Rob Ford smoked crack. So what? He lied about it. Big deal. He also drank excessively, cavorted with alleged gang members, publicly embarrassed his wife and near trampled over a fellow councilor. Yeah, yeah, yeah, tell me something I don't know. Oh, and he plans to run for a second term as Mayor of the Greater Toronto Area in the Fall 2014 election. Really?
Pollsters and political strategists are turning themselves inside out trying to fathom how Rob Ford could possibly be reelected. Particularly after a year of scandal that has made Toronto the brunt of late night comedians and gossip columnists. The truth is we Torontonians may just be over the scandal. The mayor is only one of 45 council members and it would not take very much, even for us skeptics, to see him return to power simply by changing the conversation from drug use, public gaffes and branded fridge magnets to the issues that matter most to Torontonians.
Here then is a prescription for six actions that would be good for Toronto in 2014, even if by default they result in four more years of Mayor Rob Ford.
1. Invest in public transit. Spending on transit has never been seen as a vote winner, but the city's fast growing populace is demanding change. A candidate that taps into this with a sound, long term plan will surely be a vote winner.
2. Support bike transit. Bike lanes may irk some, but Toronto's next mayor will be on the right side of this debate with a multi-year commitment to creating safe, dedicated bike paths. The world's great cities are investing in bike culture and Toronto should too.
3. Enforce traffic regulations.Commuting time is ranked among the issues that most frustrate Torontonians. Expanding roadways will take a generation. Enforcing rush hour prohibited parking, illegal turns and overtaking lane hogs can start today. It's simple and it works.
4. Support the arts.Toronto's commitment to the arts is sorely lacking at just $19 per capita. This compares to $47 in Vancouver and $55 in Montreal. Yet as renowned urban studies theorist Richard Florida demonstrated in The Rise of the Creative Class, a creative culture can translate into new ideas, economic and regional growth. Increasing support for the arts is good for Toronto culture, but it makes sound economic sense too.
5. Make peace with the police. Toronto's crime rate declined by an impressive 7 per cent in 2012, making it one of the safest large cities in North America. But we cannot be complacent. Toronto police chief Bill Blair will need to be able to work closely with the mayor to tackle law enforcement policy as the city continues its fast track growth.
6. Collaborate. A successful mayor is the CEO for a city. He or she needs a vision for the city that is articulated to its residents, and then should set a strategy to realize it. Importantly the Mayor also sets the tone for governing. A council led by a collaborative leader has the ability to bring meaningful and lasting change that inspires others to be and do better. Is that too much for Toronto to ask for in 2014 and beyond?
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