A couple of weeks back Carol Anne Meehan, the rookie Gloucester – South Nepean Councillor made waves because she questioned the Mayor’s decision NOT to allow her to bring a staff person into a one-on-one budget discussion that Mayor Watson was having with her as part of his pre-budget discussions. These are, I imagine, largely informal discussions where the Mayor expects to hear the 3 or so budget concerns from each ward.
Ms. Meehan is a new councillor and very likely she’s still getting up to speed on the many ways Ottawa City Council operates, the committees, procedures and governance as the ward representative.
I don’t know how long these meetings are meant to last, what expectations the councillor should have of the Mayor in the meetings. There might even be a bit of confidentiality to the meetings. One person that might know is Mike Patton, he worked in the Mayors’s office when Larry O’Brien was Mayor of Ottawa and now Mike is working for Councillor Meahan. Patton is going to be of great assistance to Meahan as he’ll be able guide her through the machinery of City Hall. But does that make her more comfortable in her role?
Councillor Meehan had a request, have a staff person join her in the meeting to take notes. Meehan will not be the elected official to have a staff person take notes in meeting but this is not one meeting she will be able to. Ottawa, a city that has 338 elected officials around the corner on Parliament Hill is all about notes being taken in a meeting by staff. An elected official bringing a staff person to take notes in a meeting is not a strange occurance, it happens all the time, everyday.
There could be more than meets the eye on this; the Mayor may be posturing a bit. I doubt that the Mayor and Mike Patton get along that well. Patton, who worked for the previous Mayor of Ottawa is now working for a new Councillor. Patton up until the Ottawa elections posted a daily video challenging the mayor on issues facing City Hall. If it would be Patton coming into the meetings, Jim Watson would not be so happy.
A few people have commented online that if Meehan doesn’t know the top three issues from her ward she doesn’t deserve to be there. Meehan has not had the smoothest start of the rookie Councillors, but her calling out the Mayor for not allowing her to have someone take notes for her seems fair. Next year she may not need that staff person there but this is her first budget in her first year of her four year term. I find nothing wrong with her making sure she has the information she needs to do her job however she needs to get it.
If this is any indication, this could be first of a few flaming arrows that Meehan will be firing in the direction of the Mayor.
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