Cheol Joon Baek
Don't know about you, but I'd pay to see Gord Perks go toe-to-toe with Giorgio Mammoliti, the Ford admin's designated tough guy at City Hall. Judging by the video evidence from that dust-up at council last week, I'd say Gordo would kick Boy George's ass.
And how sweet that would be to see, given the way Ford's crew have been throwing their weight around.
I imagine a few of the city bureaucrats sitting in the chamber would have liked to see Perks clock Giorgio; the current regime has been running roughshod over them for the last couple of years, denigrating them as so much "garbage," to use the mayor's famous descriptor.
Enter Fiona Crean, city ombudsman. It was her report cataloguing the mayor's office's tampering with citizen appointments to some 120 city agencies, board and commissions (ABCs) that sparked the Perks-Mammo set-to.
While that scene stole the media spotlight, Crean's report laid bare another more important battle that's been boiling at 100 Queen West ever since Ford came riding in on his gravy train - the one between the mayor and the civil service.
Pay attention, folks. The good men and women of the senior bureaucracy pocketing a paycheque from your tax dollars are not just charged with giving valuable professional advice. They're an important check on the abuse of political power. And if Crean's testy report suggests anything, it's that they're not going to be pushed around any more. It's been a trying two years under Ford.
A few in the ranks of managers who've been confronted with an ethical dilemma in their professional dealings with the administration have chosen to resign or retire. Those individuals had a choice. But most bureaucrats have toed the line for fear of reprisals or losing their jobs.
Whether more of them will now have the courage to stand up to the mayor remains to be seen.
For Ford, Crean's report may not be a watershed moment. The bureaucrats interviewed by the ombud during her probe were subpoenaed, which means they were legally required to speak, and their identities were protected.
But some of the complaints that led to Crean's decision to commence a formal investigation clearly came from city staff, including those on the highest rungs in the office of City Manager Joe Pennachetti.
An internal email from one of Pennachetti's staffers highlighted in Crean's report didn't mince words. That staffer expressed concern that the appointments process is "just for show" and "the fix is in" to stack city ABCs with Ford friendlies.
Judging by the unusually strong language in Crean's report, many of the 40 subpoenaed by the ombud had similar stories to tell.
Crean was blistering in her condemnation of the mayor's office's subversion of the civic appointments process. Her report suggests applicants' potential conflicts of interest were ignored or concealed from the committee charged with making appointments decisions. Her investigation revealed "a significant amount of confusion about how to deal with potential conflicts of interest."
Mammoliti called Crean's report "politically motivated," which is why Perks got in his face, after Mammo refused the speaker's order to apologize for the comment. But for Ford's allies to cry foul is a bit rich. They've been abusing and strong-arming the civil service to suit their political ends, even manufacturing a crisis or two to advance their agenda.
See, for example, the city auditor's report into alleged misspending at Toronto Community Housing that was mysteriously leaked to the media (after some behind-the-scenes high jinks involving the mayor's office) that fuelled Ford's move to decimate that agency's board and pave the way to privatization. Just sayin.'
Let's also not forget that Ford's jackboot has stomped out the dozens of citizen advisory committees that provided volunteer advice to the city on a raft of complex issues.
Every administration with a perceived mandate to fulfill has from time to time tried to impose its will on bureaucrats who may be standing in the way. But that's not the issue here.
Crean's probe points to a systemic problem. The Ford administration has tried to undermine the civil service's duty to the public and put it to work for its political masters.
An important idea was compromised in the process. Toronto's arm's-length, independent civil service stopped speaking truth to power on our behalf. But perhaps no more.
120 Number of city agencies, board and commisisions (ABCs)
1,436 Number of residents the city appoints yearly to its ABCs
428 Number of residents publicly nominated through a city-run process
1,008 Number of residents nominated through other means, including business improvement areas (772 members) and the Association of Community Centres boards (104 members)
33% The combined annual operating and capital budgets that ABCs are responsible for managing