Posts Tagged ‘rob ford’
Jennifer Pagliaro‘s Toronto Star article about a controversial raid by Toronto police in a substantially Somali-Canadian neighbourhood touches upon a few Toronto issues: crime, race, poverty, scandal.
Saeda Sidin Hersi woke to what sounded like gunshots.
When police arrived at the Dixon Rd. complex where she lives early morning on June 13, the woman told a news conference she was startled awake.
“It was like a loud, repetitive thunder. It reminded me of gunshots,” the 65-year-old woman said, her story told through a written translation. “I was pinned against a wall, rubber handcuffs holding my hands behind my back and I was pushed onto the floor by what looked like a soldier.”
[. . .]
Later, the woman tells her story inside the apartment where she says police officers in tactical gear broke down her door, threw in a flash bang and tried to handcuff both her and her 96-year-old mother while they arrested her son as part of the sweep — a year-long operation that culminated with the raids last week targeting guns, drugs and alleged gang members.
Her apartment at 340 Dixon Rd. is part of a complex of six buildings known as Dixon City that was the focus of the raid and where police say the alleged gang members of the Dixon City Bloods are based.
But the complex in Little Mogadishu has also been the subject of much controversy after it was linked to a video that appears to show Mayor Rob Ford smoking crack cocaine.
Sources have told the Star police became aware of the existence of the video during surveillance for Project Traveller.
And after reports of the video shown to two Star reporters were published, sources said that during a meeting with staff, the mayor blurted out two units at Dixon Rd. where the video could be located.
Another address on Windsor Rd., which was also subject to a search warrant, was the setting of a now infamous photo taken of Ford and three men — one who was shot and killed in March, and two others who were arrested as part of the sweep.
Gerry Nicholls‘ Toronto Star opinion piece makes the sad but plausible argument that the ongoing polarization of Toronto into downtown and suburban camps explains why Rob Ford’s popularity hasn’t budged.
It’s telling, for instance, that we talk about a “Ford Nation” but never a “Harper Nation” or a “Hudak Nation.”
And “nation” is actually a good word to describe Ford’s support base because in politics tribal instincts run strong.
Stripped to its basic element, politics is really nothing more than a never-ending battle between two warring tribes: “Us” and “Them.”
We vote for a party or for a politician to defend “Us,” the good guys, from “Them,” the bad guys, the outsiders, the people who oppose our interests.
From the Ford Nation’s perspective, “Us” are hard-working, middle class, suburbanites, while “Them” are downtown elites, special interest groups, the media and public sector union bosses.
So what happens when “Them” launches a ferocious attack on Ford Nation’s top man?
The same thing that happens when outsiders attack any nation: its members close ranks and rally around their leader. That’s what Ford Nation is doing now.
Wonkman blogs about why it matters that Toronto’s mayor Rob Ford has refused, for a third year, to attend Toronto Pride. A decade ago, when GLBT rights were that much less mainstream, suburban conservative Mel Lastman went.
Mel went because he was a tremendous baby-kisser. Mel was never happier than when he was shaking hands and meeting new people and mixing with his constituents. Parades and street festivals were incredible fun.
But more importantly, Mel went because Mel recognized that he was mayor of the entire city.
Not just the parts which voted for him, and not just the parts which he found appealing.
One of Mel’s main goals as mayor was to bring the city together: to promote inclusiveness and mutual understanding, to promote and protect minority cultures, to foster an environment where people from all over the world can feel at home.
And if occasionally he had to something he found distasteful or uncomfortable to reach that goal? Mel would pull on his big-boy pants and get it over with.
[. . .]
This was one of the pivotal moments in Mel’s career as mayor. It set the tone for the rest of his term in office. It was a moment when he proved something important to his constituents: all that talk about “inclusiveness” and “mayor of the whole city” was more than just idle political chatter. He was going to put himself out there, he was going to make a good-faith effort to engage with minority cultures on their own terms, and he was going to use his power as mayor to encourage the values he espoused, rather than cynically ditching them after election night.
Mel was not a perfect mayor—but he got this part right. No matter what you thought about his politics and his policies, we all knew that he genuinely loved this city and its people. It’s part of why he absolutely roared to victory in the 2000 mayoral election.
Mel started with a city split nearly in two along ideological and geographic lines, and he turned it into a unified, cohesive and coherent metropolis. He healed the rifts which he himself had inadvertently created. And he left the city more united, more even and more inclusive than he’d found it.
Would that Ford was a tenth of Lastman.
Toronto Star columnist Catherine Porter writes about her visit to the heart of Ford Nation in western Toronto’s Etobicoke. The results make for interesting reading.
I wanted to see if the polls were right: that Ford Nation was emboldened, not shaken, by last week’s allegations. Since Alberta’s Wildrose Party withered on the vine overnight, I don’t trust the polls. But every single Ford supporter I talked to told me that if there was an election tomorrow they’d still vote Ford.
The only person I met who has changed his mind — and not in the way you’d think — was Ron Jasinski. He voted for George Smitherman in 2010. He moved to Ford Nation last year, after discovering city workers wouldn’t be digging up the lead water pipes on his street for another six months or so. He emailed Ford’s office. The mayor called him back that very day.
“He said, ‘We will have a crew there at 7 a.m. tomorrow.’ And 7 a.m. the next day a crew was there replacing the lead water pipes,” said Jasinski, a commercial real estate agent with a honking black Escalade.
“To me, the media comes out worse in this than Rob Ford does,” he said. “People are making allegations, using unnamed sources … If I’m going to say something negative, I’ll say it to your face and use my name. It’s lazy journalism.”
I heard a lot of this. Ford Nation does not believe the Star and Gawker. Nor do they believe the Globe and Mail, which came out with its own investigation into Brother No. 2 this past weekend. They believe there is a vendetta against the Fords and that we journalists are making money along the way. (I pointed a few to a recent American survey that pegged the average newspaper reporter’s salary at $36,000. I don’t think they were swayed.)
Kevin Donovan and Robert Menzie’s Toronto Star article is shocking and upsetting. The implications …
Shortly after news of the video’s existence broke late on the evening of May 16, top aides began discussing the situation. One of those aides was Ford’s logistics man and former high school football coach, David Price.
[. . .]
Price contacted Towhey late on May 17 and asked “hypothetically” what if someone had told him where the video was. “What would we do?” Towhey was asked.
[. . .]
Towhey, a former military man and the most experienced official in Ford’s office, was alarmed at Price’s comments. Price went further and said, “What if a source has told me where the video might be found?”
Shocked, Towhey told Price that the only thing he would advise is going to the police. Price also said that the video may have been the reason that Anthony Smith, a person pictured in a photo with Ford, was killed.
[. . .]
Towhey called police, and shortly before he went in to give a sworn statement on May 18, Price contacted him and passed on the apartment numbers and floor (17th) of a building in Rexdale where Price said his “sources” had told him the video might be found. Price did not identify his sources.
[. . .]
On the morning of May 21, there was a shooting on the same 17th floor of the apartment building that had been identified by Price. That non-fatal shooting is not under investigation by the homicide detectives who interviewed Towhey.
The title of David Rider’s Toronto Star article is slightly misleading, but it at least clears things up in the first two paragraphs.
Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday says that, after speaking to Star reporter Robyn Doolittle, he believes there is a video that appears to show Mayor Rob Ford smoking crack cocaine.
However, Holyday told reporters at city hall on Tuesday that he is not yet convinced the video actually shows Ford taking drugs.
Holyday said he was convinced by Doolittle during a “general conversation,” in the Star’s city hall bureau last week. “She took the time to assure me that she had seen the video and that she believed it . . .
“I believe that there’s a tape all right because she told me there was a tape and I believe what she said. It’s whether the tape is authentic or not.
“I haven’t seen the tape and I think the only way to know to really know if the tape is authentic, and to satisfy everyone, is for it to be found and analyzed and then we would know exactly what we’re dealing with.”
Ford has adamantly declared that there is no cellphone video even though Doolittle and colleague Kevin Donovan both say they were shown it in a car in Etobicoke on May 3. John Cook, editor in chief of U.S. website Gawker, says he was also shown the video and described it in similar terms.
Nichols Köhler‘s extended MacLean’s article has an interesting portrayal of the media representation of Rob Ford, as a man who straddles Toronto’s public and private faces, forcing public recognition that Toronto isn’t all world-class sweetness and light.
As much because of his gaffes as because of his no-nonsense, low-cost, customer-friendly take on municipal government—respect the taxpayers, return their calls—Torontonians of all sorts thrill to Rob Ford. Those who hate him see in him everything that is wrong with their city, from the out-of-control car culture to the rabid condo development to the city’s parochial and low-brow sensibility. Those who love him see themselves in his modest comforts and earthly desires. Ford holds a mirror to the conflicted heart of this city and asks Torontonians why they would ever want to be Manhattan when instead they could be the very best of The Simpsons’ Springfield and Shelbyville combined. Yet though he sold himself to Toronto as a simple man, clearly Ford is anything but—complex, even troubled, he seeks to honour the memory of his father, a provincial politician, but just as often falls short. In his latest scandal he has taken us into the dark place at the edge of the city, a forbidden realm, and transformed himself from a harmless Mayor Quimby figure into a character from a film by David Lynch. Mayor Ford’s most recent troubles find him straddling two Torontos—the wholesome place and the den of iniquity.
[. . .]
For Toronto readers there was something undeniably compelling about Cook’s Gawker account, written with the keen fresh eye of a non-resident. The Gawker story reads like vivid travel literature, a glimpse into the exotic soul of a Toronto many here don’t know or give much thought to, and which exists on the inner suburban fringes outside the downtown core. A vertigo similar to that which accompanied the gender-bending tale of NFL linebacker Manti Te’o, whose fake online girlfriend turned out to be a man, attends the Ford crack-cocaine allegations. But in Ford’s story it is the unusual collision of class, high and low, and race, white and black, that injects a taboo frisson into the mix, a Dickens novel of street drugs and F-bombs.
“Toronto is lovely,” Cook writes before detailing his time spent in the company of youths who “speak in a language other than English.” Cook doesn’t say it, but the Star story is more specific, and suggests that these men are active in the hardscrabble Dixon Road and Kipling Avenue area of west Toronto, a 10-minute drive northwest of Ford’s lushly situated Etobicoke home, and that the language Cook heard was likely Somali. Cook and the Star also published a photograph they said was supplied by these men of Ford posing with three apparent youths, one of whom appears to be Anthony Smith, a 21-year-old Seneca College student who died in March with two bullets in the back of his head. Ford, who is seen in the picture grinning like a rambunctious child—apparently more comfortable than Ford, who is unaccountably shy, ever looks at city hall or in the midst of a crowd of his supporters—reinforcing the impression he is travelling in an underworld. “Smith was, according to our tipster, a kid from the same neighbourhood as the dealers who service Ford, and the photo was taken while Ford was going to the neighbourhood to purchase and smoke crack cocaine,” Cook writes.
Here, then, is a portrait of a wealthy and powerful white man, the mayor of North America’s fourth-largest city and heir to Deco Labels and Tags, a successful business begun by his father, Doug, with his arm around a black youth who died in a gang-related shooting and who can be seen extending his middle finger to the camera. The photograph shocks in part because it depicts Ford, mayor of the surface Toronto of tall glass buildings and urban elites, travelling in a gangland netherworld, lost somewhere in the sprawl of Dixon and Kipling or of such inner Toronto suburbs as Rexdale, where much of the city’s drug crime is located. Not far away is Don Bosco Catholic Secondary School, where Ford coached the Eagles football team until this week, when the Toronto Catholic District School Board dismissed him from the position for saying during a recent television interview that his players would be dead or on drugs were it not for him.
The Gawker and Star accounts, which describe cellphone footage that three reporters say shows Ford inhaling from a glass pipe and uttering obscenities—Justin Trudeau is a “fag,” the football players he coached “just f–king minorities,” according to the Star story—link the mayor to crack cocaine, a drug with a low-rent mystique, the soma of the ghetto. That class marker goes back to the 1980s, when inexpensive crack cocaine fuelled an inner-city epidemic of crime across the U.S. that culminated in the arrest of Washington mayor Marion Barry. Since then it has morphed somewhat in the popular imagination into the vice of tabloid celebrities, of Amy Winehouse and Whitney Houston. So improbable is crack’s use among white professionals, in this popular view of the drug—however misguided it may be—that the phenomenon has spawned an addiction-memoir sub-genre all its own, detailing the exploits of high-functioning or well-heeled users slumming it on the stuff (Bill Clegg, a New York literary agent, with Portrait of an Addict as a Young Man, and New York Times columnist David Carr’s Night of the Gun, to name two).