By Kevin Werner, News Staff
While Hamilton Mayor Bob Bratina talked about the recent accomplishments of the city at his 2013 New Year’s Levee Jan. 1, inside the comfortable confines of city hall, another levee held in front of city hall at the same time, some residents were challenging citizens to hold politicians accountable for their decisions that could change the future of the city.
With the sun shinning, but the temperature dipping to a chilly minus six degrees Celsius, Christopher Cutler, organizer of the Citizen’s New Year’s Levee, said 2013 should bring a range of activism within the city as people debate such important issues as light-rail transit, a downtown casino, and two-way traffic.
“You don’t need a politician to hold a levee,” said Cutler, who was offering hot chocolate, Tim Horton’s coffee and timbits to about 25 people during the three-hour get-together.
“We care about this community,” he said. “We believe in this city. We want people to be engaged, and provide a critical thought about the public issues of the day. There are people for and against the issues here. But they are all here to celebrate citizen participation in the city.”
Meanwhile, on the second floor of city hall, Bratina, along with Hamilton Police Chief Glenn De Caire, Conservative MP David Sweet, Liberal MPP Ted McMeekin, and councillors Robert Pasuta and Maria Pearson, mingled with about 60 people during the two-hour event, sampling Christmas cookies and sweets, aided by Tim Horton’s coffee, while the five-member HMCS Star band, secured by Colonel Geordie Elms, the mayor’s military consultant, provided some festival background music.
Bratina earlier in the day attended a levee held at the Hamilton Armory by the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders. A few of the soldiers appeared at the mayor’s event. During a break in the gathering, Bratina praised Sweet’s assistance for securing the federal government’s $46.3 million share of the $138.9 million Randle Reef rehabilitation.
“It will now enable us to complete the Randle Reef cleanup,” said Bratina.
The mayor also applauded the federal Conservatives for providing $69 million, its share of the $145 million price tag to build the Pan Am Stadium.
“Thanks so much for not lettingHamiltonstay below the radar,” said Bratina. “We have issues, we need help, and the federal government has stepped forward time and time again soHamiltoncan continue to move forward.”
While there were no dancers at the mayor’s levee this year as there were in 2012, that didn’t seem to bother the people who turned out for the event.
“I enjoy coming out to support the mayor’s levee, and meeting all the ordinary people,” said Ancaster resident Jan Lucas. “It’s such a beautiful time to come to city hall on New Year’s Day.”
Hamilton resident Yien Kao, who came toHamiltonin 1996, attends the mayor’s levee every year.
“I want to meet the mayor and have some food,” she said. “It’s very good.”
The mayor is also scheduled to have another, but more low key celebration in recognition of the Orthodox New Year.
While there was no music at the second annual Citizens New Year’s Levee, the people made up for it in their good cheer.
“We are starting the year off right,” said Cutler.
In 2012 Cutler, and few other Hamiltonians, held their own event after Bratina announced he was cancelling his levee so he could take a break.
After some confusion, the mayor announced his levee would be held on Jan. 14, the Orthodox New Year. About 60 people turned out for their event in front of city hall.
Cutler said his event is a reminder that citizen engagement is the true importance of local government.
“You just don’t elect politicians, then walk away,” he said. “People need to be active all year long.”
Cutler says the citizen’s event will continue to be an annual event at city hall, regardless if the mayor holds his levee or not.
“Next year, though, we will have music,” he said.