On Second Thought

March 20, 2011

Now that the Ford administration putsch (yes, it’s Sunday and I’m feeling a little feistily hyperbolic) of the Toronto Community Housing Corporation is complete, CEO Keiko Nakamura fired by the mayor’s own special henchman, double-dipping ex-councillor Case Ootes (yes, we are still waiting for Sue-Ann Levy’s damning exposé in the Sun of such deplorable teat-sucking since hypocrisy is only something practiced by the left), it’s probably time that we step back, take a breather and examine in more depth the Auditor-General’s report. (My that was a long sentence. Everybody still with me?)

After all, that’s standard operating procedure, isn’t it? Rush and leak a report, foment outrage and indignation at half-cocked and very possibly erroneous allegations, generally stampede to judgment before taking time to try and truly suss out the situation and uncover the actual facts of the matter. Fly off the handle, lay waste and poison the atmosphere before settling in to some sober second thought. Ford Tough. The Ford way.

While the mayor may not be losing any sleep over how things played out, about possibly firing people without justifiable cause, sullying their reputations in the process, it seems some in the media might be reconsidering their actions. Over at Metro Morning earlier this week, Matt Galloway wondered if maybe they over-reacted to the story in an interview with Lindsey Reed, CEO of the Social Housing Services Corporation. Oddly, the show has not posted the segment on line so we can’t link it for you, and we’re trying not to be too suspicious thinking they’re burying criticism of their behaviour, but the gist of it can be found in Ms. Reed’s article in last Monday’s Toronto Star.

Indignant over-reaction and unthinking bellicosity are what Mayor Ford does. It is his forte as Edward Keenan beautifully detailed in Eye this week. Right now, it’s working for him.

But why does the media, the Toronto Sun aside of course, play along? Isn’t it their job to hold the politicians’ claims and machinations up to the light for a closer examination? Just because the mayor runs around screaming gravy in a crowded media scrum, it doesn’t mean the assertion has to be echoed and amplified. Mayor Ford has an easily identifiable agenda. Those covering him should be filtering everything that comes out of his mouth or the mouths of his spokesteam through that filter. As they should any and all politicians.

It was known almost from the get-go that no fraudulent or criminal behaviour was going on at the TCHC. Now, as more of the facts come to light (which should’ve happened if normal practices had been allowed to happen instead of being steamrolled by the mayor and those supporting him) and the din of the screeching mob has dissipated a little, some of the details don’t look so grisly and gravy laden. John Lorinc’s Spacing piece a couple weeks back paints a much more complicated picture of the TCHC, operating as much as development company (see, the new Regent Park) as it was a property manager. Does that justify everything that surfaced during this initial round of the Auditor-General’s report? Of course not. That there are serious concerns about the conditions and ill-repair at various TCHC property was obvious long before the Auditor-General’s report and go far beyond chocolates and bad procurement practices. But all those in the mayor’s entourage who called for the heads of everybody and anybody involved without a deeper understanding of what was happening at the TCHC will ultimately reveal themselves to be little more than fatuous and specious opportunists. Yeah, that’s right. I’m still looking at you, Councillor Matlow.

The mayor’s going to bluster. He’s going to try and make mountains out of molehills whenever he gets a chance to trumpet to the world he’s found the latest example of waste and gravy. That’s his modus operandi and has been for as long as he’s found work at City Hall.

Until Mayor Ford’s accusations actually prove credible, and I think we’re going to find as further TCHC details emerge from the swamp of innuendo, hearsay and outright distortion and misinterpretation of the facts that he was off the mark, he shouldn’t be simply parroted. The press needs to stop giving him the benefit of the doubt and assuming his outrage is warranted. His self-proclaimed mandate doesn’t entitle him to a free pass, not everything that comes out of his mouth treated as gospel. That whole asking questions later thing only works in Mayor Ford’s favour, after the damage is done. Post-mortem regret benefits no one but those thriving on gut instinct and irrational reaction.

soothingly submitted by Cityslikr


Signing Off On Mayor David Miller

November 25, 2010

David Miller’s legacy? Rob Ford.

So conventional wisdom has it as our out going mayor gives way to our incoming one, again glaringly revealing our backward belief in the fallacy of correlation proving causation. (Simply because one thing follows another does not mean the first caused the second, people. How many times do I have to tell you that?)

Listening to Mayor Miller’s interview this morning with Matt Galloway on Metro Morning, I couldn’t help thinking that those waiting for His Worship to aurally prostrate himself before them and humbly admit defeat and beg their forgiveness for a job poorly done were going to be sorely pissed off. He did nothing of the sort. And good on him, frankly. Because if you are seriously going to look back over the past 7 years and conclude that this city is in worse shape than when Miller first took the mayor’s office than you are suffering from one of a host of ailments and quite possibly a combination of a few of them. Amnesia. Mental myopia. Congenital stupidity. Blinkered ideology. Factual debasement.

And your pants may even be on fire because you are a big fat liar.

Is that to say that everything the mayor touched turned to gold? Let’s not run aground on the shoals of false dichotomy here. To expect anyone, let alone our elected officials, to perform perfectly is unreasonable and the surest cause of disappointment.

The way Miller lead the charge in sweeping police actions at the G20 meeting in June under the rug was, for me, the low point in his mayoralty. No one truly concerned with civil rights could’ve urged the city to “…put what happened over the weekend behind us…” regardless of how politically expedient. In comparing police behaviour at similar gatherings around the world “…the only conclusion you can come to is that we have a police service that respects peoples’ rights, that acts with incredible professionalism…” Miller said at a post-summit press conference. That obviously wasn’t true when the mayor said it and it’s painfully obvious 5 months later.

Yet it does not make me regret twice voting for him and certainly would not have stopped me from doing it again had he sought another term. Others were not so forgiving. For those writing the history of Mayor David Miller will invariably point to the Toronto Civic Employees Union strike in the summer of 2009 as his undoing, his Waterloo. As the garbage piles grew, his support dropped and when he didn’t crush the unions into oblivion, well, the only conclusion you could come to was that he caved and handed over the keys to the vault to them.

Complete and utter nonsense, of course. Pure bullshit in fact. But no matter. “A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes,” as Mark Twain suggested. The unions won. Miller lost. He had to go.

Never mind that in engaging with the union so aggressively, Miller went where no municipal politician dared to go before. Certainly not our previous mayor, Mel Lastman, who never made a peep about such contentious matters as banking sick days when he faced a strike by the same union in 2002. He still couldn’t come to any sort of agreement, needing provincial intervention to end that strike which, arguably, gave much more to the union than Miller did.

This is what should be the hallmark of David Miller’s time as mayor of Toronto. His resolve to wade in and deal with messy matters of governance that had to be faced for this city to progress.

Transit City. Bringing workable public transit to parts of the city that are dying on the vine without it. The mayor rightfully points out that it’s the biggest transit development the city’s had in 3 decades. Why? Forging agreement and the financial resources necessary is not very easy at the municipal level, let alone bringing the other two levels of government into the mix. So previous administrations ignored it or took half-measures to appear as if they were doing something.

Urban renewal. Especially in his 2nd term, Miller took to heart the social/economic divide within the city and endeavoured to initiate steps to address it. Thus the redevelopment of Regent Park and the proposal to do likewise with Lawrence Heights. The Tower Renewal Program to revitalize Toronto’s aging high rises. Targeting 13 priority neighbourhoods – most inherited from the pre-amalgamated inner suburbs that had created them – in order to address issues of poverty, crime and isolation.

Of course, the irony is that these same neighbourhoods and communities Miller had attempted to reach out to soundly rejected his initiatives and voted heavily for the anti-Miller, Rob Ford. As has been written at great length both here and elsewhere, there was a failure to fully sell these accomplishments to those areas most benefiting from them. Actually, it was probably more a failure to beat back all the misinformation about them.

It also suggests that politicians of David Miller’s caliber aren’t a dime a dozen. Without him on the campaign trail, trumpeting his agenda, it withered under the assault from those seeking to undermine it for their own political gains. We somehow expected another David Miller to step from the shadows, displaying similar skills and smarts. Now we should realize he may be the exception not the rule.

The simple fact of the matter is, David Miller didn’t elect Rob Ford. We did. He has nothing to apologize for. He presented us a vision of the kind of city he wanted Toronto to be and, after 7 years, we bailed in a shocking failure of nerve. We chose easy sentiment over hard work, pithy phrases over complicated solutions. David Miller is not responsible for the next 4 years. We are.

sadly submitted by Cityslikr