Sometimes, it's best to lead off with utter arrogance. Maybe I'm way off base; I know that being Mayor of Toronto is an extremely trying position with heaps of responsibility and is, in a lot of respects, utterly thankless. I know that, as a 27-year-old unknown, my chances of victory were less than the chance of Boehner's Republicans agreeing to tax increases to keep the American economy from imploding. Nevertheless, after having observed the situation in Toronto from my perch in New Westminster for the last nine months, I can't help but think that I would have been a better mayor than Rob Ford.
For a while, it was something of a joke. But recently I've started wondering if it shouldn't be serious. Now that the Gravy Train is emerging from that long, dark tunnel, letting us see just what that chuffing engine Hizzoner da Mayor warned us about is pulling, we're in a better position to appraise Rob than we ever were before.
This is a man who made the Gravy Train the centerpiece of his campaign. This is a man whose proposed cycling infrastructure seemed specifically designed to be as inconvenient to use and serve as few people as possible. Fundamentally, this is a man who appears to be led by ideology: a man who does not judge the utility of a concept on its own terms, but only by the manner in which it fits into his existing political worldview. Cycling infrastructure? It takes space away from cars so it's bad. Surface-running LRT? It takes space away from cars so it's bad, despite the fact that surface-running LRT has taken hold in such car-centric sprawltopias as Phoenix and Los Angeles - but I don't expect Rob to know anything about that. Subway? It's underground and fast and people like subways and it doesn't get in the way of cars, so it's good. Who cares if it's a white elephant addendum to a white elephant project that should never have been built the way it is in the first place?
I wouldn't have cancelled Transit City - I liked Transit City. I wouldn't have cancelled the vehicle registration tax, either - in my view, tax decreases are things that should come when things are on an even keel, not when the storms of deficit and debt are tossing ships of state and city around the world. I would have worked to build Toronto to be a better place than I found it, to as much as I could have managed.
I can't help but feel that's part of the problem. Rob does not strike me as a builder or improver. He's a business manager, looking for efficiencies and not really too concerned with the effects of finding them. He's proven the maxim that it's easier to destroy to create - after all, from Transit City to the Fort York pedestrian bridge, it seems as if he's focused disproportionate energy on preventing things from being created.
Creation is a fundamental part of the city. Hopefully Toronto will learn this well in time for 2014. But meanwhile, it's going to be a long three years in Hogtown... and if the city wakes up one fine October morning to find Tim Who-Dat in Queen's Park, it's probably going to seem like forever.