On Thursday the bombshell story about the recovery of the crack video was dropped by the Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair. News spread quickly around the world. Reactions were mostly negative, and almost no support found online for the Mayor.
My first reaction after reading about it online was that of surprise "OMG, this is a huge story!" My second reaction was that of embarrassment, after seeing a video of the mayor chasing reporters from the driveway of his house. Rob Ford, what is wrong with you? You just don't get it!
I don't know who is in charge of the mayor's PR Strategy, but it seemed like a disaster. My guess is that either (a) The PR manager has poor strategy/no control over his subject or (b) Ford probably has an ongoing behavioural and/or medical problem about which he has no awareness and/or control, and he is probably not following the instructions of the PR adviser.
Contrast that to the current Mayor of Calgary, who looks healthy, is brilliant at communication and PR, and comes across as an approachable person.
The first time I heard the name Rob Ford was in 2006. One day, while changing channels on the TV, I saw a telecast of the Toronto city meeting. There was a plump guy speaking with animated passion in the city hall. He talked about improving the city, reducing wasteful spending, fighting corruption and so on.
I was immediately impressed. I did a Google search for the name that appeared on the TV screen when he spoke. It turned out that he lived in Etobicoke, ON, too. I wrote an e-mail along the following lines: "I saw you speaking on television today, and I thought you were amazing! I agree with many things you said. You speak from the heart and seem honest. I wish you the very best." After a week or two, I received a short response thanking me for my message.
Years later, in late 2010, I learned Rob Ford was mayor. I thought to myself, hey, this is the same guy who replied to my e-mail. I hope he does a good job!
In the past three years, I did not pay too much attention to city politics. I used to get some random information from the Metro or online newspapers and the common words that I saw associated with Rob Ford were "gravy train", "subway expansion", "expense scandal", "conflict of interest", "skipping Pride parade", "crack video", "anger" and "insulting the media." My impression of Ford went from someone who wanted to improve the city to a bully who just insults everyone.
I do not care if he smoked weed or used crack. What he does in his house or room is his personal business. In fact, as per theories of free market economics and Libertarianism, there should be taxes on recreational drugs, not regulations banning them -- theoretically, that will add revenue to state coffers, prevent expenditure on law enforcement, prevent trafficking, and lower prices for the users.
My concern is that he has made a joke of his office by calling the media professionals "a bunch of maggots." His flash anger, impulsive words, tendency to wear emotions on his sleeve and lack of adherence to standard PR protocols have become his own liabilities.
Yes, October 31 began with unfavourable news for him. But what made it worse was his poorly planned response, rather than the news itself. The pictures and videos of him chasing reporters were not classy. These are his fellow citizens -- the residents of the city of which he is Mayor. And that was very rude behaviour.
Contrast that to the behaviour of the Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair at the press conference -- extremely dignified, cautious with the choice of words, and very much in control of himself and the situation. Now that is professionalism the city can be proud of.
If there is anything that I can tell the mayor, it is this: "You have changed from the Rob Ford I saw on TV and admired in 2006. Get some professional help -- for your image, mind, health and body. Stop surrounding yourself with 'yes men'. Learn to use criticism for your benefit, do not resent it. Face reality. Stop insulting people. Stop acting like a victim. Stop making our city a joke in the global media. Learn to relax and to deal smartly with the media professionals -- they are just doing their jobs. The honorable thing to do would be to step down from office or go on leave until you fix your personal problems. I do not know how we can proclaim that we live in a democratic city and country, if such daily chaos is the norm. To sum it up as a social commentator, it is not just about what you did in the past, or what happened to you, but about how you carry yourself, and how you are reacting to the situation publicly, that is making you look like a jerk."
Follow Gerry Som on Twitter: www.twitter.com/gerrysom