Give Him The Business

Here was the original plan.

Wait a couple days, insert a few typos and some of my very own grammatical idiosyncrasies and then claim Ed Keenan’s Doug Ford doesn’t understand much about the private sector post from yesterday as mine. I mean, I’m no Margaret Wente. It could take everybody years to discover that kind of sleight of hand.

But my conscience (or whatever that thing is that causes me to have second thoughts, stupid second thoughts) got the better of me. So I decided to just harp on the article instead. Get all up in your faces and demand you read it, and read it now. It’s that important.

Go ahead. I’ll wait. Make myself a cup of tea. Fire off a few emails. Maybe play some Bejewelled, depending on how slow a reader some of you are. What are you waiting for? Chop, chop. Get cracking.

*  *  *

Am I right? Huh? Huh?

Keenan quotes Councillor Doug Ford from last Sunday’s radio show, talking about the $700 million of ‘unfunded liability’ for the new streetcars the city ordered a few years back:

I don’t think the average person… they wouldn’t do it. Do you go out and purchase a house, purchase a business, purchase a big capital piece of equipment for your business, and not have the money?

Correct, Councillor Ford. The ‘average person’ might not be able to purchase $700 million worth of streetcars on credit. But a house? A business? A ‘big capital piece of equipment’? As a matter of fact they do. Every day. It’s kind of what makes the business world go around.

Kennan goes on to eviscerate Councillor Ford’s ludicrous stance in much finer detail than I could, so I’ll leave you to that. (Except, I do need to point out that, according to the article, the mayor’s Cadillac Escalade birthday present is actually leased – “…absolutely the highest cost of borrowing in the market place. Hands down, no exceptions.” — through his family business. So, if it is written off as a Deco Label business expense, technically speaking, we the taxpayers are paying for it. In that case, Happy Birthday, Mayor Ford.)

The thing I want to know about all this is what the fuck is Councillor Ford’s m.o.? What’s the frequency, Kenneth? I ask.

As a business man, even one handed that title by his father, Councillor Ford can’t actually see the world as he purports to in his role as a politician. He’s not wealthy enough to simply buy everything he wants, cash on the barrel head. Deco Labels doesn’t operate that way, does it? Obviously not, what with the leasing of the mayor’s SUV. It doesn’t make any economic sense if he did. And that’s what he’s all about, isn’t it? Making economic sense.

He can’t be that dumb, can he?

If he’s not, if Councillor Ford and his colleagues following him in lockstep – the mayor, the deputy mayor, the budget chief, the speaker, councillors Vincent Crisanti, Denzil Minnan-Wong, Giorgio Mammoliti et al – are fully aware of best business practices, let’s call them, and do know all about manageable debt and capital expenditures, blah, blah, blah, how come they’re not applying that thinking to the finances of the city? How come they’re pretending Toronto’s financial situation is worse than it is? How (and why) does Mayor Ford make the bold-faced claim that the city’s ‘financial foundation is crumbling’ as he did last year in a speech at the Empire Club?

Is it because despite all their bluster, all the harrumphing and rhubarbing we hear from them about Toronto needing to be run like a business, the last thing they want to do is run the city like a business, and a successful one at that? Go back to Keenan’s article and note the rough comparison between Toronto’s debt to income numbers and Rogers. $4.4 to $11 billion versus $10.79 to $12.47 billion. That’s pretty healthy. Or how about the low, low percentage of the city’s annual operating budget goes to servicing Toronto’s debt versus, say, the percent you pay in terms of your annual income to mortgage payments.

Toronto is, and has been despite the ugly economic environment out there and the vagaries of assistance coming to us from senior levels of government, running like a very efficient, strong business. That’s what the likes of Councillor Ford either doesn’t understand or, more likely, wants you not to know. Their whole schtick, he and his brother mayor and all the far right, fiscal hawk councillors, is based on the dubious premise that the city’s finances are being driven into the ground by tax-and-spend politicians who have no respect for taxpayers.

Why would they want you to think such nonsense?

To admit otherwise, to come clean that Toronto’s books should be the envy of many businesses, would be admitting the unthinkable idea that government actually works. That the taxes we pay as residents of this city aren’t inherently evil and bad. It would be an admission that their political philosophy and view is nothing more than empty ideology. It is destructive. It is selfish.

Councillor Doug Ford simply hates the idea of government. He doesn’t believe it should be run as a business because, well, it’s not a business. Businesses should be run like businesses. Government? Taken out to the woodshed and cut down to size.

Unfortunately for the councillor, that’s not really a politically sellable idea. So he bluffs and blusters about Six Sigma principles, finding efficiencies, yaddie, yaddie, yaddie hoping that enough people will come to the same dim conclusion of government as he holds. It’s been working for him so far.

We just have to keep calling him on all his bullshit talk and force him out into the open. Make him run not as some sound, sane businessman but as the unhinged, radical, anti-government ideologue he actually is. Right now, he’s getting away with hiding in the tall grass.

prudently submitted by Cityslikr

Final Thoughts On Ford Fest

On the theory that there is still much to talk about re: Friday night’s Ford Fest, All Fired Up in the Big Smoke has assembled two of its crack team of observers to dissect the festivities. Stepping in place of the still absent Acaphlegmic is Mr. David Hains from over at The Clamshell.

Urban Sophisticat (heretoforth, US): I just want to jump in here before this immediately descends into a gleeful rip of Ford Nation and give a big shout out to the TTC. We were essentially door-to-door, from downtown eliteville into the line outside the Ford estate in 40, 45 minutes. The last leg of the trip was in pure air-conditioned comfort on the northbound Royal York 73C. Kudos, TTC. Much better than driving up there. Now let the slagging begin.

David Hains (heretoforth, DH): You’re right to point this out, and thank goodness for the TTC. After all, there was a pretty strong storm before Mayor Ford took the stage at Ford Fest and it would have been a pain to bike in. And while they have bike lanes leading up to Renata Ford’s digs, they don’t have the post and ring bicycle racks in Etobicoke. Who knew?

Cityslikr (heretoforth, CS): Although there were plenty of big vehicles, armored trucks we could’ve locked bikes up to. Or lion statues. Genital flaunting monkey statues. Kangaroo statues.

US: I think that might’ve been a wallaby. But there was no singular aestethic vision you could ascribe to the compound aside maybe big. Lots of space that needed filling. Yeah, yeah. Just drop that off over there with the other animals. Same could be said of the house itself, at least from the outside. A particular cross between a ski chalet and Red Roof Inn.

DH: Yeah, for me the setting was larger than any character there and that says something. I got the chalet vibe too, but this particular kind of Alfred Hitchcock one where at any moment you had the sense that the privileged platinum blonde wasn’t going to be who you expected them to be. Somehow the house was perfectly Fordian. Like Ford’s politics, it’s the kind of house you wouldn’t expect to be in Toronto but there it is, sensory overload firing away (the canons in the bushes help). The statues and fountains were the finishing touch, with one from every culture it seemed (I liked the Chinese dragons). No wonder Ford won the minority vote.

CS: Your 3 Torontos. Those with no backyards. Those with a postage stamp sized backyard. And those with backyards possessing their own postal code. But enough Chris and Dave and Daving it. What about the guest list? The guest list. Did you catch Josh Matlow on his radio show yesterday asking everyone if they got an invite? Like, in not showing up, he skipped some exclusive party. Newsflash, councillor. You were one of about two million, four hundred and ninety-nine thousand Torontonians who chose not to attend Ford Fest.

US: I heard Giorgio Mammoliti made an appearance and Frances Nunziata dropped by. Norm Kelly. I saw Vincent Crisanti. And someone tweeted seeing Councillor Minnan-Wong’s young daughter, so I assume he was somewhere nearby. Paul Ainslie was the only one I saw who hung out for the evening. And of course, there was Councillor Gary Crawford on drums.

DH: Matlow is the parent in the kindergarten class who is making sure everyone got invited and no one’s feelings are hurt. To be honest, I’m surprised he wasn’t there because the event was right up his alley with hob-nobbing and glad-handing. Plus, he, Gary Crawford, Josh Colle and a left wing councillor (for balance) could form a musical super group. All they would need to sort out would be the name.

CS: Something as cryptically innocuous as Gently Bent, Councillor Crawford’s current band name? I really wanted someone to explain that for me. Is it like, hey, we may look like 4 pasty white guys kicking out your average wedding band tunes but, occasionally, every so often, we can get our rock on. We’re not as straight as we look. We’re… gently bent. With absolutely no idea there’s another way the name could be interpreted.

US: Or maybe it’s just some slight word play on that TV show from the 60s. Gentle Ben. They can roar like a bear and other times they can play gently like a bear, named Ben. Gentle Ben. Gently Bent. But I did come up with the perfect left winger for your super group, David. John Filion. Quiet, happy to stay in the background bass player. Has hair just like John Entwistle.

DH: Apparently Paula Fletcher was just singing at the Labour Day Parade, so maybe auditions will be needed? It wasn’t just Gently Bent that was innocuous at the event, but almost everything. There’s nothing more innocuous than awkward conservative dancers wearing slacks or jeans who were there to re-connect with old friends. In that way, the event was nice and charming. The disconcerting parts were the Ford idolatry (one guy got his Lean Six Sigma for Dummies book signed by Doug) and the underlying politics that aren’t innocuous at all.

CS: Which brings us to the bigger picture here. What exactly is Ford Fest? A campaign rally? Certainly the noticeable presence of politicians would suggest as much. Or are we looking more at a, I don’t know, community event held by a local councillor. You know, the type of thing the mayor derided as he led the charge to cut councillor expenses. All well and good if you can pay for it out of your own pocket but don’t be wasting taxpayer’s money doing it.

US: That grey area of expenses the Fords seem oblivious too. It doesn’t count if it’s our money. I’m going to hazard a guess that whoever paid for Ford Fest, blew way past a councillor’s yearly expense allowance. Drink up, folks. Eat. Don’t stop to think about the ethical implications to it all.

DH: That’s what makes Ford Fest so great. Like the politics and vague rhetoric, it is all things to all people. Blurring the line between community service, populism and political opportunism is what propelled Ford to being mayor and ‘the city’s largest backyard BBQ’ is the perfect microcosm for that.

CS: Will you be attending the next Ford Fest?

US: I don’t see why not. We’re already morally compromised.

DH: Yes. I can always use more fridge magnets.

submitted by Cityslikr

Mr. Ford Goes To Queen’s Park

If nothing else, events of the last few days — especially Mayor Ford’s Excellent Adventure At Queen’s Park — have revealed for all to see that running a government is nothing at all like running a business. At least not running a successful business.

Assuming for the moment that, in fact, Rob Ford has successfully run a business. That he’s not just some hereditary caretaker, handed the keys to the offices built by his daddy and simply living off the proceeds. That before turning to municipal politics, he actually had hands-on experience in helping to make the family business the enterprise it is, employing 200 people in Toronto, Chicago and New Jersey.

There’s no reason to think otherwise. His brother, Councillor Doug Ford, has 3 homes. Clearly he’s in the pink. Both Ford’s seem able to chip in and run their respective offices with their money. Deco Labels and Tags has been “Partnering with our clients to provide Solid Labelling Solutions for over 45 years…” Somebody must be doing something right there. Why not the mayor?

Reading about the mayor in action with the premier yesterday, however, it’s just not clear what business acumen he’s bringing to the table of public service. I mean, would a business go to an investor and ask for money to build some questionable infrastructure and then muse out loud for everyone to hear about what life will be like after the investor goes bust? I know some people can compartmentalize and erect a solid wall between business and personal, still… It’s not very good form, as I imagine they say at the Empire Club.

Or imagine the provincial government as a bank, and a company or corporation, say, like the city of Toronto, having eliminated various revenue streams, comes to them and asks for money to help make ends meet. And then when the bank politely turns them down and calls security to escort them to the door, this company, corporation or city threatens to rain down a force (Ford Nation, let’s call it) to bring about their demise. Seems like a dodgy strategy if you ask me. The only business I can think of that might employ such tactics is the mafia.

David Hains over at The Clamshell breaks down the business oriented Six Sigma craze now sweeping through City Hall, a ‘lean mfg / 6 Sigma’ version which Deco has been a practitioner of. According to Hains, the thrust of the idea is “…to eliminate process steps that might increase the likelihood of error…” Well, by that metric, the first step we should take is to eliminate the process step that allows the mayor to participate in any of the city’s business since every time he does it only increases the likelihood of error.

By going to the province asking for money to help the city balance its books (a practice he gleefully derided his predecessor for doing), the mayor is admitting a couple things. One, he didn’t know what he was talking about during last year’s campaign and after 10 years sitting on council. Two, that running a government is an entirely different beast than running a business especially a government dealing with billions of dollars, not millions, with tens of thousands of employees not 200 and serving 2.5 million ‘customers’ whose needs extend beyond just labels and packages.

By going to the province asking for money in such an inept fashion, the mayor does reveal one absolute overlap between government and business. Neither one can function in the absence of good management. If Rob Ford was a good manager in the private sector, you wouldn’t know it by the job he’s been doing for the citizens of Toronto.

going about businessly submitted by Cityslikr