Rob Ford, who has allegedly been caught smoking crack, topped Obama on Google’s narrative analytic charts. Think about that: A scandal-plagued president of the United States mattered less to the world than a mayor from Canada.
Here’s the thing: As the government of Toronto is paralyzed, the city itself has never looked better. Downtown is a maze of cranes. Toronto has more highrise buildings under construction than New York and Mexico City combined. Unemployment is at an all-time low. 1,300 restaurants opened last year. At one point in 2012, all top five albums on the Billboard chart were from artists from the region. Some people, like my friend Philip, think that the city doing so well proves that Ford’s not that bad a mayor after all. Respectfully, I feel that is a classic case of correlation being confused with causation.
The lesson of Rob Ford may not be one that urbanists particularly want to hear: Having an utterly paralyzed and embarrassing government may not be that bad a thing. Nobody expects City Hall to do anything: Since Ford came to power, if you wanted the little park in your neighborhood to look good, you and your friends were going to have to organize it. If you wanted more green space, you were going to have to figure out a way to make that happen. Toronto is the one city I know of where the hipster kids in the parks and the billionaires in penthouses share mostly the same values and goals, at least in regards to the city they want to live in; since Ford, both groups have had to think of themselves as city builders. And they are proceeding to build the city. They know they have to build it themselves because the mayor is, uh, otherwise engaged.
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