Spooked by a middle-aged woman who looked like she just flounced off the set of an amateur Wagner production, Mayor Rob Ford seems to have neglected the remedial math homework I assigned a couple of weeks ago in this space.
Case in point: on Friday, Brother Doug helpfully emailed around a lengthy list of year one accomplishments – real and imagined – that claims, right near the top, that the Ford administration saved the taxpayers a whopping $899,000 by reducing councillors’ annual office expense budgets from $50,445 to $30,000.
To get $899,000, one multiplies 44 times the difference between $50,445 and $30,000 (brackets first). Alas, most councillors don’t spend the whole sum – not even close, as we can all see from the councilor expense disclosure.
So let’s tease apart this claim.
Under the profligate ways of l’ancien regime, the maximum councilor expense spend would be $2.2 million (that’s 44 x $50,445 if you’re following along). But as the spending disclosure report clearly indicates, the total expense outlay for 2010 was just $1.55 million (I’m rounding). The maximum allowable under the new system of fiscal Fordism is $1.32 million. In other words, the real savings is just under $230,000, which is a much, much smaller number than $899,000.
Indeed, if one takes Ford’s anniversary boast about office expense budgets on its face, one would be compelled to conclude that every councilor had maxed out their spending, including – shuffle…mutter… — one Doug Ford of Etobicoke North.
Seriously, the mayor’s circulated list of achievements includes the headlining items (cancelling the vehicle registration tax, eliminating councilor snacks, making the TTC an essential service) and a few that have nothing to do with him (establishing a consultation strategy for a parks plan and a management strategy to contain the billioemerald ash borer). It also cites the strong-arm moves – e.g. the creation of Giorgio Mammolitti’s childcare task force, which meets in private, and the “forced” resignation of the Toronto Community Housing Corp. board – that have given the Ford administration its well deserved reputation for bullying and opacity.
The list includes a few bloopers – e.g., the short-lived tenure of the mayor’s special advisor on the arts (i.e., the National Ballet’s Jeff Melanson, who apparently enjoyed the gig so much he actually left the city).
And then there’s this chestnut about the Core Services Review: “$25 million in savings…by rationalization of service delivery in a manner which does not affect front line services.” The city, it should be noted, paid $3 million for KPMG’s premium advice, so the cuts to date appear to have cost the city 12 cents on the dollar.
But what about the rest of it, Mr. Mayor? Aren’t you the guy who boldly promised during last year’s election to slash $3-billion in gravy-train spending – which is just south of the quantum of the city’s annual property tax revenue — over four years without touching service levels? By his own admission, Ford has achieved just 3% of what he’d pledged to chop in the first year of his tenure. Given that those modest cuts are giving council a case of the willies, it’s hard to see how he’s going to come up with the remaining 97% without a whole lot of magical thinking.
Here are a few realty-based year-one numbers to leaven his rah-rah entries:
$55, 327.63 – amount of fundraised cash he’s paid lawyer Tom Barlow to fight a compliance audit of his campaign finances, notwithstanding his claim that he abided by those same rules;
$110,008.65 – value of the goods and services Ford’s campaign purchased from Deco Labels and Tags, the family company, during the campaign;
$77,722.31 – amount a Ford family holding company advanced to the campaign to pay for early expenses, despite provincial election rules that clearly state that such outlays must be paid from a bank account;
$500,000 – amount authorized by the Toronto Port Lands Corp. to pay for consultants’ studies for a new waterfront plan, even though the agency’s mandate is explicitly restricted to leasing and remediating city property;
$13,362.25 – amount of the waived City of Toronto fine levied against the Ford campaign for almost 500 violations of the election sign bylaw;
$1,579.15 – amount the mayor’s office quietly paid Deco in March for 20,600 business cards, a purchase not subject to an open tender, as per city regulations, nor disclosed in the mayor’s published expense reports until it came to light in a Globe and Mail access to information request;
$0 – the amount Brother Doug purports to spend on his office expenses, notwithstanding an explicit city policy that members of council must disclose on all office-related expenditure paid for with private funds.
All these numbers do seem to be adding up to something significant, although that particular sum has nothing to do with keeping political promises.