Sunday 17 July 2011

Trying to make sense of Rob Ford

Trying to make sense of Rob Ford, his followers on city council and the reasons behind the cuts and spending.

We now know beyond a shadow of a doubt that there is/was no significant waste at city hall in Toronto. The Service Review done by the consultants hired by Ford, KPMG, concluded this. We also know that every year things are pretty tight for the city budget - expenses keep growing and income must be smartly managed to make ends meet.

But, what is baffling many people, including conservatives, is, the reasoning, or what seems to be the lack of reasoning, behind some of the decisions Ford and his followers on council are making. Cancelling millions of dollars in income and spending needlessly to change things when money is tight doesn't make any sense.

Here is one explanation, which is summed in that Ford may be trying to apply rules to what might apply to one business model, to the city administration - which would mean he is ignorant of business in the way of how different types of businesses will have different levels and types of expenses.

Here are 3 more articles trying to make sense of the reasoning behind Ford [Thanks to Orwell's Bastard for bringing these to light.]

The first one, from All Fired Up In the Big Smoke, points to the gangster/Sopranos-like political games Ford could be playing in order to win more support from specific councillors by threatening, indirectly, projects in their wards, and making examples of other councillors and their projects in their wards. Read the post for the details.

The 2nd one is from Toronto Standard, entitled There's a Word For This: Uncompetence, This article explores how Ford is being wilfully and knowingly incompetent because competence is something the elites do, so he must do something else. Read the post for the details. Here are some excerpts:

Meanwhile, in the next circus ring over, the consultants the Fords hired at great expense to hunt down all the waste in the city’s budget are reporting back this week. The results are being dribbled out day by day. So far, we’re on day three.

The surprising results are not surprising at all: The gravy is a lie. While the reports from the consultants at KPMG suggest nips and tucks, the fact remains that the city has to deliver a lot of services that are required by the province, and it’s already running a fairly tight operation. Cuts will be tough.
Incompetence is mismanaging city departments and letting costs get out of hand in the first place. Uncompetence is running on a bogus platform. Uncompetence is cutting taxes in a budget crisis, mandating deep service cuts. Uncompetence is having a better option to fix the situation, but ignoring it because it’s not your style.

The 3rd article, Searching For Council's Conservatives, from Ford For Toronto, looks at how Ford and his Conservative allies on council, are not following any Conservative ideology or reasoning. The conclusion of this article (I've included the excerpt at the end below in bold) pretty much sums up my thoughts on this.

The consultants — who already have a checkered history with this kind of thing, having once produced a report arguing amalgamation would save the Toronto municipalities a significant amount of money — are clear that they aren’t even really looking at efficiencies as much as they’re laying out a list of things that could legally be cut from the city’s portfolio of public services. That this stands contrary to an election promise made by the mayor seems to have been tossed to the curb. 

[Yeah. What's up with the Ford supporters suddenly being gung-ho behind him to cut services, when one of his big campaign promises was to NOT. CUT. SERVICES. !!!???]
I’m not sure what you call the ideology that drives these decisions, but it can’t be conservatism, can it? Certainly not principled conservatism. A conservative would demand to see a business case before spending public money modifying infrastructure. In the case of Jarvis, Birchmount and Pharmacy, there wasn’t one. A conservative wouldn’t turn away provincial money — which the city has said it needs –, especially if there was a guarantee in place that the new positions could be eliminated should the funding ever be removed. (Which was the case.)  A conservative wouldn’t call on the provincial government for funding only months removed from electing to decrease the city’s own revenues, and hours removed from opting out of committed, ongoing provincial money for public health.
I don’t lean even slightly to the right politically, but I would like to think I understand the merits of conservative thinking. It’s about mitigating government risk, off-loading ambition to the private sector and, in times of economic hardship, turning to austerity as opposed to reinvestment. That’s fine. As much as I disagree with that line of thinking on an ideological level, I respect it. I can hold it in my hands and argue against it. It feels firm.

But what we’re seeing at Council these days isn’t that. It’s a weird mishmash of spite-based decision making and conservatism-when-convenient, held up by the enthusiastic wishes of a “silent majority” that only communicate through the cellphones of the mayor and his brother. It’s all glazed over with a slapdash of pseudo-libertarianism, the kind that exists in the minds of high school students who are like halfway through reading Atlas Shrugged.

Rob Ford is Rob Ford. I can’t fault him for that. He’s maddeningly consistent in his anti-government views and has been for years. What disappoints me — and continuously surprises me — is that he has commanded the support of a cabal of once-sensible Liberals and conservatives on Council, and has driven them to this point where Toronto is now governed by a Council with no consistent guiding ideology, principles, or direction.

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