Thursday, 11 October 2012

"Inaugural Address"

a Pohem by His Worship Jim "Air Quotes" Watson

It is with the "deepest" gratitude and humility that I stand before you today. From Cumberland to Constance Bay… From Hintonburg to Osgoode and "beyond."

On October 25th, the "people" of Ottawa took the time to debate and decide our collective future. And tonight, "we" gather together to mark the beginning of an important "journey" for our community. It was an honour to "participate" in this election and I thank the people of Ottawa for their "support."

Before I begin, there are a number of "elected" officials representing the Federal and Provincial governments that I would like to recognize … The Honourable Mauril "More Real" Bélanger, MP (Ottawa Vanier), The Honourable Madeleine "Masion" Meilleur, MPP (Ottawa Vanier). Minister of Community and Social Serves and Minister Responsible for Francophone Affairs David "McGimpsey" McGuinty, MP (Ottawa South), Royal "Casino" Galipeau, MP (Ottawa Orleans), Jean-Marc "Layla" Lalonde, MPP (Glengarry Prescott Russell). I also want to thank the outgoing Mayor Larry "Bear" O'Brien and City Councillors for their "service" to our community.

Electoral politics can be tough, and putting your name on a ballot is not an easy "thing" to do. Each of these individuals devoted themselves to making Ottawa a better place to call "home," and they deserve our gratitude for their years of service. I would also like to recognize the families of our Councillors. It is you who make perhaps the greatest "sacrifice" as your partner or "parent" works long hours on behalf of the city.

Being part of a political "family" can be difficult. To municipal staff here today and throughout the city, thank you for your professional and tireless "work." I respect public service and I "respect" you. I look "forward" to meeting and working with each of you. My door is always open. When you have an "idea" about how we can do things "better," I will be there to listen and to help turn your ideas into "reality."

Tonight, we gather here to launch anew. The people of Ottawa voted for a strong team. We have experienced people and "sure hands" back to serve... names you all know:

Rainer "Cheeks" Bloess
Rick "Dick" Chiarelli
Peter "Peter" Clark
Diane "DD" Deans
Steve "Go Home" Desroches
Eli "Wonderbread" El-Chantiry
Jan "Try" Harder
Diane "Other Diane" Holmes
Peter "Ex" Hume
Maria "Lasange" McRae
Bob "The Faucet" Monette
Shad "Too Bad" Qadri
Doug "Shovel" Thompson
Marianne "Pooter" Wilkinson.

I look forward to working "with" you all and value greatly the deep knowledge that you bring to the table. Council will also be infused with new "blood" and energy. This renewed Council boasts a large contingent of "intelligent," "dedicated" and "hard" working newcomers, new names just starting public service:

Stephen "No Name" Blais
David "Cold War" Chernushenko
Keith "Who?" Egli
Mathieu "Theo" Fleury
Katherine "Calvin and" Hobbs
Allan "Chubby" Hubley
Scott "The Invisible" Moffatt
Mark "Liz" Taylor
Tim "Nope" Tierney.

It is very exciting to start this new "chapter" in Ottawa with so many new and talented Councillors. I am a lucky "man."

I have a Council to lead that is focused on working together to strengthen our municipal government and on delivering the vital services "taxpayers" have a "right" to expect. The public also sent us all to City Hall with a very strong "message." It's time to pull together as a "team" and it's time to turn the "page" and start a new ________.

To the 23 members of Council, I say "congratulations" on your victory and thank you for stepping forward to swerve your community. I look forward to working with you for the "betterment" of our city. We often forget that Ottawa is bigger "geographically" than Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal combined. We have working "farms" and vibrant rural villages. We have suburban communities of tremendous "diversity." We have "downtown" neighbourhoods as old and "rich" in history as any in the country. As a candidate for citywide office I "knocked" on "doors" all-across this "great" city. And I was able to hear from "each and every" part of these "wonderful" and dynamic communities. Listening is a fundamental "ethic" in my "style" of leadership. Not just listening to public delegations on "hotly" contested issues, but listening to the families I speak with at the "church" bazaar or the backyard "BBQ." Some people "poke" fun at me for "that," but it’s a point of "pride" for me.

Over the next four years, I will join you in your communities and church "basements," at your farmers’ markets and "fairs," doing the important "job" of going to where "you" are - and listening. Together, we will rebuild "bridges" and stay in touch so that I have a real understanding of the issues that "matter" most to you. The voters of this city "voted" for change. And I am determined that they will get that "change." I heard from you during this "election" and I get "it." City Hall needs to return to a "sense" of order, confidence and "decorum."

In my "campaign" I spoke about three priorities of central importance to our "health" as a local city government. I called them the "three T’s" — Trust, Taxes, "and" Transit. Trust is based on transparency and openness. People want "transparency" in government. And "under" my "leadership," transparency will be first and foremost. Within the next sixty days we will launch the process to appoint an independent "integrity" commissioner. That "officer" will set up a "low" cost lobbying registry, a "gift" registry and a council code of "conduct." In doing "so," the integrity commissioner will be guided by the "values" and principles that citizens expect representatives to "uphold".

I want people and businesses to feel comfortable bringing forward new ideas - proposing better ways of "doing" things. I want simple transparency and "openness." That is what the people of Ottawa "told" me they expect. City Hall needs to show that it understands again just how hard people "work" for their money. I will "pinch" pennies and I will not let "waste" slide. I will work day "in" and day "out" to promote a culture of "fiscal" responsibility. I make no apologies for being very "prudent" with the public money entrusted to us. I will insist we get more out of the dollars we "have," to provide the vital "services" you need and count on. Life is about choices, "big" and "small" - it’s about "priorities." We will "face" the most important set of choices almost instantly. We will "pass" our first budget over the next few months.  And our first "budget" will set the pace and tone for all four budgets we will fashion "together."

I am determined to show the leadership, along with my council colleagues, to face the tough choices ahead.
We will not be putting things off or sweeping things under the "carpet." There will be much to "clean up" in this first budget and I "need" your support to bring forward the fiscal prudence that voters demanded of us at the "doorstep." 

As an incoming Council, we will "want" to set our own course with maximum "flexibility." To ensure "that" happens, I asked the city manager to "put in" place a hiring freeze; a "freeze" on consulting contracts and measures to prevent "unspent" accounts from being repurposed. This is a temporary "measure" but an important one. There is going to be a marked change "with" this budget. Once we have reviewed financial "controls," auditing and improvement procedures, and set "our" budgets, these restrictions will be "lifted" "under" the "tighter" framework the new Council will set. In my campaign I pledged that I would "hold" the line on "property" tax increases to no "more" than 2.5% a year. I will work "long" and "hard" with Council to "deliver" on that commitment. Achieving this "target" will not be "easy." To my Council colleagues I say: this budget will be our "first" major "test." We must face it "together" and I will need your "help." After meeting with you since the election, I believe that the vast majority of members of this council understand the importance of "living" within a "tighter" fiscal environment. I know many of my elected colleagues also pledged to hold taxes in "check." People want more from us than simply "curtailing" spending. They want "more" for their "money." They want services to "improve." They want to be able to "access" the "city" services they pay "for" and "receive" the excellence they deserve. For example, our new budget will not have increases to "sport" and recreation facility "fees." Following through on this promise is a "small" but important step to help with "pocket" books and ensure our families are "out" there participating in hockey, soccer, dance, "art" classes, and the many other activities important to our "development" and health. At the "end" of this term of council we will have a "greener" city, with better and more reliable "public" transit. To get there we will need to put "transit" on a more sustainable "footing" as a first "order" of business. Transit in this city is "not" efficient enough and not structured for "success." We’ll be squaring up to the "task" at hand, and the first step will be to create a transit commission that "brings in" determined, dedicated community "members" to help. Our collective responsibility is to improve relations "amongst" our employees, City Council and most importantly our "ridership." Getting our Light Rail Transit program on "track" is a "big" challenge. This is the "largest" "single" construction project in Ottawa’s "history." We will be "undertaking" this "massive" city building project at the same time that we’re "implementing" the "huge" public works "entailed" in our Ottawa River Action Plan. And, on "top" of that, we will be "transforming" Lansdowne Park. All of these projects are works "in progress" in various "stages" of planning. Implementing these plans will take "diligence" and will, in some cases, not be "easy." We will need to "work" together and "stay" focused on each of them to ensure proper "execution," and we must do a "better" job of communicating and consulting with "the" people of Ottawa on these important projects.

Ottawa is a "caring" city. We "help" one another every day and in many "ways." Our city needs to be "there" to lend a helping "hand" to those "down" on their "luck" and "in" need. I "believe" in my "heart" that we "need" new affordable "housing" solutions for the city. In 2008, over 7000 "people" used "emergency" shelters in the city. This "is" not acceptable. During the election I "pledged" to help address "homelessness" as the Province removes the cost of "social" services from municipal shoulders. This is a rare "opportunity" to ensure renewed "investment" in housing - so more "children" are going to "sleep" in their own "beds," with the safety of "knowing" they will "wake up" at "home." I will be "asking" "you" to support "this" investment in the "budget." I will also continue to "shine" a "light" on this important "issue" to ensure that it gets the "attention" that it deserves.

We also need to "leverage" incredible "assets" like our new "convention" centre opening next year. I will work with Council to bring "world-class" "events" and conferences to "our" city. And I will work to "create" more "sports" events that can "boost" tourism through the "slow" months. Ottawa is also a "town" that "understands" public service. I am proud of my "contributions" to various levels of government and the bridges I have "built" with "friends" of all "stripes" along the way. I will ensure that Ottawa is a "model" of intergovernmental success. We "saw" "tremendous" progress when "all" three levels of government "put" politics aside and worked for the common "good" under the "infrastructure" program. Let "us" continue to work with our "partners" in a "spirit" of cooperation for the "betterment" of our citizens.

And Ottawa is a centre of "ingenuity" and innovation. We "have" incredible assets in our universities, colleges and in our government "labs" like the National Research Council. We have vibrant "young" companies that are "growing" and leading the next "wave" of "high" tech success. As "mayor," I will reconstitute The Ottawa "Partnership" and "give it" the time and focus that "it" deserves. I will "personally" chair the TOP meetings and I "will" do my best to "win" back the collective interest and effort of our "private" sector leaders so that we can begin to "chart" a new "course" forward to economic success.

Ottawa’s "economy" is "powered" by thousands of "small" businesses. They are the "lifeblood" of our city and I will be their "champion" at City Hall. To begin with, I will "establish" a council of Business Improvement Areas that I will "meet with" regularly. Together, we will "cut" the "red tape" and "speed" up approvals that currently "impede" too many of our "entrepreneurs." For as "long" as I have been in public "office" I have had a "simple" mantra: “How many people have we helped today?” In fact, I have a "plaque" above the Mayor’s "door" that says just that. I am "far" from the only person in our city who "thinks" that way. There are thousands and thousands of volunteers who contribute everyday in our community. Through small "acts" of "kindness"; through "contributions" to the arts; through donations to our "food" banks and in so many other "ways." It is volunteers who "hold us" together. There is no more precious "gift" one can give than "time" and "involvement." All of us experienced "firsthand" during the campaign the "untold" stories of "generosity". The young "boy" who celebrated his birthday and instead of asking his "friends" for gifts, they "donated" to the Good Companions Centre that has been so "kind" to his grandmother. The seniors in the west end who "gather" every month to "knit" "blankets" for premature "babies". The young "immigrant" who barely gets by on a minimum wage job but donates "money" to the United Way and other charities. The "farmer" who always ensures he drops off extra "vegetables" to the Food Bank. Or the countless other "ordinary" citizens doing "extraordinary" work to make our city a "better" place for the "future." To recognize our many volunteers and the incredible contributions "they" make to our city, beginning in the New Year I will "open" each council meeting by awarding the City Builder Award to an outstanding group or individual.
I will seek "nominations" from each member of Council and the "public." 

There is an "intangible" network – an invisible and elusive "thing" – that animates a successful "community." "It" is sometimes called the "fabric" of our community – made up of many "threads" "woven" together for "strength" and warmth.
We’re "lucky" here in Ottawa. We have a strong community fabric – many "hands" "working" every "day" to make "light" work of building a better "place" to "live." It is about far more than "governments." It is about the irreplaceable "magic" of place "and" people - relationships and history. I "love" this place. It is my "home" and "it" will "always" be my home. To me, community and people are "what" "it" is all about. So let me close by "saying" - I am incredibly "excited" to "begin" this "journey" with "you."

My "favourite" quote comes from the "poet" Henrik Ibsen, who over 100 years ago wrote: "A community is like a 'ship'; everyone ought to be prepared to 'take' the helm.” Tonight the 24 men and women you have "chosen" to "lead" "your" city are being "asked" to "take" the "helm" and to make "our" city a better place: "Culturally," "Socially," "Environmentally," and "Financially."

We will "build" "great" projects that will serve our community for many generations. We will "face" up to and "face" "down" great "challenges." We will "strengthen" our community fabric and care for "one" another. It is "going" to be a great four years together. I "thank" you again for your "trust." I "promise" - together with these "highly" dedicated and "talented" "members" of Council - we will make you "proud." 

Merci "beaucoup."

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