So, Mayor Ford, what are you going to do next?
People started wondering about Ford’s next steps a few weeks back, soon after the final decisive vote on transit. After that file was so emphatically closed, things seem to slow down around City Hall. Far from waging a transit war, the mayor took to reminding people to keep their dogs leashed.
The Toronto Star’s Daniel Dale asked around, but even the mayor’s closest allies seemed unsure. “I couldn’t say with certainty what’s going to come in the future,” acknowledged Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday, before suggesting that there weren’t many “major” items left on Ford’s agenda. That line of thinking was continued by Ford’s ex-press secretary Adrienne Batra on the weekend, when she declared that most of the mayor’s to-do list was “already done.”
But a look at actual campaign documents released in the weeks leading up to the last municipal election by the Ford For Mayor team tell a different story. Of 34 prominent campaign pledges made in 2010, the mayor has made good on six of them, with partial work complete on two others. In some areas, like customer service or accountability, Ford has made virtually no progress.
While some campaign planks have been conveniently ignored, others have been betrayed. Far from delegating more power to local community councils to make neighbourhood decisions, Ford’s suburban allies have demonstrated a tendency to meddle with downtown issues – digging into the Jarvis bike lane or the Fort York bridge without coordination with local councillors. And instead of more promised community consultation, the mayor has fostered at atmosphere where public input is often limited and discouraged. And forget about allowing deputations at council meetings: when other councillors have asked him to make good on that pledge, the mayor has quickly shot the notion down.
What has the mayor done?
Credit where credit is due, of course: this mayor has his accomplishments. No politician ever succeeds in implementing all their campaign promises – no one expects Ford to hit 100% on the pledge-o-meter.
His most impressive feat isn’t even reflected on the list, but it’s an important one: the labour peace he and his team won for four years deserves mention. Ford surprised virtually every City Hall watcher with his competence and organization on the labour file.
His budget achievements are more dubious, but still noteworthy. Ford’s would-be transformative city budget, approved by council in January, does little more than hold the gross operating budget at 2010 spending levels. The portion of the budget covered by property taxes continued to rise as it always does. In effect, Ford engineered his year-over-year budget decrease on the backs of TTC riders, who were stuck with reductions after a decade of improving service.
The Ford opportunity
It would be well worth Ford’s time to pull out his old campaign documents, because there’s actually a whole lot there that could be palatable to council. Most of his promises to improve customer service, transparency and government accountability are politically viable and would likely prove popular. More than subways or budget busting, the voters gave Ford a mandate to improve customer service, but he’s done little on that issue so far.
Similarly, while some of his individual promises on transportation are outlandish – painting the curbs so people know where to park – there’s some potential there. The mayor’s aim to better synchronize traffic signals aligns with work being done by Councillor Josh Matlow, who has fences that need mending. And the mayor’s desire to better coordinate roadwork could be enormously important as the city embarks on new light rail and streetcar right-of-way projects – a proactive approach here would be far better than his current strategy of pointing at St. Clair Ave and shouting.
More generally, a fresh look at Ford’s campaign promises reveal that this is a mayor with a lot of work still to be done. Yes, he’s locked out of the transit file – deservedly so – and his plan to cut the city budget by $3 billion by 2014 is a pipe dream, but opportunities remain for Rob Ford. There are still a good dozen items on his to-do list that council could endorse.
But Ford can’t afford to coast on his laurels. Not with so much left to do. If the mayor isn’t up for the challenge and won’t take a leadership role on these issues, then council can and will implement an agenda all their own without him.