Thursday, September 30, 2010

Politics, Idiocy & Rob Ford

‘All politicians are idiots, business leaders are necessarily better’ is an over-the-top statement.

And the idea that a lazy or slow bureaucracy wastes money needs a closer look.

Politicians face far more public scrutiny than any business leader; it’s simply in the job description. Sure, a CEO must answer to shareholders but the CEO is really only accountable to them and not a broader public at large, nor are they denied ridiculous bonuses for great failure (see large banks in the US).

Also, ‘wasted money’ or a ‘lazy/slow’ bureaucracy is tied to increased measures of accountability. Ministers of the Crown are politically responsible for their own decisions and the actions of anyone within their ministry (ie. Ministry of the Environment, Finance, etc.). A majority of wasted money or fiscal scandal occurs within the lower ranks of the department (manager, director, street-level bureaucrat) and yet, quite rightly, the Minister is still accountable to the public at election time. With the public demanding more accountability and ministers fearing for their elect-ability, layers and layers of checks, audits, and sign offs are set in place slowing government work to a halt.

It’s a ‘Catch 22,’ with increased accountability comes increased ‘red-tape’ resulting in the perception of a slow, “lazy” bureaucracy.

Municipalities are not spared the same increased accountability and red tape.

And it’s not like Toronto can spend their way out of a slow bureaucracy (if you even believe it to be true), cities face already constrained budgets and cuts, like Rob Ford proposes (ie. $230 million lost revenue), will only make that problem worse.

Cities really can only collect from property taxes and user/registration fees. Cities depend heavily on the province for money. That’s why I would support a mayor that works well with the province outright.

Talk about “wasted money,” it took 5-years and the closure of many business put out by the installation of streetcar tracks on St. Clair Avenue and Ford wants to get rid of streetcars! That’s a waste.

Even if Rob Ford manages to win the election, he needs the support of council for any of his ideas. One of them is fire half of the council, I’m sure that’ll pass unanimously (*cough*). His agenda will not be well received resulting in legislative gridlock and, in the meantime, the city will rot.

I truly believe that a big part of the anger that Toronto has lies within an ignorance we all have towards the realities facing the public service. Politicians like Ford capitalize on this by applying business standards to government and drilling into the differences. Comparing public organizations by the same set of standards as private ones prevents us from getting most from our public institutions. 

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