Photo by the National Post, with captions by Yours Truly.
Take a look at the photo above. Pictured on the right is Accordion City’s Peter Griffin-esque mayor Rob Ford at the press conference in which he said — a full week after the “crack video” story broke — that “I do not use crack cocaine nor am I an addict of crack cocaine”. In the middle is his protective older brother, Doug Ford, city councillor and co-star of a talk radio show in which they portray themselves as “everyman” types to the gullible sort that take talk radio seriously. Standing in the doorway, perhaps looking to the heavens for guidance, is Mayor Ford’s then-press secretary George Christopoulos. He’s now former press secretary George Christopoulos, because along with deputy communications officer Isaac Ransom, he quit yesterday. The CBC reports that the two left “on principle”.
If you’ve ever worked in a toxic workplace, you’ve seen this departure pattern before.
All this follows the Thursday firing of the Mayor’s chief of staff Mark Towhey. No official statement has been released to explain the firing, but reports say that it’s because Towhey suggested that the mayor “go away and get help”.
Other reports says that the firing was over football.
The Mayor has ducked out — sometimes during city council meetings, and even once during the trial in which he was being sued for libel — to do what he seems to really love: coach the Don Bosco Eagles, a high school football team. He’s shared the love with his staff, some of whom have been “voluntold” to help out with his football duties, as well as with Toronto commuters, after they were left stranded in the rain while a public transit bus was commandeered to whisk the football team away before a fight broke out with an opposing team. He’s even been brought to trial over a conflict of interest over this football team.
Unfortunately for Ford, the Toronto District Catholic School Board, who oversee the city’s various Catholic schools including that of my alma mater, chose to fire him last week. Ford’s various antics, including referring to the school’s neighbourhood as “crime-ridden” and some of the students as “gang bangers”, didn’t please the board, so they jettisoned him before he could do any further damage, phrasing it nicely in an official statement as “”This decision is based on what is best for our students, our school and the Don Bosco community.” Of all the things that have happened over the past few days, this one is likely the one that stung Ford the most.
A report in the Toronto Sun — home of Ford cheerleader Sue-Ann Levy — says that the firing was over a goodbye party that Ford planned to throw for the football team after his firing and that he was using his staff to put it together. The report says that Towhey suggested the party was a bad idea.
But worry not, football and Ford fans — there’s still a little football in the Mayor’s life. He recently hired Xhejsi “JC” Hasko, former Don Bosco Eagles football player and one of his old assistant coaches, to as a special assistant to the Mayor’s office.
In the meantime, the Rob Ford “Crackstarter” campaign — Gawker’s fund-raiser to collect $200,000 to buy the “crack video” from the dealers who claim to have it — has reached its target.
I have argued that the campaign is a bad idea, but the free market has spoken. I’m uncomfortable with the idea of giving money to people who thrive on misery and produce violence as a byproduct, as well as the “chequebook journalism” that my friend Ethan Zuckerman suggests this is. Enough people feel strongly enough to have donated enough money to make it a success — or a would-be success, as the people who purport to be in possession of the video have not responded to Gawker’s attempt to reach them again.
I think that journalist, friend and fellow accordionist Ivor Tossell hit the nail oh-so-squarely on the head when he wrote:
Years hence, we’ll cringe to remember that, for a few days, a cross-border scheme to funnel $200,000 in crowdfunded money to drug dealers was widely viewed as Toronto’s last, best shot at political accountability.
In the media brouhaha over Rob Ford is a non-story about his brother Doug. The Globe and Mail did an expose on Doug’s alleged days as a weed dealer back in the 1980s, citing unnamed sources. As much as I disagree with the Fords on any number of their policies (I also agree with a few), any stint he may have had selling marijuana 30 years ago is as germane to the issue of Rob Ford’s fitness for duty as mayor as his sister’s alleged flirtation with white supremacist groups (which was likely a misguided form of rebellion against her parents) or his former brother-in-law’s vicious knife attack that blinded a woman in one eye.
At worst, they tell the story of a family beseiged by a run of bad luck or a tendency to make bad life choices, but they have nothing at all to do with the way Rob Ford runs the city.
Image from The Bupner Report.
In the meantime, the federal government is probably thanking its lucky stars that Ford’s follies are providing excellent cover for weightier stuff, such as Senator (a nice word for “person who gets to make laws, despite being unelected”) Mike Duffy inappropriately claiming $90,000 in expenses, and then being written a personal cheque by the Prime Minister’s Prime Minister’s chief of staff to cover those costs.