A letter to the mayor elect

~ Chateau & Locks ~ Good morning Mr. Watson,

First and foremost, congratulations on your victory. You worked hard to earn it and if I were you I’d reward myself by heading over to the Cora’s next to your campaign office and treating yourself to the 1990s Harvest. The mountain of fruit makes it a responsible choice, even with the bacon and the brioche.

Right, so the reason I’m writing.

You probably don’t remember this but back in your first go-round as the mayor of Ottawa (a slightly smaller place though it was, being pre-amalgamation and all) you held court for a group of up and coming reporters from Carrie Buchanan’s second year reporting course at Carleton. Two things stick out at me from that day:

  1. You treated us like real journalists and gave us the respect and attention that many other sources didn’t when they found out we were doing class assignments.
  2. You cracked a joke when I introduced myself, dropping your voice a half-octave and saying “sounds like you’ve got a career in radio ahead of you, Joe.”

Both acts had the effect of showing us a great deal of respect, one by treating us like adults and one by allowing yourself to show a human side. I haven’t forgotten that.

Our paths crossed again a few years later when you agreed to toss the ceremonial first pitch at the once-annual alumni vs. staff softball game for the Charlatan. We joked that whoever got you to come out must have convinced you there would be some cameras there as you had (and still do, I guess) a reputation for never turning down a photo op. Nevertheless, you came, said a few words and tossed that pitch in the rain, stepping over puddles as you did it, then made the rounds to say hello to everyone even though there was no camera in sight.

It’s electoral politics 101, of course: never turn down the chance to press the flesh with a potential voter. But if it was simply a chance to get your face out you hid it well. If it was just politics, you clearly have a gift for it.

So now you’re back.

I tweeted last night that you were at the helm when I fell in love with this city and while I’m not sure if that’s causation or simply correlation I’m choosing to be optimistic. If nothing else, this city deserves a mayor that takes the job seriously. Your predecessor admitted that he didn’t, at least not for the first half of his mandate. So we’re already a step ahead in my books.

Because more than anything, Mr. Watson, I want a city I can be proud of again. A city helmed by someone who has a vision beyond balanced budgets and tax cuts. This is about more than light rail and Lansdowne; about more than whether or not zero means zero. I’m tired of making excuses for the place I choose to call home. We’re more than a government town but outside the 613 Ottawa is a pejorative, a synonym for the federal government that carries an air of dismissiveness that borders on malice.

More than 10 years ago you made me feel like my city respected me. Like the man at the top actually gave a shit for a bunch of students, most of whom were just passing through.

After four years of neglect we’re licking our wounds. There are deep divisions in this city. We need capable stewardship, to be sure, but we need more than that too. We need someone who can give us something to rally around – a vision of a community instead of some corporation driven by the bottom line.

Please, make us all feel as respected as I felt in your office so many years ago.
Creative Commons License photo credit: ViaMoi


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