City Centre Mirror
You wouldn't know it to listen to him, but not so long ago - less than a year in fact - red-baiting city councillor Giorgio Mammoliti was not only a member of Mayor David Miller's Executive Committee, the ex-NDP councillor from Ward 7 chaired the City's Affordable Housing Committee, as Bolshevik a duma as a self-respecting Trotskyite could ask for.
And it was just over a year ago that Mammoliti was winding down his own mayoralty campaign. His ideas - which included a curfew, a monorail and a floating casino - didn't resonate enough to pull him into even the high single digits of support in this town. So at some length, he decided to throw his weight behind candidate Rob Ford. He wanted, he said, to be in a position of influence in the new council. Supporting the winning candidate was a way to do that.
Trouble is, Mayor Ford and his brother Doug are not communists at all - not even by Mammoliti's unique and frankly inaccurate definition. So like the nerdy kid who wants to get into the cool gang, Mammoliti has come to understand that simply having endorsed Toronto's right-wing mayor in the election is not enough. He knows he's got to prove his loyalty. He has to butter up his new 'friends' just as he must mock and bully his former 'friends.' If necessary, to show how extremely he wants into the new club, he will sit himself down in the dust and eat a bug.
In this case, it appears to have worked. Mammoliti has kept close to the mayor's side, even when not explicitly invited - communicating with thumbs-up or down to Ford loyalists whether a motion at council should or should not be supported.
And he has made a point of playing rougher than the mayor.
Where the Fords simply went away to the cottage during Pride weekend to show their disinterest, Mammoliti explicitly threatened the gay and lesbian signature event's funding, over a group that marched protesting Israeli foreign and domestic policy. And when he started a Facebook page designed to gather praise for the mayor's agenda, he called his former party-mates, and the mayor's critics on the page, for what he believes the mayor believes them to be: Communists.
The mayor's office doesn't seem to have minded all this cozying. When Mayor Ford is too busy, or just not interested in talking to the press, Mammoliti accompanies Ford's press secretary to speak in the mayor's stead. Mammoliti is also in charge of several cost-cutting task forces in areas like child care. He is far from the sidelines in this administration. Indeed, Mammoliti has found a warm and welcoming niche for himself.
It hasn't been a great stretch for the long-serving politician. Indeed, he was always a rougher fit in other administrations. He isolated himself effectively from the NDP caucus he was a part of in the early 1990s, opposing the extension of adoption rights for same-sex couples. During the early Mel Lastman years, he became well-known for inexplicable office budget expenditures. He actually demonstrated his worth to Mayor David Miller in large part by first helping incite public anger over a decision to cut former police chief Julian Fantino's tenure short, then promising not to do it again.
Now, Mammoliti's working to incite public anger again - but not in a way to afflict the powerful at City Hall - as he tars critics, certain city councillors, and even many residents of wards in the downtown core, with a monicker that until recently had serious and sometimes deadly implications for its recipients. No doubt about it: It's as ugly, demeaning, and effective a strategy for getting into the tree house as is eating a very big and hairy bug.