Because he's known for saying and doing outlandish things, Coun. Giorgio Mammoliti has played a useful role for Mayor Rob Ford throughout most of this political term: the sideshow.
Whether he's starting up a Facebook group to defend the Ford administration, railing on about the need for a magic subway-funding casino boat or continuing his fight for the world's largest flagpole, he's the guy who tends to distract attention away from Ford when negative stories or scandals start to pile up.
After jumping off the Ford bandwagon for a while, Mammoliti was back at it this week, dangling a picture of a possibly sleeping city employee like it was the scoop of the century. In reality, Mammoliti's photo was the definition of a non-story. Stacked up next to the fallout from the subway vote, the mayor's robocalls and whatever it is that's going on with Ford's “straight as an arrow” friends, a grainy shot of a person with their head down seems hardly worth thinking about.
But it worked. With his tale of a sleepy employee, Mammoliti was again pretty successful in redirecting the city hall narrative.
We need to stop falling for this.
The story Mammoliti was telling this time was particularly egregious given that it followed a similar story about a sleeping TTC employee from 2010. In that case, though, after the talk radio outrage about lazy government employees, it turned out the employee was suffering from a health issue. He died just months later. It should have been a cautionary tale for those who attempt to embarrass employees for cheap political points.
I'm not saying that sleeping on the job is ever OK, but it's not something that should be hashed out in the media, especially given the real possibility that there could be a health issue. If Mammoliti was really concerned about the work performance of a city employee, he should have brought that up with the employee's manager or supervisor — in private.
Nothing is gained from making it into a media spectacle. Except, of course, for the fact that the spectacle makes for a good distraction.
But on the upside, at least this distraction story kind of backfired on Ford. The mayor's attempts to shoehorn himself into the proceedings with trumped-up anger and threats to contract out the city's recreation programs were eclipsed by those who pointed out that the mayor himself often doesn't appear at city hall for long stretches (and often not before noon) and never provides a freely-available accounting of his whereabouts.
Call it the silver lining to a very distracting cloud.
This post was originally published at http://www.metronews.ca/views/toronto/ford-for-toronto-matt-elliott/2013/10/18/with-attention-grabbing-sleeping-city-worker-story-mammoliti-back-to-his-old-habits.html on 2013-10-18T00:00:00.000Z