Here?s a sign of a significantly overdeveloped communications apparatus. Columnist Kelly Egan wanted to talk to the family of the four-year-old rescued from a wading pool a few days ago.
A reporter had given me the address, but there was a problem: it was a public housing apartment with a locked door and a manned desk; wanderers not welcome.
Walking toward the building, I see a kid on a bike. So straight to work, Dick Tracy.
Hey, did you hear about the boy they pulled out of the pool?
Yeah, that?s my brother. (What luck!)
Wow. Is he OK?
Can I talk to your mother?
Sure. I?ll bring you up.
He fusses around with his bike in the parking lot, which is under video surveillance. In a minute, a staffer from the City of Ottawa comes out, badge dangling from his neck.
No. You can?t just go up. Have to go through media relations downtown.
I have to go through media relations to talk to a tenant? She can?t decide on her own?
More blah, blah, blah, which adds up to No.
This has come up before, when columnist Hugh Adami has looked into bedbug complaints from Ottawa Community Housing tenants. They?re surrounded by a cordon of PR rules that govern who they can talk to and who they can have in their homes ? or the staff in the buildings thinks they are, which in practice amounts to the same thing. The grounds are never quite clear, because they?d probably be offensive.