In which our mayor has an adventure south of the border.
Mayor Rob Ford led a delegation to Chicago on Tuesday and Wednesday. Following Ford around were several dozen Toronto politicians and businesspeople, and also a ton of Toronto press. In that kind of atmosphere, you might have expected Ford to have committed a gaffe or two.
Your expectation would have been correct.
Here, for those who didn’t follow the trip as it unfolded, is Torontoist‘s meta-recap of Rob Ford’s journey to Illinois.
The mayor’s flight arrived in Chicago at about 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday, and Toronto reporters were there waiting for him.
Ford says a weird thing to a Star reporter.
After the airport, the press caught up with the mayor for a late-afternoon visit to Millennium Park, home of the famous mirrored “Bean” sculpture (its actual title is “Cloud Gate“).
The Star, by this time, had sent a reporter to scope out the high school football team Ford coaches. At a practice on Tuesday, they found one of Ford’s staff members helping to coach in his absence, in apparent violation of rules against using City resources for non-City business. It had only been a week since Ford had been lambasted in the media for doing the exact same thing.
Right there, in front of The Bean, the Star‘s David Rider confronted the mayor with this information. The mayor responded in an odd way. The Star‘s transcript captures the moment:
Reporter: People are saying that you misused city funds. Can you address that?
Rider: The Toronto Sun is calling it gravy. Is it gravy?
Ford [laughs]: Are you going to be sleeping with me tonight?
Rider: I hope not.
Ford [laughs]: I hope not too. Go home, go where you came from.
The mayor usually stonewalls the Star. Travel must make him chatty.
Ford forgets where Manitoba is.
At that very same scrum, in front of The Bean, a young woman walked up to Ford and told him she’d been to the part of Canada “across from Detroit and the river.” Ford’s response was, “Oh, Manitoba!” (The Globe has video.) A reporter then reminded the mayor of the existence of Windsor.
Ford meets a football player.
The mayor has always had lots of time for professional sports figures. (Remember the time he said he skipped a Pride event to go hang out with Brian Burke?) Tuesday night, before a reception at the Chicago Cultural Centre, Ford met Israel Idonije, a defensive lineman for the Chicago Bears who, interestingly, went to the University of Manitoba, and probably knows where that province is located.
The mayor shared some of his famous coaching wisdom. “He’s given me some tackling advice,” said Idonije.
Ford meets another mayor.
On Wednesday, after the mayor and his delegation had visited a tech start-up hub to meet with some Chicago business leaders, Ford met privately with Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel. Afterward, both of them made some brief remarks to the press. Emanuel called his time with Ford “a very good meeting.” The two mayors renewed Toronto and Chicago’s sister-city agreement. Afterward, Ford said the experience had left him “pumped up.”
Other dignitaries Ford met: Illinois governor Pat Quinn (there seems to be no photographic evidence of the meeting), and U.S. ambassador to Canada David Jacobson (here is Ford handing him a football).
Ford appears not to realize his trip will cost the City money.
In at least one interview on Wednesday, Ford said the Chicago junket wouldn’t cost taxpayers “one red cent.” This was a claim so blatantly false that even the Sun devoted an article to debunking it.
Ford invites media to a photo-op, then changes his mind.
Reporters were invited to U.S. Cellular Field to watch the mayor tour the home of the Chicago White Sox, only to be barred from spending any time with him. National Post reporter Natalie Alcoba: “At Cellular Field, home of the White Sox. Mayor walks past reporters waiting at door. ‘That was the photo op,’ says assistant.” According to David Rider, press were eventually given a tour of the stadium, but in a group separate from the mayor’s.
A link to an article—apparently the only article—about Ford’s visit in the Chicago press.
It’s on the website of Chicago’s NBC affiliate. The bulk of it is a faithful recounting of some of Ford’s more memorable screw-ups .
A few of the best Ford pictures from the junket.
Honorable mention goes to the Sun, for this genuinely great photoshop of Ford and his brother Doug as Blues Brothers.