Wheeling And Dealing

February 25, 2015

Evidently, it didn’t pass the smell test.smelltest

Last Friday, Mayor John Tory raised more than a few eyebrows (and some hackles) when he announced two corporations were donating the $200,000 the city needed to keep some outdoor skating rinks open for a few more weeks. “Ummm, what?” I believe my response was upon hearing the city’s private contractor for waste collection, Green4Life, was one of those corporations. (Overcome with the case of the dizzys, I was, when news broke later that the Rogers co-owned MLSE was the other donor.)

I wrote about my concerns with this too, too cozy arrangement a couple days ago, wondering if it passed some ethical/conflict smell test. Yesterday we got the answer.

Green4Life announced that ‘After consulting with City staff about the rules around sponsorships’, they decided to ‘voluntarily withdraw’ their offer ‘so as not to affect current procurement processes.’ embarrassedIn other words, they’d really love to help keep the rinks open but they’ve got that corporate maw to feed.

Is it me or shouldn’t ‘consulting with City staff about the rules around sponsorships’ have sort of been the mayor’s job before rushing to go public with the details? Smell this. Does it smell funny to you? Maybe I shouldn’t go out wearing it in public, you think?

As Councillor Gord Perks pointed out in the wake of this, the city actually has a process in place to be followed for sponsorship deals. “Section 6.2,” the councillor tweeted. “To fit with Code of Conduct ONLY authorized City staff can solicit or negotiate a sponsorship agreement. Council members can’t.” Council members can’t. If Mayor Tory spearheaded these deals to keep the rinks open, did he contravene Code of Conduct rules in doing so? “Section 6.3 ,” the councillor continued. “Unsolicited offers are to be referred to the relevant City Staff.” More: “Section 6.9 All sponsorship agreements must be documented. If over $50K, legal services should be included in reviewing the agreement.” Still more: “6.11 In most circumstances, Council must approve the agreement.”lessons

Did the mayor’s office follow any of these rules in securing the sponsorship deals to keep the skating rinks open?

“Everyone gets a case of the hiccups”, Mayor Tory said in response to Green4Life’s about face. What are you going to do? A rookie mistake.

Maybe. Maybe. It’s just hard to fathom no one around the mayor red flagged this thing. Someone sensing there might be, at best, some bad optics with it and, at worst, actual breaking of the Code of Conduct rules. Deputy Mayor Denzil Minnan-Wong, perhaps, who’s been around the block a time or two, more than 20 years of elected municipal service under his belt. His response? Great idea, boss! Let’s go skating!

You’d think that right at the top of Mayor Tory’s Not To Do list would be avoiding the appearance of any conflicts of interest, keeping talk of impropriety or backroom shenanigans to a minimum. What with the goings-on at City Hall during the last 4 years and the previous administration. Keep everyone’s noses clean, at least for the first little while.

You’d think.

No matter. Water under the bridge. And there’s always more fish in the sea especially for the man with a full-to-bursting rolodex.johntoryonice

Plan B (generously speaking) came at another skating rink with the mayor revealing that Tim Horton’s (Timmies, to their friends) would step into the donor void left by Green4Life, chipping in $100,000 to help keep the rinks open. Problem solved. Done, and done. The private sector gallantly to the rescue again. Everything above board, clean as a whistle and legit now.

Except that…

“If Tim Horton’s is the new outdoor rink sponsor,” Adam Chaleff-Freudenthaler tweeted, “they’re active lobbyists (as recent as Feb. 10).” Jude MacDonald pointed out further information from the Tim Horton’s lobbyist registrar page, showing that some of the subject matter the company signed up to lobby on was “City Policies relating to Economic Growth, Regulatory Issues; Blue Box Program; Drive-Through policy.”

So, we have this restaurant chain of the ‘quick service’ variety, talking to city officials about city policy concerning issues directly affecting them. ‘Blue Box Program’? Where do I throw away this coffee cup anyway? Garbage? Recycling? The lid in one, the cup in the other? What? ‘Drive-Through policy’?! quagmireAll those nasty emissions from idling cars waiting in the drive-through line. Fine. But now they’re donating $100,000 to keep some city run skating rinks open?

I’m not alone in finding this deal more than a little unsettling, am I?

I tried to state my leeriness about it in a few 140 character outbursts yesterday. Let’s see if I can string the thoughts together here.

If a company wants to do business with or is already doing business with the city, or wants to have some say, influence even, in how the city conducts its business, it strikes me that company shouldn’t be in the business of donating money to help the city go about its business. How is that not somehow greasing something that ought not to be greased? There may be some out there who believe fully in the goodness of the corporate heart. keepyourdistanceI’m just a person who thinks corporations don’t really have hearts, only bottom lines.

Maybe we should work to keep things like the operation of skating rinks in house and stop being dependant on the continued goodwill of upstanding corporate citizens to help effectively run this city. Decrease the overlap of the public and private sectors. Wouldn’t it be a whole lot less ethically messy that way?

helpfully submitted by Cityslikr


Ford More Years In The Wilderness

January 13, 2014

(While we here at All Fired Up in the Smoke have vowed to spend less time and effort on the 2014 mayoral race, that doesn’t mean we can’t provide space to those who do have that inclination. For example, our fully endorsed 2010 candidate for mayor of Toronto, Himy Syed.)

*  *  *

Toronto City Hall 8:15 a.m. January 2, 2014

Rob Ford walks past The Colin Vaughan Press Gallery, along a corridor it shares with Toronto’s Election and Lottery office.

Named for late City Hall Reporter, Colin Vaughan, who previously served as Alderman representing The Annex. His son, Adam, today represents Ward 20 Trinity-Spadina.

Three years before Toronto City Councillors began turning their backs each time Mayor Rob Ford rose to speak, Adam Vaughan was first to do so. He turned his back as Rob Ford was being sworn in; he faced The Public during Ford’s inauguration speech.

December 2010: turning your back on the Mayor appears petulant.

December 2013: it looks prescient.

Rob Ford and Adam Vaughan have been and remain each other’s true Council Nemeses.

*  *  *

Mark Cidade stood waiting for City Hall to open at 7:30 a.m.

Once inside, Cidade found Election staff setting up the rope line. Somehow, Bruce Baker beat Cidade to the Pole Position. Baker intended to be first to file for Ward 36 Councillor. No matter. Cidade being second in line would become 2014’s first Mayoral Candidate.

Third in line? Al Gore.

45 minutes later, Bruce Baker permitted Rob Ford to stand in front of him after Cidade and Gore each denied Ford a spot ahead of them.

Rob Ford began his Re-Election Campaign… by budding in line.

Filing Nomination Papers

Two pieces of ID, signatures, several gigabytes of video and still images, and $200.00 later… Rob Ford begins his Re-Election Campaign.

“Ford More Years…?” What does that even mean?

Before abandoning his first media scrum of the 2014 Toronto Election, leaving his City Councillor brother and just announced Campaign Manager Doug to wax damage control to Cameras, Mics, and BlackBerries… Rob Ford lied five times:

Declared Council’s best attendance record: he’s actually 15th worse out of 45; missing 1/6 of Council votes this term; Claimed tax increases under 1.75% for four years: rise was 2.5% in 2012 and 2% per last year; Claimed unemployment dropped from 11% upon assuming office to 7% today: actually it bumped up from 9.4% at end of 2010 to 9.8% in last quarter 2013; Claimed City “started spending like drunken sailors” after November when Council transferred numerous of his powers to the Deputy Mayor: thus far, the upcoming 2014 budget remains responsible; Repeated the fiction he alone saved “A Billion Dollars.”

Why did Rob Ford start his Re-Election Campaign with complete inaccuracies?

By “Complete Inaccuracies,” I mean “Lies”. Full Stop.

There’s a word for that.

Sociopath.

This word was said to me by a former Ford Loyalist City Councillor who voted to strip away The Mayor’s power. This Councillor’s last straw was Ford’s admission of Drinking and Driving after repeated denials. Out of sheer curiosity the Councillor looked up “sociopath”. It described Rob Ford to a T.

I asked how voting against the Mayor felt?

“Dirty.”

Ford More Lies?

A sociopath is typically defined as someone who lies incessantly to get their way and does so with little concern for others.  A sociopath is often goal-oriented (i.e., lying is focused – it is done to get one’s way).  Sociopaths have little regard or respect for the rights and feelings of others.  Sociopaths are often charming and charismatic, but they use their talented social skills in manipulative and self-centered ways.

— TruthAboutDeception.com

Sound familiar?

Fundamental error of The Press Gallery is engaging Ford on being “right” or “wrong.”

Sociopaths don’t really believe there is such thing as being right or wrong, there is only more or less powerful.

— Sociopath World

Moreover:

What do John Edwards, Bob Barr, Rod Blagjevich, John Ensign, Eliot Spitzer, Mark Sanford, William Jefferson, William Jefferson Clinton, David Vitter, James McGreevy, Tom DeLay, Charles Rangel, Newt Gingrich, and David Paterson have in common?

Obviously, they’re all politicians who’ve been caught doing something illegal, unethical, mind-bogglingly self-destructive, or all of the above.

But what also binds them is that none of them seem to believe they really did anything wrong, in spite of vast evidence to the contrary. When they finally have no option but to appear contrite, their apologies feel stilted, scripted and anything but heartfelt.

— Tony Schwartz, Huffington Post

Mayor Rob Ford’s goal is to be Re-Elected.

Why?

Power.

If the Press Gallery continues attempting to keep proving Rob Ford wrong after each and every utterance that he is right; If challenger Mayoral Candidates’ ultimate street cred at the ballot box is that only they are uniquely “The Best NOT Rob Ford”; If the wider electorate doesn’t exercise its own power by voting For Something rather than Against Someone (Rob Ford); Then Election Day October 27 2014 will be reduced to being either a Referendum on Rob Ford or his Re-Election by an enabling “Ford Nation”.

What is Ford Nation? Why is Rob leading it?

Usually sociopaths hide themselves behind a pretense of being able to feel what the rest of us feel. Their very survival depends on being able to blend in, by imitating what they see around them, but cannot themselves feel, ever. Those most successful are those who con us best.

— Gene Messick, OpEdNews.com

During 2010, the above was condensed into three words: Respect For Taxpayers.

For 2014, three syllables: Ford More Years.

It is said that Every Pharaoh has his Moses.

And Every Moses has his Nation.

If this election remains all but a Referendum on Rob Ford, as the first few hours of media attention and challenger candidates’
behaviour reveal, Ford Nation will Re-Elect their Moses.

But instead of Rob parting the Red Sea and delivering his people from Pharaoh, a re-elected Rob Ford will start from Sinai and
walk back to Egypt, taking Ford Nation, and the rest of us, along with him… For Four More Years.

Respect for Taxpayers. Been there. Done that. And got the Bobblehead to prove it. (Both of them.)

Time the Electorate stand up to the Sociopath Mayor by budding in the front of the line, getting ahead of the Press Gallery, turning their backs to the traditional media echo chambers with their narrative, and begin demanding a Post-Rob Ford Vision for the City Region of Toronto and How We Get There without mentioning nor referring to the incumbent mayor.

himysyed

thoughtfully submitted by Himy Syed


Democracy? M’eh.

March 7, 2012

The modern conservative species (genus: WTF?!) has often been a subject of consideration for us here at All Fired Up in the Big Smoke. Our overriding impression is one of a political philosophy that has, ironically, strayed far from its traditional path. In short, theirs is not their grandfathers’ conservatism.

There remains a strain of belief, however, that has survived the centuries relatively intact. It’s that unease with the messy aspects of democracy we can trace back to, arguably, one of the movement’s founding voices, Edmund Burke, although it does him a great, great disservice to lump him in with today’s crowd even on that score. His reaction to the excesses of the French Revolution is what I’m referring to on this point. One, I’m sure, our friend Sol Chrom will take the time to straighten me out on.

Conservatives tolerate democracy, I’m saying. Barely. They boil it down to the basic element of elections. The governance that goes on in between is little more than a nuisance, the vagaries inherent in a system that endeavours to accommodate more than one voice, one point of view is vilified, discounted and suppressed.

For example, the pre-stable majority Conservatives in Ottawa. Twice as a minority government they were faced with parliamentary non-confidence, they sought extraordinary measures to wiggle free from out under it and shut down democracy. Any notion of a coalition replacing them as the governing party was couched in terms of being illegitimate, anti-democratic, a nefarious coup d’etat.

As the Robocalls outrage shows, even their successful bid to form a majority is tinted with an anti-democratic impulse. Rather than endeavour to expand their appeal by persuasive arguments and reaching out for a broader consensus, Stephen Harper’s Conservatives sought to misinform voters and to disenfranchise them. Dirty tricks instead of bright ideas. It’s all in the game, yo.

Here in Toronto, conservative supporters are aghast at a mayor losing control of city council, utilizing similar terminology to their federal counterparts. A coup. Illigetimacy. Back stabbing. Treacherous betrayal.

In recent days there has been some very fine pieces written about the current entanglement at City Hall. Open File’s John McGrath got it started last weekend with his post, Rob Ford, the TTC, and the crisis of legitimacy at Toronto City Hall. Adam Chaleff-Freudenthaler responded with a spirited rebuttal, An Informed Dissent on City Hall. After the TTC debate and vote on Monday, the Torontoist’s Hamutal Dotan weighed in beautifully, City Council is Supreme. The Grid’s Edward Keenan added his voice on the topic, So who’s running this city, anyway?, earlier today.

It is not my purpose to jump into that particular fray now aside from saying I don’t believe we’re witnessing any sort of crisis of legitimacy more than a crisis of leadership. Yes, there are probably some adjustments that could be considered to reduce the fractiousness that arises between the single so-called mayoral mandate and those of 44 councillors. Electing more citywide representatives might be a step in that direction but that’s for another post.

No, my concern here is the reaction of conservative voices to Mayor Ford’s diminishing position on council. The inchoate screeds from the Toronto Sun’s Sue Ann Levy are to be expected. Any reversal of fortune the mayor encounters will always be the devious, underhanded work of pampered left wing, kooky socialists to her mind, such as it is. It only begs for schoolyard nicknames.

But such baseless outpouring of drivel from Marcus Gee of the Globe and Mail is far more troubling. Messy political infighting plunges City Hall into chaos screams the headline of his article on Tuesday. ‘Low rent borgias’, ‘a power-drunk left-wing opposition’, he labelled those who took control of the TTC from the mayor on Monday. He states: The mayor is badly hobbled, but who runs the show in his place? before concluding As fascinating as it is to watch all this ad hocery, it leaves Toronto with a drifting, leaderless government at a time when it needs firm direction more than ever.

I’ve never met Mr. Gee but, from a distance, he seems like an amiable enough chap. While I think it safe to call him conservative leaning, he hardly comes across in his writing as some sort promoter of authoritarianism. Yet, here he is predicating the successful, smooth running of a city with the powerful leadership of one person, the mayor. Without that, well, we’re plunging into the darkness of chaos. Oh my god, the PTA is disbanding!

Such a sentiment is not only highly anti-democratic but it also suggests a very blinkered view of the workings of our municipal government. And to promote the notion that the 29 councillors voting to assume control of the TTC from the mayor who has badly fumbled the transit file are driven by nothing more than left-wing ideology is, well, pure fabrication. Since when did Councillor Karen Stintz become left wing? Or councillors Gary, Crawford, Peter Milczyn, Cesar Palacio, John Parker, James Pasternak, Jaye Robinson, Gloria Lindsay Luby, Chin Lee, Josh Colle? By making such a claim, Mr. Gee is simply propagating the left-right storyline that the mayor regularly spouts.

Aside from the increasingly potent opposition to Mayor Ford not being ideologically cohesive, it spans the entirety of the city, further exploding the divisive urban-suburban myth the mayor so heavily relies on. There is not a former pre-amalgamation municipality not represented in the 29 councillors who stood up against the mayor on the TTC vote. Right of centre Etobicoke councillor Gloria Lindsay Luby joined forces with leftie Scarborough councillor Glenn De Baeremaeker as part of the team with North York centrist Councillor Jaye Robinson and champagne sipping, downtown socialist Councillor Gord Perks.

We should be celebrating this move toward a city wide conciliation instead of shrieking about the collapse of local democracy. Why do we think that one person steamrolling over 22 others to fulfill a mandate or agenda is how a city best runs? While it might fit nicely into a lazy narrative, it is profoundly autocratic loving. Sadly, it also passes as rigid conservative orthodoxy these days.

happily submitted by Cityslikr


Disorder In The Ranks

October 2, 2011

(On a lazy Sunday, we post our piece from this week’s Torontoist. Think of it as the director’s cut.)

*  *  *

Mayor Ford emerged from his waterfront cash grab gambit (or maybe it belonged to his renegade councillor sibling – Sorry, bro. Did I get any on you?) with his brand new consensus suit a little ill-fitting. On Monday after last week’s fiasco, he stood before council at a special Core Services Review meeting more than a little feisty. Spit and vinegarish even

Clearly over the weekend he and his advisors, with the first real debacle of his mayoralty in place and favourability numbers dropping precipitously, decided that the taxpayers of Toronto preferred candidate for mayor Rob Ford to the actual Mayor Rob Ford. So he reverted back to campaign mode, all vitriolic rhetoric and new pithy catch phrases. In introducing the Core Services Review items to kick off the proceedings, he stood and called out the ‘loonie left’ councillors who dared to defy his wishes. Stay The Course was a brand new mantra, chanted over and over again. Under questioning, he blustered, rambled, frequently contradicted himself within a single sentence. Just like the glory days out on the hustings in 2010.

The mayor even cited some new, unofficial polling data. According to people he met everywhere, 90% told him, begged him, exhorted him to Stay The Course. Suck on that, Ipsos Reid. Maybe you need to take your random samplings from the line ups at Tim Horton’s.

But for all the chest beating, name calling and bully boy posturing, the tone at council had shifted noticeably. While never exactly orderly, Team Ford had been able to deliver a rough hewn obedience, always managing to wrangle a majority of councillors into its corner on important issues. This week? A sense of disarray descended. Tried and true allies tested the waters of independence. Items and amendments came fast furious, some from very unexpected corners. I’m sorry, was that Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday introducing an item on road tolls? Yes, yes. I get that it was nothing more than an attempted poke in the eye of Councillor Josh Matlow who had put forth his own motions asking for a review of a road toll idea but it put the mayor on the defensive, having to explain (idiotically, IMHO) his opposition to the concept of generating revenue through this particular type of user fee.

The biggest eye-opener, however, was Councillor Gloria Lindsay Luby. A fellow Etobicokian and self-proclaimed right of centre suburban politician, she openly stood up and questioned the mayor about the entire process they were being asked to undertake. “Flying blind”, she called it, having to make consequential choices without any numbers in front of them, sounding almost Perksian at times. She didn’t wilt under the withering but ineffectual show me the money line of questioning from the budget chief. When it came time to push through the items she had introduced, Councillor Lindsay Luby gleefully flashed a thumbs up, sitting right next to Team Ford QB-clown, Giorgio Mammoliti and his downturned thumb of mayoral disapproval.

That said, Mayor Ford suffered no devastating setbacks during the two day meeting. There was no knockout blow, as the pundits like to say. Yes, the cuts he was hoping to inflict in the process fell woefully short of the intended mark. The $28 million or so he did get doesn’t even rate as a drop in the bucket. And in my darker moments, I might view the fact the Voluntary Separation Program – a “coerced” retirement offering to city staff as Councillor Gord Perks suggested in an unfriendly environment with a threatened 10% across the board reduction to all departments hanging in the air — moved on relatively unscathed gave the mayor a jump on the budget process, initiating cuts by stealth under the guise of attrition rather than layoffs or firings.

Still, as the mayor insisted somewhat disingenuously to quell fears of the slashing and burning taking place no decisions were being made at this point. It was all about reviews and studies. In other words, he remained in place, knocking down the easy to reach, low flying fruit. But now, Team Ford was bleeding support and the tough choices remain to be made.

Not only were stalwarts like Councillor Lindsay Luby drifting, so were Executive Committee members Councillors Berardinetti and Robinson. The mushy middle stopped being cowed. As Adam Chaleff-Freudenthaler pointed out to me, even more worrisome for Mayor Ford, the already soft but principled conservative Chin Lee representing heavy, heavy Ford friendly Ward 41 in Scarborough quietly but decisively voted against the mayor on a surprisingly large number of items over the last couple days.

Support jumping overboard even before the ship hits really choppy waters. An already tenuous majority grown skittish. A summer of discontent turned to an autumn of disregard. All the ingredients for a disastrous budget process and a severe blow to the tattered mandate flag Mayor Ford keeps trying to hold high.

resubmitted by Cityslikr


A Pattern Emerges

May 9, 2011

The threads of Mayor Rob Ford’s Toronto are starting to weave together and form a discernible pattern. Like those 3D Magic Eye posters that were all the rage back in the 80s, deciphering what exactly the thing is we’re looking at all depends on your perspective and ability (or willingness) to see behind the white noise. A simple mess of colours to some becomes a distinct shape to others.Adam Chaleff-Freudenthaler snapped the above photo and posted it on Twitter last week. ‘Service reduction’ of bus routes should not be confused with ‘major service’ cuts that themselves are different from the No Service Cuts. Guaranteed. pledge Mayor Ford made on the campaign trail last year. Although it might be hard to tell the difference if you’re one of those people who depended on the night time and weekend runs of the 127 Davenport or 33 Forest Hill routes.

Done on the q.t. via posted notice, lost amidst the heavy din of a proposed 10 cent fare increase earlier during the budget process that the mayor and TTC chair Karen Stintz bravely beat back, it is the Ford way. Big noise trumpeting the cutting of taxes or freezing of fees followed by a wee peep of an announcement of a ‘service reduction’. If only a few folks are adversely affected does it really amount to a service cut? The tree falling in the forest with no one around to hear it and all that.

Some, sensing the way the wind’s blowing in Ford Nation, have decided that the public sector is no longer the place to be. Take Geoff Rathbone, for example. The city’s General Manager of Solid Waste Management Services announced last week that he was stepping down from his post to take up the vice-president position of resource recovery for Progressive Waste Solutions.

Aside from being the 5th city manager to pack up and head out of Dodge since Mayor Ford came to power, Mr. Rathbone’s departure is also more than a little eye-brow raising since one of the last steps he took in his official capacity with the city was to author the report recommending privatizing a portion of Toronto’s garbage collection. His new employer will, in its position as “one of the country’s largest waste management firms,” in all likelihood make a serious bid on the contract that Mr. Rathbone has proposed. Admitting to the National Post that “… the timing of his departure ‘may not be perfect’ but ‘you can’t necessarily choose when opportunities come to you.’” May not be perfect? You think?

That’s not to question Mr. Rathbone’s credentials as he seems well liked and respected by councillors of all political stripes but the idea that this ‘opportunity’ arose coincidentally with the move toward privatization seems a little disingenuous and hard to swallow. While we’re assured the city’s integrity commissioner will keep everything above board, the fact that such a move is even considered legitimate should be of concern. We’re now outsourcing expertise for the benefit of the private sector with no real guarantee that we’ll see anything in return for it. Note the ever dwindling amount of savings privatizing garbage collection west of Yonge Street will give us. $6 million this week, down from $8 million last week, both wildly off the $49 million in savings claimed in a C.D. Howe report that pro-privatization proponents touted Toronto could save with city wide implementation.

We’re selling the city off by the pound with little benefit to show for it. So, it’s little wonder that managers like Geoff Rathbone are heading for the greener pastures of the private sector (made that much more green with the outsourcing public services). The city’s function will be nothing more than to provide customers for businesses.

The picture comes fully into focus with the news of Mayor Ford’s blank schedule pages. “Previously information had been given out,” said the mayor’s press secretary, [Adrienne Batra], “perhaps too much.” We had complaints in our office too, from citizens who met with mayor wondering ‘Why is my name on a very public calendar?’ So we have to take steps to ensure we protect people’s privacy.”“Why is my name on a very public calendar?” Perhaps because you’re meeting with the mayor. A mayor who campaigned hard against secretive, backroom deals. Now it’s none of our business who the mayor meets with. So much for accountability and Mayor Ford’s Respect for Taxpayers. All gone the way of No Service Cuts.

The Ford Nation. Reduced expectations, increasingly beholden to private interests and where no questions need be answered. A clear pattern of public de-servicing.

eagle-eyedly submitted by Cityslikr