As Toronto's municipal elections near completion after many months of campaigning, the Ford family continues to make headlines. Much has been written about the Ford family and their political tenure, particularly Rob Ford.
Mentioning the Ford family provokes extremely polarized reactions. Toronto residents either detest the Ford family and their politics or are passionate "Ford Nation" supporters who believe wholeheartedly in the Ford family.
In many respects, the popularity of the Ford family in municipal politics can be attributed to a number of identifiable factors including:
(1) "Sticking Up For The Little Guy": With the perception that society is increasingly dominated by faceless corporations and government bureaucracies, individuals are increasingly looking for solutions that "stick up for the little guy." The Ford family has given the perception that they do this for the city of Toronto. Whether it is distributing their personal cell number or personally visiting constituents, the Ford family has built a reputation amongst constituents as politicians who care for everyone in the community.
(2) Action Oriented: The action-oriented nature of the Ford family, particularly Mayor Rob Ford, is legendary amongst those covering Toronto City Hall. Mayor Rob Ford's ceaseless calls and meetings to address constituent concerns has made him a folk hero amongst those facing government inertia or bureaucratic inaction.
(3) Unrestrained Commentary: Whatever individuals think of the Ford family's "off the cuff" remarks and lack of political correctness, it is a shockingly different message than represented by other politicians and one that appeals to a wide constituency. Many individuals are tired of politicians speaking from tightly scripted speaking points that do not reveal the true personality and thoughts of political candidates.
Whatever constituents think of the messaging antics of the Ford family, it is their "customer service" mantra that resonates with most Toronto residents from across the political spectrum. Toronto residents just like other global urban residents are suffering the effects of a radically changing economy with what they perceive is little or no government support. The changes that are buffering residents include:
(1) Rising Cost of Living: On a global level, with individuals increasingly moving to urban areas from rural ones, the cost of living is increasing. From housing to basic foodstuffs, individuals are faced with constantly rising costs on an annual basis.
(2) Stagnant If Not Declining Income: While costs increase, incomes on a global basis are declining. While many blame globalization, technology also has a role in expanding the number of available employable individuals while also reducing the number of available positions thus driving down wages.
(3) Lack of Support: Whether it is corporations or governments, there is an increasing sense amongst the general populace that they are being left adrift and alone. Whether it is navigating the increasingly harsh waters of the job market or the overwhelming red tape of monolithic government bureaucracy, individuals are increasingly feeling crushed and overwhelmed by the increasing number of things they believe are out of their control.
In many respects, this is why the Ford family's mantra of instantaneous customer service is appealing to Toronto residents. In a world where government bureaucrats continually treat residents as "taxable widgets" instead of citizens and where process overrules logic and common sense, the Ford family's apparent commitment to servicing every constituent complaint is not only refreshing but exactly what some constituents are looking for. The question though is whether or not it is the right approach to a growing and vibrant city.
While addressing individual constituent concerns may work on a piecemeal basis, it doesn't address the fact that there may be hundreds if not thousands of other individuals that maybe suffering from the same issues. So while the Ford family may be to help a small percentage of people needing assistance navigating the monolithic government bureaucracy, it is a small drop in the bucket compared to the thousands of people that need assistance.
While helping even a small number of individuals is a noble gesture, one most wonder if it is a gesture that is on one hand misguided and on the other hand a misallocation of individual effort. The question that one needs to ask is if it takes Herculean intervention for ordinary individuals to get issues addressed then would it not be better to fix the process?
Many ordinary Toronto residents are rightly wary of any politician offering "process transformation" as many previous transformation efforts have either lead to nowhere or have been overly expensive transformation efforts that either produce subpar or no results. That being said though it offers the best solution for politicians and Toronto residents alike to address critical systemic problems that have been temporarily addressed via the stop gap measures of the Ford family.
What politicians like the Ford family fail to grasp is Toronto has within its reach the means to not only improve the lives of residents in a cost of efficient and effective manner but to enable every Toronto resident a means of self-empowerment. Technology and customer-centric processes provides an opportunity for Toronto residents to deal with government without having to beg, cajole or manipulate bureaucrats or antiquated processes on their own schedule with minimal cost to everyone.
While it's definitely an ego boost for politicians like the Ford family and government bureaucrats to feel like they have power over thousands of individuals based on the mere fact they are a chokepoint in the process, the reality is they are undermining the very system they work in by being the chokepoint. As Toronto grows, it needs processes that have less chokepoints and is able to efficiently and effectively serve a growing populace. This is the focus that politicians like the Ford family should aim for, otherwise individuals will start to ignore the system to the detriment of all.
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