Tuesday 22 November 2011

Team Ford: Library Edition

Library meeting bingo card created by the always awesome @neville_park at last night's library meeting.  
One important aspect of elections that is frequently forgotten is that voters aren't just choosing who occupies the Mayor's or Premier's or Prime Minister's seat, but an administration and appointees that allow that politician to function. 

So when you elect George W. Bush, you're also getting Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, Alberto Gonzalez and Scooter Libby. For the Toronto Library Board, when you elect Rob Ford you get Michael Foderick and Stephen Dulmage. 

The last two library board meetings illustrate the shortcomings of these appointments.

Two meetings ago, Dulmage suggested 38 library closures, the elimination of library computers and the warehousing of books (read Daniel Dale's excellent summary, particularly the last two paragraphs). This meeting, he seemed entirely uninterested in the proceedings, swivelling around in his chair to look at the map behind him and fanning himself furiously (mind you, the room was hot). He even got into a petty argument about Tim Horton's during someone's deputation. All this from a guy who, according to Adam Chaleff-Freudenthaler, was placed on the board at the suggestion of Adrienne Batra, Ford's Press Secretary. 

Which brings us to the more polished Michael Foderick. A lawyer, Foderick has long been in touch with City Hall, from the early days of the Toronto Youth Cabinet (at age 16) to being fellow TPL board member Cesar Palacio's EA. So you would think he brings an understanding of the process that would be beneficial to the board. But, based on last night's meeting, you'd be wrong. 

He put forward a motion that asked to fire the equivalent of up to 60 full-time library employees in spite of City Librarian Jane Pyper's insistence that this would be a safety concern. His motion also called for using $2 million in development charges to fund operating expenses, a policy that would violate provincial law. 

As Janet Davis tried to describe the problems with these motions and how it would hand control to City Hall's budget committee, Foderick argued that she didn't appreciate the subtlety in what he was doing. Which is, if you've ever seen Davis talk about subtlety, like telling the Pope you're more Catholic.

And everyone was exasperated by this. The audience laughed a few times. Visiting councillor Adam Vaughan threw up his arms as he walked out to visit the overflow room. Other board members were unimpressed; it took Dulmage to second Foderick's motion. 

In the end, his requests were referred to library staff for review where they will be turned down at next month's meeting. But you could have seen this coming. After all, this is an individual who, I'm told, is the only person who has ever been banned from speaking on behalf of the Youth Cabinet because he kept speaking out of turn and misrepresenting their interests. 

Rob Ford has his handlers like Mark Towhey and Batra to rein in his more ill-considered words and ideas (or one would like to think). But their appointments do not have that hand-holding, and it's here that we see the out-of-touch (Dulmage) and poorly-thought-out ideas (Foderick) in full force. If these individuals provide an open book to the thinking of Team Ford, then it's not good. 

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