Thursday, August 16, 2012



If Rob Ford was a lefty driving a rusty Ford, there wouldn't be this fuss.
But Mayor Ford is a righty driving his very own brand new Caddy.
So we have the squealing over him being photographed apparently reading while driving on the Gardiner. Apparently the traffic was actually moving for a change,  the anti-car policies of his opposition, the socialists and gLiberals, not working for one blessed moment.
Let me make observations as someone who has ridden a lot with chauffeur-driven politicians and CEOs because of 50 years of journalism. And I think the drivers are worth their weight in stock options. I've seen the evidence.
Shouldn't we thank the mayor for driving himself in his own car when he was entitled to follow in the tire tracks of many mayors and major politicians in being driven around by a chauffeur and car provided at taxpayers' expense?
Since we don't know just how long he was reading, or what he was reading, he may be guilty only of doing what many of us have. A glance. If you disagree, then you boast that you pull over to the side of the road every time you look at a map or an address. Which is a lot of hooey!
I suspect he was briefly at a speech or some report to refresh his memory. After all, the mayor has many faults but let's not pretend he doesn't pay attention to the traffic around him.
And to dig up an old offence for drinking and driving in Florida strikes me as meaness by sanctimonious citizens and media who believe in not hanging murderers and giving thieves a second chance but not, bigawd, that plump mayor who believes in driving himself to reduce the costs of city administration.
I agree with the law against hand held cell phones. I believe in cops pulling over drivers who are shaving or doing their makeup or are otherwise distracted from the task at hand, not running over me.
So I am not trivializing the incident, but it was an incident and not an accident.
I have fumed behind too many drivers meandering across lanes or driving too slowly not to think that drivers should concentrate on driving, not on any other task. So use cell phones with the hands-free gadgets which are simple and inexpensive and let's not being texting or reading text or generally being a distracted jerk.
But back to the main point, Ford isn't doing us a great favour when he scorns this useful trapping of power, the free car and driver. As I have written before, politicians and bosses with huge responsibilities SHOULD use a car and driver because it makes them more efficient and the public benefits in the long or even the short run. They can read background documents while the rest of us seethe in traffic jams. They can make more visits, just plain do more work.
In the early days of the regional city, the first Metro chairman, Fred Gardiner, had a tiny staff. So he spent every evening being driving around by a secretary/bookkeeper monitoring the vast infrastructure improvements. The same big car used to carry Big Daddy, reporters and anyone who wanted to hitch a ride between our offices in old City Hall and where the Metro meetings were held in an old York county building.
Big Daddy, a nickname from the comics, retired to a job as hydro commissioner where he took a car and driver as his main compensation. We benefited from his enormous knowledge.
Nathan Phillips, the Mayor of All the People, who was mayor of  Toronto longer than anyone except for Art Eggleton, used to have the limousine stop at Avenue Rd. and St. Clair in the morning and ask people at the TTC stop whether they wanted a ride downtown in "their" car.
The four controllers, who along with the mayor formed the council executive, each had a car and driver. That old Board of Control functioned better, as one result, than the current bloated city executive.
Paul Godfrey, who is famous for dealing with calls and problems on the same day, used a car and driver as Metro chairman and newspaper and baseball boss and still talks about just how much more a person can do when they don't have to worry about driving and parking. (His driver, an old school friend, had to be directed by Godfrey in the early years because he didn't know downtown.)
Doug Creighton, the Sun founder, rode up front with his driver/friend and scorned anyone who didn't. Since Doug was a regular on the social scene and spent long hours at work and play, not even the greenest of our reporters questioned how the boss moved around town.
The drivers hardly sit around during long meetings. They are often used as couriers and take over some petty chores for the boss. Their uses are as different as the city streets.. I even remember the time Big Daddy's car and driver delivered a drug addict to hospital after she got the shakes testifying before him at a Metro Licensing Commission meeting.
Ford is hardly the first mayor to have police say he should have a driver. Police demanded that Hazel McCallion get a driver out in Mississauga, thus easing the anxiety of all the people hosting late night events that McCallion loved to attend. She drove the way she avoided conflicts of interest. Not very well!
Ford suffers because he doesn't look mayoral, more like the bully/fat guy in high school who can't get a date. He has the right philosophy towards spending but is awkward, to say the least, at implementation. He just hasn't thought enough issues through.
 I think he too often stumbles from gaffe to mistake, because his wing man, his brother, has the political instincts of a beaver. It should have been obvious to both of them that it would be better for all of us if the mayor was driven by someone. The only people who criticize a major mayor or politician for a car and driver are those who don't know a damn thing about how the real world, and Toronto traffic, works.
May they be doomed to forever live at King and Yonge at 5 p.m. on a hot summer day. Then their objections will melt along with the pavement.
Of course in the end Ford will be given a driver. And this fuss will die down... until he puts his foot in it - or his mouth - again.
There is another good result, according to the quip from a former Ford colleague who wishes to remain anonymous (CNE  president Brian Ashton.) "At least now we know he can read!"

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