By Kevin Werner, News Staff
Hamilton Mayor Bob Bratina says he is a team player when it comes to involving his council colleagues in policy decisions to benefit the city.
Bratina said, for instance, during the contentious discussion over area rating, he played “ a pretty big part” in solving what had become an emotional issue between suburban and urban politicians and threatened to be torn up by anxious downtown politicians.
“I played on the team and let those guys figure it out so when they figured it out it became (a) unanimous (decision),” said Bratina.
On Jan. 2 Ward 2 councillor Brian McHattie when he registered to run for mayor, the nearly 10-year politician criticized Bratina’s leadership style, saying he didn’t consult with other members of council when it came to policy.
“Mayor Bratina really hasn’t been that involved with council,” said McHattie. “He hasn’t been really that involved in city issues. It’s not clear to us what he is doing at Queen’s Park orOttawa. I haven’t been able to play a role with him.”
But Bratina countered that during the debate over area rating, both as the Ward 2 councillor and as mayor, he helped to facilitate the solution over keeping area rating as a needed program for the suburban area.
Leading up to 2010 a few urban councillors were prepared to dismantle the area-rating system, believing suburban residents were getting a tax benefit that urban residents were missing out on.
City staff had proposed a number of options to reform area rating, such as allowing residents to pay for the services they receive based upon a rural and urban designation. Eliminating all the services at the time from being area rated would have meant tax increases of between 10 per cent and 12 per cent for suburban homeowners.
When amalgamation happened in 2001 area rating was adopted to allow homeowners that don’t receive municipal services not to pay for them. The services at the time included storm sewers, seniors’ tax credit, Flamboro Slot revenues, fire services, recreation and culture and transit. Over the next eight years councils have removed services from the system until only recreation and culture, transit, and fire services remained.
In 2011 there was a suburban and urban councillor split of 8-7 in favour of the suburban councillors.
He said Ancaster councillor Lloyd Ferguson made a statement in the media that the mayor would have to decide either to side with the suburban or urban councillors. Instead, he let councillors hash out a compromise solution to the disagreement.
“When they figured it out, (the vote) became unanimous,” said Bratina.
The mayor said when former mayor Fred Eisenberger proposed forming the citizen panel to examine area rating, Bratina said “if I had voted with the downtown councillors that would not have happened.
“But I voted for the mayor and suburban councillors and that enabled it to happen. That made the public panel occur, that led to the unanimous vote. Yeah, I played a pretty big part in that.”
Bratina, during his State of the City address Jan. 8 at the 21st floor of the Stelco Tower, during the Hamilton Chamber of Commerce breakfast meeting, told about 300 people that over nearly four years he has helped solve the stadium issue, get a lease finalized with the owner of the Hamilton Bulldogs, saved about $1 million with private businesses, including Carmen’s taking over Hamilton Entertainment and Facilities Inc., getting the Waterfront Trust back on a better economic footing, helped to get the needed $138 million funding to remediate Randle Reef, as well as seen the renaissance that is occurring in downtown Hamilton with the new Hilton Hotel, condo projects, McMaster and Health Campus. The city is also celebrating with more than $1 billion worth of building permits issued last year, breaking a record set in 2012. And over the last couple of years business organizations, including the Conference Board of Canada have taken notice of the economic rejuvenation, he said.
“There is a lot to be proud of over the past year and past four years,” said Bratina.