Josh Matlow City Hall Diary
Being a city councillor comes with daily important responsibilities, hourly demands and a duty to be present for residents. But even politicians need a vacation once in a while to recharge their batteries and spend some time with family. So for one week I escaped with my wife to Florida — with my BlackBerry in hand.
During the days leading up to my departure, I ensured all my work was in order and my staff was on top of their files. The night before my flight I made dozens of calls to constituents and braced myself for a week away from the job I love at City Hall.
However, when I arrived on a Gulf of Mexico beach, I felt so far away, I could hardly recall the name of Toronto’s mayor.
I went swimming every day, hiked through a tropical forest and kayaked in a river full of alligators (sitting through council meetings prepared me for this). It really wasn’t until I met a Tea Party Republican at a beach bar that I once again thought about politics — and our mayor.
My intoxicated Tea Party companion went into a diatribe about religion and guns. In Florida, this kind of talk is not uncommon. It occurred to me that while Ford is certainly right-wing by any Canadian standard, if he were mayor of a southern U.S. city and he was promoting transit expansion (even if it’s not the plan all of us would choose) and making theatrical cameo appearances, he’d be considered by some to be a transit- and arts-loving lefty.
We also discussed Florida congressman Scott Randolph, a Democrat, who during a recent House debate on restricting abortions suggested his wife “incorporate her uterus.” Randolph knew the governing Republicans oppose regulating incorporated businesses and was simply making a political statement. However, Republicans outraged by the use of the word “uterus” chastised the lawmaker for saying it.
In response to this incident, the progressive community in Florida began wearing pink buttons with “uterus” written on them — reminiscent of the “Pinko” phenomenon that spread like wildfire in Toronto after Don Cherry’s now infamous City Hall tirade.
I enjoyed talking with the Tea Partier but it was clear to me that he had been partying with something much stronger than tea.
Back on the beach and thanks to nearly ubiquitous wi-fi, I perhaps too often stayed in touch with my office, responded to residents’ emails and even did media interviews. From afar, I read Toronto news headlines about protests being organized at City Hall and proposed changes in rules regarding councillors’ office expenses (for the record, not a penny of which was spent on my trip).
My week away was rejuvenating but now feels like a distant memory as council’s agenda is busy and fast-paced. But I must admit I’m happy to get back to work. I now have to figure out how to get the sand out of my BlackBerry.
Josh Matlow is the councillor for Ward 22, St. Paul’s.
To read this column at thestar.com, please click here.