In the TV series Family Guy, to which I likened Accordion City’s mayoral election, there’s an episode in which Peter Griffin discovers that thanks to a technicality, the lot on which his house was built is technically not part of the United States. Fed up with his tax hassles and the city not allowing him to build a pool on his property, he declares his house a sovereign state and names it “Petoria” (because the name “Peterland” was already taken by a gay bar down by the airport).
To carry on with the Family Guy metaphor, Toronto is now Petoria. Rob Ford, whom I likened to Peter Griffin, has decisively won the election. With 1831 out of 1870 polls reporting and 50% voter turnout, here’s how the votes break down:
|Family Guy equivalent
|Percentage of vote
|Every other candidate
|Greased-up Deaf Guy
|Less than 1% each
It’s a fact of democracy that at least sometimes, the candidate you want to win doesn’t. Or perhaps more accurately, the candidate for whom you feel great distaste does. And that’s okay – the people of Toronto have spoken, and they asked for Peter, not Stewie. You work with the mayor you’ve got, and not the mayor you want.
I’ve got to give credit where credit’s due: like him or not, Ford had an actual story to tell. I may not have agreed with it, but he actually had a platform while the others simply reacted by becoming anyone-but-Ford candidates. That, in combination with good use of social media and a team in the field holding regular meetings, “shaking hands and kissing babies”, eventually made the election all about him. As a developer evangelist who works on campaigns of a different sort (but campaigns nonetheless), I’ve got to give the Ford team kudos for succeeding at a difficult task – taking an outsider, “dark horse” candidate up against George Smitherman (who at the start of the campaign had quite a lead) and winning.
So what happens now? Despite the hyperbole you’re going to hear from the left and some of the centre-left, it’s not as if Toronto’s going to be reduced to a smoking hole in the ground or even transformed into a giant, characterless suburb where the most important use for land is parking cars. “Mayor Griffin” still has to win over City Council in order to get things done, and as “Councillor Griffin”, he’s had great trouble getting them onside. For the short term, the worst that will happen is that you’re going to have to deal with the triumphant crowing of right-wing bloggers and website commenters (eagerly awaiting subway trains to bring progressives to the Final Solution) and the braying of Toronto Sun columnist Sue-Ann Levy. Unless you’re a political junkie – and really, I have better things to do – it’s highly unlikely that the mayor’s going to either ruin or make your day.
To my fellow cyclists – and people, I’m a car owner and driver too, with GPS and satellite radio, even! – it’s up to us to keep Toronto a great place to get around by cycle, and yes, car, public transit, foot, pogo stick, whatever. Ford and many others may believe that cyclists are waging a “War on the Car”, when in fact what we really want is for Toronto to be a great place to get around on two self-powered wheels. Bicycles are efficient, cut down on traffic and pollution, save their users money and keep them in shape. But when I’m hauling a lot of computers, groceries or friends around, or when I have to boot up to Microsoft HQ in Mississauga, I’m glad I’ve got the ol’ Honda handy! Surely there’s a way for everyone to get around in the manner they prefer, and we’ve got to band together to remind Ford of this. Toronto Cyclists Union, if you’re reading this, you might want to get me to do some spokesperson work, as I don’t fit the stereotype: Middle-aged guy! Corporate douchebag at a Fortune 50 company! Nice salary! Business casual! Drives stereotypical Asian car! Accordion Player! Frequent flyer points up the wazoo! Bikes downtown!
There’s a bright side to all this: I’m certain that a Ford mayorship is a gift to satirists. There could be lots of grist for the blog mill! At the very least, I’m going to get a lot of mileage out of my collection of Peter Griffin graphics.
And finally, I’m open to the possibility that Ford could pleasantly surprise us. The thought of Toronto’s service unions – long a hiding place for mediocrity –grimacing at the thought of dealing with a mayor who isn’t so beholden to them pleases this accordion player. As Stewie Griffin might say: “Perhaps the Fat Man might prove to be useful after all.”