At 9 a.m. on Dec. 1, my freshly hired staff and I arrived at a City Hall office with a nameplate reading “Josh Matlow, Councillor Ward 22, St. Paul’s.” For a fleeting moment, I wondered to myself, “Could I truly be a Toronto city councillor today?”
I decided it would be best not to question the integrity of the nameplate. After all, someone had clearly put a lot of effort into making it.
We proceeded to arrange our new home with city-owned chairs, tables and filing cabinets that had obviously been well used before us. If there is a gravy train at City Hall, it hadn’t made a stop at my office.
After collecting our security cards and keys, we put several hours into setting up an office that quickly became operational.
While moving desks and setting up phone lines, many of my colleagues dropped by and wished me well. Some veterans, Doug Holyday, Joe Mihevc, David Shiner and Michael Thompson shared stories, gave advice and generously offered any assistance we might need.
By noon, we were already receiving dozens of calls from constituents and the person whose job it is to set up my computer still hadn’t been able to visit (I expect it was a very busy day for him as well). I felt like we were constructing the wings of an airplane already in mid-flight.
Shortly after 1 p.m., a bizarre tale began circulating through the hallways from office to office.
Rumour had it that Mayor Ford had made a public announcement that we’re going to build subways with money that had been allocated to, and already even spent on, Transit City. I was disappointed by the news as I understand an integral part of my role as a councillor is to participate in debates and discussions about multi-billion-dollar plans that could expand Toronto’s public transportation system.
Certainly the mayor was elected with a very strong mandate, but as one of 45 votes on council, would it not be reasonable for Mr. Ford to discuss an item of such importance with his fellow elected colleagues? Indeed most of the 14 new councillors, who now make up almost a third of council, were still unpacking their boxes at the time of his press conference.
As I proceeded to go online to learn more about the news I’d heard, two charming, good-looking people — so sprightly they could work as Gap greeters — entered my office. They told me they worked for Mayor Ford and were responsible for “councillor relations.”
They invited me to contact them if there was anything they could help me with.
The first thing I’ll request is an opportunity to vote at council.
Josh Matlow is the councillor for Ward 22, St. Paul’s.