THE mayors of the world, sensing people regard them as blights on the political landscape, tend to validate those suspicions as thoroughly as possible.
Toronto’s Rob Ford is not the first to hit the crack cocaine. And Auckland’s married mayor Len Brown, who has just been re-elected despite revelations of a two-year affair, detailed in excruciating pornographic detail, is no trailblazer.
Dress a man in chains and a heavy robe and anything can happen. The least of it is the unproductive junkets to sister cities.
Darwin’s Peter Adamson, coming from the rank humidity of Australia’s north, saw value in taking a large entourage to cultivate a relationship with Anchorage, Alaska.
Along the way he appropriated council funds to buy a fridge, women’s knickers and a Darth Vader mask with in-built voice changer. He went to jail.
The office of mayor attracts a certain type. They campaign that they want to “give back”, which suggests they are well acquainted with taking.
They are often boisterous, “lovable” eccentrics, mainstream political misfits who try to inject their cities with a bit of their own large personality.
Toronto’s Rob Ford is not the first mayor to use crack cocaine while in office.
Toronto, therefore, feels like it’s just been sat on. Ford, its lumbering cartoon mass of mayor, after months of denials, this week admitted he’d smoked crack cocaine, while in office, about a year back.
“Am I addict? No. Have I tried it? Probably in one of my drunken stupors,” he said last week.
The issue, he suggested, while declining to resign, was not the crack but his drinking: “It’s a problem.”
Setting the benchmark for mayoral sobriety was New York’s billionaire Michael Bloomberg, who was too rich to rob the till and just termed out after 11 years without personal scandal.
New York has elected Bill de Blasio, a lefty, in a landslide. The commentators, rather than the voters, have
But New York’s a Democrat town; and Mr Bloomberg was the leftist Republican America has ever seen, so much so that he was accused of running a nanny city, telling New Yorkers what to eat and drink.
Mr De Blasio, who has promised to be “progressive”, whatever that means, says he will be there for the “99 per cent”, the strugglers who were supposedly left behind under Mr Bloomberg.
It’s a dangerous promise. How he can lift living standards from the civic cockpit is anyone’s guess. Bins, streets and Mr Bloomberg will one day be thanked for presiding over period of high-visibility, street-corner policing that built on the work of his predecessor Rudy Giuliani, making New York one of the safest cities in the world.
Mostly, the public does not take mayors are seriously as they take themselves, permitting an element of lunacy they would not forgive in their politicians.
But hoiking on a crack pipe may not be sustainable for Mr Ford (though it was for Washington DC mayor Marion Barry, who was filmed smoking crack in a 1990 sting and, after a jail stint, was rewarded him with re-election in 1994).
The thought of resignation has never crossed the mind of London’s popular Boris Johnson, despite revelations he fathered a child to a woman who was not his wife, and has had at least three known affairs.
Voters, when polled, considered his love life irrelevant. And so it is.
Montreal’s Michael Applebaum stood down earlier this year after being charged with 14 fraud offences, and down in Detroit, former mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, was last month sentenced to 28 years in jail for extortion and briberywhile in office.
It’s when money goes missing that mayors are no longer so funny.