Monday, 30 January 2012

Ford's Defensive Line

Rob Ford riding the rails
During the 2010 mayoral race, Rob Ford remarkably controlled the narrative for essentially the entire race as  the other contenders sniped at him from behind. Even when news broke about his arrest in Florida or offering to procure drugs for Dieter Doneit-Henderson he changed the story and controlled the story. 

The first year or so of his mayoralty was a continuation of this as Ford effectively used his aggressive style and the bully pulpit of the mayor to advance his agenda. However, this style only goes so far. Due to changing events, new information and a City Council that finally seems to respect itself in the wake of the budget, Ford is consistently on the defensive for the first time. Consider the weekend roundup of news:
  • Joe Mihevc solicited a legal opinion that Ford did not have the legal authority to unilaterally cancel Transit City. 
  • Adam Vaughan contends selling TCHC standalone housing units won't raise the cash for repairs. Of course, Team Ford didn't have the votes for this and so punted on it at last week's Executive Committee meeting. 
  • Even though he is waiting for Gordon Chong's report to comment (a telling sign), Denzil Minnan-Wong weighed in on Twitter, claiming Council never voted to approve Transit City. He was quickly pointed to this Steve Munro blog post
  • Also on Twitter, old Ford friend Nick Kouvalis tweets close to 50 times yesterday in defense of the Ford plan. Most of his defenses include some variation of claiming Karen Stintz has been duped by council's left or the Ontario Liberal Party. 
  • In addition to Ford's ongoing audit request, his bad lieutenant Giorgio Mammoliti joined him in that respect on Friday (in contrast to Ford, Mammoliti will not appeal). 
In response to consistently bad press, Team Ford has tried to respond with some pretty out-there reasoning. Mike del Grande mounted a defense of underground LRTs as not needing any drivers. Which is technically true, but never done in practice. 

Ford bizarrely argued that underground rail is cheaper in the long-term because it's not exposed to the weather. (This ignores the positive experience with the LRT system in Calgary and Minneapolis and the cost to build and maintain stations underground). Matt Elliott nicely debunks this and other transit myths in that note over at Ford for Toronto. 

In politics, when you're on the defensive you're losing- just ask super-historian Newt Gingrich. It's a look that doesn't suit anyone, but least of all Ford. This is a guy who thrives on the bully pulpit and controlling his surroundings, and sadly it's all he knows how to do. 

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