steak breakfast

A stakeholder breakfast was recently held at the Westcliffe community building to talk about ways to improve life in Bells Corners. BIA board member Al provided the steaks.

Alex talked about the importance of putting up more banners plugging the BIA and the benefits of second-hand smoke, while Rick said that more left-turn lanes and drive-thrus are key to making Bells Corners a better place for everyone.

Alex vaunted the merits of the BIA/Chiarelli tax on local businesses. “If you’re not a part of the change then you have no right to criticize it,” he said, urging residents to “sell Bells Corners” as a place to shop.

Community developer Kyle Kearnan had a different take on things, pointing to problems of school readiness in kindergarten-age children identified in the Ottawa Neighbourhood Study. In Bells Corners West, 31 per cent of the children could be “vulnerable,” versus the city average of 23 per cent.

He also wants to improve recreation and seniors programming.

Others lamented the lack of accessible transportation and “walkability” in Bells Corners. A lot of daycare providers have trouble getting around Bells Corners. “It’s also tough for parents who have to figure out how to drop their children off and then bus to another area of the city for work,” said one participant.

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6 Responses to steak breakfast

  1. “If you’re not a part of the change then you have no right to criticize it.”

    What change? Alex’s statement might make sense if the BIA had actually done something, but it has accomplished absolutely nothing. When you have something that is costing businesses money, but offering nothing for that money, people rightfully should criticize it.

    Let’s look at the BIA and what it has done so far.

    1) It put up banners — This seems to be what every BIA does and other than allow people to know that a BIA is operating in the area I fail to see the value. The original banners were ugly. Eventually they were replaced with much better banners — something that was seen as a step in the right direction until it was realized that Alex had hired a friend to design them; his friend stole the designs from a British Columbia BIA and even incorporated the other BIA’s trademark in the Bells Corners banners. The Christmas wreaths were nice, so one out of four banners were not an embarrassment to the business community.

    2) Tulip Festival — Bells Corners was supposed to be the western outpost of the Tulip Festival. Bells Corners was supposed to have some large amount of tulips planted here. This was promoted heavily. It is not going to happen. It was a stupid idea, so the fact that it is not actually going to happen is not a bad thing, but it shows what is wrong with the Bells Corners BIA and Alex Lewis. When it became clear that the only way those tulips would be planted is if Alex did it himself, he simply cancelled the event. A good leader would have realized the infeasibility of the event and never promised it, but once you say something is going to happen, it is on you to make it happen. It would have been hard work but one person could have done it in a week. If you have any friends it is a job you could get done in a weekend for the cost of a few cases of beer.

    3) The Road Renaming — The BIA refused to represent the interests of the businesses that it is supposed to represent. Originally the BIA claimed that the businesses supported the change of Richmond Road and Robertson Road to Lloyd Francis Boulevard, even though that was not true. When the businesses reacted the BIA responded with a survey where the businesses were not allowed to vote for the status quo — I still have the e-mails from Jim Sourges of The Electrical & Plumbing Store, stating that under no circumstances would that option be offered to businesses to vote on. The desire to rename the road for a Liberal was not going to happen, but the BIA was still insisting on forcing a renaming against the will of the member businesses. My suspicion is that a renaming was necessary as a pretext for the city to allow businesses on Northside Road to re-address on the main business strip. Coincidentally two of Jim Sourges businesses are on Northside Road. If my theory is correct then all the businesses in Bells Corners, as well as all the seniors at Thorncliffe Place Retirement Home, are going to have to change their address at a cost to the business community of well over three-quarters of a million dollars so that the chair of Bells Corners BIA can get an address on the main commercial strip.

    4) Bells Corners has Talent — The BIA announced that they would be seeking land from the NAC to have talent shows and concerts. I don’t see how this is the role of the BIA but again, despite the announcement, it never materialized.

    5) Condos on the property that was the Vox — During the renaming controversy Rick got his friend at the Sun to write a story about how condos were about the be announced. The time frame was measured in days. No developer was named and at the time the land was still for sale. Months later nothing has changed. There was no announcement of new condos and anyone who is interested can still buy the land and do what they please with it. Condos would be excellent — assuming people moved into them that is exactly what Bells Corners needs. So where are they? Alex Lewis allowed his name to be used in the article, knowing it was a propaganda piece with no substance. Doing stuff like that kills your credibility.

    6) Empty businesses — The whole reason a BIA was needed is, as Rick has said so many times, “I drove up and down and counted 17 empty stores” and he had to do something. His solution was a BIA with his ex-staffer Alex Lewis as director. That Alex has no business experience, no formal education, no computer skills, weak language skills, and that his previous employment in no way qualifies him to run a BIA didn’t matter to Rick. So now, more than two years later, at last count there were 23 empty stores with two more about to close. The situation in Bells Corners has actually gotten worse since the BIA was formed.

    I have asked this before but I’ll ask it again. What has the BIA actually accomplished?

    I agree with Alex on the patio smoking, but if he thinks that sending out some tweets and showing up late to a CFRA interview is going to accomplish anything then he has a lot to learn about how to get City Hall’s attention. While I encourage his efforts I again can’t help but notice that this issue really only impacts five businesses and the business that it will impact the most just happens to be on the board of the BIA.

    There are a lot of things the BIA could do to improve Bells Corners and to help the businesses. Alex Lewis is in no way interested in doing those things nor is he qualified to do them. My read is that Alex is looking to follow in Rick’s path of career politician. It is really the only option for someone who doesn’t want to work and has no ability to do anything else. Unfortunately times have changed. In a pre-internet / pre-social media world people like Rick could go unnoticed and continue to get elected term after term despite a horrible performance. These days it isn’t as easy.

    – Here’s one thing the BIA has accomplished. It distributed souvenir travel mugs with the slogan “Bells Corners Has it’s Perks” – the spelling mistake makes them valuable collector’s items.

    I tried to help Alex out by pointing out the atrocious spelling error on the main page of the BIA web site, but, last time I looked, it was still there (and reproduced in the 8-page full-colour BIA propaganda magazine that was “delivered to 22,000 homes”).

    • Alex has no computer skills, and while editing a website is very easy to correct, the mistake will require paying the designer, so it is likely not a high priority.

      This is a perfect example of why hiring Alex was a huge mistake since pretty much everyone his age does have those skills. As we approach May and the road name gets changed to a unified Robertson, every business on the strip is going to have to change their address on their website.

      A lot of business owners are older and did not grow up with computers and so are much less likely to feel comfortable changing their own websites. Paying someone $200+ for what is literally a three-minute or less task is insane.

      If the BIA director was qualified he could offer to do this for the businesses for free. It would save many businesses money and be a great way to build relationships between the BIA and the business community.

    • I had the opportunity to talk to Alex and considering that conversation I now feel that my criticism was not justified. Much of my opinion of Alex was formed because of the interaction involving the road renaming and because of his connection to Rick. I feel that led me to being too harsh with respect to Alex and I’d like to apologize.

      I’d also like to retract my statements with respect to Alex’s qualifications. My limited interaction with Alex during the road issue exposed me to the areas he is weak in but I didn’t get to see any of the strengths. I have now been exposed to his strengths and I feel that they more than compensate for the weaknesses. I also feel that he has improved drastically and really grown into the job. I also believe he is sincere in wanting to do a good job although I do still feel that a BIA for Bells Corners is of very limited value but that would be true regardless of who the director is.

      Alex asked my opinion of improving the situation in Bells Corners — I used to have some good ideas but not having thought about it recently and not expecting to have this conversation I drew a blank. I do plan to give it some thought and to approach things more cooperatively going forward.

      – It’s true that Alex has been given a very rough ride on this blog, so it’s good that you apologize. Personally I like the guy, but I’d respect him even more if he were a little more honest. We talked off the record for about an hour and never once did he waver from the “script” – for example, he claimed that he knew nothing about Rick’s hatchet job on me and all the dirty tricks that Team Chiarelli practices, and that he was not complicit in the takeover of the LVCA and all the nastiness that rained down on me after I dared criticize the ward boss. Sorry, I don’t buy it.

      Alex, there comes a time when even a politician has to let the mask drop and talk honestly. You claimed that you no longer work for Rick, and while technically that is true, you know as well as I do that it’s BS, that you’re counting on Rick, Lisa and Pierre to help advance your own political ambitions.

      Can you not stop being so partisan? Just because I don’t agree with you on a lot of issues doesn’t mean that I’m either a) a Taliban-lover b) a terrorist or c) a child pornographer.

      If there’s any justice in this world Rick’s outrageous invention of Don Robertson to justify his Lloyd Francis Boulevard fiasco, and his incredibly sleazy bully tactics to subvert democracy and punish me will come back to haunt him at the next elections.

      He’ll still win of course, using his huge war chest and our tax dollars to run a typically dishonest campaign. But if his share of the vote doesn’t plummet in Bells Corners I’ll eat my hat.

      If anyone is expecting me to apologize to Rick – forget it! I’ve turned his own spin doctor tactics against him on this blog, but, unlike Rick and his henchmen (especially Jay!), I’ve played fair and stuck to the facts. I know a lot more about Rick’s dirty tricks but I’ve resisted the temptation to talk about it on this blog since I can’t prove what I know to be true.

      On the other hand, if Rick were to come clean and apologize for the Don Robertson blunder and the LVCA outrage, the healing process could begin.

      • No one is forgetting how horrible Rick is. His behaviour is appalling. After talking to him and thinking about the situation, I think Alex has been unfairly criticized because most of the the issues I have with him are actually issues with Rick where Alex was involved more on the periphery. There are still a few small things I am concerned about with Alex’s past behaviour but I think those were rooted in Rick as well.

        Rick likes young staff because they are easy to control and easily impressed. As the staff gains experience the relationship ceases to work because his employees start to see Rick for what he is. The only exception is Jay, who is basically another Rick, so he will never leave. There is a reason why Rick’s staff churns so fast.

        The BIA did screw the businesses with respect to the road renaming, but I was at that meeting and Alex was not advocating for either side. Jim Sourges is the one who refused to include the status quo as an option on the survey and I have the e-mails between Sourges and myself that clearly establish this. Alex’s only involvement in that respect was forwarding my request to Sourges.

        The rest of the board, while they seemed like very nice people, are not capable of conflict. The one exception is a building owner who has potential but was completely oblivious to the fact that every single one of his tenants had a ‘My name is Robertson’ sign, and two were petition sites.

        I find Alex’s position unenviable because, simply put, his board is not capable of dealing with Rick, and the legislation requires that Rick be on the board. Alex also speaks very positively of Jim Sourges and I think that is a bad read on Alex’s part. My brief interaction with Sourges left me seeing him as a much more intelligent and much more successful version of Rick.

        I’m still of the opinion that a BIA is of little value to Bells Corners because the geography and business mix does not lend itself to having a BIA. This though is true of 80%+ of the BIAs across Canada and almost 100% of the BIAs formed in the last few years.

        Alex did have some good ideas that I think might be untenable, but it doesn’t hurt to try. Maybe they will come to fruition and, if they did, it would be a game-changer for Bells Corners.

        In the meantime, until there is more clarity, I think the role of BIA director for Bells Corners is best fulfilled by a kind of business concierge who advocates for individual businesses. I don’t see grand projects involving the whole area having much success for now. Being surprised and expecting a conflict I went into aggressive mode and after priming for a fight was unable to give any constructive suggestions for improving the situation — I hope to in the future when I have time to think about it.

        With respect to Rick and your conflict — Rick’s behaviour is atrocious. I don’t feel Alex is in a position to do anything about it. During the road renaming controversy I felt that Alex should have either quit or spoken out and been fired, but I say that as someone without financial restrictions.

        For someone who wants a career, has a mortgage, has bills, etc. that kind of recklessness is not realistic. I think cutting Alex some slack with respect to your conflict falls into the same area. The year-long ban is coming to an end in two or three months so there is no point doing anything now. If Rick just drops it then fine but if he tries to have the ban extended or reinstated then I urge you to fight it and I will happily help.

        We should have done that last time but the road renaming was sucking up so much time that it was not possible. In fact I would like to meet two weeks before the ban is due to expire so as to prepare for the possibility that Rick would be foolish enough to try.

        With respect to Rick winning the next election, I would never underestimate the chances of someone who has been a politician as long as Rick, but I maintain that he has little chance of winning. Rick is toxic. He has angered enough people that there will be strong opposition that will be much better funded than Rick.

        Rick does have supporters but I’d characterize those relationships as more convenience than loyalty based. When they realize that Rick’s toxicity makes him inefficient they will find someone else to back. A good portion of the people who oppose Rick don’t oppose his political brand and even have views aligned with those of Rick’s supporters. It is in everyone’s interest to just find someone who works well for all and put Rick out to pasture.

        Speaking of political futures, a funny thing about my view of Alex and how drastically it has changed is that I had pretty much resolved to block any possible future attempts by him to move into politics. Now if he ever decides to, I’d likely volunteer for his team. I think he is a few years away from being ready but I think he’d make a good MPP.

        – I value your opinion so I’ll definitely be cutting him some slack in the future. It’s true that if you take Rick out of the picture I don’t have a serious beef with Alex. How can you stay ticked off at someone who goes for a ride on the bike-taxi, litter-picks in Bells Corners and gives you free swag?

        Mind you, I’m won’t be joining Alex’s campaign team any time soon. I’d rather see a non-politician as politician, maybe somebody like Al (not the steak house guy, the rink operator).

  2. margaret says:

    and we didn’t get invited ?
    wonder who the stakeholders were
    we know who they weren’t

    by the way … i liked the horse drive-thru …
    we could sell the ‘droppings’ and be environmentally-friendly too

    – My nose is not out of joint for not being invited.

    Everyone who lives, works, owns property or has ties to Bells Corners is a “stakeholder.”

    Is any venue in Bells Corners big enough to host all Bells Corners stakeholders? Nope, not even the Cock & Bull, Rick’s church, Elizabeth May’s church or Bells Corners’ largest place of worship?

    Jennifer McIntosh’s take on the event leaves me with more questions than answers, but it’s a decent story.

    In any case, Rick would have vetoed my presence, just as he did at the last two Bells Corners public meetings (Lynwood & Westcliffe).

  3. Anonymous says:

    I see no evidence of any change in Alex Lewis – he was, and still is, a sock puppet of Rick Chiarelli.

    Until he demonstrates otherwise to the community, there is no reason to change my view of him….

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