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Another fractious council meeting

Maybe it’s a form of cabin fever brought about by the COVID lock-down,  or maybe it is that virtual meetings, as is the case with social media, make gladiators out of the heretofore meek; but the last two virtual meetings of Hamilton City Council have been marked by sharp personal exchanges between councilors. When the issue of the abrupt cancellation of Hamilton’s bike share program was up for discussion, a number of councilors—Merulla and Whitehead in particular– said they opposed spending any money on reviving the bike share system. Councillor Maureen Wilson responded by pointing out that the city subsidizes road and bus transit and that cycling should be treated equally. Councillor Terry Whitehead commented that the city has “done our part” in investing in bikes He then remarked without naming Councillor Maureen Wilson, that “she” is “anti-car” and that roads provide essential service for residents. Wilson responded accusing Whitehead of “gaslighting” her, called his comments “lazy” and denied being anti-car. When Whitehead attempted to reply Mayor Fred Eisenberger stepped in and stopped the exchange. It’s not the first time the two have sparred over transportation issues., Last year, Whitehead had complained that traffic-calming measures in Wilson’s lower city ward were causing traffic backups in his mountain ward which is connected to Ward Two via the Queen Street Mountain road.

There was a slightly less acrimonious exchange in discussion of a motion by Councillor Partridge to impose an interim control bylaw on downtown Waterdown that would have frozen development in the area for a year. Partridge says some Flam residents feel they are “under siege” with the number of developments. They also feel they don’t have a say in the developments. Waterdown has lacked a secondary plan for area She said the interim bylaw would be lifted once a secondary plan was developed. The move was met with opposition from the Mayor and other councilors who argued the measure was overkill and outside of normal planning processes. Councillor said he supports the “intention” of the interim control bylaw, but lacks the necessary information to make that decision. He recommended deferring the decision. At that point it was Whitehead again, this time going after Danko for what he termed Danko’s own lack of transparency on past issues on the mountain. Part of Whitehead’s former ward is now represented by Danko. Once again the mayor stepped in to prevent further escalation of the debate.

Staff will develop a thorough report on options for the bike rental issue and Partridge’s motion to have an interim control by law imposed on Waterdown was approved 12-4.

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