Opening Statement



Saturday, 16 November 2013

A Day at Rob Ford's City Hall!

My blog title is not without irony. Toronto City Hall is no longer controlled by Toronto Mayor Ford. However, it is also perfectly correct. In the course of his downfall, the mayor has ironically managed to significantly bring the city council together for the first time since he was elected mayor. For how long? That's another story and anyone's guess.


Todays blog begins Friday morning as I headed straight up to the mayors office upon my arrival at Toronto City Hall to join the media throng as Mayor Rob Ford came into work. As usual he raced straight from the elevator to the "fish bowl", the nickname given the mayors office because of the huge transparent glass walls. Camera lights and much shouting followed him all the way, but he was in no mood for any comments or a media scrum. Mr. Rob Ford didn't look very happy, though he still wore a small very indiscernible smirk on his face.


Ford arrives at work

I was somewhat surprised to find the visitors gallery in the council rotunda sparsely seated. A US reporter from New York City sat beside me. He said they had come to photograph the chalk graffiti all over Nathan Square outside city hall from the huge protest on Wednesday, but it had all been erased. He thought this was a great Toronto custom but was surprised it had been removed so fast. Me too.  For his story he'd also walked about asking folks where he could buy some crack but nobody seemed to know. I cringed at that one but understood why his readers would think it is everywhere in Toronto nowadays. Such is the Ford legacy.

Two important motions were passed in rapid succession this morning. Both limited the powers of the mayor until a new one is elected late next year. The mayor can no longer hire nor fire the members of the council executive, make committee appointments or assume emergency powers in the case of a crisis. The council voted almost unanimously against the two Fords with a few abstentions including Councillor Mammoliti. 


This unheard of morning of unanimity has been unprecedented throughout the last 3 years of the Ford administration, when the council right overwhelmingly voted in block to support nearly everyone of the Mayor's controversial neo con whims against the councils small and vastly outnumbered left wing. There was no bullying nor blatant, customary favouritism shown to the mayor by Chair Francis Nunziati, only his embarrassing, incredulous, muttered threats to take everybody to court over the motions they were voting on today.  


Denzil Minon Wong + the Mayor work the floor

In a moment of sheer absurdity the Mayor also accused council of not following the rules nor having any moral scruples, to much hisses and guffaws from the visitors gallery. Councillors from both the left and right were also shaking their heads in disbelief. It was not one of Mr. Fords better moments once again, only a rare unifying moment at Toronto City Hall. His response? He was worried what the cost for taxpayers was going to be due to councils actions today, after they lost in court. This apparently is going to be the thrust of his counter offensive during round 2 on Monday.


Why would anybody bring a kid to meet the mayor now?!?

At lunch I made my way back upstairs to the mayors office where we watched his mad dash from the elevator to his office door. A man waited with a young boy to meet the mayor inside the office reception area. Ford stopped to exchange pleasantries, his only words to anyone, after which he went into his office with his staff, leaving them and us waiting outside for the next hour or so.


Doug Ford -not a happy boy!

Doug Ford charged into his office next door very visibly disturbed, snorting like a bull in heat. He had been arguing all morning that a bad precedent had been set at city hall by the limiting of the mayors powers. However he seemed to be only spinning his wheels to no avail. The limits are only in effect until the next election, and because Rob Ford has refused to take a leave to get help in the face of the many scandals, admissions of substance abuse and for his total lack of good judgement and tact, time and time again.

Toward the end of the lunch break Doug started to walk out his office door, took one look at the horde of reporters and cameramen outside, then headed straight back in and out the private back door instead.


Councillor Mammoliti stops by to schmooze -what a slime bucket!

In all fairness, the media has pretty much taken over the hallways of city hall outside the Ford brothers offices though their sheer numbers, and can be very pushy, and with a strong sense of entitlement, in some cases. I don't mind fighting for my spot as need be but the extreme bullying and pushing can be quite obnoxious.

I saw one t.v. media member order a citizen out of the hallway outside Doug's office. When he tried to physically force + bully me away from the area too we had a most unpleasant encounter. Of course I held my ground, it is a public place over which he had no authority at all. He walked away yelling and threatening me, trying to pretend he was in charge. 

Rather embarrassing, a real cringe moment I should think for all present but that's about it. He however was the exception rather than the rule. Most of the media were considerate of those around them, even if it was just each other. Some went out of the way to be considerate of the citizens in their midst at city hall. Others were indifferent, just doing their job, getting their story but without the nasty edge. For the most part though, citizens beware, it's become quite the lions den! If it's not the politicos or the media, it seemed quite unclear to me whom Toronto City Hall belongs anymore. Quite reminded me of our own teacher unions.


We laughed as the camera men closed up on the mayor sitting nervously at his desk sweating buckets waiting until the very last minute to go back downstairs to council. It is a well known fact, to seemingly everyone but the mayor, that he frequently leaves his door ajar, though it has been mentioned numerous times in the news.

The mayor made a mad last minute dash to the elevator. I was well positioned and managed to get a few good photos with my Ipad. He still wore the same stupid smirk, I mask I think, or maybe he still believes he can turn the situation around. Who knows? So far Mayor Ford has survived for 3 years of scandal, mismanagement and blatant lies about stopping gravy trains and balancing the budget, against all odds.


I backed out of the media crush, tired of the chase. Oddly after the great dramatic race he paused at the elevator to talk to the media after all. I find it hard to think this was unplanned, but with the quirky Mr. Ford who knows? At any rate I had long lost interest in whatever he had to say, and went sat down in a hallway chair to make notes and tweet my photo.

The afternoon, like much of the day seemed quite reserved and anti-climactic. It was a very decisive day at Toronto City Hall, without doubt. However it felt like everyone was just tiredly going through the inevitable motions after the hyper pace of crisis and events over the last week.  It will be interesting to see what happens on Monday as the Ford brothers try mount their counteroffensive, a last stand or not. 


Doug sneaks out an impromptu pow wow.
 
For the afternoon session, a more regular civic minded audience assembled in the visitors gallery as the business turned to the more mundane every day if not more important and pressing affairs of running the city of Toronto. Numerous motions came forth regarding car lanes, condo development, and preserving heritage buildings along the new Scarborough subway line extension. Mayor Ford always had something to say, invariably very reactionary, clearly manipulative, and not very well argued logic wise. However the old Ford magic evaded him. He received little if any support for his kooky ideas and notions and was largely ignored.


Rob Ford -Goon but not forgotten!

Perhaps there is hope for the city of Toronto yet? I might return Monday, to see what the Fords do next. Or just watch it live on CP24, they do a pretty good job. BTAIM the Friday motions present an important turning point in offering hope that some semblance of order and good government can be restored at city hall. The mayor can do whatever he will to try overturn the councils motions. Any victory from here on can only be shallow ones. Rob Ford has finally been exposed for his denial, lies and total lack of integrity. The Ford brother bullies now stand alone stripped of their executive power and council support, laid bare by their clear blatant abuse of political power for all to see.

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