By TOM GODFREY
Members of the Black, Caribbean and African communities are among those breathing a sigh of relief now that Mayor Rob Ford has been stripped of some of his powers by City Council.
Some say it’s about time Ford took a leave from politics to tend to his personal demons and are fed up that he is sending the wrong messages about drug and alcohol use to our young people, many who may live in social housing and are already exposed to drugs.
How do we explain to our children that it is wrong to smoke crack or drink excessive booze as the mayor admitted to doing while racking up international headlines. Ford’s suspected use of drugs and alcohol, especially when under surveillance by Toronto Police, would have landed any Black youth in jail in a heartbeat.
The Mayor has young children, claims to be a good father, and should not have to be reminded of the dangers of drugs.
He had most of his powers removed for admitting to improper behaviour while in office. He remains a figurehead with his budget sliced, staff reduced from 20 to eight, with little to do and some of his popularity slipping away.
His actions have made you, I and all Torontonians cringe to be the brunt of crack jokes from a lineup of American late night TV hosts ranging from David Letterman, Jay Leno to Jimmy Fallon and others. I saw reports of his exploits on the BBC, Jamaican TV, in the Gleaner, Observer and other international newspapers.
The Mayor’s behaviour does not send the proper message to youngsters and the situation has gotten to a point at City Hall where school tours have been halted by council due to a possible safety risk to students.
Stripping Ford of some of his powers may help silence him even though he has promised to fight tooth and nail for the job again next October. Cracks are developing in ”Ford Nation”, his loyal group of supporters whom he credited for a 30 per cent support in the polls.
The other city councillors, except for brother Doug and a handful of others, have turned against him as they brace up for possibly more explosive anti-Ford disclosures in days ahead stemming from police surveillance reports and upcoming court cases.
City council, by reining in Ford on Monday, can help control some of the PR and possible economic damage his buffoonery has inflicted on Canada’s largest city. It is up to council to embark on a plan to regain our reputation and credibility on the world stage.
With Ford sidelined, we can expect heavy hitters such as John Tory, Olivia Chow, Karen Stintz and Denzil Minnan-Wong among others to jump into the race to run against, in an attempt to defeat, Ford in the next election which is due in October 2014.
Ford is popular with members of the Black community, who made up a large contingent of volunteers on his campaigns or who attended his popular barbecues in Etobicoke and Scarborough last summer.
Our community is more than willing to give someone – a politician or other – a second chance to come clean or redeem themselves since we know well that no one is perfect.
Ford must cure himself or at this rate even Ford Nation loyalists will look at other candidates to support. His erratic behaviour of late and admissions to the use of crack and other drugs does not sit well with those who work with youth.
Toronto Police surveillance shows Ford meeting or phoning dozens of times an accused drug dealer who allegedly passed him packages, including once while he was coaching a football team made up of mostly Black players.
Many community members have said that the Mayor was treated gingerly by police, who are accused of wearing kid’s gloves in investigating Ford. They claim that if it was their sons or other young Blacks being investigated, they would have been carded or arrested by police for the mere suspicion of a crime.
As Ford sits in the penalty box, he should not be counted out in October even though his political foes are circling for blood in a bid to oust him.
Chow has said she has a team in place and is monitoring for campaign opportunities to dethrone Ford. Tory on his CFRB radio show said he is getting ready for a race and is proud of the business leadership he can bring to the city.
Members of the Black community who are Ford loyalists should ask themselves if the Mayor, in name only or not, represents the values we want to instill in our young people, who are already under a great deal of stress from reality.