A Winning Strategy Through Losing

April 20, 2012

I’ve really got to hand it to right wingers these days. In terms of public perception they’ve somehow managed to square the circle tightly. On one hand, they are the tough crowd. Tough on crime. Tough on unions. Tough on any issue it’s easy to be tough on. In the next breath, they do self-pity, persecution and abject whining like nobody’s business.

Exhibit A: yesterday’s Toronto Sun (the bible of whinging chest-beaters) editorial, Hypocrites mock Ford over weight. Shrill, off point, chock full of false equivalencies and feet-stompingly paroxysmal, it symbolizes Ford Nation in less than 400 words. “… hypocrites who would be horrified by the ridiculing of someone over their gender, sexual orientation, race or disability, but think it’s fair game to attack a politician they don’t like over his weight… It was simply a vicious way to attack him… Ford doesn’t need or deserve this grief… As for those who should know better, who are ridiculing Ford over his weight, cut the crap.”

Oh, boo hoo. Boo fucking hoo hoo. Politics is a nasty, take no prisoners business. Don’t believe me? Why don’t you ask somebody who helped put the mayor in office. “We’re in the business of getting Conservatives elected and ending Liberal careers. We’re good at it.”

Not to dwell too long on the issue, having argued the point yesterday, but this was never about ridiculing the mayor over his weight. And don’t go pointing out examples of online comments or tweets calling him whatever variation of fat. That’s not a road Ford supporters really want to travel down, is it? What with him having announced yesterday that he won’t be attending the Pride Parade again this year, and all the hate-filled, homophobic vitriol that filled up those spaces in his defence. We’re not going to attribute those sensibilities to the mayor himself, are we? We don’t want to go around suggesting that’s the base he doesn’t want to offend by attending the event, do we?

Despite the Sun trying to wish the fact away (“Spare us the phony defence in some quarters that since the mayor publicly pledged to lose 50 pounds…mocking him about going into a Kentucky Fried Chicken outlet is fair game”), Mayor Ford made the question of his weight political. His Cut The Waste Waist idea was nothing more than an attempt to curry public favour during a time when he was taking a beating at City Hall. He stuck his gut in our noses and dared us to say anything about it.

That he appeared to be taking the ‘challenge’ as seriously as the gimmick it actually was by stopping into a fast food joint should serve as a reminder of all the half-cocked, ill-conceived, on-the-fly schemes that make up most of his policies. Sheppard subway anyone? How about a side order of monorails and megamalls on the waterfront?

In an offline conversation with a friend yesterday, we wondered if the weight loss schtick was part of a more long term approach that had worked during the 2010 campaign. It was a win-win for the mayor. If he actually accomplished his goal, he’d be seen as a determined and resolute guy who could see things through. If he didn’t and people started pointing that out, he’d score political points because he was being attacked for his weight. It helped him the first time around. Let’s go to that well again. Failing all the way to re-election.

A Forum Research poll out today certainly suggests it could be a winning strategy for the mayor. “He’s going to have a lot of issues I think he can run on [in an election],” Mr. Bozinoff [Forum Research president] said. “Saying, ‘Look, I want to build the subway, I wanted more outsourcing, I want to get rid of the land transfer tax… and I couldn’t because of council.’ That’s ideal to run on.”

Really? Setting aside the fact an election is still two and a half years off – generations in political time – Mr. Bozinoff is actually suggesting the surest way for Mayor Ford to get re-elected is to continue losing votes. Be the underdog mayor and trumpet loudly and proudly his failure to lead this city on important and vital files. Accept no responsibility and blame others for his glaring inability to forge a democratic consensus and get on with the business of serving the city positively.

Well, that is the right wing way, of course.

I think we’re being conned here, folks. A bump in support for the mayor (shall we compare the numbers for David Miller at the same time of his mayoralty?), at a time when, as Ford for Toronto’s Matt Elliott points out, the mayor’s “…not trying to achieve anything substantial. His attempts to implement major policy and budget changes through 2011 resulted only in battered and sinking poll numbers. The quieter, less divisive tone he’s struck since the end of March has him on a better track with his soft-supporters” now translates into a winning gambit in 2014?

A Through the Looking Glass tweak in strategy. From the initial triumphalism of vote against me at your electoral peril to vote against me because voters love it when I’m a loser. Wait, what?

The more high minded (not the 4/20 high minded types) of us have suggested we pay no attention to the whole Mayor Ford-KFC kerfuffle. It just plays into his strengths, garners him unwarranted sympathy as one of the little guys being ridiculed by downtown elites, blah, blah, blah. Let’s just get on with talking about the real issues that affect the city. Transit, waterfront development, affordable housing.

That’s all well and good if everybody’s on the same page and looking to have an open and honest debate at that level. But it seems that doesn’t work much in the mayor’s favour, so you’ll have to excuse him if he chooses not to participate and stands on the sidelines, blowing raspberries and colour commenting from behind the microphone of his radio show every Sunday. He’s more interested in his own political future than he of the city he was elected to lead.

But I think deliberately ignoring his personality politics and letting him play alone in that sandbox is dangerous. It allows him to polish up his image away from the rough and tumble of governance and further cultivate his cult following. Attention should be called to the fact he’s failing to live up to his weight loss pledge just like he’s failed to live up to so many of the promises he made to the people of Toronto when he asked them for their votes in 2010.

curiously submitted by Cityslikr


Friend And Foe

March 28, 2012

When Rob Ford was elected mayor of Toronto his council critics, opponents, arch nemeses were easy to spot. Hello Councillor Adam Vaughan! The whiny, scheming two steps left of Stalin led by the likes of councillors Janet Davis and Gord Perks. As former mayor David Miller’s 2nd budget chief, Councillor Shelley Carroll was made the symbol of everything tax-and-spendy.

This was the division Ford exploited on the campaign trail and what he pursued during his first year as mayor. Taxpayers versus trough feeders. The reasonable right wing versus the loony left. Etc., etc. etc.

But 16 months into things and the mayor’s aim has become scattershot, a growing number of fellow conservatives taking on friendly fire. His decade long feud with Councillor Gloria Lindsay Luby got openly nasty during last week’s Sheppard subway/LRT vote with both brother councillor Doug and Speaker/ toady Frances Nunziata piling onto the fray. Chin Lee, a moderate right of centre councillor from the mayor’s beloved Scarborough has openly drifted from the Ford camp in a manner that suggests it would be very, very difficult for them to lure him back any time soon.

And of course there’s the case of TTC Chair Karen Stintz. A very well established anti-Millerite and solid Team Ford player until just recently, the councillor did Mayor Ford’s bidding by dutifully cutting 10% from this year’s TTC budget and axing service correspondingly. She stood tall for the mayor in the face of the moderate pushback to claim $19 million back in 2012 the budget. In no way could she be considered anything but a good soldier.

Until, that is, the Great Transit Takeback when the TTC Chair led a group of moderate conservative, centrist and left wing councillors to assume control of the transit file. Then it’s all Turncoat/Streetcar Stintz who stabbed the mayor in the back, suddenly becoming a leftie in the process. While Councillor Stintz has been very temperate in her reaction to the hurled invective, saying that transit was a one-time issue and there’d be no problem working with the mayor on other matters, it’s hard to imagine how. I mean, how do you continue working with someone who turns nasty and petulant anytime there’s a disagreement? That isn’t what I’d call a positive work environment.

Now the mayor and his brother have turned their sights on Councillor John Parker. During their radio show musings about running a slate of candidates in the next municipal that better reflect Mayor Ford’s political leanings and do his bidding, the mayor openly praised Parker’s opponent in the 2010 election, an election determined by just 415 votes. (The councillor won his ward for the first time in 2006 by just over 200 votes). “They [Parker and Kristyn Wong-Tam’s opponent] ran — they came very close seconds — but these are the type of people, we have to get them on council,” Ford said.

Folks (if I can borrow some Ford vernacular), I don’t see a winning strategy with this. Pitting conservatives against even more conservatives? Isn’t that what they call, splitting the vote?

Not to mention that with still more than two and a half years to go until the next election, doesn’t this just help forge further the growing alliance between moderate conservatives and centrists, a substantial voting bloc at council? I know there’s been much talk about Mayor Ford in campaign mode, going rogue and running for re-election on his lone wolf ticket but what if council gets into the groove of running things smoothly without him? If in 2014, voters see the mayor only for his bullying, his intransigence? That’s a real leap of faith hoping enough voters are looking for those qualities in a mayor.

Besides, even I who have little politically in common with the likes of Councillor Parker are siding with him in this battle. Yes, we’re uncomfortable with his Mike Harris Progressive Conservative connections and the damage he helped inflict on this city. We largely abhor his fiscal policies and his regular evoking of Greece and the fate that awaits us if we don’t cut, cut, cut. And he joined in on the slime fest by sandbagging Councillor Wong-Tam with the move to tear up the Jarvis Street bike lanes in Public Works and Infrastructure committee,

But in terms of preference to the full on Ford way? No contest. Councillor Parker seems like a decent enough fellow, no willful dummy. He’s quietly funny, much of the time in a self-deprecating way.

Not actually Paul Ainslie

Hell, in the face of a Ford-friendly foe, I might go to work for the councillor to get him re-elected. Ditto Councillor Lindsay Luby.

That’s a kind of consensus that couldn’t possibly be helpful for Mayor Ford’s re-election chances. The left and the right, setting aside their differences to unite around a common foe, the mayor of Toronto. Send up the evil genius signal! Calling Nick Kouvalis! Calling Nick Kouvalis!

Like the TTC chair, Councillor Parker is trying to make nice with the mayor and put all this negativity behind them. Calling the Mayor Ford ‘a man of great passions’, the councillor confessed that he didn’t “…think it is ever going to be a quilting bee around here. We need to keep focused on the job we are here to do.”

Noble words, nobly stated. And if the councillor truly wants to focus on the job he elected to do, might I recommend the next important step in that direction? Ridding the council of its current speaker and replacing her with the deputy speaker, John Parker. Where she brings nothing but shrill partisanship, he is all calm and courteous. Speaker Nunziata wears the mayor’s divisiveness on her sleeve, prone to escalate tensions rather than lessen them. If council is really determined to get on with the business of governing, there’d be no better start than to divest itself of the worst excesses of Mayor Ford’s bid to politicize everything.

Replacing Speaker Nunziata would be a sign that while the mayor operates only in terms of electioneering, two-thirds of councillors are capable of putting Toronto’s interests before their own and getting on with the business of running the city.

helpfully submitted by Cityslikr


Politics Is A Blood Sport Not A Blood Oath

February 17, 2012

No disrespect intended to Nick Kouvalis, he is undoubtedly a master of the dark arts, a wizard of manipulating the message and twisting patently absurd notions into winning political ideas, an alchemist, turning leaden dead weights into electoral gold. I do not doubt his marketing prowess. It’s his wise guy-like approach to the working dynamics at City Hall that I find a little unsettling.

Via Ford For Toronto I read this piece on TTC Chair Karen Stintz in the Toronto Star yesterday (thatz howz wez rollz on the interwebz). Detailing the course of the councillor’s very public break up with the mayor over the city’s transit file, the first crack in the relationship showed up with the proposed cuts to bus service. “[Nick] Kouvalis said the bus motion was a `test’ to see which TTC commissioners would fall in line and which were ‘wet noodles.’ Stintz was a noodle, he says.

My advice was: Get rid of her, right there on the spot, Kouvalis says.

He recently reiterated that point to Ford, he adds. She’s committed the biggest sin in politics, which is disloyalty, he charges.”

Holy cow. That’s like some serious gangsta shit. Yeah, we’re gonna cut 48 bus routes just to see if anybody here’s, like, a snitch or working undercover. ‘Cause, that’s how we roll.

I mean, why stop there? If they truly wanted to see who was with them for reals, they shoulda got a gun, handed it to Stintz and told her to prove her loyalty by popping, I don’t know, former TTC vice-chair, Joe Mihevc. The previous chair had already been summarily dispatched. Besides, with that last name, he could well have been a made guy.

Now I get that politics is a rough and tumble sport, a place where few angels dare tread. But this you’re either with us or against, part of the inner circle or our mortal enemy crap? It strikes me as highly unproductive and, ultimately, self-defeating. Something Team Ford just might be realizing at this juncture.

Wouldn’t it have been easier if the mayor, upon being elected, put out a call for names of councillors who wanted to chair the TTC, discarded the ones with any taint of that funky smelling Miller odour, and sat down with the remainder and laid out his expectations for the TTC and the person who led it. “Look, [fill in councillor name of your choice]. I could give a shit about public transit except that there’s going to be no more streetcars blocking up traffic under my watch, k? And when it comes to saving a buck versus a bus route running on some god forsaken street in a nowhere corner of Scarborough, the dollar’s going to win out every time. You cool with that?”

Just put it out there, straight up, in plain enough language that even Councillor Frank Di Giorgio will understand. If they sign up, fine, only later on to claim that, hey, I didn’t agree to this, that’s a different kettle of fish. Brian Ashton territory, even.

But some loyalty litmus test to prove you’re a team player? And using people’s livelihoods that depend on public transit as a prop? That’s some disregard for the notion of public service. Not wanting to sound all Pollyannish/Mr. Smith Goes To Washington but shouldn’t a politician’s first loyalty be to the constituents who elected them to the office? Then, maybe second before fealty to the team, a loyalty to building a better city?

Again, I know there are practical realities to successfully surfing a political career. To some degree one has to go along to get along as they once said back in the golden, less hyper-partisan days. But the beauty of the party-less municipal system is that it doesn’t need to be so rigidly adhered to. The idea that there are simply two camps, right-left, is both laughable and, ultimately, destructive. Even the view that there are only radical conservatives, Stalinist commies and the mushy middle seems designed merely for easy digestion rather than a reflection of reality.

As much as it may pain the architects of Rob Ford’s mayoral victory to remember, he was elected on a platform of guaranteeing no service cuts in his drive to stop the gravy train. It’s hardly a surprise then, that his TTC chair wavered in the face of bus routes cuts although, I am right in stating that, in fact, bus routes were ultimately cut, aren’t I? So it isn’t like Councillor Stintz actually defied the mayor on that point.

In fact from my perspective the TTC chair has been almost slavish in her attempts to help Mayor Ford extricate himself from the corner he’s painted himself into without getting too much on the bottom of his shoes. It’s been his ‘disloyalty’ to the greater good of the city he was elected to lead in refusing to compromise on the Eglinton LRT-Sheppard subway plans that’s undercut his authority. The black and white, with us or against us view of the world that served him so well on the campaign trail has now become a hindrance to him as mayor.

Nick Kouvalis should take note and stick to what he does best: putting people into office. That’s a different skill set than day-to-day governance which requires a lighter touch. Mr. Kouvalis has many talents but nuance, subtlety and gentle persuasion aren’t really his strong suit.

nice to Nickly submitted by Cityslikr


I Decreed. What’s To Discuss?

February 1, 2012

Is it just me or is everyone beyond curious about how the Brothers Ford imagined Rob’s time as mayor of Toronto was going to play out? Did they really expect no challenge to their authority, no serious opposition? Like, ever? Was there no plan B in place when plan A (which consisted of little more than chest-beating and bullying) stopped working its magic?

Certainly doesn’t look like it at this juncture. Digging in their heels, closing ranks and perpetuating disarray seems to be their limited range of preferred options now that they are facing concerted resistance at city council. They’ve taken on an almost high browed tone of offended imperiousness at the sheer nerve of a majority of councillors finally assuming their rightful place as ultimate decision makers at City Hall. Well, I never… Of all the nerve. How dare they. Guards!! Off with their heads.

Perhaps that’s not a surprise, coming from Councillor Doug. He is new to the place after all. His experience is more top down business management, do as I say because I sign your pay check. Besides, having spent much of his time out Chicago way with its strong mayoral system, he may’ve got the impression that at a municipal level, we vote for a king every four years. Keep your eyes averted, plebes.

But the mayor’s been around the block a time or two. He was a councillor for ten years before becoming mayor. You’d think he’d know which way the wind blows at City Hall if you want to get things done.

But then comes this:

“It’s like winning an election. So if they voted me in, that means I don’t win an election? It doesn’t make sense.”

You’re right, Mr, Mayor. That makes absolutely no sense. You were elected mayor along with 44 others who were elected as councillors. Your job now is to convince, by whatever democratic means are at your disposal, at least 22 of those councillors to vote along with you. Every time. Or risk losing those parts of your agenda that you can’t sway a majority of councillors on.

But it seems as if Mayor Ford and his brother can’t get past their winner-take-all mindset. Politics as a football game as James Harbeck tweeted yesterday. “In football, if you win, you win. Ford seems to think politics is just like that too.” After a big setback on the waterfront debacle and a lesser but optically symbolic one with the budget, he’s refusing to accept the reality at City Hall. “Someone needs to tell him that the election isn’t the game, it’s just getting onto the team.

Tell him again and again, over and over, as it just doesn’t appear to be sinking in as Matt Elliott over at Ford For Toronto points out today. On the Eglinton LRT, the wagons have circled and the indignant language from the mayor and his supporters has risen to a hysterical level. One time Team Ford strategist, Nick Kouvalis, has returned from the Death Star to point fingers, unearth enemies and beat the monosyllabic drum of group chant that worked so beautifully during the election.

We. Have. A. Mandate. Subways. Yes. Streetcars. No. Unions. Bad. All. Dalton’s. Fault. We. Have. A. Mandate. We. Have. A. Mandate. We. Have. A. Mandate.

As always when conservatives feel under siege, there’s a bleating tone of triumphal persecution in their counterattack. We won. We won. Stop picking on us. We don’t have to compromise. It’s our turn to rule the roost.

Through that lens, any criticism is nothing more than the salty bitterness of sore losers. It doesn’t even merit serious discussion. That’s how it is to be sidelined because you don’t agree with the mayor. Just like they were under Miller. Just like they were.

Councillor Peter Milczyn can’t seem to speak out without listing some sort of injustice inflicted upon him at the hand of the Miller administration. Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong is the official aggrieved archivist of those hard done by in the years 2003-2010. And the budget chief, woe was me, the budget chief.

“I mean, look, when the NDP came into power,” Councillor Del Grande allegedly claimed during an interview, “I was a white male, I paid a very severe price because it had nothing to do with ability any more, it had to do with male versus female.” Conservatives like him “were beat up brutally” at the hands of Milleristas. But fortunately, it left none of them bitter and/or vindictive.

While Councillor Del Grande, the mayor et al the poor, wittle put-upon conservatives may believe that they were sidelined and ostracized because of their political ideology might I suggest that, based on their performance in power, it had more to do with them being bereft of any good or constructive ideas? The budget chief eviscerates revenue streams and then complains that the city’s broke. As chair of the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee, Councillor Minnan-Wong costs the city hundreds of thousands of dollars leading the charge to tear up the bike lanes on Jarvis Street. And just yesterday, he joined fellow TTC commission member Councillor Milczyn in helping to vote down a request for a further report on the best course of action for the Eglinton LRT, precipitating the culmination of a clusterfuck of a TTC meeting that you need to read Steve Munro’s account to believe.

No, gentleman. The reason your views and opinions weren’t sought out before Mayor Ford assumed office was that your views are a serious detriment to the city. It’s got nothing to do with your gender, ethnicity or political persuasion. You’re just terrible elected representatives.

Any pushback that you are receiving isn’t payback. It’s simply called governance. Maybe you’re mixing that up with the word petulance.

regally submitted by Cityslikr


Ruling Not Governing

April 27, 2011

Nearly 5 months since being sworn in as mayor of Toronto, Rob Ford doesn’t seem so much interested in governing the city as he does laying siege to it. He’s come. He’s seen. Now he wants to conquer.

Having won the election, he’s now got a mandate. No need to seek consensus. It’s all about securing the minimum necessary votes. Anything more than that is pure gravy. You’re either with him or you’re ag’in him.

The latest target in his sights is Maria Augimeri who could face a court enforced by-election due to “irregularities” in the voters list in Ward 9 during last October’s election. “Augimeri isn’t keen on implementing Ford’s agenda,” former Ford deputy campaign manager and chief of staff Nick Kouvalis told the Star last week. “Augimeri votes with the left on most occasions and, if we can replace her with somebody who votes on the center-right on most occasions, that would be a huge victory for the mayor.”

So eager is Kouvalis (and the mayor presumably) to install another Ford ally on council that he’s offered to guide the campaign of Gus Cusimano, Councillor Augimeri’s main rival in last fall’s election. An election Ms. Augimeri won by just 89 votes and one that Mr. Cusimano’s taken to court to overturn to the tune of $70,000 to date. Cusimano may claim not to be a politician but he’s been trying very hard to be one since 1974.

Kouvalis suggested that if the by-election should happen, he’d like to see it framed as a “referendum” on Mayor Ford’s performance so far since Councillor Augimeri has regularly voted against the mayor on key issues. She even had the temerity to refuse to step down from her board member position at the Toronto Community Housing Corporation (along with fellow thorn in the mayor’s side, Raymond Cho) when he went head-hunting after the release of the Auditor General’s report.

Such audacity in the face of the mayor’s wishes makes Augimeri an especially juicy target to try and bring down. Her defeat at the hands of a Ford backed candidate would give a deep green light for Team Ford to proceed apace with their plundering and sacking of the city. It would also signal to those in the “mushy middle” to straighten up and fly right. Failing to fall in line behind the mayor could have repercussions of the negative sort. If nothing else, a by-election would serve as a distraction to an opposing councillor as the mayor heads for some rocky political terrain.

For his part, would-be Ward 9 Councillor Cusimano is already sounding positively Fordian divisive. “People have to decide if they want their councillor to be part of government or on the outside looking in.” Hear that, oh taxpayers of Ward 9? You want your local government working for you, you better get on side. You’re either with us or ag’in us.

It’s not just the precious battlements of downtown pinko elites as represented by the likes of Councillors Vaughan, Davis, Perks, Fletcher or McConnell that are under attack. Mayor Ford seems intent to lay waste to the ground under anyone who doesn’t share (or at least vote in favour of for fear of reprisal) his radical right wing, anti-government views. That includes almost everyone on council except for his brother, and maybe the Deputy Mayor and Budget Chief.

You can see it in the arm-twisting that goes on at council and committee meetings. Written instructions on which way to vote. QB Mammoliti’s thumbs up or down. It’s wrangling not debating. A show of force instead of the power of persuasion. Given the recent setback during the debate over appointments to city boards at the last council session, victory snatched from the jaws of defeat by the mayor on a technicality, and the little contretemps at last week’s executive committee meeting with Councillor Jaye Robinson over citizens advisory committees, it appears some members of Team Ford are beginning to buck under the oppressive weight of his doctrinaire saddle. Some fresh, pliable meat would come in handy for the battles shaping up in the near future.

So I agree with Nick Kouvalis on this. If a by-election does happen in Ward 9, let’s all frame it as a referendum on the mayor’s agenda. Since he’s so frenetically and successfully implemented some elements of his campaign platform, there are tangible outcomes we can look at to judge his performance. He and his designate, Gus Cusimano, won’t be able to hide behind empty rhetoric and trite platitudes like Stopping The Gravy Train and Respect For Taxpayers as the mayor did during last year’s campaign.

So let’s revive the debate on Transit City for those who missed it the first time. Get down to the nitty gritty about the mayor’s replacement plan and point out just how many folks will be ill-served by it. Maybe we can talk about the sudden case of deafness the mayor’s come down with toward the public. Exclusion seems to be how he prefers to operate rather than all that touchy-feely inclusion he promised before being elected. Garbage privatization? Have it. Maybe we can start talking about actual numbers instead of the theoretical ones being thrown around right now. And how about the mayor’s monstrous plans for the waterfront as mouthed by his brother, Councillor Doug? A by-election would offer a perfect venue for a wider discussion of that.

Hopefully, if the city does appeal the court’s decision, an outcome won’t be determined until the fall and if a by-election does happen then, it’ll happen right smack dab in the middle of the 2012 budget debate when the real results of Mayor Ford’s agenda start taking hideous shape. I’m guessing Councillor Augimeri’s stock will rise at that point due to her established opposition to the mayor and challenger Cusimano won’t be nearly as willing to cozy up to him as he is right now. Instead, he just might look fondly back at the time he only lost by 89 votes.

bring it onily submitted by Cityslikr


The Politics of Division and Confrontation Loses A Warrior

February 7, 2011

That Nick Kouvalis has effectively left the Ford Administration so soon should come as no surprise to anyone. He/they always claimed his position as the mayor’s chief of staff was very, very temporary. He is, after all, a campaign strategist. His job was done on October 25th when he helped get Rob Ford elected mayor of Toronto. Hell, as a strategist, Mr. Kouvalis should be able to retire on that feat alone, delivering up the seemingly undeliverable on a Karl Rove-like level.

The real surprise was that he was ever made part of the official administration in the first place, let alone chief of staff. What was the mayor (or whoever does it for him) thinking? As far as I know, Mr. Kouvalis has little hands-on experience with actual governance but then again neither does the mayor. Did Team Ford simply assume that the ‘mandate’ they were given by 47% of the voters meant the mayor could just bully his agenda through with no finesse required? Stack the committees with like-minded right wingers and then intimidate enough centrish councillors into going along with the agenda.

From that standpoint, Kouvalis’s appointment makes some sense. He does bring an intimidating presence and certainly the tactic brought some early success with the easy elimination of the VRT, cutting of office budgets and a general sense that whatever the mayor proclaimed it would come to be. The death of Transit City, for one, and the birth of Transportation City.

The administration has been far less sure-footed with the budget process in general and the TTC in particular. First a fare increase. Then no fare increase. 48 bus routes to be cut. No wait. Re-allocated. Then, well, maybe not that many. 16? 41? Like they’re calling audibles at the line of scrimmage before being forced to call a time out for a little regrouping. We’ll get back to you on that.

Growing pains for any new administration should be expected and it would be unfair to demand otherwise from this one. While the ideological purity of the Ford Administration might mitigate some early missteps with everyone marching in such lockstep, the anti-government nature of this group invariably leads to gaffes and slip ups. If you’re not predisposed to govern, you’re bound to make mistakes trying to do so.

But the news last week of some serious, call security kind of tension involving Nick Kouvalis suggests that there’s more turmoil at work than simply learning the ropes. Could it be that the mayor is already realizing that the hardnosed approach is rendered less effective with a single-minded use of it? While it may work on the campaign trail, it gets tired very quickly once in office especially if your mandate isn’t as solid as you think it is. You need the occasional carrot (trying hard to resist mayor’s unfamiliarity with vegetables reference here) for the stick to be of much use.

Maybe Mr. Kouvalis’s departure is an indication that Mayor Ford is willing, in his very awkward way, to reach out to his more strident opposition. The announcement of Amir Remtulla as Kouvalis’s replacement seems to back that up. As former executive assistant to former Deputy Mayor Case Ootes, Mr. Remtulla comes with some heavy bipartisan support from the likes of councillors Joe Mihevc and Mayor Ford antithesis Adam Vaughan. “He gets the complexity of the place,” Councillor Vaughan is quoted as saying. “Amir’s not one of those people to be a bull in a china shop. He understands it’s about making the city work.”

The mayor’s new chief of staff, at least according to Councillor Vaughan, is everything the mayor and his former chief of staff aren’t. Comfortable with the complexity of governing and not bullish in a place that requires the use of deftness at times. Is it too much to expect that under Mr. Remtulla’s tutelage we may even get to hear the mayor stutter out the word c-c-c-c-c-compromise?

As much as it may go against his constitution to do so, the mayor may be starting to realize that one note, sounded over and over again, while working over the course of a 10 month campaign, will quickly fall on deaf ears when in office. With nearly 4 years still left in his mandate, he will have to change the tune to one that more than just his most ardent supporters can sing along to. That he seems willing to consider this possibility with the ouster of Nick Kouvalis and appointment of Amir Remtulla may well signal the first break in the clouds of what has been a severe cold front of My-Way-Or-The-Highwayism that’s been the signature of the Ford Administration early in the game.

kumbayaly submitted by Cityslikr


Will Rob Ford Rule As He Ran?

November 8, 2010

So the Mayor Rob Ford era is off to a colourful start, let’s call it. Amidst all the news reports filled with the ‘dirty tricks’ his team employed, we’ve also learned that our mayor-elect is now deep in debt; the fiscally responsible candidate turning out not to be all that fiscally responsible when it came to campaign spending. Except perhaps when it came to paying minimum wage for some of the campaign workers. “I wanted young kids because I could pay them nothing and they would do what I told them to,” said Nick Kouvalis, Ford’s campaign manager. “I paid them $500 a week and I wanted 60 or 70 hours a week out of them.”

One could almost shrug it off as nothing more than the understandable triumphalist crowing from a guy who masterminded one of the most improbable election victories in recent memory. Basking in the publicity of last Friday’s Public Affairs Association of Canada gathering of campaign managers and city bigwigs, who could blame Mr. Kouvalis for indulging himself in a little boastful chest-beating? In political circles, he’s clearly arrived and his services would now be in high demand. Polish up that resumé and move on to the next electoral fight.

The thing is, Kouvalis is sticking around town to become Ford’s chief of staff. So were we being offered a preview of how the new administration will operate? Deceitful. Dishonest. Divisive. Possibly acceptable when it comes to running a campaign (possibly) but regrettable and destructive in terms of running a city. Especially a city that appears to be as divided between its inner suburbs and downtown core as Toronto is presently.

Little so far emanating from the Ford camp suggests that it’s a divide they’re looking to heal or mend. When Kouvalis veered off into policy between tactical discussions at PAAC, one of the things he suggested he’d like to do away with is the Tower Renewal Program. Without getting into the details, it’s an initiative that “combine[s] green technology with neighbourhood revitalization projects to make stronger, greener communities across the city.” Hoping to eventually include all the 1000+ residential apartment building in Toronto, 4 pilot sites started in September, 3 of which are located deep in Ford Country.

If his chief of staff is to be believed (a stretch based on the kind of campaign he ran), Mayor-elect Rob Ford doesn’t care for neighbourhood revitalization even in the areas of town who voted for him. Combine this with the fact that he wants to kill Transit City and replace it with subways that’ll reach far fewer riders outside the core and it’s difficult to reconcile Rob Ford as a mayor who represents the anger and dislocation felt by his suburban constituents. It seems as if the split wrought by amalgamation is one that our new mayor wants to exploit for his own political success and survival. Otherwise, he would’ve sent Nick Kouvalis on his way with a handshake and briefcase full of cash after the election and brought in someone more conciliatory to oversee the running of his administration at City Hall.

curiously submitted by Cityslikr