Juggling power

News Nov 22, 2006 Flamborough Review

Hamilton's mayor is in a rather 'no win' situation. Elected on a city-wide basis, the mayor retains just one vote on the city's 16-member council. Yet it's the mayor's election agenda plus council's performance that he is supposed to be accountable for.

In theory, the mayor's power comes from the authority granted to him by being elected city-wide. His power also comes from the leadership he demonstrates to the community, and the relationships he cultivates on council. If his influence around the council table persuades more than the majority, he can safely introduce and pass his agenda. Most of his power is wielded behind the scenes. If he's unable to grapple with these levers of power, the office becomes all spectacle and little substance.

For better or worse, Mayor Larry Di Ianni has shook up the council-mayor power dynamics more than his predecessors ever dreamed, first by getting rid of former city manager Bob Robertson, and replacing him with ramrod-straight Glen Peace. Di Ianni's influence became more apparent during the last two years, when he managed to get essential social services money from the provincial government; he has also been a major force in lobbying provincial and federal governments to turn on the financial spigots for other much needed projects such as cleaning up Hamilton Harbour. His other winners include the Red Hill Creek Expressway, community councils, revitalizing Hamilton's downtown core and developing the city's economy through initiatives such as the creation of an Aerotropolis.

But these accomplishments have created much of the political friction being displayed between some councillors and the mayor's office. Some councillors fear their power has not only been diminished, but usurped by the mayor and his office. Di Ianni readily admits he has some "natural allies" around the council table.

But there are also some natural enemies that have become more brazenly opposed to him. Di Ianni is also peevish about the influence of the grassroots group Citizens At City Hall (CATCH), and says some councillors are so aligned with them that they vote the way CATCH people tell them to.

To create a more united council, Di Ianni would like to see the mayor of Hamilton become the leader of the community, and he has become enamoured by recommendations contained in the document The City We Want-The Government We Need: The Report of the Governing Toronto Advisory Panel. The panel was appointed by Toronto Mayor David Miller to reform how Toronto governs itself.

A few of the ideas include: committee chairs championing the recommendations of their standing committees at city council; ensuring standing committees meet city-wide agendas; establishing workplans that advance the city's strategic priorities; leading a budget process that supports the city's strategic plan; the mayor holding four annual meetings with the public, the corporate management term and council meeting at the beginning of each team to set a multi-year, city-wide strategic vision.

In a statement relevant to Hamilton's combative political process, panel chair Ann Buller, states that Toronto has experienced job losses, a need for social services, and the burden of provincial downloading, all in the aftermath of a combustible amalgamation process.

"Status quo is not an option," she states bluntly.

Kevin Werner is regional reporter for Brabant Newspapers. He can be reached by calling 905-308-7757, ext. 36, or by email at kwerner@brabantnewspapers.com

Juggling power

News Nov 22, 2006 Flamborough Review

Hamilton's mayor is in a rather 'no win' situation. Elected on a city-wide basis, the mayor retains just one vote on the city's 16-member council. Yet it's the mayor's election agenda plus council's performance that he is supposed to be accountable for.

In theory, the mayor's power comes from the authority granted to him by being elected city-wide. His power also comes from the leadership he demonstrates to the community, and the relationships he cultivates on council. If his influence around the council table persuades more than the majority, he can safely introduce and pass his agenda. Most of his power is wielded behind the scenes. If he's unable to grapple with these levers of power, the office becomes all spectacle and little substance.

For better or worse, Mayor Larry Di Ianni has shook up the council-mayor power dynamics more than his predecessors ever dreamed, first by getting rid of former city manager Bob Robertson, and replacing him with ramrod-straight Glen Peace. Di Ianni's influence became more apparent during the last two years, when he managed to get essential social services money from the provincial government; he has also been a major force in lobbying provincial and federal governments to turn on the financial spigots for other much needed projects such as cleaning up Hamilton Harbour. His other winners include the Red Hill Creek Expressway, community councils, revitalizing Hamilton's downtown core and developing the city's economy through initiatives such as the creation of an Aerotropolis.

But these accomplishments have created much of the political friction being displayed between some councillors and the mayor's office. Some councillors fear their power has not only been diminished, but usurped by the mayor and his office. Di Ianni readily admits he has some "natural allies" around the council table.

But there are also some natural enemies that have become more brazenly opposed to him. Di Ianni is also peevish about the influence of the grassroots group Citizens At City Hall (CATCH), and says some councillors are so aligned with them that they vote the way CATCH people tell them to.

To create a more united council, Di Ianni would like to see the mayor of Hamilton become the leader of the community, and he has become enamoured by recommendations contained in the document The City We Want-The Government We Need: The Report of the Governing Toronto Advisory Panel. The panel was appointed by Toronto Mayor David Miller to reform how Toronto governs itself.

A few of the ideas include: committee chairs championing the recommendations of their standing committees at city council; ensuring standing committees meet city-wide agendas; establishing workplans that advance the city's strategic priorities; leading a budget process that supports the city's strategic plan; the mayor holding four annual meetings with the public, the corporate management term and council meeting at the beginning of each team to set a multi-year, city-wide strategic vision.

In a statement relevant to Hamilton's combative political process, panel chair Ann Buller, states that Toronto has experienced job losses, a need for social services, and the burden of provincial downloading, all in the aftermath of a combustible amalgamation process.

"Status quo is not an option," she states bluntly.

Kevin Werner is regional reporter for Brabant Newspapers. He can be reached by calling 905-308-7757, ext. 36, or by email at kwerner@brabantnewspapers.com

Juggling power

News Nov 22, 2006 Flamborough Review

Hamilton's mayor is in a rather 'no win' situation. Elected on a city-wide basis, the mayor retains just one vote on the city's 16-member council. Yet it's the mayor's election agenda plus council's performance that he is supposed to be accountable for.

In theory, the mayor's power comes from the authority granted to him by being elected city-wide. His power also comes from the leadership he demonstrates to the community, and the relationships he cultivates on council. If his influence around the council table persuades more than the majority, he can safely introduce and pass his agenda. Most of his power is wielded behind the scenes. If he's unable to grapple with these levers of power, the office becomes all spectacle and little substance.

For better or worse, Mayor Larry Di Ianni has shook up the council-mayor power dynamics more than his predecessors ever dreamed, first by getting rid of former city manager Bob Robertson, and replacing him with ramrod-straight Glen Peace. Di Ianni's influence became more apparent during the last two years, when he managed to get essential social services money from the provincial government; he has also been a major force in lobbying provincial and federal governments to turn on the financial spigots for other much needed projects such as cleaning up Hamilton Harbour. His other winners include the Red Hill Creek Expressway, community councils, revitalizing Hamilton's downtown core and developing the city's economy through initiatives such as the creation of an Aerotropolis.

But these accomplishments have created much of the political friction being displayed between some councillors and the mayor's office. Some councillors fear their power has not only been diminished, but usurped by the mayor and his office. Di Ianni readily admits he has some "natural allies" around the council table.

But there are also some natural enemies that have become more brazenly opposed to him. Di Ianni is also peevish about the influence of the grassroots group Citizens At City Hall (CATCH), and says some councillors are so aligned with them that they vote the way CATCH people tell them to.

To create a more united council, Di Ianni would like to see the mayor of Hamilton become the leader of the community, and he has become enamoured by recommendations contained in the document The City We Want-The Government We Need: The Report of the Governing Toronto Advisory Panel. The panel was appointed by Toronto Mayor David Miller to reform how Toronto governs itself.

A few of the ideas include: committee chairs championing the recommendations of their standing committees at city council; ensuring standing committees meet city-wide agendas; establishing workplans that advance the city's strategic priorities; leading a budget process that supports the city's strategic plan; the mayor holding four annual meetings with the public, the corporate management term and council meeting at the beginning of each team to set a multi-year, city-wide strategic vision.

In a statement relevant to Hamilton's combative political process, panel chair Ann Buller, states that Toronto has experienced job losses, a need for social services, and the burden of provincial downloading, all in the aftermath of a combustible amalgamation process.

"Status quo is not an option," she states bluntly.

Kevin Werner is regional reporter for Brabant Newspapers. He can be reached by calling 905-308-7757, ext. 36, or by email at kwerner@brabantnewspapers.com