Thursday, July 28, 2011

Toronto Mayor Ford Saves a Buck Over Saving Lives

The he-said, she-said contretemps between a mother and Toronto Mayor Rob Ford has caused quite the media kerfuffle. Outlets vie for exclusives with Ford and with the Torontonian who saw Ford driving and talking on a cell phone and, along with her young daughter, gave him a thumbs down. Another outlet showed him laughing (before the interview was ended by his staff member) at the silliness of her claim that she showed him the finger. Still other outlets interviewed police, to see if they'd charge him, or the TTC union head (because Ford called for drivers to be fired for talking on their cells while driving). The left gleefully jumped up and down at his finger's proof that he's a bully and buffoon. All this outrage over swearing and flipping the bird, a little less over not being charged, and no one talked about the real menace: Ford's distracted driving.

Ford is driving his own van because he claims the limo provided to the city for the Mayor is a perk. He eschews wasteful spending, and so he righteously turned it down. So instead he puts mine and my fellow Torontonians lives at risk. Oh yeah, saving a buck is much better than saving lives. A win for the taxpayer!

The limo is provided by the city in recognition of the fact that being Mayor is a long-hours job; the Mayor must work even during his commute. No safe driver -- no sane person who values the lives of the people on the roads and sidewalks around him -- would try to work and drive at the same time and especially a Mayor of a huge metropolis who leads not just by actions but by example too -- except Ford. This is the real story: the potentially destructive consequence of him saving a buck.

It doesn't surprise me that the police think it's no big deal. After all, they think death and maiming by car is A-OK, given their lack of enforcement unless they're specifically tasked to do so. Imagine a police officer, even an off-duty or on paid-duty one, watching a person being chased by an armed jerk and doing nothing. But they do that all the time with unbelted kids, speeding drivers, distracted drivers.

Journalists, though, have no excuse. Here is a big story about what kind of example Ford is setting and how he's saving dollars at the expense of lives, about how his bad example will infect other drivers to copycat him. Instead they chase the finger. It's easier getting that exclusive of outrage over fingers and fines.

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