The Winning Formula

Unless they don’t already know that Mayor Ford is out on the campaign trail, anyone who decides to throw down and challenge him for his job next year will not have to battle with the element of surprise. georgchuvaloHe is nothing if not predictable, our mayor. Puts it all out there for everyone to see. TO poli’s very own George Chuvalo.

Fresh from squeaking by on a split decision at the Compliance Audit Committee last week and escaping any further examination of his 2010 campaign financing, the mayor did a media round with Sun News. Touting all the accomplishments from his first year in office, he then outlined what he’d be pushing for throughout the remainder of his term in office. “We’ve got the casino, we’ve got the Gardiner (Expressway) and we’ve got the election,” he said, counting on his fingers. “I think a lot of people are already in that election mode and just wrapping up a few loose ends and we’re going to be on the campaign trail.”

Oh, and don’t forget subways… err, ‘a long term transportation strategy’. No, OK. Just kidding. Subways.

“We’re going to be getting, guaranteed getting, subways,” the mayor said on his TV interview with David Menzies. Or ‘The Menzoid’. As most grown men who aren’t professional athletes or musicians prefer to go by their nickname.

“Everyone is doing polling in their area. We’re doing polling. cocktailnapkinideasI see the numbers and they see the numbers and when you ask about subways and why so and so didn’t support them, they’re not going to win the next election.”

“They realize that they have to support subways to get re-elected, it’s huge. That’s what people want especially out in Scarborough – they need a subway and I’m going to get subways for them.”

So heads-up all you would-be mayors and councillors. If the mayor has his way, 2014 is going to be all about subways. Subways, subways, subways. Deny the people subways at your political peril.

If that all sounds too one-track to sustain a campaign for 18 months or so, Team Ford has drawn up another line of attack. Flouting rules and then thumbing their noses at anyone who protests. Don’t like it? Sue me. Seriously. Sue me. I double dog dare you.

With the mayor away down in Florida, it came to light that his office was still soliciting funds from registered lobbyists for donations to his football foundation. Remember that, just a couple months weeks ago? nyahnyahEssentially the root cause of what lead to his near booting from office due to a conflict of interest over using office letterhead to solicit donations…from lobbyists….

Yeah, yeah, yeah.

According to Daniel Dale and David Rider of the Toronto Star, it appears the mayor (minus his office logo) sent out a donation request to one lobbyist on January 28th of this year. Three days after a winning appeal got him out from under his conflict of interest conviction. Three days, folks. Municipal Code of Conduct rules? What Municipal Code of Conduct rules?

The mayor’s brother-councillor Doug didn’t see the problem, saying the paper might want to focus on “something more interesting”. Although, why would he want them to do that? Toronto Star generated controversy seems to help Mayor Ford, says the conventional wisdom. “You guys are killing yourselves,” the councillor pointed out, “you can write whatever you want; the more you write, the more his (poll) numbers go up. It’s fact.”

Not just a Ford ‘fact’ either. But an actual fact.keeponkeepinon

According to a recent poll put out by Forum Research, despite all the time spent in court and the lack of any serious goals in governance since late-2011 or thereabouts, Mayor Ford’s numbers have ticked upwards, from a 42% approval rating in mid-December to 48% last week. The more people attempt to hold the mayor accountable for his actions, the more popular he seems to become. So instead of learning any sort of lesson about flying right and keeping their noses clean, they’re just keepin’ on keepin’ on.

So solicit lobbyists away! Bring another conflict of interest case against him. It’ll practically guarantee his re-election, we’re told. Hell, they’ll even further help your cause by having the mayor’s chief of staff respond to the allegations of lobbyist soliciting for a private foundation while on city time. There’s another conflict of interest case for you to take to the Integrity Commissioner.

And we all wring our hands, wondering how on earth to stop this seeming defier of common sense and political reckoning. eyeontheballIs there no way to counter his supernatural ability to fail to success?

Let me offer a word of advice in an attempt to soothe our troubled souls.

I know Rob Ford and his mayoralty is something of a conundrum and anomaly. But it’s still worthwhile to look at things from a historical perspective, to the same juncture of time in their first terms in office, his predecessors in amalgamated Toronto. With 18 months to go before re-election both Mel Lastman and David Miller were flying significantly higher than Rob Ford is. Neither man would face a serious contender in the subsequent campaigns. Lastman was re-elected with about 80% of the vote, Miller with 57%.

In the last full year of his second term, before the MFP scandal broke wide and after his handshake with a Hell’s Angel, Mel Lastman’s poll numbers dropped to 47%. While some City Hall watchers marvelled at his lingering popularity, others took it as a sign Mel’s days were numbered. koQualified candidates began lining up to challenge him the following year.

That should be the familiar scenario for us currently.

I’m not writing Mayor Ford’s political obituary here but the idea he can continue to blunder and bluster his way to a second term shouldn’t necessarily vex anyone. There’s some hard rain coming his way over the next few months. The expanding transit debate with the accompanying taxes and tolls. A casino, yes or no. Some tough, city defining slogging. It’s been some time since the mayor’s had a major political victory outside of a courtroom and his roster of council allies to help him out looks mighty thin and ragged at this point.

This is not a scenario that screams winning to me. Don’t give in to the spin. Viewed through a rational lens, this is a troubled administration with the barest of accomplishments to show for itself and a leader disinterested in almost everything else but campaigning. Team Ford might like those long shot odds. That doesn’t mean they’re still not long shot odds.

realistically submitted by Cityslikr

Junk Politics

Times being what they are, I find occasionally stepping away from it all beneficial to my mental health. To head off and visit somewhere free of the politics of place and simply enjoy the view. I’m just a tourist, taking in the scenery.

It’s been difficult over the last couple years certainly to tear myself away from Toronto politics. Blink for a minute and you may well miss something extraordinary, something you’d never thought you’d see in your lifetime. When you think it couldn’t get any crazier, nothing could top what you’ve just witnessed, those diminished expectations are easily surpassed.

But I’m discovering that such novelty does have its limits. When the incredible becomes simply routine, it loses significance or much of any newsworthiness. The abnormal sinks into the swamp of the new normal.

So it goes with the mayoralty of Rob Ford.

Much has been written in the last few days about the latest antics of His Worship, his aggressive encounter with the Toronto Star’s Daniel Dale in a public park outside the mayor’s home in Etobicoke, the controversial appearance of Sun News’ David Menzies on the Ford Brothers’ Sunday radio show and Mayor Ford’s declining to attend the PFLAG flag raising next week. None of it flattering for either our city or the chief magistrate we voted to represent us. “Rob Ford’s stupid and offensive radio show demeans us all” from Matt Elliott. “Send in the clowns” by Edward Keenan. And “Rob Ford and the Banality of Excess” by Michael Kolberg in the Toronto Standard.

There’s not much I can add to the growing canon of Rob Ford is really a bad mayor literature except for a hearty but sad agreement. What was once funny and entertaining has now become just sad and worrisome. Who knew that electing a mayor with destructive anti-urbanist views could adversely affect the city?

I remember way back in 2000 with the election of George W. Bush as president, comedian Richard Belzer saying that while as an American he was sad about the result, as a comedian he couldn’t be happier. The jokes essentially wrote themselves but, 12 years on, America has yet to recover from the debacle.

That’s sort of the feeling that’s developing here. Oh, the fun we are having watching such a sad spectacle but at what cost? In fact, that’s not even quite right. The fun was fleeting. “But a story needs an arc,” Kolberg writes, “and Rob Ford’s administration is a flat line.” Pause.. pause.. pause.. indignant mayoral temper tantrum.. pause.. pause.. pause.. indignant mayoral temper tantrum.. pause.. pause.. pause.. Where’s the new beat to push the story forward?

Actually, that’s being supplied by city council. In the face of Mayor Ford’s inability or interest in leading, a majority of councillors is slowly coalescing to fill the void. Normally unaligned players are now finding common ground in developing an agenda without any positive input from the mayor and city business is being conducted. Perhaps more slowly than it would if a mayor participated but proceeding nonetheless. First time councillors are now finding their footing in the wide open space created by the mayor’s truculent intransigence.

Not all is dark and forlorn.

What is most disturbing about all this, however, is Toronto’s descent into what Benjamin DeMott has called ‘Junk Politics’. It’s the politics of anger, resentment and division that appeals to our worst instincts rather than seeks to inspire our better natures. Watching the risible reactions from the mayor’s supporters in defense of his indefensible actions is increasingly disheartening. There is no wrong in anything he does, no justification that isn’t based on some perceived slight or ulterior motive of those who are not seen as being onside or part of the team. The once vaunted Ford Nation, the mayor’s base, sees only threats not opposing opinions. They thrive in a cesspool of negative catch phrase outrage, unable or unwilling to engage in any semblance of adult discourse.

This is Mayor Ford’s Toronto, his bread and butter and only hope in any sort of political future for himself. They are proud in their obstinance and conviction that the way forward is by looking backwards. It’s a tough nut to crack. One that guarantees a continued war of attrition and a threat to Toronto’s ability to develop into a healthy, productive and fair-minded 21st-century city.

sadly submitted by Cityslikr