The Public Works Committee meeting today turned at times nasty as once again the animosity between long-serving members of council and a trio of first term councillors blew into the open. The issue was that of traffic calming measures being promoted by Ward One Councillor Maureen Wilson. Council has already approved the plan to allow parking on both sides of Aberdeen between Queen and Dundurn, effectively reducing the road to two lanes from four. But that was before a Kirkendall South group of residents got together and organized themselves into a group called Keep Aberdeen Moving. Today the group, led by former Hamilton Spectator editor Alex Beer presented the committee with a 700-signature petition opposing the lane closures. Beer told the committee that the signatories mostly live in the streets and neighbourhoods that run off Aberdeen and their fear is that the “road diet” will force cars onto side streets and increase danger there.
In addition to Mr. Beer’s presentation there were several other citizen delegations appearing in favour of the lane restrictions, and some of them received some aggressive questions and comments from councillors who have been critical of the Aberdeen proposal in past. In her later comments Councillor Wilson deplored what she terms the “disgraceful” treatment of delegations, vowing that she will always be courteous to delegates whether she agrees with them or not.
Councillor Terry Whitehead took traffic manager Ed Soldo through an aggressive line of questioning, suggesting he had said one thing about the Aberdeen issue in a private conversation and something different in public. Committee Chair John Paul Dank at that point “ejected” Whitehead from the meeting by cutting off his video and audio feed. Earlier he had tried to cut Whitehead off when he was questioning delegations but he was overruled by the committee.
What is apparent is that there is a growing battle shaping up between the progressive wing of council—Wilson, Nann and Danko, and at times the Mayor, depending on the issue; and long serving councillors such as Whitehead, Merulla and Collins.
Here’s a sampling of today’s exchange: