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Sparks fly at Red Hill Inquiry over crack about councillors’ expertise

Sparks fly at Red Hill Inquiry over crack about councillors’ expertise

Former Stoney Creek Councillor Doug Conley scolded a lawyer for the City of Hamilton during Wednesday’s session of the Red Hill Parkway inquiry. The exchange came near the end of what had been a full day of testimony by Conley who told the inquiry that he pushed for median guardrails on the highway and possibly better lighting in the aftermath of a fatal collision on the road. He also testified that while he didn’t personally consider friction on the road to be an issue, he was nonetheless perplexed at his repeated inability to receive a copy of a friction report after he learned of its existence. Asked how his experience trying to see the friction report differed from his usual experience in requesting information from staff, Conley replied, “usually I would get a report within 20 minutes of asking for it.” Instead he received several replies from staff in different departments saying they did not have a copy of the report and advising him to check with Director of Engineering Gary Moore who happened to be away. Eventually Conley let the matter drop.

Under cross examination Conley bristled at the suggestion made by counsel for the city that Councillors are not experts on matters like road engineering. He provided a short lesson in civics to the city counsel.“We are there to represent the people,” he shot back, we don’t have to be experts, I don’t like that suggestion.“  The city lawyer appeared to be trying to defend recommendations in a safety report that essentially deferred consideration of safety measures until a major study could be done. She referred the former councillor to a section in the staff report titled “Alternatives for Consideration” which did mention the safety measures. “Alternatives for Consideration” is a pro-forma piece of boilerplate that is attached to every staff report presented to Hamilton council.  It is intended to show that staff have considered all alternatives before making recommendations, but is largely ignored by readers since they essentially are usually worded in a manner to make the alternatives less palatable than the recommendations staff are making.

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