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Heritage committee rejects gag policy

 By Kevin Werner, News Staff

 Hamilton’s heritage committee agreed last week establishing a gag order on themselves when talking to the media would do more harm than good in fostering discussions about preserving city buildings.

There have apparently been some concerns about a few members of the heritage committee who have been talking to the local media about heritage issues.

One long-time member, Michael Adkins has been on CHML discussion heritage buildings alongside developers.

The perception, says Stoney Creek member Kathy Wakeman, is that some people may see Adkins as having too close of a relationship with developers.

“Some people might be (thinking) you’re working with them or they have an in with you and you are a member of the committee and where is the accountability,” she said during the Jan 16 committee meeting.

But Adkins, and other members of the heritage committee, says any time members can make heritage an issue within theHamiltoncommunity is a benefit to the committee’s cause of preserving buildings and heritage landscapes.

“I want developers to know that (heritage members) are not the enemy,” he said.

Adkins says whenever he is on the radio, or talking to a media person, he makes sure to say he is speaking about an issue not on behalf of the committee but from a personal perspective.

“I don’t think I ever said ‘we’,” he said. “I try to be very careful.”

Paul Wilson, a committee member, who writes a column for CBC online, says engaging the Hamilton community about heritage and preserving buildings is a positive for the city.

“Any of us getting out there talking heritage anytime is a positive,” he said.

Ancaster councillor Lloyd Ferguson, a member of the committee, said the chair should be the spokesperson for the committee in order to have one voice speaking about a particular issue.

“If you are giving a personal opinion, that’s fine,” he said.

The committee doesn’t specifically have a policy preventing heritage committee members from talking to members of the media about issues. There is an understood agreement that members will defer to the heritage committee chair if it involves a policy issue. A member is still allowed to talk about a heritage subject, but only if they make sure it is based upon a personal opinion.

Committee members didn’t want to proposal a more stringent media policy, which would have to be approved by the planning committee, and eventually council.

Ferguson said it’s important the committee members have a good, working relationship with the media since it benefits the entire community.

“I find with media if you try to hide things on them that’s when they can become difficult with you,” he said. “You’ve got to be open and transparent.”

 

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