The Anger Runneth Over

July 29, 2014

Another Ford Fest, another round of ‘What the hell is up with these people?!’

whatareyousaying

In his Globe and Mail article yesterday about the semi-annual campaign non-campaign event, Ivor Tossell gives it a go at answering that perplexing question.

But Mr. Ford’s core constituency is not a group of any given colour or creed, but a coalition of people who feel they’re on the outside of a booming, changing city. There are lots of different ways to feel alienated — geographically, economically, culturally, ideologically — and Mr. Ford appeals to all of them.

This is not a particularly new notion. Since Rob Ford’s unlikely rise to power at City Hall back in 2010, a chastened rump of non-believers, who’d stood by in growing incredulity throughout the campaign, slowly shaking their collective heads as the election’s outcome hardened into reality, fordnationhave circled that same territory of what makes a Ford supporter tick. Disengagement through alienation and disenfranchisement. The anger of the outsider. The voiceless given a voice.

Message received. But how is it Rob Ford continues to be the messenger? Given the last four years, nothing of much substance has happened at City Hall that would’ve made anyone’s life appreciably better, anyone angry in 2010 would still have reason to be angry now. Rob Ford has done nothing to change that. Yet he remains the vessel in which people’s frustration and resentment are poured.

Why?

I’m wondering if it’s just as simple an explanation as since he’s always angry, the angry identify with him. angrymobIt doesn’t matter if they’re angry about the same thing. The important fact is they’re angry together. Brothers in Ire.

Whenever we see the mayor or his brother-campaign manager-councillor these days they’re both angrily denouncing something or other. Debate rules. Apparent conflict of interest rules. Rocks and umbrellas. Yelling at cloud angry.

If the Fords are still mad as hell, then something must be wrong down at City Hall. Denounce. Denounce!

His Worship, Our Anger-in-Chief, Rob Ford.

But here’s the thing.

What remains of the Ford base of support, that unbudging 25-30% who show up in every poll, is driven solely by spite and anger. There’s nothing else that fuels them. I don’t know, resentment maybe. angryvotersThat anger is diffuse. To use Mr. Tossel’s 4 categories, geographic – downtown hating suburbanites; economic – cost of living in the city continues to rise; cultural – homophobic bigots, racists, misogynist; ideological – hate government.

The anger is broad and deep.

I would argue at this point, however, that it was not anger, not anger alone, that put Rob Ford in the mayor’s office. His soft support in 2010, the 15-25% or so who put him up over the top, weren’t motivated purely by anger. There was hope too. angryHope that Rob Ford would change the culture at City Hall and make it start working for them. Hope that Rob Ford was on the level when he said he would be looking out for the little guy. Hope that Rob Ford would make a positive difference in their lives.

But hope is in short supply these days at Team Ford camp. So you get what you got at Ford Fest last Friday. Yelling, badgering, the laying on of hands, and not in the biblical way.

These are no-hopers, burn it to the grounders. Look at me, ma! (We were once) Top of the Worlders!

What it isn’t is a winning coalition.

Candidates vying to replace Rob Ford need to look beyond this base of discontent. They’ve got their man. whiteheatNo amount of pandering will entice them from him. It’s just a question of how many will continue to fight for a losing cause or just simply walk away, even more disillusioned and fed up than they were going in.

What we need to start hearing is some hope. A full and frank admission that governance in this city has been ground to a halt and that it’s in nobody’s best interest that it continue, and the only way forward is with good ideas and a collaborative spirit. Hope that, in the words of Ivor Tossell, fewer and fewer of us will be left “on the outside of a booming, changing city.”

Most of us know what’s wrong with this city. Transit, lack of diverse sources of revenue, opportunity inequality, regional parochialism, to name a few. How we approach solving those problems is what we should be hearing now. texaschainsawmassacreHopeful solutions, based on reasoned, civil discourse and debate, not indignant shrieks and howls of outrage.

For four years now, we’ve mistaken loudness for soundness. It isn’t. We need to plug our ears to the Ford manufactured din and get on with fixing this thing they’ve tried their best to break into pieces.

calmly submitted by Cityslikr


Whose Integrity Is In Question?

July 8, 2013

Another year, another Ford Fest with the inaugural east side version in Scarborough last Friday, fordfestfollowed, in all likelihood, by a round of complaints lodged with the city’s Integrity Commissioner. A budding Toronto tradition.

And once more we will divide into opposing camps, with the mayor’s supporters insisting he’s doing nothing wrong using city resources, on city property to promote what is essentially his own personal cause: re-election in 2014. Everybody does it, they’ll yell, pointing to councillors’ newsletters and sponsoring of local teams as proof. Bussin’s Bluejays! At least, Mayor Ford uses his own money for the Ford Fest rather than the taxpayers’, as if there are no ethical concerns with that.

They will be directly opposed by those who see all sorts of glaring problems with the mayor’s actions with Ford Fest. History, of course, will be on their side as the mayor has run afoul of the Integrity Commissioner since his early days as a councillor. wristslappedConflict of Interest is pretty much his middle name and no court has cleared him of it, only council’s ability to sanction him fully for his transgressions.

A third group will rear its head up, somewhere between the two. They will think it very likely the mayor is breaking rules in hosting Ford Fest but worry that bringing it to the Integrity Commissioner only serves as more ammunition for him to use in his out to get me defence. A nuisance complaint by a bunch of sore losers simply trying to overturn the mandate bestowed at the ballot box. Advantage, Mayor Ford.

Of the three groups, the latter strikes me as the most troubling.

It varies little from the most ardent of the mayor’s supporters in using election outcomes as the ultimate moral compass. shrug1Ends justifying the means, and all that. While not an official sanction of rule-bending, it certainly gives it a pass under the guise of the greater good and the long game.

In suggesting we simply shrug off the mayor’s iffy practices for fear that calling him on them actually increases his popularity, we just get in the goo with him and muddy the waters of ethics and morality. He bends the rules because he gets away with doing so. At this point, it’s almost as if he’s just daring you to go to the Integrity Commissioner.

Failing to do so only endorses the view that the office is toothless and without the power to enforce the rules it was established to oversee. It enables flagrant disregard of any attempt to keep a level playing field for all members of the council and to reduce the influence on city business by unelected outside entities. turnablindeyeAllowing the administration to continue conducting its dubious practices in order to not enflame the mayor’s base is as big an affront to democratic oversight as assuming the rules don’t apply to you is.

It’s pretty straight forward.

If Mayor Ford used the resources of his office and the city to host a gathering that had nothing to do with city business, that’s a potential conflict. If Ford Fest was used to campaign for the mayor’s re-election, if a database of potential voters was collected there, that seems like a clear violation of the city’s campaign laws.

It’s bad enough that his most ardent supporters don’t see it that way. It’s inexcusable for the rest of us to shrug it off as part of the game.

mea culpaly submitted by Cityslikr


Straining The Bromance

September 11, 2012

One of the things about politics that flummoxes me most is the need for ‘likeability’ in our politicians. That notion candidates need to be just one of us, a regular guy, a hardworking Joe (note the gender bias there, huh?) Someone we’d all like to sit down and have a beer with. Best buds. BFF.

Personally? I’ve already got plenty of people in my life I’d like to sit down and have a beer with and not nearly enough time to do so. I’m not looking to my elected representatives to grow that particular list.

No, what I’m looking to them for is, well, good governance and all that. I don’t want to elect somebody who’s just like me. My god that would turn out poorly for everyone concerned. I want my politicians to be smarter than I am. To be more thorough. Exercise better judgement. To have a firm grasp on the issues they were elected to grapple with.

Frankly, I think this likeability bar candidates have to clear is nothing more than apathy on the part of the voting public. Don’t bore me with the details, folks. Who’s got the time for all that? Just send in the monkeys to perform and let me decide based entirely on that. You got 10 minutes.

So affability not acumen becomes the key ingredient for a successful run in politics. Forget the best and brightest. We want the cuddliest Tim Hortons types who understand we aren’t really that interested in the process just the outcome. Low taxes. Safe streets… Yeah, that’s about it.

Of course, writing that makes me an out-of-touch elitist, not grounded in the realities of life. This doesn’t have to be complicated, egghead. Running a city/province/country isn’t rocket science. Anybody could do it if they really wanted. So why not elect just anybody?

This attitude is very advantageous for your run-of-the-mill anybody politician. When you’re just one of us, a regular guy, any sort of criticism directed your way is perceived as an attack on one of your friends. It’s not about policy differences or politics even. It’s personal. It not only questions a voter’s political judgement but their judge of character.

Regular guy politicians like Mayor Rob Ford continue to get a pass from his supporters despite mounting evidence that he’s not really up to the task of the job he was elected to do because admitting that’s the case is akin to bailing on a friend when he gets into a tough spot. Hey. Come on. Give the guy a break. Nobody’s perfect. He’s doing the best he can. Just like us.

Just like us, he has trouble understanding conflict of interest rules. I mean, who has time to read the fine print of the guidelines? Just like us, he mumbled and contradicted himself on the stand in court under the heavy artillery attack of Clayton Ruby. You’d be cooler? Just like us, he hosted a BBQ for thousands and thousands of people in his mom’s backyard because that’s what good friends do. It had nothing to do with amassing a substantial voter database to use in 2014. Suggesting that is just cheap politics. You ought to be ashamed of yourself.

Just like us, Mayor Ford takes time from his busy schedule at work to help kids avoid a life of crime. Sure, he loves football and hates the nitty gritty that comes with doing the job he’s paid to do but who doesn’t? What? You have something against keeping kids on the straight and narrow?

Politicians like Rob Ford wear their populism as a shield against legitimate, fact based opposition. You don’t agree with him, offer up criticism of his policies, you are questioning the wisdom and intelligence of those who voted for him. You’re railing against democracy itself. Nothing more than a sore loser.

Thus, his promotion of Ford Nation.

“As you saw this week,” the mayor told last Friday’s gathering at Ford Fest in a non-campaign speech for his 2014 campaign, “they’re coming after us every which way.” We’re in this together, folks. You and me against everyone who disagrees with us. Don’t listen to my critics, to the naysayers. They just want to take your vote away from you, your voices. Mi casa, su casa.

It almost dares you to criticize, to oppose. It hardens the resolve, the absolute commitment to the cause. It’s near perfect fucking strategy.

But the thing to remember is, it’s just that. A strategy. Like almost everything about Rob Ford the politician, it’s all artifice. A manufactured image created to mask the rage, inadequacies and disinterest that make up the core of his politics. That’s something easier to pick up and run with than it is to maintain. Eventually the failings will be too great for anyone but the hardest of hardcore supporters to accept as their own.

Successful friendships can’t simply continue down a one-way street.

hopefully submitted by Cityslikr


Out In The Field At Ford Fest

September 3, 2011

I woke up with that not unfamiliar but definitely unpleasant taste of shame and regret with a little soupçon of peppery why-the-hell-not. It’s a heady, earthy mix. Imagine scooping up the last dregs of hummus with a Finn Crisp, not realizing someone had been using the dish to flick the ashes of their cigarettes into. Like that.

Why?

Well, I attended Ford Fest last night. I drank the mayor’s beer. I ate the mayor’s hamburgers. I listened to and gently mocked the mayor’s house band, Gently Bent, featuring the percussive stylings of Councillor Gary Crawford. (Hey. Re-election campaign slogan, councillor. “Keeping the beat for Ford Nation!” You’re welcome.)

The morning after, I’m wondering if I hadn’t done something improper, crossed an ethical line that, once transgressed, cannot be retraced. I’d accepted freebies from a couple politicians I regularly and vehemently disagreed with. Wasn’t the expectation now that I’d soften by views? That is the purpose of these things, right? Invite folks over to the family homestead, ply them with booze, burgers and AOR music in an effort to show everybody, hey, we’re just regular folks like all of youse.

Just like all of youse who own houses with backyards big enough to fit an NFL football stadium. (Hey, Councillor Doug. An idea here, and I’m just spitballing. An NFL team, literally, in your own backyard. Imagine getting a cut of those concessions. And there’s lots of parking down the street in the 1500 Royal York strip mall. Call me.)

Wandering around the grounds, and that’s what they were, grounds; a backyard doesn’t begin to do it justice, I couldn’t help thinking that these guys must’ve had killer high school parties. Even if they weren’t very popular — and I’m not saying they weren’t — but we all know those kids nobody really liked but whose parties we’d always go to because their houses were so very, very conducive to killer parties. Pools with a deck one storey above where somebody, every time, would attempt to jump from and invariably miss, breaking a bone or two.

Killer parties almost killed me.

It’s also easy to see that unless one is instilled with a sense of empathy, a notion that almost no one, anywhere else on the planet earth lives and plays in such grand personal surroundings, you might grow up wondering why people were always clamoring for more, better park and public spaces. Community centres? We’ve got our very own community centre right here.

Just a theory but difficult not to venture down that garden path of speculation about the mayor and his councillor brother seeing where they had spent at least some of their youth.

It also struck me, having got up close and personal to the mayor with a handshake (I called him Your Worship and curtsied to throw everyone off my downtown scent) that, despite his years in politics and reputation for looking out for the little guy, he is supremely uncomfortable with the necessary glad-handing. Hey. How ya doin’? Here’s my business card.

I remember crossing paths in a certain drinking establishment with our previous mayor. We had the briefest exchange of small talk but you immediately got the sense that, for that quick moment, you were the absolute centre of his attention. He made it look easy. Too easy, perhaps. He’s not one of us. He doesn’t understand our struggles. Downtown elitist.

That’s not meant as a slap at our current mayor, criticism via an unfair comparison. It’s just the opposite, in fact. I admire such force of will that enables Mayor Ford to push aside his natural disinclination and do what needs to be done in to be such a successful politician. Maybe that’s part of his appeal. People get the sense that he’s as uncomfortable with certain aspects of his job as they would be but he’s dealing with it, and doing the best he can. Despite the obvious trappings of great wealth, he is, at heart, just one of us, a youse guys guy. The People’s Mayor.

Go Mayor Ford! Stick it to the unions! Stick it to the cyclists! To the pinkos. Egg-headed planners.

Go Rob, Go!

. . .

Like that, I have been compromised.

Sold out for some draft beer, boxed burgers and substandard AC/DC and Eagles covers.

Just one Ford Fest under my belt and I’ve become a bona fide member of Ford Nation.

He’s good. Really good.

shamefully submitted by Cityslikr