Where despite sporting more new faces than we had seen in a long time, the 2014-2018 Council has in our view not lived up to what were pretty modest expectations. On the biggest issue likely to face Hamilton in a generation, some of the most senior members of council allowed themselves to be manoeuvered into a corner on the LRT issue which a majority of them and their constituents opposed. Afraid to clearly state their position and to vote their conscience they allowed fearmongering of being tagged with rejecting a billion dollar gift to be the deciding factor, not what they believed was best for Hamilton. In the previous administration most of the same councillors voted to muzzle Bob Bratina as he dealt with transit issues at Queen’s Park suggesting he was not reflecting the mood of council. But they did nothing when Fred Eisenberger went back on his campaign promise to consult with the public on LRT and instead took a very early opportunity to go to Queen’s Park to lobby the Premier for LRT cash. Only late in the current term did it occur to some councillors that Queen’s Park might not be getting a true picture of transit sentiment in Hamilton. Now they will be forced to publicly face the issue in an election that will be fought largely on the issue of transit. There will be no place to hide this time.
Once again they took the course of least resistance on the critical ward boundary issue, hoping somehow that the status quo could be preserved in the face of unsupportable inequities in ward population. It took the actions of private citizens to force the issue and the result was a humiliating OMB ruling that will result in substantial changes in voter composition for several wards held by some of the longest-tenured councillors. Like at least two previous councils, they circled the wagons around the Waterfront Trust—the bankrupt and secretive agency, that loses money regularly despite receiving millions in sole-sourced make-work projects from the city, and now has dragged the city into a $14 Million dollar lawsuit brought about by its incompetent handling of the Sarcoa lease.
The fact is, the demands of the job have extended beyond the capabilities of some, not all, members of this council. They receive a decent full-time salary but a number are seldom seen at City Hall except for meetings. The glaring need for more financial literacy around the table is palpable. Some councillors have their go-to guys on staff, and some staff have their go-to guys on council (and, by the way, it is mostly guys)—making a travesty of the “five pillars of corporate culture” that the City espouses. At least two consultant reports suggest morale is terrible among the 7,000 –odd city workers, a majority of whom feel they have to compromise their ethics in order to survive. Until we get a council that is prepared to re-institute some basic standards of good government the problem will not go away. That is not likely to happen with the current crop of councillors who either are the problem or are enablers of the problem through their silence.