By now everyone’s probably seen Earl McRae’s latest trouncing of our hapless councillor.
Thanks for plugging my blog in the paper, Earl – I’m averaging 445 hits a day this month (34,704 visits since I launched the blog Nov. 30, 2010).
The list of public spaces that I’m not allowed to be in just got a little longer.
Let me explain. I’ll try to make it brief, but it’s sort of a long story.
It was a splendid day for a bike ride so I pointed my Frank Dinardo Special towards City Hall to see what was cooking at council.
I took a fairly direct route, but I dawdled along the way, and the council meeting was over by the time I got there. I knew that Jim likes to keep it short and sweet, so it’s my own fault for not getting there earlier.
I was disappointed to have missed the action (apparently there were a few dramatic moments!) but then I had an idea – maybe I could find out why I was banned from Lynwood Park?
While I was still pondering my next move I spotted Lesley Donnelly, the Deputy City Clerk, and Maria McRae, River ward councillor, chatting in Andy’s room. I politely asked them to sign the petition and they both declined (just as politely), explaining why it wouldn’t be appropriate.
I asked Ms. Donnelly about the trespass order, and told her what I wanted to know (Why was it issued? What am I being accused of?).
She didn’t really have an answer – stuff like this is not her domain – but she kindly pointed me in the direction of City Client Services. (I have no idea what Ms. Donnelly thinks of all this, if anything – she has a good poker face and can’t risk offending her political masters.)
After waiting in line and talking to three different clerks at Client Services the only recourse I appeared to have was to pay a fee to file a freedom of information form and wait for the gears of bureaucracy to grind away for a few months.
Is there not a better way?
I decided to check with the security guards – maybe they could help out.
After talking to several guards I was led into their control centre, where the nice senior guard phoned upstairs to the boss, Greg Dack.
Mr. Dack wasn’t in, so I was advised by his underling to just go home and come back another day.
Oh well, you win some you lose some. I decided to get a few more signatures for Nancy Robertson’s petition.
After checking with the security guards for permission (they told me that, as far as they knew, I was allowed to ask people to sign as long as I was polite. Selling stuff or hassling people is definitely verboten, but they had no explicit instructions about petitions).
So I did it for about half an hour, being scrupulously polite and only asking people who looked like they weren’t in a hurry.
Asking for Robertson Road signatures at City Hall is a little more work than asking for them in Bells Corners, where all you have to do is say “petition?” and people answer “sure!” with great enthusiasm.
I actually ran into a couple of people who hadn’t heard anything about the controversy(!), but one of them was a tourist from New York.
The only person who turned me down was Councillor Bloess, but at least he winked at me and said “you seem to be making progress, Craig.”
Then a security guard came over to inform me that someone from Corporate Security would be down shortly.
The woman, who did not divulge her name, warned me that “petitioning” was NOT ALLOWED and, if I didn’t stop, I would have to leave.
I was welcome to petition OUTSIDE City Hall, she said (on the other side of the smokers’ yellow line), but not in the building.
Fair enough – I put Nancy Robertson’s petition away.
The Corporate Security woman hung around to keep an eye on things.
I decided to take the elevator upstairs – I had never been to Councillor’s Row before.
The elevator doors open and… I come face to face with Rick and Alex!
Our jaws all dropped and time was frozen for a second or two.
The councillor’s brain works quite a bit faster than mine or Alex Lewis,’ so he got off the first line: “Look who’s here, Alex, the pinko troublemaker!” I wasn’t wearing my wire, so I can’t check, but I think that’s what he said.
I got off the second barb: “Alex, you went from mall security guard to executive director of the BIA? Is that true?”
Alex launched the next zinger: “It’s true, but being a mall cop is excellent preparation for the brutal world of politics. And I’ve done lots of other things – you’re guilty, as usual, of selective reporting.” Or something like that.
With that the pair turned on their heels and marched away. I followed them. The Corporate Security woman followed me. I whipped out my camera (see Youtube below) and went up to the Lewis-Chiarelli duo, now joined by Jay. I addressed Jay (the guy who’s been spreading nasty rumours about me): “How’s it going, Jay?”
The councillor turned his back and the three conspirators looked towards the Corporate Security woman for assistance. She did her duty, asking me to leave the building immediately for “harrassing Councillor Chiarelli.”
She’s got a point – I filmed our brief encounter. I don’t feel too uncomfortable about it – Team Chiarelli is always filming and recording me. Is it illegal to point a camera at a politician if you’re not on his staff or a ‘professional’ journalist?
What about Jay wearing the wire – is that illegal?
Since sometimes discretion is the better part of valour, I left the building, retreating to behind the yellow smokers’ line.
I got a few more signatures and had a VERY interesting conversation with Councillor Marianne Wilkinson from Kanata North (more bad news, Rick!), a couple of journalists and the City Clerk and Solicitor, Rick O’Connor. Jay kept interrupting, telling Coun. Wilkinson and M. O’Connor that I was “a failed candidate who had opposed Rick in the last election.”
Then a security guard came out to tell me to move “right off City property onto the sidewalk.”
I pointed out to him that the sidewalk is also City property, and that got a smile.
When I asked him if I was banned permanently from City Hall, he said “No, just for today. See you tomorrow.”
I don’t blame Rick, Alex and Jay for not liking me pointing a camera at them in public – while it’s perfectly legal to do so it does sees kind of rude.
But they’re always filming and recording me and at least I don’t wear a wire like Jay, the foul-mouthed backroom boy.
(I’ve started uploading Youtubes in HD, the one above and my name is Robertson, but I’m wondering if the movies run choppy on older computers?)