LOWENSTEIN: A crack in Toronto’s reputation

Being from Toronto gives me great pride. The cosmopolitan city is a mosaic of culture, and home to people of all walks of life. The public school system is excellent, the streets are clean and, in true Canadian fashion, the people are generally friendly and good-natured. But the city has one massive problem: its mayor, Rob Ford. Over the last few weeks, Mayor Ford has, unfortunately, made it difficult for Toronto’s beauty to shine through. As if Canada wasn’t funny enough already, the mayor of its largest city is now an international farce.

In case you’ve missed the recent tumultuous saga of Ford’s career, here are some highlights. Since Toronto Police confirmed on Oct. 31 that they had obtained a video allegedly showing Ford smoking crack cocaine, Ford has confessed to smoking crack while in office, been caught on video swearing profusely and yelling threats of violence, apologized for said video by saying that he was “extremely inebriated,” admitted to purchasing illegal drugs while in office, conceded to claims of drinking and driving and refuted oral sex allegations by saying that he has “more than enough to eat at home.”

And after all this, coupled with a long history of other transgressions, the Mayor refuses to resign. Ford claims that he has apologized for his mistakes and has nothing left to hide. But I have problems with both parts of that statement.

First, Ford constantly tries to justify his behavior by saying that he was under the influence of alcohol, or “in a drunken stupor,” as he once put it. This is hardly an apology, and alcohol is no excuse. Second, Ford’s low credibility renders his promise that he has nothing to hide rather implausible. He also claimed he had nothing to hide while denying the existence of the infamous crack video in May, but we now know that was a lie. As of now, the allegations keep flowing, followed by his shocking admissions and tenuous apologies.

Rob Ford’s roller-coaster scandal can be seen as rather humorous. His ridiculous stunts, coupled with his striking physical appearance, really do lend themselves to comedy. Late-Night TV hosts — Jimmy Kimmel, Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert and others — continuously point out the absurdity of the situation, and Ford was the butt of jokes on last week’s Saturday Night Live.

But there is still a significant gravity to the disgrace of Ford’s behavior. Parents have had to explain the terms “crack cocaine” and “pussy” to their elementary school children, after hearing them spill out of the Mayor’s mouth on live TV. We continuously teach teenagers that they can’t use intoxication to justify misconduct. Yet Ford models the opposite, trying to use alcohol to excuse his disgusting behavior. This is unacceptable.

Although he denies it, Ford’s history of rampant and public intoxication suggests that he has a substance abuse problem. This element of the story reaches beyond late-night comedy. Ford is a human wrecking ball, destructing himself in public view, fueled by the media. Despite the hardship he has caused to Toronto, Ford is still human and I do feel sympathy for his affliction. If he wants any chance at recovery, he must resign from office, step out of the public eye and seek professional help.

Ford must step down immediately. The mayor of any city should be a role model, and he is no such thing. If he really wanted the best for the people of Toronto, he would allow them the dignity of a new mayor who treats them with respect. Not only are the streets of Toronto full of protesters begging for his resignation, but Toronto City Councilors also voted 37 to five in favor of him taking a leave of absence. Still, Ford will not budge.

If Ford were the CEO of a major company, he would be fired. The problem now is that there’s no one to fire him. Since he has not yet been convicted of a crime, the Toronto City Council has no way to legally remove him.

This is where the Rob Ford predicament becomes relevant to Americans. The most effective way to remove local or state officials from office is through a recall election. Unlike impeachment, where members of Congress have the power to oust the president, recall elections allow constituents to vote on whether local officials should remain in office, usually in light of questionable Ford-like behavior. But according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 29 states (including Connecticut and New York) currently do not allow recall elections. Neither does Toronto, which is why Mayor Ford has maintained his perch.

While we can laugh at Ford’s lewd remarks, we must not forget the serious consequences of his leadership (or lack thereof). In order to prevent similar calamities in other cities, recall elections must be universally implemented.

 

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