Councillor: time to rate amalgamation

News Nov 22, 2006 Flamborough Review

There is an elephant in Hamilton's living room, and that elephant's name is amalgamation. There have been many bold attempts to organize societies throughout history. Some have worked, some haven't.

In our case the first thing I'm proposing is a report card measuring the outcomes in a number of categories against expectations. The five-year mark in this history would seem to be a good time to do so. Municipal governance is continually evolving, and I think we can use our experiences from what we have to move to a better place for all of us.

Hamilton is unique in that it has well-defined boundaries. Most people who call themselves Hamiltonians understand that it extends from just past the old CNIB building on the west, to Highway 20 on the east, and from Highway 53, Rymal Road, on the Mountain, to the Harbour on the north. Those are manageable boundaries within which a lot of work needs to be done, especially in public works, brownfield remediation, infrastructure renewal, residential improvement and intensification, etc.

The larger city, as imposed by the province, is somewhat unmanageable. For example, we're constantly dealing with huge agendas in committee such as planning and economic development, which take time away from our constituency work.

We should be spending more time in our constituencies dealing directly with issues, and the time demands are especially tough on rural and suburban councillors who need to travel long distances to take part in council work in addition to their ward responsibilities.

We also need to look at cultural differences. This may come as a surprise to the designers of the "new" Hamilton, but Dundas is different. Ancaster is different. Glanbrook, Ancaster, Flamborough are all different from what I know as Hamilton, and different from each other.

They have history in some cases much older than Hamilton's and their residents chose to live there and ran their own affairs quite well until 2001. Most of them I think would be reluctant to walk around wearing a Hamilton T-shirt, whereas I would wear one proudly, and that's OK.

The reality is we are not providing efficient, effective, accessible, accountable governance, and I'm sure a report card would show that.

We need to apply more intelligence to this process than the broad brush of political heavy-handedness. We need to ask questions like "How big should a city really be to work effectively?" "At what point in a city's growth does the population start to become alienated from the political process?" "How big can a city department become, police, recreation, social services, snow removal, bylaw enforcement, before it loses its ability to respond to the needs of citizens in a timely, efficient manner?"

Some say the right size for a well-functioning municipality is about 150,000 and I've been told that a police service up to about 1,000 officers is ideal. Five on a basketball team, a case of 24, a dozen eggs ... many things in life seem to have an ideal size and cities are no different.

Two things need to happen ... we need a report card on amalgamation, and once that's done we need a move-forward strategy based on intelligent analysis, with full, meaningful citizen input, and a vision for improvement somewhat broader than "bigger is better." Right now, in my view, we are living beyond our means and beyond our boundaries, which means we are beyond being capable of efficient governance.

Bob Bratina

Councillor, Ward 2

Councillor: time to rate amalgamation

News Nov 22, 2006 Flamborough Review

There is an elephant in Hamilton's living room, and that elephant's name is amalgamation. There have been many bold attempts to organize societies throughout history. Some have worked, some haven't.

In our case the first thing I'm proposing is a report card measuring the outcomes in a number of categories against expectations. The five-year mark in this history would seem to be a good time to do so. Municipal governance is continually evolving, and I think we can use our experiences from what we have to move to a better place for all of us.

Hamilton is unique in that it has well-defined boundaries. Most people who call themselves Hamiltonians understand that it extends from just past the old CNIB building on the west, to Highway 20 on the east, and from Highway 53, Rymal Road, on the Mountain, to the Harbour on the north. Those are manageable boundaries within which a lot of work needs to be done, especially in public works, brownfield remediation, infrastructure renewal, residential improvement and intensification, etc.

The larger city, as imposed by the province, is somewhat unmanageable. For example, we're constantly dealing with huge agendas in committee such as planning and economic development, which take time away from our constituency work.

We should be spending more time in our constituencies dealing directly with issues, and the time demands are especially tough on rural and suburban councillors who need to travel long distances to take part in council work in addition to their ward responsibilities.

We also need to look at cultural differences. This may come as a surprise to the designers of the "new" Hamilton, but Dundas is different. Ancaster is different. Glanbrook, Ancaster, Flamborough are all different from what I know as Hamilton, and different from each other.

They have history in some cases much older than Hamilton's and their residents chose to live there and ran their own affairs quite well until 2001. Most of them I think would be reluctant to walk around wearing a Hamilton T-shirt, whereas I would wear one proudly, and that's OK.

The reality is we are not providing efficient, effective, accessible, accountable governance, and I'm sure a report card would show that.

We need to apply more intelligence to this process than the broad brush of political heavy-handedness. We need to ask questions like "How big should a city really be to work effectively?" "At what point in a city's growth does the population start to become alienated from the political process?" "How big can a city department become, police, recreation, social services, snow removal, bylaw enforcement, before it loses its ability to respond to the needs of citizens in a timely, efficient manner?"

Some say the right size for a well-functioning municipality is about 150,000 and I've been told that a police service up to about 1,000 officers is ideal. Five on a basketball team, a case of 24, a dozen eggs ... many things in life seem to have an ideal size and cities are no different.

Two things need to happen ... we need a report card on amalgamation, and once that's done we need a move-forward strategy based on intelligent analysis, with full, meaningful citizen input, and a vision for improvement somewhat broader than "bigger is better." Right now, in my view, we are living beyond our means and beyond our boundaries, which means we are beyond being capable of efficient governance.

Bob Bratina

Councillor, Ward 2

Councillor: time to rate amalgamation

News Nov 22, 2006 Flamborough Review

There is an elephant in Hamilton's living room, and that elephant's name is amalgamation. There have been many bold attempts to organize societies throughout history. Some have worked, some haven't.

In our case the first thing I'm proposing is a report card measuring the outcomes in a number of categories against expectations. The five-year mark in this history would seem to be a good time to do so. Municipal governance is continually evolving, and I think we can use our experiences from what we have to move to a better place for all of us.

Hamilton is unique in that it has well-defined boundaries. Most people who call themselves Hamiltonians understand that it extends from just past the old CNIB building on the west, to Highway 20 on the east, and from Highway 53, Rymal Road, on the Mountain, to the Harbour on the north. Those are manageable boundaries within which a lot of work needs to be done, especially in public works, brownfield remediation, infrastructure renewal, residential improvement and intensification, etc.

The larger city, as imposed by the province, is somewhat unmanageable. For example, we're constantly dealing with huge agendas in committee such as planning and economic development, which take time away from our constituency work.

We should be spending more time in our constituencies dealing directly with issues, and the time demands are especially tough on rural and suburban councillors who need to travel long distances to take part in council work in addition to their ward responsibilities.

We also need to look at cultural differences. This may come as a surprise to the designers of the "new" Hamilton, but Dundas is different. Ancaster is different. Glanbrook, Ancaster, Flamborough are all different from what I know as Hamilton, and different from each other.

They have history in some cases much older than Hamilton's and their residents chose to live there and ran their own affairs quite well until 2001. Most of them I think would be reluctant to walk around wearing a Hamilton T-shirt, whereas I would wear one proudly, and that's OK.

The reality is we are not providing efficient, effective, accessible, accountable governance, and I'm sure a report card would show that.

We need to apply more intelligence to this process than the broad brush of political heavy-handedness. We need to ask questions like "How big should a city really be to work effectively?" "At what point in a city's growth does the population start to become alienated from the political process?" "How big can a city department become, police, recreation, social services, snow removal, bylaw enforcement, before it loses its ability to respond to the needs of citizens in a timely, efficient manner?"

Some say the right size for a well-functioning municipality is about 150,000 and I've been told that a police service up to about 1,000 officers is ideal. Five on a basketball team, a case of 24, a dozen eggs ... many things in life seem to have an ideal size and cities are no different.

Two things need to happen ... we need a report card on amalgamation, and once that's done we need a move-forward strategy based on intelligent analysis, with full, meaningful citizen input, and a vision for improvement somewhat broader than "bigger is better." Right now, in my view, we are living beyond our means and beyond our boundaries, which means we are beyond being capable of efficient governance.

Bob Bratina

Councillor, Ward 2