Comment 31437

By Confused? (anonymous) | Posted June 01, 2009 at 13:47:18

Why is it so difficult for Hammerheads to get to the nub of conflict of interest issues and influence peddling. I remember a defense for Councillor Mitchell's actions when it was thought he'd tried to use his position on Council to avoid a traffic ticket, as being "That's okay, I'd have done the same." I remember when the Chief of Police accepted a paid trip to, I think Israel, the argument in favour was that other Chiefs of Police in Ontario did the same (and wondered how that denfense would work in against a traffic ticket.) I've never understood why, given Mayor DiIanni's election over-fundng was an honest error, it took so long and so much effort for the error to be admitted. Am I naive?

In the case of Mr. Ecklund, if you live or do business in a community and you promote the benefits of living and/or doing business in that community, you are also, directly and/or indirectly promoting your own interests. That isn't immoral or unethical. Technically that is not philanthropy, but that doesn't negate the value of community contributions. If you want to run for political office, I should think a perceived ability to promote the community's interests would be a benefit, and I don't see why someone who openly contributes to what he or she considers a benefit to the community should be discouraged from running for mayor.

If you promote what you consider to be in the community's interest, to local politicians and administrators, then you are lobbying and I don't see anything wrong with it unless lobbyists try to influence politicos to make decisions based upon anything other than the merits of their cases. There is a big difference between attending a football game on a lobbyist's ticket to talk over subjects of interest to the lobbyist, and a politician already attending the game dropping by a lobbyist's box at half-time to discuss subjects of interest to the lobbyist. One is simply like-minded people talking; the other becomes a conflict of interest for the politician, and as such the politician should be disqualified from participating in any decisions regarding the subject in conversation. Transparency is the issue, as Mr. Whitehead points out. Appearances, perceptions, ARE important in the public arena.

I like Hamilton promoting itself as a city of waterfalls. I think that is of value to local citizens, and could positively influence the perceptions by others regarding our community as a good place to live and do business. I think that Mr. Ecklund's idea to leverage his own marketing business with the promotion of this concept (which he does on his marketing website) is imaginative and creative. I'd seriously consider such a creative and imaginative individual for political office if he decided to run. Whether he does or not is up to him.

On the whole I don't understand why Mr. Ecklund perceives a slight in Ms. Chapman's comments, at least in the context that Mr. Whitehead describes. If he wishes to withdraw his contributions to the community in order to preserve his notion that he is a philanthropist first and foremost it is not for me to question his motivations but that does not alter the need for public scrutiny and openness. None of this changes the merits of the argument for declaring Hamilton a city of waterfalls. If the quality of life in this city hangs on the giving of public gifts by one or a very few individuals, that is a bigger problem than blindly accepting gifts can solve.

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