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Toronto mayor Rob Ford speaks at a brief press scrum at a local gas station in Etobicoke to talk about the arrest of his friend and occasional driver, Alessandro Lisi

In the Texas capital to get tips on how to build economic growth out of live music, Mayor Rob Ford again faced questions about a friend and occasional driver back home in Toronto who was arrested this week and charged with drug offences.

Reporters questioned him after a reception at Austin city hall on Thursday at which Mayor Lee Leffingwell named Mr. Ford an honorary citizen. The two signed an agreement pledging to cooperate on developing their cities' music industries.

"I've addressed that. Any other questions," he said when asked whether he really did not know about the background of Alessandro Lisi, who was arrested this week in a police operation in the city's west end. Mr. Lisi has had many previous brushes with the law.

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When another reporter asked why Toronto should not be be concerned "that people close to you have been arrested," Mr. Ford ignored the question.

The mayor is in Austin with city councillors and music industry representatives – along with his wife Renata and his two children – to learn from Austin's success at becoming what it calls the Live Music Capital of the World.

"In Austin you can feel the influence of music around every corner," he said on the city hall balcony.

He also took the opportunity to boast of Toronto successes and claim credit for its economic strength.

"Toronto is a vibrant, vibrant, beautiful city," he said. "My administration has made economic development and job creation our top priority and that focus, friends, is paying off – it's paying off huge.

"Under my administration, Toronto has become a magnet – a magnet – for business and investment. Today Toronto is a global economic powerhouse."

In the three years he has been mayor, he said, unemployment has dropped four percentage points to seven per cent.

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