Residents on Mayor Rob Ford’s picturesque street near Scarlett Mills Park say they stand behind their famous neighbour despite the attention he draws to an otherwise low-profile enclave of Etobicoke.
In an area of sprawling residential properties and manicured lawns, neighbours are mostly sympathetic, saying despite the calls to 911 and Ford’s insistence on being listed in the phone book, it should not be open season on his life as a private citizen on Edenbridge Drive.
“He needs protection,” said neighbour Nadine MacDonald. “He’s got (surveillance) cameras and that’s great.”
In the time since Ford’s 2010 election as mayor, there have been numerous incidents outside his home, including a break-in and confrontation that led to charges for Scott MacIntyre, Ford’s sister’s ex-boyfriend, and an encounter with actor Mary Walsh, who, in character as Marg Delahunty from CBC show This Hour Has 22 Minutes, approached Ford on his driveway with a TV crew for a comedy bit.
Ford called police after both incidents.
The latest incident occurred on May 2 when Ford again phoned the police after confronting a reporter in a public park behind his backyard.
The mayor and his next-door neighbour accused Toronto Star reporter Daniel Dale of peering onto his private property. Dale denied the allegations, saying he was there to do research for a story he was working on regarding the mayor’s request to purchase a nearby piece of parkland.
Police investigated the incident, but no charges were laid on Dale and the case was closed.
The incident unleashed a veritable media circus on the street, one that continued into the morning, when the mayor showed news media the property behind his house.
Some neighbours are mildly annoyed by the attention.
Mary DiCecco, a massage therapist who works out of her house just 50 metres east of Ford’s modest white-brick bungalow says her clients have been inconvenienced when police cars and media trucks park along the winding street and obstruct a path to her driveway.
With so much activity and crowding, DiCecco said drivers passing through tend to rubberneck, which causes traffic congestion on the well-travelled street.
DiCecco says she’s had to explain to her confused clients what’s going on.
“They get in, but it’s slow,” she said.
Even with an unusual amount of attention drawn to the street she’s lived on for 10 years, DiCecco says she supports Ford.
“He’s a great neighbour who happens to be the mayor,” she said, adding other than a recent phone call her husband received directly from Ford alerting them to a possible street protest she doesn’t have much contact with her high-profile neighbour.
DiCecco recalled years ago when the community was up in arms about a “horrible” garden on the east side of Scarlett Road. Though he was a councillor for another ward at the time, Ford got involved and according to DiCecco, eventually the garden was moved across the street.
“You know you can count on him to get things done, but we’ve always felt that way.”
While some observers of the mayor suggest he sometimes overreacts to personal confrontations, his neighbours say he has reason to be cautious.
“He’s a citizen like anyone else, and if he’s going to be harassed, of course, you call the police,” said Stella Lisi, who lives on Edenbridge Drive.
DiCecco said people on the street, including Ford, have reason to be wary of strangers. Six years ago, DiCecco was the victim of a bad break-in, she said. In a bizarre incident a year later, someone poured acid on her lawn.
During Ford’s mayoral campaign, a man jogging past her house reportedly spat on her car, which sported a Ford sticker.
“I actually wish [Ford] would get security for his sake and ours,” DiCecco said.
Another neighbour said it’s the press that’s the “nuisance”.
“They’ll stay until Ford says something outstanding then they’ll leave,” said the resident, who declined to provide his name.
Frank Raymond, a resident of Clay Court, a small cul-de-sac that runs north of Edenbridge Drive, said the police and media presence outside Ford’s home has been “interesting.”
But, he’s quick to add there are more pressing neighbourhood issues.
“I’m far more concerned about people shooting each other at Scarlett Road and Eglinton,” he said. “That’s far more disturbing than the nonsense at the mayor’s house.”
Asked whether he thinks Ford’s calls to 911 are warranted, Raymond said that’s the mayor’s business, but pointed out that Ford has received death threats in the past.
“If I was in his shoes, I’d be a little nervous, too.”
Raymond says he does have one bone to pick with Ford.
He’s thinking of sending him an email expressing his displeasure with Ford’s recent attempt to get rid of the plastic bag tax.
— With files from Omar Mosleh
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