How well do you know your municipal government?
While the public can rail against the federal government’s foreign policy, and some people feel they know a thing or two about their provincial politicians, few people have any idea what their local government does.
Yet, it’s the municipal government that residents have the closest association with, whether its paying their property taxes, obtaining a building permit or trying to get their local road cleared of snow.
Some Hamiltonians, though, not only have an idealistic view of their municipal council, but have a disconnect as to what the city can and can’t do.
Interestingly, at the four forums organized by the People’s Platform, which is attempting to cobble together a document containing the needs of the city’s residents in advance of the Oct. 27 municipal election, few of the paltry 90 people in attendance talked about their taxes, building roads, or improving city services. Instead, participants concentrated on saving school board properties, or at the very least encourages the city and school boards to work cooperatively. People wanted more transparency in their government officials, from revealing their salaries, to eliminating in camera meetings and simply keeping the public informed of their decisions.
There was also a strong social consciousness to residents’ opinions, wanting more social housing, the elimination of poverty; the continuation of funding the discretionary benefits programs and the establishment of a living wage. A couple of ideas tried to reach for the proverbial stars including the city building more hospitals; the elimination racism; or encouraging the school boards to merge.
Unbeknownst to residents, Hamilton introduced a living wage policy a few years ago for city employees and companies that bid on contracts. And for those uninitiated, Hamilton has a committee against racism and has actively promoted diversity within the city and beyond for years.
In some respects Hamilton is a progressive community that reflects the needs and wants of its residents. But there still remains a disconnect between politicians, city staff and those residents they serve. The public is still too often left on the sidelines when important policies and issues are discussed and approved. There is also the problem of a city that remains deathly afraid of any type of accountability and transparency. It’s slow to accept new ideas that would expand accessibility or allow more information into the public landscape nervous on how it would disrupt their comfortable culture. While strides have been made, more engagement with the public is desperately needed like water in a dessert.
How well do you know what Hamilton City Council is doing?
- Not Very Well (53%, 23 Votes)
- Somewhat (26%, 11 Votes)
- Very Well (21%, 9 Votes)
Total Voters: 43