You may have been following the ongoing story of the road repair and landscaping work done near Mayor Rob Ford’s company, Deco Labels and Tags, in advance of its anniversary celebrations. It seems the mayor intervened personally to have the work done on what seems like a tight timeline. Though he met personally in his office with department heads to talk about the work, the mayor told reporters last month when the story first came out that he got “no special treatment.”
Thanks to a report based on a Freedom of Information Act request, Liz Church of the Globe and Mail has now given us a picture of what the hum-drum routine treatment the mayor got looked like. (She followed up with more of the regular-joe coverup that routinely, in the case of average citizens, follows this kind of work.)
So thanks to that vivid description of what actually happened, we can now formulate an experiment that you can try at home to see whether or not the “no special treatment” hypothesis is true:
OBSERVATION: The mayor of Toronto succeeded in getting work done on the roads and landscaping near his family business, and in getting city staff to pressure private property owners to clean up their property, on a compressed timeline. He and city staff members say he received “no special treatment.”
HYPOTHESIS: Since the mayor received no special treatment, any member of the public can expect similar treatment.
1. One of the most refreshing things to learn is that senior staff will make visits to residents’ offices to discuss road repairs with them. So Call 311 to invite Deputy City Manager John Livey and acting general manager of transportation services John Mende to come to a meeting at your office to discuss work that needs attention from the city near your home. If 311 proves difficult, you can call Livey directly at 416-338-7200.
2. When you have them in your office, outline the list of issues you’ve identified near your home—potholes, a storm drain that overflows regularly, a curb that cars drive over because of poor intersection design—and impress on them that it is urgent that the work to fix these problems be completed quickly. If you have complaints about provincial property or your neighbours’ yards be sure to include them. If you have an event coming up in the near future (a birthday party or Bar Mitzvah celebration, for example) mention it. The city appears to consider private celebrations to be a key prioritization criteria. Let them know you need the work done within a couple weeks.
3. After Livey and Mende leave your office, observe how long it takes for the work to be completed. If our hypothesis holds, it should all be done within two or three weeks of your meeting. You may see members of the city’s staff crawling around on your neighbours’ property or exhibiting other strenuous behaviours. This is to be expected but should be noted.
4. Once the work is done, file Freedom of Information Act requests to see the internal communications trail regarding your requests and the work that followed. You should expect to see more than 12 supervisor-level staff involved in fulfilling the work you’ve ordered, and the phrase “emergency” should probably be tossed around to emphasize that your event is coming up soon. Check to see what type of strategic communications memos have been drafted for handling media questions about your request—are the names of senior staff left out? Are there attempts to keep the meeting in your office quiet in order to protect your personal privacy?
CONCLUSIONS: After completing the experiment, you should be able to draw your own. Please do share your observations with the rest of us.
PHOTO: Rob Ford at the Deco Labels factory in Etobicoke during the 2010 election campaign. LUCAS OLENIUK/TORONTO STAR