EDITORIAL: Hamilton's democracy for dummies

Opinion Oct 12, 2017 Stoney Creek News

Restructuring Hamilton’s ward boundaries doesn’t have the same emotional cachet as creating bike lanes or converting one-way streets to two ways or building an LRT system.

But residents should be more interested in how ward boundaries are created because where a person votes could determine whether the councillor that is voting on a public works project is actually a legitimate elected representative for the community he or she serves.

The entire ward boundary issue has been relatively ignored by the public — and councillors for that matter — over the last decade.

Earlier this year councillors essentially created their own ward boundary structure, ignoring a $270,000 consultants’ report that recommended drastically changing the current structure that has been in place since 2001. The consultants argued the current structure is unworkable and would fail any democratic test at an Ontario Municipal Board hearing.

The consultants’ criticism failed to deter Hamilton council members who essentially created a back-of-the-envelope structure that did nothing to address the democratic deficit in how residents vote for councillors.

Still, there was hope that council’s status-quo structure would be changed by the Ontario Municipal Board after two people appealed council’s choice, even though changes would be a last-ditch, forced-bureaucratic decision.

However, it seems ward boundaries are not only being created by a faceless bureaucracy, but it is also being decided by two Hamilton residents, city lawyers and councillors behind closed doors and away from the prying eyes of those same residents it is expected to serve.

The city settled with one of the two appellants. The Stoney Creek resident called the settlement a “compromise” even though he would have preferred council to adopt one of the consultants’ recommended options.

The Ontario Municipal Board hearing is scheduled to continue later this month to address the second appellant’s concerns and review the proposed new ward boundary idea.

The proposed option tries to eliminate the population disparities that are causing Hamilton’s electoral map to implode. However, the changes to wards 1, 7 and 8, and in Flamborough and Stoney Creek are only Band-aid solutions to address Hamilton’s population growth in the suburban areas.

This entire behind-closed-doors process ignores the political needs of Hamilton residents, while also putting the democratic representation the community deserves at risk. The blame fails squarely on council’s shoulders which abrogated its responsibility to properly give all residents a voice in the electoral process years ago.

 

EDITORIAL: Hamilton's democracy for dummies

Opinion Oct 12, 2017 Stoney Creek News

Restructuring Hamilton’s ward boundaries doesn’t have the same emotional cachet as creating bike lanes or converting one-way streets to two ways or building an LRT system.

But residents should be more interested in how ward boundaries are created because where a person votes could determine whether the councillor that is voting on a public works project is actually a legitimate elected representative for the community he or she serves.

The entire ward boundary issue has been relatively ignored by the public — and councillors for that matter — over the last decade.

Earlier this year councillors essentially created their own ward boundary structure, ignoring a $270,000 consultants’ report that recommended drastically changing the current structure that has been in place since 2001. The consultants argued the current structure is unworkable and would fail any democratic test at an Ontario Municipal Board hearing.

The consultants’ criticism failed to deter Hamilton council members who essentially created a back-of-the-envelope structure that did nothing to address the democratic deficit in how residents vote for councillors.

Still, there was hope that council’s status-quo structure would be changed by the Ontario Municipal Board after two people appealed council’s choice, even though changes would be a last-ditch, forced-bureaucratic decision.

However, it seems ward boundaries are not only being created by a faceless bureaucracy, but it is also being decided by two Hamilton residents, city lawyers and councillors behind closed doors and away from the prying eyes of those same residents it is expected to serve.

The city settled with one of the two appellants. The Stoney Creek resident called the settlement a “compromise” even though he would have preferred council to adopt one of the consultants’ recommended options.

The Ontario Municipal Board hearing is scheduled to continue later this month to address the second appellant’s concerns and review the proposed new ward boundary idea.

The proposed option tries to eliminate the population disparities that are causing Hamilton’s electoral map to implode. However, the changes to wards 1, 7 and 8, and in Flamborough and Stoney Creek are only Band-aid solutions to address Hamilton’s population growth in the suburban areas.

This entire behind-closed-doors process ignores the political needs of Hamilton residents, while also putting the democratic representation the community deserves at risk. The blame fails squarely on council’s shoulders which abrogated its responsibility to properly give all residents a voice in the electoral process years ago.

 

EDITORIAL: Hamilton's democracy for dummies

Opinion Oct 12, 2017 Stoney Creek News

Restructuring Hamilton’s ward boundaries doesn’t have the same emotional cachet as creating bike lanes or converting one-way streets to two ways or building an LRT system.

But residents should be more interested in how ward boundaries are created because where a person votes could determine whether the councillor that is voting on a public works project is actually a legitimate elected representative for the community he or she serves.

The entire ward boundary issue has been relatively ignored by the public — and councillors for that matter — over the last decade.

Earlier this year councillors essentially created their own ward boundary structure, ignoring a $270,000 consultants’ report that recommended drastically changing the current structure that has been in place since 2001. The consultants argued the current structure is unworkable and would fail any democratic test at an Ontario Municipal Board hearing.

The consultants’ criticism failed to deter Hamilton council members who essentially created a back-of-the-envelope structure that did nothing to address the democratic deficit in how residents vote for councillors.

Still, there was hope that council’s status-quo structure would be changed by the Ontario Municipal Board after two people appealed council’s choice, even though changes would be a last-ditch, forced-bureaucratic decision.

However, it seems ward boundaries are not only being created by a faceless bureaucracy, but it is also being decided by two Hamilton residents, city lawyers and councillors behind closed doors and away from the prying eyes of those same residents it is expected to serve.

The city settled with one of the two appellants. The Stoney Creek resident called the settlement a “compromise” even though he would have preferred council to adopt one of the consultants’ recommended options.

The Ontario Municipal Board hearing is scheduled to continue later this month to address the second appellant’s concerns and review the proposed new ward boundary idea.

The proposed option tries to eliminate the population disparities that are causing Hamilton’s electoral map to implode. However, the changes to wards 1, 7 and 8, and in Flamborough and Stoney Creek are only Band-aid solutions to address Hamilton’s population growth in the suburban areas.

This entire behind-closed-doors process ignores the political needs of Hamilton residents, while also putting the democratic representation the community deserves at risk. The blame fails squarely on council’s shoulders which abrogated its responsibility to properly give all residents a voice in the electoral process years ago.