On November 26, 2012, Toronto Mayor Rob Ford was found guilty of breaking provincial conflict of interest law, and has been ordered to leave the mayoral office in 14 days. He can appeal the ruling, and likely will.
Here are some of the lessons I have learned from the troubled and short reign of mayor Rob Ford:
- As a public official, you must always be vigilant to act in an ethical and legal manner. No matter how small or inconsequential it might seem to you, even the slightest transgression can come back to haunt you.
- Learn to reach across the aisle. You may disagree with someone politically, but it is unwise to cut yourself off from everyone who disagrees with you. You don't want to live in an echo chamber, and you don't want to create such a hostile environment that your opposition will have no sympathy for you when you fall. This goes for the Left, the Right, and everything in between.
- Respect the media. All the media. If you don't speak to a newspaper that you disagree with, then they will print whatever they want without you.
- Understand the local issues, and be open to changing your opinion once you have reviewed all the facts. Yes, your constituency might react poorly, but you will ultimately make for a more just and open-minded (and better) leader if you consider both sides of an issue before making a decision.
- People hate nothing more than hypocrisy in politicians. Corrupt politicians who complain about corruption. Lazy politicians who complain about waste. Lying politicians who complain about a lack of accountability. Nobody is perfect, but if you are going to launch an attack, do your best to live by the principles you espouse.
- Learn how to represent your city's issues nationally and internationally. Speak with decorum and political savvy. As a politician, you are also a diplomat. Understand what the expectations are, and represent your city with dignity and grace.
- There is no such thing as easy money. Good fiscal responsibility requires long-term planning and cautious fiscal management. A ferris wheel or casino are not viable solutions to serious financial problems.
- Be repentant when you err. Admit when you are wrong. Pick your battles. Do your research, and you will always speak with authority.
- Your reputation is everything. Being removed from office for a conflict of interest is not as shameful as being arrested for crack cocaine use, but it's hardly something to celebrate.
- When you are a politician, your life becomes your job. That means you have to give up some of your hobbies. If you don't like it, don't run for office.