The Bubble Boys

There seems to be a correlation between a lessening grip on power with a diminishing grip on reality for Team Ford. While for most of us that would be seen as a problem, they appear to like it that way. Reality has a way of refuting most of what they say and claim.

So they move about in an operational bubble that is permeable only to views and opinions they agree with and remains unassailable to everything contrary. The Toronto Sun. Friendly AM radio. Scarborough malls and Tim Horton’s full of well-wishers and 100% stay-the-coursers.

Having assumed control of Newstalk 1010’s Sunday afternoon municipal politics radio show, The City, brothers Mayor Rob and Councillor Doug have had two weeks of pretty much uninterrupted airtime to crank up the rant to eleven. Naysayers were few and far between on their first show, entirely absent the next. It was a whole lot of high-fiving and ‘I couldn’t agree with you mores’ all round. All Ye who enter, leave your facts and figures at the door.

Last Sunday, during what appears to be a regular weekly St. Clair right of way has been a disaster segment, Councillor Ford claimed that the streetcar had been shut down a few days earlier because of two inches of snow. A quick check of TTC service notices couldn’t actually pinpoint the incident. The best guess was that some slippery driving conditions had caused an automobile accident at Yonge and St. Clair which blocked up streetcar traffic.

So, using the councillor’s logic, since cars had trouble navigating inclement weather, maybe we should take them off the roads?

No. Since the brothers believe any form of public transit running down the middle of the street is a streetcar, a trolley when they’re feeling particularly disingenuous, and streetcars are nothing more than a weapon in the war on the car, congestion and all other traffic problems are to be blamed solely on them. Case closed. Fingers in their ears. La-la-la-la-la-la-la! I can’t hear you. What are you saying? Streetcars suck? I agree. La-la-la-la-la-la-la!

After this week’s drubbing at city council where Mayor Ford was relegated to mere observer status at the TTC, his brother went on the PR offensive not so much to preserve the mayor’s transit vision as to salvage his own reputation. Fingers were pointing in his direction as the main culprit in driving a further wedge between the mayor and any sort of face-saving compromise. Councillor Ford’s ‘all taxes are evil’ tirade last week only further alienated the mayor from even normally reliable allies like Councillor Peter Milczyn who, on transit, has stepped noticeably away from Team Ford. “Councillor Ford has had a tendency to continually add fuel to the fire when others of us have been trying to douse the flames,” Councillor Milczyn said on Metro Morning.

Now, a reasonable, rational politician would step back and reassess the situation. Hell, what good businessman would suffer a setback and not listen to advice from people generally thought to be on his side? Not Councillor Doug Ford, nope.

“I guess their game plan over the last couple of days is to try to silence me until I don’t tell the public what’s really going on,” Mr. Ford said in a radio interview. “We know what the public wants. The public wants subways.”

No retreat, no surrender!

None of this is the councillor’s fault, you see.

“The print media, they’ll twist it any way you can and you can’t defend yourself.”

Poor, poor put upon rookie councillor Doug Ford. Media types and devious, backstabbing politicians criticize him and there’s no way he can defend himself. Except on his own radio show and every other talk radio station in the city. But that’s no match for the pages of say, the Toronto Sun, who, as we all know, have been absolutely savage in their treatment of Team Ford.

In the little bubble world the Fords have created, only they know what ‘the people’ want, constructive criticism is nothing but political treachery, one unfriendly newspaper chain constitutes the print media and subways reign supreme as first and world class.

Unfortunately for them, their reality has banged up hard against the other, bigger, grim reality of facts and informed opinion that the rest of us exist in. It turns out in the real world you have to actually pay for the subways you want and, even then, subways aren’t always the best use of public transit money. There’s the very real possibility of them not being first class at all but out and out money sinkholes that inhibit healthy neighbourhood development rather than enhance it.

It also turns out in the real world bullying and bluster will only get you so far. Their effectiveness is directly proportional to the power you wield. Threats suddenly become idle. Former cowed allies start to find their own independent voices. You find yourself more and more alone inside your bubble until, finally, it doesn’t so much burst as collapse into itself.

pokingly submitted by Cityslikr

Pirated Radio

Conservatives these days.

It’s almost as if they’ve given up on the traditional mechanisms of democracy. Debate, discuss, deal, decide. All that outdated crap our grandparents and great grandparents fought and died to protect back… whenever.

Look. Nobody watches black-and-white TV anymore, do they? So who says our democracy has got to be the same?

Federally, after 6 years of not being able to earn enough votes to form a majority government, it seems that the Conservative party resolved to help keep some Canadians from finding their correct voting stations last election, thereby denying them their right to vote. No voters. No problem.

Here in Toronto, conservative leaning mayor, Rob Ford, having experienced a couple important setbacks and rebuffs by city council, has deemed his fellow elected local representatives to be irrelevant, and headed to more friendly terrain: talk radio. For 2 hours every Sunday (at least until the 2012/13 NFL season), he and his councillor brother, Doug, are taking to the airwaves, talking about the issues they want to talk about, listening only to the taxpayers they want to listen to and just generally reaching out to the regular folks they’d normally have to travel to a mall or Tim Horton’s to talk to. “’You’re going to get the straight goods from Rob and I,’ Mr. [Councillor] Ford promised Newstalk 1010 listeners during an interview with host Jerry Agar. “’You aren’t going to have the media twisting it around like they’ve been twisting it around for the last year and a half.’”

In short, the mayor and his brother are looking to replace actual governing by out-and-out campaigning some two and half years before the next election.

It’s telling also how their radio gig came about. The show, The City, was already established, hosted for its first 6 months or so by Councillor Josh Matlow. Its format was essentially the centrist leaning host moderating two other councillors from either side of the political spectrum in a two hour long discussion about municipal issues. There’d be listeners calling in to ask questions or give their opinions and members of the punditry invited to chime in as well.

Neither the mayor nor his brother ever took part in the show aside from phoning in. Mayor Ford called once to give Councillor Matlow birthday wishes and the councillor a couple times when he had a bone to pick with him. Otherwise, they remained disengaged.

Until this past January when, according to the program director of Newstalk 1010, Mike Bendixen, ‘the mayor’s camp approached him’. Interesting. While never deigning to appear on the show as is, Team Ford wanted to simply take it over, rejig it for their own purposes. Replace wonky policy talk and debate with one-sided, loaded partisan bluster. Like snivelling schoolyard suckie-babies who can’t play the game very well, so they grab the ball and insist on changing the rules.

Say what you will about The City hosted by Josh Matlow but it actually explored the nuts and bolts of municipal governance here in Toronto, never allowing one side to go unchecked. The City hosted by Rob and Doug Ford?

Of the show’s 78 minutes of actual Ford Bros. airtime, 10 minutes or so was given over to Leafs’ Talk with former player, Wendel Clark, his fights, his bar, his views on how to turn the team around, 6 minutes to Oscar talk and how the city should do something to honour Norman Jewison and about 3 minutes for some community bulletins. The only council member invited to join in on the conversation was hardcore Team Ford loyalist, Giorgio Mammoliti, who talked about his dream of building a subway along Finch Avenue. In terms of callers, by my count 4 were pro-Ford, 2 against and 1 I couldn’t really tell. One caller challenging the mayor and his brother to expand on their Sheppard subway plans and questioning their claim of the St. Clair disaster was cut off for a commercial break. When they returned, Councillor Ford spouted forth some dubious numbers about financing the subway, uncontested.

In an opinion column for the Toronto Sun on Saturday rationalizing handing over The City to the mayor and his brother to do with it what they want, Mr. Bendixen made the following assertion: After all, sharing ideas and opinions is what talk radio is about. If that were true, talk radio would not be the almost exclusive domain of right wing, conservative thought because ‘sharing ideas and opinions’ is anathema to modern conservatives. It runs against their grain of tightly holding onto ideas that only confirm their worldview and ridiculing opposing opinions that don’t.

It smacks a little too much of the democratic process that conservatives seemed to have developed an aversion for.

fair-mindedly submitted by Cityslikr

Supplementary Reading

Since I’m sure the Ford Bros. are busily prepping for their co-hosting radio debut on The City, it’s probably good that we do too. Bone up on some facts and figures to counteract the less fact-y figures that’ll surely be flying fast and furious tomorrow afternoon. Write up a long check list of things that the mayor and his councillor brother don’t quite get right.

We’ll probably be hearing a lot about transit during their first show. The whole subways versus LRT (just fancy streetcars) debate. Jim, calling from an Oshawa Tim Horton’s, will regale listeners with that time he drove in downtown Toronto and was stuck for miles behind 9 streetcars that had nobody on them, his surroundings a dilapidated urban jungle.

Because you’ll probably be hearing much of the disastrous St. Clair right of way construction from the Ford Bros. tomorrow (I’m betting at least half a dozen times), take some time between now and then, if you haven’t already, to read James Bow‘s masterful blow by blow account of what actually happened. Full of intrigue and heroism, you will be pleasantly surprised to learn that it didn’t turn out to be quite the mess you’ll be hearing nor were the problems that surfaced due in any way to building streetcars in the middle of the road.

It’ll serve as a nice antidote.

 Hyperbole and Axes To Grind on St. Clair Avenue.

helpfully submitted by Cityslikr