These are the local newsmakers we'll be keeping an eye on going into 2013. Two eyes, even, when we can spare them.
Rob Ford. Of course no "to watch" list would be complete without our crisis-a-minute mayor. What will 2013 bring?
Ford's already strutting around with a hard-on, making demands about wanting - no deserving - to be reappointed by council to his seat should his appeal in that conflict of interest mess fail and he's removed from office in a few weeks. A far cry from the guy who made noises about not showing at this year's New Year's Levee before taking flight on an unscheduled trip to Florida.
Apparently we have the dismissal of that $6 million libel suit last week brought against the mayor by Boardwalk Café owner George Foulidis to thank for Ford's newfound vim.
One legal battle down, two more to go, proclaimed Robo in an unscheduled call to Newstalk 1010 to celebrate what some observers characterized as a "victory" for the mayor. Depends what part of the judge's decision you're reading.
Justice John Macdonald, for example, found Ford knew exactly what he was doing when he yelled "corruption" on Foulidis's 20-year lease agreement with the city in a meeting with the Sun's editorial board during his 2010 election run for mayor. And that Ford knew that by uttering the c-word, he'd be ruining Foulidis's reputation.
But Rob gets off because he also said he couldn't "pinpoint" the corruption and skullduggery he claimed was behind the deal. Macdonald offered that the words mitigated any damage to Foulidis. That any "reasonable" person would take the mayor's comments to mean that he didn't really know if there was corruption.
That sounds to me like the judge backhandedly saying that the mayor was just BS-ing. And everybody knew it, or at least should have known it. Of course, Macdonald couldn't come right out and call horseshit on the mayor.
Besides, Ford never mentioned Foulidis by name. His corruption comments were restricted to Tuggs Inc., the corporate entity that owns Boardwalk. And as the judge pointed out, Foulidis's name doesn't show up on Boardwalk Pub's incorporation papers. So Foulidis is shit out of luck, even though the judge accepted that the public identifies him as the public face of the restaurant.
Given the uproar caused by Ford's comments at the time - and the effect it had on the race in Beaches-East York - more than a few "reasonable" people clearly took Ford's comments to mean there was indeed corruption on the Boardwalk deal.
Macdonald gave Ford the benefit of the doubt. Foulidis, not so much. The judge found his testimony unbelievable chiefly because he tried to deny his past involvement in an unrelated fraud years back. Moral of this story: Let's not confuse the law with justice.
Councillor Ana Bailao. One of the more intriguing stories to come out of City Hall in 2012 was the case of the Davenport councillor who fought for social housing, made a tearful plea to save cleaning jobs, and watched her political capital go up in smoke for an ill-advised night of partying (allegedly) with casino lobbyists that ended in a DUI charge.
One mistake and - poof! - there goes a political career. It was a harsh sentence for the rookie up-and-comer. What's to become of Bailao now?
It was no surprise that lobbyists were targeting Bailao. She's a member of the Ex board of governors and the CNE is on the list of possible casino sites. With widespread opposition to a downtown casino, Bailao now faces a tricky proposition. A vote for and her vote will look bought. A vote against and there'll be hell to pay the Fords.
Ah yes. The fightin' Ford brothers. Always up to their skullduggery (where have we heard that word before?). The mayor's office was conspicuously front and centre in managing the crisis for Bailao. I hear she didn't have a choice. Not knowing where to turn for help, a rookie caught in a bind, the Fords were there to pick up the pieces, offer help, and maybe even proffer quiet assurances the charges could be made to, you know, go away. If so, then at what price?
Sandra Pupatello. Speaking of political gambles, Sandra Pupatello's to leave a comfy job in the private sector to take a shot at the job of Ontario Liberal leader is not turning into the mangiacake-walk most observers expected.
Pupatello has racked up endorsements from a small boatload of sitting MPPs, which strongly suggests she's got the delegate votes to win the leadership. That theory holds if we accept that MPPs generally control their riding associations. But if she doesn't win it on the first ballot, who knows what'll happen? The Libs are better than most when it comes to eating their own.
Of late, personal attacks by her campaign on opponents have intensified, a sign of growing uneasiness in the Pupatello camp. And it's a delicate matter since she may have to rely on opponents' delegates to put her over the top.
Pupatello has had a fine balancing act to choreograph. On the one hand, trying to appear the outsider so as not to be tainted by McGuinty's sins. On the other, being careful not to criticize her party too much and alienate potential delegates' support. The results have been mixed to say the least.
Councillor Raymond Cho. The Scarborough mainstay has acquired somewhat of a cult following among City Hall watchers for his Confucian flourishes. Who knew that naked ambition lurked beneath the grandfatherly disposition? Now critics are calling Cho a flat out opportunist for standing for the PC nomination in Scarborough-Rouge River.
It's hard to disagree. And it's yet another political reincarnation for Cho, who has at other times identified as an NDPer and Liberal. More to the point, though, is the fact Cho won't have to give up his council seat to run provincially for Tim Hudak's PCs.
But let's not be too hard on Cho. He's in a no-win race anyway against Lib incumbent Bas Balkissoon, who's as close as they come to a household name in northeast Scarborough, which straddles the 905.
Perhaps Cho's nomination is more a reflection of how desperate the PCs are in Toronto that they have to dig this deep. The big riddle: now that he's the PC candidate is it Rob Ford's bidding Cho will be doing on council?
Cho has rarely voted with the mayor, but as he pointed out, he has backed the mayor on one of his main campaign promises, the outsourcing of garbage west of Yonge. He also the mayor's campaign promises to axe the car registration fee. And made like a waffler when the heat was on during the subways versus LRT debate. His new boss has, like big bud Ford, expressed a preference for heavy rail over light.
If anything, Cho's PC dalliance gives more ammo to Fordists who complain that the mayor's opponents on council are more interested in feathering their own nests at Ford's expense.
Fire chief James William Sales. The Americanization of Toronto's civil service has been one of 2012's more underreported stories. The Ford administration has reached south of the border to fill key vacancies opened by the mass exodus prompted by Ford's bottom-lining of budgets.
But it may be more accurate to say the city's bureaucracy is undergoing a corporatizing rather than an Americanization. The hiring of James William Sales as fire chief stands out in that regard.
While his career began in fire services, Sales has been boosting the managerial side of his resume over the last half-decade. First in Markham and more recently in Barrie where as head of Community Operations he was in charge not only of fire services, but head of works, parks and transit as well.
On Sales's to-do list when he arrived in August were staffing shortages that the firefighters union says are taking three trucks out of service every day.
The department finds itself grappling with the potential of leaving up to 10 of the service's 128 trucks understaffed and more trucks being sent out on calls short staffed. While it's the cop budget that's hogged the spotlight, changes to the way the city delivers emergency fire services may become the hotter budget item in 2013.