in the Globe and Mail, there are huge gaps in how the mayor financed the running off his office. Apparently, “…receipts for basic expenses such as office supplies and cellphone subscriptions…are missing…” God knows we hear about how much time the mayor spends on his phone, listening to the public’s views, complaints and grievances. And how does the office of the mayor running the 6th largest government in the country function without office supplies?

Ahh, we’re told. Out of respect for the taxpayers, Mayor Ford dips into his own pocket for such trifling matters. Rather than treat that habit as suspicious or running contrary to established council protocol, we should look upon it as nothing more than a beneficent gesture on the part of a dedicated public servant, selflessly devoted to the city he leads. None other than our deputy mayor Doug Holyday – a noted skinflint himself when it comes to councillor expenses – assures us that there’s nothing to see here. He told the Globe that ‘…Toronto residents aren’t bothered by the fact that Mr. Ford appears to self-finance his political duties. “I’ve not had any complaints come my way about Ford’s expenses at all,” Deputy Mayor blithely said.

What kind of self-imposed bubble do these people live in? Because no one’s called them up personally to complain of irregular or missing expenses, everything is fine and dandy? Never mind that the Globe and Mail is expressing some concerns about the mayor’s spending practices. Or the city’s Compliance Audit Committee wants to do its job and make sure that then councillor Rob Ford played by the rules in financing his run for the mayor’s job. Or that Rob Ford has consistently been challenged over his office expense claims during much of his time at City Hall even by those who have now become his closest allies.

The hypocrisy at work here is nose bleed inducing. While fighting (admirably we will admit noting that the adverb and Mayor Ford seldom go together in our writings) for complete transparency over how members of city council spend the good citizens’ money, the mayor doesn’t seem to see any inconsistency in his not fully reporting how he spends his. If he forks over his own cash to run his office or uses the photocopier at Deco Label and Tags for official city business, that’s nobody’s business but his own. The important point is that he’s not wasting taxpayers’ money. End of story.

Except that it’s not. At least, it shouldn’t be.

There are rules in place so that the public can see exactly how their municipal representatives are spending the money they are given. Rules that the mayor helped spearhead (again, admirably) and ones he’s spent just as much time trying to skirt. It would be one thing if he seemed to be aware of the unhealthy double standard he’s operating under but the truly disturbing aspect is he doesn’t. Mayor Ford appears to honestly believe that he’s doing a good and noble thing using his own finances as a public servant.

I can no longer engage in a debate with those who think that wealthy individuals financing their own campaign or their time in office is no big thing. It seems so self-evidently wrong to me that it is hardly worth the discussion. Just turn and face south and the shocking state of democracy in the United States to see what can happen when you encourage the well-to-do to buy their way into public office. Unsurprisingly, you get government that is by the rich, for the rich. Unregulated campaign financing and spending tends to attract the more undesirable elements of society.

The view Mayor Ford (along with his councillor brother, Doug) espouses about open and transparent expenses and spending for others while getting all hot and bothered when questions arise over theirs strikes me as equally indefensible. At the very least, let’s stop pretending this is an administration that can boast about transparency. An unwillingness to fully disclose either who or how the piper is being paid amounts to a full on attack of the fundamental principles of our democratic process. Even notorious fence-sitting councillors like Josh Matlow should be able to admit that.As a matter of fact, Councillor Matlow, there can be no more important reason why you came to City Hall.

full disclosurely submitted by Cityslikr

1 thought on “A Little Opaque Is Not A Little Transparent

  1. The Dougs are just trying to cover by saying anecdotally that they don’t hear from their ilk about problems. (maybe they don’t read?)There should be a compliance audit since Ford claims no wrong doing.

    His lawyer appealed on the last day. For mayoral candidates; the Spending LIMIT was1,305,066.65. I think if there is a neutral look at his filing, they will realize that he is not a penny pincher?! Claimed to have a fund raiser that raised nothing(actually a launch party) Also that he ran a Deficit…

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