White Privilege, Black Heart

April 17, 2015

It is my experience that when a politician insists they’ve been elected into office to shake up the status quo, they mean the exact opposite. They are in fact ardent status quo embracers, hugging it lovingly to their bosom, caressing it, eye licking it, making sweet, sweet love to the status quo. You are my rock, status quo. Without you, I am lost, bereft, nothing. Oh my, my status quo.

Yesterday, Mayor John Tory voted along with 4 other members of the Police Services Board to approve a revamped police carding policy that has been described as racial profiling and, quite possibly, unconstitutional. It once again allows for police to stop any individual they encounter, demand personal information without informing that individual of their charter rights to tell the police to go fuck themselves and continue on their way, provide no record to that individual of that interaction and to keep that information filed away for some defined period of time. You know, in case something comes up later, something involving concerns for public safety.

That the overwhelming number of these individuals are men of colour should in no way be taken to mean that this policy is in any way racist. Pure coincidence. If it were racist, the mayor would be the first to give the policy the thumbs down. Because the mayor’s not a racist, and he voted in favour of this policy, carding cannot be racist.

Some of the mayor’s best friends, and all that.

Listen to Mayor Tory explain his vote (as relayed by Paisley Rae on the Twitter):

I’d like to put into context my vote. I don’t doubt for a second — *interrupted by shouts of SHAME* — I have no doubt that this kind of thing is going on (racial profiling) and one time is too many. I thought I was likely to vote in favour of this policy last night so I made some notes. It’s patently false that I’m in denial. If we go back to the 2014 policy it would take us back to the same impasse we’re facing now. 2014 policy was not operationalized. Attitudes were hardening, not driven in bad faith. I will say, police leadership was probably moving more slowly than if there’d been whole-hearted agreement. But that’s not insubordination. There was none, no progress at all. So do you provoke a confrontation or do you make one more effort to achieve movement. This policy isn’t operationalized, it’s a statement of principle which I feel is being looked down on today. You can order people to do things and they’ll do them but they’ll be insincere and incomplete. We need buy-in. Do we really want to get to a place where we get widespread non-compliance? I don’t live in that world {the not real world} to me, the choice wasn’t between April 2014 and where we are today. It was an impasse & no policy at all & no oversight OR we could have a quick step forward and a step forward that was subject to a quick review the choice was to take meaningful progress over an impasse [The room is RAPIDLY clearing out as people quietly curse on their way out the door.] I think the time period allowed for, of 6 months, is adequate to see.

After an entire afternoon of hearing impassioned deputations about the dehumanizing effects of carding, being badgered by the police to hand over your personal information with no reason given except for the one that’s silently understood between everyone concerned, the colour of your skin, being black or brown in the wrong place at the wrong time (any time or place, really), or harsh lawyerly words about the possible unconstitutionality of the policy, having been given an option to defer the implementation of the policy in order to ‘get it right’, as TPSB member Shelley Carroll said and voting against that deferral, after all that, our mayor voted to implement this contentious policy, offering only those mealy-mouthed words in his defense.

We’ll re-visit the issue, he said. In 6 months. That’s adequate. The problem being, as the mayor saw it, was there just wasn’t any buy-in for the old board-driven policy by Chief Blair and the police force. Non-compliance not insubordination. “Do we really want to get to a place where we get widespread non-compliance?” Mayor Tory asked.

Remember that new sheriff in town, getting tough on illegal parkers? But faced with a much more dire challenge to the well-being of this city, a police chief openly defying the directives of what is essentially civilian oversight, citing some backroom ‘legal advice’, Mayor Tory caved spectacularly. As the room cleared of disgruntled and dismayed community members, mothers and fathers of targeted children, residents of Toronto who feel marginalized and diminished by this renewed policy, discriminated against and harassed, the mayor spouted words devoid of any real meaning or intent. He simply filled the air, trying to explain himself.

I’ll leave what this all means to the legacy of Chief Bill Blair and police-city relations going forward in much more capable hands. But I want to ask all those John Tory voters still cloaking themselves in the defense that things could be worse, there could be a Ford in the mayor’s chair. Could it? Would it?

As Paisley Rae tweeted a few hours after the meeting, “Last year Michael Thompson, Francis Nunziata and Mike Del Grande [Rob Ford appointed city council police services board members] passed a more progressive carding policy than Tory did today. Take that in.” In fact, Councillor Thompson forwarded a letter, signed by 14 other city councillors (make it 15 since TPSB member Shelley Carroll voted against the new policy) opposing the new carding guidelines. Clearly, they didn’t understand the words the mayor was saying, the status quo he was shaking, the world Mayor Tory lives in where a step back is called a step forward, regression progress.

indignantly submitted by Cityslikr


A Collective Madness

November 3, 2013

There was a fleeting moment during the Shit Show Spectacle that was this week in Toronto politics.

dougfordA shot of the mayor’s brother, Councillor Doug Ford, as he watched the police chief’s press conference that confirmed the existence of the video as described in the media purporting to show the mayor smoking what seemed to be crack, uttering racist and homophobic slurs. The proverbial smoking gun, now up against this administration’s head.

Despite my views of Councillor Ford as a detestable politician and, by extension, probably a disagreeable person, I assumed there must be some human feelings contained within. This couldn’t be easy. From a political angle, everything he’d been working for, any future he might be contemplating, now in jeopardy, under dark, dark clouds. Personally? Confirmation that his little brother was battling serious demons.

Fuck it. It made me just want to hug the guy. awkwardhugSorry man. This must really, really suck.

But the sympathetic feeling passed at about the time Mayor Ford emerged from his office, brother Doug at his left shoulder, to announce that there was no reason he knew of why he should resign. Everything’s fine. Anything else?

Then Friday morning brother Doug took to the airwaves to challenge the police chief to produce the video and back their lawyer’s earlier assertion that the police chief ought to be the one to resign since he was the one that stepped over the line, talking about the video and, I guess, having put the mayor under surveillance and revealing him to be spending a lot of time with an accused drug dealer and extortionist.

“Like we all have, Johnny over the years,” the councillor told talk radio show host John Oakley, “we use bad judgement sometimes and yes, Rob’s probably used bad judgement sometimes. attitudeproblemI’m just concerned politics are playing a big part in this.”

Rob’s “probably used bad judgement sometimes”? You think? The mayor’s apparently smoking crack and cavorting with known criminals but his brother’s real concern is about the politics ‘playing a big part in this’?

Sure, my brother is prone to bad judgement that leads to bad decisions but, dammit, stop playing politics with it! This isn’t about Rob. It’s about you.

A shocking refusal to accept any sort of responsibility. It’s always somebody else’s fault. notmyproblem1This is probably why the mayor is so obviously sloppy in his public displays of questionable behaviour. He never gets called onto the carpet for it, never faces a reprimand or consequences for his actions.

Especially galling considering the Fords’ usual pro-law and order, never hug a thug stance toward anyone else but themselves or their close associates. For them it’s all about the police stepping over the line, playing politics, acting like judge and jury. Of all the things to be concerned about that came to light over the past few days, the thing Councillor Ford was most concerned about were the police chief’s comments.

This isn’t just about a white hot glowing hypocrisy or double standard. No, no. We’re talking about a complete and utter lack of conscience. There is no ability or requirement to distinguish between right and wrong. Caught with your hand in the cookie jar? Hey. webofliesYou don’t want your cookies stolen, don’t leave them within reaching distance.

“I know one thing, Rob is an honest man,” Councillor Ford told Oakley, “I think that anyone who knows him, knows he is an honest man.” Rob, meaning the mayor, the councillor’s brother, the guy who flatly denied in May there was any video showing him smoking crack, this same video that the councillor was now demanding be released to the public, is an honest man. One of the most honest politicians in the country, Councillor Ford claimed a few days before the truth of the video surfaced.

There’s an untetheredness to reality in these people who lack any conscience. Theirs is an untruthful truth. If they claim someone is honest, it means they’re honest, all the blatant lying aside.

Alice Through the Looking-Glass bordering on the delusional. A shared madness perpetuated by fellow believers that assist in stitching together a collective alternative reality. Witness the Toronto Sun columnist Joe Warmington’s Mad Hatter act (ironically without his trademark fedora) in defense of the mayor.

“Listen, you’re not going to fool me,” the tough as nails, seen it all journo states. madhatter1“This is a political script to take down the mayor. That’s all this is. There are people who are friends with the chief of police that are using him as a political tool to get their people in.”

Sure, Joe. Whatever. If it’s easier to believe that a police chief is being used as a puppet by some nefarious entities to subvert democracy than it is to imagine a guy with significant substance abuse problems veering out of control (with ample proof to back that view up), have at it. No one can tell you otherwise.

It’s not just crank Toronto Sun columnists. Listen to Ford Nation resident Joy Green stand by her man, believing what she wants to believe and ignoring anything that might undermine that belief. “My support is based on service to this city,” she tells the CBC’s Rick MacInnes-Rae. “I’m sad that this video does exist,” Ms. Green says, “I don’t necessarily believe that anyone can prove that he was foolish enough to partake in something like crack but…”

I accept there is a video of Mayor Ford doing something I don’t believe he’s foolish enough to be doing.

Later on in the interview MacInnes-Rae suggests that we now know why Mayor Ford doesn’t provide a daily schedule to the public. “Because somedays he’s not at the office,” he points out. “He’s out driving around, or has been, with Sandro Lisi. Seems to me, some might argue, that might affect the way you do your job.” seenoevil1“I’m sure some might argue that. You’re correct,” Ms. Green responds. “And you?” MacInnes-Rae asks. “No,” Ms. Green states. “Because?” “Because I don’t know that’s a fact.”

What the mayor and Sandro Lisi were doing during all that time they spent together, in the SUV, at soccer games, convenience stores, in empty parking lots, on the telephone, is, at this point, purely conjecture. You can make a pretty educated conjecture but it would only be that. Conjecture.

What you can’t dispute is that Mayor Ford and Sandro Lisi spent a lot of time together, driving around, hanging out, talking on the telephone. There are pictures and surveillance data to prove it.

Belief, like beauty I guess, is now in the eye of the beholder.

Lying, reality denying politicians like the Fords have salted the earth around them, killing any possibility of a serious, honest debate about all aspects of governance in this city. burntbridgeThose pitching their tents on that ground, political allies and supporters alike, who remain defiant in the face of even the most incontrovertible truth from the most reliable of sources – their eyes and ears – are nothing less than disablers of democracy. This is now about right and wrong not you said, I said. Forget poor judgement or bad decisions, we’re talking a complete lack of ethics and morals.

To refuse to accept or see that makes you not only someone of questionable character but a bad citizen with a destructive bent to inflict irreparable damage on the city you call home.

sick and tiredly submitted by Cityslikr


Des Cracked Bürgermeister

November 1, 2013

Well, we didn’t really expect a graceful response from Mayor Rob Ford to all the mounting evidence pointing to the reprobate lifestyle he leads,bullinachinashop did we?

Set aside for the moment the alleged drug use. As it stands right now, we haven’t seen any direct proof of him using illegal narcotics and, even if we had, well, those of us in glass houses and such. Drug use is not my main concern here.

And, having not seen the video Police Chief Bill Blair yesterday confirmed exists, I’m even going to ignore the racist and homophobic blathering from the mayor that’s allegedly on it. That’s for another day.

At this point, it’s the seedy aspect of it all that is so eye-popping. A shock and disappointment, to paraphrase Blair’s reaction. The amount of time the mayor of this country’s largest city spent on drug transactions degenerate(or “constituency meetings” as he and his staff might refer to them) is astounding. In gas stations. At kids’ soccer games. On residential streets. Dark, secluded public spaces.

These weren’t just simply in passing hand-offs of money for product either. There’s His Worship, sitting in his SUV, swilling vodka and tossing his empties out into a school parking lot. Or him stepping out for a public piss. Last month when Sandro Lisi was first arrested, a neighbour, Carol Peck, said she spotted the mayor in his truck outside Lisi’s house brushing his teeth and spitting his oral bilge out onto the street. “And I thought,” she later said, “I can’t believe I’m seeing what I’m seeing.”

I can’t believe I’m seeing what I’m seeing.

Mayor Rob Ford’s behaviour goes beyond seedy.

The man is a monumental fucking liar, to boot.

“I cannot comment on a video that I have not seen or does not exist,” the mayor claimed last May when news of it first surfaced. liarWell, now we know for certain the video exists unless, of course, you’ve holed up behind the barricades of all reasonable thought and think somehow the police chief is playing politics and has joined in with the media conspiracy that’s just making this shit up. Based on the evidence released yesterday, Mayor Ford knew it existed from the get-go, with all the frantic phone calls logged between him and Lisi immediately following the Star’s initial story about it. That’s why Lisi was in court again today. On extortion charges stemming from his alleged attempts to get his hands on the video Mayor Ford assured us did not exist.

The woeful remnants of Team Ford is going to do what it has to do to fight this to whatever bitter end lies ahead, and I’m pretty confident now it’s going to be a bitter end for them. Going out on a limb of speculation here, I’m guessing Chief Blair offered the mayor a quiet exit yesterday. To think that the remaining redacted portion of the surveillance evidence doesn’t contain the mayor’s name and, in all likelihood, in a much more damaging light, is to put wishful thinking ahead of just plain common sense.

The cross your fingers and hope the worst is over portion of this end game is finished despite what the Fords may want to believe. Fighting for your political survival does not leave much room for actual leadership. custerslaststandWe’re done pretending it’s business as usual at City Hall.

Councillor Gloria Lindsay Luby summed it up in response to the controversy, saying Mayor Ford “has lost moral authority”. I’ll do her one better. Mayor Rob Ford never had any moral authority because clearly he has no moral compass. He and his dwindling band of rag tag defenders don’t know right from wrong and simply refuse to step up and accept responsibility for their actions.

This isn’t a leadership vacuum. This is a leadership black hole from which no light has any hope of ever escaping. When the mayor’s staff has to contact the mayor’s drug dealer to find out the whereabouts of the mayor, well, I don’t know how to possibly end that sentence except to say if Mayor Ford was really looking for a reason why he should resign…

Any of the mayor’s 44 council colleagues still harbouring the notion that he’s capable of effectively running this city are both enabling his negligent behaviour and putting the city’s best interests behind those of Mayor Ford’s and/or their own political careers. hediditWhen the budget chief, Ward 12 councillor Frank Di Giorgio, reacted to the evidence released yesterday by telling CP24’s Katie Simpson that “maybe he [the mayor] doesn’t do it [smoke crack] everyday”, he got the stench of corruption all over him. Continuing to pretend that everything’s fine is nothing less than a dereliction of duty on city council’s part.

Even if Mayor Ford thinks he can survive this and still play mayor, councillors must start working over and around him. There are few tools at their disposal to do this officially but they can start acting as if he’s not there which, given how much of his time and energy will be spent defending himself, won’t be too far from the truth. Toronto is now without a mayor in every way but name. Any councillor conducting business contrary to that stark reality will be complicit in perpetuating a fraud on the city they were elected to represent.

keepcalmandtakecontrol

demandingly 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


The Awful Untruth

October 21, 2011

Of all the responses we get here at All Fired Up in the Big Smoke, the pushback we receive when criticizing Mayor Ford, by far the most frequent… No, wait. The 2nd most frequent, just after ‘Why don’t you guys get a real job?’… tends to be, ‘Well, Miller did the same thing.’, Miller being the former mayor, David Miller. Whether it’s how Mayor Ford’s conducting business at council or City Hall or fiddling with the budget numbers. Whenever we level a critique his way, we inevitably hear, ‘Well, Miller did the same thing.’

To which, our initial response is: yeah, so? It doesn’t make it right. The former mayor also received plenty of criticism. In politics, two negatives do not—you get where I’m going with that.

Besides, wasn’t this mayor elected on a platform that included not doing business as usual? He was going to be sticking up for the little guy by putting it to the fat cats and lazy bureaucrats. He’d put an end to all the backroom deals. Clear and transparent would be the Ford Administration. No more game playing with the budget. No sudden finds of hundreds of millions of dollars. We were going to get an open and honest debate.

Step forward all ye steadfast Ford supporters, and with straight faces all, tell us your man has kept his word. Follow the bouncing ball on the sing-along that has been the 2012 police services budget debacle and belt out the coda that it’s all been on the up and up, yep, an open and honest debate. Without cracking a smile or a knowing grin. Tell us this is exactly what you voted for.

“It’s a huge reduction!” exclaims TPS board member, Councillor Frances Nunziata.

Wait, what? No. No, it isn’t, Councillor. Not only is the police services budget not facing ‘a huge reduction’, there’s no reduction at all. None. In fact, just the opposite. They’re getting an increase.

David Hains over at The Clamshell, Daniel Dale at the Toronto Star and Ford For Toronto’s Matt Elliott all go into much more interesting detail than I can but here’s the nuts and bolts of the situation. Mayor Ford demanded a 10% reduction to all city departments based on their 2011 budgets. Putting it to the fat cats and lazy bureaucrats. Police Chief Bill Blair announced he could do no such thing without laying off front line police officers and endangering public safety. So instead, he asked for an increase. A modest one by the police standards but an increase nonetheless.

All hell breaks loose. A showdown seems imminent between the mayor and police chief. Hardcore Ford ally and TPS vice-chair Michael Thompson plays the heavy, letting it be known that the police budget faces the same pressure as every other department and agency in the city. There must be a 10% cut or else…

Last week’s TPS meeting to deal with the impasse was postponed at the last minute. Details of some sort of compromise leak out. We learn that the mayor’s OK with the 10% cut being carried out over a two year period which, if my math skills are up to snuff, isn’t 10% but 5%. It’s an offer made to no one else on the city payroll.

Then comes yesterday’s news of an agreement. The chief has found almost 5% in cuts, 4.6% to be precise for the 2012 budget, through attrition, a 10% reduction in senior management and a host of other bits and bites. No layoffs of police. The city’s safety has not been compromised. The rest of the cuts will come next year.

“It’s a huge reduction!” exclaims TPS board member, Councillor Frances Nunziata.

OK, actually the councillor’s right. It is a huge reduction. Just not from the 2011 budget which is what the mayor called  for. It’s nothing more than a reduction in the original ask from the TPS. The one everyone got up in arms about and said wasn’t possible. The 1.6% increase Chief Blair proposed that, apparently, put his job in jeopardy. He scaled that back 4.6% and settled instead for a mere .6% increase.

An increase, folks. The Police Services Board approved an increase to the police budget not a cut which every other department is facing. There’s no cut to the police budget. There’s just less of an increase.

“It’s a huge reduction!” Shut up, Frances. Doesn’t matter how many times you say it. It simply isn’t true.

What does Mayor Ford have to say about such an about face? Who knows? He was coaching football at the time. How about his hard-assed enforcer on the TPS board, Michael Thomspon? Away on family business.

So what this says is that the mayor holds the police to an entirely different standard than the rest of the city departments. He boasts about giving them a pay increase while everyone else on the city payroll must make do with less. For the overall budget to balance, somebody’s going to have to give up more to make up for the TPS increase. (Nope. Don’t say it, Frances. It’s an increase. Shh-shh!)

Now, maybe Mayor Ford values the police more than any other employee of the city. Perhaps his worldview is such that happy police make for a happy town. I wouldn’t agree but there it is.

Or maybe the mayor’s afraid of the police. Butting heads with them would put a serious dent in his law and order veneer. They might remind voters that on the campaign trail the mayor promised 100 new police officers and delivered none. Bad optics all round.

But the straight-shooting, tell it like it is mayor ain’t talking. Instead he’s hiding behind monumental spin, trying to convince us that an increase is really a decrease, black is white, up is down and there we go through the looking glass, people.

Just like every other politician Rob Ford railed about as a candidate, saying one thing to get elected and doing the exact opposite when in office. The kind of politician he pledged not to be. It’s all just business as usual.

matter of factly submitted by Cityslikr