Rob Ford gets back to basics, harangues councillors about office expenses
After a rough year in the press, and with the 2014 mayoral election well underway, we can’t blame Rob Ford for reaching for his political security blanket: councillor expense accounts. On Monday, according to the Sun, a “just livid” mayor stormed out of his office to hold an impromptu press conference in which he condemned councillors for spending what he deemed “absolutely appalling” amounts of public money on things like office renovations.
According to the newly released totals for 2013, the two biggest spenders were councillors Giorgio Mammoliti and Anthony Perruzza, both of whom are (or were) the mayor’s allies. “This really burns me up and this is something that has to be brought to the taxpayers’ attention, which is what I will be doing,” Ford told reporters.
Except, he’s already done it.
Every city councillor has an office budget that he or she can use for job-related expenses like office supplies. During his years on city council, Ford used his time on talk radio to harangue other councillors for using their expense accounts in ways he considered inappropriate. He even started posting the expense reports of other councillors on his constituency website. In time, Ford’s advocacy led to councillor expense reports being published routinely on the city’s official website. It was a win for transparency—and, even though it has led to some unbelievably petty media coverage, it’s arguably the most useful thing he has ever had a hand in.
The issue—and the legend of his own office budget, which was always zero, because he’d pay for supplies out-of-pocket—became the foundation of Ford’s citywide fame and of his eventual rise to the mayoralty. After being elected mayor, he led council in a vote to slash office budgets by about $23,000 per councillor (the allocation per councillor is currently $30,450), though some of those savings were rolled back in a subsequent vote.
For Ford to return, yet again, to this well of outrage is sort of like a Hollywood studio rebooting a beloved superhero franchise. The mayor is trying to go back to zero, so he can build a comeback bid from the very essence of his popular appeal. Well, it worked for Batman.