There is a concerning trend emerging with Hamilton council—namely, voting on potentially expensive matters now with instructions to staff to do the research later. Three examples come to mind.
A year ago, on a motion for Ward 1 Councillor Maureen Wilson, Council voted to convert Main Street from a one-way Street to two-way. This week the public will get its first chance to weigh in on what that significant change will actually look like. The motion called for the conversion way be approved “as an IMMEDIATE safety intervention,” with public and stakeholder consultation and the development of a plan of actually how to do it to follow. Hopefully the staff presentation will address issues such as:
- With parts of King Street rendered impassible due to LRT construction over the next possibly decade, will a two-way Main Street be able to handle the extra traffic?
- With the conversion, will people be able to access the eastbound 403 from main Street which will require a new ramp, or do they have to cross to King Street via Dundurn, which sounds like a left-turn nightmare?
- Speaking of ramps, there is also supposed to be a purpose-built bridge for the LRT somewhere in that Main-King area—how does that affect any new ramp building?
A second example is the recent approval of using Flamborough lottery money to top up office budgets for councillors. The motion, with immediate effect, is to divvy up the $260,000 between those councillors who want the money FOLLOWED BY “a comprehensive review of the appropriate ongoing financing and staffing levels related to Ward Office Budgets and report back to General Issues Committee prior to its consideration of the 2024 operating budget.” One wonders what happens if the comprehensive review says the councillor office budget increase is not needed. As if that will happen.
Finally, we get to this week’s meeting of the Board of Health on the issue of addressing extreme heat issues in residences that are not air conditioned. The Board of Health approved the development of a by- law that will probably end up forcing landlords to provide some form of air conditioning, but also has approved an increase in staffing of four and a half positions to implement and enforce the bylaw whatever it looks like. The motion is subject to budget approval in 2024, which sounds fine except that the staff increase passed unanimously by a Board of Health that consists of every current member of council and is almost assured of approval next year. This council just passed a budget with the largest tax increase in memory. Part of the increase involved a massive increase in staff of 118 positions. Now with last week’s Board of Health decision, four and a half more staff have been pre-authorized.
This city’s 2023 budget documents are forecasting that tax increases over the next three years will only be slightly better than this year’s 6 percent. That means that a householder paying property taxes of say, $5,000 this year can expect to see taxes increase by $1,000 or more before this term of council is complete.
Last October, we saw what happened, when a community decides it has had enough. Over the next three years residents will be watching closely to see if a mistake has been made with this lot. A good start for these councillors would be to rein in these performative initiatives that appear to be taken without any regard to the downstream effect on the taxpaying public.
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