Rob Ford Is Like A Crappy Small-Town Sheriff by Carolyn Tripp

The initial reaction to Mayor Ford’s statements concerning the horrific shooting at Danzig Avenue can best be described as a cricket chirp. But at first glance, I suppose he said some things that were correct. He sounded outraged, upset, and understandably so. But as I continued to read his statement in full, I began to analyze the incredulous statements, as well as what he failed to say.

Rob Ford’s track record over his past two years as Mayor seem more like the antics of a small town Sheriff as opposed to the leader of Canada’s largest city. This is an amusing metaphor until it involves dire situations, the scope of which go far beyond the expertise of the guy who’s supposed to be in charge.

There’s a clear trajectory tracking the Mayor’s ineptitudes from being mildly amusing/embarrassing to being distinctly unsettling, but let’s rewind and take a look at some key points on a timeline in which Mayor Ford has found it more important to be a wacky local ranger rather than a competent civic leader. This list is by no means exhaustive.

2010 – presentish: Ford has always been fond of responding to calls about pot holes – sometimes even dealing with them personally. He later created an app so people could report them more effectively. While this approach may seem “hands on” it accounts for very little in the scope of a city as big as Toronto, and only serves to let Ford do his “aw, schucks, I’m common folk” routine. Fine for a Sheriff, bad for a Mayor.

2011: Getting drunk on the town with the locals. I’m not going to tee-total the Mayor. In this regard, he can do what he wants, granted it's in the privacy of his own home. When you’re a mayor and you’re on the town, you’re in the office, and have reserve a little more decorum for “social” situations. However, I do think it’s a poor leadership quality to, for example, get so bombed that you spill your drink (?) all over your shirt and get photographed with a bachelorette party. Again, it might seem all well and good for a Sheriff, but it's bad for a Mayor.

July, 2011: Allegedly giving the finger to a kid and his mom when caught talking on his cell while driving. These are bad actions for a Sheriff and a Mayor, actually.

May, 2012: Cocking his fist and yelling at Toronto Star reporter Daniel Dale. Oh, Sheriff, now you’re just acting crazy. And apparently, that thought might have also crossed Ford's mind: in the wake of the incident, he asked his family if he should step down as Mayor. He also demanded (unsuccessfully) that Dale be banned from future media scrums.

June, 2012: Allegedly driving past the back door of a streetcar and having a civic employee shout at you for your carelessness. Bad Sheriff: You can’t just do whatever you want. Bad Mayor: You may be harbouring fantasies of the Old West, but you can’t just gallop past whomever you want. You have to uphold the laws of this town.

And so, we come to this week. We have a mayor who with predictable frequency, says and does ridiculous things. I was afraid to hear what was going to come out of his mouth in response to last Monday’s tragedy — a tragedy that saw 14-year-old Shyanne Charles and 23-year-old Joshua Yasay killed and twenty-two injured/sent to hospital, including a small infant.

Mourning the Danzig Avenue shooting
“There is no room in Toronto for violent gangs. Some people have suggested there is a gang war brewing. I don’t know if that’s true. But, I do know it’s time for us to declare war on these violent gangs.”

Okay, I don’t find the Sheriff comparison amusing anymore. His blatant ignorance has become disturbing. There’s something childish about the last sentence. No room in Toronto for violent gangs. Yes. Declare war? No. Every detail released about this situation is horrifying, and with conjecture that there was suspected gang involvement, it’s the Mayor’s duty to address the concerns of the public and try to respond accordingly.

“We must use every legal means to make life for these thugs miserable, to put them behind bars, or to run them out of town.  We will not rest until being a gang member is a miserable, undesirable life.”

Yes. Okay. And I have to ask, what’s Mayor Ford’s vision of a “thug”? Wanting to root out and deal with gangs is commendable, and essential, but from this statement it sounds like he wants to mount his horse and chase them into the sunset.

Conversely, does Mayor Ford believe that being a “thug” or a member of a gang is somehow glamorous/desirable? If he has some kind of MTV-inspired notion of every person having a gun, a Rolls, and a gold dollar sign pendant, that’s sad and troubling. If he doesn’t, then I’m just not sure what he’s thinking.

Kids are recruited young, and mostly out of fear and intimidation. They act tough to defend themselves in rough neighbourhoods, and arm themselves because they see few options available to them. Some, eventually, become the aggressors. I understand there are greater complexities to this particular situation, but my assumption is that one doesn’t simply wake up and decide they’re going to have a shoot-out into a group of 200 people.

Or… Do they? I won’t pretend I fully understand why two people open fire at a block party, but it takes a while to accumulate the anger to come to dangerous conclusions, and the Mayor’s office should respond with at least an attempt at understanding of how one becomes involved in gang activity and some adequate ways to prevent it.

But oh, it gets better. In June, the Mayor was also the only vote in council to turn down $350,000 of federal funding for gang prevention, essential money that could not only save the lives of recruited kids, but also those who might one day be in the crossfire. When asked why he voted it down in lieu of recent events, he ignored the question, and instead deflected, stating, “no one helps kids more than I do.”

I don’t have intimate knowledge of what it takes to prevent gang violence. I’ve never worked in police services or any group that’s involved in gang prevention. But whatever the case, and whatever comes out of the investigation over the coming weeks, these run-you-out-of-town statements from civic leaders won’t help. It would be bad enough if this were a statement from a city councilor, but from our Mayor, it’s totally unacceptable.

As I write this, Mayor Ford has completed yet another interview and has made horrid comments concerning “immigrants” even though police, at this point, have given no indication of who the perpetrators might be. This is rash and premature, and again, childish.

And so, what was initially a humorous metaphor about our Mayor-as-Sheriff has quickly turned into something a lot more disturbing. Our faces have fallen from the collective grimace at his insane behaviour to the distinct furrowed brow of a city that, two years in, has had enough. While the situations Ford addresses may be muddied and complex, it’s crystal clear that our Mayor has no idea what he’s doing, and the consequences are a lot more dire than losing a few points in the polls.


This article deals, for the most part, in a foreshortened history of our Mayor running his mouth of and blatant insensitivity. For a more specific, impassioned response to the shootings of July 16th, I recommend Ed Keenan’s article published this week in The Grid.

Carolyn Tripp is an artist and writer based in Toronto who has written for numerous publications including Magenta Magazine, Spacing Magazine, Eye Weekly, C magazine, Mondo Magazine and several blogs and online publications. Updates on articles, essays, and visual projects can be found here.


Post a Comment