Mayors

Phil Giordano and Toronto Mayor Rob Ford. (Tony Bacewicz/ Hartford Courant photo and Reuters photo / November 25, 2013)

You'd think that Rob Ford, Toronto's crack-smoking-oral-sex-denying-binge-drinking buffoon of a mayor, would be a tough dude to top in any screw-up contest for local politicians.

It's true that Ford's antics have provided an insane amount of ammunition recently for TV talk show comics and satirists. Still, Ford wouldn't necessarily be a stone-cold cinch for the title.

Connecticut, after all, has produced more than a few political idiots who might give Ford a run for his money in that sort of competition.

Right at the top of our home-team roster of municipal shame would have to be Phil Giordano, former Waterbury mayor, former Republican U.S. Senate candidate, and current federal inmate.

It's true that Ford has a talent for looking and acting absurd on camera, including his recent run around the Toronto city council chamber during which he knocked a woman over.

Giordano, however, had his own "special" moments that were recorded for posterity. There was, for example, the time he debated a cardboard cutout picture of his U.S. Senate opponent. The Democrat in that race, (Joe Lieberman), figured he didn't even have to show up against a dweeb like Giordano, and he was right. Giordano got crushed at the polls.

And yes, Ford has admitted that he "smoked crack... Probably in one of my drunken stupors." And yes, there have been allegations about Ford and female "escorts," prostitutes and criminal associates.

Toronto's mayor recently denied, during a live television news conference, an allegation by a former woman staffer that he wanted to perform oral sex on her, using colorful gustatory slang.

"I would never do that," Ford informed a gaggle of stunned reporters. "I'm happily married. I've got more than enough to eat at home."

Giordano was also into cocaine and was actually bringing underage girls (ages 8 and 10) into his mayoral office to perform oral sex on him, according to the FBI's clandestine recordings.

When the federal agents heard that sort of stuff on their bugging devices, they were forced to break off a wide-ranging investigation into municipal corruption in Waterbury that had Giordano at its heart.

Giordano was convicted and sentenced to 37 years in prison. Even then, he wasn't done. The creep had the gall to sue the city of Waterbury for $60,000 in vacation pay he claimed was owed him as part of the agreement when he resigned as mayor following his 2001 arrest. He didn't get the money.

(Another Waterbury political idiot, John "Why Should I Resign if I've Done Nothing Wrong" Rowland, wouldn't be in this competition for the simple reason he was a statewide rather than local pol. Otherwise, ex-Gov. Rowland's penchant for taking gifts like hot tubs and free corporate flights to Las Vegas would definitely make him a contender. He did in fact resign, plead guilty to corruption, and spend 10 months in federal prison before taking his political antics to the airwaves as a radio talk-show jock.)

Ford does have an undeniable visual/physical advantage over a lot of our local political buffoons. He's very round and has a talent for doing crazy stunts on camera and offering some weirdly funny quotes.

But how about our own Ernie Newton III? The former state senator from Bridgeport, known for his flamboyant style (we're talking about purple striped suits), used to talk about cutting budgets "not with an ax but with a scaffold."

Shortly before his arrest for corruption a few years ago, Newton (an African–American Democrat) proclaimed himself "the Moses of my people." He later pleaded guilty and spent nearly five years in prison.

Not too long after he got out of prison, Newton ran for the state legislature once again. Unfortunately for those of us looking forward to more quotable Newtonian moments, he lost in a Democratic primary and ended up being charged with fraud.

Newton, of course, wasn't the biggest political disaster in Bridgeport's long history. That description might be reserved for ex-Mayor "Little Joe" Ganim, who spent almost seven years in federal prison for a six-year-long corruption spree. The trouble with matching Ganim up against Ford is that the Bridgeport Democrat wasn't particularly funny and his shenanigans were (except for the stuff the feds found out about) kept as private as possible.

Bridgeport and Waterbury have long histories of public corruption, and dark deeds resulting in criminal convictions have also marred the records of cities like New Haven, Hartford, New Britain and Norwalk.

But again, the problem with those examples is that few if any have the comedy factor to match up to Ford's bizarre style.

Even East Haven Mayor Joe "Taco" Maturo's famous nickname-worthy quote appears to have been an isolated case of fumble-mouth. (Maturo, when asked by a reporter what he planned to do for the city's Hispanic community in the wake of a racial profiling scandal, replied, "I might have tacos when I go home.")

Maturo apologized for that quip, just as Ford has repeatedly apologized for a lot of the stuff he's said and done.

The Toronto mayor, however, might do well to take a little bit of inspiration from Maturo.

Ford is refusing to resign and insists he'll run for reelection when his term is up next year.

Perhaps that's where Ford can emulate Maturo, who also insisted on running again.

Despite the fact that Maturo's terms in office coincided with all that police scandal, and despite the national publicity about that "taco" quote, Maturo was actually reelected earlier this month as East Haven's Republican mayor.

So let's not give up on Ford just yet. Maybe Canadian voters (like East Haven voters) have more of a sense of humor about screwy politicians and their scandals than anyone thought.

If "Taco" can do it, maybe Ford can too.

 

ghladky@hartfordadvocate.com

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