City Services 9-1-1

January 9, 2012

I hesitatingly elicit the subject of the Christmas day 911 call that sent police to the home of Mayor Ford, not to delve into his personal affairs – I’m 99.4 % convinced it’s none of my business – but as an example of his view on the nature of the municipal government he leads. We head into the last leg of the 2012 budget process where a once huge, terrifying deficit has magically transformed into a modest surplus. In this new light, what exactly does the mayor think is important? The need-to-haves versus the nice-to-haves.

The Christmas call was the third one in just two months made from the Ford household. The first one being, of course, the mayor’s own now infamous 911 call after he was set upon by the This Hour Has 22 Minutes gang as part of a skit for their show I didn’t realize was still running. A second call to 911 happened just 15 hours after the first which had passed my notice until the story about the 3rd call emerged.

Wow. Three 911 calls in two months. How many of those have I made in my entire life? How many times have police shown up at my house due to a 911 call?

There was that time a year or so ago when a woman standing beside me at an intersection, waiting for the traffic lights to change, sagged and dropped to the ground. Not being a doctor of any sort, I decided that if ever a circumstance dictated that I call 911, this was it. Then there was that previous time when… actually, that’s it, the degree of my 911 experience.

That is not to say I am a better person than the mayor or lead a more exemplary life. His brother Doug described the alleged Yuletide contretemps as a “minor disagreement and some misunderstandings”. Fair enough. Who doesn’t have those around the house on occasion?

But how many of us wind up calling or have others call 911 on us? Rarely? Infrequently? Almost never?

Again, that’s not to cast personal aspersions on the mayor or to suggest he audition for a role on the Fox show, COPS. It’s just that most of us view 911 as one of those nice-to-have need-to-haves. We don’t all rely on it but it’s good to know it’s there if ever we need it.

Like many of the services the city provides.

Mayor Ford, on the other hand, doesn’t see all of the city services as equal. He’s more inclined to downplay the ones he doesn’t use. Transit? Cut it. Libraries? Less is more. Kids’ nutritional programs? Gone. Oh wait. There’s some of those in my old ward? OK. They can stay.

The police budget? Well, hey. Doesn’t everyone have officers show up on their doorstep regularly? We can’t cut that. It’s a city service I use. In fact, here’s a little something extra for you guys, in these days of austerity. Less than you want but we’ll call it a cut and no one’ll be the wiser.

Again, I’m not implying anything nefarious about that. It just reflects a particular cloistered view of what constitutes a vital, important or essential service. The things we fund, the things deemed need to haves, are those that I myself use and rely on. Thus, we have a mayor who seems to believe that the only businesses the city should be in the business of being in are road maintenance, waste collection and policing. All the things he uses and that the city provides. Everything else is – and yes, you can say it along with me – gravy.

That’s what this upcoming budget fight is going to be all about. Personal priorities versus communal priorities. What’s in it for me versus what’s in it for us. And what gives the me, my and mine side a leg up is that the benefits are so immediate and tangible. Garbage picked up. Roads ploughed. Police appear when summoned.

The cost-benefit ratio for the us items is harder to gauge and, therefore, less obvious and easier to brush aside as a luxury. I get up and go to work/school every day without the city providing nutritional supplements. Why should I pay a fraction of a cent so someone else does? Amazon brings the books I want right to my house. Why should I be doling out my hard earned money so someone else can read and study for free? I drive my car to work. Everybody else should too, then we could get rid of all the streetcars that are so clearly the root cause of our congestion woes.

Smart city budgeting is not a zero-sum game. Choices have to be made, of course, but not every choice you make has to benefit you personally and immediately. That community centre program you choose to maintain might just keep that kid from getting into trouble and relieving you of the burden of calling 911 because you heard a suspicious sound in your backyard.

S.O.Sly submitted by Cityslikr


The Subjectivity Of Truth

December 18, 2011

(Given Mayor Ford’s PR media blitz during the last few days of the working week and its complicated relationship to, err, veracity, let’s call it — give a quick look over Edward Keenan’s piece in The Grid to see what I’m talking about — we thought it might be a good time to repurpose this view of the matter from our colleague Sol Chrom at posterous.)

*  *  *

OK, so if I understand this, Rob Ford isn’t talking to the Star because according to him, the paper is lying about an incident involving him and a football team he was coaching. And he’s going to cut the Star out of all official communications from the mayor’s office until the Star apologizes.

Petty personal vendetta and inappropriate use of official communications channels aside, the mayor has already established that his relationship with the truth is a little … tenuous. We’ve already seen that when he’s confronted with allegations of stupid, questionable or boorish behaviour on his part, the first thing he does is lie, deny, complain about being the victim of a hatchet job and dig his heels in. Only when the evidence becomes overwhelming does he own up.

There was the time he got drunk and started yelling obscenities at a couple of spectators at a Leaf game. First he said he wasn’t even there.

Then there’s the incident where he allegedly flipped the bird at Ottilie Mason and her daughter when they told him to get off his cellphone while driving. His staff subsequently admitted he was on his cellphone, but he continued to insist that he never made any rude gestures, that and that the whole thing was a misunderstanding.

Whatever that means.

And there’s the question of whether it was dark and whether his daughter was with him and how many times he said “fuck” when Mary Walsh tried to interview him and he called 911, and the continuing nonsense about his campaign-trail guarantee of no service cuts … well, you know where I’m going.

Um … Rob? Dude. Big guy. You’re not exactly on firm ground when you start accusing other people of making stuff up. Do you really want to go down this road?

Maybe try acting like an adult? I’m sure you can do it.

submitted by Sol Chrom

A War On A War On

November 1, 2011

To jaw-jaw is always better than to war-war.

From the great orator, Winston Churchill, to President Eisenhower at the White House in 1954 after a snout full of brandy one must presume. Really, Winston? This from the man who said such things as, “Courage is the first of human qualities because it is the quality that guarantees all the others.” And this, “The truth is incontrovertible, malice may attack it, ignorance may deride it, but in the end; there it is.” And this, “The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter.”

I guess the occasional lacklustre quote polishes the sheen of the better one that much brighter. Still, the point is taken. War only as a last resort when all other options have been explored and found wanting. “ It is better to talk jaw to jaw than to have war,” as the quote was later cleaned up to sound more Churchillian.

War is a declaration of defeat for all the values we as a civilization allegedly hold dear. Reason. Discourse. Consensus. This is especially true when we speak of the metaphorical wars that are proclaimed regularly.

The War on Drugs. A denial of the socio-economic and genetic causes that can lead to horrific personal outcomes. Not to mention that drug use isn’t all inherently bad. Just a blanket criminalized prohibition of something you don’t approve of, easily wished away by three simple words: Just Say No.

The War on Terror. We were attacked! Let’s not stop for a minute to try and understand why it happened and just lash out at all our perceived enemies. They hate us for our freedom, people. Bombs away!

More locally, how about our War on Cars? Traffic sucks. I’m spending more and more time in my car. It must be because downtown elites hate cars and anyone who drives them. What other answer could there be? Let’s end the War on Cars.

And this one just in: I Hate the War on Mayor Rob Ford. It seems some of the mayor’s ardent supporters have seen his falling approval ratings, looked around to discover the reasons for the decline and decided that it’s just because people don’t like him and have declared a war upon his administration. Or in their own words:

You may not like him. You may have voted against him. But LIKE this page if you’re sick and tired of the non-stop character assassination by the media and special-interest groups against Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, who is simply trying to do the job he was elected to do with a mandate from over 50% of Toronto voters!

Now first, a minor quibble. Mayor Rob Ford was not elected “… with a mandate from over 50% of Toronto voters!” Actually, he clocked in at about 47%. Big deal, you say. What’s 3%? Well the ‘over 50%’ claim suggests that a majority of Torontonians voted for Rob Ford which simply isn’t true. And to base some sort of movement on a factual inaccuracy kind of undercuts the entire enterprise, doesn’t it? But, as is often the case, a lie serves as a springboard to war.

More significantly, the people behind I Hate the War on Mayor Rob Ford and their growing legion of Likers want us to believe that the mayor has been laid siege to based solely on ‘non-stop character assassination by the media and special-interest groups’. You see, it has nothing to do with the fact that Mayor Ford has systematically pulled one plank after another out from his campaign platform. The election platform that enticed 47.114% (not ‘over 50%) of voters to vote for Rob Ford last October.

Those who believed that Rob Ford could cut wasteful spending (i.e. The Gravy Train) without cutting services. Guaranteed. Those who believed Rob Ford when he said that the city had a spending problem not a revenue problem. That who believed Rob Ford would bring a new era of openness and transparency to City Hall but now watch as he fundraises for legal fees to fight off a Compliance Audit Committee request for a closer look at his campaign finances.

No. Those now declaring war on The War on Mayor Rob Ford see only spite based criticisms of him based purely on sore-losing and consisting of name calling and other types of ‘non-stop character assassination.’ It is a convenient way of avoiding answering more substantive questions about how spectacularly and quickly the mayor has jettisoned the most basic of his campaign promises. Fiscal responsibility and accountability.

Instead, they are attempting to wrap him up in a cozy blanket of victimhood. (A disturbingly frequent habit of conservative bully boys when faced with mounting opposition.) Any criticism is seen as some sort of personal attack or motivated by nothing more than self-interest, so not worthy of a rational, civil response. They don’t have to engage because they’ve determined that we’ve declared war on the mayor. We’re the irrational ones not them.

How else do you explain the ‘home invasion’ last week by This Hour Has Twenty-Two Minutes’ Marg Delahunty aka Mary Walsh? A bit she’s been doing to politicians now for, I don’t know, 60 years and suddenly it’s become a felony? Never mind that many of the mayor’s detractors agreed with him that the appearance at his home crossed the line and that the story basically grew legs and ran because, for some reason, he saw fit to call 9-1-1 not once, not twice but three times when the police didn’t immediately appear for what was, clearly to everyone but the mayor, a non-emergency situation.

When you’re at war a silly little set-to becomes a ‘home invasion’ as part of some grand conspiracy orchestrated by our ‘state-run broadcaster’. The rhetoric is pitched. The reasoning reduced to nothing more than us-versus-them simplicity. You don’t have to justify or explain yourself to the enemy. That’s something you do in times of peace not war. And in case you haven’t heard, there’s a war going on. A War on Mayor Rob Ford.

peaceably submitted by Cityslikr

Rob F*cking Ford

October 27, 2011

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, I’d like to examine this whole Rob Ford/22 Minutes/911 episode coolly and dispassionately because I think it reveals a couple interesting and disturbing things about our mayor.

Firstly, how is it that a politician who, just one year ago, ran a campaign so masterful that he convinced 47% of Toronto voters that he was something he wasn’t can now so seriously muff such a golden PR moment? I, perhaps one of the least Ford friendly types around, absolutely agree with the mayor when he said that the skit was an ambush that crossed the line. Give politicians their personal space. Stay away from their homes and families. There are so many other opportunities when they’re on the clock for a surprise attack.

But then the mayor had to go and spoil it all by saying something stupid like… well, we all know what he sorta, mighta said. And this is a respectable site we run here. If we’re going to go around dropping the f-bomb, it’ll be on our terms not dictated by some foul-mouthed blowhole.

The thing is, what he said or didn’t say to the 911 operators is not really the salient point. What’s at issue is that the mayor saw fit to call 911 in the first place. He doesn’t really seem to have any risk assessment abilities.

Now, I know he’s a high profile public figure and that there’s been death threats but come on. Even if you don’t know who Marg Delahunty is (and frankly we’d long since forgotten) what was it about her demeanour, her microphone, her Halloween costume that screamed ‘threat’ at the mayor? A threat to humour and entertainment possibly but to his person? To his family’s welfare? Frankly, having watched the clip, I can say that I’ve felt more accosted by people coming to my door trying to sell me water heaters.

Yet it seems the mayor assessed the situation and deemed it menacing enough to call for police back up. Not once. Not twice. Three times?? What could he have possibly said the first time around that didn’t catch his own attention and stop him from proceeding? “Yeah, I’m the fucking mayor of this city and somebody’s outside my house trying to interview me. Send over a cruiser.”

Did he not pause for even one second before acting on his impulse and think, this is probably over the top. The crazy women didn’t follow me to the house. She seems to be walking away, talking to her cameraman. It’s all good now.

You know, overriding that fight-or-flight, reptilian part of our brains that served us well way back on the savannah or even now when our house is on fire but kind of makes us look like jittery, melodramatic crackpots when we don’t stay on top of it during relatively benign encounters. Over-reacting. Catastrophizing, to use cognitive behavioural therapy lingo. There’s a reporter on our doorstep. To the panic room!

Extrapolating just a little from that, you start to see a similar pattern in his approach to governance. We’re $774 million in the hole?! Slash and burn! Slash and burn, people!! The garbage men are on strike?! Make everyone who works for us an essential service! They want to charge me $60 extra bucks to renew my licence?! I’ll cut that and freeze property taxes! How do you like that, punk!?

Oh my God, the PTA has disbanded!!

It’s a question of disproportionality. Perceived threat is exaggerated (“Toronto’s financial foundation is crumbling”), so solution is similarly over the top (10% cut to all departments). If we don’t, if we don’t, people, your property taxes will be raised by 700%. That’s just reality.

No, no. That’s only reality as seen through a lens of rack and ruin. Where any type of government spending (except for those things that keep you safe) is seen as suspicious and anyone not holding exactly similar opinions is a threat. It’s a dark, dim, dystopic view of the world with bogeymen around every corner and under every bed. It’s not conducive to sound leadership or any forward thinking. It’s just about hunkering down, covering your head and lashing out at anyone or anything that hovers too close.

That’s the colour of fear. Nothing productive can ever come of it.

effingly submitted by Cityslikr