Mayor Busy McBusy

November 30, 2015

johntorybusymayor

I couldn’t help rolling my eyes at this Toronto Star file photo of our mayor, John Tory, stepping through the subway turnstiles, all the morning papers in hand. Mayor McBusy. Busy, busy, busy. Off to tend to the city’s business and keeping on top of all necessary and pertinent Toronto information a mayor needs to know.

Relentless PR.

The mayor is everywhere. Mayor Tory is on the job! The era of the absentee mayor is over. Full steam ahead!

But a year into his first term now, what’s really been accomplished? The rollbacks of the previous administration, most specifically on the transit file, have been slowed. The police budget continues to grow. Road repairs have sped up with the corresponding cost increase to getting the job done. lucyinthechocolatefactoryA war on rush hour parking infractions has been waged when Mayor Tory’s needed to look like he’s very serious about combating congestion. Then, back to business as usual.

We have a poverty reduction strategy that, at this juncture, is about as valuable as the paper the report’s written on, all good intentions but, as of yet, lacking any serious funding. And Mayor Tory talks of keeping any sort of property tax increase – the city’s biggest source of revenue — for the 2016 budget ‘at or below the rate of inflation’. So yeah, don’t expect the bucks to be flowing in to start fighting poverty.

A short, permeable list of done deeds, amplified by plenty of do-good rhetoric and posturing. Or, more generously, as David Nickle wrote last week in his The City column, “…baby steps are better than none…a very tiny step in the right direction.” Or, more generous still, as now mayor staffer, director of strategic initiatives, Siri Agrell, put it back in March: “I respect @JohnTory approach to governing and think it should be the model: small, tangible actions that add up over time to real progress.”todolist1

An argument for incrementalism (h/t @JohnTory_) after 4 years of radical reactionism of the Ford era. Keep Calm and Carry On, and all that.

But what if every, say, 3 tiny, incremental steps forward are countered by one massive cock-up clusterfuck? A horrendous policy pursuit which will invariably set the city back decades? What’s the sum total of that calculation?

Mayor Tory’s continued obstinacy in the face of increased pushback on the Scarborough subway threatens to derail proper transit planning in this city. Never mind his own SmartTrack where all signs point to an equally monumental grievous transit planning setback. Those two backward steps alone overwhelm any incremental gains he may’ve made since taking office.

His pursuit of a Gardiner East hybrid solution flies in the face of any progress he hopes to achieve in attending the climate change conference in Paris later this week. As he coddles car drivers in this city, our chief planner points out that 40% of Toronto’s greenhouse gas emissions come from vehicle use. Forget incrementalism. goodimpressionThe mayor’s actions are outright counter-productive and working at cross purposes to his public stance.

Besides, a very strong argument could be made that, at this point of time, municipalities need much more than incremental leadership. Not just in terms of environmental issues but on the governance and financial files as well. If Toronto regressed on those fronts while Rob Ford was mayor, less regression isn’t necessarily a step forward. Bold initiatives need to happen. A boldness Mayor Tory proclaims to be driven by but a boldness not much in evidence in the actions he’s taken.

The mayor and his team spend an awful lot of time carefully crafting the image of a dynamic, energetic man of action, wrestling civic matters into a positive submission. A resolved future-facer, boldly (did they mention ‘bold’?) grappling mightily with our 21st-century problems and challenges. Yielding ‘baby steps…in the right direction’, leaving crises looming larger, image is everything, the only thing, in fact.

lookbusy

Look busy and everyone will assume things are getting done.

busily submitted by Cityslikr


Advised: Radio Silence

June 12, 2012

So when does any publicity become bad publicity?

The thought came to me while listening to Sunday’s The City radio show with Mayor Rob Ford and Councillor Doug Ford. “Well, you’re married to the Pollack,” brother Dougie said to Rob during their conversation about the Euro Cup. “A term of affection,” the mayor said later, responding to his brother’s apology for using the term which he claimed not to know was derogatory. All would be forgiven in Fordland later over polish sausages and pierogies watching some soccer at the mayor’s house.

Would that be the case, however, outside the family circle?

With The City, Mayor Ford has been given an even bigger bully pulpit than the already impressive one the mayor of Canada’s biggest city inherently possesses. Every week he gets to expound on his political views, his council pet peeves and his one true passion, sports. Except for the last topic, he goes largely unchallenged, tolerating little dissent from any callers who have the temerity to chime in with opposing opinions and filling the guest list with like-minded councillor colleagues.

Why, for example, after last week’s bizarre plastic bag debate at council, didn’t the mayor invite the culprit behind the ban motion, Councillor David Shiner, on to the show to have a further debate on the issue? Maybe he did and the councillor declined. Who knows? But surely one of the 24 councillors the mayor named who voted in favour of the ban was willing to come on the show to discuss the matter.

Instead we got plastic bag loving and part time Ford foe, Councillor Gloria Lindsay Luby phoning it in. This, despite the fact, as my colleague Cityslikr pointed out to me, Councillor Lindsay Luby was the real impetus behind the ban when she brought up Seattle as a city that does not charge anything for plastic bags, having been there recently, shopping. You’re right, councillor. Seattle no longer charges for plastic bags, its bid to do so overturned on an election proposition. So as of July 1st, the city will ban plastic bags outright. Councillor Shiner saw that memo passed around council chambers during the debate and ran with it.

Ooops. No matter. The councillor and brothers Ford prattled on, talking up all the benefits of plastic bags and fielding calls from listeners who felt the same.

In the show’s previous iteration, originally helmed by Councillor Josh Matlow, there was an actual attempt to discuss municipal matters from the basic left-right dynamic with the host in the role as the moderate centre. Sure, the set-up was a little cutesy but it brought a substantive dialogue to City Hall proceedings in a much more inclusive way than its bastard offspring. The City versus The City as seen through the Ford brothers’ eyes.

And it is a very narrow, skewed perspective, one that includes ethnic slurs as family nicknames, it seems. If the idea behind getting the Fords a wider audience through a 2 hour, weekly radio show was to circumvent the other, less friendly forms of media in town and get their message out there, unfiltered, the negative repercussions to such increased exposure were probably never fully considered. In the hands of a truly media savvy public figure, there might not be much of a downside but to the gaffe prone, like our mayor and his even gaffier happy brother?

Maybe the constant reminder of just how ill-informed the mayor is on almost every subject outside of sports serves to shore up the basest of his base. He’s just one of us! Maybe the regular placing of a foot in the mouth endears them to those who don’t care for the slick, knowledge based type of politician. As a then councillor, Rob Ford’s regular appearances on AM640’s The John Oakley Show show established his brand and helped develop an audience that followed him to the polls on his quest to be mayor. Maybe Team Ford hopes to keep that loyalty alive and kicking through to 2014.

But is it possible to have too much of a bad thing? While little quirks of character might be endearing in small doses, serving them up in weekly helpings could eventually get tiresome even to the most devoted of fans. “Did he really just say that?” is the response radio shock jocks aim for but is it the sort of result a mayor of Toronto seeks? Despite the emphasis during Sunday’s show on the plastic bag ban and subways, subways, subways, what lingers is The Polock, and brother Doug’s search for an appropriately WASPy soccer team to root for.

Yep folks, them thar’s our mayors, warts and all.

It’s hard to believe that such a continued assault on common sense and common decency can be parlayed into a winning re-election formula. These personality tics often do work when a candidate campaigns as an outsider but after 4 years of being the most powerful elected official in Toronto? It suggests a failure to grow into your role and can only remind voters that they may have miscalculated when they cast a ballot for you the first time around.

wonderingly submitted by Urban Sophisticat