Striking Out At Striking Committee

November 19, 2012

If anyone’s still patiently waiting for the Ford administration to get its shit together after two years at the helm, you only need to look at Friday’s events to realize that’s probably not ever going to happen. Either through sheer incompetence or simply not giving a fuck, the mayor and his… brain trust, let’s call them, seem content to simply fly by the seat of its collective pants and let the chips fall where they may. No direction. No design. No over-arching bigger picture.

No nothing. Nada. Zip. Zilch.

As Mayor Ford took the stand to defend himself against a case of libel, his Striking Committee settled in to sort out councillor (re)assignments on council’s committees, boards and agencies for the second half of the term. How badly did it go? Well, the mayor did better in court than the Striking Committee did doing its work, and the mayor didn’t do very well. Following along with both events via the Twitter, it wouldn’t be out of line to call it all a two-pronged shit show.

Establishing councillor representation of the city’s ABCs goes a long way to determining how successfully mayors roll out their agenda. Deftly beating out the wrinkles in items and motions at the committee level smooths the ride out for them when they arrive at council meetings. Arguably, good, thorough work done at committees will help lessen the time and length of full council meetings.

Naturally, any mayor wants and should have a majority of like-minded councillors in control of the committees. At least the ones they view as important. (Take a peek at the proposed line-up of the Community Development and Recreation Committee to see what little interest the mayor has with those issues. If the committee gets too big for its britches, he can bury its motions at Executive or Budget Committees.) There has to be an upside to our semi-strong mayoral system. Committees shouldn’t be a quagmire for an administration, the places a mandate goes to die.

That said, committee make-up also needs to reflect the diversity and regional representation of Toronto. From the outset back in 2010, Mayor Ford has shrugged that obligation off, choosing instead to load up the committees he cares about with loyalty first and foremost. Nothing from Friday’s Striking Committee circus suggests he plans on anything different for the second half of his time in office.

His Executive Committee, nine of the thirteen members there “…by virtue of office or having been appointed by the Mayor as a Standing Committee Chair” and the remaining four selected as at-large members are all from the inner suburbs and only one isn’t male. Ditto the Budget Committee. Its six proposed members are all suburban and only one is female. If Councillor Mike Del Grande is re-named chair by the Executive Committee, the rigid and narrow gender, regional and ideological pattern will be reinforced.

Such flagrant disregard of even a semblance of bi-partisanship led to the Striking Committee meeting’s biggest flare up. According to tweets from the Toronto Sun’s Don Peat and Star’s David Rider, Councillor David Shiner appeared to have lost his cool with the proceedings and the mayor’s staff over moves to leave him on the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee and remove Councillor Gord Perks.

“At striking committee where midterm council appointments being hashed out, [Councillor] Shiner is blowing his top,” tweeted Rider. “[Councillor] Shiner now very mad at Mayor Rob Ford’s office staff,” from Peat. Peat again, “”Your boss doesn’t consult, your boss works in a vacuum. The chief of staff doesn’t consult & guess what, you don’t win like that,” from Councillor Shiner. Summarizing, David Rider tweeted, “Backstory to Shiner flipout is he was angry that mayor’s staff want to take uber-knowledgable Cllr Perks off public works.”

So a noted conservative councillor, a regular ally of Mayor Ford (plastic bag ban aside) goes all snake (to paraphrase the mayor) on the mayor’s staff and the Striking Committee process because he feels that they’ve put politics ahead of good governance by moving to replace a qualified but ideologically opposed councillor on the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee with, let’s face it, nothing more than a major mayoral toady, Speaker Frances Nunziata.

And there’s poor Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday seemingly baffled by the kerfuffle.

“I would have thought someone would like the opportunity to serve on executive.” 

Why, when only the most blindly loyal need apply?

No, that’s not entirely true.

The blindly loyal, nakedly political and/or most highly delusional.

After musing out loud earlier this year about leaving the Executive Committee, Councillor Jaye Robinson will be back for another kick at the can. In replacing Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti as the chair of the Community Development and Recreation Committee, she will return to the Executive Committee, the lone female representative. Councillor Michelle Berardinetti has jumped ship, citing a desire to be free of “…intense vote-whipping pressure from Ford’s staff… on even minor issues.”

For her part, Councillor Robinson still believes she can be a “moderating influence” on the Executive Committee. Just like the committee’s newest member, Councillor Josh Colle. “My hope is that I can inject some reason and ration and new ideas into some of those [Executive Committee] discussions,” he said.  “I think I can contribute to that discussion and hopefully some refocusing.”

Well, good luck to them on that front, I say. Both have, at times, been the faces of moderating influence on the Ford Administration. Councillor Robinson led the pushback to the mayor and his brother’s wacky waterfront plans while Councillor Colle announced the proposal to eliminate some proposed cuts in last year’s operating budget. But I would argue that was done at council level where there are actual allies for them to count on.

The Executive Committee?

Aside from the occasional renegade in Councillor Shiner, there’s not a single face of moderation on the committee. Maybe councillors Ainslie, Milczyn or Thompson on particular issues but even then, that’s still a minority in the room. So why would either Colle or Robinson want to waste their time and energy trying to roll that rock up the hill?

If anything, the messy, partisan cock up at Friday’s Striking Committee session should only have emphasized to them that Team Ford remains in highly immoderate mode.

just sayingly submitted by Cityslikr


Bad Mojo Rising

November 5, 2012

How much weight is too much for even the strongest of Mayor Ford supporters on city council to bear?

I ask as the Executive Committee goes in to session today, dealing with such matters as a casino, property taxes, capital budgets and Mayor Ford’s bogged down in yet another football coaching related controversy, his ability to lead once again hampered by questions of bad judgement. Where’s the tipping point when even members of his own Executive Committee decide the city’s future, as well as their political fortunes, will be irrevocably harmed by a continued enabling of the Ford administration? When will good governance trump crass politics?

Now maybe everyone’s hoping that once the high school football season ends in a couple weeks or so, the mayor will re-focus his attention on the job he’s actually paid to do. But unless he vows to dial back on his involvement next fall and the fall after that, it will be on ongoing item of contention. (Could it be he’s all in now, working toward a championship season so that he can announce his temporary retirement and go out a winner? Stay tuned, Don Bosco Eagles’ fans).

But I think it’s safe to say that the mayor’s troubles aren’t really seasonal and the rate of such incidences is hardly declining as he gets more comfortable in his role. Sure, they’ve spiked this fall but it’s not like they return to an acceptable level of competency. It is truly a regression to the mean in the case of Mayor Ford’s ongoing transgressions.

Councillor Jaye Robinson announced earlier this year that she’s leaving the Executive Committee at the end of 2012. There are similar rumblings from Councillor Michelle Berardinetti. Councillor David Shiner is on the outs with the mayor after his motion to ban plastic bags made it through city council. Although highly unlikely to jump ship, councillors Milczyn, Minnan-Wong and Thompson have all been openly critical of Mayor Ford on various issues over the last couple months.

This is a leaky boat that can only keep afloat if the mayor stops punching holes in it. Mayoral clout is as effective as the power that wields it. The bully possesses strength through fear and intimidation. If Mayor Ford continues to piss away base support with these ridiculously preventable missteps and abuses of position, what’s to fear or be intimidated by? Sure, he can remove you as chair of a committee or boot you from Executive but so what? As his reputation sinks, there’s less and less upside for councillors to hitch their wagons to him.

This is go time for Team Ford. The debate over the 2013 operating and capital budgets is just starting and will not only determine the direction going forward but may define his term in office. (The 2014 budgets will be seen as little more than a campaign document.) If the mayor squanders this opportunity, either through an obstinate adherence to bad policy ideas or bad behaviour, he might not be able to reassume even the appearance of council leadership. That would leave him, going into the next election campaign looking like an out of control (gravy) train wreck.

 

prognosticatingly submitted by Cityslikr


The Deputy Mayor’s Got Those Far Away Eyes

September 26, 2012

I’ve often wondered what goes on behind those blue eyes of our Deputy Mayor, Doug Holyday, as he sits and stares off at the horizon during city council meetings. Lunch? Ava Gardner? Lunch? Lunch? Dirty filthy unions? Lunch? René Descartes dualism? Lunch? Ooo! Tuna salad!

These days, I would imagine, it wouldn’t be surprising if the good councillor from Ward 3, Etobicoke Centre sits silently ruminating about the possible folly of getting those Ford boys involved in municipal politics. It seemed like a good idea at the time. A couple like-minded tax-hating kids from the neighbourhood. Sure, they seemed a little boisterous but chalk it up to youthful exuberance. Besides, their daddy’s company sold election campaign signs!

Like almost everyone else, it’s unlikely the last mayor of Etobicoke ever imagined that Rob would scale the heights of amalgamated Toronto politics and become the city’s chief magistrate. An improbable outcome, let’s call it. But what the hay. Somebody had to come along and clean up the profligacy of the left wing downtowners. Why not Rob Ford?

Why not indeed.

How did it become so unseemly? What ugliness had Doug Holyday wrought as political mentor to Rob and Doug Ford, I imagine Doug Holyday thinking as he gazes into the distance.

That the Deputy Mayor essentially suggested that the mayor’s brother shut his trap for a bit gives voice to the dilemma all council conservatives must be facing at the moment. How do you solve a problem like Mayor Ford and his most vocal supporter/nemesis, Brother-Councillor Doug? Or more specifically, how do continue with the mayor’s message of frugality while not getting any of the messy taint of scandal and bad behaviour on you?

They don’t come much more rock solid conservative than the deputy mayor. His ideology is as rabid and unbending as any on Team Ford including the mayor and his brother. Councillor Holyday has been known to step in it himself with the ‘it’ being headline grabbing outbursts like the one we saw earlier this year with the mythical Little Ginny, held against her innocent little will by her morally bankrupt parents in a downtown high rise.

The difference being that was said during the heat of council debate which doesn’t make it any less reactionarily anti-urban but, hell, we all say dumb things if we talk long enough. By all accounts, the deputy mayor is courteous and accommodating to anyone who asks of his time. Even certain publications that represent the polar opposite of his political leanings. You clearly don’t last as long in politics as Holyday has by drawing up an enemies list comprising of those who cover the work you do on a daily basis.

Obviously his patience is waning with the administration’s off-field antics. “We have important work to do,” the deputy mayor said, “the taxpayers expect certain things from us and these distractions don’t make it any easier. To have a public fight on the radio with all media isn’t really helpful.”

That’s not to suggest there’s an imminent breaking of ranks of the far right wingers at council but when your staunchest compatriot in the ideological wars openly chastises you… And this after another devout defender of the faith, Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong told the CBC that the mayor needed to “smarten up” with all the appearances of conflict swirling around him. It’s kind of hard to lead, I bet, when you’re constantly looking back over your shoulder.

Only the budget chief, Mike Del Grande, appears prepared to go to the mat for the mayor. “People will find ghosts where there are no ghosts,” he said. Del Grande has even lobbed a budget broadside at the Integrity Commissioner who will inevitably be dragged further into the mayoral mess over the next little while, demanding a line-by-line audit of the city’s accountability offices. All this for the mayor and what’s he have to show for it? Lousy bedbug bites. That’s devotion.

If they’re not openly criticizing the mayor, other conservative and right leaning councillors are either keeping quiet, hoping no one will notice them or they’ve publicly walked away on certain issues. The highest profile, obviously, is TTC Chair Karen Stintz who served up notice that Mayor Ford could be openly defied with no repercussions. Councillor John Parker followed along with her. Councillor Michelle Berardinetti quit her position on the budget committee and word is Councillor Jaye Robinson will do similarly at the end of year with her position on the executive committee. Councillors Michael Thompson and David Shiner have at times had little trouble disagreeing with the mayor, the latter the architect of the proposed plastic bag ban that slipped through council in the spring.

There may be no bigger sign of a realignment of the informal council conservative caucus than the silence of Mayor Ford’s other official mouthpiece, Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti. Having effortlessly and spectacularly flip-flopped in joining forces with his long time adversary, no one could be surprised if there’s a full 360 pulled off if the fortunes of the mayor continue to plummet. I’m sorry. Did you call me Gino-boy?! Hey everybody. The mayor called me Gino-boy again!

This commotion should strike a positive chord for all but the hardest of hardcore right wing conservatives. With one of the polarized ends collapsing under the weight of its own obstinacy and incompetence, the atmosphere at City Hall can only moderate. Poisonous partisanship – so pronounced right from the beginning of Mayor Ford’s time in office – will die down to just a dull roar and maybe, just maybe, we’ll actually start to see some constructive governance again.

hopefully submitted by Cityslikr


Disbelief Fatigue

September 20, 2012

What’s the best way to torpedo an out of town, largely benign, taxpayer funded business ‘trade mission’ taken by some elected representatives? Spend your decade+ time in politics railing about out of town taxpayer funded jaunts taken by elected representatives. It makes for some awkward questions before you even get to the airport.

No reasonable person living in a rational time would begrudge our politicians the opportunity to occasionally head out, meet and greet, talk and listen, move and shake with the wider world as part of their job description. Maybe it brings 100s of new jobs with it. Maybe different approaches to governance are hashed out. Or maybe it just lends itself to help develop a wider, broader perspective. Surely that can’t be bad.

As long as there are proper checks in place, guidelines to follow, transparency on offer so that we can be as sure as we ever can be about these things that propriety is being maintained and, for the most part, we are funding a work-related trip, have at it. Enjoy. Learn. Schmooze.

Nobody I take very seriously on these matters decried Mayor Ford’s Chicago trip this week. That is, until he tried to pretend it was somehow different from other trips members of city council take as part of doing the city’s business. That somehow this was different and new ground was being broken.

Or that it wasn’t costing taxpayers one dime or one red cent.

See, this is where the mayor does himself no favours, creates a mountain out of molehill and proceeds to overshadow any positives he may have been contributing. It also reveals, once again, his inability to see past his own nose, out beyond the bubble of his own life. What seems to be mounting evidence of a stunning lack of empathy.

He’s paying for the trip out of his own pocket therefore it’s costing the taxpayers nothing. What about city staff? Is he covering their trip as well? Are they? What about the eight councillors attending the trip with him?

Well, Councillor Michael Thompson made it pretty darn clear he wasn’t paying for the trip out of his own pocket. “It is important city business,” Councillor Peter Milczyn said, “so it is an allowable expense under the office expense policy that is how it is being paid for.” Councillor Michelle Berardinetti also expressed some doubt she’d be footing her bill on her own dime.

And they’re right!

If they’re traveling on legitimate business, if it’s all about jobs, jobs, jobs, the economy, the economy, the economy, if they’re working hard “…to promote trade between the City of Chicago and the City of Toronto,” as Councillor Thompson said, why the fuck should they have to pay for it? The idea is that we’d all benefit from that. So yeah. Submit your receipts and expense report and it’s all good.

Our rich mayor should not be the standard bearer for public service. Among the countless other reasons why, we don’t want to start demanding from those who seek elected office they pay for any and all on the job incidentals. It would restrict the field of candidates to a very small and, quite possibly, democratically undesirable segment of our population. Mitt Romney anyone?

And has anyone ever asked Mayor Ford, come tax time in late April, if he writes off all the work related costs he incurs as business expenses? It would make sense if he did. Perfectly legitimate. But, we have been told, there’s only one taxpayer, haven’t we?

It’s this constant twisting and turning of the truth that grows tiresome. The cognitive dissonance the mayor must operate under – official trips are gravy unless he goes on one of them – is now not just his to deal with. It’s ours. It’s afflicting not only our discourse but the running of the city.

In The Grid yesterday, Edward Keenan wrote about how Mayor Ford built his career on sweating the small stuff, “…pointing out penny-ante spending frivolities”. Councillor Rob Ford convinced us it was important enough to the city as a whole that we elected him mayor. His inability as mayor to cope with, let alone even understand or comprehend the bigger stuff, the defining issues like transit, public housing, the basic fundamentals of adhering to conflict of interest rules somehow gets framed as partisan gamesmanship. You just disagree with/are piling on the mayor because you’re [fill in the blank].

We’re living through some sort of political event horizon currently. Reality’s gravity is sucking all matter that’s been flimsily attached to misguided belief. I’m pretty sure I know which is which but the fact I’m not absolutely convinced makes me very nervous about how this is all going to turn out.

weighed downedly submitted by Cityslikr


Conservative Conundrum

September 14, 2012

As the football shit show builds and swirls around Mayor Rob Ford, much chatter continues about his re-election chances in 2014, if there are any re-election chances for him once the courts and city’s Integrity Commissioner are done with him. Who from the left will run against him? Adam? Shelley? Does the barrage of accusations and criticism hinder them or only serve to strengthen the mayor’s core support?

But I’m sitting here wondering, what are the Ford Follies doing to the right wing at council?

Surely, the mayor and his councillor-brother must be hurting the brand. Whatever accomplishments they may try to lay claim to are now getting lost in the disbelief shuffle. Repealed the VR–Sorry, I can’t hear you above the din of special assistant/assistant football coaches. Settled city workers’ contracts without hav—What’s that you’re saying? Apparently city owned cars were used to chauffeur around football players. Cut councillor office expenses. You’re kidding, right. Cut councillor office expenses? Ha, ha. Ha, ha, ha. Hahahahahahahah…!

Before becoming mayor, Rob Ford made few allies at City Hall. That was his schtick, the whole lone wolf outsider, giving the straight goods on council waste, nefariousness and gravy train riding. He manned the parapets of eagle-eyed fiscal conservatism.

As mayor, Ford was able to pull together a loose coalition largely through the bullying use of the power of his office. Sure, there are a handful of true hearted believers in the Fordian crusade to cut spending at the municipal level to the barest of the bare minimum and keep taxes unworkably low. Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday. Budget Chief Mike Del Grande. Speaker Frances Nunziata. Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong.

But what about the likes of councillors Mark Grimes and Norm Kelly or newcomers like councillors Vincent Crisanti and Gary Crawford? Bona fide, hard core supporters of the cause or just simply along for the ride? It could be argued that Councillor Crisanti owes his fledging career to the mayor’s efforts to unseat former Ward 1 councillor, Suzan Hall. If he keeps his dingy tied to the current ship of state, doesn’t he risk drowning if the whole contraption goes under?

Where does the latest mayoral imbroglio leave councillors Paul Ainslie and Peter Milczyn, both of whom are going about their business, trying to do interesting things within their sphere of influence at City Hall. They owe their positions to Mayor Ford’s appointment largesse. Just how far does their allegiance go because of that? Not to mention Councillor Milczyn was targeted for defeat in the last election by the Ford campaign. He must be itching for a little payback right around about now.

Council conservative stalwarts like Karen Stintz, Michael Thompson and David Shiner have already openly defied the mayor on certain issues (as has Councillor John Parker in a supporting role). Mayor Ford’s weakened position can only encourage further independence and, in the case of Councillor Stintz, a solidifying of leadership in her position as TTC chair. If he wasn’t a non-issue on the transit file before this summer’s series of flaps, he most definitely is now.

Then there’s the wildcard, Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti. A long time foe of Rob Ford right up until he suspended his campaign for mayor in the late summer of 2010, he effortlessly flip-flopped and became a BFF, soaking up the power that comes with sitting at the mayor’s right hand. Why would anyone be surprised if he just as easily reverts back to previous form now that Mayor Ford’s shining star has dimmed significantly? Where’s Councillor Mammoliti been for the last month or so?

In fact, outside of Councillor Ford, the Deputy Mayor and the Speaker, very few of the mayor’s inner circle have rushed to his defence. Fear based loyalty is not all that binding. A marriage of convenience dissolves when it’s no longer convenient. What allegiance to him remains in conservative circles at City Hall is little more than a delicate balance, keeping their distance while espousing similar fiscal policies. Kill the messenger if you must but don’t abandon the message.

If the mayor staggers through all this and is still up for a run at re-election, will other conservatives stand back and allow him to be their standard bearer? That would seem suicidal. Even if Mayor Ford could stage such an improbable comeback, it’s hard to fathom how he would have the coat tails to seriously re-configure council in his favour. So, you’d be facing another four years of council deadlock with little input from the mayor.

It strikes me that a golden opportunity is forming for a moderate conservative candidate to mount a successful campaign for mayor in 2014 even if the nebulous left puts up only one credible opponent. Think about it. Mayor Ford will always have his core support. Pick a number. 20, 25% of voters? Could it be much higher if he continues to alienate every newspaper in this city?

So a right of centre candidate steps up, picks off all the soft Ford support that has abandoned him and claims the middle. All those Torontonians who still believe in small government, low taxes, accountability. What’s that, half the 2010 Ford votes and a sizeable chunk of George Smiterman’s supporters? That would be some hefty number to contemplate.

There’s been much idle chatter since, well probably, October 26th, 2010 about possible winning match-ups against Mayor Ford down the road in 2014. Most of it has involved coming up with 1 candidate from the left side of the political spectrum in order to avoid vote splitting. But I think the real split, the actual divide that’s happening now not 2 years hence is on the right. It’s a split between the dwindling Ford camp and conservatives who still believe in the competency and conscientiousness of government. The bridge between them has been burned and there’s really no going back.

analytically submitted by Cityslikr


The Mayor’s A Bit Player In This Drama

August 21, 2012

Enzo Di Matteo’s NOW article this week, Bill Blair witch hunting, is what the kids today are calling ‘speculative non-fiction’, isn’t it? A sprawling yarn, more episodic police procedural than actual real life, rife with blackmail, intrigue, betrayal with a healthy spicing of violence bringing it all together. It’s not that what he writes couldn’t be possible but the dynamics of the situation just don’t ring true to my ear.

The piece tries to convince us that Mayor Ford retains control of the helm enough to have his way with Chief Blair and/or the Police Services Board. Di Matteo did see what happened with the TTC commission, didn’t he? It’s one thing to want “…to replace Blair-friendly Scarborough councillor Chin Lee…” and another thing entirely to have the political heft to pull the manoeuvre off. If the chief’s grip on the board is ‘tenuous’, the mayor’s would have to be considered tenuous-er.

Di Matteo seems to suggest that Mayor Ford’s ‘point guy on the police file’, TPSB vice-chair Councillor Michael Thompson, is doing the mayor’s bidding in plotting against Chief Blair. I just don’t see it. In fact, one could jump to the exact opposite conclusion.

From the NOW article:

“…[Councillor] Thompson, who’s made no bones about wanting to challenge the status quo at 40 College, or ‘the brotherhood,’ as he likes to call it, since he took over as vice-chair of the Police Services Board.

Ask Thompson if he has confidence in Blair and you’re likely to be met with a long pause followed by the kind of laugh that might be provoked by a trick question.

‘I haven’t thought about it,’ he says.

That’s not the scuttlebutt at police headquarters, where Thompson has been busy inculcating the everybody-challenge-everybody culture.

The two got off on the wrong foot when the Ford administration tried in the early days to strong-arm the chief into a 10 per cent budget cut that would have meant laying off 500 cops.

Thompson was hung out to dry by the mayor on that one, and it’s been mano-a-mano ever since.

While Councillor Thompson may not have confidence in the police chief and has ‘made no bones about wanting to challenge the status quo of the brotherhood’, I’d say that being ‘hung out to dry by the mayor’ with the proposed budget cuts last year makes him an unreliable ally of Mayor Ford. Anyone who is unafraid to say this out loud — “I’m interested in being part of the problem if problems are the way to get to solutions.” – should not be taken for granted by either side. In fact, it suggests to me Councillor Thompson isn’t even sure what he’s up to.

In reality, the mayor’s biggest foe on this issue has to be the mayor himself. There is no easy circling of the square on this for him. If he’s using budget cuts to force a showdown with Chief Blair, it would be a classic case of shooting yourself in the foot, cutting your nose off to spite your face. Any significant cut to the police budget will result in layoffs. It has to since the police budget consists of nearly 90% labour costs. What else is there to cut?

For all the budget chief Mike Del Grande-standing last week in front of the TPSB, it really was just about the long-hanging fruit. Paid duty, overtime pay for court appearances and, of course, the absolute pablum of finding further efficiencies. Of the really big questions, Councillor Del Grande offered little in the way of ideas.

“One of the fundamental questions I ask is: How many police do we need in the city of Toronto?” Del Grande said to the board. “What’s the right number? No one has been able to tell us definitively how many police officers does it take to police the city of Toronto.” The budget chief claimed ‘he has never seen an independent study justifying the current Toronto police uniform complement of about 5,600.’

Fair enough. But there we are. If this administration wants to cut back on police officers shouldn’t the onus be on it to say with confidence that it won’t be detrimental to the safety of the city? Rather than just this blanket across the board budget freeze, shouldn’t the budget chief be the one providing the independent study justifying the number of police he thinks Toronto can get by with?

Any number he can come up with, however, is going to be less than the one Mayor Ford touted a couple years ago while campaigning for the job. He promised 100 more police officers on the street. According to the police union head, Mike McCormack, owing to the budget constraints of the last two years, a hiring freeze has resulted in 178 fewer police officers. If another one is instituted for 2013, Di Matteo suggests the force could be down 400 officers. How does the mayor reconcile his passion for cutting government including the police with his love of never hug-a-thug, law-and-order?

He votes to cut social programs. He votes to cut the number of police officers. It’s kind of his everybody-for-themselves libertarianism laid bare.

More than any 9-1-1 audiotape Police Chief Blair may or may not have under lock and key to use in a political knife fight with the administration, I think Mayor Ford’s main vulnerability is his own glaring lack of credibility. More police=more money. Less money=less police. Try as he might, he can’t make that math work in his favour. His opponents know that. His leverage is almost non-existent. Whatever happens with Chief Blair or the TPSB, my bet is the mayor won’t be the one calling the shots.

plottingly submitted by Cityslikr


Tribalism

August 13, 2012

I spent some of the weekend reading about the 2012 Republican vice-presidential nominee, Rep. Paul Ryan. This morning, closer to home, I saw the Forum Research poll indicating that Olivia Chow would win a 3-way mayoral race that included Mayor Ford and sometime political candidate John Tory. There is a link between the two, trust me, although it does include some additional information.

In response to the poll numbers, a local political wag opined that no right of centre candidate would dare run against the mayor in 2014 and threaten to split the vote and allow some crazy left wing nutter to steal the election. (Not in those exact words, mind.) “Any independent rightie is a ‘backstabber’ these days,” it was suggested.

This isn’t a lone sentiment. As much as Cityslikr tries convincing you that he’s not indulging in Election 2014 speculation, I’ve overheard more than a few conversations about campaign strategy around these parts in the idle days of summer. The thought that any conservative minded candidate wouldn’t have the temerity to challenge Mayor Ford in 2014 is a pretty strongly held belief. For those trying to read the scattered tea leaves of the right wing mind, the conclusion is that party loyalty (and by extension, electoral viability) trumps good governance.

Does that necessarily have to be the case though?

Couldn’t a perceived moderate conservative candidate like John Tory, say, or going through the current councillor list, Michael Thompson, Karen Stintz, David Shiner for argument’s sake, sensibly argue that, while agreeing with much of Mayor Ford’s fiscal views, his implementation of them has been less than desirable? That his personal antics, his less than enlightened views on many social fronts are, in fact, a serious detriment to his budgetary plans? Yes, the theoretical moderate conservative candidate could argue, there are ideological foes at City Hall who are doing their best to trip the mayor up for purely ideological reasons but, in truth, he’s been his own worst enemy.

Would that be too far from the truth?

Mayor Ford is hurting the conservative brand here in Toronto and not making that many local converts at the provincial or federal levels either. What would be the drawback of marginalizing him with a push from the right, cutting into the less hardcore of his supporters while opening up the middle to a more competent conservative approach? Back in the day when he was just a lone wolf councillor from Etobicoke, conservative colleagues on council weren’t very deferential to Rob Ford. Now that he’s mayor, all’s golden?

For a potential conservative candidate not to challenge Mayor Ford out of some sort of fear of splitting the vote and allowing a non-conservative to become mayor is essentially saying that, regardless of how bad, ineffectual, harmful, extreme a right wing politician is, it’s still better than even the best liberal or left wing possibility out there. That’s simply blind ideological loyalty, putting the welfare of your politics before that of the voters. In the end, it’s only going to wind up hurting everyone except perhaps your opponents.

Which brings me back to Paul Ryan. At least, I hope it does.

Conservatism does not come in one colour. It does not automatically make a candidate fit for office. (And if you’re reading this and already in the middle of a rebuff response, spluttering something to the effect of, “But what about the leftards?! Same could be said about the Leftards!!”, you’re already too far gone to get the point I’m making.) Embracing the blue or the red or the orange simply because it’s the colour of your politics is just unthinking tribalism. It’s the death march to irrelevancy and, unfortunately, the collateral damage can take years to undo if at all.

— centrely submitted by Urban Sophisticat