Not even half way through his mandate and Toronto Mayor Rob Ford has enjoyed enough scandal for six mayors.
Just off the top of my head there's his ongoing row with the Toronto Star, which includes his nearly literal row with a Toronto Star reporter last May.
Then there's the bag ban that got passed as a snub to his attempt to repeal the five cent bag fee.
His attempts to bully his agendas on transit and cost cutting.
His brother's seemingly endless flubs, which included last summer's plans for the waterfront that no one but Doug seemed to know about.
Incidents behind the wheel including reading documents while driving 70 kph on the Gardiner, arguing with a transit worker after pulling along side a stopped streetcar and flipping the bird to a family when they called him on texting and driving.
Refusing to attend any Pride Week festivities.
His new year's weight loss campaign that resulted in hardly any weight loss.
Going to the hospital for a bad reaction to something he ate. And then making the Taste of the Danforth the first event he attends after being discharged.
Calling 911 when accosted by a CBC comedienne and camera crew.
Calling 911 on Christmas Eve because of a domestic disturbance at home.
And most recently, being brought to trial for violating the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act for using his City Hall stationary to raise over $3,100 for his private football foundation and then failing to recuse himself from a council vote demanding he return the money.
Of course most people would have thought that with the judge in recess trying to decide if Ford purposefully violated the intent of the MCOI Act, which if he did would mean that Ford is officially fired from his job as Toronto's Mayor, that Ford might take a break from shenanigans and keep his head down. And you'd be wrong.
New allegations arose this past week that Ford was using his mayoral office to support his football charities, support in the form of city vehicles, cell phone minutes, and the time of staff in his office. He also hired a former Varsity Blues quarterback whose sole function in the mayor's office seems to be liaising on behalf of the Mayor with his various football charities. On this, Ford might have skated by if it weren't for the above laundry list of stuff compounding every new infraction. Also, Ford put the kibosh on councillors giving money from their office budget to local sports teams when he took office. I know there's a word for somebody that tells you one thing and does the opposite, but I can't remember what it is right now.
But here's the thing: all this latest drama, I think, has made me sympathetic to Rob Ford. Or at least Rob Ford the man. Rob Ford the politician is still a bully with an inflated sense of self and the reach of his office. Someone who has little regard for people who think different than he does, especially the pea-brained (his impressions) dwellers of the innercity who like transit, diversity, the arts and city services. Everything an Escalade-driving, McMansion-owning, low-tax loving, fast-food take-out eating resident of the 'burbs is supposed to hate. I may hate your politics, Fordsie, but I respect you as a person. And as someone that loves the personalities and policies around politics, I love you.
To me, it would be a shame to see Ford demoted from his office on the whim of a judge. Did he violate the law? I think so. You can't be in politics 10 years and not understand the nature of a conflict of interest, even if you haven't read the full text of the law, as he claims. Aside from Ford's defiant stance that if the court rules him out of office he will run again, even if it is seven years in the future, to see it come to that, over a matter of $3,100 that went to needy kids anyway, doesn't suit me. I would much rather see Ford lose his job at the ballot box than in a courtroom, which with the way things are going, and with a reasonably strong opponent, seems likely in 2014.
For those that love to see politicians behave badly and/or enjoy political humour, Fordsie is a God's Send. Fortunately, he's rebuffed by a strong opposition in city council so the damage he could do is mitigated by a strong system of checks. To understand the appeal of Ford, even to his enemies, you need only look as far as four years ago at former U.S. President George W. Bush. He's one of the guys, a guy you want to have a beer with, etc. I've never bought into any of that, and have long thought that elitism is a word that desperately needs to be reclaimed - at least in the circle of politics - but even I have to admit the appeal of Ford on that account. He's Ralph Kramden come to life! All his schemes come to not in the end as he vehemently ignores sensible advice and abuses the only friend that will follow him through think and thin. Admit it, we've all been there.
As people start piling on Ford the more, the more I find myself sympathetic. Call it the love of the underdog. In a perfect world, Ford would recognize his own faults and try to address them. He might even try to make amends and change how he does business. Part of the humour of Ford's administration is that he doubles down on his decisions no matter how wrong they are, or how uninformed they are, or no matter how many people turn against him on them.
Perhaps a more apt American comparison to Ford is former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin. Palin, like Ford, seems to love the prestige of holding office, but always comes across like they'd much rather being doing different things. They hate compromise, are supremely confident that they're doing things the right way, hate the media save for one or two "friends" in it, and have a distinct distaste for working with people "across the aisle." Yet still, they are both kind of likeable, even to their so-called enemies.
The bottom line is what would we do without Rob Ford? Talk about the issues facing Toronto in a reasoned and informational manner? Elect a mayor that doesn't behave like he's in a Chris Farley movie? Maybe focus on the very real problems in front of the biggest metropolis in the nation, issues like debt, infrastructure, services, transit and taxation, as opposed to sideshows like diets, football, turf wars, general misbehaviour and one too many calls to the police?
Well, let's not go crazy here.