A Tale of Two City Councillors

Two Ottawa city councillors had life-changing events occur in their lives this week.

One will be celebrating, the other will be forced to re-exam his future.

For Beacon Hill-Cyrville Coun. Tim Tierney, who saw charges of corruption against him withdrawn, it’s a week worth celebrating.

Seems little doubt Tierney got off easy. He will have to give up two months salary. Small price to pay. And he can now stop plotting for ways to get his wife Jenny Tierney into his municipal seat under a scenario where he feared he would lose his job.

A quick recap: On the last day of registration for the 2018 election, Michael Schurter, a real estate agent who had nothing but good things to say about Tierney, registered to run against Tierney with just minutes to spare before the deadline.

I phoned Tierney to get his reaction. He was freaking out, apparently with his extended family on hand – getting ready to pop the champagne to celebrate what he had hoped was going to be an acclamation.

Then, according to OPP documents, Tierney called Schurter on his cell phone. Schurter put the call on speaker phone and three people in the Elections Ottawa office alleged they heard the councillor offer to make a donation to a local food bank if Schurter withdrew his candidacy. 
(Remember what happened to former mayor Larry O’Brien when he was accused of offering mayoral hopeful Terry Kilrea an incentive to drop out of the race?)

Schurter contacted the police, and the OPP anti-rackets division charged Tierney with “corrupt practices,” or bribery. I should mention I had a visit from the OPP myself, who wanted to discuss in further detail my phone conversation with Tierney. 

It was an ugly time, with the super-paranoid Tierney flipping out over what his huge mistake in phoning Schurter could cost him.

But now that’s all over for Tierney and his family. Perhaps that bottle of champagne was actually popped!

What is still so puzzling is why Tierney was so desperate to be acclaimed. It would have been an easy romp to a re-election victory – and while he gets to keep his job – clearly his reputation has been tarnished!

The week hasn’t been as kind to College Coun. Rick Chiarelli.

Chiarelli is a longtime city councillor with a wicked sense of humour he often uses against Mayor Jim Watson. The media loves a good quote, and Chiarelli delivers. When Watson unveiled a budget with questionable numbers, Chiarelli called it a Christmas Miracle. The media ate it up, Watson fumed. Chiarelli also had the audacity (and yes, that’s sarcasm) to beat Watson’s former employee Ryan Kennery in the last election.

According to a story by the CBC, Chiarelli has been accused of asking inappropriate questions during a job interview to a woman seeking employment at city hall. The woman has since filed a complaint with Ottawa’s integrity commissioner, suggesting she was asked inappropriate questions of a sexual nature during a job interview.

The same CBC story also said the corporation had spoken with several others  who’ve worked in Chiarelli’s office, and a number of those said they’d heard the councillor make inappropriate comments in the workplace. 

It’s a sad, ugly story wherever the truth lies.

Not surprisingly, Chiarelli isn’t talking to the media and is now apparently on sick leave.

The Week That Was (Sept. 1-7)

SORRY, NOT SORRY: Okay, so the phenomenal win on Saturday evening by Canada’s own Bianca Andreescu in the U.S. Open championship may not exactly be municipal news, but impossible not to mention.

The Mississauga champion beat tennis great Serena Williams to become the first Canadian to ever win a Grand Slam singles title. And of course, being a Canadian, she apologized to the public on hand, saying she was sorry for beating their favourite! Nice touch. As someone who recently visited Greece, our reputation for apologizing is well-deserved. I would find people pushing and shoving me in the throng of crowds and found myself apologizing.

All of Canada is so proud.

TRAIN TROUBLE: In less than a week, the city’s light rail system will go live. And is there anyone out there that doesn’t fear trouble on the tracks? 
The past week makes everyone’s concerns more valid. Just a few short days after the city took over the $2.1-billion LRT system and with the official opening slated for Sept. 14, more than half of the Confederation Line was shut down for hours this past week.

On Wednesday, the light rail system wasn’t running between Tunney’s Pasture and Hurdman stations for several hours.
Three trains were stopped in the downtown tunnel. Two of the trains finally went to Tunney’s Pasture, and the third was taken to the east end. As a result, several radio units needed to be reset.

Is any of this comforting to potential LRT users?

Will transit head John Manconi eventually be physically pushing the trains with a bunch of the city’s bureaucracy behind him? Can you imagine? Maybe you can.

TRASH TALK: So the city of Ottawa has decided it won’t extend the collection contract of a major garbage company that has failed to consistently abide by pickup schedules for communities in the west suburbs.

Waste Management has been receiving heat because it hasn’t always collected residential garbage in a timely fashion. The company has the city collection contract in Kanata, Stittsville and the surrounding communities in west Ottawa.

City council was told Waste Management would no longer be collecting residential trash in the west zone starting next June.
A memo from solid waste services director Marilyn Journeaux, a fellow/former hockey mom, says council will be asked to approve a contract with Miller Waste Systems for the west zone garbage collection.

HOW HIGH CAN YOU GO?: A larger transit tax increase could be the new norm for municipal budgets this council term, unless the upper governments pump more money into city hall’s public transit program. This according to a news story by the Sun’s Jon Willing.

A proposed 6.4% increase to the transit levy in 2020 wasn’t being considered as the long-range financial plan for transit called for the specific tax to rise by the same rate as transit fares.

The Ontario PCs  shut down a plan by the former provincial Liberals to double gas-tax transfers to municipalities. 
Can’t blame Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson for this – no way he would have known.
“The federal and provincial governments have the most ability to generate revenue through taxation and fees that we don’t have,” Watson said this week, according to Willing.

IDEALIST CLIVE DOUCET RUNNING AGAIN: According to a story in the Ottawa Citizen, former city councillor and mayoral candidate Clive Doucet is set to announce he’s running for MP for the Green Party in Cape Breton, where he has a home and where his heart is. Doucet said he’s always seen himself as a municipal politician. But honestly, I’m excited at the prospect of him being part of a group of like-minded individuals. And seriously, if he were running for the Green Party in my riding, he’d have my vote. Few politicians are as sincere as he is. Just recently chatted with him on CFRA on the Rob Snow show, and it made me realize that while I seldom agreed with him, I do miss his idealism. It’s perfect for the country and the Green Party.

Heading Back to School, Waiting for my CPP!

There’s a bit huge pit in the bottom of my stomach.

On Tuesday morning, after a 37-year hiatus, I’m headed back to Carleton University to embark on my Masters of Journalism. Yes, that’s 37 years, no typo there.

What the heck was I thinking? I have loved being a journalist. There’s really no job like it. Over the years, I’ve been able to meet some amazing people that I otherwise wouldn’t have had the opportunity to either meet or get to know. And while I always wanted to be a journalist, I sort of fell into my career.

When the Ottawa Sunday Herald started up, with former CFRA broadcaster Lowell Green behind the ambitious endeavour, I sent in my resume – and one weekend evening – got a call from Green. I didn’t get the job, but honestly, just hearing him telling me I was in the running – and that he thought I had a sense of humour, that was everything.

I did eventually start freelancing there. I caught the Herald’s interest when they gave me a freelance assignment to get people’s reactions to an Ann Lander’s column that suggested women preferred cuddling over sex – and I had to talk to people about her column. 

When the Ottawa Sun bought the Herald, I was given a chance at a real career in journalism. It wasn’t easy. In the early days, when I got the spelling of one of my subjects wrong in a story, my boss made it clear my job was on the line. “This isn’t the Herald,” said editor John Paton. (I’m now double checking the spelling of his name!)

All to say, I’ve had some lucky breaks when it comes to being a life-long journalist. And I’ve loved every minute of it. Well, not every minute, but many of them.

But on Tuesday, I’m waking up to attend my first day as a graduate student at the age of 60. Don’t ask why. In truth, I’m barely sure! The first day is a full day of orientation, and even the term full-day strikes fear in may heart. I’ve become so used to doing nothing, I just can’t imagine concentrating for that long.

I know that since taking the voluntary retirement from Postmedia, I’ve spent far too much time sitting in my basement playing Candy Crush and watching some incredibly bad television. (Yes, I’ve seen Dr. Pimple Popper. Don’t ask.)

But I still have a desire to learn. I know how to get to the bottom of a story, but am anxious to learn more about the theoretical side of the business – where it’s headed, where it’s been, a discussion of ethics,

And as I tweeted recently, in one week, I was accepted into the masters program and was approved for my Canadian Pension Plan (CPP).
I need them both!
In truth, I”m terrified. I know I can get to the bottom of a story, but just not at all convinced I’m up to the challenge of completing my Masters of Journalism.

Hope my CPP comes in soon!