Here we go again.
Mayor Jim Watson can find time for a cow-milking contest on Friday but when it comes time to address two deaths in the ByWard Market, out trots his press secretary.
There are two Jim Watsons. The first is the community involved mayor who spends outrageous amounts of time politicking bovine events to high-school robotics awards nights. The second is the administrative lightweight who is paying two- and three-times the amount for light rail with billions of dollars worth of waste and the man who turtles when bad news breaks out.
Watson in the last few months has been a bit better at responding to unfortunate occurrences in the community … but then there was the weekend.
“The ByWard Market continues to have increased police patrols during both the daytime and evening, and Mayor Watson appreciates the excellent work our police officers do on a daily basis,” the mayor’s spokesperson said.
How are those extra patrols working out, Your Worship? Two dead in the tourist mecca of the market. That should stimulate tourism for Ottawa 2017 … just what the hospitality industry was looking for.
But to Watson’s credit, at least he issued a statement on the incident. That’s an improvement over his response to the Waller Street LRT sinkhole which he ignored publicly. Had perhaps the mayor reacted very strongly to the Waller problems, the city might not have experienced the huge Rideau Street sinkhole months later. The Waller lesson didn’t appear to sink in. That happens when you have a disengaged top executive. But hey … those cows got milked. That’s acting pro-actively.
In January 2015, the mayor met with the police chief in a take-charge way to see what could be done about a spate of shootings. And then he went away.
Maybe Watson realized what informed members of the community already knew. That ending gun violence is not accomplished by extra police patrols but rather getting to the heart of the social problems that result in gun play. But that of course would take money and lots of time and when some success started to show, Watson wouldn’t have a ribbon to cut. No votes there.
So the mayor started to distance himself from the shootings. When he discovered there was no easy fix, suddenly all that gun play was a police problem. Mister Take-Charge became Mr. Stand-Pat.
This is a difficult period in Ottawa what with skyrocketing debt from LRT miscues and bullet flying around the market. People are getting killed and the mayor not only doesn’t have an answer, he doesn’t want to get near the problem. Bad optics, you know.
“An incident of this nature is tragic and my thoughts are with those who have been impacted by this morning’s events.” That should have been the mayor talking but it was instead Mathieu Fleury, the councillor for Rideau-Vanier. A young wet-behind-the-ears politician responds better to the crisis than the very veteran Watson.
These are serious times. Ottawa needs a serious mayor.
Photo above: Mayor Jim Watson addressing the critical Pittsburgh Penguins file.
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