The assault on the urban councillors at city hall continued on Friday from Mayor Jim Watson’s chair.
For starters, the downtown gang were shunned from the finance and economic development committee (FEDCO) and almost all of the perks went to councillors outside the core. FEDCO has been described as the cabinet of city council.
“There is a vindictiveness that comes along with all this,” Menard said of Watson’s efforts to shut them out. “The environment at city hall is very tough right now. It’s absolutely getting worse. It was bad at the start, but yes, it’s getting worse.”
At today’s committee meeting, held to choose new committee members, Menard was attempting to ask a question of the mayor about how he could justify cutting out huge swaths of the city but Watson was having none of it, cutting off the councillor from continuing by dismissing his comments. It also appeared he actually cut Menard’s mike off, but that was unclear.
Menard also believes that city manager Steve Kanellakos needs to do a better job in ensuring he brings items of concern from all councillors, not just the things he believes will pass easily.
The truth is, the councillors representing the downtown core have been successful in getting several important issues of concern that are important to them and their downtown residents through council – despite being shut out of key positions. And interestingly enough, when a motion, like Somerset Coun. Catherine McKenney’s item on homelessness appears to be garnering support – Watson inserts himself into the process so he can get some of the credit. Nice work if you can get it.
The changes to some of the committees were prompted by the leave of absence being taken by Cumberland Coun. Steve Blais, which created a bit of a ripple effect. Somerset Coun. Catherine McKenney, who represents a downtown ward, had hoped to sit on FEDCO, but lost to Stittsville Coun. Glen Gower, serving his first term on council. It was a really good day for Gower, who is now also the vice-chair of planning, and beat out Kitchissippi Coun. Jeff Leiper.
And Innes Coun. Laura Dudas, who recently called to have social media regulated at city hall, is now the vice-chair of FEDCO. Quite the promotion. Orléans Coun. Matthew Luloff was recommended and approved as the chair of the library board. Rideau-Vanier Coun. Mathieu Fleury was voted down as a member of the board of the Shaw Centre, a facility that’s in his ward, with the spot going to Osgoode Coun. George Darouze. Rideau-Rockcliffe Coun. Rawlson King got a spot on the built-heritage subcommittee, making the only downtown councillor to get his choice.
Council must approve the new appointments at its meeting next Wednesday. And under some criticism, Watson pointed out that every councillor can weigh in and vote on decisions during council meetings.
“The simple answer is that all decisions we make at this committee level go to all of council, and every region of council is represented [there],” said the mayor.
Bay Coun. Theresa Kavanagh is essentially part of the downtown core club, and she’s not happy with what’s going on at city hall, she isn’t interested in publicly blaming Watson for everything bad at city hall.
“We want intensification. We don’t want sprawl,” Kavanagh said, explaining the differences between urban core councillors and the rest of council.
But she’s not interested in commenting negatively on how Watson runs a meeting. And she won’t cast aspersions on how or why Watson shuts out the urban core.
“I don’t think of this as being a pork barrel, I really hope it’s not that low,” she said.
Here’s the thing I don’t understand. Why does Watson feel he has to shut out the voices of his city council? It just doesn’t make sense. What is he afraid of? And what happened to the guy that worked on consensus?