Re­ject­ing Rob Ford sta­dium was wrong

St. Thomas Times-Journal - - COMMENT -

Toronto city coun­cil’s re­jec­tion of Mayor John Tory’s pro­posal to re­name Eto­bi­coke’s Cen­ten­nial Sta­dium af­ter Rob Ford by a vote of 24 to 11 Wed­nes­day evening was mean-spir­ited and wrong.

Ford served as mayor from 2010 to 2014 and as the coun­cil­lor for Eto­bi­coke North for a decade be­fore that.

He rep­re­sented the voice of hun­dreds of thou­sands of Toron­to­ni­ans who felt — and still feel —dis­en­fran­chised by city hall, and who be­lieved —and still be­lieve —it does not re­spect their tax dol­lars.

When he was a coun­cil­lor, Ford not only an­swered his own phone and helped his own con­stituents, but also did the same for peo­ple across the city who con­tacted him in des­per­a­tion be­cause their own coun­cil­lor was ig­nor­ing them.

Noth­ing than those re­al­i­ties bet­ter ex­plains Ford’s ap­peal, to this day, among a huge con­tin­gent of Toron­to­ni­ans of all back­grounds who be­lieved that Ford was on their side, had their backs and — as he fa­mously de­clared — would “stop the gravy train” at city hall.

Af­ter the can­cer, which would even­tu­ally take his life at age 46, forced him to end his 2014 re-elec­tion cam­paign for mayor, he was re-elected by Eto­bi­coke North vot­ers as their city coun­cil­lor.

Tory’s pro­posal was not to build a new sta­dium hon­our­ing Rob Ford, but sim­ply to re­name the ex­ist­ing Cen­ten­nial Sta­dium in Eto­bi­coke.

This in a part of the city where Ford re­mained hugely pop­u­lar right up to his death — con­sider the mas­sive turnout at his fu­neral. The sta­dium is also mind­ful of his love of sports, par­tic­u­larly coach­ing high school football, where he of­ten used his own money to sup­port his young play­ers. Ford was deeply flawed. Yes, he suc­cumbed to the demons of ad­dic­tion.

Yes, he smoked crack and lied about it.

Yes, he was fre­quently un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion at city hall for al­leged eth­i­cal vi­o­la­tions.

Yes, he be­came a sub­ject of ridicule on late-night U.S. talk shows, as well as ap­pear­ing on them.

But he loved Toronto and many vot­ers in Toronto of all back­grounds loved him.

Re­nam­ing Cen­ten­nial Sta­dium for Rob Ford would have been the right thing to do.

Coun­cil­lors who re­jected it — us­ing phony ex­cuses given how many fa­cil­i­ties in Toronto are named for mu­nic­i­pal politi­cians — re­vealed them­selves to be petty and small.

Sadly, it wasn’t sur­pris­ing.

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