My favorite story about Scarborough Councillor Mike Del Grande is the time he went on that trade mission to Chicago with the mayor and his big biz buddies and ended up with a case of bedbugs.
Del Grande opted to spend the night in a flea bag motel instead of Doug Ford's Chi-town condo, ostensibly to save taxpayers a few nickels. For Del Grande, devout Catholic, there's no cross too big to bear. But not anymore, it seems. He's announced that he's out as budget chief. Had enough. Gone.
That was some self-pity act last week. First, quitting and then saying he'll take the job back if council asked him... nicely.
Poor Mikey. No one appreciates the hard work he's been putting in to make sure future generations of Torontonians are not wallowing in debt, as he told anyone who was willing to listen during that post-budget media blitz.
Seems the props from left, right and centre about council passing a budget everyone can live with - except for those Torontonians who've been cut out of it, of course (and there are many) - was not enough praise for Del Grande-stand.
It was a motion passed by council for greater transparency in the budget process that reportedly stuck in his craw, caused Del Grande to rethink his place in the current administration.
Sure. After the shell game that he's been played with the numbers over the last couple of years - like that manufactured $774 million deficit a year ago, for example - who could argue with Del Grande? It's not like millions have mysteriously gone missing from projects, like that Gardiner EA that was halted, and ended up being spent on other projects, right? I could say cry me a tsunami, but that would be mean.
No. What really prompted Del Grande's exit, besides too much pride, was the mayor. And his vote for a zero property tax increase that came out of nowhere from publicity hound Giorgio Mammoliti. Del Grande wouldn't admit it. He still believes too much in the Fordian cause of less government to air his laundry in public. But if you're looking for motive for his departure, clearly it's what pissed him off.
That fact was somewhat blurred by the spin coming from all sides of the political spectrum on this budget, whose finer details were determined more than anything by the fact we could be seeing a by-election in a few months time to replace Ford.
In reality, council added almost as much to the budget committee's bottom line as last year's, if we include the executive committee's $6 million for the arts. The only difference was that this year's surplus was left untouched. And that council didn't dip into reserves to quite the same extent.
Only, this year's budget wasn't viewed as a rebuke of the mayor after the drama of 2012, when councillors on the left and centre coalesced to deliver the mayor his first big political defeat. Ford called it a compromise, though except for increases to the arts and fire department, he wasn't the one doing the give and take.
He voted no to more money for subsidized day care and school nutrition programs (which passed anyway), to eliminating children's fees at indoor pools, to adding $75,000 to the tenant defence fund, to $140,000 for AIDS and drug prevention programs, and to an increase in Toronto Public Health's budget to reduce rates of childhood obesity.
What was actually achieved with budget 2013 is more difficult to quantify.
The flat-lining of most departments did zero to fix transit overcrowding nearing the breaking point, boost much-needed funding to shelter support services (34 people died on Toronto's streets in 2012) or deal with the repair backlog in social housing.
The two per cent property tax hike past by council is 50 per cent below the rate of inflation, which only puts the city further behind in catching up to the budget gap left by property tax freezes of Lastman years, and the one past by this administration a year ago.
But there are enough on council entertaining a possible run at Ford as we await the verdict in his conflict of interest appeal that may bounce him from office, who were content to toe the line (mostly). And not leave themselves exposed as spendthrifts in a future election should they decide to take a stab at Ford's job.
That much is obvious. Who'll be taking over from Del Grande is more of a mystery.
Not even the mayor's big bro, the self-styled businessman who constantly harps about City Hall needing to be run more like a business, seems to have the stomach for it. Others seen as possible replacements for Del Grande, were running for the hills when asked by the City Hall press corps of their interest in the job last week.
It's all part of a complicated chess game. With Ford's future up in the air, few are prepared to commit to an administration in free-fall. Not even a loyal disciple like Del Grande, it seems.