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An Enchanting Dinner with Councillor Matt

Mon, 10/03/2016 - 08:24 -- Chris Cooke

“How long will I be a newbie”? He asks.

“Until you stop making newbie decisions,” I respond.

Sarnia Councillor Matt Mitro is on the phone and it is the day after First Monday.

The paper edition isn’t even on the streets but Mitro has jumped all over the electronic edition, which actually came out on the first Monday of September.

I’m north bound just a little above Toledo after a long day and I’m heading home. I’m tired and I’m not really geared for a debate even though I’m on the phone hands free and have a couple of hours of driving ahead of me.

Mitro, whose opinions differ from mine, wants to chat. He wants to chat about my column, about my opinions and he would really like to convince me that my views about the mayor and executive compensation at City Hall are his views.

They aren’t but he’d like to convince me that they are.

After I explain that I’ve been meeting with customers, I’m beat and just want to go home we agree to continue the discussion face to face later in the week.

On Friday he calls.

We agree to meet at Olive’s Restaurant on London Road that evening.

I offer to buy.

Mitro has his socks in a bunch and a public place over dinner seems like a good spot for him to vent.

When I arrive he has a drink in front of him. I think it is a scotch or whiskey or something.

I don’t drink. A soda water with a twist of lime is good for me.

We order.

Mitro has a steak, medium rare. I have the fish, really hot.

According to my wife I have this “thing” about food. Hot means really hot, cold means really cold.

But I digress.

Mitro is before me to explain Matt Mitro and why his opinions and my opinions of the mayor and executive pay at Sarnia City Hall are actually more aligned than they seem.

Mitro assures me he isn’t on a witch-hunt of the mayor and certainly doesn’t want to pay $100,000.00 or more to turf the guy. He just believes the mayor is a “really bad guy” who over 28 years has used his power and influence to control the media, cozy up to City unions and treat City Hall staff badly.

And in Mitro’s view mayor Mike needs to take ownership of Sarnia’s mediocre economy and financial shortcomings.

Bradley, according to Mitro is “the guy” who is responsible.

At that point I attempted to explain that at Huron Web Printing and Graphics I too am “the guy” and periodically as “the guy” I do and say things that I would like to do over. 

Unlike most local reporters I own the place. I’m responsible for 92 people, a $4.5 million payroll and about a million dollars a year in taxes. And should I fail to make money my banker quickly puts on his sad face.

Therefore, my personality, not unlike the mayor’s periodically requires attitude adjustment.

Being an intelligent person Mitro quickly realizes he has entered the no spin zone and moves on to the City Manager.

“After all this stuff with Bradley we are lucky to have her” he suggests. And he defends City Manager Margaret Misek – Evan’s $181,000.00 pay cheque.

My issue isn’t with the $181,000.00 I explain as Mitro, who has done most of the talking chews on what is now a cold medium rare steak.


“It sure seems like that,” Mitro blurts waving his right hand toward a printed copy of First Monday.

I’m okay with the $181,000.00 but I have issues giving a City executive a $25,000.00 raise in just under 30 months.

Mitro is listening but he isn’t really listening. He’s moving cold pieces of medium rare steak around his cold plate with his cold fork.

My wife would tell you I have this “thing”.

In my world anyone who gets that kind of money in that period of time has to perform at an exemplary level. I’m looking for something exemplary to happen at City Hall and so far I’m still looking.

Which brings me to perception and Katarina Ovens the recently installed public relations mouth at City Hall. I don’t believe Mitro understands so I will explain.

When a City Manager gets a $25,000.00 raise does she really need a $66,000.00 mouth to crank out press releases from City Hall?

Let me give you the short answer.


Perception becomes reality. And even though the public relations mouth is a repurposed job without additional cost to City taxpayers the optics are wrong.

Police and fire services take up the majority of the City’s $131 million budget. Police and fire services have their own public relations.

They don’t need and don’t use an expensive mouth at City Hall to speak for them.

It’s about perception. It’s about optics. It appears the lady running City Hall and the newbie Councillors are blind to both.

With that my dinner with Councillor Matt is over.

Mine was hot.

His was not.

But as I previously explained I have this “thing” about that.

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