Posts Tagged ‘politics’
The people of Toronto—the voters—can legitimately ask a politician all kinds of things they have no legal right to know. For instance, what is his position on raising property taxes, or building subways? (He’s not under oath, he has no legal requirement to address these questions!) What sports team does he root for, and where did he go to school? (He is not obligated to discuss his personal life. His own time is his own business.) Is he fit to hold the job, especially since reports have arisen that seem to call that fitness into question? (Private property! Right to silence!)
Indeed, he has a legal right to remain as silent as he wants to be. And voters have the legal right to draw their own conclusions about what that silence says about him. Generally, the public wants to hear both sides of a story—freely offered, not compelled by subpoena—and then make up their mind. But when only one side of the story is offered, what are they to think?
Well, when that one side relies on HEARSAY evidence—I can hear the Law & Order fans who host talk-radio programs shouting—and there is no proof, then you can dismiss it, ’cause it’s hearsay. Jeff McArthur on AM640 loudly took a stab at this line of defence last Friday when the allegations first emerged.
Oy. A couple things. Certainly, in a court of law, second-hand information can be ruled out of order as hearsay.
But, first of all, in this case, what we are reading in the accounts on Gawker and in the Star are not second-hand accounts: It is eyewitness testimony from people who have seen the video. And they directly, in detail, describe what they saw in the video and the circumstances under which they viewed it. They talk about the conversations and negotiations they had with the people who showed them the video. That is not hearsay. That is direct evidence offered by eyewitnesses. And guess what? That is actually how a good deal of the reporting we rely on for most of our news is done!
Also, in the past Ford has actually said that the public has the right to know things.
Toronto journalist Philip Preville writes in Slate about Ford’s record. As Preville notes, the litany of scandals that have gradually paralyzed the Ford administration have taken Ford to a point where he’s no longer effective. Might he have effected some change first?
Until last week the embarrassment that is Rob Ford was our little secret, but now the world has discovered our shame. Toronto is an ambitious city, eager to join the world’s top civic brand names alongside New York, Washington, Paris, and Beijing, instead of being forever relegated to the B-list with Helsinki and Lima, Peru. But it is a strangely contemporary kind of ambition. Torontonians love their city like a helicopter parent loves his kid: proudly but protectively and smothered with projected anxiety.
We want everyone to know Toronto is full of potential, home to stunning Libeskind architecture, gleaming condo towers, solvent banks, and Richard Florida. We did not want anyone to know about Rob Ford. We are embarrassed he was elected, we tell friends from afar who now inquire in droves. We’ve been saying it among ourselves for months, as though it was all someone else’s doing. But we did elect him—and not with entirely disastrous results.
In a city rife with cosmopolitan affectation, Rob Ford has proved to be a highly effective populist. During his 10 years as a suburban ward councilor, Ford built the base of his political support by answering all his calls personally, then showing up on voters’ doorsteps to solve their ensnarement with the civic bureaucracy. His speeches in the council chamber were remarkable only for their inanity. But on budget day, the anti-tax crusader would rail against waste and overspending to the delight of the press gallery.
[. . .]
Once Ford took up office in the Clamshell—local argot for Toronto’s spaceship-like Viljo Revell–designed 1960s city hall—he moved fast to act on his mandate. With the assistance of Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday, a staunch fiscal conservative and a veteran of many council battles, Ford started by slashing councilors’ office budgets. He then dissolved the board of Toronto’s public housing corporation, the largest in North America, whose buildings were rampant with criminal activity and bedbug infestations. He later fired the head of the Toronto Transit Commission, which had sunk into ineptitude, and replaced him with an Australian dedicated to customer service.
Ford has also managed to flatline city expenditures while revoking a much-loathed $60 annual vehicle registration fee. Then he aced his first round of labor negotiations: The city’s largest unions agreed to his terms with barely a whimper, even as he outsourced half the city’s residential waste collection to the private sector. He’s no Michael Bloomberg, but his list of accomplishments is nothing to sneer at, especially when you realize, as the world surely does by now, that he’s a fairly dim bulb.
Apparently as a consequence of ill-judged statements suggesting that his football players would be criminals if not for him, and not because of the ongoing question over an alleged crack video, the Toronto Catholic School Board has fired mayor Rob Ford from his position as coach of the Don Bosco Eagles senior football team.
The TCDSB did not give a clear reason for its decision in a statement released on its website other than to say it is “pursuing a different direction” and thanked Ford for his commitment to the team.
A spokesman later told CBC News the decision is “in no way related to the current allegations. It is due to the review of his March 1 Sun News Network interview.”
John Yan said Ford painted the Don Bosco community negatively when he referred to it as “crime ridden,” and the youth as “gang bangers.”
[. . .]
The mayor’s commitment as volunteer head coach of the north Etobicoke high school football team has not been without controversy.
In November, a TTC bus was diverted off-route to go pick up Don Bosco players at a game after reports that a near brawl was about to break out on the field.
Ford had faced criticism for missing an important council vote to attend the semi-final game that would eventually land the Eagles in the GTA Metro Bowl championship.
“It’s the playoffs, we’re undefeated, we’re No. 2 in the city. We’re in the championship game,” Ford said later, denying any involvement in requesting the bus.
It’s worth noting that even at at the Toronto Sun, comments are not very supportive of Ford.
The National Post‘s Toronto news discussion panel, featuring Chris Selley, Jonathan Goldsbie, and Matt Gurney, tackles the question of the alleged Rob Ford crack video. Their conclusions leave me with the feeling that no one is going to come out of this looking very good–not the media, not the Toronto electorate, certainly not Rob Ford himself–but that this still might not be enough to change things.
Goldsbie: I’ve spent the last few days just assuming that the video would eventually get out, and probably sooner than later. But then I recalled that I took the same approach to the tape in which Rob Ford allegedly cursed out some 911 operators, and now I’m faced with considering the terrifying possibility that the footage may never be released. The thought that — in the absence of hard, publicly-viewable evidence — Ford might try to deny and move on from this allegation, as he has so many others, is upsetting to the point of being enraging. The thing is that, by now, it is difficult to imagine a scandal from which Rob Ford could not somehow escape: he is superhuman in his political abilities, with a hardcore fanbase that would find a way to rationalize a murder charge. Somewhere out there is a video recording that apparently depicts our mayor smoking crack and making disgusting homophobic and racist remarks, and yet nothing in his political experience would suggest to Rob Ford that the appropriate reaction is anything other than to carry on though there weren’t.
Gurney: I tend to agree that we’ll see the video. I’d have no doubt if we were dealing with rational actors. A deal would be reached and honoured. But both the Star and Gawker have said that the gentlemen in possession of the video are involved in the drug trade and their paranoia — making reporters meet them in backs of cars in random places — speaks to their mindset. I wouldn’t be surprised if the intensity of the coverage spooks them and sends them to ground. Again on the assumption that it never comes out, I agree with Chris that the voters would probably conclude that this indeed happened as related by the Star and Gawker. And they’d remember that in 2014. But Council, now? I don’t often give that group of human beings the benefit of the doubt. But here I will. Whatever they conclude about Ford’s alleged use of crack, if the video doesn’t come out, they’ll keep their private thoughts private and get on with the job. That’s good, I suppose. But it also leaves us where we were before the alleged video.
Selley: For now, sure. No point rubbing it in every chance they get. But suddenly it’s just that much more toxic to be seen supporting the Mayor himself, as opposed to happening to agree with him on any given issue. So many of his ideas depend on leaps of faith or logic — casino revenues build subways, for example — that this could become a significant hindrance, at least to the limited extent that the Ford administration operates according to standard rules of space, time and politics. Looking beyond that, it would certainly be an intriguing election dynamic. You’d think it would be easy to run a spirited campaign against an alleged crack-smoker, but it’s a fine line between pariah and victim. Ford’s best political play right now would be to step down, check into rehab — whether or not he really has a problem — and vow to return a better man in 2014. I don’t see that happening.
The good news comes from CP24.com’s Chris Fox.
City council has voted in favour of rejecting any new gaming facilities for Toronto, effectively shutting the book on a multi-billion dollar casino and entertainment complex proposed for downtown.
During a special meeting Tuesday morning, council voted 40-4 against the creation of any new gaming facilities within the city. In a separate vote council also voted 24-20 against the expansion of gaming at Woodbine Racetrack.
A motion from Mayor Rob Ford that would have rejected a downtown casino outright, but left the door open to adding table games at Woodbine Racetrack was defeated 31-13.
“This was about the impact on the citizens of Toronto and the people of Ontario that didn’t want us to put forward a policy that encourages more people to get addicted to gambling and raises money in that fashion,” Coun. Mike Layton told reporters following the vote. “This was about how we treat people in the City of Toronto.”
“The casino vote was what thousands and thousands of Torontonians asked us to do,” added Coun. Paula Fletcher. “This is probably the biggest vote that we will have in our entire term.”
The ongoing media controversy surrounding the alleged tape showing Toronto Mayor Rob Ford using crack and saying stupid things is, well, ongoing. With luck we’ll actually see the alleged video and have its veracity be judged.
My main reaction to the whole controversy is sadness. Between the squalid idea of Toronto’s mayor being addicted to crack (something that I have to say doesn’t strike me as unbelievable, given his past alleged substance abuse and demonstrated patterns of erratic behaviour), the crowdsourcing of fundraising by Gawker to raise the needed funds, and the whole thing, it’s just … sad.
Over at Torontoist, the presence of mayor Rob Ford at a PFLAG ceremony today–documented by Torontoist’s Desmond Cole that might have once been welcomed as a sign of progress became problematic on account of the ongoing scandal.
(Compare Jonathan Goldsbie’s arguably more sympathetic piece “Standing proud” in NOW Toronto. Not to say that Wong-Tam isn’t entirely right to point out that Ford’s progress is positively glacial, of course.)
Today, as they do every May 17, Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) held ceremonies internationally to mark International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia. The Toronto ceremony takes place at the flagpole on the rooftop podium at City Hall—today a more frantic place than usual. As the event unfolded PFLAG president Irene Miller spoke about love and acceptance; as she ended a moving address on acceptance of sexual and gender diversity, Miller urged those in attendance, “hug one another, do not leave without a hug today!”
Then she went directly over to Mayor Rob Ford and embraced him.
[. . .]
After reading a proclamation to open the event, an extremely red-faced Ford stood off to the side, literally cornered near the flagpole on the east side of City Hall. Following his brief embrace with Miller, Ford marched back to a second floor entrance to the building, ignoring questions from the phalanx of reporters asking questions about his alleged drug use and discriminatory comments.
[. . .]
In a conversation with us after the event, Councillor Kristyn Wong Tam (Ward 27, Toronto Centre-Rosedale) applauded the inclusion of two trans speakers, TK and well-known trans activist Enza Anderson. “It’s not often that trans people are able to share the stage publicly and express their pride,” Wong-Tam said. “They are really brave.”
Wong-Tam also expressed strong feelings about the mayor’s attendance at the ceremony. “I was fairly conflicted when I saw him,” said Wong-Tam. She said that while the queer community is constantly trying to reach out to Ford, he rarely responds. “It’s not good enough for someone to show up once a year and then just expect us to applaud him,” she said. “There’s more to being an ally than reading a proclamation prepared for you by staff.”