Sep 11

Ford cuts his own staff, then suffers the consequences

The Toronto Star’s Robyn Doolittle:

By his own frugal doing, Ford’s office is short-staffed. Since his victory last October, they’ve struggled to establish an overarching communications strategy and a post-campaign narrative. The Ford brand is murky at the exact moment it’s needed most: selling unpopular cuts to a public that doesn’t want to take its medicine.

The mayor’s spokesperson, Adrienne Batra, spends most of her time managing the brother’s screw-ups.

via Toronto News: Has Rob Ford lost his grip? – thestar.com.

John Lorinc got people talking on Friday with a story on a potential rift between the mayor and his brother Doug , stemming from discontent over the way this administration lost control of the waterfront story. The Star’s David Rider, in a blog post, went so far as to report a rumour that the elder Ford ditched His Worship after a Lingerie Football game, forcing the mayor to take the subway home. (Yeah, that’s a sentence you just read on a political blog.)

But I don’t think a Doug/Rob split is the real story. I’m not even sure such a rift is conceivable. Instead, I think Doolittle nails the underlying issue facing the Ford administration with her quote above: this mayor simply does not have the staff complement in his office to implement the kind of communication and political strategies necessary to effectively navigate the storms he’s been facing.

And the storms are only going to get worse over the next few months.

If you listen to Ford’s (rare) public speeches, they’ve been relentlessly repetitive for months now. He essentially just lists a bunch of mostly-token accomplishments, nearly all of which were achieved in his first couple of months in office (eliminating the vehicle registration tax, cutting council expense budgets) or, in actuality, have not yet been achieved at all (privatizing garbage collection west of Yonge Street; building more subways). He’s a mayor in desperate need of a new message: one that resonates in the current political climate. One that doesn’t seem so stale.

But the people he needs to craft that message appear not to have the capacity to do so. And that capacity isn’t there because the mayor chose to cut it, taking $700,000 out of the mayoral office budget this year.

In other words: the mayor cut a government program — his own office budget — and there were immediate, far-reaching consequences that impacted said government’s ability to effectively do its job. If the mayor needs an example of why cutting staff or resources from a department might be a bad thing, he’s got one viewable from his own desk.

It’s almost poetic.