By TOM GODFREY
A sidelined Mayor Rob Ford is accusing City Council of returning to their ‘Gravy Train’ manner of doing business by overspending now that he is out of the way.
Within a matter of days recently, Ford lost most of his mayoral powers in what he calls a coup by Council, based on suspicions and without a single charge being laid against him by police.
The hoopla surrounding our Mayor has waned and the foreign media have gone home. The Toronto reporters who were camped outside a second floor elevator leading to the Mayor’s Office at City Hall are covering other stories and, best of all, students can resume their school visits to the Rotunda.
The removal of powers from Ford was to many residents a media-driven surge that erupted during what is normally a slow cycle in the news business. The sensational reports of Ford running amok and internal power struggles at City Hall led to an increase in newspaper sales and television viewers, who were hooked on the latest jaw-dropping revelations of His Worship.
Hard-working Ford staff, one who I have known for 20 years, had long known the boozy inside details surrounding the Mayor – including some of them allegedly being tasked to purchase booze for him, since it was deemed unwise for him to visit a liquor store to purchase spirits as a photo could have appeared on Twitter or other social media to further humiliate him. Many were forced to jump ship to salvage their own careers.
That being said, Mayor Ford is still riding high in the polls. He was elected into office by a majority of voters and still enjoys 30 per cent support, mostly on the strength of his Ford Nation loyalists. His fiscal responsibility message has resonated with voters and he claims to have saved taxpayers $1 billion since taking office.
He is also very popular with members of the Black, African and Caribbean communities, many of whom volunteered to help with his mayoral campaign or attended his popular community picnics.
Most of us accept that Ford’s fall from grace can be placed squarely on his shoulders. We have heard his apologies but the allegations being leveled against him are serious and newsworthy since they touch upon sex, drugs, power and the City’s $14 billion budget.
No one wants to kick the Mayor when he is down, but his behaviour led to where we are today.
Not surprisingly, as chaos reigned on the second floor at City Hall, the media, led by the Toronto Star, smelled blood and began circling to oust Ford. Scrutiny intensified against the Mayor, and his residence was often watched by reporters who, on some days, followed him to work.
City residents also watched in horror as the Mayor started acting bizarre, swearing in public, admitted to purchasing drugs while in office and drinking and driving on occasion. Ford’s behaviour, as we now know, had also caught the attention of police.
Still, no charges were laid against the Mayor as council continued their debates and the business of the city rolled on. There was no panic in our streets and the garbage was being picked up, building permits issued, parking tickets paid and so on.
for the Mayor to enter rehab or take a leave of absence had reached a screaming pitch and the Ford controversy was the lead item on most local newscasts. It also made international news on stations such as CNN and Fox News and had become fodder for late night TV talk shows including David Letterman, Jay Leno and Jimmy Kimmel among others.
Much of the interest in Ford stemmed from reports of a video that allegedly showed him smoking crack, which was seized in a police investigation in which the Mayor’s friend and sometime driver was arrested on drug related charges in Project Traveller,
The Mayor of the fourth largest city in North America was seen on national TV in grainy police black and white surveillance photos meeting secretly with a suspect several times with packages allegedly exchanging hands.
For the first time in Toronto’s history, a sitting mayor had been placed under 24-hour police land and air surveillance, at a cost of millions of dollars to taxpayers, and still no charges were laid against him.
And even though Toronto residents were by now openly poking fun at Ford, with protests being staged for his ouster and several councillors turning their backs on him when he spoke in Council, many still supported him for keeping taxes low and keeping spending down.
But his days in power were grinding to a halt. City Council was tired of Toronto being a brunt of jokes worldwide and wanted Ford out. In two special sessions of council, they swiftly removed most of the powers from the Mayor and gave them to Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly. Ford also lost most of his staff and office budget.
However, during the entire media-propelled crisis, thanks to nameless staff, the business of the city never stopped, though we took a public relations hit that has to be addressed.
Ford was dethroned by himself, the court of public opinion, intense media-driven scrutiny and due to suspicions against him by police. At the end of the day his powers were gone without a shot being fired or a single charge being laid against him.
Ironically, that same day his popularity jumped in the polls.