If not for his ridiculous weight-loss challenge, Mayor Rob Ford’s general whereabouts over the past few months would be a near-constant mystery. With his schedule private and media appearances curtailed, the mayor’s depressing weekly weigh-ins were often the only time reporters and the public could actually count on seeing Ford at City Hall. Not a great track record for a guy who promised increased transparency and accountability.
And now even the weigh-ins are done. After a string of cancellations — Ford missed five of his last nine scheduled appearances on the scale — the mayor abruptly called an end to the challenge on his radio show yesterday. “I don’t care about the weigh-in,” he told listeners. “I’m not even dieting anymore.”
Reports also indicate that Ford has cut way back on meetings with other councillors and often skips out on glad-handing with dignitaries. Ford’s schedule — which can be obtained only through Freedom of Information requests — reveals few meetings and fewer details. Some days, he reportedly doesn’t even leave his house until noon.
North York councillor and possible 2014 mayoral candidate Shelley Carroll has called Ford an absentee mayor, a shot that had his defenders up in arms last week. But the facts are on her side. By all accounts, he’s just not around City Hall all that much.
On the radio Sunday, the mayor and his brother argued that while, sure, he may not be doing some of the things the media expect him to do, he is out there helping people with their problems. He’s a different kind of politician, after all. Ford Nation didn’t elect him to meet with the usual gang of political activists.
And, yes, Ford has been known to do unusual things. He’s made surprise visits to Toronto Community Housing buildings and showed up to help people deal with unwanted piles of dirt in their backyard. He’s also famous for responding to personal calls made by citizens — between 40 and 50 every day, he said on Sunday.
All that is laudable, but it’s not particularly relevant to the job Ford was elected to do. The mayor can be far more effective sitting at a boardroom table working toward systemic change than he can be dealing with individual complaints.
In other words, Ford’s not going to fix TCHC’s funding issues by visiting tenants and pointing out bed bugs and holes in their walls. To fix TCHC, he actually needs to be the mayor and get to work. The same goes for the city’s other problems.
As it stands, Ford’s recent track record shows that he’d be better suited to a job as city bylaw officer or constituency assistant. Not only would he probably enjoy the work more, he’d also have to tell his supervisor where he is every day.
Read more of Matt Elliott’s take on Toronto politics at Ford For Toronto.