Are Metal Detectors Are Their Way to City Hall?

 

Ottawa City Hall, a strong symbol of the heart of municipal democracy has almost always been welcoming – blissfully open to the public.
That may soon change. Sadly, city staff are now looking at increased security measures, On the City, From the Burbs has learned. Staff are now looking at  everything from metal detectors at Andrew Haydon Hall – where city council takes place – to banning knapsacks and large bags.
Don’t go blaming the politicians on this one.
Blame the world we live in.
Pierre Poirier, the manager of Security and Emergency Management, told On the City, From the Burbs, there are many and varied issues to consider. And city staff are now in the process of looking at all of it. For example, if they ban knapsacks, does that also mean large bags and all purses? Or do they instead check bags. And what happens to the belongings of city staff? None of this is easy, Poirier very rightly pointed out.
“It’s just not as simple as saying no bags,” Poirier said.
“But we do take all of this very seriously.”
That was certainly clear talking to Poirier, in a no-nonsense interview in which he openly explained just some of the considerations staff have to take into account. For example, if a decision is ultimately made to increase security at council, do they do the same for committee meetings, located in a different part of city hall?
At the most recent city hall council meeting, a group of unhappy constituents interrupted council. A handful of them stood up, yelling their points out – and holding placards. For starters, placards aren’t allowed into council. How they got through the doors of council isn’t entirely clear.
Shouldn’t have happened.
But when the group stood up and began yelling and holding their signs, they were asked to stop. They didn’t budge. And frankly, while not every group listens to requests to hold their applause or stop profanities – I don’t quite remember a similar occasion. Or maybe, I’m just more attune to the dangers this world now has for us.
Eventually, a senior female city staffer went up to talk to the group, to advise them to follow the rules. Apparently, this is part of the city’s protocol – believing a woman is considered less threatening. She said her piece, but the group didn’t budge. Thankfully, before anyone else had to speak to the group, they did leave – peacefully.
But then a group of onlookers a couple of rows back from where the protesters had been sitting noticed a knapsack had been left behind. A few years ago, pretty sure none of us would have thought anything about it. Now, having seen what the world has brought us, it was frankly worrisome.
It’s all sad, but it’s our new reality.
City clerk Rick O’Connor told On the City, From the Burbs, he wasn’t aware of the knapsack being left behind. But he added, the entire incident would be looked at by city staff.

Dear Jim

 

Jim,
(aka – Mayor Jim Watson)
It was a bit of a shock to receive your recent letter. Much appreciated, though I have to admit it really did take me by surprise. Of late, after decades of reporting on you, you’ve recently decided to freeze me out. I can’t get you or your office to even acknowledge my emails – let alone respond to them. Knowing you as I do, of course, I shouldn’t be surprised. You don’t like negative press.
You don’t like criticism, you turn real nasty in the face of it. Just ask College Coun. Rick Chiarelli who dared to criticize your budget.
Is it just a coincidence that your former assistant Ryan Kennery is now running against him? Don’t think so.
(And certainly, that’s not to disparage the fine qualifications of Kennery.) Chiarelli of course is just one in a long list of people you’ve turned on over the years.
It’s really just an endless list of people you seem to enjoy freezing out because they disagree with you or criticize you. Of course, you don’t generally freeze out people you perceive are in a position to help you or who could really hurt you. You put up with them. Of course, you keep files on most everyone. I learned from you that keeping emails is smart thing to do.
You used to say I was tough but fair and one of the few reporters who would listen to reason. You’re right. I am. But now, being simply a blogger in your eyes, there’s no longer any reason for you to pretend, is there? It’s really part of your modus operandi. You don’t hesitate to take an opportunity to diss me, to criticize me, to malign my blog.
We could certainly ask popular blogger Ken Gray what it’s like to be on the outside of your circle, couldn’t we? Under you, the city even tried to deny him access to routine emails the city sends out. How paranoid of you!
Longtime, somewhat friendly relationships, can be a tricky thing when they’re between a politician and reporter. As we’ve often talked about the first time I quoted you was when I was news editor of Carleton University’s student newspaper The Charlatan. I was the news editor, you were president of the Rideau River Residence Association.
You suggested you wouldn’t make a very good politician! But you of course were always a politician, even back then.
All to say, our relationship goes way back. I distinctly recall a phone call we once had several years ago where I explained to you – that as a reporter – I don’t call any politician a friend. You said you considered me a friend. But here’s the truth. I didn’t believe you. And your recent cold shoulder is more than proof I was right.
So Mayor Watson, again, thank you for your letter.
And as much as a “behind-the-scenes look at Team Watson’s new Campaign Office” sounds fascinating, I won’t be able to make it.
Thanks anyway,
Sue

Buck-passing and Secrets Revealed

 

It’s amusingly pathetic to see city councillors react in horror and disbelief at the recent findings of an audit into the Springhill dump.
Their outrage is certainly misplaced.
In fact, it’s much more than that – it’s buckpassing at its very worst.

Certainly, there appears to been enough blame to go around. City staff, city politicians, Tomlinson, the Ministry of the Environment, at any time – any one of these could have stepped up and done something. There are any number of problems, lack of documentation, lack of clarity in their roles, bad bookkeeping, bad feelings – the list goes on about the problems with the contract between the city and Tomlinson.

Back in 2012, then auditor general Alain Lalonde was the first to release an audit of the Springhill dump.
That audit, which for some reason still remains ‘confidential’, was obtained by On the City, From the Burbs and reveals many of the same problems and similar recommendations to the one released this week.

Back then, members of the audit committee met on Nov. 29, 2012 – close enough to call it six years ago – to talk about the just-released Springhill dump audit. With legal issues swirling around them, committee members decided to defer the issue until the legal issues surrounding the relationship between the city and Tomlinson – which runs the dump – were resolved.

Who moved the motion to defer? That’s no other than Kanata Coun. Alan Hubley who did his blustery best this week – in his new role as audit chair – to huff and puff and insist he’s not going to take it anymore.

Big words.
Just too bad it’s all false bravado and buck-passing.

Here’s the truth where Hubley is concerned.
Hubley was a member of the 2010 audit committee – charged with dealing with the 2011 audit, and more recently, became the new chair of the audit committee.

He’s known about the problems for years, has been in a unique position to address them, yet has done nothing. And now, he acts like a tough little man ready to rumble.

Pathetic.

He’s not alone. West Carleton-March Coun. Eli El-Chantiry raised his serious concerns this week, in much the same way he did at the 2012 audit meeting. And Osgooge Coun. George Darouze? Where’s he been? This dump is in his ward and he is now a member of the audit committee.

City staff? As damning as some of AG Ken Hughes’ comments directed at the bureaucracy were, frankly, they got off lightly.

As it turns out, according to the audit released this week by Hughes, the problems surrounding the dump are almost as high as the dump itself – and sadly have been around for years. Here’s a little bit of what the 2011 recommended from the confidential report obtained by On the City, From the Burbs.

Recommendation No. 2 in the 2011 audit: That the City ensures that it is proactive in contract oversight and dispute management by monitoring contracts on a regular basis. In their response, city management concurred, saying it is proactive in contact oversight in dispute management by monitoring contracts on a regular basis.

In hindsight, with the full knowledge of the 2018 audit, the city’s response to recommendation number three on the 2011 audit is pretty much gobsmacking: “That when the city has won any aspects of an arbitration, it proceeds without delay in order to ensure that the benefits are achieved in a timely fashion.”

Sure, no problem replied the staff, agreeing with the recommendation – but then adding several caveats to that.

That clearly didn’t happen. And you have to begin questioning the value of audits if city staff simply provide lip service to the audit recommendations. Recommendation number four has the city manager regularly updating council on progress on outstanding issues between Tomlinson and the city. Not so much, but would have been very helpful.

All solid recommendations which appear, given the most recent audit, not to have been taken into consideration.

The dismal relationship between the city and Tomlinson Group over the operations of the Springhill landfill compelled Hughes to suggest city bosses consider freezing the company out of future contract opportunities.

“We’ve never taken a step like this and made a recommendation this severe, this important,” Hughes told the media on Thursday after tabling his damning audit of the Springhill contract. “But given the relationship that existed between the city and Tomlinson, we feel that it’s important that the city evaluate their relationship with Tomlinson based on the fact of their behaviour during the course of this contract.”

The landfill is just one of the contracts Tomlinson has with the city, in fact, has more than $250 million in contracts with the city.

Tomlinson couldn’t be reached for comment.

Keep in mind the first audit was done in 2011. What does that tell you? Yes, there were arbitration issues going on, doesn’t mean the city couldn’t have attempted to forge ahead with developing a better relationship to protect the city.

Once again, your tax dollars at work – or not.