Democracy slapped down

News Oct 09, 2009 Ancaster News

Community councils were expected to become the next best thing to revitalizing Hamilton’s representative government among disgruntled former suburban residents.

In the aftermath of the political and emotional dislocation caused by amalgamation, community councils, according to provincial officials, were expected to preserve the last remaining identities of the Stoney Creek, Glanbrook, Flamborough, Dundas and Ancaster communities. But they were also touted as being vital democratic cogs in the ongoing expression of representative local government.

Mayor Fred Eisenberger boasted of the benefits of community councils in his 2006 campaign platform and emphasized them again in his 2007 State of the City address.

Community councils, he said, “will be one of the key vehicles for public involvement in government, especially in a complex and diverse city like ours. They’ll provide support to city council by identifying priorities and engaging in an open, transparent, and continuous exchange of ideas.”

The chair of the mayor’s community council task force, former Dundas councillor Art Samson, said that dropping community councils into the Hamilton body politic would benefit the public, the community and the entire governance structure of the city.

“People do get involved,” said Mr. Samson. “You give the councils meaning, people run with it.”

Alas, the proposed final recommendation for the creation of community councils and their powers, as approved by the city’s governance committee last week, falls far behind what provincial and some municipal politicians sold the community on what they would do in 2007.

While provincial politicians such as Liberal MPP Ted McMeekin and former Municipal Affairs Minister John Gerretsen waxed poetic on the powers community councils would wield in 2007, the reality is they will have limited influence in how city rules are made. The politicians talked about residents having decision-making powers over planning issues, where stop signs can go, and taking action against traffic and property standards.

Unable to confer powers

But city staff determined that because of the limited powers under the Municipal Act, Hamilton is unable to confer any of those powers to community councils.

As governance committee chair Russ Powers said, “They don’t have a lot of legislative powers.”

The members will be selected rather than elected, councils will have no budget, they will be called ward advisory councils, and members can only comment on planning issues rather than act on them. What the city’s legislation will do is standardize their powers.

In effect, Hamilton’s community councils, unlike their more powerful cousins in Toronto which are governed under the City of Toronto Act, will be more like a community group adding to the cacophony of public concerns.

Community councils have proved to be vital neighbourhood entities, particularly in the activistic Ancaster and Dundas communities.

With the indifference from city politicians at the forefront, the promises made to suburban residents that they would have a voice in how their new city worked has been proven as worthless as any promise made by a Hamilton politician.

As former Stoney Creek Councillor Phil Bruckler repeatedly stated during those public meetings on community councils, people don’t want more government in their faces blocking their vision to their futures.

“What they want is more engagement,” he said.

Instead of engagement, transparency and openness, the city of Hamilton is closing the door to public involvement in the democratic process.

Democracy slapped down

News Oct 09, 2009 Ancaster News

Community councils were expected to become the next best thing to revitalizing Hamilton’s representative government among disgruntled former suburban residents.

In the aftermath of the political and emotional dislocation caused by amalgamation, community councils, according to provincial officials, were expected to preserve the last remaining identities of the Stoney Creek, Glanbrook, Flamborough, Dundas and Ancaster communities. But they were also touted as being vital democratic cogs in the ongoing expression of representative local government.

Mayor Fred Eisenberger boasted of the benefits of community councils in his 2006 campaign platform and emphasized them again in his 2007 State of the City address.

Community councils, he said, “will be one of the key vehicles for public involvement in government, especially in a complex and diverse city like ours. They’ll provide support to city council by identifying priorities and engaging in an open, transparent, and continuous exchange of ideas.”

The chair of the mayor’s community council task force, former Dundas councillor Art Samson, said that dropping community councils into the Hamilton body politic would benefit the public, the community and the entire governance structure of the city.

“People do get involved,” said Mr. Samson. “You give the councils meaning, people run with it.”

Alas, the proposed final recommendation for the creation of community councils and their powers, as approved by the city’s governance committee last week, falls far behind what provincial and some municipal politicians sold the community on what they would do in 2007.

While provincial politicians such as Liberal MPP Ted McMeekin and former Municipal Affairs Minister John Gerretsen waxed poetic on the powers community councils would wield in 2007, the reality is they will have limited influence in how city rules are made. The politicians talked about residents having decision-making powers over planning issues, where stop signs can go, and taking action against traffic and property standards.

Unable to confer powers

But city staff determined that because of the limited powers under the Municipal Act, Hamilton is unable to confer any of those powers to community councils.

As governance committee chair Russ Powers said, “They don’t have a lot of legislative powers.”

The members will be selected rather than elected, councils will have no budget, they will be called ward advisory councils, and members can only comment on planning issues rather than act on them. What the city’s legislation will do is standardize their powers.

In effect, Hamilton’s community councils, unlike their more powerful cousins in Toronto which are governed under the City of Toronto Act, will be more like a community group adding to the cacophony of public concerns.

Community councils have proved to be vital neighbourhood entities, particularly in the activistic Ancaster and Dundas communities.

With the indifference from city politicians at the forefront, the promises made to suburban residents that they would have a voice in how their new city worked has been proven as worthless as any promise made by a Hamilton politician.

As former Stoney Creek Councillor Phil Bruckler repeatedly stated during those public meetings on community councils, people don’t want more government in their faces blocking their vision to their futures.

“What they want is more engagement,” he said.

Instead of engagement, transparency and openness, the city of Hamilton is closing the door to public involvement in the democratic process.

Democracy slapped down

News Oct 09, 2009 Ancaster News

Community councils were expected to become the next best thing to revitalizing Hamilton’s representative government among disgruntled former suburban residents.

In the aftermath of the political and emotional dislocation caused by amalgamation, community councils, according to provincial officials, were expected to preserve the last remaining identities of the Stoney Creek, Glanbrook, Flamborough, Dundas and Ancaster communities. But they were also touted as being vital democratic cogs in the ongoing expression of representative local government.

Mayor Fred Eisenberger boasted of the benefits of community councils in his 2006 campaign platform and emphasized them again in his 2007 State of the City address.

Community councils, he said, “will be one of the key vehicles for public involvement in government, especially in a complex and diverse city like ours. They’ll provide support to city council by identifying priorities and engaging in an open, transparent, and continuous exchange of ideas.”

The chair of the mayor’s community council task force, former Dundas councillor Art Samson, said that dropping community councils into the Hamilton body politic would benefit the public, the community and the entire governance structure of the city.

“People do get involved,” said Mr. Samson. “You give the councils meaning, people run with it.”

Alas, the proposed final recommendation for the creation of community councils and their powers, as approved by the city’s governance committee last week, falls far behind what provincial and some municipal politicians sold the community on what they would do in 2007.

While provincial politicians such as Liberal MPP Ted McMeekin and former Municipal Affairs Minister John Gerretsen waxed poetic on the powers community councils would wield in 2007, the reality is they will have limited influence in how city rules are made. The politicians talked about residents having decision-making powers over planning issues, where stop signs can go, and taking action against traffic and property standards.

Unable to confer powers

But city staff determined that because of the limited powers under the Municipal Act, Hamilton is unable to confer any of those powers to community councils.

As governance committee chair Russ Powers said, “They don’t have a lot of legislative powers.”

The members will be selected rather than elected, councils will have no budget, they will be called ward advisory councils, and members can only comment on planning issues rather than act on them. What the city’s legislation will do is standardize their powers.

In effect, Hamilton’s community councils, unlike their more powerful cousins in Toronto which are governed under the City of Toronto Act, will be more like a community group adding to the cacophony of public concerns.

Community councils have proved to be vital neighbourhood entities, particularly in the activistic Ancaster and Dundas communities.

With the indifference from city politicians at the forefront, the promises made to suburban residents that they would have a voice in how their new city worked has been proven as worthless as any promise made by a Hamilton politician.

As former Stoney Creek Councillor Phil Bruckler repeatedly stated during those public meetings on community councils, people don’t want more government in their faces blocking their vision to their futures.

“What they want is more engagement,” he said.

Instead of engagement, transparency and openness, the city of Hamilton is closing the door to public involvement in the democratic process.