No two big cities are more alike than Chicago and Toronto. They’re the same size -- around 2.6 million people. They’re on Great Lakes (Michigan in our case, Ontario in theirs). They’re both ethnically diverse cities, with world-famous Chinatowns. And both have Second City franchises that have produced some of the best comic actors of the last 50 years. In Chicago’s case, John Belushi, Bill Murray, Tina Fey and Steve Carell. In Toronto’s, Dan Aykroyd, Martin Short, John Candy and Eugene Levy.
But just to be clear, we’re the original Second City. Toronto is the second Second City. That’s why Toronto mayor Rob Ford is visiting his counterpart, Mayor Rahm Emanuel, and not the other way around. The Toronto Sun is so excited about the trip it published a photo illustration of Ford and his brother, Doug, dressed as the Blues Brothers. (Doug is tall and lean, Rob is short and round.) Chicago and Toronto have been sister cities since 1991, but Ford and Emanuel re-signed the agreement today.
Another thing we have in common: colorful mayors. Ford has been arrested for DUI and marijuana possession in Florida, belligerently insulted rival hockey fans at a Maple Leafs game, said that when bicyclists are run down by motorists, “it’s their own fault,” and praised Toronto’s Asian-Canadians for their work ethic, saying “the Oriental people, they’re slowly taking over.”
Toronto’s City Hall press corps followed Ford to Chicago, where they finally got a chance to ask him about a local scandal during a photo op in Millennium Park. One of Ford’s employees drove a city car to a practice of a youth football team the mayor coaches.
From the Toronto Sun:
“A car that I paid for right?” Ford said. “Do your homework. I paid for it last year.”
George Christopoulos, Ford’s press secretary, then jumped in to cut off the questions.
“Thanks guys, the photo op is over,” he said.
Ford ignored follow-up questions asking him to clarify if he is misusing city funds.
“Am I going to be sleeping with you ... tonight?” Ford asked a reporter while laughing. On his Sunday radio show, Ford said he expects to roll over in bed and find a reporter spying on him.
The reporter replied, “I hope not.”
“I hope not too. Go home,” Ford said. “Holy smokes.”
“How does this create jobs?”
Ford also flubbed his Canadian geography when a Chicagoan told him she’d been to the part of Canada “past Detroit and the river.”
“Oh, you were in Manitoba and Winnipeg?” Ford said.
Ford brought 70 business and civic leaders with him for trade meetings. Today, he also toured Chicago’s lakefront, which has always been a source of envy for Toronto mayors, since the city fathers built right up to the waterline, leaving little room for parks or beaches.