Politics

All Voters Are Equal...

By Ryan McGreal
Published November 29, 2007

...but some voters are more equal than others. Here's an instructive anecdote about last night's council meeting from Nicole MacIntyre's Hall Marks blog:

Councillor Brad Clark noted the irony that earlier in the council meeting the majority agreed to refer an issue about development application fees back to planning because of one letter from the Hamilton-Halton Home Builders Association, but wouldn't do the same after receiving dozens of calls and emails about transit. After the meeting, one clearly upset councillor remarked to me "Poor people don't vote."

Funny, that.

Ryan McGreal, the editor of Raise the Hammer, lives in Hamilton with his family and works as a programmer, writer and consultant. Ryan volunteers with Hamilton Light Rail, a citizen group dedicated to bringing light rail transit to Hamilton. Ryan writes a city affairs column in Hamilton Magazine, and several of his articles have been published in the Hamilton Spectator. He also maintains a personal website, has been known to share passing thoughts on Twitter and Facebook, and posts the occasional cat photo on Instagram.

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By Tom (registered) | Posted November 29, 2007 at 12:32:56

Here's a cross post on those comments and the fare increase debate that I also posted on Hallmarks... sorry Ryan for using the step forward, backwards analogy as well :)


I was very, very pleased with Councillor Clark's comments which shed light on the not-so-subtle hypocracy in Council's referral of the homebuilder request. Mayor Eisenberger's explanation of that decision was troubling.

While the final decision was discouraging - Councillors Clark and Duval indicated that they received hundreds of emails yesterday - and voted against the fare increase. They had indeed listened to the concerns of their community members and did not take the easy way out.

I'd like to commend the efforts of all the individuals and organizations who took action yesterday. They included- raisethehammer.org, the Income Security Working Group, the Transit Users Group, CATCH, the Campaign for Adequate Welfare as well as the Hamilton Civic Coalition and the Hamilton and District Labour Council. Many people worked the phones and pounded their keyboards in letters to Councillors. Also kudos to MP Chris Charlton, for keeping her ear to the ground on local issues and making calls to Mountain Councillors to express concerns about the increase on behalf of her constituents.

While the fifteen cent increase went through, Hamilton does have for the first time an affordable transit pass that will assist around 800 riders (a small percentage of those who use transit, but still a significant development).

Perhaps most troubling was the block voting that took place on the fare increase issue. With the exception of Councillor Clark, all suburban councillors refused to entertain freezing fares despite the fact that with area rating most suburban property taxpayers would have seen an increase of less than $5 on their annual tax bill if those costs had been passed on to the general levy.

I think frustration around the way we fund transit and other services is percolating very close to the surface. Demands around ending area rating, demands for equal representation on City Council for inner city residents - based on population - will start be heard louder.

Council and the Mayor had the opportunity to invest in transit and invest in people by recognizing the challenges of those living on low incomes. Yesterday's decision was one step forward, and an even bigger jump backwards.

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By race_to_the_bottom (anonymous) | Posted November 29, 2007 at 13:06:21

Is anyone surprised? The developers and their stooges on council run this city, always have.

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By jason (registered) | Posted November 29, 2007 at 13:39:41

I think we've just found out solution. RTH needs to print some letterhead for "Hammer Homebuilders Inc" and simply fire off a single letter next time there is an issue we feel should be delayed and thought through properly. Who knew it could be that easy??

While we're at it, we should also regsiter: "Hammer Homers Inc" "Hammer Builders Inc" "Hammer Homebuilders 007163 Inc" "Hammer Homebuilders Homers Builders 007163 Inc"

Just in case we ever want to start contributing to election campaigns.

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By Hammered once too often (anonymous) | Posted November 29, 2007 at 14:35:35

Don't forget you also need a big expense account for all those corporate lunches you will need to take with Lloyd Ferguson and Maria Pearson!
Oh, and also a few token parkettes named after you in the natural plots you'll bulldoze and then develop!

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By Objective (anonymous) | Posted November 29, 2007 at 17:03:10

You lefties are unbelievable. I was at last night's meeting. If I recall Councillor Mitchell stated that they had met with the Homebuilders and told them one thing. Then Committee did another. He simply asked for an opportunity to explain the change of mind before confirming it. Only common courtesy. The transit issue on the other hand was just the opposite. The community had a chance to read the report and comment on it before Council confirmed it. The anti fare increase folks were not 'sucker punched' as one councillor stated. They had the benefit of consultation, which the businessmen did not. Imagine if council had said NO fare increase and then imposed one. How would you feel? Rightly ticked.
So, let's not let our biases cloud common courtesy.
I hope Council sticks with the higher charges by the way; and I hope the business community doesn't do community blogs to try to beat down council's will, like you folks did here and elsewhere.

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By jason (registered) | Posted November 29, 2007 at 17:26:14

I like that screen name - objective.

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By Hammered once too often (anonymous) | Posted November 29, 2007 at 21:17:29

Objective: the business community (namely developers) don't need to start blogs to beat down council's will, they employ a different approach: a little thing called 'campaign contributions' every third November or so.

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By highwater (registered) | Posted November 30, 2007 at 14:04:27

Why, I do believe you have just written a manifesto. An impolite, extreme left-wing, invective-filled manifesto, but a manifesto nonetheless. ;) You should front page this.

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By Rusty (registered) - website | Posted November 30, 2007 at 15:26:20

I'm confused. What IS 'left wing' anyway? I'm not sure I know anymore. If people are going to call each other names I would appreciate it if they could at least be more explicit (swear words are fine - just spell it out for ** sake).

Ryan's post looks to me like good old fashioned well articulated common sense. It seems as if all the RTH counterpointers these days are resorting to labels and smears and not bothering to tackle the substance of the argument. It's depressing. Can our detractors really be this ignorant?

Since when has debating been so difficult? Didn't Canadian's learn the finer points of explaining their positions and providing facts and arguments? Name calling should be left in the schoolyard. It's an ignoramus's tactic.

(I'm not berating you highwater, I know your 'label' was made in jest :) )

I'm all for name calling but if we're going to resort to labels I would really appreciate it if you explain what they mean.

Thanks

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By jason (registered) | Posted November 30, 2007 at 16:16:58

the truth is, you know you've presented great thoughts and arguements when the only response someone can give is name-calling and ignorant comments. Sadly, that's become acceptable as 'debating' in Hamilton simply due to the fact that most decisions this city makes and are promoted by the media have more holes in their logic than a piece of Swiss cheese. Generally there is no decent response to questioning the decisions at city hall other than "thats what it said in the Spec!"

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By peter (anonymous) | Posted November 30, 2007 at 17:31:09

we're living in a world of extremes - or so some would like to think. if you're asking for transparency, social equity, to have a voice in our 'democracy', then you're a communist, a left-wing radical, a terrorist...

there's no room for middle-of-the-road politics anymore. you're either with us or against us - or so some would have us believe.

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By beancounter (registered) | Posted December 01, 2007 at 00:36:59

I don't see anything left-wing or, for that matter, right-wing about Ryan's comments.

If I interpret what he is saying correctly, he is calling for, among other things, a more business-like approach to running this city. If a private business made decisions without analyzing and quantifying all of the alternatives, it would probably not last very long.

Business has found it increasingly more important to do market research to find out what their customers want. An important part of that is listening to them.

City council probably could improve their decision-making by listening to their customers, the taxpayers and residents of this city.

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By hmag (anonymous) | Posted December 01, 2007 at 09:31:32

I'm gonna continue saying this:

"We are citizens - not customers!"

I think one of the biggest issues these days is the city being told to treat its citizens like customers. and you know how well big corporations treats its customers. They should be listening to us!

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By joejoe (anonymous) | Posted December 01, 2007 at 11:25:58

Transit should be 'free' (as in, paid for by our general taxes).

Can you imagine what a statement that would make, if Hamilton were to become the first city in North America (perhaps even the world?) to provide free transit for all?

What, I wonder, is the basis for non-user fee government services?

Well it seems to me services like roads, schools, the military, healthcare etc, need to meet a certain set of criteria to be covered by general taxes:
1. - they must serve the greater good, benefit everyone. Check, transit does that.
2. - they may be subject to general taxes because it is not practical to administer a user fee systems. Even though we pay for our transit - how much of the costs are associated with collecting and processing the fees? I'm sure a significant cost saving could be made by eliminating the fare collection systems (and, no, jobs would not necessarily be lost, they could be re-assigned to providing a better service).

Of course one of the risks is that 'free' transit would become even worse than it is now. There would need to be some sort of committment towards meeting transit targets. Like healthcare, transit should be higher on the public's radar.

After creating free transit we should then flip the current equation around - we should CHARGE for roads. I know we pay for roads already, with car stickers and general taxes, but if we want to shape the public's commuting behaviour toward transit we have to offer a disincentive to driving, while offering an incentive for transit (in the shape of free service). So we toll road use and use the money to fund transit.

Surely the time has come to make this flip. Alas, methinks Hamilton would be just about the last city to propose it :(

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By highwater (registered) | Posted December 01, 2007 at 14:59:18

I said as much on another thread, but I think all the labelling and smearing is done quite consciously in an effort to marginalize what are really just common sense views, as you say Rusty.

Of course someone then responded by warning Di Ianni to stay away from us hysterics.

Keep at it Ryan. You can't repeat yourself often enough. We've got some serious reframing to do.

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By Lived (anonymous) | Posted December 01, 2007 at 22:46:53

Ryan, your passion comes through. But you don't have a corner on virtue. Others who disagree with you are just as passionate as you, but may not share your pessimism about poeple's motives. How old are you? you seem so sour on life.

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By beancounter (registered) | Posted December 02, 2007 at 00:47:56

JoeJoe, if Hamilton would offer free transit, it would not be the first to do so.

Surprisingly enough there are quite a few municipalities that now provide or have provided cost-free transit service to their residents.

Here are a few examples:

Hasselt, Belgium’s free transit is funded by 1% of their municipal budget, which provides 26 % of the operating cost, with the balance paid for by the national government.

Island County, Washington, gives citizens free bus rides through an additional 0.6% added to the state sales tax making the total 8.3%.

Sound Transit, Puget Sound’s regional transit agency, operates its 1.6-mile Tacoma, Wash., light-rail line fare-free.

Milton, Ontario recently started fare-free bus service during off-peak hours, that is, from 9:00 A. M. until 3:00 P. M.

San Francisco is currently studying a transit-free system, but other larger cities (Austin, Texas and Denver, Colorado) have tried free transit and abandoned it, citing problems with overcrowding, hooliganism and vandalism.

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By Larry Di Ianni (anonymous) | Posted December 02, 2007 at 08:56:44

My, my. I miss some of the RTH blogs for a day or so and look at all the invective! Highwater, rest assured, I will occasionally offer my opinion regardless of vitriol. As for Ryan, I just disagree that you are the only one (along with High of course) who is virtuous and all the others on Council who didn't vote your way are somehow wrongly motivated. It just smacks of self-righteousness.
And I say this, by the way, not really disagreeing with the premise that fares should not have been increased. You may check out my latest blog on chrisecklund.com.

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By Bill (registered) | Posted December 03, 2007 at 00:40:52

Quote from beancounter Milton, Ontario recently started fare-free bus service during off-peak hours, that is, from 9:00 A. M. until 3:00 P. M.

Milton does not have a transit system. They lease mini buses from Oakville Transit that operates the system for them. They have only 5 routes that take them to and from the GO station. All routes run every half hour. There fare is $2.50 per ride. The only thing progressive is the fare is only $.50 when showing a GO Transit stub. The free service was only Monday to Friday; from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.and is on right now on December 1, 8, 15, and 22 from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. The town is not paing for the free service. It is sponsored by Mattamy Homes who is the largest builder of urban sprall in Ontario and is trying to buy out their guilt.

This is not the same as putting free service in to a large city. The tax payers would revolt.

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By Bill (registered) | Posted December 03, 2007 at 00:42:04

Here Here Larry! I wish you where still Mayor!

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By jason (registered) | Posted December 03, 2007 at 10:35:11

your point is quite simple and plain to see Ryan, but I'm guessing recipes are a better approach. Other than Larry, I don't see anyone's name on their comments. Either they're too embarrassed to have anyone know how they talk to others, or they really don't mean what they say, but are just spamming the board to annoy people.

Oh, and one more thing - a wuss you're not! You've done a remarkable job at getting real thought and vision for our city into the limelight after years of the old boys club controlling all public opinion, which served to keep our populace ignorant of how great Hamilton could be. People are talking, attending meetings and getting involved now like never before. That obviously scares those who have a firm grip on this dying town for decades. To them, I say offer up more recipes. To the other citizens interested in helping Hamilton turn around and become an awesome city, keep up the great work!

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By Larry Di Ianni (anonymous) | Posted December 03, 2007 at 11:04:25

Ryan, I agree with you and Jason. Firstly, I of all people know only too well that Hamilton politics is played for real and it is a blood sport. I used to joke that in Hamilton politics is played with live bullets. What I didn't know is that everyone has a gun!
In terms of your analysis, I would encourage everyone who posts here to use his/her real name. Why is that so difficult to do? Regardless of the point of view you are sharing? Surely, as you stated, we can be mature enough to voice our strong opinions and have the courage of being able to stand behind them! Otherwise, the opinion doesn't count for much in my mind.
You should know that I am being privately critized by my friends for posting on RTH because of the nastiness aimed at me and others who post. I am being asked why I am wasting my time with people who will never be conviced.
My attempt was NOT to convince but to argue a position and let it be judged for what it is worth. It is fun to do that. It is also part of the democratic dialogue. So, people can take exception to my ideas. That is ok. But they should not in my estimation go beyond strong, but civil disagreement. Nor should people interpret 'left wing' as a pejorative label. It is a descriptor. It is neither bad nor is it good. Just as 'neocon' is a descriptor. (I am neither by the way). Both words suggest a certain political philosophy; and depending on that philosophy sometimes you make like-minded arguments. That too is part of the discourse.

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By Rusty (registered) - website | Posted December 03, 2007 at 13:17:33

Hi Larry,

Ben here (in the interests of full disclosure...!)

Good points. It saddens (but does not surprise) me that some of your friends would castigate you for joining in some of these discussions. It suggests to me that the demonizing of activists like us is working.

I know there has been something of an 'annoyance factor' related to the activities of various groups (perhaps even us...) within certain circles. And, although some folks may be a little over-persistent at times I think that RTH and other groups have made a concerted and successful effort to be professional in their communications and dealings with civic reps.

Sadly there have been very few (and I'm sure you know who they are) councilors and other civic reps who have sought to encourage our efforts and recognize them for what they are.

As for changing opinions it's clear that many Hamiltonians have deep rooted beliefs which are quite resistant to change. This town reminds me of working class Britain in the 70's; "Me Grandad voted Labour, Me Dad voted Labour and I'm voting Labour" (use the northern accent of your choice :) ) Sadly many Hamiltonians don't seem to get beyond the demonising perpetuated by Hamilton's Old Boys Club and their instinctive reaction to anyone trying to upset the status quo. Dismissing someone's views before even bothering to hear them is undemocratic and ignorant. Even the loony left in the UK were always up for a good debate (many of my friends veered that way. Ironically back in the 70's and 80's it was cool to be left - whatever happened to that?!).

I wish Hamiltonians would go out for a pint and an argument a little more often. The whole town needs to put away the ammo and just lighten up.

Cheers

Ben

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By jason (registered) | Posted December 03, 2007 at 13:29:33

great post Ben...yea, people need to chill.

Larry said - "I used to joke that in Hamilton politics is played with live bullets. What I didn't know is that everyone has a gun! "

haha...so true Larry.

By the way, I haven't found any of your posts to be rude or full of name calling and the like. I appreciate you taking time to discuss and throw around ideas in a public forum like this. I suppose everyone is free to have their own opinion, but I can't help but wonder why anyone would criticize you for posting here, or anywhere for that matter. Are your friends really that content to live in a bubble with a few others around them who see the world through the same glasses?? To each their own, I guess, but that sounds kinda boring to me. haha. Cheers

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By Larry Di Ianni (anonymous) | Posted December 03, 2007 at 20:45:20

Here here to a pint and a good political argument. Nice hearing from both of you. I wouldn't say that people are bothered by RTH or the other groups, but too many folks are dismissive of contrary opinions, no questions. And before anyone jumps on me, I make a distinction between disagreement and dismissiveness. Disagreement is when you hear the other side, and disagree. Dismissiveness is when you don't even want to hear the other side.
During my term as Mayor I always made it a point to listen, understand, and then state my opinion. That is why I didn't turn down too many interviews on main stream media, student media and alternative media (witness the RTH interview, the Mayday interview and even an Indymedia interview-even without my fully knowing who or what these publications were. Ben, you'll remember appearing on Roy Green with your group, the Green Berets a number of times.
Anyway, the point I make is that it is encumbent as an elected rep to be accommodating of alternative opportunities. But it is also important to stand by what one believes.

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By jason (registered) | Posted December 03, 2007 at 22:11:11

if I remember correctly you were a big fan of our radio name weren't you? lol.

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By Larry Di Ianni (anonymous) | Posted December 04, 2007 at 07:48:16

You remember correctly Jason. In fact I was such a fan that I tried to get you to change from the Green Berets (too militaristic, I said) to Green Team...see I was ahead of my time showing my environmental roots!!!

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By Hammy1 (registered) | Posted December 04, 2007 at 14:26:58

Larry, I appreciate your comments and particularily that you were always visible and audible even if I did not agree with your views. Sadly to say our present Mayor seems to hide from the public he serves. I take exception to your comments regarding the voting public getting involved within the processes of our city. Tracking down committees and their meeting times, who may be considered for public service on committees for our city government is the best kept secret in town. As a city we need to rise above the pettiness that invades our council and start acting like a world class city with aspirations to be greater. This however will not occur with this group of elected officials that meet in council chambers and certainly will not occur until we treat all partners in the city equal in paying the property taxes. Amalgamation was a great idea...poorly enacted.

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By jason (registered) | Posted December 04, 2007 at 18:50:23

Hey Larry...news today that the Smart Centre guy decided to go to the media and complain about the city not quickly rezoning industrial land for them. You and I chatted about this a few years ago. You said that no more industrial land should be rezoned without a really close look at the merits. Are we going to start wasting prime QEW land now?? Are things that bad here, that we can't attract industrial developers to one of Canada's goldmine highways?? How wil we ever bring them to the out-of-the way Glanbrook Park if they won't even come to the QEW??

Any thoughts??

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By Larry Di Ianni (anonymous) | Posted December 04, 2007 at 21:56:30

Jason, I do have thoughts. Stay tuned. Am away unti Monday. Will write then.

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By Larry Di Ianni (anonymous) | Posted December 07, 2007 at 16:01:20

Jason, check out my blog thoughts on assessment growth. I also touch on the re-development of the Fox-40/Waxman lands.

chrisecklund.com and follow my link.

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