I Told You So, Sadly

I really, really resisted writing this. The tone, invariably, would be predictable, dreary even. I Told You Sos are boring, bringing little satisfaction to even the teller, this teller.

But Toronto’s mayor, John Tory, had a terrible, terrible week last week. Like, amazingly bad, exuding a willful, stubborn defiance of good judgment, an eager willingness to swipe aside anything that ran contrary to his rigid, preconceived notions.

Sound familiar?

At his Executive Committee meeting on Tuesday, Mayor Tory plugged his ears and refused to listen to City Manager Peter Wallace lay out all the reasons to consider new and increased revenues. Did you say, Find more efficiencies? Sell off city owned assets? That’s what I thought you said.

(NOW magazine’s Jonathan Goldsbie does an excellent job recreating the Tory-Wallace exchange.)

Also at his Executive Committee meeting on Tuesday, Mayor Tory punted the ward boundary review debate off into the fall, threatening the timeline that would see any changes in place for the 2018 municipal election. He pooh-poohed 3 years of work and public and stakeholder consultation that wound up recommending the addition of only 3 new wards, simply shook his head and shrugged his shoulders with a blithe We Don’t Need More Politicians down here at City Hall. Consult some more. Come back with the mayor’s preferred choice of 44 wards.

(David Hains in Torontoist explains why this is a particularly boneheaded and short-sighted direction the mayor seems determined to take.)

Fine. Fuck it. Whatever. None of this should come as any sort of surprise. John Tory is performing his duties as mayor pretty much as underwhelmingly as I expected.

And then his week got even worse.

That’s when the Toronto Police Services carried out its ill-advised raids of illegal pot dispensaries throughout the city, a course of action Mayor Tory seems to have encouraged in a letter he wrote 2 weeks earlier to the Municipal Licensing and Standards executive director. While this was happening, the mayor decided, not at all coincidentally I’m sure, to go plant some flowers while taking a crap on the head of a city council colleague and staff in the process. “Awful. A cheap stunt,” Metro’s Matt Elliott tweeted.


Isn’t this the kind of bullshit grandstanding we were supposed to have left behind in not electing a Ford mayor of Toronto? This isn’t Mayberry RFD. We live in a city of more than 2.5 million people with far bigger problems than a weedy street garden plot. It is not the mayor’s job to get involved in this kind of penny ante, day-to-day type of customer service.

If Mayor Tory really wanted to help the situation, speed the process up, maybe he should stop insisting on below-the-rate of inflation property tax increases and demanding across the board budget cuts to the departments that would take the lead on matters like this. Or he’d realize that in one of the fastest growing wards in the city where this neglected street garden plot was, the little things sometimes get missed and, in fact, we could use a few more councillor office’s at City Hall. If, you know, the mayor was interested in anything other than photo ops and playing political games.

After his sad sack performance this week, it dawned on me why, in the end, I believed electing John Tory mayor would be worse than Doug Ford. If Doug Ford had won, I think we would’ve remained on guard, prepared to fight the inevitable civic assault he’d attempt to carry out. With John Tory’s victory, we collectively stood down, many of us believing that whatever else, we’d elected a reasonable, competent candidate who might not do much but wouldn’t inflict too much damage.

Nearly 18 months into his tenure as mayor of Toronto, John Tory has proven to be anything but reasonable or competent. He has no ideas. He possesses an utter lack of imagination. His urban views are amber encased in the 20th-century, the mid-20th-century, no less. The only thing he’s proven adept at so far is avoiding our 21st-century challenges.

Let’s not mistake regular press conferences and media availability for dynamism. The boldness of this administration is inversely proportional to the number of times it claims to be bold. As the world moves on, continues forward, simply running on the spot still leaves us further behind. This isn’t a holding pattern we’re experiencing in Toronto. It’s just quiet regression that seems acceptable only after the noisy havoc of the Ford years. Little of that damage is being undone. The messenger has changed. The message remains firmly in place.

The frustrating thing about all this is that Mayor Tory has been given plenty of cover to adapt and rework his positions. A case has been made to consider new approaches to revenue generation, to civic governance, to the redesign of our streets and how we get around this city. The opportunities have been presented for the progressive side of John Tory to step forward, the red carpet rolled out for CivicAction John Tory to make his way into the spotlight, that side of the candidate voters were assured would figure prominently if elected.

“Progressive” John Tory has gone AWOL, if there was every such a thing as a “progressive” John Tory. I don’t want to say, I told you so but… I told you so. We’ll all probably be better off going forward if we stop pretending, and hoping for that side of the man and his administration to emerge. It was never really a thing anyway despite our insistence to believe otherwise.

resignedly submitted by Cityslikr

Just A Phone Call Away

“I don’t know what I can really do but—“

Let me stop you right there, Mayor Ford.holdonasec

There’s nothing you can do by taking residents’ phone calls at home that couldn’t be better accomplished if you simply directed their concerns to the appropriate city department.

Oh wait.

That’s not entirely true.

By encouraging taxpayers – to use the mayor’s vernacular – to call him any time of day, at his home or office, if they have a problem they need fixed, Mayor Ford succeeds only in burnishing his looking out for the little guy image. The municipal politics Energizer Bunny, tirelessly working for you, the taxpayers of Toronto, one complaint at a time. energizerbunnyHe’d wear a superhero cape but it keeps getting caught in his car door.

This point has been made countless times about the mayor but I think it bears repeating in light of his non-performance performance during last week’s snow storm. Stuck in a snow drift? Call DA-MAYOR.

Pick a comparable situation.

Your GE fridge goes on the fritz. Who you gonna call? Company CEO and Chairman Jack Welch? Hey, Jack! Your company’s fridge is a piece of shit. What are you going to do about it?

Well, that would be dumb and inefficient on a couple fronts. Jack Welch hasn’t been with the company for over ten years now, plus… plus, you want your fridge fixed, you call a repairman or the store that sold it to you directly. That’s just common sense and the shortest distance between point A and point B.

Now I get how, back in the day, as city councillor, it seemed sensible to residents of Ward 2 to call Rob Ford if they were having problems with city related issues. Their garbage didn’t get picked up? Call Rob. A tree limb crashed down into their yard? Call Rob. robfordgrafittiremoverA mysterious pile of dirt? Call Rob.

Of course, it isn’t the most efficient use of city resources. 53, 660 residents in 18, 140 homes covering a distance 32 square kilometres, all tended to by one person. Representation is not about making house calls. It only gives the impression of solid constituency work, one complaint at a time.

Better to strengthen the services the city delivers and its ability to deal with individual situations when they arise rather than relying on singular feats of councillor crusading. But that runs contrary to the small government, libertarian impulses of Rob Ford where tax dollars are robbery and city staff are wayward children not able to compete in the private sector. Taxpayer problems he personally handles provide proof of the failure of government.

It also provided his fledgling mayoral campaign with a tantalizing voter base to ignite with righteous indignation. “He [deputy campaign manager, Nick Kouvalis] took the tens of thousands of phone numbers Mr. Ford had scrawled down over the years as a councillor and stuffed in bankers’ boxes,” the Globe and Mail’s Kelly Grant wrote in October 2010 before the election, “and had them entered into a database.” Pissed off at City Hall? Rob is too. Remember when he came out and fixed that leak in your kitchen sink? fordnationJoin Ford Nation!

Now nominally in charge of more than 2.5 million people, the mayor has brought that personal touch citywide as if battling the forces of Mother Nature is as simple as one finger speed dialling.

“We’re trying to do the best we can and if there is severe problems call us. People can call me at home if they want it is 233-6934 – that’s my direct number at home,” the mayor said in a radio interview on Friday.

Severe problems? Call the mayor. He’ll pass along the message to somebody who might be able to actually do something about it.

That’s much more efficient during the biggest snow storm to hit the city in five years than say, Mayor Ford declaring a snow emergency that would’ve enabled plowing to be done more quickly by banning car parking along transit routes. robfordsuperheroA collective response that must just be too activist for the mayor, too reliant on the notion of the great good. How can he maintain and update a voter’s list ahead of the 2014 campaign if he simply utilizes the powers he’s been given as mayor without fielding taxpayers’ phone calls?

Mayor Ford and his supporters may look to his hands-on, 24/7 access as proof of some catch-phrasey concept of ‘improved customer service’ but, in reality and in a pinch, it contributes significantly less to the smooth running of the city than it does to the self-aggrandizement of one person, and one person only. Mayor Rob Ford.

non-superfanly submitted by Cityslikr