Hamilton Council came full circle in a week with its approval of a plan to revive the cancelled SoBi bike share program using money raised from the private sector. $400,000 was raised in a campaign spearheaded by Watd Two Councillor Jason Farr. The funds include $100,000 from the Patrick McNally Foundation, a number of corporate donations totalling $100,000, subscriber revenue, and other funding, none of which comes from city coffers. Still Council’s deepening ideological divisions were on display throughout the meeting.The discussion and vote on the Jay Keddy Multi-use trail became an object lesson in the difference between being inside the tent and outside. In approving a $5.5 million project that will see the combination bicycle/hiking trail installed on the Claremont Access, long-term councillors reminded their colleagues what can be accomplished when councillors play nice with each other. The project was financed in part by several councillors—Ferguson, Collins and Farr were mentioned—who agreed projects in their own wards could be bumped off the priority list in order to free up money for the trail. Several Councillors paid tribute to Jay Keddy, a 53-year-old kindergarten teacher and father of three who was struck from behind and killed in December 2015 while cycling on the Access. In endorsing the project, Coun. Lloyd Ferguson referred to two projects in his ward that had been foregone to support the Clairmont project said, “remember this the next time you say we are anti-bike.” When council got around to approving the SoBi bailout the divisions were again on display when Clr. Whitehead said “Some choose to do the work,” he said, adding, “Well, we know who the doers are.” It was an apparent reference to the fact that it took council old guard members–Farr, Merulla and Collins to save SoBi and see the Jay Keddy mountain access through to completion.
The Jay Keddy Trail contract includes street resurfacing on the automobile portion of the access, the construction of a concrete barrier wall to separate trail users from auto traffic, a new traffic signal for trail users at the top of the James Street stairs, short-trail connections to the facility at three locations, and the creation of a short-cycling connection to the Hunter Street bicycle facility. There will be an aluminum handrail throughout.
The culture wars popped up again when discussion tuned to Coun. Sam Merulla’s motion to explore the possible disposition of La Salle Park once the current lease agreement with Burlington ends in 2022. In 1958 Aldershot was annexed to Burlington and with it went LaSalle Park. Burlington has been paying a dollar year in rental, but has assumed all maintenance costs. Merulla wants to renegotiate the deal, directing staff to undertake a study to determine the highest value for the property, which might include selling the property for development. That led to a debate between Merulla and Coun. Maureen Wilson as to whether he really intended to see the park developed. Wilson was clearly uncomfortable about the notion of developing parkland as was Mayor Eisenberger. Merulla replied that he wanted to have all options on the table as a bargaining chip. In the end Merulla’s motion passed.
And then things got ideologically derailed again in an innocuous motion to add the Social Planning and Research Council to the Mayor Task Force on COVID recovery. Coun. Whitehead objected to the fact that the size of Task Force was getting unwieldy and more pointedly, that there were too many non-profits represented. “I thought this was a task force to get business back again,” he said. That led to Councillors Ferguson and Partridge resigning from the committee, which was a political statement in itself as those two councillors were seen as representing the pro-business majority on council. They were replaced by Clr. Danko and Whitehead.