In the last few weeks a few people have asked pointed questions about the relationships I have with people at City Hall. The tenor of their questions seems to be that my various activities (as a business person, a resident, an activist, and a volunteer) are somehow inappropriate.
They are not.
Jerboa Consulting Inc.
I am an independent contractor who provides a fixed service for a fixed price.
My company (Jerboa Consulting Inc.) has multiple contracts, two of them are with two different city councillors*. I provide each councillor's office with JerboaCASE: Case Management for City Councillors, a set of software packages designed to help councillors and their staff manage the crushing workload of tracking constituency business and sending emails. It even automates absorbing the daily "311 report" every city councillor receives from staff.
For this service, I charge a fixed monthly fee: I ensure it's running 24/7, is backed up, gets patched as security updates are released, and so on. I do this all from home (er, my "office"). I am a vendor, selling a product and service, similar to Microsoft (who sells Office as a monthly subscription) or Rogers (who provides cellular phone service). Nobody would ever think Microsoft or Rogers "work for" city councillors; and similarly, nor do I.
I also met with two other City of Ottawa councillors to see if they wanted to buy my IT solution; one had another system they were happy with, and the other chose to continue using the service the city provides. <shameless plug> I'm happy to meet with anyone who might want to discuss my software and how it could work for you. </shameless plug>
Supporting Election Campaigns.
I have been active in politics for quite a few years now, have run for provincial office twice, have been deputy leader of an Ontario party, volunteered for municipal campaigns, and donated (personally, never corporately) to municipal campaigns. I also volunteered for Michael Chong, conservative MP, to help him get the Reform Act passed. This volunteering shifted to a small paid contract as well (again, IT and computer system work).
If you'd like to see what financial support I've provided to City of Ottawa candidates, well, I've created an entire website to help you do that. You can find my donations by clicking here. But be warned, you may not leave for a while. Digging through everyone's donation history can be a bit of a clickhole.
Volunteering in General
I also volunteer outside of "pure politics".
Advocacy: When the business before City Hall is important to me, I get involved by encouraging people to talk to their own councillors and, if they are able, come to city hall in person to speak at a committee. I also show up at city hall meetings from time to time to offer my opinion. For issues I feel strongly about, I might be inclined to develop an online petition, or a website, to make it easy for people to have their voices heard. Most recently, I worked with another resident to declare our support for photo radar. And sometimes, I advocate all by myself, when I am really pushed to act.
OttWatch: I created OttWatch.ca to help people connect with the decision making that happens at City Hall, and find relevant information which can otherwise be hard to find. I also engage with the city as OttWatch in a media capacity, where I ask questions and ask for public information that hasn't made its way to the website yet. One of the things OttWatch does is scrape the city's lobbyist registry. Naturally, I once lobbied a city staff member just so I could log that activity as a real lobbyist so I could learn more about how the system works.
OttPee.ca: Do you need to go to the bathroom? I've made an app for that: ottpee.ca.
Community: Until I moved recently I volunteered for my community association, by handling the website and email, setting up Twitter accounts, or bringing a PA system to play music at the winter carnival.
Broadcasting: Not everyone can make it to All-Candidates debates during elections, so I have often brought a laptop, camera and cellphone with me to broadcast them live on Youtube. A few hundred people have tuned in. That's not a ton, but I think it's worth it.
I hope everyone would agree that people should participate in their city, talk about their city, and try to get their city to make the best possible decisions for our future.
So… Now you know everything.
It's a bit complicated - I'll give you that - but there is no conflict between my having clients who are city councillors for whom I provide a defined service, and exercising my rights as a resident of Ottawa to participate in our democracy.
I am a consultant.
I am a volunteer.
I am a nerd.
I am a voter.
I am inquisitive.
And sometimes, I am an activist.
Some people seem to be annoyed that I can be all those things without conflict. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
*If you're desperately curious to know who the two councillors are, please read this Ottawa Citizen article from back in March on Photo Radar. I believe in transparency. So while my activism is not in conflict with my business pursuits, I disclosed to Matthew Pearson that I have these relationships so he could disclose it to his readers as well, according to his own discretion.