Final Thoughts On Ford Fest

On the theory that there is still much to talk about re: Friday night’s Ford Fest, All Fired Up in the Big Smoke has assembled two of its crack team of observers to dissect the festivities. Stepping in place of the still absent Acaphlegmic is Mr. David Hains from over at The Clamshell.

Urban Sophisticat (heretoforth, US): I just want to jump in here before this immediately descends into a gleeful rip of Ford Nation and give a big shout out to the TTC. We were essentially door-to-door, from downtown eliteville into the line outside the Ford estate in 40, 45 minutes. The last leg of the trip was in pure air-conditioned comfort on the northbound Royal York 73C. Kudos, TTC. Much better than driving up there. Now let the slagging begin.

David Hains (heretoforth, DH): You’re right to point this out, and thank goodness for the TTC. After all, there was a pretty strong storm before Mayor Ford took the stage at Ford Fest and it would have been a pain to bike in. And while they have bike lanes leading up to Renata Ford’s digs, they don’t have the post and ring bicycle racks in Etobicoke. Who knew?

Cityslikr (heretoforth, CS): Although there were plenty of big vehicles, armored trucks we could’ve locked bikes up to. Or lion statues. Genital flaunting monkey statues. Kangaroo statues.

US: I think that might’ve been a wallaby. But there was no singular aestethic vision you could ascribe to the compound aside maybe big. Lots of space that needed filling. Yeah, yeah. Just drop that off over there with the other animals. Same could be said of the house itself, at least from the outside. A particular cross between a ski chalet and Red Roof Inn.

DH: Yeah, for me the setting was larger than any character there and that says something. I got the chalet vibe too, but this particular kind of Alfred Hitchcock one where at any moment you had the sense that the privileged platinum blonde wasn’t going to be who you expected them to be. Somehow the house was perfectly Fordian. Like Ford’s politics, it’s the kind of house you wouldn’t expect to be in Toronto but there it is, sensory overload firing away (the canons in the bushes help). The statues and fountains were the finishing touch, with one from every culture it seemed (I liked the Chinese dragons). No wonder Ford won the minority vote.

CS: Your 3 Torontos. Those with no backyards. Those with a postage stamp sized backyard. And those with backyards possessing their own postal code. But enough Chris and Dave and Daving it. What about the guest list? The guest list. Did you catch Josh Matlow on his radio show yesterday asking everyone if they got an invite? Like, in not showing up, he skipped some exclusive party. Newsflash, councillor. You were one of about two million, four hundred and ninety-nine thousand Torontonians who chose not to attend Ford Fest.

US: I heard Giorgio Mammoliti made an appearance and Frances Nunziata dropped by. Norm Kelly. I saw Vincent Crisanti. And someone tweeted seeing Councillor Minnan-Wong’s young daughter, so I assume he was somewhere nearby. Paul Ainslie was the only one I saw who hung out for the evening. And of course, there was Councillor Gary Crawford on drums.

DH: Matlow is the parent in the kindergarten class who is making sure everyone got invited and no one’s feelings are hurt. To be honest, I’m surprised he wasn’t there because the event was right up his alley with hob-nobbing and glad-handing. Plus, he, Gary Crawford, Josh Colle and a left wing councillor (for balance) could form a musical super group. All they would need to sort out would be the name.

CS: Something as cryptically innocuous as Gently Bent, Councillor Crawford’s current band name? I really wanted someone to explain that for me. Is it like, hey, we may look like 4 pasty white guys kicking out your average wedding band tunes but, occasionally, every so often, we can get our rock on. We’re not as straight as we look. We’re… gently bent. With absolutely no idea there’s another way the name could be interpreted.

US: Or maybe it’s just some slight word play on that TV show from the 60s. Gentle Ben. They can roar like a bear and other times they can play gently like a bear, named Ben. Gentle Ben. Gently Bent. But I did come up with the perfect left winger for your super group, David. John Filion. Quiet, happy to stay in the background bass player. Has hair just like John Entwistle.

DH: Apparently Paula Fletcher was just singing at the Labour Day Parade, so maybe auditions will be needed? It wasn’t just Gently Bent that was innocuous at the event, but almost everything. There’s nothing more innocuous than awkward conservative dancers wearing slacks or jeans who were there to re-connect with old friends. In that way, the event was nice and charming. The disconcerting parts were the Ford idolatry (one guy got his Lean Six Sigma for Dummies book signed by Doug) and the underlying politics that aren’t innocuous at all.

CS: Which brings us to the bigger picture here. What exactly is Ford Fest? A campaign rally? Certainly the noticeable presence of politicians would suggest as much. Or are we looking more at a, I don’t know, community event held by a local councillor. You know, the type of thing the mayor derided as he led the charge to cut councillor expenses. All well and good if you can pay for it out of your own pocket but don’t be wasting taxpayer’s money doing it.

US: That grey area of expenses the Fords seem oblivious too. It doesn’t count if it’s our money. I’m going to hazard a guess that whoever paid for Ford Fest, blew way past a councillor’s yearly expense allowance. Drink up, folks. Eat. Don’t stop to think about the ethical implications to it all.

DH: That’s what makes Ford Fest so great. Like the politics and vague rhetoric, it is all things to all people. Blurring the line between community service, populism and political opportunism is what propelled Ford to being mayor and ‘the city’s largest backyard BBQ’ is the perfect microcosm for that.

CS: Will you be attending the next Ford Fest?

US: I don’t see why not. We’re already morally compromised.

DH: Yes. I can always use more fridge magnets.

submitted by Cityslikr

Redrawing Toronto

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