Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Watson bulls through naming proposal

Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson had no presents for the heritage community this season. He marginalized the contributions of local historians by bulling through the city Finance and Economic Development Committee his choice of James Bartleman as the person for whom the main City Archives and Library Materials Building will be named.

Despite three public interventions at the meeting indicating Bartleman was not a good choice for this particular building, as he had practically nothing to do with the history of the city, counsellors acted like sheeple agreeing to the mayor's suggestion without discussion.

On the previous item Mayor Watson trumpeted how transparent the city process had been.  He was strangely quiet about that when it came to this item.

It was not supposed to be that way. I had received  an email from Tyler L. Cox of the City Clerk's office on 3 June that “the Commemorative Naming Committee ... no longer automatically moves in-camera to consider naming proposals.”

Only through the press did  it come out  that the Commemorative Naming Committee had met ... surreptitiously. The meeting was not publicised in advance so whether it was in-camera or not becomes academic. Why no transparency?

That Commemorative Naming Committee meeting endorsed Mayor Watson's selection of James Bartleman.

Given his achievements Mr Bartleman’s name could appropriately grace a city library branch, a community centre or social housing building. But his links to the heritage of this city are tenuous.

The majority of proposals received had indicated the community favoured a name that rings strongly in the annals of the city. That should have guided the Commemorative Naming Committee in deciding what weight to give to the various established criteria. It appears to be quite normal for the city to be strongly guided by the wishes of the community in question in choosing a name. Why not in this case?

There were people nominated whose names might ONLY be appropriately celebrated in a building dedicated in large part to the heritage of the City, not as with Mr Bartleman in many different types of building or facility. Mr. Bartleman’s trailblazing record of federal public service is historic in its own right, but it’s on a larger stage, not on the local scene, aside from the incidental that he happened to be a nominal resident of the City absent for much of that time due to his Foreign Service postings.

Mr Bartleman's name was bulled forward in a secretive process, one that failed to respect the wishes and initiative of those who made other proposals. Citizens need to be able to see that their proposals have been considered equitably.

Those who submitted proposals didn't even receive a simple letter of acknowledgement nor any other communication. Does such treatment do anything to encourage citizens to make honest efforts to make the city the best it can be, one that respects and remembers its heritage? Why the omission?

Much was made at the Finance and Economic Development Committee meeting of comments received in response to a notice regarding the Bartleman proposal. They were presented as favoring the proposal, but only because a large number were rejected as proposing other names rather than commenting on the proposal. Obviously if you're proposing another name you're not supporting the proposal, but that's a leap of logic too inconvenient to Mayor Watson's wishes, worthy of an election manipulating dictatorship.

The reality is that there is no urgency in deciding this issue. This committee could have refer the nomination back to the Commemorative Naming Committee, without passing any judgement on the merit of Mr Bartleman, with a request for reconsideration in a more transparent process sensitive to the wishes of the community.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I wonder what Mr Bartleman thinks of his name being attached to a building through this secrative process. Does it meet his standards of accountability and transparency?