Sunday, November 10, 2013

The CBC's Right Wing Personalities Have No Counterparts

For all of the various whining that the CBC is "statist" and left wing biased, I ask, where are the left wing CBC counterparts to these gems:
  • Rex Murphy, seen here writing an absurd polemic attacking Rob Ford's critics using a series of cliched strawman puerile caricatures of his opposition as just a bunch of downtown elitist snobs.  Ford has been seriously unpopular for years now, having left net popularity in mid to late 2011 and never looked back - even after the Scarborough subway victory.
  • Don Cherry, among his many offensive comments and reactionary views (many completely unrelated to hockey, which never stops him), peaked with his sneering and gloating speech at Rob Ford's inauguration where he went out of his way to insult Ford's opponents (also with cliched puerile caricatures)
  • Kevin O'Leary, who makes the evil banker in It's a Wonderful Life seem like a nice guy and takes pro-capitalism to a level of self-parody. He's also just generally a rude host and jerk to guests he disagrees with.
Cherry and O'Leary have their foils Ron McLean and Amanda Lang but neither is anything like as left wing as they are right wing.  That's OK, I really don't want a left wing equivalent to Don Cherry, or Kevin O'Leary (because they suck) but really, for a network supposedly so drowning in left wing bias, these three get a remarkable amount of prime time to spout off.  Rex plays some kind of more measured curmudgeon on TV but that column is grade-A wingnut, guess he can really let the flag fly when writing for the National Post.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Mayor Rob Ford Is Headed For Defeat In 2014

Nothing is ever certain, but as it stands, Rob Ford would lose almost any conceivable election for Mayor if held today. It is not useful to cower in fear from the far overblown "Ford Nation" and act like Toronto is doomed to "Ford more years."  It isn't, and Ford should at this point be understood as the underdog.  The fading longshot.

Before I talk numbers, including the infamous Halloween poll which found his approval jumped 5% after the Police confirmed they have the crack video, it's useful to note that Rob Ford effectively campaigns all the time.  Only 2 opponents of his have announced, and neither is "campaigning" except to the extent Stintz can try to claim credit for the Scarborough subway extension.  The point here is that Ford is already doing his utmost to raise his numbers, and even before the crack scandal was barely keeping his head above water.  He hasn't been above 50% approval since his first few months in office. This isn't usual - David Miller had 69% approval as late as 2005, and was said to have "plummetted' to 43% after the garbage strike in 2009.  Way earlier, his approval was in the 80s. Mel Lastman was re-elected with 80% of the vote in 2000.  Municipal politics can be pretty easy, keep basic services running and keep reasonably clean and most voters will be fine with you.  Ford's even arguably done the former, yet failed so badly at the latter that, well, let's see...

The 31 October 44% Approval Poll Revisited

Initially there was some reason to doubt a poll taken on Halloween night when huge demographics are too busy handing out or gathering candy to take pollster calls, but several subsequent Forum polls find approximately the same 43-44% approval.  These same polls showing a 5% increase in Ford's approval to 44% also find 60% want him to resign.  That isn't just people who "disapprove" but actively think he should quit now.  Eric of 308 looks at this and figures that the Oct 30 poll finding Ford's approval at 39% is probably the outlier.

 About Forum's October 30th poll just the day before?  Couple items of interest:

 The key here is that the number of people very firmly negative on Ford is greater than the total number of supporters, even lukewarm ones.  Even if you conclude this poll is an outlier and add 5% to Ford's numbers.  Ford's "base" here is that 18% who think he might be one of Toronto's "best" mayors. 39% go into this election outright unpersuadable and basically no one is truly undecided.  There's nothing for Ford to work with here.

Ford has been pushing this nonsense for months now, and despite only some bloggers challenging it to that point (The Star weighs in since with an excellent effort in the genre), voters are generally rejecting it. Again, not helpful when trying to dig out from a personal scandal when your primary economic/fiscal argument is pre-rejected.

It gets worse, Forum also polled the subway/LRT question again on Oct 30 and this too is a nail in Ford's coffin:

This was supposed to be Ford's other big policy success and at best it's a wash.  It's really amazing that this happened given the almost total lack of an organized pro-LRT advocacy in the face of Ford's camp's, and the Provincial & Federal Tories lying about it.  That video of Matlow embarassing Ford in the May council debate went viral, and probably helped, but I really wonder if voters dislike Ford so much they questioned their own approval of subways in the face of his puerile "subways subways subways" jingoism.  Ford was going to ride his subway success to re-election but voters aren't nearly so keen on it as he thought.

Not Done Yet

Forum has been polling head-to-head matches of various kinds for several years, with various names against Ford, including 3 way and 4 way match ups.  Ford's troubles are much older than a crack tape:

Ford has lost EVERY poll against either Karen Stintz or Olivia Chow going back to early 2012.  He loses almost every match against John Tory too, meaning there are multiple people who can unseat him and one has already announced she's in (Stintz).  What about the dreaded vote-splitting in multi-way races?

Note the dates here - this is the same night as the 44% approval poll, and yet Ford only musters 33% against Stintz - a 7% drop in 24hrs.  Going back to the theory that the Oct 30 poll was an "outlier" in undersampling Ford supporters in some way, it's remarkable that the number of people prepared to vote for Ford is higher than the next night which finds this "jump" in his approval.    

Seven polls of 3-way races and Ford loses all but one.  Chow wins every poll when she's in it.  The news gets a little more ambiguous on the four-way races (though Ford usually doesn't win), I will only show one (lots more here) for discussion:

Again from the same night as the 44% approval and Ford ceilings at 33% support.  Tied with Chow, who as noted above is not actively campaigning. Unlike Ford.  

Four Way Finish Highly Unlikely

The key problem with 3 and particularly 4 way races is that they almost never finish that way.  It's the nature of first-past-the-post voting systems. 3rd and 4th place challengers usually get irrelevant and their support evaporates. They drop out entirely, or maybe limp to the finish with little money.  2010 was quite rare that Pantalone managed a double-digit third place finish.  Rocco Rossi, despite ample coverage dropped under 1% for 4th place. In 2003, 3rd place went to a pre-amalgamation Old Toronto Mayor, Barbara Hall, with under 10% and 4th at 5% to a pretty prominent former Liberal MP & cabinet minister, John Nunziata.  

You really don't find many viable 3-way races, and I didn't find any 4-way ones where 4th place took more than a small chunk of the vote.  Interestingly, 2003's split (with left candiate Hall in 3rd) still elected centre-left "downtown" candidate David Miller, so the idea that a split will re-elect Rob Ford is not some inevitability. 

What If Ford Goes To Rehab?

Forum (I wish someone else would poll Toronto) treated us the breathtaking revelation that "Ford wins races if he goes to rehab" in this November 6th release. 

Again Ford cannot even reach 40% support even if he goes to rehab. This of course is a big "if" and it requires some measure of success - Ford not only has to go to rehab, but he can't have a subsequent episode like the Danforth.  As above, this is the support of a candidate who is already campaigning for months against people who are respecting the laws governing when they can campaign. 

The Usual Anti-Polling Excuses

Of course these are just polls and the usual unthinking anti-empiricism can be thrown at them ("remember BC's election?"  "Tell that to Premier Danielle Smith in Alberta!").  You can ignore polling I guess, but then you have zero basis for predicting elections or even reading current voter opinions.  Polling isn't perfect, but it's what we have.
Ford can of course win re-election. Maybe. If the stars align.  If scandal befalls his closest rival.  If the Police suddenly announce his full exoneration in their investigation.  If, if, if.  A set of unlikely things has to happen to get Ford over the finish line.  But with scandals a daily event and no sign of stopping, and his primary policy arguments neutered even before his adversaries attack them, it's difficult to see where he can turn to.  None of this means you have to like Stintz, Tory or Chow but the main point here is that we can defeat Ford resoundingly, and maybe even knock off some of his main council allies & enablers.  That would be a defeat not just for Ford, but Fordism, the politics of urban/suburban division and hatred.  That alone would be a big improvement and worth working for.  It's time to think big and run the score.  Ford is losing and that can be used to make some real change on Council too.

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Thursday, November 7, 2013

Old Toronto & East York Have Been Shut Out During Ford Mayoralty

Nothing about Ford's substance abuse & possible legal problems has changed the basic problems at the heart of his governing which make him a destructive presence corroding the basic social fabric of the city.  He fundamentally and deliberately seeks to divide the city against itself to win elections.  As he campaigns continuously, it is not just a question of running ugly capaigns and then seeking to heal the rifts once in office, it's what he really wants to do, and has done thus far in his Mayoralty.

To see the most glaring instance of this, which pervades the entire system of Toronto's government let's ask how the Mayor, and this Council have allocated the key committee and commission/board roles during Ford's term.  We'll look at the Executive Committee (closest thing to a cabinet in Council), the Budget Committee, and the Councillor members of the TTC Commission and Police Services Board, which represent the two biggest cost items in Toronto's budget.  These bodies make the most important decisions as to how Toronto governs, funds, transports & Polices itself.  Here's the result, tracked by Council ward (some Councillor are on multiple things, and this includes both past and present members of these bodies):
Major council roles, Dec 2010-Oct 2013

Notice the complete lack of any coloured markers in the wards representing the pre-amalgamation cities of Toronto ("Old Toronto") and East York.  Entirely shut out.  This is what the next Mayor, a new Mayor, has to fix.  We cannot go on like this.
  • I use the "Community Council" groupings to decide what former city a given ward falls under. Some wards, like say 26 span more than 1 of the pre-amalgamation cities.
  • I'm not the first to do this sort of post, but I am trying to extend further that excellent analysis.  I do rely on the information from that post.  
  • In 2012, Council dismissed Ford's original TTC board and put their own up. Those members are not represented in this map, but in fact adding them would not change anything as no one from Old Toronto or East York is amoung the new board.
Not all of this is Ford's fault, but it is clear that this is deliberate on his part.  Council for their part, has not rectified this complete shut out from the committees of greatest import, despite multiple opportunities with even 1 token appointment to anything.  In fact, just recently, to fill a vacant Executive Committee slot, some on Council tried to get downtown Councillor Adam Vaughan appointed but failed to win a majority and instead, Ford put the brand new, unelected "caretaker" Councillor for Ward 3, Peter Leon on his executive.

Maybe pushing an unwelcome adversary onto the executive is not the way to rectify this, but clearly if council wanted to ensure every region of the City was represented, it could have put one on the new TTC board, for example.

So? Miller Snubbed the Suburbs Just the Same!

No, he didn't:

Key council roles, actual or offered, 2006-2010

This is for Miller's second term, where he was confortably re-elected with a strong majority of the electorate.  Yet every region of the city is represented in Council's key posts. In particular, every former city is represented on Miller's executive committee.  Does this mean Miller was a great Mayor and we should just re-elect him?  No. It just means it doesn't have to be like this under Ford.  Winning the Mayor's chair does not require trying to divide the city.  Ford has chosen to be this way.  Here's Miller's 2006 election map:

Ok, that was Miller's re-election when he was quite popular.  What about his initial election, a very competitive race against John Tory?

Yes Miller's support was stronger downtown, but he did pretty good in some other less urban parts of the city.  Now here's Ford's map:

Other than Karen Stintz in ward 16 (a "North York" ward), not a single councillor from a ward won by Smitherman got any of the key council roles.  Far from seeking to heal this rift (one which of course pre-dates Ford) he reinforces it. By all indications, barring his substance problems derailing his 2014 campaign it will be more of this. 

Many focus on Ford's various offensive comments, like blaming cyclists for getting hurt in accidents, or saying that the "downtown people have enough subways" despite the clear and obvious overcrowding problems on the Yonge line south of Eglinton station. These sorts of downtown-bashing comments are representative of his views, but pale in comparison to literally locking out over 30% of the people of the city from any voice in the most important governing bodies.  This is representative democracy and of course the result of this is going to be a disproportionate emphasis on the areas of the city that are overrepresented in decision making bodies at expense of those shut out.

Quantifying the Lock Out

While Ford's map displays obvious regional favouritism, Miller's map would seem to somewhat favour Old Toronto.  It does, but some numbers would be helpful, here's the raw number of key roles alloted to councillors from each former city under Ford and Miller's 2nd term:

That's somewhat helpful, York and East York are quite small compared to others, it's hard to tell which areas are represented proportionately to their populations. Let's compare each former city's percentage of the total population, and the percentage of these key roles they got by Mayor:

So, as you'd expect, Ford has frozen out Old TO and EY, and given the extra spots to the more suburban former cities. How does Miller's chart look?

Ok, Old Toronto is somewhat overrepresented, but the supposed "downtown" mayor was pretty fair to the 3 suburban former cities. Scarborough even comes out a little ahead.

Let's stack these up, each administration saw certain areas over and underrepresented, who does worse?

There's just no contest.  Miller's "most excluded" city, Etobicoke does a hell of a lot better than the two cities Ford locked out completely.  If Miller did favour Old Toronto, he didn't favour them as much as Ford has privileged Etobicoke, Scarborough and York (York is kind of skewed by Frances Nunziata).  

Some of these is just natural.  Miller is on the left so he's going to somewhat prefer Councillors of a similar persuasion on his key committees.  Ford is on the right, and will feel the same. Right leaning councillors will tend to be suburban.  Left leaning ones more urban.  Yet it shouldn't be allowed to go this far.  Stephen Harper put a major city candidate into the Senate and his cabinet just to ensure some kind of urban representation after his party didn't win any seats in Toronto, Montreal or Vancouver in 2006.  No Ontario cabinet would skip having a northern or south-western member if the Premier could possibly avoid it.  Yet there's no sign that Ford even had talks with any Old Toronto councillor to see if they could come to an understanding that would let them work together.  Miller had a Scarborough councillor turn him down for a seat on the Executive.  It happens, but it is important he offered it (even though he had other Scarborough Exec members).

There are of course other metrics of inclusiveness than geography. Ford's current executive now infamously doesn't include any female councillors despite this council having record (but still unacceptably low) numbers of them.  But region is a pretty vital one so long as we govern ourselves by a single member district council, instead of say, some kind of proportional representation party system.  Councillors will favour their wards in their decisions.  That's their strong incentive.  Letting this kind of disparity occur is going to lead to unhealthy outcomes.  To the extent that Ford has deliberately allowed and caused this to happen, is all the more reason why he cannot be Toronto's next Mayor. We need a Mayor for the whole city, not just their favourite parts.  

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Deamalgamation Won't Fix Toronto's Problems

Rob Ford has ridden to the Mayor's office by stoking a sense of grievance and alientation in many suburban Toronto voters toward those who live "downtown" (usually meaning the entirety of the pre-amalgamated Old city of Toronto, which is of course much bigger than the downtown core).

While this was forced on Toronto by the Harris government for its own cynical reasons, reversing it now would not cure what ails us.

Most of the big problems we fix are regional in scope, in fact, in some cases, like transit, amalgamated Toronto is not big enough to address them properly (hence, Metrolinx).  But others:
  • The Gardiner is primarily used by suburban 416 and 905 area commuters, do we really want Old Toronto responsible for fixing (or getting rid of it)?
  • The flash flooding is a regional problem - too much pavement and too little green. Want to redivide the city and let various elements have different rules on driveway size & lawn paving?
  • Climate change is going to have big impacts on everyone and cities will need coordinated responses. Flooding is one thing, but things like west nile virus show there's much more.
  • Inequality is at severe levels, and is going to reduce vast areas to slum status unless things are done. I fear this too, needs a bigger, rather than more localized response
Some of this, like transit was previously addressed by moving certain issues to the Metro government, but there, Old Toronto would be again outnumbered by the suburbs should they choose to unite.

The biggest reason against this is that it is unnecessary.  The suburbs are not monoliths.  David Miller did pretty well there in 2003 and won them outright in 2006.  Polling by forum now suggests Olivia Chow would beat Rob Ford not just downtown, but in Scarborough, North York and even Ford's home turf of Etobicoke:
Once Olivia Chow is included, however, Stintz falls away significantly. This suggests that Stintz's support in the first poll is more about not being Rob Ford than it is about being Karen Stintz. Chow wins by a much wider margin with 43% of the decided vote, against 32% for Ford, 18% for Stintz, and 7% for Soknacki. Chow wins every region of the city, with 48% support in old Toronto, 44% in North York, 41% in Scarborough, and 38% in Etobicoke (where Ford comes closest to winning).
 Toronto is going to need to do a better job defusing this suburban/urban tension somehow, but I don't think turning the clock back to 1995 1997 is the answer.  Maybe we can bolster the powers of the community councils to keep the most purely local issues locally decided, or strengthen their voice in, say, things like whether the Island airport should be allowed to use jets - maybe Old Toronto's councillors should have more weight in that decision.  We certainly can't allow more Ford type demagogues to profit from this angst.  A city that regularly elects Mayors who hate the downtown, and encourages flight to the suburbs?  I think that sounds a bit like Detroit, a fate we should hope to avoid.   

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

The Senate Scandal's Connection to Harper's Worst Acts

Reading this excellent piece by Shawn Whitney on how the left shouldn't assume great policy will automatically come from the downfall of either Harper or Ford, the author speaks to my own discomfort with the Senate expenses scandal:
At the federal level, Stephen Harper’s troubles have nothing to do with his murder of thousands of Afghans in support of NATO’s attempt to subdue that country. It has nothing to do with his shutdown of the national daycare plan that Paul Martin put in place to try and save his own skin, or his scuppering of the deal he made with first nations people. [...]
It has nothing to do with his unbridled support for big oil and their enthusiastic destruction of the environment of Alberta and, indeed, the whole world with the tar sands. Nothing to do with his support for fracking to recover natural gas.
My own list of Harper's worst misdeeds relate to his contempt for democracy, and specifically the systemic safeguards which help guarantee it continues.  A government which got itself re-elected after making history for being held in actual contempt of Parliament, a leader who authorized an attempt to bribe an independent MP to vote against the previous minority Liberal government's budget, a group that actually gave its MPs a manual on how to disrupt and confuse committee hearings, and then used the ensuing rancor to break at least the spirit of its own fixed election dates law and call a snap election at a politically opportune moment.

As Whitney does, I find it very easy to keep listing these things. Really, the point is that nailing Harper and his crew vicious ideologues over $90,000 in misclaimed expenses feels a lot like putting Al Capone in prison for tax evasion.  Sure, it might get the job done, but it feels hollow and unsatisfying.

Casuistry Is The Connection

My thinking has changed a bit in considering Duffy's claims that the PMO and Senate Majority leader pre-cleared his expenses as being compliant with the rules.  This is entirely believable, and has been signature of Harper's lot their entire time in power: They stretch the meaning of every rule & law to their own benefit well past the point of credulity.  In this case, it is the Senate's internal interpretation of the Constitution's Senatorial residency requirements which external auditor Deloitte found to be "unclear."  It's easy to see what Harper's government did with these "unclear" rules:  Interpret them maximally to their own needs of the moment.  This is what they do with everything else, and they have typically gotten away with it.

The examples of this abound:
  • In-And-Out: Breaking Canada's election financing laws using blatantly contrived specious reasoning about the interpretation of party spending.
  • Coaltion with traitors: Rabble rousing and treason-baiting over the 2008 opposition coaltion deal for including confidence vote support of the BQ when Harper himself had obviously cut a similar deal with the BQ when in the opposition.
  • Using the ordinarily routine practice of proroguation in quiet times to save his premiership from that same opposition deal in the face of a signed letter by a majority of MPs indicating their intent to vote non-confidence against his government.
  • In the case of the previously mentioned contempt of Parliament finding, I'm not even sure Harper's crew bothered with any rationalization for refusing to provide the documents required, they just judged (correctly) that they could get away with this, and it even suited their purposes for the opposition to force an election.
  • They did get slightly burned over Bev Oda having a non-political staff recommendation falsely reversed to give her cover in refusing funding to an organization the Conservatives just don't like. Harper just rode this out with characteristic arrogance.  In a preview of the current troubles, Oda would eventually fall to a personal expenses scandal over charging, among other things a $16 glass of orange juice.
It isn't a coincidence that it is Duffy & Wallin in trouble for expenses either, since their very appointments were constitutionally ludicrous to begin with. Of course Duffy & Wallin needed to rack up unusual travel & housing expenses: they don't actually reside in the provinces they were supposed to represent.  Harper wanted these two famous, charismatic and fairly popular media personalities on his team, working the speech and fundraising circuits and employed his typical level of intellectual sophistry to re-interpret some very clear law so that "residency" doesn't mean what it obviously means to most people by any plain language interpretation. Same link on the actual constitutional requirements for Senators:  
One requirement is that the Senator must own $4,000 worth of property in the province he/she represents.
Another and more basic requirement is that a Senator be a resident in the province he/she represents.
I'd bet the Senate has attempted in its arcane and ordinarily publicly ignored way come up with some set of guidance around what "resident" means to cover some uninteresting snowbird Senators who probably spent significant periods of the year in Florida or other sunny climates. Let's say it is even somehow true that Duffy's living arrangement somehow meets these loose rules - Harper tried to, as usual, drive a barge through this loophole and has ultimately been tripped up on a combination of his own contempt for laws that inhibit him, and the very plain and obvious meaning of the clause in the Constitution.  Nobody cares what the Senate previously decided "resident" means because we know it cannot possibly legitimately include how little Duffy & Wallin were actually "residing" in their Senatorial provinces.  Harper's government got caught in a trap of their own deceit, and their only shield would be the self-serving rules of an undemocratic and poorly respected institution.

This is the core linkage of l'affaire du Sénat to this government's most grievous crimes: Right from the top Harper has set the example of self serving linguistic and legal casuistry.  On arcane but vital matters of democratic institutional survival, he has regularly gotten away with it. When combined with plain old ripping off the treasury, it finally caught up to them, and him.  All the rest, Duffy's inability and unwillingness to repay out of his own pocket, the crooked deal with Wright, the need for Mulcair's excellent prosecutorial style of QP jousting falls from this core ethical failing of Harper's ministry.  They too, like Bush's wrecking crew thought that they can just act and create their own reality no matter what we say.  This, finally, appears to be a wall such gall cannot breach.

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Monday, November 4, 2013

Rob Ford's Permanant Campaign

A break from his legal troubles to talk about the fact that Rob Ford basically campaigns for his re-election all the time.

Officially, that's not allowed, the election period starts January 2014, but think about:
  • Weekly no holds barred highly political and opinionated radio program for Rob & Doug
  • Handing out Fridge magnets everywhere (including funerals..)
  • 2 "Ford Fest" campaign rallies this year, held in large parks with free food & drink (advertised by robocalls all over the city, I was called and I have never contacted the Mayor)
  • Spending an inordinate amount of time taking constituent calls & visiting voters to address problems
The last is probably worth a few words because it's the most effective form of continuous campaigning Ford does and the secret to his success. It is true that all local policians should do a certain amount of direct constituent interaction, to keep an "ear to the ground" and stay in touch with actual voter concerns unfiltered by staff or consultants.  However everything we can discern from Ford is that he goes well beyond any reasonable amount of time spent on this.  According to this count from mid 2012, constituent meetings were one-third of his agenda.  He proudly brags that he returns every call, and gives out his personal numbers all the time.  He's known to show up and get that pothole filled or that leaky hydrant tightened or whatever small bore constituent concern he can address.

This is all textbook retail politics. Toronto is a big city, 2.5M people is a lot, but spend 10-20 hours a week (guessing here) on this for four years, and you can visit and interact with several thousand voters, all over the city.  Each will tell the story of the Mayor personally attending to their problem to 5 or 10 people, and suddenly you may be talking about 25-50,000 voters positively moved.  Think, a first person account from a friend will weigh more heavily than any newscast or TV ad.  Ford won in 2010 with 380,000 votes, so yes, this matters a great deal.

Why is this a problem?  In general, the campaign period restrictions provide some level of fairness against the natural advantages incumbent candidates have for precisely these sorts of reasons.  Even if it was legal, almost no opponent is going to campaign for four years, most can't afford it, and it's an absurd investment in time when the chances are the incumbent will be sailing to re-election anway when you get to election year.

So in general you are campaigning with no real opponents - sure, some critics on council, but they are not given the same weight in media time as the Mayor.

In addition to fairness, making re-election too easy for incumbents has obvious negative democratic ramifications for the system.  Quality challengers are not going to jump in when the Incumbent looks unbeatable.  Mel Lastman may have been popular in 2000, but to tune of 80% of the vote?  The lack of a serious challenger did Toronto no favours that year.

What to do about this?  The first and third items are clear violations which should have legal enforcement in some form.  The second is kind of trivial, not really worth a big fuss.  The last I am not prepared to propose any kind of formal ban, but I think we should observe it and understand why Ford is so relentless about serving voters one at a time.  This is obviously not an effective way to really solve the problems of the city, and I'd argue Ford's emphasis on it is counterproductive. Think about the city crews that have to be diverted from scheduled, planned work to address spot problems the Mayor wants fixed right away.  The crew fixing a pothole could be systemically moving through a whole neighbourhood fixing every pothole, but get stopped to drive across town to wherever Ford is to fix just one pothole.

If Ford used these experiences to highlight ill functioning city services at Council and allocate more resources or identify actual inefficiencies in their delivery, that would actually be helpful.  Maybe the pothole teams aren't working smartly and could be better organized.  Maybe there's just not enough of them.  Who knows? Ford doesn't bring these experiences back to City Hall to get them on Council's agenda.  He's just out to win voters one at a time. That his efforts might make potholes and worn out street sign problems more serious is no concern of his.

Yes, I'm sure the individual voters he helps are sincerely grateful, and perhaps had a hard time getting help through normal city channels like 311 (something Ford, by the way, made a point of voting against improving in committee).  But Ford's job is not to pick a couple thousand lucky voters to help while millions might suffer a problem, the Mayor needs to be looking at the big picture more of the time.  A CEO who spent 33% of their time taking customer calls or working the factory floor making product would most likely be less effective for their company than one who put more emphasis on turning those sample experiences into systemic fixes that make the whole organization stronger, rather than fixing a few symptoms.

Some of Ford's illegal campaigning should be addressed through enforcement, as a vital service to municipal democracy.  The endless voter visits is in the realm of politics.  We should judge his governing choices and recognize that what seems like acts of civic service are, when taken too far, really just self serving.