Councillor Josh Matlow

City Hall Diary: Win an election, lose your privacy

Josh Matlow City Hall Diary

Soon after winning election to city council, a number of my veteran colleagues warned me that I should expect to sacrifice much of my personal life attending meetings and community events. And that the loss of anonymity that comes with having a public profile means that whatever a city councillor does may be up for scrutiny — even unfairly at times.

Since then, as I’ve adjusted to my new role, I’ve noticed subtle changes in my behaviour. For example, I now always shave and wear ironed clothes on the weekends and keep a stack of business cards in every pocket. And by watching some of my colleagues learn the hard way that a politician can get into hot water when using social media, I’m now slightly more careful, while still being candid, about what I choose to comment on.

Living in the community I represent at council, I know that as soon as I walk out my front door, there’s a good chance a resident might stop me on the street to talk. However, there are times, such as when I’m having lunch with my mother, that being asked to discuss a front-pad parking appeal may not be exactly welcome — or appropriate. My wife and I were approached by several residents when celebrating our wedding anniversary at a local restaurant. I do cherish the limited time I have with my family and friends.

But being accessible to residents, and supporting community events, is an integral part of the job. Attending school fairs, street parties or major events such as the Pride parade provides residents opportunities to speak with their representatives about issues they care about, and for us to learn from them. In fact, residents often inform me about concerns or ideas that I may not have even been aware of. This helps me prioritize the work I do on their behalf at city hall.

Recently, a couple and their young son approached me while I was visiting a splash pad at a local park that had been under construction for a very long time. They told me details about the work that only a park user would know, and that has been critical in my discussions with parks staff to complete the project.

And sometimes the duality of being a city councillor, and local resident, becomes surreal.

When my wife and I recently bought a house in the south Eglinton area of my ward, I was so excited that I announced it on Twitter.

That tweet circulated like wildfire. I immediately received emails from my new neighbours inviting me to barbecues. Three weeks later, I attended a community meeting with dozens of south Eglinton residents, and almost everyone was aware of the news. Even the current owners of the house told me they first learned of the purchase through my tweet.

And when I recently visited the house, I was approached by our new neighbour’s child. She told me she plans to show me a sidewalk on our street she wants fixed.

Josh Matlow is the councillor for Ward 22, St. Paul’s.

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