Should George Darouze Resign As Deputy Mayor: YES

Osgoode Coun. George Darouze has apologized for his stupidity for texting while driving. Agreed. It was stupid. But as one of our three deputy mayors for Ottawa, that’s just not good enough.

During a livestream audit committee meeting on Tuesday, Darouze got into his car, continued to listen to the meeting, but then felt the need to text – while driving Unbelievable, but true.

Was he apologizing for breaking the law or just being so stupid that he did it all on camera? Pathetic.

Let’s not forget. Just last year he was found guilty of harassing a woman in his own ward by the Integrity Commissioner. City hall’s independent integrity watchdog who found that Darouze broke council’s code of conduct when he bullied constituents. Really?

“On a balance of probabilities, I find that the major motivation of the councillor was to bully and intimidate the complainants and each of them in the hope that the female complainant might cease her critical Facebook commentary of him,” a city report said.

Darouze apologized then as well, and again, that was good enough for Mayor Jim Watson. Shouldn’t we be aiming a bit higher?

Reminds me of a little boy my young son played with many years ago. This boy would throw things, hit my child and his mother would tell him to apologize. He did so happily, but continued his behavior. Certainly a case of sorry not sorry!

This time, Watson has said he believes Darouze has learned his lesson. Pretty sure the only lesson Darouze has learned is that he can mess up as often as he wants, but as long as he supports Watson, no problem.

Love might mean never having to say you’re sorry. But let’s make it clear. Saying sorry doesn’t cut it here. Darouze needs to step down as deputy mayor, a position he clearly doesn’t deserve. Frankly, he didn’t deserve it when he first got the position, there are so many talented and experienced councillors, but they won’t follow Watson blindly. 

If Darouze isn’t a big enough person to step down of his own accord, then it’s up to Mayor Jim Watson to do the dirty work.

If I was a betting person, my money would be against either of these things happening. In this case, hope doesn’t spring eternal.

Some wondered why the councillors online with him didn’t point out he shouldn’t be texting while driving. 

Capital Coun. Shawn Menard said he was questioning whether Darouze should resign as deputy mayor, but didn’t see him driving and texting during the meeting.

Bay Coun. Theresa Kavanagh did see it.

“When I saw what Councillor Darouze was doing on screen I was in disbelief and sent a message to the Clerk to ask what should be done when something like this happens.  Mr. O’Connor advised that this was best dealt with by police and not by city procedures. I was not happy that I was witnessing something that was an offence under the highway traffic act during a long and important committee meeting,” she said in an email.

Her response of course is just one of the reasons so many, myself included, are crazy about her.

On Twitter, several people said they had reported Darouze’s offence to police.

Don’t hold your breath for the right thing to be done.

As expected, no word from the mayor. Shocking!

I Miss Larry O’Brien

Yes Alanis, it was ironic.

I spent much of my day on Wednesday listening to Ottawa transit commissioners try to figure out how raising bus fares would hurt the users’ pocketbook and the bigger concern that deeper hikes would put transit financially out of reach for many low-income transit users – the people who really need it and use it.

And in the early evening, doing errands in Barrhaven, I saw a double decker bus drive by on my street – appearing to be empty. Now I can’t swear there weren’t any passengers on board, I can only say I didn’t see anyone. And therein lies just one of the many problems with the city’s budget process. It’s really all about dollars and not about sense.

If dollars are short, and we know they are, shouldn’t we at least be looking at the services the  city provides and trying to figure out if there are more efficient ways of delivering those said services and maybe even (cover your ears)  cutting some things to deliver services that might be more urgent in nature?

I can’t be the only one who wonders why a double decker bus is roaming the sleepy streets of suburban Barrhaven appearing empty when transit is in a deficit situation? But instead of talking about ways to save money before budget deliberations, council is now headed to approve a bus fare hike that some city councillors worry will see an even bigger drop in ridership.

There’s no city council sessions where there’s any sort of meaningful discussion about priorities for the city, no building any sense of camaraderie among this very divided group of councillors.
Essentially Mayor Jim Watson, along with some help from the city’s senior staff, determines what the overall  tax increase will be and what the priorities. This year the tax increase is set at 3%.

So when the city sets out to meet committee by committee on how our money will be spent, the decisions are pretty much already made and rubber stamped by Watson.

When a councillor looks for changes in the budget, it’s essentially up to them to find the money from within the city budget – and convince a majority of councillors to agree to the change. With this council, this just doesn’t happen. The majority of councillors don’t cross Watson, they prefer the odd goodie being thrown their way – and the mayor’s support during election time.

It happened earlier this week at the transit commission budget meeting when Somerset Coun. Catherine McKenney and transit commissioner Sarah Wright-Gilbert were both concerned how any bus fare increase at all would hurt those that can least afford it but need public transit desperately. “One of the stated purposes of this commission is to increase transit ridership in this city, yet this fare increase will do the exact opposite of that,” said Wright-Gilbert, a civilian member on the commission. “Raising fares in this context is bad enough, but add to it the fact that we are in the worst pandemic the world has seen since the Spanish Flu in 1918 and in my view, it’s morally wrong to increase fares.”

Their concerns fell on deaf ears, which you could have bet the house on.

It’s all so depressing. And it all actually makes me long for the messy days when former mayor Larry O’Brien was at the helm. Yes he was new and he had little idea at the start about building a consensus.

But those weaknesses in fact lead to actual democracy being at play at Ottawa City Hall. Imagine. Councillors to represent their wards and the entire city. Yes, it was a bit of a mess, but take that any over what we have now.

And while my mind might be playing tricks on me during these crazy times, if O’Brien hadn’t had to go through the court system, he could well have made a great Ottawa mayor.