Friday, May 24, 2013

Toronto Is the Fall Out of the Mayor's Dysfunction

I don’t know many alcoholics or drug addicts, but I’ve seen their effect on their kids. And it’s not pretty. This is what’s happening to Toronto, or akin to it.

Mayor Rob Ford has essentially been outed by the anonymous source in the newspapers today who said that Mayor Ford’s Chief of Staff was fired because he’d told the Mayor to “to deal with his “personal problems.”” (Don Peat, The Toronto Sun, 24 May 2013). But it’s not like this is shocking to anyone. We’ve seen the Mayor slowly implode from his first year in office, and his acolytes enable him by buying into the story that it’s all “the Toronto Star’s fault.” At first, it seemed like it was just him being stubborn not to work the system because he was so used to being a loner. And by the time he got a clue, Council was no longer in thrall to him being the city-wide choice of mayor and began to ignore him and to lead instead. Why did Mayor Ford not understand from the get-go the importance of doing the paperwork and working with fractious Councillors, no matter how annoying they may be, in order to get the job done? Was it simple stubbornness as so many assert, or was it alcoholism and drug addiction?

Things settled down, and then he had the court cases. But he won. And briefly, it seemed like Mayor Ford was coming back to life, starting to lead again.

But then he went and groped Sarah Thomson, according to her account, first on Facebook and then in the media. The picture she posted looked like other pictures of Mayor Ford when he’s been alleged to have been drinking. People were polarized, and as was predictable, people sided with the man, Mayor Ford. I note that the police have not laid charges, and in the he-said, she-said manner of these things, clearly they’ve taken his side. But that has always been the way, as far as I’ve seen, when it comes to alcoholics. No, it’s not their fault. It’s not them to blame for the egregious actions, the accusations, the bad behaviour. It’s somebody else’s fault. Or somebody is out to get them. Or it’s all in the other person’s head. The conspiracy theories and blame games abound. His supporters are crying out a man is innocent until proven guilty in Canada. But this is not a matter of guilt or innocence. Alcoholism is not a crime; it’s a disease.

Instead of causing chaos in a family as alcoholics are wont to do, Mayor Ford is causing chaos in the city. We are the fall-out of dysfunctional behaviour. The irony is that if he did say, “I am an alcoholic, and I am going into rehab,” the citizens of Toronto would fall all over themselves in their sympathy. I bet he’d even be a shoo-in for Mayor in the next election.
Twitter Convo Doug Ford w Matness 23 May 2013
This issue is not a matter of ethics or of guilt or incompetence, it’s a matter of a disease, of a brain doing its best to avoid hard truths that is driving Mayor Ford to do what is the worst for him and for us. A week after a video was reported to have been seen showing him smoking crack cocaine, the video is no longer germane, for Mayor Ford with his off-handed denials, his avoidance of the issue, of blaming others (notably  the Toronto Star, avoiding the fact it was the American Gawker that broke the story), of completely abdicating his leadership role, has lost the ability to govern and has plunged Toronto into a crisis, notwithstanding Councillors at every turn trying to say that city business continues.

It may be continuing, but the public is not engaged because we’re busy watching the Mayor implode. And the public needs to be engaged with the humungous problems facing the city, such as beyond-inadequate public transit, insane traffic congestion, aging and inadequate infrastructure, and so on. Just as an alcoholic derails a family so that no member can function adequately even at work, so has Mayor Ford derailed us.

Unfortunately, by the very nature of who he is and the nature of alcoholism in general, unless something drastic happens, I cannot foresee Mayor Ford stepping up to the microphone and saying, “I am an alcoholic, and I am going to get help,” thus allowing the city to settle down and function properly again. I would have thought losing the coaching job of the Don Bosco Eagles would have been the final loss, the ultimate loss that would have tossed the cold water of reality in Mayor Ford’s face. Apparently not. He fired his Chief of Staff instead of facing up to the obvious.

And so unless someone holds an intervention – something Tim Bosma did for his best friend, who thanked Bosma at Bosma’s funeral – Ford is going to keep lurching us Torontonians down the destructive path alcoholics always lead their loved ones down. In the usual way of things, some family members sever ties completely with their family alcoholic, while others continue to enable him or her. We have been enabling Ford. Councillor Doug Ford doing a Harper-style presser, with the caveat that he at least did address the issue, enabled Mayor Ford’s avoidant behaviour. But it’s time for Mayor Ford’s close ones to hold an intervention and for the rest of us to sever ties.

There is no remedy in law to make a mayor leave. Executive Council is issuing a statement that will purportedly urge “Ford to finally address eight-day-old media reports on a video that appears to show him smoking crack.” (Daniel Dale, The Toronto Star, 23 May 2013) But Mayor Ford will remain mayor unless he himself chooses to take a leave of absence. I would say that he needs at least six months off to go into rehab, get clean, and become strong enough to withstand the pressures of the office without falling back into old maladaptive habits. Barring that, while Ford scandals rage and distract, Council will strain to lead the city as it has been doing so for about the past year or so, ever since Councillor Karen Stintz led the TTC revolt on Council, until 2014. Not good.

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