They’re Called Expenses For A Reason

Here’s my question about Toronto city councilors’ 2009 expenses that were made public this week: what the fuck is it exactly that Etobiocoke councilor Rob Ford does with his time? If he’s not out there engaging with the public (aside from the killer BBQ he throws), holding meetings, organizing community events, keeping his constituency informed about the work going on down at City Hall, what is he doing? More to the point, why is the man treated by everyone as some go-to fiscal sage, asked to pronounce upon his colleagues’ outrageous spending habits?

Look. Each councilor has a discretionary office expense budget of $53,100. It seems to be monitored fairly closely. We now know Adrian Heaps spent $423.75 to rent costumes for a kids skating party. Adam Giambrone spent over 3 grand on taxis. (Insert joke here. TTC chairman. Take The Cab. Late night trips to his girlfriends’ houses.) If we don’t want councilors spending money in this manner, let’s start demanding they eliminate this budget. Or elect candidates who will conduct their business austerely like Rob Ford. Otherwise, can we cease and desist with this yearly exercise in indignant outrage?

I know for most of us, we look at the salaries at City Hall ($99 153.60/year for a councilor plus a very nice benefit package) and wonder why they would need more money for expenses. They have staff already paid for. Why can’t they just get along like the rest of us?

Well that’s the point. Councilors aren’t like the rest of us. By the very public nature of their work, elected officials conduct meetings, hold information seminars, create a sense of community within their.. errr, communities.  The discretionary office expense budget should not be viewed by us as a councilor’s private play stash. It is the money of the people in their respective wards. To help generate a sense of attachment to the neighbourhoods in which they live.

Should councilors be expected to dig down into their pockets for that? Does it cost just $700 to do that as Rob Ford spent last year? Good questions and ones that should be posed to Rob Ford instead of the inane softballs that pass for hard hitting news that crop up every year at about this time. Let’s stop assuming that the way Ford manages his expenses is the right way. There are 43 other councilors who might not necessarily agree.

miserly submitted by Cityslikr