"Something wrong with your eye, Craig?" Ari Goldkind asked me at the recent campaign office opening for Ward 20 candidate Terri Chu.
I told him he had a good eye, that I'd been putting in a few too many hours at computer screens of late and was suffering some eye strain as a result.
Not realizing that the man I was talking to only had one eye.
"I tend to notice details," Ari replied. Which is true.
I've gotten to know Ari a bit over the past couple of months, primarily through Why Should I Care, where he has twice been a speaker (once on the issue of police carding, the other in our Mayoralty debate). He's a thoughtful, informed guy who - true to his message - cuts right through the crap.
Ari is a great communicator - he's got a folksy style of engaging, but what he engages with and over is more about substance than platitudes.
One thing Ari isn't great at (and has so observed himself) is the political verbal trickery that helps politicians avoid landmines. Ari doesn't bridge, he doesn't bait and switch - he doesn't even pontificate which, seeing how he's a defense attorney, is pretty special.
Ari doesn't do pretense.
So when he says things like "I realize that, as a driver, I'm more a cause of gridlock than the people on public transit" you know he's not feeding a line; it's true, and he believes it.
When he says "I've been lucky in life, I have money, I am totally comfortable with paying a bit more to help others reach the same quality of life", he means it.
I understood all this about him before today - but what I didn't know, what I hadn't heard clearly articulated was his why.
Every person standing for political office needs to have a "why" - a reason why they have chosen to run for office. Fighting the status quo doesn't cut it - you can do that from the outside more effectively than the inside. In my experience, most politicians who start with "fighting against" are primarily interested in replacing the incumbent, not changing the status quo.
Though Ari has used similar messaging, I could tell that wasn't his core motivation; if it was, he'd have spent more time working on finessing his political presence, on hobnobbing with those who could fund or otherwise support his campaign and would have been more aggressive in his recruitment strategy.
So what's his motivation? Why does he want to be mayor of Toronto?
I wonder no longer.
“So many people who are so lucky in so many ways don’t understand how quick your luck can change and I think about that every single day,” he says. “When I see people who haven’t been as lucky as me through no fault of their own, it makes me want to go to them, not go away from them.”
Ari is a self-made man whose journey has nevertheless been a rough one. His family has been rocked by mental illness, as so many families have. I can't say I know many people who've been shot in the face by a camp councilor, though.
Kids are supposed to have the comfort of looking up to parents and persons in position of authority and knowing they are in good hands, safe hands.
Ari learned early and learned hard that such is not always the case. It's clear he's thought about this a bit and gets the contextual nature of personal misfortune.
With true grit, hard work and a fire in his belly, Ari's life has evolved in to a purpose, as is the case with all the best leaders out there.
Why is Ari running to be mayor of Toronto? It's pretty clear to me now - he knows what hardship is like and knows how to come out of it on the other end. He recognizes that he's pretty lucky to have had that revelation - and now, he feels a responsibility to empower others so that they, too, can move forward.
Ari Goldkind has always been one to notice details and look out for others. He doesn't draw attention to his own challenges, nor do they jump out at the people he engages with - even people like me, who tend to be pretty detail-oriented. It's never about him with Ari - it's always about his purpose, and that shows.
I'm glad to see that he's starting to turn eyes in this mayoralty race. Whatever happens on the 28th, his purpose won't change, nor will his commitment.