Superman Ties and the Public Purse

When it comes to spending our money currying favour with the electorate, some city councillors just have no shame. Seems no purchase is too big or too small for city councillors to dole out our hard-earned income. What other job can you get elected, then use the electorate’s own money to help keep you in office? How many of these municipal politicians ever give pause before plunking down our money to entertain residents across the city, fly across the country or make charitable donations with our tax dollars? The charitable donations are particularly galling.

Keep in mind that’s our money and they get the tax receipt. And if they feel so strongly about a charitable organization, shouldn’t they be using their own money?

Of course they should.

For example, Kanata Coun. Allan Hubley bought a personalized Ottawa Senators jersey for $400 at a charity event. Say what The money apparently went to the Ottawa Boys and Girls Club, according to records accessed by my new blog On the City, From the Burbs. What became of the jersey? Good question.

Hubley has some other interesting expenditures which we’re picking up the tab for. For example, he used our money to buy a $25 tie, which according to his records will be worn at community events to promote his Smart City work.

Really?

The receipt describes it as a City Scape Superman tie! Illusions of grandeur perhaps?

Hubley isn’t alone.

Gloucester-South Nepean Michael Qaqish, though a first-term councillor, is learning the art of self-promotion quite quickly. (Note: I ran against Qaqish in the last municipal election. Clearly I lost! You’ll have to judge for yourself whether my columns are fair comment or not.)

Qaqish developed an affection for bigger-than-life posters of his image on bus shelters. In fact, if you peruse his 2016 expenses which are online on the city’s website, you’ll see that at almost $50,000 for the year, he’s leading the charge in the advertising category.

There’s always been a lot of talk about swag in the media, with purchases of personalized t-shirts, coffee mugs, even tattoos with the politician’s own image – allegedly for gifts, but look more like vanity purchases.

Qaqish spent about $1,200 on mini-hockey sticks to hand out to kids at games. The logo? His name of course! Hey, those kids have parents who can vote, even if the rising hockey stars can’t!

Sadly, there’s plenty more examples where these came from.

More later.

Yes…I’m Back!

Welcome to my new blog: On the City, From the Burbs.

Seems journalism has a stronger pull than I realized!

There are lots of strong journalism voices at city hall.
But there are never too many opinions. It’s good for the city and helps keep politicians honest!

So yes, I’m back!

I believe I offer a unique voice,as a journalist from the burbs with a distinctly suburban perspective.

I first started covering Ottawa City Hall back in the days of a one newspaper town. The Journal had shut down and the Citizen became the only game in town.

I first worked for the Ottawa Sunday Herald, founded by former CFRA broadcaster Lowell Green.

As a staffer at a small weekly, you covered everything, city hall, federal and provincial politics, courts, I was even the entertainment editor for a period of time.

But my real love was municipal politics.

Born in Arnprior, I’ve lived in this city almost my entire life.

As a strong Nepeanite, I remember the days of Aubrey Moodie as reeve of Nepean, distinctly recall the night Moodie lost the leadership to Andy Haydon and eventually become the first mayor of Nepean. And then Ben Franklin become the first elected mayor of Nepean.

All to say, as a resident and a reporter, I’ve lived and breathed municipal politics for years.

My focus has been on watching the bottom line, how city councillors spend our tax dollars, whether that’s swag bought for self-promotion or the multi-million dollar projects like Lansdowne Park.

I care about consultation, about letting the public have a say on the future of their community. It’s a principle not always seen at city hall.

I have no time for dishonesty, for politicians who are too afraid to stand up for and to the truth.

And so, having taking a voluntary buyout from Postmedia this past December, I’m finding I still have a desire to continue adding my voice to the mix.

No one has covered city hall longer than I have; no one has covered more mayors than I have. The more voices the better.

Of course, as someone who has lived, worked and volunteered in this city for many years, I’ve got friends and acquaintances across the city.

If I prevented myself from writing about them, there wouldn’t be many people I could columnize about!

For example, I was at Carleton University at the same time as Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson, had the support on the campaign from Bay Coun. Mark Taylor and was defeated in the election by Michael Qaqish.

You’ll have to judge for yourself whether my personal relationships are clouding my opinion. I can promise that if I write about someone I know, I’ll be open and transparent about what that relationship is. And while I’ve known Watson for almost 40 years, no one has ever suggested I’ve ever gone easy on him, most notably Watson himself!

Hope you enjoy the read. Offer your thoughts. Question my opinions, add your own.

The best municipal government is one we all participate in.

Look for my first column this weekend.

Cheers!