The Main(stream) Event

Larry O’Brien and Jim Watson tried to duke it out, but found themselves strangely (long)winded,

OTTAWA – According to Larry O’Brien, his opponent Jim Watson is “a quitter” who has no vision for the future of the city..

Sounds like O’Brien’s looking for an early knockout…

..while Watson called the current mayor’s promise to freeze spending while launching big projects “a bunch of slogans and gimmicks.”..

Looks like this is shaping up to be a bruiser, folks.

..The Oct. 25 election is more than a month away, but the gloves already are coming off in the race for city council’s top job..

Ladies and gentlemen, good evening, and welcome to the Main(stream) Event. On my left, the contender – a man who’s had his share of victories in the ring – JIM ‘PITBUUULL’ WAAATSON… And standing on my right, your reigning champion in the MMA (Mixed Municipal Arts) Lightweight Division – LARRY ‘DR NOOO’ O’BRIIIENNN…

..Although a Thursday morning debate sponsored by the National Capital Heavy Construction Association was narrowly focussed on issues surrounding infrastructure, O’Brien and Watson did not squander the opportunity to take a jab at one another..

Watson appears to be capitalizing well on his superior reach.

..In what is expected to become a frequent point of dissent between the two candidates, Watson charged that O’Brien could not make good on his promise to keep property taxes down while investing in major infrastructure programs such as light rail, the Lansdowne Park redevelopment and a ring road.

A low blow. The ref is signalling time out.

..“It sounds like a Christmas wish list,” said Watson.

I hope he’s been good…

..“I don’t know where the money is going to come from.

I, on the other hand, am faced with a menu larger than that of a fast food restaurant…

..We have to live within our means and not try to fool people with slogans and gimmicks.”..

– Read my lips: No New Taxes…

..But O’Brien didn’t miss a beat.

..“That’s the difference between you and I, Jim,” O’Brien responded. “I like to think long term.

– That’s why I promised eight years of zero tax increases.

..You have to have vision when you’re a mayor. It’s not good enough to make decisions based on what’s in front of you today – you have to look into the future.”

Is that a crack in your crystal ball?

..The mayor admitted he was not able to keep his zero-means-zero tax promise from the 2006 election, “but I tried Jim.

– Dammit Jim, I’m a tycoon, not a municipal doctor!

..”Unlike you, I’m not a quitter,” said O’Brien, referring to Watson’s resigning his post as a provincial Liberal cabinet minister to run for mayor.

Sometimes the fight is stopped by the ref.

..O’Brien also mentioned Watson’s membership in the provincial government that promised it would not raise taxes, then instituted the unpopular HST.

..“I think that, sir, is a broken promise,” said O’Brien. “And that sir, is not leadership.”.

– Even you’ll admit that, though I was on the ropes in the first round, I came out swinging in the final three.

..Leadership is becoming one of the major focal points of this election, in part because O’Brien and Watson have similar stances on a number of issues. A case in point is the LRT plan..

Step away from the position – I’m a trained polymath, with a license to b’li’l…

..Although the Ottawa Chamber of Commerce called on Thursday for an acceleration of the east-west transit system to outlying areas – a request unlikely to be taken seriously during the election given the $2.1-billion price tag of the project, said insiders – the fact is that O’Brien and Watson agree on the LRT..

I understand they both agree on a proper salary, too – one designed to keep them in touch with the problems faced by their less fortunate constituents.

..They even shook on it during the debate in a rare moment of cordiality..

Break it up, boys – no hugging…

..Much of the debate was spent answering questions about how each mayoral candidate would support the construction industry.

With the money we’d save bypassing the O’Tunnel, we’d have more than enough to close out the affordable housing file, as long as the housing was actually affordable and not merely subsidized.

..In particular, audience members wanted to know if the candidates – the only two who participated in the debate –

– Or, to be more precise, the only two who were allowed to participate in the debate –

..supported the infrastructure levy charged to property owners that was to run from 2008 to 2010.

I suppose flat taxes are a step up from poll taxes, but why stop there?

..Although it’s known as the “two per cent levy” in construction circles, the amount fluctuated annually. The three-year program was supposed to raise $100 million to address the city’s crumbling infrastructure, but it didn’t quite work out that way.

– The gas tax revenues will work out much better – as a bonafide leader, you have my word on it!

..In the 2008 budget, taxpayers shelled out $20 million. The following year, they were supposed to pay $40 million, but budget pressures led councillors to reduce that amount to $11 million instead. And in order to keep the property tax increase to less than four per cent in the 2010 budget, the construction levy was removed altogether..

Never having heard of things like progressive property taxes or the implementation of consumption taxes and subsidies through property tax shifting, I suppose they felt they had no other choice. And yet the gas stations and office towers were staring them in the face the whole time.

Instead of collecting the originally planned amount of $60 million through property taxes in 2010, council directed the city to invest $20 million in infrastructure by issuing debt.

That sounds like a fair compromise, lol…

..Watson said he would not reinstitute a construction levy because that would make it impossible for him to meet his goal of raising property taxes by a maximum of 2.5 per cent.

I can’t help but feel that if we can rise above the Moneypit Flyer, and put the culture of bloatocracy on a green tea diet, most people’s taxes will go down, especially if anyone other than me ever asks the other candidates if they’ll agree to live on the median annual income of $40,175, as I have.

..“I’m not going to sugar-coat it and mislead you,” Watson told the breakfast crowd of about 100 industry insiders.

– Oh, and could you pass the jam please? (I make no apologies for a little bit of sugar-coating, but unlike store sugar, mine is measured by the spoonful and accompanied by medicine. And in the absence of mortal combat, I do my best to tell not only the truth, but the whole truth and nothing but the truth.)

..O’Brien was less unequivocal about the levy

Is that anything like being a little bit pregnant?

..although he said in an interview following the debate that the surcharge was “an old way of looking at it and I’ve told (the industry) that very clearly in private meetings.”..

Anyone who owns multiple muscle cars is obviously young at heart.

..He said that there’s currently an “accounting” discussion at the city over whether road maintenance should be capitalized..

Or merely kicked down the road as usual…

..and “how we raise the finances to ensure our roads are properly maintained is something we have to have the freedom to do.”

Those of us who aren’t addicted to comfort or status do, anyways.

The city’s net debt at the end of 2009 was $599 million, although another $200 million in debentures was issues this year. Currently, almost five per cent of property taxes are used to service debt.

What percentage are used to encourage investment in things like composting toilets, insulation upgrades, and on-site fruit and vegetable production?

..The two frontrunners disagreed on a ring road as well..

Fortunately, they avoided coming to blows.

..Trying to characterize Watson among “certain people on the council (who) decided cars were a bad thing” back in the 1990s,

and who therefore started biking year-round, as I did,

..O’Brien promised to put the ring road back into the master plan over the next four years if elected, in the hope it could be built over the next decade..

How’s that hopey-changey thing workin’ out for you? Just askin’…

..Watson said he was “not going to play to the audience” –

Someone has to pay for the meal… Oh, wait – I was forgetting corporate sponsorship.

..he said his priority is public transit and that he won’t be pursuing a ring road.

Guess he has a shinier ring in mind…


About josephfurtenbacher

World's Best Polymathic Macroethicist
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