pinching councillor to crack mayor

TORONTO Rob Ford is daring us to rifle through the skeletons in his closet.

It is April 2010. Ford is the controversial councillor for Etobicoke North whose politically incorrect outbursts have made him enemies in Toronto’s gay, Asian and even cycling communities. Called everything from a buffoon to a barbarian, he is relishing the apoplectic shock reverberating through the city’s downtown and left wing elites at the mere possibility of his having a shot at the city’s top prize.

After an exhaustive tour of rolex watches for sale his family’s Etobicoke printing company where he is CFO, the man who rolex watches for sale would be mayor sits down in the boardroom of Deco Labels and Tags for a rare feature interview.

Ford is overweight, but at 285 pounds, still far from the hefty size he will carry later in the mayor’s office. He’s surprisingly shy and socially awkward. The sweat that beads on his broad forehead belies his nervousness. He is the very antithesis of the poised and polished politician.

And that seems to be his secret.

Toronto is weary of the slick David Millers and their champagne spending and their broken city beholden to the unions. He is Toronto’s Everyman, the spendthrift who goes to Timmy’s, not Starbucks, drinks Molsons, not martinis, who’s more at home at the hockey game than the theatre.

He answers his own phone! He coaches at risk youth! He will watch our pennies at City Hall!

Asked about Ford’s surging poll numbers, veteran politician and strategist John Tory explains that the renegade councillor is tapping into the fury of the over taxed electorate. But he also warns it’s very early in the game and his surprising popularity will bring new scrutiny: Is Ford really fit to run a multibillion dollar corporation?

Told of Tory’s words, Ford says bring it on.

“There’s nothing left,” he laughs during that QMI Agency interview. “Everybody knows everything out there. My closet’s empty. What you see is what you get.”

How ironic those words resonate, almost four years on.

We should have known better, of course. All the warning signs were there for all but the blind Ford Nation to see: reports of substance abuse, an incendiary temper, a reflexive tendency to lie.

Ford’s modus operandi was already well known by then: a stubborn pattern of deny, deny, deny only to finally own up to his indiscretions when proof was irrefutable, followed by a half hearted “sorry” and a pledge to never do it again: a 1999 Florida drunk driving charge, his banishment from a 2006 Leafs game for drunkenly berating other spectators, flipping the bird at a driver and later his conflict of interest conviction, which would later be overturned on appeal all met with defiant denial only to be followed by a begrudging apology and insistence that the past was the past. And let’s move on.

Even then, no one could have actually mistaken Ford for harbouring any intellectual depth he admitted dropping out of Carleton University but fudged on exactly when that was; nor expected that he would be well versed on issues when he had a spotty attendance record at City Hall and a well known impatience for lengthy documents, including the municipal code of conduct.

But Ford never did hold himself out to be a Rhodes Scholar. He sailed forth on a simple, populist platform to “stop the gravy train” and take care of taxpayers’ money. And that was enough for a while. His initial accomplishments were something to boast about killing Toronto’s $60 vehicle rolex watches for sale registration tax, slashing councillors’ budgets, privatizing garbage collection west of Yonge St., a labour contract with CUPE Local 416 that finally served taxpayers’ interests.

Then Ford stalled when his reckless personality and lackadaisical leadership inevitably got in the way. He kept sacking himself with countless fumbles of spectacularly poor judgment: refusing to appear at Pride, photographed reading while driving, giving the finger to another motorist, calling the cops on a CBC comedian. More importantly, refusing to play nice to push his agenda.

Shameless, self destructive with a hefty persecution complex, the mayor wore his obstinacy with pride and liked to cast himself as the lone wolf who would not compromise even if he was the one most injured as a result.

Of course, he was destined to land himself in trouble. We just never imagined how much.

Ford’s political ambitions were lofty, even back then: “I want to be prime minister,” he told us in 2010.

The youngest of four children, Ford had always lived in the shadow of the father he worshipped. According to oft told family lore, Doug Sr. was raised in public housing by a single mom of nine children, widowed by a husband who died during the Second World War. From his hard scrabble background, the successful businessman founded a multimillion dollar printing business. A larger than life kind of man who reminded his employees of Harold Ballard with his thick fur coats and Lincoln Town car, they also praised his heart of gold. He went on to serve one term as a Conservative backbencher in the Mike Harris government and died in 2006 after an ugly six month battle with colon cancer.

“He was my idol. He made millions in this company but money didn’t drive him. He wanted to give back,” his proud son explained in 2010, his eyes filling with tears as he gazed as his dad’s portrait on the boardroom wall.

“I took a business approach to politics. My father instilled that: you never let a customer down, you return every call personally and you go out to see them,” he said. “They’re the boss. When they say ‘Jump’, you ask ‘How high?’ It’s fundamental. It’s just cour rolex watches for sale tesy and common sense.”

Unlike his dad, though, Ford was raised in a leafy part of North Etobicoke with all the comfortable advantages that a privileged upper middle class life could bring. He was a rich kid with cash to buy whatever he wanted including drugs and a sense of entitlement bred in his bones.

He also had a fatal affinity with those who lived on the wrong side of the tracks.

Before he died, Doug Sr. warned his youngest son that he was too much of a loose cannon. “My dad said, ‘You’ve got to chill out, you’re doing dumb things. You won’t be mayor until you straighten out’.”

Pinching Consumers Boost German Discounter

At first glance, it’s hard to imagine Aldi appealing to the mainstream American tastes. The discounter chain’s decor is Spartan. Its nar rolex watches for sale row product range with goods stacked in cardboard boxes on loading pallets gives its stores a warehouse look.

In a nation where the customer is king, Aldi supermarkets offer little in the way of service. Shoppers need to deposit a quarter to get a shopping cart, bag their own groceries in plastic sacks that cost a dime each and pay in cash. The no nonsen rolex watc rolex watches for sale hes for sale se cashiers have no time for pleasantries and scan the items faster than customers can load groceries into the shopping cart.

But those consumer attitudes are changing as the US economy takes a battering, leading to bankruptcies and job losses and forcing Americans to rein in their spending.

And as America’s economic fortunes flag, Aldi’s are picking up. Analysts say the recession is providing the ideal climate for the privately owned German chain to flourish across the Atlantic.

“The recession is driving shoppers into Aldi’s arms. Americans are sitting on a big pile of debt, the jobless rate is going up and unemployment benefits are meager, so whether the weekly grocery bill ends up being $120 or $100 makes a big difference now,” said Boris Planer, a retailing analyst at PlanetRetail in Frankfurt.

Success in Germany, unknown in US

With an estimated 51.4 billion euros ($67 billion) global turnover, Aldi is a huge success in Germany. Over 90 percent of all households shop at one of its 4,000 stores nationwide.

But the going hasn’t been that easy for the discounter in the US despite its reputation fo rolex watches for sale r offering surprisingly high quality goods for low prices.

Since 1976, Aldi has been operating nearly 1,000 discount supermarkets from Kansas to the East coast, but it’s only in the last few years that the retailer has achieved double digit growth in the US.

Meanwhile traditional supermarkets have grown an average of only three percent, according to estimates by Chicago based Willard Bishop Consulting.

Last week, Aldi’s US division announced its new expansion with 75 stores opening this year at a time when many other retailers are going out of business.

Aldi’s rock bottom prices that undercut other big US discounters such as Wal mart and Target by sometimes as much as 20 percent are the key attraction, according to Planer.

American retail habits changing

However, Juergen Elfers, a European retail expert at Commerzbank Corporates and Markets in Frankfurt says that American customers are not exactly flocking to the Aldi stores yet and it is taking a long time for its concept to gain acceptance in the US.

“Aldi is a still niche market in US food retailing. They’ve been in the US market for 30 years already and only have 1,000 stores that’s not a screaming success story,” Elfers said.

Aldi accounts for only about one percent of the entire $900 billion food retailing sector, according to Jim Hertel, managing partner of Willard Bishop Consulting.

But the global slowdown is slowly but surely changing American retail attitudes, other analysts point out, making consumers previously wary about no name private grocers adopt a more open attitude toward low price shopping options.

“Private labels used to have a reputation of being cheap, but of poor quality. Now the quality and perception of quality have improved to Aldi’s benefit. Then add factors like inflation in the last year and the recession. The convergence of all these factors are opening up peoples’ minds to Aldi,” Hertel said.

Now that even investment bankers are finding themselves on the dole, Americans are becoming more like Germans in terms of being price conscious and ecologically minded, according to Planer.

“In Germany, everyone from millionaires to the social welfare recipient shops at discount stores. The poor have to shop there, but the rich folks like Aldi because it’s possible to get good quality at a low price,” said Planer.

Aldi has also worked to remake its image across the Atlantic, making an effort to promote its good value for money concept.

Whereas the discounter previously appealed to mainly low income groups in the US, the firm is now starting to move aggressively into upper middle class neighborhoods, where the stores are getting a facelift wider aisles, more light and brighter color schemes to appeal to a more upscale clientele.

“Conspicuous consumption is out. Aldi stands for the simple life where it’s possible to get the essentials at the lowest prices,” said Planer. “Even the sale of reusable shopping bags has been phenomenal.”

While many retailers have feared Americans would stay away from stores which cut down on their service offerings, consultant Hertel said Americans are not as pampered as conventional wisdom has it. After all, he pointed out, they gave up full service gas stations for lower cost self service pumps.

According to retail analyst Planer, the sheer size of the US market means that if only a portion of consumers decided to give up service and convenience for lower prices, discount retailers could still see big benefits, especially in this time of global financial crisis.

Pinchers Crab Shack ready for stone crab season

The recreational and commercial stone crab claw harvests open Tuesday in state and federal waters.

Recreational harvesters can use up to five stone crabs trap per person. There’s also a daily recreational bag limit of one gallon of claws per person or two gallons per vessel, whichever is less.

When it comes to stone crabs, fishermen usually take just one claw from each crab, which is then returned to the water. Those claws must be at least 2 inches in length.

Last year’s stone crab haul was considered one of the worst in the last two decades, with rough rolex watches for sale ly 2.2 million pounds of claws harvested, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation C rolex watches for sale ommission biologist Tom Matthews told The Key West Cit rolex watches for sale izen. That was the smallest haul since Hurricane Wilma in 2005, whe rolex watches for sale n fishermen lost large numbers of traps, Matthews said.