In a bid to win back hearts and minds at city hall, Mayor Rob Ford is inviting most councillors – including some of the so-called Mighty Middle – into his office for face-to-face talks about their priorities for the rest of the term.
Allies and executive committee members are first in line, but the mayor's office is widening the net to bring in swing voters who are planning to gather for a mid-afternoon brainstorming session on Thursday.
Opponents might even be on the mayor's meeting list.
"When we sat down with him he said that this was something he was hoping to do with all of the councillors," said John Parker, the deputy speaker, who met with Mr. Ford last Wednesday. Speaker Frances Nunziata joined them.
"[Mr. Ford]came into office with a number of priorities that motivated his first year and a bit and was looking for some thoughts on what his priorities should be as he heads into the middle part of his term," Mr. Parker recalled. "What's worked well so far? What should we advance?"
Mr. Ford has taken some heat lately for failing to say what he wants to do for the next two-and-a-half years, beyond improving the city's business climate and its customer-service record.
There's been a lull in official business since the mayor lost a major transit vote at the end of March.
Committee agendas have been unusually thin. Monday's economic development committee meeting featured only four items; Tuesday's community development and recreation committee agenda only has three.
That's left some councillors looking to fill the void.
After first discussing the idea with his freshmen allies, Councillor Josh Colle invited eight swing voters to an off-site meeting Thursday to hash out priorities for the Mighty Middle, the informal group whose support often determines whether the mayor wins or loses at council.
"There's definitely an intent to see where there's some consensus on ideas and then, wherever there is, to bring those forward to the city and to council," Mr. Colle said Monday.
That includes championing policy ideas the mayor could support, said TTC Chair Karen Stintz, a former Ford ally who plans to attend Thursday's meeting.
Mr. Ford often speaks informally with his council colleagues, especially his allies. His staff work councillors' offices relentlessly.
But scheduled meetings with the mayor tend to be rare, unless Mr. Ford is trying to shore up support for a key vote. That's what sets apart this latest series of temperature-taking sessions.
Councillors Paul Ainslie, Ana Bailao and Michelle Berardinetti are among those who have meetings with the mayor on their calendars in the next two weeks.
"I don't think it's that unusual," Ms. Berardinetti said, "but I do think that it's a step forward in the sense that [he's]asking directly what we would like to see moving forward."