Bitchy Pants

With very few restrictions, city councillors can spend their office budgets on pretty much whatever they want.
It’s a practice I’ve harped on for years.

They can take their staff out for lunch, cozy up with constituents while breaking bread, make donations to charities their taxpayers don’t support, buy City of Ottawa paraphenalia and buy expensive tickets to charity events whether they attend or not.

And of course, let’s not forget about pricey Ottawa Senators tickets, just ask Beacon Hill-Cyrville Coun. Tim Tierney about that one!
As an aside, the money can also be used on priciey advertising – and again I reference former city councillor Michael Qaqish’s huge vanity ads on Ottawa’s bus shelters.
And it’s all on our dime. And from my perspective, politicians get to use our money to help keep themselves elected.

I don’t agree with it.

Isn’t it their job to keep themselves elected – by working hard and serving their constituents?

On the weekend, I noticed two tweets – one from Tierney, another from River Coun. Riley Brockington – advertising free movies nights in their communities.
And yes, my journalistic/taxpayer back went up immediately.
Whatever you think of councillors using our money, these evenings are not free. We the taxpayer are picking up the tab.
And that was the point I was trying to make.
By the end of the night, I was being accused of wanting to deprive children from low-income families of a little bit of free popcorn.

But that’s twitter. And I’m fine with it.

Even a handle of Bitter Better Bitchy Pants, who must wake up on the wrong side of the bed everyday thought I was horrid. That says a lot!

Another under the twitter handle @clazerbeam13 wrote to me, “You seem to be inferring that it is wrong to use taxpayer’s $ for this. Can you pls explain why it would be bad for taxpayer $ to fund a movie night for kids in an disadvantaged neighbourhood?”

Not at all what I wrote, so sorry, @clazerbeam13, don’t feel I owe you an explanation.

The Carlington Community Association tweeted that they really appreciate the movie night and thanked Brockington for his generosity.
Say what?
He’s not being generous. He’s using your money and mine for the night.

The association also took the opportunity to take a dig at former city councillor Maria McRae, suggesting the movie night was far more worthwhile than the vanity park benches McRrae bought with our money with her name on a brass plaque. Can’t argue there.

I believe that regardless of how you feel about councillors spending our money, those same politicians should at the very least be upfront about where the money is coming form.
And the movie nights are not free.

To his great credit, Brockington addressed the issue head on, acknowledging on twitter he would prefer to find an outside sponsor for those movie nights – but didn’t hide behind the fact that his office budget picks up the tab. Tierney on the other hand, went into hiding.That says a lot.

When it comes to twitter, everyone is entitled to their own opinion. I get that.
I almost always love the exchange of such divergent opinions.

Bring it on.

Watson and his Bullying Ways

Mayor Jim Watson has used his considerable power to force well-known Conservative Mike Patton out of city hall.

Patton was recently let go from the office of Gloucester-South Nepean Coun. Carol Anne Meehan.

“Carol Anne felt I was doing more harm in her office than helping her, that I had become a lightning rod attracting attention from the mayor,” Patton told On the City, From the Burbs.

Patton made it clear he has absolutely no bad feelings toward his former boss and understands she felt she had no real alternative but to let him go, given the extraordinary pressure from Watson and his office.

So what exactly did Patton do to deserve the mayor’s wrath?

“Well, I don’t know of another person he dislikes more than me,” Patton said.
And sadly, it’s as simple as that.
Watson despises Patton and forced him out by putting undue pressure on Meehan.

“I feel terrible for Carol Anne. She’s trying to do the best for her community. That’s all she’s trying to do. She just wants to work in the best interests of her community. And I admire that,” Patton said. “She did the right thing and I don’t think there was any real alternative.”

He said Watson was just making Meehan’s life too difficult, putting up roadblocks at every turn, making it clear to her Patton had to go if things were ever going to go in her favour.
“Jim Watson wants to be totally in control. It’s very much his vision and his vision alone. And that’s what’s being enacted at city hall right now. And it will remain that way and most of council is willing to go along with him most of the time,” Patton said.
“He believes I was giving her advice that was causing her to be willingly defiant.”

This story might be difficult for city hall outsiders to understand. Clearly, the mayor isn’t Meehan’s boss. But at city hall, he wields a tremendous amount of power – and being the absolute control freak he is – he abuses it. He essentially controls the bureaucracy and controls the budget. Yes, he’s just one vote, but with the support of council – what he wants wins out.

This isn’t the first time Watson has worked against Patton. In 2010, Watson worked against Patton when he was running in River ward against then newcomer Riley Brockington.

Patton isn’t new to city hall. He worked for College Coun. Rick Chiarelli and also for former mayor Larry O’Brien.
He said under O’Brien, great and vigorous debate was encouraged.
“That’s not the way Jim Watson approaches the word,” Patton said.
“In his business model, he’s like a classic bully, he’s very much a bully. He held me responsible for any opposition to his agenda.”

Comparing O’Brien to Watson, Patton said major projects like Lansdowne Park wouldn’t have happened without the maverick mayor.
“But Jim Watson isn’t naturally a creative person. He doesn’t have new ideas and really is only interested in managing,” Patton continued.

Understandably, Meehan isn’t talking about the dismissal. She’s in the proverbial rock and a hard place.
But if you think she had a choice, you’re being naive.
She was elected to represent the residents of Gloucester-South Nepean – and with Watson fighting her at each and every turn – that simply wasn’t going to happen.

The mayor should be ashamed of himself. He won’t be.
And for the record, Watson does not return requests for interviews from this blog – and has made it clear there’s just no point in asking.