Rob Ford proved again that he could gather a large crowd of supporters. At the Ford Fest, which took place today at 7 p.m. nearly one thousand people showed up at his family residence to show their support.
His street filled up with parked cars pretty quickly and soon the plaza parking across Royal York was packed with cars as well. Hundreds of people lined up along the street patiently waiting to get their nametags.
Those tags made the conversations easier, because most of the attendees were more than eager to talk with each other. It was interesting to listen to those ordinary people voicing their opinions about the decline of the city and the high taxes. It was easy to see why Ford’s slogan “Respect for Taxpayers” resonated so deeply with them. The many years of taxing and spending by the mayors and the councillors with nothing to show for it have left the people who foot the bill bitter and disappointed.
No wonder that a down-to-earth person like Ford won their support. In his speech he stated that the communication with voters and taxpayers is the most important feedback in his work. He answers all the e-mails and phone calls of people who need help.
He wants them to see results for the money they are paying. The city budget has increased over the last few years from 6 billion to 11 billion dollars, with very little to show for it from the point of view of the working person. Ford wants to cut the excessive expenses like the allowances over the regular salaries of the councillors (salaries are more than enough in his opinion) or the extra money received by the former mayors. To deepen the cuts, he also wants to reduce the number of the councillors to 22.
Ford also wants to increase the transparency of the City Hall procedures, like recording and publishing the way each councillor votes on each issue and letting the public get involved more into the councillors’ meetings.
The crowd applauded his proposal to limit the union death grip over the city by making the TTC an essential service and thus preventing costly strikes. The crowd’s support was not a surprise: everybody who has been stranded for days because of TTC strikes or dealt with their unreliable service, dirty subway cars and busses, and rude staff knows that the situation urgently needs to be addressed.
Ford wants to apply the same approach to garbage collection by contracting it out in a competitive way in order to reduce the costs and increase reliability. That offer was also met enthusiastically, probably most people still remember Mayor Miller’s union buddies, who buried the City in garbage during their strike last year.
But the event didn’t include only speeches. There was great BBQ food, great bands and a lot of fun.
I asked several people why they support Ford and the answers varied from support for the land transfer tax, to liking his program for cutting the City expenses, to stopping the money waste.
But the most interesting reply was that of “Rob” who said that Ford possesses “practical intelligence”, he can see the problems and find practical solutions, while many other politicians have “snobbish intelligence” (he gave Ignatieff as an example). They don’t see your problems as problems and are willing to explain to you that you are not sophisticated enough to understand your situation.
Maybe that’s what we need in Toronto – someone who wants to solve problems, instead of people who “know” better than us how to waste our hard earned money.