Stuck In The Middle With Josh

October 28, 2011

As even the most casual reader (and we really do insist no ties or business pants suits be worn while reading here) of this site will know, we here at All Fired Up in the Big Smoke aren’t Mayor Ford’s biggest fans. There’s a political and social gulf between us. I know who Mary Walsh is. He doesn’t.  He thinks you can gut a city back to health. I don’t.

But while we fret about the very real possibility of the mayor and his team burning down the place in their misguided attempt to fix it, we also secretly harbour a sense of satisfaction that the more matches they light, the more they discredit and undercut their extreme small government, radical neoconservative ideology. Shhh. Don’t tell anyone. We might come across as a little two-faced.

Speaking of two-faced and the awkward segues that spring from such clumsy transitions, there is an equally insidious force at work at City Hall. One just as destructive as the mayor’s hatchet and chainsaw and perhaps even more dangerous. It enables the dismantling under the guise of bipartisanship. It puts a smiley face emoticon on the snarl of right wing nastiness.  It has a name: faux-centrism. Its face? Councillor Josh Matlow.

We have written indignantly about this previously (for example, here and here) but it all got stuck in my craw again when I stumbled across this little puff piece, “Newbie councillor trying to rise above it all”, in My Toronto Today.ca. Note the accompanying picture, a non-buttoned down Matlow, standing in the long grass of City Hall’s green roof. It’s just one Nehru jacket away from looking like the cover of a 1970s album.

I found the article particularly grating having watched him at work during this week’s council meeting especially during the debate over contracting out waste collection west of Yonge Street. Councillor Matlow voted in favour. No biggie. So did 24 other councillors. But his reason for doing so were all, pure Matlovian.

He questioned staff about the, well, questionable numbers, the dubious claims to enormous savings. He rooted his snout through the dirt like a pig hunting for truffles, desperately searching for the elusive middle. They’re saying one thing but they’re saying another. The truth must be somewhere in between.

(No, no. Again, councillor. If one side touts debatable numbers and the other side puts up a more realistic set of numbers, the truth isn’t lurking near some imagined mid-point. Allow me this analogy. I go to the fair and decide to give the Guess My Weight guy a whirl. He thinks I come in at 185 pounds – it’s an American touring show, they don’t know from metric. I say, not even close. I’m 155 pounds soaking wet. Using your method, that probably means I’m about 170 pounds, right smack dab in the middle. But I step on the scale and reveal myself to actually be 225 pounds, winning a stuffed animal because the guessing guy was more than 5 pounds off but it in no way means that I weigh 170 pounds.)

After the usual huffing and puffing about the loneliness of the moderate voice these days at City Hall, Councillor Matlow casts his vote in favour of the mayor’s demand to contract out collection. Why? It’s a beaut. The councillor isn’t at all sure about the savings for taxpayers or if the low bid company GFL is even up to the task but still, still, people remain angry about the strike back in 2009. We have to cater to that anger or risk generating even angrier voters. By exercising the democratic right to strike, the city union put poor Councillor Josh Matlow on the spot and he just had to vote to contract out their jobs.

And he’s at it again in the My Toronto Today article, shifting blame onto someone else for his decision to vote in favour of getting rid of the revenue generating Vehicle Registration Tax. “I think it was done too hastily,” Matlow said. “I believe there should have been a stronger argument from the city manager as to how it would impact the 2012 budget.” I was just brand new. How was I supposed to figure out that taking millions and millions of dollars from the city’s coffers was going to adversely affect future budgets? I wasn’t aware that basic math applied to City Hall.

“Though he’s been vocal in his questioning of Ford’s leadership, Matlow says he agrees with many of the mayor’s initiatives, including a review of Toronto services.”

“What I strongly disagree with is the method he’s gone about implementing those ideas,” he said. “I would have liked to see a more thoughtful and mature process.”

But to the mind of Councillor Josh Matlow, Mayor Ford isn’t entirely to blame for this. And certainly the newbie councillor isn’t either. You want to know whose fault it is? David Miller’s, that’s who.

“The biggest surprise for me is how much influence the mayor’s office has over the agenda at city hall,” Matlow says. “And it’s ironic that it’s the left-wing and the Millerites themselves that created the stronger mayor system that they’re now subject to.

“Ford has taken advantage of the very house that Miller built.”

You see, none of the current divisions running rampant through City Hall, none of the bad decisions that get made are Councillor Matlow’s fault. He’s a centrist, after all. The rarest of rare birds. A condor of consensus. An ivory-billed woodpecker of moderation. He’s not on the mayor’s team. He’s not on the opposition left’s team. He’s a free agent, available to either side when the time is right and the situation is favourable.

For Councillor Matlow, there’s no ‘I’ in team but there’s certainly one almost smack dab in the middle of expediency.

divisively submitted by Cityslikr


Rob F*cking Ford

October 27, 2011

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, I’d like to examine this whole Rob Ford/22 Minutes/911 episode coolly and dispassionately because I think it reveals a couple interesting and disturbing things about our mayor.

Firstly, how is it that a politician who, just one year ago, ran a campaign so masterful that he convinced 47% of Toronto voters that he was something he wasn’t can now so seriously muff such a golden PR moment? I, perhaps one of the least Ford friendly types around, absolutely agree with the mayor when he said that the skit was an ambush that crossed the line. Give politicians their personal space. Stay away from their homes and families. There are so many other opportunities when they’re on the clock for a surprise attack.

But then the mayor had to go and spoil it all by saying something stupid like… well, we all know what he sorta, mighta said. And this is a respectable site we run here. If we’re going to go around dropping the f-bomb, it’ll be on our terms not dictated by some foul-mouthed blowhole.

The thing is, what he said or didn’t say to the 911 operators is not really the salient point. What’s at issue is that the mayor saw fit to call 911 in the first place. He doesn’t really seem to have any risk assessment abilities.

Now, I know he’s a high profile public figure and that there’s been death threats but come on. Even if you don’t know who Marg Delahunty is (and frankly we’d long since forgotten) what was it about her demeanour, her microphone, her Halloween costume that screamed ‘threat’ at the mayor? A threat to humour and entertainment possibly but to his person? To his family’s welfare? Frankly, having watched the clip, I can say that I’ve felt more accosted by people coming to my door trying to sell me water heaters.

Yet it seems the mayor assessed the situation and deemed it menacing enough to call for police back up. Not once. Not twice. Three times?? What could he have possibly said the first time around that didn’t catch his own attention and stop him from proceeding? “Yeah, I’m the fucking mayor of this city and somebody’s outside my house trying to interview me. Send over a cruiser.”

Did he not pause for even one second before acting on his impulse and think, this is probably over the top. The crazy women didn’t follow me to the house. She seems to be walking away, talking to her cameraman. It’s all good now.

You know, overriding that fight-or-flight, reptilian part of our brains that served us well way back on the savannah or even now when our house is on fire but kind of makes us look like jittery, melodramatic crackpots when we don’t stay on top of it during relatively benign encounters. Over-reacting. Catastrophizing, to use cognitive behavioural therapy lingo. There’s a reporter on our doorstep. To the panic room!

Extrapolating just a little from that, you start to see a similar pattern in his approach to governance. We’re $774 million in the hole?! Slash and burn! Slash and burn, people!! The garbage men are on strike?! Make everyone who works for us an essential service! They want to charge me $60 extra bucks to renew my licence?! I’ll cut that and freeze property taxes! How do you like that, punk!?

Oh my God, the PTA has disbanded!!

It’s a question of disproportionality. Perceived threat is exaggerated (“Toronto’s financial foundation is crumbling”), so solution is similarly over the top (10% cut to all departments). If we don’t, if we don’t, people, your property taxes will be raised by 700%. That’s just reality.

No, no. That’s only reality as seen through a lens of rack and ruin. Where any type of government spending (except for those things that keep you safe) is seen as suspicious and anyone not holding exactly similar opinions is a threat. It’s a dark, dim, dystopic view of the world with bogeymen around every corner and under every bed. It’s not conducive to sound leadership or any forward thinking. It’s just about hunkering down, covering your head and lashing out at anyone or anything that hovers too close.

That’s the colour of fear. Nothing productive can ever come of it.

effingly submitted by Cityslikr


Cherish The Moment

October 26, 2011

The Great Shark Fin Ban Debate 2011. Offering us up a glimpse of what we’d naively hoped against hope would be a regular city council occurrence when we were shocked to learn last October that Rob Ford was going to be our next mayor. A once renegade mavericky councillor turned big kahuna still constantly on the losing end of votes, often times by wide margins. The mayor’s powers useless in his ham-fisted hands.

We couldn’t have been more wrong. So it was nice to revel in the vibe of seeing Mayor Ford one of only 4 votes against a municipal shark fin ban yesterday. Maybe, unlike the puzzling gustatorial appeal of said soup, other councillors might get to like the taste of that, drubbing the mayor. I refuse to let go of my dreams just yet.

To give the mayor his due, it is completely consistent with his small government, libertarian views that elected officials should not be telling people what they can eat. What they can buy in city operated vending machines. It’s a belief that also makes him uncomfortable with the idea of random drug and alcohol testing. As heartless as it appears toward the plight of sharks, it totally makes sense Mayor Ford would vote against such a ban.

Maybe the same can be said about Councillor David Shiner although I didn’t hear him speak out about why he opposed the ban. I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt. Either that or he really, really hates sharks. Or maybe just Councillor Glenn De Baeremaeker for floating his mechanical shark in council chambers before the debate began.

Don Peat -- Toronto Sun

Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday’s opposition was much less defensible. While also a small government conservative, his tack seemed to be protecting the city against any possible lawsuits stemming from the ban. Over and over again he used the legal departments caution about a ban as justification for not proceeding. But seriously, when is a city’s legal department not cautious? If asked, their default will always be that any course of action council chooses to make could lead to legal action against it. Even from one of their very own, isn’t that right Deputy Mayor? Mr. Holyday’s resistance seemed nothing more than craven and querulous.

Ditto Councillor Mammoliti. It appears in defence of the mayor no argument is too ludicrous to make, no stance too bone-headed for Team Ford’s QB. Add to that a crowded gallery full of hippy activists and quite possible communists, Councillor Mammoliti is in his element. He bellows and belches purely to provoke. ”… a poor player/That struts and frets his hour upon the stage/And then is heard no more. It is a tale/Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury/Signifying nothing. “

All of the air was let out of Mammoliti’s bluster balloon by Councillor Chin Lee. Of actual Chinese heritage and representing a ward with over 50% of its population being ethnically Chinese (Councillor Mammoliti’s Ward 7 is less than 3%), Councillor Lee quietly dismissed Mammoliti’s cultural encroachment claim. After doing some legwork, talking to his constituents, Lee felt comfortable with the ban, once more proving himself to be an independent minded, right leaning councillor who will not mindlessly follow the mayor down any crooked path.

Even the normally docile and obedient mayoral acolyte, Councillor Cesar Palacio stood up to be counted. This after his public claim that the mayor would be supporting the ban turned out to be more wishful thinking than actual fact. The ban was ‘the right thing to do’, the councillor told his colleagues. See, Councillor Palacio? The sky didn’t fall when you defied the mayor’s wishes.

Since I’m all about the kudos now, I have to give a shout out to the budget chief, Mike Del Grande. He gave what I’d call a puppies and baby seals environmental plea, decrying our ransacking, pillaging and preying upon other species. Lawsuits be damned, he told the room (more or less). A stand had to be made to atone for our planetary misdeeds.

I really want to leave it right there, on a complimentary note to the budget chief. But he really doesn’t seem to get the whole environmental angle. One day after his pro-shark fin ban speech, according to the Star’s David Rider, Del Grande was railing about his colleagues who opted for the more expensive UV treatment of sewage at Ashbridge’s Bay over the cheaper chemical rinse, his compassion for marine life, apparently, doesn’t extend to the creatures living in Lake Ontario. “We can’t afford it,” the budget chief claimed.

** sigh **

And there we go, back to reality. Our little dream world of a fringe mayor marginalized as ephemeral as the fanciest of fancies. It was sure nice, though, while it lasted.

wistfully submitted by Cityslikr


Manning The Lifeboats

October 25, 2011

Yeterday, 24 hours or so before his first anniversary of being elected mayor of Toronto, Rob Ford, decked out in Ticat black and yellow, pushed through council yet another solid plank of his election platform, that of contracting out curbside waste collection between Etobicoke and Yonge Street. There was a certain grim determination to it. Although there was much back slapping and handshaking after the vote among some of the 25 councillors who sided with the mayor, it was absent the gleeful triumphalism that had accompanied such successes earlier in his tenure.

Mayor Ford better be right this time. Eyes shut, ears plugged, fingers crossed. There’s no longer really much wiggle room.

In less than one year supporting the Ford agenda has gone from being an absolute must for councillors looking to occupy the space anywhere near the middle of the political spectrum to something not far from a liability. The mayor’s approval rating has dropped startlingly low startlingly quickly owing to the fact that much of what he campaigned on turned out to be a solid combination of bunk and hokum. There wasn’t nearly the amount of waste (or ‘gravy’ to use the tired, tired turn of phrase) he promised there would be to find and it has become apparent that, in fact, city hall does have a revenue problem more than it does a spending problem. So the mad rush to eliminate the Vehicle Registration Tax and freeze property taxes has created a wider gap in the budget than there needed to be which has put cuts to services front and centre. Something the mayor guaranteed would not be necessary.

Despite all that, Mayor Ford still had his way with council yesterday.

But I’m guessing that, if not a pyrrhic victory, it set the clock ticking on the ultimate fate of his administration and those who have thrown in their lot with him. Because if the contracting out of waste collection to GFL does not translate into $11 million in annual savings to the city, if there’s any sort of hiccup in the delivery of the service, if the public aren’t happy with the change in providers, it will turn out to be yet another boondoggle from the mayor and his team. Fool me once, shame on you and all that.

The significance of this vote is all in the timing. The change won’t take place until next August. To be fair, it’ll really take a year to be able to assess the performance which will be 2013, just a few months before the next election cycle kicks into gear. By August 2014, two months before the election, the success (or not) of private waste pickup west of Yonge Street will be a major issue. If it’s seen as a success, all those who supported it will have something to crow about. If not, well, it’ll all be scurrying for cover.

Which goes a long way to explaining the rather tepid defence put up at council during Monday’s debate.

Yes, the hardcore ideologues and true believers sang the praises of contracting out, with all the improvement in services and millions of dollars saved being touted. (Remember this, people. $11 million per year. Guaranteed.) They were joined by the union haters and everyone who suffered mightily during the horrible summer of 2009. And, of course, the doomsayers of inevitability, featuring the hangdog hysteria of Budget Chief Michael Del Grande. If we don’t do this, we will be sued. Sued, I tells ya!

The rest, however, just seemed to want to be done with it. No discussion. Let’s get `er done and move on. In no way did they want to go on record in favour of proceeding.

Why?

There were too many questions about the true worth of the move. There always are when it comes to contracting out or privatizing waste collection. For every claim for the upside of such a move, there’s a counterclaim of a city or municipality taking things back in house. While Deputy Mayor couldn’t say enough about the 16 years of non-city worker trash pickup in Etobicoke, it comes with asterisks. Less diversion. Easier routes.

And the GFL proposal council approved is additionally fraught with questions. How was the bid so low? Do the numbers actually hold up? Who knows. Since it was just a Request For Quote process, the bid wasn’t assessed against the others. It came in lowest. That’s all the city needed. Even the outside consultants brought in to look at the bid, Ernst and Young, weren’t asked about its feasibility, leading me to wonder what exactly their role was. Yep. We can confirm those are numbers.

Most of the mayor’s supporters didn’t want to know the answers to any of those questions. Only Councillors Gloria Lindsay Luby and Josh Matlow expressed any concerned about how low the GFL bid was, saying it might be too good to be true and that you ultimately get what you pay for. Still, they both fell dutifully in line.

But if, like so many of Mayor Ford’s ill-thought out schemes go south on him, if this move to contract out waste collection does indeed turn out to be too good to be true, those two councillors along with their silent cohort, will have provided themselves cover. We thought something was fishy but the mayor, the deputy mayor and the chair of the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee assured us it would all be fine. ‘A win-win for everybody,’ I believe Councillor Minnan-Wong said. So don’t look at us. We’re just as a surprised as you are that things didn’t turn out like we were told they would.

A distancing embrace, let’s call it. Fence straddling might be another way to look at. Diligently delivering deniability when the cows come home to roost rather than doing their due diligence. Not only is the bulk of the mayor’s support softening, it’s also shirking its responsibility. That’s bad news for him and, more importantly, bad news for the citizens of Toronto as a disturbing number of our elected officials have gone on record as now looking out for themselves rather than for those who put them in office.

harbingerly submitted by Cityslikr


A Cry For Help

October 24, 2011

So there I was, minding my own business, reading an article about David Miller in the Globe and Mail, wondering if there was anything to his assertion that Transit City could be revived from its current deadness when I was hit in the face with a bucket of cold water by current TTC Chair, Karen Stintz.

Any talk of a Transit City resurrection was just ‘a distraction’ claimed Councillor Stintz. “At some point, you just need to make decisions and move. I’m at the point where we are about to dig Eglinton. Let’s just get started, before we go changing more plans.”

Absolutely. Enough with the talk. We need action. Somebody toss me a shovel. I’ll get the digging started.

Oops. Wait. Hold on there for a second. Seems like not all the kinks have been fully ironed out on the mayor’s plan to bury the Eglinton Ave. LRT.

“Unresolved technical issues,” according to the TTC Chair.

Pray. Do go on…

“For one, the change of plans championed by Mayor Ford could trigger a new environmental assessment – a costly and time-consuming proposition.”

So, Councillor Stintz, when you make the claim of — let me just jump back a couple paragraphs in the article — being “at the point where we are about to dig Eglinton”, that might not actually be the case, yeah? Depending on whether or not yet another environmental assessment is needed on what is, ostensibly, a change in plans. Which you hate, those pesky and distracting change of plans.

But wait, Councillor Stintz ain’t done yet. Apparently, that land formation, carved out by retreating glaciers or forged by the erosion of a river making its relentless way to Lake Ontario (I’m not really up on the whole geology explanations), the Don Valley ‘also is a problem’.

“You can’t tunnel there,” Stintz says. “It’s just not possible. So what are the other options? That work is still under way.”

Jesus Fucking Christ.

When are the adults finally going to step in and resume control of this conversation? How long do a majority of councillors continue to let Rob Ford play at being mayor? He makes grand pronouncements which are treated as gospel, as done deals, with no eye on any possible negative implications to such whims and passing fancies, and everyone sits back and says, oh well, he’s the mayor, he has a mandate. Onward and tally ho!

And I’m not letting the province off the hook here. It is their money after all. Shouldn’t they insist on it being spent wisely or, at least, not wastefully? While I hate the idea of another level of government stepping in and mucking about with the city’s business, it is what they do, right? We are their creatures. Doesn’t ownership confer a certain degree of responsibility to ensure your pet is behaving properly?

There are all sorts of yellow flags being waved here. First and foremost, a lack of a concrete plan. We want to take all that money that was assigned for Transit City and use it to bury one line and cancel all the other ones. OK, well, one. All due diligence has been done on this, right? Prepared for any new contingency or any unforeseen snag that will inevitably arise? Like say, crossing the Don Valley? I know how much everybody hates streetcars on the roads but how do you propose to cross the valley?

And secondly, all this has council approval, yes? I know you, Mayor Ford, were elected with a mandate but so were the 44 councillors. We’re assuming at least 22 of them have signed on to your transit plan, what’s it called again? Transportation City? Yes? Yes?

There are ways the province can meddle in our municipal affairs without being patronizing, bullying or overstepping. Ensuring more public scrutiny of this change of plan would be a start. We can bemoan more delays all we want because of further discussions but the TTC Chair, Mayor Ford’s chosen representative, has brought up a couple scenarios that could well be even more detrimental to progress if they came to pass.

I mean, Councillor Stintz is basically begging people to stop the madness. In a newspaper article where she starts out intending to put the talk of a Transit City revival to bed, the TTC chair takes more ink describing the problems facing the new plan than she does dismissing Transit City. Forget Transit City, people. We’re good to go. Except for a couple tiny but possibly HUGE obstacles that could set things back years, decades.

Every time I hear Counicllor Stintz speak lately, I get the impression she’s been taken prisoner by Team Ford. In carefully constructed statements that contain high levels of plausible deniability, she’s blinking out code for us, screaming for help. This one, she seems to be signalling that the mayor’s transit plan is a mess, ill-thought out and very possibly facing much higher costs than advertised. (New environmental assessment=additional costs). We’re already to go. Let’s start digging. Unresolved technical issues be damned!

I’m sorry. Did the TTC Chair just say ‘unresolved technical issues’? That’s our safe word. Time to move in, people. We need to free the hostage.

Commence Operation Rescue Transit City.

— SWATly submitted by Cityslikr


We Are Still Here

October 23, 2011

A week into Toronto’s ‘failed copycat protest’ (aka #OccupyTO) and the vultures are circling. Everyone needs to quite loafing around, dye their hair back a normal colour and go get a job. It was all so unnecessary, you see. There are no problems in Canada that need fixing. The banks here have all been model citizens, never once asking for any help from the government. I mean, what’s a little liquidity injection between friends?

Besides, the national editor of Macleans magazine, Andrew Coyne, has informed us that ‘Occupy Wall Street Has It All Wrong’. All wrong. None of it right, apparently. What were we thinking?! Maybe, just maybe, agitators in the U.S. have something to complain out, what with their higher level of unemployment and diabolical financial institutions. Coyne grants them his sage nod of approval. But here, north of stateside? Everything’s as it should be. Go back to your pods, protest people. Nothing to see or complain about here.

The mind reels at just how blinkered those framing our national narrative are. As if there’s no connection between this and that. Our banks are fine, proper regulation and oversight is in place and, technically, no bailout was necessary. It’s all good.

But the occupy movement isn’t just about bank bailouts and regulations. It’s about the whole corporate agenda that has subsumed our national interests. The placement of capital above citizens. Tax cuts and infrastructure deficits. Business before democracy.

Banks are not the only targets to be ‘occupied’. Toronto is home to the country’s non-renewable resource industries that continue to hamper any serious climate change discussion in this country. Mining companies that besmirch our country’s already tattered reputation at an international level. What’s good for Bay Street has become less and less good for Main Street.

So it’s never just been about the financial sector and bailouts. To think so seems like a deliberate attempt to compartmentalize and wish our problems away. Deriding and writing off the occupy movement smacks of shutting down an uncomfortable discussion you don’t want to have. Never mind those crazy, feet smelling, bongo playing deadbeats hanging around in the park. They don’t realize just how good they’ve got it.

steadfastly submitted by Acaphlegmic


The Awful Untruth

October 21, 2011

Of all the responses we get here at All Fired Up in the Big Smoke, the pushback we receive when criticizing Mayor Ford, by far the most frequent… No, wait. The 2nd most frequent, just after ‘Why don’t you guys get a real job?’… tends to be, ‘Well, Miller did the same thing.’, Miller being the former mayor, David Miller. Whether it’s how Mayor Ford’s conducting business at council or City Hall or fiddling with the budget numbers. Whenever we level a critique his way, we inevitably hear, ‘Well, Miller did the same thing.’

To which, our initial response is: yeah, so? It doesn’t make it right. The former mayor also received plenty of criticism. In politics, two negatives do not—you get where I’m going with that.

Besides, wasn’t this mayor elected on a platform that included not doing business as usual? He was going to be sticking up for the little guy by putting it to the fat cats and lazy bureaucrats. He’d put an end to all the backroom deals. Clear and transparent would be the Ford Administration. No more game playing with the budget. No sudden finds of hundreds of millions of dollars. We were going to get an open and honest debate.

Step forward all ye steadfast Ford supporters, and with straight faces all, tell us your man has kept his word. Follow the bouncing ball on the sing-along that has been the 2012 police services budget debacle and belt out the coda that it’s all been on the up and up, yep, an open and honest debate. Without cracking a smile or a knowing grin. Tell us this is exactly what you voted for.

“It’s a huge reduction!” exclaims TPS board member, Councillor Frances Nunziata.

Wait, what? No. No, it isn’t, Councillor. Not only is the police services budget not facing ‘a huge reduction’, there’s no reduction at all. None. In fact, just the opposite. They’re getting an increase.

David Hains over at The Clamshell, Daniel Dale at the Toronto Star and Ford For Toronto’s Matt Elliott all go into much more interesting detail than I can but here’s the nuts and bolts of the situation. Mayor Ford demanded a 10% reduction to all city departments based on their 2011 budgets. Putting it to the fat cats and lazy bureaucrats. Police Chief Bill Blair announced he could do no such thing without laying off front line police officers and endangering public safety. So instead, he asked for an increase. A modest one by the police standards but an increase nonetheless.

All hell breaks loose. A showdown seems imminent between the mayor and police chief. Hardcore Ford ally and TPS vice-chair Michael Thompson plays the heavy, letting it be known that the police budget faces the same pressure as every other department and agency in the city. There must be a 10% cut or else…

Last week’s TPS meeting to deal with the impasse was postponed at the last minute. Details of some sort of compromise leak out. We learn that the mayor’s OK with the 10% cut being carried out over a two year period which, if my math skills are up to snuff, isn’t 10% but 5%. It’s an offer made to no one else on the city payroll.

Then comes yesterday’s news of an agreement. The chief has found almost 5% in cuts, 4.6% to be precise for the 2012 budget, through attrition, a 10% reduction in senior management and a host of other bits and bites. No layoffs of police. The city’s safety has not been compromised. The rest of the cuts will come next year.

“It’s a huge reduction!” exclaims TPS board member, Councillor Frances Nunziata.

OK, actually the councillor’s right. It is a huge reduction. Just not from the 2011 budget which is what the mayor called  for. It’s nothing more than a reduction in the original ask from the TPS. The one everyone got up in arms about and said wasn’t possible. The 1.6% increase Chief Blair proposed that, apparently, put his job in jeopardy. He scaled that back 4.6% and settled instead for a mere .6% increase.

An increase, folks. The Police Services Board approved an increase to the police budget not a cut which every other department is facing. There’s no cut to the police budget. There’s just less of an increase.

“It’s a huge reduction!” Shut up, Frances. Doesn’t matter how many times you say it. It simply isn’t true.

What does Mayor Ford have to say about such an about face? Who knows? He was coaching football at the time. How about his hard-assed enforcer on the TPS board, Michael Thomspon? Away on family business.

So what this says is that the mayor holds the police to an entirely different standard than the rest of the city departments. He boasts about giving them a pay increase while everyone else on the city payroll must make do with less. For the overall budget to balance, somebody’s going to have to give up more to make up for the TPS increase. (Nope. Don’t say it, Frances. It’s an increase. Shh-shh!)

Now, maybe Mayor Ford values the police more than any other employee of the city. Perhaps his worldview is such that happy police make for a happy town. I wouldn’t agree but there it is.

Or maybe the mayor’s afraid of the police. Butting heads with them would put a serious dent in his law and order veneer. They might remind voters that on the campaign trail the mayor promised 100 new police officers and delivered none. Bad optics all round.

But the straight-shooting, tell it like it is mayor ain’t talking. Instead he’s hiding behind monumental spin, trying to convince us that an increase is really a decrease, black is white, up is down and there we go through the looking glass, people.

Just like every other politician Rob Ford railed about as a candidate, saying one thing to get elected and doing the exact opposite when in office. The kind of politician he pledged not to be. It’s all just business as usual.

matter of factly submitted by Cityslikr