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

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

The Bigger They Are

September 16, 2011

Credit where credit’s due.

Mayor Ford, his brother and their closest coterie certainly do things in no half measure. Go big or go home should be their motto.

From last year’s oversized campaign that ultimately swept aside his competitors in a noisy, boisterous march to the mayor’s office to the blustery early successes this administration’s had in crushing much of the previous administration’s doings under foot, they have made their presence felt. It has been relentless, the busting up and dismantling of things. Big time ‘doers’, as Mayor Ford might likely say.

So it appears will be the case next week when Team Ford faces what could be its first significant setback. Short of serious amending and de-fanging of the Executive Committee item instructing city council to grant the Toronto Port Lands Corporation authority to seize property from Waterfront Toronto, a resounding, flashy and high profile defeat looks very, very likely. A spectacular flameout might not be too much of an overstatement.

Go big or go home.

Perhaps had the mayor and his brother attempted this move more quietly, it might not have been successful but the failure wouldn’t be so garish. What had worked for them before, a combination of bullying and bad mouthing and a little bit of glitzy, Vegas style showmanship ran into a solid wall of established resistance on the waterfront portfolio. Badly misjudging both those they were up against and the growing attachment the general public had toward what was going on down by the lake, the Ford Bros. did not have their normal bogeymen to excoriate. The downtown elites. Left wing kooks. Cycling pinkos.

Instead, the mayor and his brother found themselves on the receiving end of the body blows and head shots from very well respected urban thinkers and planners, former mayors. Even normally friendly media types have been conspicuous in not rushing to defend the mayor’s waterfront plans. The mayor’s interview with Jerry Agar yesterday brought to mind the Fawlty Towers episode where a German group was staying at the inn and Basil spent much time telling his staff ‘Not to mention the war’. ‘Don’t mention the waterfront, Jerry. Don’t mention the waterfront.’ He dutifully didn’t.

The pushback to Mayor Ford’s waterfront plan is so significant that normally pliant and quiet allies on his Executive Committee have been freed to publicly announce their intentions to oppose it. To lose support at that level suggests it’s now open season for defections. In fact, the item has become so repugnant to the general public that it could be seen as a detriment to back it. What councillor will risk being tarred with the ignominy of following the mayor down this path?

There’s Doug Ford, of course. Arguably the architect of the fiasco. Deputy Mayor Holyday has hitched his wagon to Team Ford. Councilllor Giorgio We Don’t Blink Mammoliti. The ever obedient Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong.

But who else? This could be some heavy baggage to carry around for the next three years. Voting to pull the plug on Waterfront Toronto is not simply some ward specific attack that will be remembered only by local residents like the Jarvis bike lanes or the Fort York Bridge. This will have reverberations city wide even in places far from the battleground. Is that a risk Councillors John Parker and David Shiner are willing to take? How about the budget chief? The entire city’s going to be watching you Councillors Grimes, Moeser, Crisanti, Di Giorgio, Pasternak, Lee, Ainslie, Nunziata, Palacio, Kelly, Crawford, Lindsay Luby, Thompson, Milczyn.

I know it’s early in this term yet but some matters are not easily forgotten three years later when voters will go to the polls again. This could be one of those defining moments. Are you going to be for the mayor or for the city. You can’t be both on this.

demandingly submitted by Cityslikr

The Immoveable Mayor

June 23, 2011

Mark it down in your calendar, folks. The week of June 20th, 2011. It’s the date the mayoralty of Rob Ford officially jumped the shark. (If such a thing is possible. To jump the shark suggests that there’s a point of quality from which to jump. For example, can it be said that a Full House or Who’s The Boss? ever achieved the necessary creative heights to attempt the shark jump?)

Within a matter of days this week our very own Mayor Danny Tanner signaled that he’s unwilling, unable or just downright uninterested in reaching out past his core constituency. First, in Executive Committee he deep-sixed an offer from the province to pay for 2 public health nurses. Then the mayor announced that he would not be marching in the upcoming Pride parade, opting instead for a family long weekend at the cottage. In two fell swoops, Mayor Ford made it clear he was not the mayor of all Toronto.

I wouldn’t for a moment be presumptuous enough to try attaching a motivation for these decisions of the mayor aside from a reluctance to accept things that he doesn’t understand. Public nurses? We’ve got hospitals for sick people. Use them. T’eh Gays? Well, it’s all just a little too.. err… queer to him. Have at it. Live your life. Just don’t expect the mayor to endorse something he’s unfamiliar or uncomfortable with.

The real takeaway message here for me is that Mayor Ford doesn’t feel a need politically to broaden his appeal among Toronto voters. He’s perfectly happy wallowing in the pond of support that brought him to power, and that shares his uneasiness with extra front line health workers and homosexuality. These are his people and the decisions he made in both cases make perfect sense to them. His intransigence might even solidify his reputation as a straight-shooting, uncomplicated, apolitical, little guy. Our mayor doesn’t bend to special interests. Just like us hard working, taxpaying, regular Joes.

Or something like that. We who are flummoxed by the choices our mayor makes need to get used to it. He ain’t ever going to change, so stop expecting him to. That trait may be his greatest strength, his best political asset.

So, let’s stop trying to find common ground with the mayor. It is a small and barren patch of land. A my way or the highway mentality means that the only compromise we can ever hope to reach is all on our part. We give. He takes.

We need to set our sights elsewhere. The time has come to turn up the heat on those at city council who continue their willfully blind support of Mayor Ford and who continue to enable him to do the things he does. If the standard operating procedure so far has been to back the mayor or suffer the political consequences, we have to find a way to point out that such unstinting support will also come with adverse political consequences. A light must be shone on those councillors who have, so far, been quietly cowering in the safe shadow the mayor casts.

Sure, Team Ford is made up of a handful of councillors sharing the mayor’s limited view of politics and the city. Brother Doug, for one, and the Deputy Mayor. They will be immune to such pressure. You might throw in Budget Chief Del Grande and Councillor Shiner as well although, they like Speaker Nunziata and QB Mammoliti, former Ford non-allies present now because the going’s been good but alert to any changes of fortune that might come if the mayor’s destructive and narrow-minded policies become something of a drag on their standing with the electorate.

Even in toto that’s a pretty small group and won’t be able to help dig Mayor Ford out of any holes he gets himself into.

The councillors I’m talking about are the rookies who haven’t established any sort of real foothold besides being the mayor’s flunkies. There’s Vincent Crisanti, Gary Crawford and James Pasternak (the two latter elected in 2010 with the slimmest of pluralities, within the margin of error.) Councillors Michelle Berardinetti and Jay Robinson, undistinguished members of the mayor’s executive committee. And the deadweight veterans, Cesar Palacio, Mark Grimes, Frank DiGiorgio, Chin Lee.

Then there are the moderates from both sides of the political spectrum that have already started bucking under the weight of Mayor Ford’s missteps. Peter Milczyn, Michael Thomspon, Denzil Minnan-Wong, Norm Kelly, Joshes Matlow and Colle, Ana Bailão, Mary-Margaret McMahon. TTC Chair Karen Stintz could be counted on to bail out if things get a little rocky.

Let’s refocus a grassroots effort from the mayor to these councillors, the non-ideological hidebound and opportunists, and start holding them accountable for participating in this war against the city. Alert their constituents with loud announcements of their collaboration and facilitating of this ruinous administration. We need a catchy name for it. Project 23 comes immediately to mind but may not be ominous enough.

Mayor Rob Ford is a lost cause for anyone hoping to build a strong city. It doesn’t interest him and he wouldn’t have the slightest idea how to even if he had the inclination. That’s not going to change.

What can change is the support he now has at City Hall if more councillors begin to realize a price will be paid for their ongoing association with a mayor determined to do his thing and his thing only.

start a firingly submitted by Cityslikr

Redrawing Toronto

May 30, 2011

I chuckled a little bit, reading Patrick White’s Globe article from Friday about Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday’s next task of ‘redrawing Toronto’s dated electoral boundaries.’ “Now that he’s [Holyday] approaching the home stretch of a months-long effort to slash egregious councillor expenses…”, the piece began. Images bounced around my noggin. Rearranging deck chairs on a sinking ship. Reducing the number of fiddlers as the city burned. Etc., etc.

Even giving inflated figures, say $30 K cuts in ‘egregious’ councillor spending, that amounts to about $1, 320, 000 million, let’s call it $1.5 million in savings to city coffers. But a small fraction of the lost revenue in eliminating the VRT and freezing property taxes that the Deputy Mayor helped push through. The net effect of adding to Toronto’s ever increasing operating budge hole. Well done, fiscal conservatives. Sound management of the city’s finances.

We here at All Fired Up in the Big Smoke have often been chided, by friends included, of sniffing at Team Ford’s multi-fronted attacks on the Gravy Train. It’s the reason he was elected, we’re told. Cutting taxes and wasteful spending. It’s all about optics, reality be damned.

So, fine. I give the Deputy Mayor and all those slaving away to maintain the mayor’s optics a tip of the hat. Well done, folks. Reality can wait until the fall when the 2012 budget debates begin and you have to struggle to keep up the appearance of Mayor Ford’s other campaign platform of No Major Service Cuts. Guaranteed.

That said if, as the Globe piece also notes, Deputy Mayor Holyday is serious about tackling the thorny issue of ward redistribution, our kudos will be much less facetious. It is a non-partisan concern that cuts to the heart of democracy. Citizens deserve as close to equal representation as is feasible, especially at the municipal level which is so day-to-day service oriented. Wide variations between wards will invariably result in wide variations in how councillors serve their constituents.

And as it stands right now, there are wide variations. Huge, gaping differences in populations between wards, in fact. It’s almost a 35,000 person disparity between the most populous ward (John Filion’s Willowdale 23 at 79,435) and the least (Maria Augimeri’s Ward 9 with just under 45,000 residents). How could Mr. Filion be anywhere near as attentive to the needs of his constituents as Ms. Augimeri is to hers? In fairness, we should really determine councillor’s office budgets on a per head basis.

In the Globe article, Councillor Adam Vaughan suggests that if redistribution were to happen properly, it would swing council to the left. We’d like to see his methodology behind that line of reasoning as many of the suburban ridings (including Ward 23) are the more populous ones. Scarborough especially has more than its share of hugely populated, 60K+ wards. Given that the former municipality is home to some of the current mayor’s most ardent supporters (Councillors Michael Thompson, Norm Kelly, Chin Lee), it’s hard to see how splitting those wards is going to enhance the left at council.

But that’s beside the point. Redrawing ward maps need to transcend political affiliation. Elected officials should have as little hand in the process as possible. If the Deputy Mayor can successfully pull such a feat off, it will be a shiny medal he can rightfully pin to his chest.

A bigger hurdle still will be navigating a new municipal political map with the mayor’s campaign pledge to cut councillor numbers in half. (More meaningless and possibly detrimental optics!) In the Globe article, the Deputy Mayor was already distancing himself from that promise. “That’s the mayor’s office that will have to come up with a plan for that,” Holyday said. “I don’t know that my plan is exactly the same as his.” With some wards already struggling under the weight of a 60, 70K+ population, it’s hard to see how having wards with 100,000 people will be of benefit to anyone.

Except for Mayor Ford’s optics. An ‘I said I would do it. I did it’ claim is an empty boast if the city is the worse for it. And it’s hard to see how it won’t be if we wind up further under-represented even if the pain is more equally shared.

by the numbersly submitted by Cityslikr

The Magic Middle

March 15, 2011

Talk is brewing of some sort of middle ground bubbling up from the rancorously partisan divisions at City Hall. Over at Spacing yesterday, John Lorinc wrote of the Gang of Six; six new councillors who didn’t hue to strict left-right voting patterns during the protracted special council meeting called by the mayor last Wednesday to de-board the TCHC. While Mayor Ford comfortably triumphed on the main issues of the evening, some cracks formed on side motions and amendments that showed the administration doesn’t hold an iron grip on a majority of council.

So as we move forward from what everyone’s referring to as the low-hanging fruit that the mayor’s been successfully bashing away at – and yes, as complicated an issue as the TCHC imbroglio was, its treatment by city council and the press made it a big ol’ low-hanging, over-ripe fruit – and onto more challenging matters like, say, garbage privatization, selling off of city assets, further and deeper cuts to things like the TTC, things may not go as swimmingly the mayor’s way. What happens when things become much more contentious not just between right and left but for those trying to navigate the bipartisan, middle way? When the mob’s frenzied, anti-government bloodlust is sated and people start looking around and realizing, wait, you’re cutting what? That wasn’t part of the deal.

Will the so-called tug-of-war between the left and right on city council become less one-sided with the current winners, Team Ford, having to learn how to be conciliatory instead of confrontational? Is this administration even capable of such a gesture?

It seems hard to imagine not just because the mayor’s been so heavy-handed since taking office but his decade long career as a councillor points to a pathological inability to get along with those he doesn’t agree with. His is a black and white world, and consensus is deemed a sign of weakness. You’re either with him or against him. If you’re against him, it can only mean that you’re a socialist. Or worse.

The problem with the debate so far is that it’s being painted in terms of this radical view of Mayor Ford. I am hard pressed to think of any current (or recent) councillor who veers as hard left as the Fords veer hard right. Yes, City Hall was called Silly Socialist Hall under David Miller. By Sue-Ann Levy who shares the equally skewed opinion with Mayor Ford and his brother that anyone to the left of them is a… how did she describe it in a recent babbling rant? “…gravy train-enabling, public teat-sucking, union-loving… leftist hangers-on and despicable leftist hypocrites.” The mayor himself back in the day when he was still a councillor referred to the Globe and Mail as a ‘socialist newspaper’ in the now infamous Fat Fuck video that he starred in with Giorgio Mammoliti and John Barber.

The Globe and Mail. A socialist rag.

This current council does not suffer from a deeply divided left-right cleft. It is all about the far right versus moderates. The question is, under the baleful, full court press of the mayor and his team, can a genuinely moderate group of councillors emerge and start holding sway come vote time?

Let’s start with the six Lorinc mentions, Councillors Bailão, Berardinetti, Colle, Matlow, McMahon and Robinson. If they consistently voted with the 16 or so who regularly oppose the mayor, they’d still come up 1 short of a majority. Councillors Chin Lee and Ron Moeser have not been slavish in their devotion to Mayor Ford, so they couldn’t be ruled out as allies in this enterprise. That still leaves this group precariously dependent on everyone dutifully following suit which, it seems, only the mayor can count on currently.

So to cobble together a more comfortable consensus, you’d have to look to chip away at that wall of unflagging support Team Ford now can count on to push his agenda through. Discounting the new councillors Crisanti, Crawford and Pasternak who have cast their lot in with the mayor and mortgaged their future on his continued popularity… oh, and his brother, Doug, the mayor’s political Siamese twin… there are 16 councillors who all worked with Mayor Ford when he was a councillor. We know they all didn’t share his views or votes back in the day. In fact, it would be interesting to figure out what kind of common ground they shared with the mayor while serving as councillors together. (Paging Ford For Toronto! Paging Ford For Toronto!)

Surely a handful of these could be counted to buck the mayor if a reasonable centre began to take hold. Giorgio Mammoliti, once sworn enemy of Rob Ford and a fair-weather friend if ever there was one. Nobody else can do an about-face political pirouette like he can. I’d put Karen Stintz in a similar camp. Gloria Lindsay Luby has already opposed the mayor on an amendment during the TCHC debate. As has Frank Di Giorgio on occasion. Denzil Minnan-Wong and Paul Ainslie both smack of opportunists. Councillors John Parker, Michael Thompson, David Shiner and Norm Kelly seem like they’re capable of independent thought and/or can’t be considered hard core ideologues. Think about the sweet revenge, Councillor Peter Milczyn, if you helped make the mayor irrelevant after he tried to unseat you in October.

The fact is, Mayor Ford is irrelevant when we’re talking about finding middle ground. He doesn’t know how and wouldn’t be interested if he did. As Lorinc pointed out in his Spacing piece, the man voted against amendments to the TCHC motion despite them being right up his alley in terms of oversight simply, it seems, because he didn’t like who brought them forth, Councillors Shelley Carroll and Adam Vaughan which, if true, is nothing but spiteful, partisan politics. You can’t find a middle way with that.

In order for this council to find a moderate, middle-of-the-road consensus, Mayor Ford will have to be sidelined. While I realize that is easier said than done as he holds a lot of high cards, it is worth remembering that despite his claims to having a mandate, nearly 53% of Torontonians didn’t give him one. It is those folks you should be afraid of not the mayor.

moderately submitted by Cityslikr

Cat Got Your Tongue?

March 10, 2011

As we mentioned here yesterday, the Ford administration is mainly a media driven machine, delivering its baked to bite size perfection message over the airwaves and on the pages of our dailies. Usually the less discerning outlets like the raggedy-assed Toronto Sun and news outlets on your AM dial. After spending 6-½ hours in the chamber gallery last night witnessing council’s marathon special meeting to decide the fate of the remaining TCHC board members, I’m gaining a better understanding of why that is.

And it won’t come as a surprise to anyone who watched many of last year’s mayoral debates during the campaign. Mayor Ford is fundamentally incapable of formulating a coherent thought that cannot be expressed in more than a 3 word cliché. It makes for great radio and newspaper headlines but when confronted by a living, breathing, semi-sentient human being, well, it all just falls apart. The mayor gets flustered, starts to sweat and turns red to a point where you almost start feeling sorry for him. Which he used to his advantage during the debates, quickly scurrying offstage to the welcoming arms of the media scrum, whining about his mistreatment at the hands of downtown, debate-capable elites. There, there, Robbie. Don’t worry. We’ll make sure everybody realizes you actually won the debate.

No, what’s surprising is that the Ford administration is bereft of a single member who can stand up and defend it at council. I know every group, regardless of where they sit on the political spectrum, has its share of dim bulbs. Same goes for the hardcore ideologues inside any political team. They don’t think they have to explain themselves. The far right has the additional problem of not being able to reveal the full extent of its radical intent, so they end up sounding disingenuous, mouthing words they don’t really mean.

Still, what can you say about a group whose best spokesperson at council is Giorgio Mammoliti, a man prone to never passing up an opportunity to miss a point? Ever since he detached himself from his last vestige of personal dignity to become Mayor Ford’s BFF, the smarmy factor has gone through the roof. He wears his smug triumphalism on his sleeve, and the jokes and jibes Mammoliti tosses toward colleagues and the crowd are riddled with contempt, spite and nastiness that can only come from someone fully cognizant of just what a lightweight he actually is.

The mayor’s brother, Councillor Doug, the face of the administration in the media, is as equally awkward and inept at council but, unlike his mayor brother, doesn’t seem to realize it. He flashes a folksy charm that is neither and comes across more like that married guy trolling ladies night at T.G.I.F. (do either of those things still exist?). Rebuffed, he then turns nasty.

Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday appears to be held in high esteem by his fellow councillors but from an outsider’s standpoint? Whenever he gets up to talk at council, he’s just this side of Abe Simpson, veering from incoherently didactic to outraged in a heartbeat. Why don’t you kids understand this? I’m being perfectly clear! Are you on the pot or something?

Of course, no one does outrage and indignation for this administration better than Budget Chief Mike Del Grande. Once or twice every meeting, he’ll stand and berate anyone and everyone for not getting with the program. He seethes with contempt toward all those who refuse to recognize just how smart and hardworking he is. Or. Who. Simply. Don’t. Understand. Basic. Arith. Metic. He doesn’t need to explain his motivations. If you don’t know, you’re just not trying hard enough. Or stupid.

Councillor Michael Thompson tries very hard to make us understand his point of view. Or, more to the point, wants to look like he’s trying very hard to make us understand his point of view. Verbosity and long-windedness are his stock and trade. Minutes of clause and subclauses, followed by memories of how poorly everyone now affiliated with Mayor Ford were treated by the former regime, come together all wrapped up with a coda that essentially says, the mayor’s right, you’re wrong.

Newcomer James Pasternak has recently taken to defending the mayor with a pained obtuseness that reminds one of that really bad calculus teacher we all had in high school who couldn’t understand why the class didn’t understand what he was saying. Councillor Josh Colle rises occasionally to propose a motion which, as often as not, gets voted down by the mayor. Councillor Mary Margaret McMahon takes turns expressing either effusive praise for staff or the mayor and indignation when her motives are called into question. Councillors Frank Di Giorgio and Chin Lee will occasionally take to the floor to announce they’re backing the mayor because he’s a good guy and they trust him.

After that from a near majority of Mayor Ford supporters, it’s crickets. Long stretches of silence punctuated with button pushing almost unanimously to vote along with the mayor. They could be replaced by those drink dunking birds Homer Simpson — a second Simpsons reference in a single post. Whatever could that mean? – used to do his job while he went out. Rarely seeing fit to explain themselves, they are either merely hoping to keep their heads low and ride along on Mayor Ford’s coat tails, unnoticed, so that if it turns out poorly fingers won’t immediately point in their direction or… What? They can’t be bothered? Too shy?

At last night’s meeting, every one of the councillors who ultimately voted against giving the mayor the power to deep six the last remaining members of the TCHC board rose to speak, question or give a motion or amendment. To make a public pronouncement about why they were going to vote the way they did. They weren’t all barnburners or crowd pleasers. But they stood up and let those attending the meeting, the press, their constituents back home, all know their opinion on what was happening.

That may be the nature of being in opposition. Making the case of why you stand opposed. You don’t have to explain yourself so much when you’re in the driver’s seat.

But to remain silent on such an important, divisive matter, to not even make an effort, that is simply unacceptable. It is nothing short of a dereliction of your elected duties. If you’re unwilling through fear or indifference to stand up every now and then for your cause and display the courage of your convictions, you need to be called out, your political cowardice revealed. It’s peoples lives we’re dealing with here. Everyone should know why you did what you did.

So our Dishonourable Roll Call (in alphabetical order):

Councillor Paul Ainslie. Shame.

Councillor Michelle Berardinetti. Shame.

Councillor Gary Crawford. Shame.

Councillor Vincent Crisanti. Shame.

Councillor Mark Grimes. Shame.

Councillor Gloria Lindsay Luby. Shame.

Councillor Peter Milczyn. Shame.

Councillor Cesar Palacio. Shame.

Councillor John Parker. Shame.

Councillor Jaye Robinson. Shame.

Councillor Karen Stintz. Shame.

chidingly submitted by Cityslikr