Birds Of A Feather

January 21, 2013

Suppose sometime over the course of the next couple weeks or so, Mayor Ford’s conflict of interest appeal is upheld and he’s officially tossed from office. Suppose not assume because, waiting2for me at least, my assumptions over the last 3 years have been woefully off the mark, starting with my early mirth about the improbable prospect of a ‘Mayor Rob Ford.’ Here, there be no more assumptions.

But let’s do suppose the courts toss him from office.

Much has been made of the Candidate from The Left who would best oppose him. Olivia Chow? Councillors Adam Vaughan and Shelley Carroll? All with the inevitable concern for vote splitting between them, allowing the mayor to slip up through the middle to another unlikely election win.

But recently, there’s been chatter about the right. bowlingsplitThis poses as equal if not greater threat to the mayor than any sort of alignment on the left, I think. A split on the right side of the spectrum would probably be fatal to his re-election chances unless somehow the left fragmented into tiny little pieces which, after 2010, I don’t see happening.

That’s assuming (ooops!) there’s a vote at all. Council could simply appoint a mayor instead of electing to have a by-election. Re-appointing Mayor Ford has been seriously floated by the likes of Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday. Like some real life Dallas re-do. It’s all just been a dream.

But why would council do that? More specifically, why would council conservatives do such a thing? Why would they allow Rob Ford to continue damaging their brand?

That speaks to a bigger picture, frankly. imwithstupidA response to my post yesterday, My Problem With Conservatives, summed it up in under 140 characters. “Have been curious for some time about why moderate conservatives have allowed, what were fringe radicals, to co-opt their parties.

We’ve seen it down in the States with the Republican Party and, to some degree, up here at the federal and provincial levels. These are not your daddies’ Progressive Conservative parties. Hell, in Ottawa they cut to the chase and dropped Progressive altogether.

And it’s meant a certain degree of electoral success. At least in the short term. The results of the 2012 U.S. election suggest right wing radicalism is, however, hurting the conservative cause now. Here in Ontario, after 2 terms of far-rightedness under the Common Sense Revolution, the P.C.’s have experienced trouble bringing voters back into the fold even in the face of discontent with the ruling Liberal party working in their favour.

And here in Toronto, well, Rob Ford.

It’s not like his type of right wing crank politician never existed before. But they just weren’t usually allowed to drive the bus. proppedupDriving it into a ditch.

I guess a cynical view might be that council conservatives with an eye on the mayor’s office could see fit to prop him up until next year at this time when the official 2014 campaign kicks off. Then, all bets are off. Whoever decided to run could take the 10 months to draw a distinction between their type of right of centre politics and the mayor’s. The right message delivered by the wrong messenger and all that.

That would be a calculated risk, I’d think. If Mayor Ford continues to blow up in such spectacular fashion, it might be difficult to continue keeping the fall out off of you. A smart, progressive campaign would tar all conservatives with the same brush.

Political calculations aside, surely to christ, moderate conservatives at the municipal level must now realize that the mayor’s conservatism is harming the greater good of the city more than anything either of his immediate predecessors did. citybuildingIn fact, if any moderate conservative can still say with a straight face Toronto is in better shape now than it was three years ago should not consider themselves a moderate conservative. They’re willfully blind ideologues.

Take for example John Tory. A seeming old school Red Tory. Too red certainly for the provincial Progressive Conservative party.

As chair of Toronto’s CivicAction Alliance, he is now the public face of a group advocating for greater investment in public transit infrastructure in the GTA. They along with conservative leaning interest groups like the Board of Trade recognize the negative impact congestion is having on the region and the only solution is to spend money bringing our public transit system into the 21st-century. That means considering new taxes. Road tolls.

Is John Tory prepared to stand idly by and let Mayor Ford continue to spout his subway nonsense, given the opportunity to replace him with someone more forward thinking? And I’m not talking about Tory running for mayor necessarily. birdsofafeatherWith the talk radio bully pulpit he has, is he going to pipe up in favour of the status quo, keeping a mayor in place whose closet counsel is his brother, a politician on record as saying all taxes are evil? The private sector will build us our subways, folks.

It won’t. John Tory must know that. TTC chair Karen Stintz too. How about Councillor Michael Thompson?

For the sake of keeping a conservative in power will they all be content to let Mayor Ford stand for the conservative banner? Reasonable people shouldn’t let blind loyalty to their ideology trump city building. It’s OK to state that Mayor Ford has been an unmitigated disaster and still be a conservative. Someone serious from the ranks should step forward soon and say as much. Otherwise, it’ll start to look like conservatives of every stripe are more interested in power rather than good governance.

helpfully submitted by Cityslikr


A Whole Lot Less Where That Came From

November 20, 2012

Taking a break from his Santa Claus Parade Promenade, Mayor Ford called into his Sunday afternoon radio show to make his case for a second term in office. “We’ve still got a lot of work to do. Obviously, we can’t do it in the next two years (the remainder of the current four-year term). I’m going to need at least another four to six years to complete the work, and we’ll take it from there.”

That’s the key. Never let the folks forget that we’re in a perpetual campaign. Keep the base stoked. Maybe they won’t realize just how little governing there is going on currently.

It was particularly rich, reading the mayor’s plea for four more years to git `er done, while sitting through his Executive Committee’s meeting yesterday. He was absent, of course, busy in court defending himself from libel charges. In his place, a heavy hanging sense of inertia filled the room. The exact opposite of gittin’ `er done. Not gittin’ `er done, let’s call it to double underline my point.

The agenda was just eleven items long. Meatier ones like the 2013 Rate Supported Budgets for water, solid waste collection and the Parking Authority were adopted almost perfunctorily lickety-split. No debate, no questions to staff, just got `er done.

What took the majority of the committee’s time? Some five hours, part of it in camera, wrestling with the future of three city owned theatres. And in the end? A decision deferred for four months.

Now, look.

I’m not suggesting this isn’t an important matter that needs to be carefully sorted through. But should the Executive Committee be the one agonizing over it at this juncture? We’re talking about a net expenditure last year for the city of less than three million dollars. Surely there’s a more appropriate committee to be banging out the details. The Economic Development Committee perhaps? Even the Budget Committee.

The Executive Committee is a mayor’s steering committee. The hands on the tiller, charting a direction, shaping a mandate and agenda. The brain trust.

Under this mayor, it’s now relegated to wasteful micro-managing. Stuff people devoid of bigger ideas spend time doing to make it seem like they’re doing something important. Treading water, shuffling papers, looking busy.

The only jolt of life during the meeting came from a brief spat between councillors Minnan-Wong, Shiner and Thompson. Councillor Minnan-Wong took exception to the disrespectful manner in which he felt Councillor Thompson was questioning one of the deputants (yeah, insert laugh track here. Denzil? Meet respect. Respect? Some guy who has no time for you.) Sitting between the two, Councillor Shiner interjected, causing DMW to snap something about ‘your stupidity’, apparently referring to the plastic bag ban Shiner had instigated at council. ‘Sue me, Denzil’, came the response, proving only that Councillor David Shiner is the sharpest member of the Executive Committee.

Dust settled, it was back to the matter of doing precious little.

It could be argued that this Executive Committee might be merely running out the clock. The last meeting of the first half of term, they were lame ducking it. Indeed, exiting member Councillor Berardinetti skipped out to attend a ward event, never to return. (Hey. If the mayor can beg off to coach football…) Might as well put off any serious decisions until the new blood arrives to re-energize the atmosphere. Shuffle the deck. Shake up the roster. Refocus. Get `er Done.

But the fact of the matter is, the mayor has done nothing more than retweak. One councillor in, one councillor out. The mushy middle Josh Colle will still be outnumbered on Executive Committee by do-nothing loyalists like councillors Paul Ainslie, Norm Kelly, Peter Milczyn and Cesar Palacio. That’s the mayor’s team. The one’s who’ve allowed things to grind to a screeching halt, a mid-air stall out.

And he’s out there on the hustings already, talking four more years?

Out of breath and ideas, he’s barely limping past the first halfway mark.

windedly submitted by Cityslikr


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