Exactly what kind of egotistical trip is Mayor Jim Watson on?
Whatever the ride, he’s treating city council like his very own fiefdom, rejecting the wishes of thousands of taxpayers who just recently re-elected a number of experienced city councillors to represent them.
Seriously, I’ve been covering city council since the days of the Ottawa Herald, and I’ve never seen such an egregious abuse of power as Watson has exhibited at the city this week. And dare I repeat yet again, it’s Watson calling on his councillors for cooperation.
The story in a nutshell? After every election, new city committees are picked – along with new committee chairs. Councillors are asked to choose what committees they’d like to be on, rating their wants numerically. Theoretically, committee membership is handed out based on a councillors’ desire to be on the various committees. Granted, it’s not always possible, but that’s the theory behind the process.
Councillors – most of whom aren’t considered Watson allies – who ranked certain committees as their number one choice weren’t rewarded, while some – Watson’s ‘yes sir’ group – who had little interest on being on those same committees found themselves getting a spot; those the mayor has the least use for find themselves on relatively insignificant committees they have no interest in.
Does this make sense? Of course not. The only person who benefits from this process is Watson himself, who is adverse to opposition – and simply used his power to ensure anyone who questions him get shut out. And he’s handed out enough goodies to almost guarantee the votes will go his way. That’s not democracy.
With his buddies in key positions at council, Watson surely expects things to run more smoothly. Hope his high-handed tactics are worth it.
And surprisingly, one of the heroes in taking Watson on with this strategy is River Coun. Riley Brockington, who up until now has not been willing to rock the proverbial council boat. But Brockington told a media scrum Wednesday that he was told that asking questions at committee was frowned upon. In fact, Brockington says he was told that if he had questions, he should ask the behind closed doors. And yes, Brockington is drawing a correlation between refusing to ask questions privately to not getting his desired spot on the city’s planning committee, even though there are open spaces.
Now Brockington isn’t willing to say who has told him to keep his mouth shout. But it doesn’t take a genius to figure that out does it?
But showing a lot of class, Brockington says he’s a team player and will serve where he’s placed. What he won’t do is acquiesce to speaking about important city issues behind closed doors. Before he does that, he’ll resign. Good on him.
What else does this mess mean for the city? Well, the urban councillors have all been left off of the city’s finance committee, while the city’s rural councillors are on it. The committee is considered akin to a cabinet. Asked if it was just a coincidence that his supporters were rewarded, while many of his detractors are watching the action from the outside, Watson did his usual two-step with a lot of bafflegab. You have to give it to him, no one can not answer a question quite like our good mayor.
Shawn Menard, the new councillor for Capital ward, is the most vocal about what he thinks about the mayor’s tactics. Menard rightly pointed out there are different rules for the mayor’s allies. No doubt there.
When Watson shuts out certain councillors, he’s also shutting out their constituents.
None of this bodes well for the next four years.