Is Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson hoping for a more Watson-friendly city council after this fall’s election?
In the City, From the Burbs has been talking to a number of concerned politicians and citizens in Ottawa who say Watson is gunning to oust several city councillors who often oppose him around the council table.
At the top of his hit list appears to be College Coun. Rick Chiarelli. Chiarelli told this blog he’s heard from a number of people in his ward who have told him associates of the mayor have been badmouthing the long-time councillor in their search for someone to take him on.
Being on the outs with Watson certainly isn’t new ground for Chiarelli. But Watson was particularly angry with Chiarelli recently following the release of this year’s budget, going so far as to lash out at reporters who were quoting the College ward council.
Chiarelli told the media he felt it was a fake budget and the media ate it up. Chiarelli has been in the dog house ever since.
“The stuff he’s being saying about me, it’s just grimy, just stuff you wouldn’t say,” Chiarelli said, adding he doesn’t understand why Watson is so thin-skinned.
“Sure, I find it all offensive. If he’s picking people and everybody is just going to be a bobblehead, then why have councillors?” the councillor asked.
Oh, please don’t tempt the mayor with that idea!
“Honestly, I find it kind of an arrogant use of his time. He should be being the mayor, not going off on these tangents.
“My job is actually to consider all the things in front of us and to ask the questions. That’s my job. If I can’t support it, I don’t.”
One person considering taking Chiarelli on is Ryan Kennery, a former city staffer who worked in the mayor’s office. He hasn’t made up his mind yet, but says the idea of running was his own and no one else’s. As to whether Watson would support him, he said that question should be addressed to Watson. Would love to, but Watson – who once told me he knew that as a journalist I was always willing to listen and consider all sides – has apparently changed his mind. The mayor no longer takes my calls!
I need to make something perfectly clear here. While there are those at city hall who believe Kennery has been urged to run by Watson to try to oust Chiarelli, I have no hard and fast evidence of that. In a recent get-together with Kennery, we discussed a wide range of issues, with Kennery proving himself to be both informed and engaged.
Taking on an incumbent is difficult to do, often near impossible – especially against a hardworking, ward-centric councillor like Chiarelli.
The two do have something in common, both Chiarelli and Kennery spoke well of the other – both describing the other as nice.
“He’s a nice guy, but he’s going to get thrown under the bus,” Chiarelli said.
Nor do I have any evidence Watson is behind the recently announced bid by former Ottawa Champions president David Gourlay, who earlier announced he is running in Kanata North. That ward is now up for grabs with the official announcement on Tuesday from Marianne Wilkinson that she is retiring.
Gourlay certainly does have strong connections to Watson. Aside from the baseball connection, Gourlay’s wife Danielle McGee works in the mayor’s office. It wasn’t particularly classy of Gourlay to announce his intention to run before Wilkinson announced her retirement, which everyone knew was coming. For now, enough said on that.
Several people have also confirmed that they were approached directly by the mayor enquiring about a possible candidate to run against Deans.
Deans, who is often on the outs with Watson, very uncharacterisally refused to discuss the matter. That of course is somewhat telling on its own.
She didn’t deny it, just said she wouldn’t talk about it.
And Rideau-Rockcliffe Coun. Tobi Nussbaum, another who is rumoured to be on the hit list, also refused to directly answer whether he’d heard rumblings in his ward about Watson looking for someone to take him on. The silence is odd. Asked whether he’d heard about Watson meddling in his ward, Nussbaum would only say that he would be running again.
“I plan to run and my independence on council is something I will run on,” Nussbaum said.