It’s amusingly pathetic to see city councillors react in horror and disbelief at the recent findings of an audit into the Springhill dump.
Their outrage is certainly misplaced.
In fact, it’s much more than that – it’s buckpassing at its very worst.
Certainly, there appears to been enough blame to go around. City staff, city politicians, Tomlinson, the Ministry of the Environment, at any time – any one of these could have stepped up and done something. There are any number of problems, lack of documentation, lack of clarity in their roles, bad bookkeeping, bad feelings – the list goes on about the problems with the contract between the city and Tomlinson.
Back in 2012, then auditor general Alain Lalonde was the first to release an audit of the Springhill dump.
That audit, which for some reason still remains ‘confidential’, was obtained by On the City, From the Burbs and reveals many of the same problems and similar recommendations to the one released this week.
Back then, members of the audit committee met on Nov. 29, 2012 – close enough to call it six years ago – to talk about the just-released Springhill dump audit. With legal issues swirling around them, committee members decided to defer the issue until the legal issues surrounding the relationship between the city and Tomlinson – which runs the dump – were resolved.
Who moved the motion to defer? That’s no other than Kanata Coun. Alan Hubley who did his blustery best this week – in his new role as audit chair – to huff and puff and insist he’s not going to take it anymore.
Just too bad it’s all false bravado and buck-passing.
Here’s the truth where Hubley is concerned.
Hubley was a member of the 2010 audit committee – charged with dealing with the 2011 audit, and more recently, became the new chair of the audit committee.
He’s known about the problems for years, has been in a unique position to address them, yet has done nothing. And now, he acts like a tough little man ready to rumble.
He’s not alone. West Carleton-March Coun. Eli El-Chantiry raised his serious concerns this week, in much the same way he did at the 2012 audit meeting. And Osgooge Coun. George Darouze? Where’s he been? This dump is in his ward and he is now a member of the audit committee.
City staff? As damning as some of AG Ken Hughes’ comments directed at the bureaucracy were, frankly, they got off lightly.
As it turns out, according to the audit released this week by Hughes, the problems surrounding the dump are almost as high as the dump itself – and sadly have been around for years. Here’s a little bit of what the 2011 recommended from the confidential report obtained by On the City, From the Burbs.
Recommendation No. 2 in the 2011 audit: That the City ensures that it is proactive in contract oversight and dispute management by monitoring contracts on a regular basis. In their response, city management concurred, saying it is proactive in contact oversight in dispute management by monitoring contracts on a regular basis.
In hindsight, with the full knowledge of the 2018 audit, the city’s response to recommendation number three on the 2011 audit is pretty much gobsmacking: “That when the city has won any aspects of an arbitration, it proceeds without delay in order to ensure that the benefits are achieved in a timely fashion.”
Sure, no problem replied the staff, agreeing with the recommendation – but then adding several caveats to that.
That clearly didn’t happen. And you have to begin questioning the value of audits if city staff simply provide lip service to the audit recommendations. Recommendation number four has the city manager regularly updating council on progress on outstanding issues between Tomlinson and the city. Not so much, but would have been very helpful.
All solid recommendations which appear, given the most recent audit, not to have been taken into consideration.
The dismal relationship between the city and Tomlinson Group over the operations of the Springhill landfill compelled Hughes to suggest city bosses consider freezing the company out of future contract opportunities.
“We’ve never taken a step like this and made a recommendation this severe, this important,” Hughes told the media on Thursday after tabling his damning audit of the Springhill contract. “But given the relationship that existed between the city and Tomlinson, we feel that it’s important that the city evaluate their relationship with Tomlinson based on the fact of their behaviour during the course of this contract.”
The landfill is just one of the contracts Tomlinson has with the city, in fact, has more than $250 million in contracts with the city.
Tomlinson couldn’t be reached for comment.
Keep in mind the first audit was done in 2011. What does that tell you? Yes, there were arbitration issues going on, doesn’t mean the city couldn’t have attempted to forge ahead with developing a better relationship to protect the city.
Once again, your tax dollars at work – or not.
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.