Thursday, July 31, 2014
Toronto Mayor Rob Ford blasts council office expenses
In an exclusive interview with the Toronto Sun, Ford vowed to slash councillors’ general office budget if elected — the move would close up an open-ended budget created by council back in 2012 to charge constituency office rent, cellphone charges and newsletter delivery costs beyond the $30,000 individual budget limit.
“I’m going to try to get rid of it,” Ford said. “They back doored me on that.”
Ford’s comments came as the second quarter 2014 office budget expenses were released on Thursday.
So far this year, the mayor’s office, deputy mayor’s office and councillors have spent a total of $411,052.05. Around $275,978 came out of councillors’ individual office budgets while $135,000 came from the general office budget.
If he’s re-elected, Ford said he’ll push council to vote to limit themselves to just the $30,000 office budgets with no general office budget.
“Absolutely it is gone, it’s gone. I need 23 votes,” he said.
“I can’t wait for a new council to get elected because some are going to get defeated but they’re going to realize they don’t need this slush fund — $30,000 is more than enough.”
Councillor Maria Augimeri tops the spending list so far this year at $18,641.12. Councillors Anthony Perruzza, Michael Thompson and Ron Moeser aren’t far behind Augimeri with their total spending also cracking $18,000 in the first six months of the year.
Augimeri said the majority of her spending is from “one-time or ongoing costs, like rent, for a new community office I opened in Downsview.”
The Wilson Ave. office opened in January of this year.
“The community office has proved a huge success for residents who can come in for an unscheduled face-to-face meeting to get their issue resolved, or having a space immediately available for a smaller resident group meeting when space isn’t available at a community centre or library,” Augimeri said in a statement.
She stressed city staff determine the costs of the community office.
“Like other councillors, I began the process to acquire a community office last year. It is up to city department staff to negotiate cost for space, and find suitable locations in the community,” she said.
“Having a space to serve residents that is minutes away from their home has proven invaluable to them.”
But Ford argued Augimeri’s spending in the first six months of this year was more than he spent all of last year.
And he dismissed the idea councillors need constituency offices.
“You don’t need a constituency office at the municipal level. It is just promoting themselves again,” he said. “It is frustrating as hell.”
Ford went on to suggest some councillors are sitting on expenses, filing them after the second quarter so they don’t show up until the third quarter expenses are posted at the end of October — after the election.
“I’d hate to see when the third quarter comes out in an election year,” he said.
“I wish the taxpayers saw the real spending because I guarantee it is going to be out of control because they are sending out these householders, self-promotional material non-stop.
“What they’re going to do is promote themselves at taxpayers’ expenses and when they’re running against someone that doesn’t have a, I call it a slush fund, it’s a huge disadvantage.”
The mayor said he believes the office budget spending should be public before election day Oct. 27.
“Absolutely, the taxpayer should know,” he said.
In the first six months of the year, the mayor’s office had spent $3,203.50 from its budget, according to the city.
Ford dismissed the argument he could afford to not spend his office budget due to his own wealth.
“It doesn’t matter,” he said. “I disagree with that argument.
“I could go out and spend just like they do, it doesn’t matter. I respect the taxpayers’ dollar from day one.”
Here’s the top 10 council spenders so far this year when you add up all the office budget spending:
Maria Augimeri, $18,641.12
Anthony Perruzza, $18,558.98
Michael Thompson, $18,514.75
Ron Moeser, $18,092.37
Kristyn Wong-Tam, $17,723.42
Jaye Robinson, $14,839.84
John Filion, $13,742.14
Joe Mihevc, $13,321.23
Gary Crawford, $11,992.30
Cesar Palacio, $11,873.23
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