Since the recent budget debate at City Hall,
“It wouldn’t have happened on my watch,” he says.
Except, it did.
Mr. Mayor, this is your watch. And, this is happening because of you. You can argue pro or con on each of the spending increases approved by Council in the 2014 budget. You can argue the tax increase is too high or too low. You can argue that some, many, all or none of your recommended spending cuts should have been adopted. But you cannot argue that this is not your watch.
Mayor Ford, you were elected in 2010 for a four-year term. We’re still in it. But, you’ve lost your power – not because Council stripped you of a few nominal privileges. But, because – long before that – your own behavior robbed you of the moral authority that is the mayor’s only real power.
If one believes, as I do, that city government should focus on delivering efficiently the services that only the city can deliver – then, City Hall has very few heroes.
Most councillors are good people – they truly want to help. But, few of them have real management experience. The only way they know how to manage is by “adding on.” By adding on new services. By adding on new costs.
A prudent manager would do what the head of every household does – look first to reallocate the resources you’ve got to reflect your priorities. But, councillors are not prudent managers. And City Staff are not accountable to taxpayers. So, budgets grow and grow. Services expand. Programs get bigger. But, they rarely get better.
Rob Ford was elected in 2010 by a city fed up with the status quo. They didn’t want to keep adding on and on. They wanted prudent management. They wanted reallocation of resources to priorities. They wanted efficiency. They wanted government programs to become more about delivering benefits – and less about employing civil servants with wages and perks the average taxpayer will never enjoy.
Rob Ford was the man they trusted to deliver that. And, for a while, he did. He hired a professional political staff. I was part of it. We worked effectively with councillors and City staff to advance Ford’s agenda. I’m proud of the policy objectives we were able to achieve. Together,
- We did hold the line on spending for three years.
- We did reduce taxes by eliminating the Vehicle Registration Tax.
- We did keep property tax increases under inflation.
- We did reduce costs and improve the quality of service by outsourcing garbage pick up.
- We did negotiate a union contract that saved taxpayers money, that improved management’s ability to manage effectively – and that respected hardworking city employees.
- We did make the TTC an essential service – something that most users, rightly or wrongly, wanted.
- We did reduce Councillors tax-free expense accounts and unreasonable perks.
- We did conduct an unprecedented review of city services that has already saved millions of dollars and, if it is pursued, will save hundreds of millions more over years to come.
- We did change the timing of budgets and ended the culture of using surpluses to false balance the budget.
And Rob Ford, almost singlehandedly, kept the city focused on subways as the best rapid transit solution for Toronto.
He could have done so much more. But, the Mayor lost control of Council. He lost the respect of the civil service. He lost the faith of his political staff. And, he lost the trust of much – though not yet all – of the public.
There are many reasons for this – some of them now painfully obvious to everyone. But, there really is only one person ultimately responsible.
That person, is Rob Ford. Mr. Mayor – this is your watch. You started off strong. You accomplished much. And, you could have done even more. But, you blew it.
If you continue to run for re-election, while ignoring the obvious… If you continue to pollute the campaign with your personal drama… Then, you will extinguish the glimmer of hope that people like me saw for this city we love.
You’ll help elect another socialist who will reverse every gain you – we – worked so hard to achieve in your first two years.
Mr. Mayor. This is your watch. It is what it is. And, it’s over.
You cannot change the past. But, you can protect our future.
The best thing you can do for yourself, for your family and for Toronto, is to step aside. Withdraw from the campaign. Let someone else take the next shift.
Towhey’s Take is a regular 5 minute editorial segment at the end of my Sunday radio program on CFRB Newstalk1010 in Toronto. It normally airs at 2:46 pm. This post is based on an editorial originally broadcast on Feb. 23, 2014.