After several high profile defeats, it seems that 2012 will be a very bad year for Rob Ford. Since I voted for Miller twice, a lot of my friends (ok fine, almost all of my friends) have a hard time understanding my continued support. I voted for him because he was the only candidate with serious fiscally conservative policies. I was willing to overlook his numerous (and highly publicized) personal flaws. My preferred candidate (Rocco Rossi) didn’t gain any traction with the public, so the only other options were George Smitherman (Mr. e-Health and now ORNGE!) and Joe Pantalone (a good guy, but essentially Miller 2.0). That being said, here’s my review of Ford's accomplishments and failures.
The 2012 budget delivered layoffs, funding cuts, service cuts, a property tax increase, and a TTC fare hike. Ford's budget was amended by Council to use $15 Million of the $154 Million surplus to undo some of the more controversial cuts. I think this was a wise move, and Ford should thank Josh Colle for pulling it off. He still delivered a smaller budget than last year, which is a huge feat, and he no longer has to deal with the fallout from Library and TTC cuts. He should have negotiated this deal behind the scenes, which would have saved him from embarrassment. This was one of many unnecessary self-inflicted wounds.
Councillors’ office budgets were cut from $50,000 to $30,000. Their free metropasses and free lunches are gone. He also promised to cut the size of council in half, but this is something determined by the province, not the city. I don’t see it happening.
Ford's bike plan is an anathema to his 'war on the car' base, not good enough for for the TCU types, but great for people like me. Bike lanes on Jarvis were removed; they will be replaced by new lanes on Sherbourne. Toronto may even get its first separated bike lanes. There are also several off-road routes in the works.
Ford promised he’d tackle this issue, but there’s been no action on this file yet.
Low Income Housing
After the Auditor General's shocking findings, Ford managed to replace the TCHC board. He wants to sell off 675 standalone TCHC properties to generate $222 Million for multi-unit TCHC properties. That still leaves a $528 million repair shortfall. He was forced to compromise on the issue recently. I'm optimistic about the new board, but I don't see much happening to address the repair backlog.
Ford's stance on the G20 shenanigans is utterly depressing. He also backed down from a cut to the most bloated city budget of all. I didn't expect much from him in this area, but I'm still disappointed.
Side note: I have my issues with the Star, but their investigative reporting on the G20 was fantastic.
The Vehicle Registration Tax is gone as promised, but the Land Transfer Tax still remains. I don’t see this one being repealed anytime soon, if ever. Property taxes were frozen for 2011 but were hiked 3% for 2012.
The province made the TTC an essential service, preventing any future strikes. Ford scrapped Transit City as promised and made a new deal with the Premier. Then everything went wrong, and Transit City was resurrected. I'll give him points for negotiating a new deal with the Premier, but he should have ensured he had enough votes in Council to get it passed. When it was clear his plan would be defeated, he should have accepted the compromise offered by Stintz and Matlow. When his plan was defeated, he should have humbly accepted his fate instead of calling Council 'irrelevant.' Finally, he shouldn't have fired Gary Webster now. He should either have done it on day 1 to install a manager who would carry out his vision, or he should've waited until the political heat subsided. Instead he's galvanized the left and pissed off the swing votes he needs on Council. This is yet another crisis that could have been easily avoided.
This is one area where the mayor has delivered, although I give most of the credit to Doug Holyday's negotiation skills. The Jobs for Life clause has been neutered, management has more control over scheduling, the wage hike is minimal, and Paramedics are now an essential service. I hope to see more of the same results with the remaining union deals being negotiated now.
After decades of political wrangling, Waterfront Toronto has a full fledged plan, some amazing designs, is proceeding with environmental assessments, and has even completed some projects. Then Doug Ford decided he had a better plan, and proceeded to make a mess of things and embarrass the mayor. What an utter waste of time, effort, and most importantly, political capital. I was under the impression that Doug would provide adult supervision to the more bombastic younger brother, but that's obviously not the case.
Ford has built up an impressive win list, but his most recent (and in my opinion, most impressive) win in the union deal is not getting any play in the media. This is his fault, because he continues to shoot himself in the foot. He should immediately make nice with council to ensure he doesn't actually become a lame duck. Lefties may be celebrating too early though, since he will be mayor for another 3 years. He's been consistently underestimated by his opponents. He was laughed at when he criticized Council's expenses in his early days as a councillor, he was dismissed when he announced his candidacy for mayor, and it was assumed he'd get nothing done once he won the election. He's always defied the odds, and may do so again.