By now you have probably read about the alleged video portraying someone who looks like Toronto Mayor Rob Ford smoking crack cocaine. No media outlet has the video as of this writing — so if the thing exists, you can’t view it yet — but no fewer than three journalists at two different publications claim to have seen it.
Gawker first broke the story with editor John Cook’s account of how the website got a tip about the video, and how he traveled to Toronto to meet with the tipster and the owner of the footage. Apparently, the owner thinks he or she can net six figures from selling the video. (Cook writes that the owner has already gotten one $40,000 offer from an unnamed Canadian news organization, but rejected it.)
“Prior to the trip, I spent a lot of time looking at photographs of Rob Ford,” Cook writes. “The man in the video is Rob Ford.”
This morning, the Toronto Star followed up on Gawker’s story with a report from two of its journalists who say they have viewed the video three times. While conceding that they have “no way to verify the authenticity of the video,” Star reporters Robyn Doolittle and Kevin Donovan go on to describe the footage in detail. It makes for some colorful reading, at the very least.
Doolittle and Donovan write that the Star has not paid for the video, which they say clocks in at less than two minutes and whose owner they describe as a Somali man in his mid-20s.
If the Gawker and Star reports are true, then it explains the behavior of a first-term mayor whose every move since assuming office in 2010 appears to be oriented against the city of Toronto. I mean, what sober politician with his city’s best interests in mind would engage in the following?
- Support building a publicly funded casino in downtown Toronto. If the apoplectic Twitter feed of Richard Florida hasn’t alerted you to the fact that Ford wanted to bring a casino to the middle of the city, don’t worry: The proposal appears to be dead. As Ford said during a Thursday press conference, the province of Ontario doesn’t seem to like the idea of spending $100 million each year to help keep the casino afloat.
- Remove bike lanes on a major north-south thoroughfare. The Toronto City Council voted to install bike lanes on Jarvis Street in 2009. But Ford, whose support during the mayoral campaign largely came from suburban areas, applauded their removal three years later. “They want to get home to their families quicker and that’s what I’ve done,” Ford said of residents who drive on Jarvis street. “I’ve listened to the taxpayers and done what they wanted me to do.” Police had to get involved when protestors sat down to block trucks that would remove the bike lane. Read this post by Torontoist’s Steve Fisher to learn what the Jarvis Street bike lane meant to cyclists.
arearen’t for people.” “Every year we have dozens of people that get hit by cars or trucks,” Ford reportedly said in 2010 of cyclists who wind up beneath tires. “Well, no wonder: roads are built for buses, cars, and trucks, not for people on bikes.” Then he engaged in some good old-fashioned victim blaming: “My heart bleeds for them when I hear someone gets killed, but it’s their own fault at the end of the day.” But what if the driver who hit them was under the influence?
- Saying that the city “can’t deal” with more immigrants. Some Canadian cities are taking steps to increase the flow of immigration to their borders, which has helped offset decades of population loss. But not in Ford’s Toronto. “We can’t even deal with the 2.5 million people in this city,” he said during a mayoral debate in 2010. “It’s more important that we take care of the people now before we start bringing in more.” He also wanted to change Canada’s immigration laws so his administration could have more freedom to kick alleged criminals out.
- Declare war on graffiti. Ford is hardly alone among mayors in seeing graffiti as an impediment to his city’s quality of life (it’s an arguable point, but not one so out of the ordinary). What distinguishes Ford here, though, is his obsession with graffiti removal. He oversaw the creation of a $1.99 smart phone app that lets users submit requests to the city to remove graffiti at a given location. The city would also bill property owners that fail to clean graffiti from their buildings, which comes off as a move against private property owners instead of taggers.
As many corners of the Internet haven’t failed to notice, the last time a big-city mayor got caught smoking crack on video was 23 years ago, when then-Washington, D.C. mayor Marion Barry was arrested in a sting operation by the FBI. After serving six months in a federal prison, Barry made a political comeback, was elected to a fourth term as mayor and now serves on the D.C. City Council.