May.07.12 | Blog
I woke up this morning and like many Mondays (or mornings in general) it was a slow starter. I got my kid off to school, put coffee on, and settled in to check out my feeds and do some boot up browsing. Little did I know what awaited me on Twitter: Ottawa’s very own Mayor, Jim Watson (@JimWatsonOttawa) had some words for me and his Jimmies were definitely rustled:
@ALL_CAPS . Virtually all of your tweets are negative. Must be hard to be angry all the time—@JimWatsonOttawa
This was in response to a tweet I made the previous day (among others) wherein I griped about Ottawa’s public transit provider, OC Transpo, and my furtive attempts to find bus tickets:
Bus fare: $3.25 + $1.30 for a cookie I didn’t need to make change from a $20 + twenty minutes walking to two places out of bus tickets.—@ALL_CAPS
As Mayor, Mr. Watson is ostensibly in charge of transit policy for the city and OC Transpo is within his domain; it was nice to see that somebody was listening.
Complaints about OC Transpo’s service could fill many tomes, and Twitter itself is certainly full of customer beefs about planes, trains, and automobiles. Remove travelers grousing about airlines, buslines, and subway delays and there would be little left. Certainly as a Mayor, Mr. Watson should have developed a rhinocerous’ hide to deflect such criticisms [especially considering I never attributed this service failing to him or his policies.]
Now I am many things but ‘angry’ generally isn’t one of them: sarcastic—yes, funny—occasionally, useful—once in a while, but definitely leaning towards snarky optimism. Rather than retort I used it as an opportunity to further discussion and a number of people weighed in.
Ironically I rather like Jim Watson. He embodies a leftist, khaki-wearing vision for the city that I support. He’s pushing Ottawa’s beleaguered, long-suffering LRT system ahead, he’s pushed for better bike lanes in the core despite the inevitable opposition, and he’s even making progress with the terrible labor relations and management at OC Transpo itself. I live close to the core in Hintonburg and as a fan of urban design and planning and deliberately live in a walking neighbourhood; I eschewed a car last summer when my previous vehicle lease was up and now walk, bike, car share, or take the bus. My complaints about the systems are legitimate because they come from a user of the services and someone who is interested and invested in them being delivered more effectively. My beef about bus ticket availability is because I needed them to ride a bus system which is shedding riders.
Social media is an interesting thing and as a fairly active participant I like the fact that I can have direct access to people including policy makers and politicians. The Mayor of my city is dissing me before I even had breakfast. Me!—my mom will be so proud. This is better than jetpacks: this is technology and social media converging to raze social strata and level the playing field. It’s just Jim and I and our iPhones (well, I suspect he’s a Blackberry man) and I prefer that model of communication versus the approach fostered by other Canadian Mayors.
While I may not like what Watson had to say I do appreciate that the Mayor of Ottawa, surely a busy man, actually took the time out of his Monday morning to say something. And kudos that it is actually the Mayor saying what he thinks, not a PR hack or a regurgitated talking point approved by the City of Ottawa’s corporate lawyers.
Yes, politicians having unfiltered communication with constituents may lead to occasional scrapes but the occasional barb or faux pas is far more preferable than ivory towers and deep moats in a democracy. I’ll take a garrulous Mayor calling me out rather than a photo op, press conference or press release any day of the week; in fact, it’s pretty awesome.