An Open Letter To Rob Ford Supporters

July 14, 2010

Dear Supporters of Mayoral Candidate Rob Ford,

I’m writing to you not to mock or belittle you, or to denigrate your candidate of choice for mayor of Toronto, Rob Ford. I’ve participated in such easy activities in the past but now want to build a bridge between us. Your man just might win the election in October, so I want to understand how that could possibly happen and how you imagine a Mayor Ford administration is going to help make your lives better. Consider this a letter asking for some clarity from you.

In his column last week, the Toronto Star’s Christopher Hume suggested that Ford represents the suburban anger that has reached a boiling point more than a decade after the enforced amalgamation made us all one. Your concerns have been marginalized by downtowners such as myself, shrugged off while we’ve been busy eating our brie and sushi, sipping lattes and demanding bike lanes, increased transit in the core and conducting our War on Cars, your cars no less.

Fair enough, and undoubtedly true. None of us wanted to be part of the megacity and it seems that those of you living in the outer ring of it in places like Scarborough, North York and Rob Ford’s home turf of Etobicoke feel you got the raw end of the deal. You’ll get no arguments from us here about that. Amalgamation’s miracle of efficiency and money savings never really worked out as well as we were to told it would, especially for you folks out there on the fringes.

Interestingly, Mr. Ford, the fighter for the little guy, takes every opportunity to evoke the memory of his beloved late father, Doug Ford who, as a backbench M.P.P. in the Mike Harris government, sat on his hands during the debate over amalgamation except to raise it in favour of the motion when it came to vote it into law. In direct defiance of over 70% of his constituents, Rob Ford’s father helped usher in an era of municipal governance his son and his supporters now rail against. Nothing more than an example of irony, I guess, but I do hope his father’s anti-democratic tendencies didn’t brush off on his son.

So let’s say your man becomes mayor and is able to muster a majority of the new council to support his way of thinking. (The second scenario much less likely than the first.) A frenzy of cutting taxes and slashing spending ensues. You wind up with a little more money in your pocket and fewer services at your disposal. Now what? How is it your lives are going to be improved because of that?

Transit City – a plan put into place to deliver better service to the areas of the city you live – will be gutted. Replaced by some mystical, magical building of subways your candidate insists the private sector will do for some strange reason that they have not yet thought of. That’s as detailed as his transit plan goes. Aside from making the TTC an essential service, the matter isn’t even referred to in the Issue section of his website. How is that going to get you from point A to B any faster or lessen the traffic congestion that is now part of your life?

I’m also mystified how cutting council numbers in half is going to increase Mr. Ford’s vaunted customer service agenda. I know you love to believe that every other councillor except Rob Ford simply sits around doing nothing more than counting ways they can steal your money except for when they’re partying with Kyle Rae but that is nothing more than an ideological fantasy. Fewer elected officials at City Hall (plus their respective staff) can only deliver better customer service if there’s less services to deliver. Maybe you’re content with that. Fair enough. That’s a different vision than making people’s lives better.

And all that money the city will supposedly save? Even taking Mr. Ford’s numbers at face value which is always an iffy proposition (take a moment to read Simon McNeil’s Writing and Tutoring blog post for an analysis of candidate Ford’s questionable numbers and spotty savings), he claims that eliminating 22 councillors and their staff will save the city $9 million a year in direct savings plus another $6 million due to some sort of nebulous “reduced burden on City Hall staff”. Reduced burden? Would someone please explain that one to me? Less demand on City Hall because it’s doing less?

Even giving Ford the dubious $15 million annual savings with cutting the council in half, what’s that going to do? In terms of a $9.2 billion budget it represents less than a percent. Much, much less. How much less? Let me write it out to 18 decimal points if it helps. 0.0016304347826086956. You know what $15 million will get you in terms of subways even factoring in the lowest estimated cost to build one subway stop? Half one percent of one. So with that cost savings, Rob Ford will be able to build one subway stop every 20, 000 years.* Oh right, I forgot. In Rob Ford’s world the private sector will step right up and build subways once governments get out of their way.

His candidacy just makes no sense to me, Rob Ford supporters, and it’s not like I won’t personally benefit if he becomes mayor. My taxes will go down (although user fees will very likely gobble up much of those gains.) I don’t depend on the city services that a Mayor Ford would attempt to cut. Oh sure, I’ll probably lose a bike lane or two but mostly my life down here in the core will be unaffected if your candidate wins in October. Except that, the city will feel a little more… vindictive.

Because that’s the vibe I get from your campaign. Vindictiveness. It doesn’t feel like what’s driving you is justified anger or outrage. It’s more of a temper tantrum. Rather than fighting to secure a better place for yourselves within the amalgamated city and thereby making the entire city a better place to live and work, you simply want everyone to be as pissed off as your are, as your candidate is.

It’s purely the politics of destruction and wherever it’s been tried before has never made anyone’s life better. How will it work this time around?

earnestly (and unironically) submitted by Urban Sophisticat

* Math may not be exact but it’s no more than one decimal point off. Either way, savings are going to miniscule.


A Letter Home

January 22, 2011

As many of our regular readers may remember, we here at All Fired Up in the Big Smoke used to be three. While I, Cityslikr was the point man, I was ably assisted on occasion by two contributors, Urban Sophisticat and Acaphlegmic. Not a perfect union by any stretch, sometimes more 3 Mouseketeers than Musketeers, but not unworkable.

Then came the election of Rob Ford as Toronto’s mayor. My compatriots got spooked. (See the post-election analysis here.) Urban Sophisticat threw up his hands and left town. Over the holidays a postcard arrived from him. He’s on a boat somewhere in the Mediterranean, burnishing his elitist cred.

In truth, Acaphlegmic wasn’t spooked so much as… spookily ebullient. He’d met some Ford supporters shortly before the election and after their man won, he decided to infiltrate their ranks, he called it. To live amongst them. Get to know what made them tick. He went off to live in Larry’s Garage and since then we’ve heard hide nor hair from him.

That is, until the wee hours of this morning.

Under the cover of darkness, an email appeared in the inbox, purporting to be from Acaphlegmic but we could hardly recognize it as something he’d written. Gone was the usual bombastic flamboyance, the tone of condescension, the obscure wordplay. It was a note racked with doubt and a certain degree of fear. This was not from the Acaphlegmic of old.

Despite some concern I have of posting a fraudulent letter on this site, I do so reluctantly as many of you (OK, two) have asked about the whereabouts of Acaphlegmic. Part of me hopes it isn’t him. That it is just some cruel hoax. But if it is Acaphlegmic and you’re reading this out there, buddy, come home. All is forgiven. There’s always a spot on the couch for you here at the office.

I write this quickly. They are suspicious if anyone spends too much time on the computer that’s not some sort of pornography. Big breasted women pornography, it seems. Anything else and they start asking questions.

(Which is why it’s been so difficult to be in contact.)

My field work has been compromised, I fear. Not long after settling into these comfortable digs in Larry’s garage, his middle daughter, Darlene, returned to the nest, her third marriage in tatters. She came to me, inconsolable, poor thing, because her family simply didn’t understand. Truth be told, neither did I. Three marriages and not yet 34? Come, come. How be we try and put in a little effort.

Thoughts I kept to myself as you know I try not to be judgmental about such matters. The lack of criticism on my part was taken as, well, affection, I guess, leading to one thing leading to another and before you could say, maybe you should take a little relationship timeout, Darlene was spending more time in the garage than in the house, if you get my meaning.

So, full disclosure. My thoughts and views of life out here in Ford Country may be clouded through the distorted lens of romantic entanglement.

First thing to note is that, despite the huge upswing in turnout for the election last October which helped propel Rob Ford into the mayoralty, politics is not on the minds of many out here. Most of the time, it’s the last thing they want to talk about and sometimes an open hostility is exhibited at the very mention of it. For example, one night at dinner I brought up Transit City and the whole subway versus LRT imbroglio. Immediately I was set upon by Artie, Larry’s brother (Darlene’s uncle) who was in town, visiting from… somewhere north of here… starts with a B, I believe.

“What’s with the politics?” he bellowed at me. “You know who talks about politics? The Shah of Iran talks about politics. That’s who talks about politics.”

The Shah of Iran?

Of course, there was a slight uptick in the acceptability of political discourse when Don Cherry delivered his boffo performance at the mayor’s inaugural meeting. “Atta boy, Grapes! Sweater the bunch of whiners.” Sweater as a verb? What does that even mean? I was afraid to ask lest it make me even more conspicuous in their presence.

They love their Don Cherry, just like they love their mayor because they sense the two are just ‘one of them’. Aside from a similar vocabulary and a propensity toward constant sweating, I don’t see the comparison, frankly. But maybe I don’t have the right kind of eyes, as Hunter S. Thompson once framed it. “That’s right, you don’t,” Darlene informs me when I use such a turn of phrase. “You nerdy bookworm. Come here and give your honey a kiss.”

They also love their sports. Any sports, really. Hockey, the NFL, something utterly barbaric called Ultimate Fighting. Do you have any idea what that is? Men in a cage, kicking and punching each other into bloodied pulps until one renders the other unconscious! It so riles the boys up around here that they inevitably wind up trying out some of there ‘killer’ moves on each other (and me, unfortunately) until somebody, again inevitably, winds up pulling, bashing or splitting something. I’ve lost a tooth after being forcibly thrown into one of their impromptu matches and consider myself lucky at that.

Strangely, they also watch curling.

Much was made during the course of the campaign of how those supporting Rob Ford weren’t much into the ins-and-outs of policy and such. They didn’t have the time, what with them leading busy lives, holding down jobs (sometimes 2), raising kids, etc., etc. While I wouldn’t deny any of that. Everybody in this house works diligently at their respective vocations. But what I will say is that if they spent even a fraction of their spare time, reading a newspaper that wasn’t the Sun or just staying even moderately informed about the world around them as they do following sports… well… The information they have at their fingertips about penalty minutes, batting averages, 3rd down conversions. Heads full of stats! Just none of it relevant to the decisions that are made which affect their lives, down at City Hall, Queen’s Par–

… I’m back. Darlene surprised me with an unexpected appearance. I think I switched over to the girlie site before she realized what I was actually doing. Is it me or do you too find it strange that a woman you’re intimate with would be less put out by you looking at other scantily clad females than writing about politics?

Anyway…

Out here in Ford Country, they also love their cars. I guess it’s not surprising as they spend so much time with them. Driving to and from work. Driving to get groceries. Driving back to get the groceries they forgot because they didn’t make a list. I don’t understand it. What have they got against making a list? It would just save much time and effort, pain and anguish.

They drive a lot, is the long and short of it and their cars are important to them. In some cases (and I’m not naming names here but Roger is Darlene’s younger brother), their cars are like another member of the family. They name their cars. Dora. As in Dora the Explorer. Apparently some cartoon character. They wash their cars whenever an opportunity arises. They stand around with the hood open, just staring in at the engine, and poking at it every now and then.

They while away hours, sitting in their cars at the drive-through… no, excuse me… the drive-thru at Tim Hortons. Even if the place is empty inside! “Why don’t we just park and grab coffees inside?” I’ll ask only to be met with blank stares and stony silence.

Now, you should be sitting down for when you read this next part, I know about these people’s love of Tim Hortons first hand as, are you ready, I have a job at one. Yes, yes. Believe me. I’m as surprised as the next person but Larry and everybody started wondering where I was getting my money from [we’ve often wondered that ourselves here at All Fired Up in the Big Smoke – ed.] so I asked Darlene if she could get me a job at the branch she works. You know, as a cover. It has been a very eye-opening experience, let me tell you, holding down what everyone around here calls a ‘real’ job.

People love their Timmies as they call it. Again, very familiar just like with their cars. A friend. A family member. “Let’s grab a nosh at Timmies,” they’ll chatter like they’re skipping through some sort of storybook tale. “I’m beat. Let’s grab a double-double at Timmies.” Such reverence and adoration you’d expect from people talking about church or an exotic location with great historical significance. It’s just coffee, I have to resist from yelling at them, the hair net scratching my scalp. A donut. You know what that is? Deep fried dough. Not the body of Christ.

Whenever I lose my patience like that, though, I try to remember that it’s me who is out of step with the majority. My ‘downtown’ views and kooky ‘elitist’ attitudes are not the mainstream. I am a stranger here. Still trying to learn their ways, their rituals, their manner of seeing the world.

It’s much harder than I initially expected, I will admit. They look so much like us but there are times when I think they might as well be a different species. I fear it’s going to be a long, hard winter out here. It already has been. At least, I have something to keep me warm through the dark night out here in Larry’s garage. The space heater works like a charm!

I must go now. There’s rumblings from the others drawing nearer. Meaning only one thing. Some sort of televised sporting conflict and they’re coming out to watch one or the other. Damn. I’d hoped for a quiet CSI night. Fingers crossed, it’s not the ultimate fighting crowd. I just don’t think I’m up for any sort of rambunctious tussle later. I have to work in the morning.

Take care. I will attempt to write more often with further observations.

Yours undercover,

 

Acaphlegmic

PS

Thumbs down on the new design. It looks like you’re writing about gardening or a love of cats.


Rob Ford Worship

September 20, 2010

So the Nanos poll arrived yesterday on the virtual doorstep with a dull, deadening thud of a wet, weekend newspaper on the front porch. Rob Ford now has an eye-popping lead of nearly 25% over his closest opponent. Surprising? Unquestionably. But the source of the surprise goes deeper and wider than just the fact that Ford is even being touted as a viable mayoral candidate.

The poll is startling because I thought in the last couple weeks there’d been a shift in tone to the debate from an avalanche of negativity about the state of the city to one more reasoned and composed. Take, for example, Alan Broadbent’s letter on the Maytree Foundation website. While all we’ve been hearing over the course of the spring and summer from most of the candidates running for mayor how bad a shape the city is in – i.e. rampant fiscal irresponsibility, a non-responsiveness to citizens’ needs, the phantasmagorical “War on Cars” – that characterization may be, well, a little over the top. “Toronto nowadays is a progressive and welcoming city with a thriving economy, flourishing arts scene and renowned cuisine. Its education and healthcare provision are among the best in the world.” So says the The Telegraph U.K. But, they’re probably just a bunch of Chelsea elites.

So, what’s with this disconnect and the Fordian anti-everything appeal?

I lay a large portion of the blame on the campaigns of George Smitherman and Rocco Rossi. Despite the fact that our current mayor stated his intention not to seek another term last September, both men decided to run in opposition to him. Rather than talking about how they’d build on the successes of the Miller administration and fix the things it messed up, they chose to portray Toronto on a steep, Skeleton speed decline toward 3rd world status. They (with mainstream media assistance) created the anti-City Hall environment that is Rob Ford’s milieu and his only strength as a candidate. To use Bill Maher’s reference to the Tea Party’s ascension within the Republican Party, Teams Rossi and Smitherman let the Frankenstein out of the castle and lost any control over it.

Deputy Mayor Joe Pantalone should also shoulder some of the blame for not vigorously defending the administration that he was an integral part of. Only belatedly has he embraced the sentiments about Toronto expressed by The Telegraph and tried to force back the apocalyptic visions stirred up by his opponents. Too often he was sheepish in defending the accomplishments achieved at City Hall over the course of the past 7 years. An odd tactic to take since some polls released over the past month or so suggest that David Miller would be the front runner in this race if he was in it. Clearly, a sizeable chunk of people who live here believe that we haven’t been on the wrong track.

People like us here at All Fired Up in the Big Smoke also need to accept responsibility for the Ford phenomenon. We clearly misunderestimated the man’s appeal and spent much time focusing on his appearance and personal foibles although, in terms of the latter, there is much overlap between the man’s shortcomings and his politics. Clearly, we should’ve concentrated our efforts purely on his ideas, policies and what a Ford mayoralty would look like if he actually won. (Like Eye Weekly’s Edward Keenan did last week.) I guess the idea of Rob Ford actually winning on October 25th seemed so impossible to contemplate that it hardly seemed worth the effort of criticizing him as if such a thing could ever happen.

There’s still five weeks to go until the election. Federal and provincial don’t officially start until around now. With such a commanding lead, the scrutiny on Rob Ford will only increase in its intensity no matter how much his handlers try to keep him in a bubble and not allow him to make any serious blunders. But the Nanos’ numbers do suggest a huge hole that those chasing him have to try and dig themselves out of. As John McGrath pointed out this morning on Twitter, a candidate hoping to overtake Ford not only needs to build their own numbers but they have to cut into Ford’s support.

How they do that, I’m ashamed to admit that I have no idea. The Rob Ford Army is entrenched and their belief in his candidacy as the cure for all that they see ails Toronto is firm and not subject to much dissuasion. Point out that their man’s transit plan is completely impractical, will not alleviate congestion and has almost zero chance of ever, ever being implemented and their response is ‘Stop the War on Cars’! Or that his electoral reform idea of cutting council by half would represent the complete antithesis of increasing accountability and responsiveness, and they’ll demand ‘Respect For the Taxpayer’! All that ‘corruption’ he claims happens behind closed doors at City Hall like the Tuggs deal? Had he been doing his job as a member of the auditing committee, he could’ve sent the deal to be audited by casting the deciding vote but was in absentia at that particular meeting. No matter because when he’s mayor, Rob Ford will ‘Stop the Gravy Train’!

It seems once Rob Ford supporters cross that divide, there’s no getting them back. Failure to do so means he will be Toronto’s next mayor and no one else is to blame except ourselves. Those 54% of us who cannot even begin to fathom the prospect of His Worship Rob Ford.

stumpedly submitted by Cityslikr


Whose Integrity Is In Question?

July 8, 2013

Another year, another Ford Fest with the inaugural east side version in Scarborough last Friday, fordfestfollowed, in all likelihood, by a round of complaints lodged with the city’s Integrity Commissioner. A budding Toronto tradition.

And once more we will divide into opposing camps, with the mayor’s supporters insisting he’s doing nothing wrong using city resources, on city property to promote what is essentially his own personal cause: re-election in 2014. Everybody does it, they’ll yell, pointing to councillors’ newsletters and sponsoring of local teams as proof. Bussin’s Bluejays! At least, Mayor Ford uses his own money for the Ford Fest rather than the taxpayers’, as if there are no ethical concerns with that.

They will be directly opposed by those who see all sorts of glaring problems with the mayor’s actions with Ford Fest. History, of course, will be on their side as the mayor has run afoul of the Integrity Commissioner since his early days as a councillor. wristslappedConflict of Interest is pretty much his middle name and no court has cleared him of it, only council’s ability to sanction him fully for his transgressions.

A third group will rear its head up, somewhere between the two. They will think it very likely the mayor is breaking rules in hosting Ford Fest but worry that bringing it to the Integrity Commissioner only serves as more ammunition for him to use in his out to get me defence. A nuisance complaint by a bunch of sore losers simply trying to overturn the mandate bestowed at the ballot box. Advantage, Mayor Ford.

Of the three groups, the latter strikes me as the most troubling.

It varies little from the most ardent of the mayor’s supporters in using election outcomes as the ultimate moral compass. shrug1Ends justifying the means, and all that. While not an official sanction of rule-bending, it certainly gives it a pass under the guise of the greater good and the long game.

In suggesting we simply shrug off the mayor’s iffy practices for fear that calling him on them actually increases his popularity, we just get in the goo with him and muddy the waters of ethics and morality. He bends the rules because he gets away with doing so. At this point, it’s almost as if he’s just daring you to go to the Integrity Commissioner.

Failing to do so only endorses the view that the office is toothless and without the power to enforce the rules it was established to oversee. It enables flagrant disregard of any attempt to keep a level playing field for all members of the council and to reduce the influence on city business by unelected outside entities. turnablindeyeAllowing the administration to continue conducting its dubious practices in order to not enflame the mayor’s base is as big an affront to democratic oversight as assuming the rules don’t apply to you is.

It’s pretty straight forward.

If Mayor Ford used the resources of his office and the city to host a gathering that had nothing to do with city business, that’s a potential conflict. If Ford Fest was used to campaign for the mayor’s re-election, if a database of potential voters was collected there, that seems like a clear violation of the city’s campaign laws.

It’s bad enough that his most ardent supporters don’t see it that way. It’s inexcusable for the rest of us to shrug it off as part of the game.

mea culpaly submitted by Cityslikr


Re-Imagining Toronto III

March 6, 2013

[On Thursday, March 7th, Idil Burale and I will be hosting a discussion forum at the Academy of the Impossible called, Reimagining Toronto: Understanding the framework of urban/suburban politics. So this week at All Fired Up in the Big Smoke, we’ll be looking at some of the issues that make up the divide of such urban/suburban politics.]

*  *  *countrymousecitymouse2

Throughout the week, we’ve been writing about the political landscape that lead to Rob Ford’s victorious run for mayor of Toronto in 2010. The historical background, the media environment, all the what you might call externalities. More or less an attempt at objective observation.

Today, let me get all subjective and present a frank and full mea culpa. How I played my part in the election of Mayor Robert Bruce Ford. babesinthewoodsA big ol’ ooops.

As cub observers of the political scene in Toronto, All Fired Up in the Big Smoke made its first appearance on January 4th, 2010. The day candidates could officially file with the city. We and Rocco Rossi made our municipal debuts together. Ha, ha. We’re still here.

Councillor Rob Ford as candidate for mayor was still a figment of our feverish imagination. It would be another couple months before he declared his intention to run. The possibility of such a thing merely tickled our funny bone. If nothing else, it would provide a bit of comic relief to the proceedings.

We continued not to take him seriously throughout the spring and early summer. His building constituency had to be fragile, a protest movement with no legs. It wouldn’t sustain itself through the all the missteps and scandals that would surface. When people were confronted with his deplorable behaviour during his ten years as councillor – cllrrobfordthe ‘Orientals’, dead cyclists, drunken outbursts at hockey games and on and on and on – there’d be a collective ‘Eewww’.

Yes, we were guilty of hurling invective, comparing him to Chris Farley, an excellent candidate for manager of a Walmart and on and on and on. Not only did we mock his one-note campaign style and his dodgy grasp of important policies but, unfortunately, we also ridiculed him about his weight and appearance.

When it became clear that Rob Ford had established himself as a serious contender for mayor, we finally had to overcome our disbelief and bewilderment and come to grips with that cold, hard reality. No, that can’t be right. What’s going on? What the fuck is wrong with people?!

On July 14th, 2010, we wrote a post entitled ‘An Open Letter To Rob Ford Supporters.’ By a long shot, it remains our most read piece to this day. (That’s called building an audience, that is.) In it we asked, with as little snark and condescension as we could possibly muster, what was the appeal. Why were they embracing his candidacy like they were. His numbers didn’t add up. His policy planks were wobbly under the weight of sheer improbability. His track record as a councillor indicated no desire on his part to solve the problems suburban voters faced in the amalgamated city.

Nearly three years on, the validity of our concerns holds up. There have been cuts when candidate Ford said there would be none. He’s shaved spending not cut the billions he said he could cut. fordnationHis transportation plan is in tatters, no more thought out than it was in 2010. On most major issues the city faces, the mayor has been sidelined, reverting to the lone wolf councillor he always was.

Yet Mayor Ford has retained his core support. His approval ratings hovering between 42-48%, essentially where they were when he was elected. The conundrum continues.

I don’t share some of my colleagues concern that this makes him re-electable. Sure, given his lack of performance one might think the numbers would be significantly lower. Where they were for his predecessors when Toronto had tired of them, in the thirties and high twenties. But compared to where Mel Lastman and David Miller sat at the same time during their first term? 48% is nothing to be boasting about.

And the news that John Tory hasn’t ruled out a possible mayoral run next year must send shivers up and down Team Ford’s spine. It’s what they feared most in 2010 and fought so hard and under-handily to stave off. biggermanThe appearance of any credible right of center candidate in the 2014 campaign – be it Tory, Karen Stintz, Michael Thompson – will spell the end of Mayor Ford’s hopes for a second term.

But that it’s come to that as the catalyst for a crash and burn of this administration should be mystifying to many of us. A startlingly high number of suburban Torontonians still love the mayor, despite what the rest of us would view as a bad case of the unrequiteds on his part. For our part, we’re still as confused about that connection as we were back in 2010. Now, as much as then, we need to come to terms with it and figure out how to make the case that it is an unhealthy relationship for all of us.

earnestly submitted by Cityslikr