If you’ve been reading Twitter lately, you’ll see I messed up. Big time.
And as such, I’m being vilified on Twitter as a bully, as someone who doesn’t care about first responders and a big part of the reason people don’t feel comfortable opening up about their mental health.
In a tweet, I suggested Innes Coun. Jody Mitic might consider not taking a city paycheque given that he hasn’t been feeling up to the job.
Unfortunately, it’s not the first time in recent weeks I’ve let Twitter get the better of me.
A couple of weeks ago, I wrote what I thought was a light-hearted tweet and ended up hurting someone I care a lot about. That’s all on me, though this time the repercussions are far more serious.
I can’t keep up with the tweets telling me what an insensitive idiot I am, so will try to address some of the issues here.
Here’s the thing. Mitic bravely came forward with his mental health issues and acknowledged he wasn’t going to seek re-election because he needed to take care of himself. And that is what I hope for him. So in my awkwardly worded tweet, I wasn’t trying to suggest in any way that people struggling with depression should lose their livelihood. That’s ridiculous.
But as anyone who has an illness, visible or silent, there are avenues to continue to get paid while acknowledging your health is your priority. It seemed to me Mitic shouldn’t be worried about his job as a city councillor because he clearly has acknowledged he needs time for himself and his family. His health is the priority here. And he could take care of himself and ensure there’s someone available to take care of Innes ward voters.
I wrote a tweet in haste – that didn’t at all convey how I feel. Now I know the haters will say I’m back-pedalling. I can live with that and don’t much care.
Actually, I don’t care at all.
(Think I feel a Taylor Swift song coming on.)
What I do care about are the accusations that I don’t care about first responders. That’s a lie. My late brother Bill Sherring was the proudest firefighter I have ever known. He saw things he couldn’t block from his mind or his heart. He had people die in his arms and couldn’t deal with the images, the guilt or the heartache.
And through him and my work as a reporter, I’ve met countless firefighters, police officers and paramedics who put their lives in danger on an almost daily basis and sometimes struggle with what’s out there. They do a job I could never perform and they have my undying respect and thanks.
Some people choose to go public with their mental health issues, like Mitic did. That’s not a route I’ve chosen. But again I won’t sit quietly by with people saying I don’t know what I’m talking about. I do.
Of course, the irony of my situation isn’t lost on me. A couple of weeks ago I wrote a column directed at Mitic advising him that social media isn’t for the faint of heart.
When I write a tweet that many find offensive, I’m fair game. And Mitic and lots of his supporters let me have it. That’s how social media works. If you don’t like it, stay off of it.
But as I gave Mitic the opportunity to have his say about the negative comments written about him following his Facebook posting, I get mine.
“I like you. You’re white.”
That was just one of the ringing endorsements I received on the campaign trail!
The somewhat startling observation came from a lovely older woman at a local seniors’ residence. She was right of course, I am white.
In the 2014 municipal election, I decided to throw my hat into the ring.
It was a wonderful experience and I don’t regret a minute of it, save for losing, which as it turns out is a lot harder than I anticipated. I have to admit, despite my years of covering municipal politics, I really didn’t know what I was getting myself into.
With Gloucester-South Nepean Coun. Steve Desroches honouring his commitment to only serve two terms, (imagine that) and as such leaving the ward without an incumbent, I felt the timing was right. After observing city politics for a couple of decades, I thought it was time to put myself on the election line.
I’d seen enough craziness and plenty of reckless spending and I thought I could make a real difference.
And so with so many fabulous people offering their support to help me, I registered to run in a neighbourhood I’d spent much of my life in – volunteered in – raised my family in.
On Tuesday, candidates wanting to run in the 2018 municipal election ran register as well. And only then can they start raising money and spending it in their pursuit of elected office.
I have nothing but total respect for anyone willing to put their name on the line to be judged by the electorate. It’s much harder than I imagined and far more rewarding than I ever anticipated.
As the campaign heats up, I’ll be blogging from time to time about my own experiences. And yes, those stories you may have heard about people answering the door half-naked, all true! I will of course also be covering the campaign and some of the more interesting municipal candidates out there.
And while I can now empathize with the difficulties of being on the campaign trail, that doesn’t mean I won’t ask the hard questions of those seeking to represent us.
Dear Mr. Melnyk,
Just a short note to offer up my services, need you to know I’m here to help.
Having left Postmedia almost a year and a half ago, I’m always up for contract work, especially in the field of communications. And let’s face it Eugene, hope it’s okay to call you by your first name, you need help. For some reason that is difficult to understand, you appear to be hell bent on destroying even the semblance of a relationship with the citizens of Ottawa and your reputation along with it.
You might have saved yourself the time and money for your little town halls, designed as they were to help strengthen the relationship with Ottawa Senators’ fans. In hindsight, they seem like a bit of a waste of time. Why bother when you’re clearly still playing your role as the boy who cried wolf? No one knows whether to even take you seriously. Some have stopped caring.
“It’s a huge project with a tremendous risk,” Melnyk is reported as saying in one of those town hall sessions.“I’m a risk-taker, but this one is really rolling the dice.”
Melnyk said he’s concerned about whether there’ll be a place for the condo units the RendezVous LeBreton plan includes.
“I’m now hesitating back and saying, ‘You can’t do all this development there and have LeBreton’,” he was quoted as saying.
You know Eugene, this isn’t the first time you’ve mused about this, but it should be the last. This is a deal you wanted, so now make it work. For some reason, you seem absolutely determined to prove your word means nothing – and are destroying any possible relationship with the citizens of this town who have spent their hard earned money and time supporting the team.
That’s hard to figure out. But don’t worry, I can help you with that. For starters, it likely will involve you learning to speak only when spoken to.
And this latest fiasco on your ramblings about LeBreton Flats has brought us to yet another Battle of the Bosses. Not surprisingly, Mayor Jim Watson – the Boss of the City – has taken exception with your musings as the Boss the Ottawa Senators and the suggestion that perhaps playing at LeBreton Flats isn’t the way to go.
I don’t want to give away too much free advice Eugene, but surely even you see that this is in direct contrast to what you’ve said in the past, that you simply couldn’t make it work financially out in Kanata. Now I don’t say this often, but Watson is absolutely right to publicly address his concerns – surely so is the rest of the city.
You know of course how the Battle of the Bosses played out last time. Frankly, as you’ll know if you were reading me in the Ottawa Sun at the time, I had a fair amount of sympathy for you and didn’t think you got a fair shake when it came to your desire to run a casino. Sadly, though I tried desperately to continue with my sympathy, instead of taking the high road, you behaved like a petulant child, pulling Cyril Leeder out of some of his very valuable and important community work.
So when Watson says he’s going to call you out on your ramblings, he’s absolutely right to do so.
“We’re not going to waste our time and waste their time and waste the public’s time if Mr. Melnyk keeps changing his mind whether he wants an arena downtown or he doesn’t want an arena downtown,” Watson was quoted as saying.
(Presume you and the mayor aren’t on a first name basis!)
Watson is looking for a clarification of your intentions.
That’s his job, to look after the city.
And you, now with your threat to jeopardize the LeBreton Flats project, is childlike and incredibly irresponsible.
One can only imagine how you’d have reacted if you were shut out of the project.
I can just hear you now, extolling the virtues of everything you’ve done for the city and then not getting a fair shake. Don’t blow this one.
You wanted this deal.
It’s yours now.
And before you say another wrong thing, call me.
I’ll be waiting,
(And yes, you can call me Sue.)
So it turns out a dancing Beyonce with her fabulous body on display in sexy stockings isn’t the right image for Elections Ottawa to encourage women to work for Elections Ottawa.
As On the City, From the Burbs reported on Sunday, two entrepreneurial city employees, described as young women working the National Women’s Show, improvised with Queen B – changing the lyrics to Put a Ring On It – to attempt to encourage fellow millennials to work for Elections Ottawa.
And then all hell broke loose at the city.
“The tweet was taken down, it was completely inappropriate. There were two employees who thought it was a good idea. We apologize to any one who was offended,” Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson said.
Well, there’s that half-hearted apology again.
For sure, not everyone is going to find the tweets as offensive as I do; or as offensive as someone like Gloucester-Southgate Coun. Diane Deans does. But surely the apology shouldn’t be qualified.
“Well, the reality is these two employees thought it was a good idea to try to spice up the campaign. Obviously, I don’t think that representation of the city is a good idea and the offensive tweet was taken down,” said Watson.
The mayor said when he first saw the tweets, he didn’t quite understand the message.
“Well, at first I just glanced at it. I didn’t know it was Beyonce, but I knew it was inappropriate. And there was a whole lot of talk about polls, so I had poll dancing in my mind which I thought was in bad taste. I think they’ll be much more careful in the future and I was surprised it was thought that would be a good idea to attract millennials,” the mayor added.
Barrhaven Coun. Jan Harder was bang on when she said aside from the bad messaging was the fact that the two young women had authority to tweet on behalf of the city.
“That is astonishing to me. This city is well known for its caution in communicating, everything has to be researched. It is very labour intensive and to have relatively new people (tweeting) well that’s absolutely flabbergasting,” Harder said.
“I cannot believe their judgment was so off and once again, it reflects poorly on a city working really hard to do good things, it’s a shame. We’ve been talking about the need for a (female) lens. And when you look at this kind of decision, seems you really need to have that.”
Cumberland Coun. Stephen Blais admitted he couldn’t make sense of the message, using Beyonce in her skin tight outfit and switching up the words to her song Put a Ring on It as a way to encourage women to work for Elections Ottawa.
“It made no sense, I’m still having such a hard time understanding what it was thought that would do. It’s just a head shaker,” Blais said.
Deans, who on Sunday had questioned whether the employees should be terminated, told On the City, From the Burbs she was satisfied the employees had been dealt with properly – and was assured nothing like this would happen again.
“I have to presume they won’t be doing any more tweeting,” she added.
Ottawa does want women in municipal election, here’s Beyonce proof.
So despite Mayor Jim Watson’s protestations to the contrary, turns out the city of Ottawa does want to encourage women to participate in this year’s municipal election. Just not how you might have hoped. The city isn’t actually encouraging women to run for office, instead seems Ottawa is spending our tax dollars to encourage women to get their Beyonce on, slip into a Danskin and head to the elections office singing Put a Ring on It.
Can’t make this stuff up folks. And wouldn’t if I could. This is apparently how the city feels about women.
On Sunday, the city’s elections office under the Elections Ottawa twitter handle @ottawavote sent out a couple of incredibly demeaning and inappropriate tweets referencing Beyonce in her skin-tight bodysuit where she belts out Put a Ring On It to call on women to work this election.
Apparently keeping women behind the scenes is far more important than getting women to run for office.
Unbelievable? Absolutely. But true. The tweets were deleted before many got a chance to read them, but sadly the damage has been done. On the City, From the Burbs received emails showing screen shots of the tweets and immediately phoned
Gloucester-Southgate Coun. Diane Deans, a strong feminist, for her reaction.
But the tweets are so incredibly crazy, so absolutely offensive to women, Deans dismissed them outright, saying she simply didn’t believe they were legitimate. It wasn’t until this blog received an email from Tyler Cox, the city’s manager of legislative services, that Deans was convinced of the tweets’ validity.
“The City of Ottawa’s Twitter Elections account, @ottawavote, posted a Tweet during the course of the weekend that did not reflect its mandate and values.
“City representatives have since made the decision to remove the Tweet, and would like to offer their apologies to those who may have found it inappropriate,” Cox’s email read.
Frankly, hate apologies like this that really aren’t an apology at all. Surely, everyone found the tweets inappropriate. Suggesting the city offer an apology IF we found them inappropriate is offensive as well.
And Cox, who’s in charge of Elections Ottawa, should know that. Doesn’t he find the tweets inappropriate?
Convinced the tweets were legitimate, Deans could still barely respond.
“I don’t understand what possible reason there could be for the elections office to tweet something like that. I’m dumbfounded, it’s mind boggling to me, it’s so inappropriate.” Deans said, struggling for her words.
(And if you know Deans, that doesn’t happen often!)
“I’m honestly, I’m so dumbfounded I don’t even know what to say, it’s so wildly offensive and I don’t understand its relevance to the election. Of course it’s offensive, it’s completely inappropriate and I think we need a greater explanation how this happened and if (the tweeters) are still in the employment of the city,” Deans said, adding that it seems abundantly clear her call for a gender lens at the city is absolutely needed.
“To encourage women to work for the Elections Office with dancing Barbies, that is just mind boggling and to say if anyone was offended, I’m sorry, you have to go farther than that, have to say we will ensure something like this never happens again,” she said.
Aside from the tweet with a picture of Beyonce in her Put a Ring On It outfit, another tweet changes up the words of Put a Ring On It.
All the Women’s Show ladies.
All the Women’s Show ladies.
All the Women’s Show ladies.
All the Women’s Show ladies.
Now put your hands up.
WE WANT YOU TO WORK THE POLLS.
Visit the Elections Office staff at the National Women’s Show Shaw Centre #werk #ottcity
Unclear here whether they’re referencing the election polls or those used by strippers.
And no word on whether the tweeter(s) doesn’t know how to spell work or perhaps it’s a play on the word twerk, which is equally as likely.
The city needs to explain this mess. And it needs to do better. Much better.
Let’s face it.
Social media is not for the faint of heart.
It’s something Innes Coun. Jody Mitic learned that the hard way on the weekend.
Mitic was on the receiving end of some nasty comments on Facebook after he posted a picture with his girlfriend and former staffer Kelley Shields: “Troops! Meet my girl Kelley. She’s my best friend. #truelove #bestfriends”
Is it anyone’s business that our politicians have affairs, that they cheat on their spouse? Still wrestling about that. But when a politician takes to social media and makes the relationship public, well, that’s a different thing. The public is then free to write anything or everything. And they did, some offering their support to Mitic, wishing for his happiness; just as many had scathing comments for Mitic, accusing him of leaving the woman who had stood by his side and hurting her by going public. Note that Mitic has been busy deleting many of the posts. And Mitic’s ex Alannah Gilmore weighed in too, well…Facebook became a free for all.
What Mitic has never accepted is that as an elected official, the rules are different for him. He hates that, doesn’t seem to really understand it and doesn’t react well when it happens. When I tweeted that I was going to be writing about the Facebook controversy, Mitic didn’t take it well.
“What the f..k are you doing?” he asked me through a direct message.
To be fair, Mitic apologized twice afterward for his language.
Mucking about politicians’ personal lives generally isn’t something news journalists engage in. But when the private lives of politicians are made public by the politician themselves, the rules change. For sure, he’s free to write what he wants, so is the general public and so am I. And yes, lots will have their own opinions about all of us.
In an interview with On the City, From the Burbs, Mitic said he didn’t understand why posting a picture of himself and Kelley was anyone’s business. Well, clearly, Mitic put it on Facebook so he must presume it’s of some public interest.
According to Mitic, he and Gilmore separated in the fall of 2016.
Shields worked on his election campaign and then in his office. Mitic said the affair was discovered during the campaign and wasn’t ongoing when she came to work in his office. She was somehow later moved into the city bureaucracy after Gilmore protested to her husband about his former mistress working in his office. This is all according to Mitic, Gilmore did’t return may calls. Don’t blame her. Since yesterday, she has protected her tweets so they’re no longer accessible to the public.
How and why the city gave Shields a job in the city’s bureaucracy is a story I don’t quite understand. And Mitic’s explanation is troublesome. Surely our tax dollars shouldn’t be used to give someone a job because a city councillor had been having an affair with them.
Mitic seems to take some sort of joy in not abiding by the usual rules that most of us accept. And yes, there are plenty of people who admire him for that. I’m not one of them.
Mitic of course recently announced he wouldn’t be seeking a second term on council, having gone public with his battle with both depression and alcoholism. In making the announcement, he said he had to take care of himself and spend time with his family.
And for those of you who are Mitic admirers, feel free, as you always do, to point out that I’ll never in my life do anything for this country anywhere close to the magnitude of what Mitic has done. Fine. You’re right.
But for a city councillor, for a man with children, for a man whose ex-wife clearly has carried him through some terrible times and is still clearly hurting, really don’t understand the need to take to Facebook.
And yes, there are his children, who can access social media as easily as the rest of us.
Here are some of the tweets written by Gilmore.
“Hilarious, I’m asked to be discreet, but he makes it public. I guess he doesn’t want the truth to come out first. So many lies, cheating so much pain caused. But who cares as long as they are happy right.
“Keep pushing her in my face,” wrote Gilmore.
“I have never been so hurt and so lost in my life.”
Mitic said a lot of other things about the mother of his children, things I told him he shouldn’t be telling a reporter.
“I thought we were just talking,” he responded.
Yes, that’s what an interview is, I reminded him – along with assurances I wouldn’t write some of the more unsavoury things he’d said.
For the record, he also said some lovely things relating to her professional life.
Clearly, Mitic has struggled during his time as a city councillor. This won’t help.
“I have not ever denied I’m a f…k up,” Mitic told On the City, From the Burbs.
“I’m not rubbing anything in anyone’s face. I live my life and I try to let other people live theirs.
“Kelley and I are best friends, we’re madly in love and we’ll be just fine.”
When you find out you’re having a baby, your whole world seems to change instantly.
At least, it did for me.
You start looking ahead at the world with your child in it. When you think of the days and months in front of you — you think of your child with you, summer holidays, Christmas, family get-togethers, life with your child becomes very real long before your child enters this world.
I was covering a mayoral election at the time of my first pregnancy, Nancy Smith versus Jacquelin Holzman in the early 90s. I was working long hours at the Sun and loving it. The day immediately following the election, after being up half the night, I went to what I thought was going to be a routine appointment with my obstetrician. I was about four months along and was so nonchalant about the appointment, it never even occurred to me to even ask my then-husband to attend. But I was beyond excited (though feeling a little guilty I hadn’t thought to ask my husband to attend) when the doctor said we were going to listen to the heartbeat.
And then there was silence.
Horrible, horrible silence.
At 58 years of age, there’s lots of things I’ve forgotten. That morning isn’t one of them. I can still remember the doctor telling me that there were parts of his job that were very difficult. And this was one of them. Then he told me the harsh reality that I could barely comprehend, that I heard through the confusing fog around me.
My baby had died.
My baby had died inside of me without me even having any idea there was something wrong.
The guilt was tremendous, fearing my long hours of work had hurt the child I was carrying. The doctor called it a missed abortion, a term I hated then and still do now. It’s described as the fetus dying, but a miscarriage hasn’t occurred.
I’m in no way suggesting my pain is the same as the Karlssons. Everyone’s experiences are different and you can’t compare pain. But I do know that losing a child can be devastating. And when I lost the baby inside me, there was nothing anyone could say that was the least bit comforting to me, some of it in many ways was hurtful – though I knew the love and caring was true.
It’s God’s way, it was meant to be, you’ll have another child.
Just words. I’d lost a child who was very real to me. And though just a few months old inside my body, my child had taken on a life. And my life had started revolving around this unborn child.
Like the rest of this city and surely much farther geographically than that, my heart is breaking for Erik and Melinda Karlsson.
And this special couple is having to deal with their grief so very publicly, in a way I can’t even begin to imagine. That they understand the love of this city, so much so that they shared the picture of their stillborn son Axel’s tiny feet — amazing.
Ottawa can be such a caring society, we embrace the Karlssons, a couple most of us don’t even know. And we embrace them in their good times and in this very incredibly sad time.
Their pain is very personal, very private and there’s nothing anyone can say that will help at this point. It’s a grieving period that not all the sage words in the world can help.
So it seems Gloucester-South Nepean Coun. Michael Qaqish was so proud of saving taxpayers almost $7,000 by returning his allowed gas allowance, he just had to record his goodness by having a photo taken with a giant-sized cheque.
Sure would be too bad to save the taxpayers’ money and not have them notice, now wouldn’t it?
Qaqish has a bit of reputation for being a photo op hog.
This is just another example.
But here’s the thing. Qaqish spent $35 on the giant cheque!
Now of course, in the scheme of Qaqish’s spending, the $35 is just a drop in the taxpayers’ bucket.
But the optics are just all wrong. Using our money to promote himself is simply distasteful – and wrong.
And it’s bound to make taxpayers wonder if he’s returning the gas allowance because he believes it’s the right thing to do or if he’s just trying to curry favour with his residents.
(And as I always do, need to point out I ran against Qaqish in the last 2014 election, he won, I lost.)
Qaqish’s crazy spending of our tax dollars is outlined in a story by the CBCs municipal analyst Joanne Chianello.
Only thing wrong with the article is that I didn’t write it first!
I’ve long paid attention to excessive spending of our money by city councillors. And I’ve written about it often.
“As the city’s sports commissioner, (Innes Coun. Jody) Mitic ordered up a four-year supply of vitamins worth more than $1,000 — maybe to be used with the $300-plus protein he bought to make shakes for any visitor dropping by his office,” I wrote while working for the Sun.
City staff took issue with the purchasing and the money for the vitamins was reimbursed to taxpayers.
Mitic also spruced the office up by buying a new refrigerator, two televisions and a $200 Cuisinart coffee machine.
He also charged a night at the Sheraton Hotel, just minutes away from Ottawa City Hall — then reimbursed the city for the $237 bill he’d put on his city credit card.
Mitic said the entire thing was a misunderstanding, that he’d had a busy day, had an evening event — and so asked hotel staff for a quiet place to take off his prosthetic legs and rest for half an hour — but didn’t realize he was getting charged for the night. He reimbursed the amount.
Mitic isn’t the only city councillor whose expenses have been questioned by city staff.
And councillors’ ability to make charitable donations with our money makes me absolutely crazy.
Very important to point out that Qaqish does, from time to time, bill taxpayers for gas when he’s using someone else’s car.
Transparency, all important.
No photo op to go with that little piece of news.
Kitchissippi Coun. Jeff Leiper also decided not to take the car allowance, but sure don’t remember him posing for a photo op to publicize that.
Certainly, I was but one of Qaqish’s residents who would drive by the enormous bus shelter ads plastered with a ‘ginormous’ picture of the councillor. The Gloucester-South Nepean councillor has spent more than $6,500 to decorate the shelter with his face.
And in fact, he spent more than $90,000 on advertising and promotional items – more than three times the median of any other councillor according to the CBC, even more than the mayor who has a far greater budget and represents the entire city.
Qaqish isn’t stupid. He wants to get re-elected. He’s already out canvassing. And he’s able to use our money in pursuit of re-election.
How crazy is that?
In explaining his spending habits to Chianello, Qaqish is quoted as saying “as a new councillor, not everybody knows who I am.”
And that’s our fault?
Sadly, instead of finding ways to acquaint himself with his residents, Qaqish is simply throwing our money about in a blatant attempt at self-promotion.
Having gone door-to-door with George Darouze to help him win the right to represent Osgoode ward in 2014, former Osgoode mayor and city councillor Doug Thompson is now poised to try to take the ward back.
“I’m not going to officially say yes, but yes, I’m very close to that, to saying yes that I’m going to do it,” Thompson told On the City, From the Burbs in a recent interview.
While Thompson can’t spend any money campaigning until he registers, which this year is May 1, the longtime politician has been on the meet-and-greet circuit.
“People are very supportive. I’ve been to more tea parties over the last three months than I can count. I can’t spend money, but you can talk to people. And residents are saying to me that if I want to run, they’re supportive,” he said. “I’ve been very encouraged by the response. I’m just taking some time, dropping into people’s homes, seven or eight a day and just talking to people.”
But how does Thompson explain his support of Darouze and then running against him?
“I just don’t think he’s a strong advocate for the rural areas. I don’t think he’s done the job. I thought he had more strengths, but the substance isn’t there. It’s really interesting, he’s starting to throw a few darts out there, he’s starting to blame me and others for issues in the ward. And the way he approaches things, he blocks people from Facebook and twitter,” Thompson told On the City, From the Burbs.
(Perhaps that’s a trick he learned from Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson.)
“He’s a nice person, but I really don’t think he’s a good politician.
“I guess he’s a good salesman and he hoodwinked me.
There is one wrinkle in Thompson’s plans. He’s also being encouraged to consider running for the Tories in Carleton, should that nomination process be overturned. Thompson had entered the nomination race there, but dropped out when it was clear to him the system was rigged to elect Goldie Ghamari. Ghamari won, but there are still calls to overturn that decision and hold another nomination meeting.
(As a testament to his popularity in Osgoode, when he left the PC nomination race, the provincial Liberals tried to woo him to their side. Frankly, I wish he’d taken the bait. Would have served the Tories right.)
“Honestly, my mind is more focused on the city right now. If (the PCs) do decide they’re going to start the nomination process all over again, I’d have to take a look at it, but right now, I’m focusing on the next term of city council,” Thompson said.
“I just don’t think George is really a rural politician.”