What’s the best way to torpedo an out of town, largely benign, taxpayer funded business ‘trade mission’ taken by some elected representatives? Spend your decade+ time in politics railing about out of town taxpayer funded jaunts taken by elected representatives. It makes for some awkward questions before you even get to the airport.
No reasonable person living in a rational time would begrudge our politicians the opportunity to occasionally head out, meet and greet, talk and listen, move and shake with the wider world as part of their job description. Maybe it brings 100s of new jobs with it. Maybe different approaches to governance are hashed out. Or maybe it just lends itself to help develop a wider, broader perspective. Surely that can’t be bad.
As long as there are proper checks in place, guidelines to follow, transparency on offer so that we can be as sure as we ever can be about these things that propriety is being maintained and, for the most part, we are funding a work-related trip, have at it. Enjoy. Learn. Schmooze.
Nobody I take very seriously on these matters decried Mayor Ford’s Chicago trip this week. That is, until he tried to pretend it was somehow different from other trips members of city council take as part of doing the city’s business. That somehow this was different and new ground was being broken.
Or that it wasn’t costing taxpayers one dime or one red cent.
See, this is where the mayor does himself no favours, creates a mountain out of molehill and proceeds to overshadow any positives he may have been contributing. It also reveals, once again, his inability to see past his own nose, out beyond the bubble of his own life. What seems to be mounting evidence of a stunning lack of empathy.
He’s paying for the trip out of his own pocket therefore it’s costing the taxpayers nothing. What about city staff? Is he covering their trip as well? Are they? What about the eight councillors attending the trip with him?
Well, Councillor Michael Thompson made it pretty darn clear he wasn’t paying for the trip out of his own pocket. “It is important city business,” Councillor Peter Milczyn said, “so it is an allowable expense under the office expense policy that is how it is being paid for.” Councillor Michelle Berardinetti also expressed some doubt she’d be footing her bill on her own dime.
And they’re right!
If they’re traveling on legitimate business, if it’s all about jobs, jobs, jobs, the economy, the economy, the economy, if they’re working hard “…to promote trade between the City of Chicago and the City of Toronto,” as Councillor Thompson said, why the fuck should they have to pay for it? The idea is that we’d all benefit from that. So yeah. Submit your receipts and expense report and it’s all good.
Our rich mayor should not be the standard bearer for public service. Among the countless other reasons why, we don’t want to start demanding from those who seek elected office they pay for any and all on the job incidentals. It would restrict the field of candidates to a very small and, quite possibly, democratically undesirable segment of our population. Mitt Romney anyone?
And has anyone ever asked Mayor Ford, come tax time in late April, if he writes off all the work related costs he incurs as business expenses? It would make sense if he did. Perfectly legitimate. But, we have been told, there’s only one taxpayer, haven’t we?
It’s this constant twisting and turning of the truth that grows tiresome. The cognitive dissonance the mayor must operate under – official trips are gravy unless he goes on one of them – is now not just his to deal with. It’s ours. It’s afflicting not only our discourse but the running of the city.
In The Grid yesterday, Edward Keenan wrote about how Mayor Ford built his career on sweating the small stuff, “…pointing out penny-ante spending frivolities”. Councillor Rob Ford convinced us it was important enough to the city as a whole that we elected him mayor. His inability as mayor to cope with, let alone even understand or comprehend the bigger stuff, the defining issues like transit, public housing, the basic fundamentals of adhering to conflict of interest rules somehow gets framed as partisan gamesmanship. You just disagree with/are piling on the mayor because you’re [fill in the blank].
We’re living through some sort of political event horizon currently. Reality’s gravity is sucking all matter that’s been flimsily attached to misguided belief. I’m pretty sure I know which is which but the fact I’m not absolutely convinced makes me very nervous about how this is all going to turn out.
— weighed downedly submitted by Cityslikr