OK. It was technically not his fault this time:
An incident in which passengers were kicked off two TTC buses so the vehicles could be rerouted to pick up a high school football team coached by Mayor Rob Ford has damaged the reputation of the TTC, says the head of the transit service.
TTC CEO Andy Byford told his commissioners via email on Saturday that he plans to follow up with both Toronto Police and the Mayor’s office.
“The most unfortunate thing about this episode is the damage done to our reputation after more than a year of careful, painstaking steps to improve it,” Mr. Byford said in the email note, which was released along with a statement from the TTC on Sunday. “I am not happy about that and I am certainly not happy that fare paying customers were inconvenienced under these circumstances.”
I wouldn't say that this incident has damage the reputation of the TTC. What would there be to damage? Getting kicked off a bus or streetcar for an unknown reason is not that uncommon. As the article goes onto detail the request for the bus was initially made by the school's principal. The police then made a formal request of the TTC. This again is not unusual. Bringing in TTC resources to help de-escalate a situation with two large groups is probably the sensible thing to do.
The goof here was that the buses were suppose to be sent from a TTC garage, not pulled from a route with passengers on board. Perhaps the situation was desperate and a bus from a garage would have taken too long. Some mid-level manager at Transit Control probably made the decision. At some point the mayor seems to have left a message asking when the bus would be arriving. The optics, naturally, are horrible.
It doesn't seem that Rob Ford has done anything wrong here. Back in September it was revealed that the Mayor had requested the city make some repairs and upgrades in and around his family business, Deco Labels and Tags. A citizen making a request to have the city do a little fix-up work is perfectly reasonable. Thing is that Mayor Ford should have understood that 1) When the Mayor asks for something city staff are going to move quickly 2) The media would find out about the request. Considering the amount of property tax that Deco likely pays each year the request was not unreasonable. But politics and reason are at best nodding acquaintances.
Compare the Mayor with another conservative politician, a fellow Torontonian who also went to High School in Etobicoke. One Stephen Joseph Harper. Unlike Mr Ford the Prime Minister lives in government housing. You might imagine that 24 Sussex Drive is a lavish mansion with all the latest amenities. It certain was, back in the 1950s. The official residence has not had significant renovations in decades. The place is falling to bits and requires millions in repairs and upgrades.
So what has Stephen Harper done? Absolutely nothing. The Crown corporation that manages the property has been trying to get approval for financing, as well getting the Harpers temporarily out, and hit a brick wall each time. The PM knows that the optics of spending $10 million plus on fixing up a 34 bedroom mansion, while preaching austerity, are terrible. Common sense would tell you to fix 24 Sussex. Political sense tells you to let the damn thing fall down and live in a tent rather than provoke accusations of feathering your own nest.
Rob Ford is thinking like an average citizen. This is what gets him into trouble. Normal people occasionally leave early from work to meet personal and family obligations, like coaching a football or hockey team. Reasonably well adjusted people do not spend their time worrying about what the Toronto Star thinks of them. The logic of ordinary life does not apply to politicians. They exist in a parallel universe where perception, impression and distortion typically trump objective reality.
A reasonable person fully informed of a crumbling 24 Sussex, a large taxpayer asking for some repair work or the police calling in a TTC bus to prevent a melee, would probably come to a reasonable conclusion. A few million dollars is peanuts for a federal government that spends about $280 billion dollars a year. Letting the official residence of the Prime Minister go to ruin is penny wise and pound foolish. Making sure that large taxpayers are content with city services is a wise business decision, lest they up and leave to a more accommodating municipality. Heck, you might even call that customer service. Using city resources to prevent dozens of mass arrests at a High School football game is probably a wise decision.
The average citizen when going about his daily routine thinks like that. When thinking about politics they often don't think. Politics is something viewed out of the corner of their eye. They have a limited understanding but, this being a democracy, they feel completely entitled to pontificate on civic administration. Their view of the political scene is coloured by certain assumptions: 1) All politicians are crooks 2) Government bureaucrats are under worked and overpaid 3) The rich are always trying to screw the poor 4) Everyone is an idiot except me.
These assumptions are not necessarily incorrect, but when they get applied in a blanket fashion they can distort public understanding. If the natural inclination of voters wasn't to suspect their elected officials, Rob Ford would not be getting all this negative PR. Nor would he be getting tarred for stuff outside of his control, like the police calling in a TTC bus. But if you think all politicians are crooks it only makes sense to assume that the Mayor was pulling strings so that his football team could get a nice perk.
It doesn't help that the MSM don't much like Rob Ford. The MSM, however, doesn't create the assumptions of ordinary voters it works with them. If people thinking politicians are crooks, the media will unearth every bit of scandal they can find, no matter how trivial. It fits people's preconceived notions. This is something that should have been explained to the mayor years ago. If it was he still hasn't learned his lesson.