Mayor In Name Only

September 25, 2012

Yesterday’s budget committee agenda printout was thick, like medium sized town phone book thick.  Lots of financial statement audits, variance reports, funding pressure and financing options…Yeah, a ‘phone book’. A compiling of names, numbers and addresses, usually done alphabetically by surname, in book or catalogue form. Catalogue? Retailers used to…

Oh never mind.

Yesterday’s budget committee agenda printout was thick, like deep-dish pizza thick. But alas, the budget committee meeting was thin, like the thinnest of thin gruel…Gruel?

The point is, here we were, the first budget committee meeting since the summer break, the first budget committee meeting of the fall session where one might expect some sort of direction set going forward, priorities established, an imprimatur from the administration to signal its future intentions, and what we got was bupkus. A whole lot of the committee chair, Budget Chief Del Grande, pushing and passing value for money audits on various city agencies like Invest Toronto and Toronto Hydro.

(And as our friend David Hains said, waggishly – Mr. Hains says many things in that manner – it’s not as if value for money audits weren’t something KPMG couldn’t have done while they were on the clock.)

It almost seems as if the budget chief’s killing time, concocting make-work projects to give the appearance of something happening. In the absence of any leadership coming from the mayor’s office, his council allies are left to dangle, unsure of their next move. At least at the budgetary level there’s a general sense that cutting stuff is good and putting everyone on notice that their bottom line has to justify their existence won’t run too afoul of the mayor’s thinking.

Others aren’t as lucky.

Take TTC Chair Karen Stintz for example.

Her proposal to contract out bus cleaning has garnered Mayor Ford’s approval from afar. He gave the idea a shout out during his radio show on Sunday. As for a suggested fare hike in the new year? Not so fast there, Stintzie. The mayor doesn’t approve.

It must be like waiting for a distracted emperor’s thumbs up or down while he’s otherwise occupied in an orgy of ethical entanglements and conflict of interest concerns. Hey! I got my foot on his chest, sword at his throat. Yeah or nay, oh Mandated One?

To mix metaphors. The captain can’t steer the ship because he’s too busy bailing water pouring in from the countless leaks that have sprung. Unfortunately, no one’s yet prepared to assume the position of first mate. That’s not quite true. Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong is more than willing to take the helm, claiming to know where the mayor wants to take us. “To the shoals! To the shoals!”

We’ve about arrived at that Apocalypse Now point where Captain Willard’s about to go up river. He goes ashore at an American outpost under North Vietnamese fire and makes his way along a trench until he comes across a soldier indiscriminately firing shots into the darkness at the unseen enemy. Asking if he’s in charge, Willard is met with a malignantly blank stare. “Aren’t you?” the soldier responds.

Ill-governed is Toronto at this point. Mayor Ford seems less interested in running the city than he does running for his own political survival. Each step he takes only lands him deeper into a questionable ethical swamp of his own making.

As we head further into this season of misrule, council’s going to have to make an important decision in order to avoid the entire operation grinding to a halt. They can, like the budget chief, pretend that everything’s hunky dory, there’s nothing to see here, all the madness is purely media generated and it’ll pass like all storm clouds do. Or they can do the responsible thing and move into informal post-Ford, non-partisan formations and get on with the business of governing.

The mayor’s still the mayor but he’s done acting like one. He’s decided to take a spot on the sidelines where he’s always been most comfortable, making catcalls and blowing raspberries. His colleagues need to acknowledge that reality and move on, ignoring the crazy man yelling incoherently at them.

cut baitedly submitted by Cityslikr