Mayor Rob Ford: Some thoughts

As a councillor, Rob Ford was all anomaly. He spent nothing on his office, coached a sports team, lived high and talked large. He was also effective: visibly effective. One story (which I do not promise to have exactly right, it’s from memory) will suffice.

Rob Ford as councillor encouraged folks from other wards, as well as his own, to bring problems to his attention. One elderly woman had had a scare in the underground parking lot of her building. In this building, security cameras had been promised, and said to be in the budget, for a year or two but nothing moved. Appeals to the woman’s own councillor had no results. So she called on Rob Ford.

Within a half hour her own concillor’s assistant was on the line, informing her that her building would in fact be getting security cameras. There was a moment of sarcasm when that assistant added something like, and if you need more help, you obviously know where to go.

The next morning our citizen receives a phone call. It’s from Rob Ford’s office. Security cameras are supposed to be being installed, seven of them. Would she go downstairs and check, and let them know this is happening? Please?

All across Toronto there are stories like this. Rob Ford was a sort of folk hero, solving problems other councillors did not get fixed. We liked this.

Then he told us there was a lot of gravy at City Hall, great savings could be achieved, and subways could be financed “by themselves” with public/private partnerships.

On his first day in office he declared the war on the car to be over. Transit City was declared cancelled. Non-subway TTC improvements were put on hold in favour of subways. Consultants were paid to find the gravy. Taxes were repealed (land transfer, I think, and for sure vehicle registration surtax).

Then reality set in. Subways are not universally affordable nor justified. Private firms will not fund them. City Hall gravy that can be found is pretty thin. Deficits loom. TTC general manager needs to be fired without cause. Council revolts.

This is really a sad story. We lost an exceptionally effective councillor. We gained a Mayor whose leadership skills seem to be pretty thin (unlike his skin, which luckily seems to be pretty thick).

My analogy is this. We had a handyman who was really good at fixing a flat. We asked him to design a new engine. He did not have the skills.

He is now trapped in his own statements, promises, tax cuts, deficits, and an unurly council. We lost a great councillor. We need a great mayor. Sorry, Rob, but imho it isn’t you.

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