Sunday, October 31, 2010

First On Race Day

Oops...I'm a little too late for the cogent analysis of the Rob Ford phenomenon I'd planned. (The Globe and Mail ran a fantastic piece yesterday that has yet to appear online: between it and the Macleans article linked above, you'll learn everything you need to know about Mr. Ford.)

I like Rob Ford, and I don't know why.

He first came to the Breadbin's attention a scant four months after I had fired up its ovens. Back then, I was considerably more right-wing than I am today; that entry sounds as if it comes direct from Ford country. (Unlike the one I wrote three years later. By then, I'd learned not to trust my initial impression of anything or anyone...while I still applauded Ford's fiscal restraint, I also said he "comes across as a not-particularly-nice man with issues.")

Mr. Ford has said a number of things I do not agree with and can not accept. Just two of many examples: His views on AIDS (unless you're gay or a druggie, there's no problem, and if you're either of those things, the problem is yours, buddy) are simplistic and repulsive in the extreme. As a cyclist, I bristle at this: "I can't support bike lanes. Roads were built for buses, cars, and trucks. My heart bleeds when someone gets killed, but it's their own fault at the end of the day."

That aside, he has a tendency of pulling numbers out of his butt. He faced criticism during the campaign that his proposed cost savings don't add up.

And yet I still like the guy. Go figure. And it goes well beyond the nearly limitless potential for blogging material over the next few years. There are two things about Ford that make (almost) everything else about Ford forgivable, or at least less damning. One, the man genuinely cares about his constituents (and other people's). If you are a City of Toronto resident, even one of those latte-sipping elitist snobs we've heard so much about, and you have a problem with a city service, you can call up Rob Ford and by gar he'll listen. His campaign staffers say they know it sounds impossible, but they swear he's returned 200,000 phone calls over the last ten years--garnering, incidentally, a fair amount of support from people like me who ordinarily wouldn't have looked twice at the man but have been so impressed by his desire to make things better that they couldn't not vote for him.
The other thing about Ford you can take to the bank: he will exercise fiscal restraint. Unlike nearly every other politician who promises to, Ford actually has a legendary track record for pinching pennies. I don't see him changing just because he's mayor now. Will he save what he says he will? Probably not. But will he try? Absolutely. It's refreshing to see a politician whose first instinct is not to suck the taxpayer's teat harder.

Oh, and Ford has been the victim of a disturbing number of vicious ad hominem attacks over the past six months. One Globe article used the word "fat" seventeen times, as if Ford's weight had anything whatsoever to do with...anything whatsoever. He's been described as "boorish", "a hick", a "buffoon" and a "disaster"...and those are just the nice words, penned by those wealthy, credentialled and successful Toronto elites. No, Ford doesn't have a university degree-he dropped out to help his sister overcome a drug addiction--but his family is wealthy, due in large part to blue-collar frugality, and Ford is by any measure a success. Just ask the citizens of Etobicoke, who--denied the chance to return Rob to council with his customary landslide, instead elected...his brother.

The next four years are going to be mighty interesting. I have to admit, I'm kinda rooting for the guy.

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