DRESCHEL: Will LRT derail a beautiful friendship?

Opinion May 27, 2016 by Andrew Dreschel The Hamilton Spectator

Sam Merulla and Chad Collins are sort of city council's Heckle and Jeckle.

Like the old cartoon magpies, the two are not only irrepressibly chatty allies, they're best buddies to the point of regarding each other almost as brothers.

The fact that they've been chronicled as voting the same way 85 per cent of the time speaks to remarkable shared values, goals and objectives for their adjoining east-end wards.

But thanks to the revived LRT debate, they're at serious loggerheads for the first time in the 15 years they've worked together.

They not only disagree on the issue, they're prominent flag-wavers for opposing camps.

Merulla is pro LRT.

Collins is anti.

They claim their differences are not creating any personal discord.

"Our friendship will stand the test of any political issue," says Merulla.

POLL: Where do you stand on the Hamilton LRT question?

But sitting cheek by jowl at the council table, there are times you can almost feel the heat radiating from under their collars when LRT is on the griddle.

"It certainly doesn't impact our friendship, even though sometimes he makes my ears red when he talks about it," says Collins.

Collins is indisputably council's most vocal and unequivocal LRT critic. He argues the $1 billion project is a vastly premature, disruptive nonpriority that screams for a referendum.

Merulla is the author of the postponed controversial motion to reaffirm the previous council's support for the provincially-funded and owned system.

He contends light rail is a no-brainer catalyst for economic uplift and the means for replacing an estimated $80 million in aging underground infrastructure at provincial expense.

"Whether you support or oppose it, I think both of us have very valid arguments and questions that we have brought to the table," says Collins.

'We just disagree how to get to the finish line."

Merulla says the conflict is entirely political, not personal.

"It's not too dissimilar from two brothers sitting at the dinner table arguing over an issue and asking their mom for help."

Except with no parent to break it up, they have to impose their own limits when things get out of hand.

"At times we call a truce," says Collins. "Sometimes we get a little bit loud in terms of our disagreements."

According to Merulla, they strive to avoid squabbling.

"But at the same rate, I sometimes can be antagonistic and throw out a few comments in a joking manner. Like 'LRT rules!' or 'LRT is the future of the city.'"

The issue is big and serious enough that the joking can give way to blowups.

"It gets pretty heated," Merulla says. "And people have witnessed it after council. And then we just decide it's probably just best to disagree and then we move on to the next issue which we agree on. And nine times out of 10 we agree on issues."

Funny thing, for all their personal affinity, in many ways they're really polar opposites.

Collins, who has represented Ward 5 since 1995, is invariably deadpan, measured, and clinical.

Merulla, elected to represent Ward 4 in the amalgamation election of 2000, is brash and bombastic.

Though a powerful influence around the council table, Collins usually doesn't stick his neck out or take a leading role on super contentious issues. LRT is a notable exception.

On the other hand, the habitually outspoken Merulla all but courts controversy, frequently rubbing people the wrong way by design.

During a recent rant, Merulla accused LRT opponents and fence-sitters on council of being weak-kneed and obstructionist.

Collins pushed back his chair, occasionally scanned the ceiling and looked straight-faced and forbearing.

You'd never guess the good buddy at his side was putting the verbal boots to him.

Then again, given the distance between where he and the media sit, it was impossible to see whether or not his ears were red and throbbing with blood.

Andrew Dreschel's commentary appears Monday, Wednesday and Friday. adreschel@thespec.com 905-526-3495 @AndrewDreschel

DRESCHEL: Will LRT derail a beautiful friendship?

Collins, Merulla are at serious loggerheads

Opinion May 27, 2016 by Andrew Dreschel The Hamilton Spectator

Sam Merulla and Chad Collins are sort of city council's Heckle and Jeckle.

Like the old cartoon magpies, the two are not only irrepressibly chatty allies, they're best buddies to the point of regarding each other almost as brothers.

The fact that they've been chronicled as voting the same way 85 per cent of the time speaks to remarkable shared values, goals and objectives for their adjoining east-end wards.

Sometimes we get a little bit loud in terms of our disagreements.

Coun. Chad Collins

But thanks to the revived LRT debate, they're at serious loggerheads for the first time in the 15 years they've worked together.

They not only disagree on the issue, they're prominent flag-wavers for opposing camps.

Merulla is pro LRT.

Collins is anti.

They claim their differences are not creating any personal discord.

"Our friendship will stand the test of any political issue," says Merulla.

POLL: Where do you stand on the Hamilton LRT question?

But sitting cheek by jowl at the council table, there are times you can almost feel the heat radiating from under their collars when LRT is on the griddle.

"It certainly doesn't impact our friendship, even though sometimes he makes my ears red when he talks about it," says Collins.

Collins is indisputably council's most vocal and unequivocal LRT critic. He argues the $1 billion project is a vastly premature, disruptive nonpriority that screams for a referendum.

Merulla is the author of the postponed controversial motion to reaffirm the previous council's support for the provincially-funded and owned system.

He contends light rail is a no-brainer catalyst for economic uplift and the means for replacing an estimated $80 million in aging underground infrastructure at provincial expense.

"Whether you support or oppose it, I think both of us have very valid arguments and questions that we have brought to the table," says Collins.

'We just disagree how to get to the finish line."

Merulla says the conflict is entirely political, not personal.

"It's not too dissimilar from two brothers sitting at the dinner table arguing over an issue and asking their mom for help."

Except with no parent to break it up, they have to impose their own limits when things get out of hand.

"At times we call a truce," says Collins. "Sometimes we get a little bit loud in terms of our disagreements."

According to Merulla, they strive to avoid squabbling.

"But at the same rate, I sometimes can be antagonistic and throw out a few comments in a joking manner. Like 'LRT rules!' or 'LRT is the future of the city.'"

The issue is big and serious enough that the joking can give way to blowups.

"It gets pretty heated," Merulla says. "And people have witnessed it after council. And then we just decide it's probably just best to disagree and then we move on to the next issue which we agree on. And nine times out of 10 we agree on issues."

Funny thing, for all their personal affinity, in many ways they're really polar opposites.

Collins, who has represented Ward 5 since 1995, is invariably deadpan, measured, and clinical.

Merulla, elected to represent Ward 4 in the amalgamation election of 2000, is brash and bombastic.

Though a powerful influence around the council table, Collins usually doesn't stick his neck out or take a leading role on super contentious issues. LRT is a notable exception.

On the other hand, the habitually outspoken Merulla all but courts controversy, frequently rubbing people the wrong way by design.

During a recent rant, Merulla accused LRT opponents and fence-sitters on council of being weak-kneed and obstructionist.

Collins pushed back his chair, occasionally scanned the ceiling and looked straight-faced and forbearing.

You'd never guess the good buddy at his side was putting the verbal boots to him.

Then again, given the distance between where he and the media sit, it was impossible to see whether or not his ears were red and throbbing with blood.

Andrew Dreschel's commentary appears Monday, Wednesday and Friday. adreschel@thespec.com 905-526-3495 @AndrewDreschel

DRESCHEL: Will LRT derail a beautiful friendship?

Collins, Merulla are at serious loggerheads

Opinion May 27, 2016 by Andrew Dreschel The Hamilton Spectator

Sam Merulla and Chad Collins are sort of city council's Heckle and Jeckle.

Like the old cartoon magpies, the two are not only irrepressibly chatty allies, they're best buddies to the point of regarding each other almost as brothers.

The fact that they've been chronicled as voting the same way 85 per cent of the time speaks to remarkable shared values, goals and objectives for their adjoining east-end wards.

Sometimes we get a little bit loud in terms of our disagreements.

Coun. Chad Collins

But thanks to the revived LRT debate, they're at serious loggerheads for the first time in the 15 years they've worked together.

They not only disagree on the issue, they're prominent flag-wavers for opposing camps.

Merulla is pro LRT.

Collins is anti.

They claim their differences are not creating any personal discord.

"Our friendship will stand the test of any political issue," says Merulla.

POLL: Where do you stand on the Hamilton LRT question?

But sitting cheek by jowl at the council table, there are times you can almost feel the heat radiating from under their collars when LRT is on the griddle.

"It certainly doesn't impact our friendship, even though sometimes he makes my ears red when he talks about it," says Collins.

Collins is indisputably council's most vocal and unequivocal LRT critic. He argues the $1 billion project is a vastly premature, disruptive nonpriority that screams for a referendum.

Merulla is the author of the postponed controversial motion to reaffirm the previous council's support for the provincially-funded and owned system.

He contends light rail is a no-brainer catalyst for economic uplift and the means for replacing an estimated $80 million in aging underground infrastructure at provincial expense.

"Whether you support or oppose it, I think both of us have very valid arguments and questions that we have brought to the table," says Collins.

'We just disagree how to get to the finish line."

Merulla says the conflict is entirely political, not personal.

"It's not too dissimilar from two brothers sitting at the dinner table arguing over an issue and asking their mom for help."

Except with no parent to break it up, they have to impose their own limits when things get out of hand.

"At times we call a truce," says Collins. "Sometimes we get a little bit loud in terms of our disagreements."

According to Merulla, they strive to avoid squabbling.

"But at the same rate, I sometimes can be antagonistic and throw out a few comments in a joking manner. Like 'LRT rules!' or 'LRT is the future of the city.'"

The issue is big and serious enough that the joking can give way to blowups.

"It gets pretty heated," Merulla says. "And people have witnessed it after council. And then we just decide it's probably just best to disagree and then we move on to the next issue which we agree on. And nine times out of 10 we agree on issues."

Funny thing, for all their personal affinity, in many ways they're really polar opposites.

Collins, who has represented Ward 5 since 1995, is invariably deadpan, measured, and clinical.

Merulla, elected to represent Ward 4 in the amalgamation election of 2000, is brash and bombastic.

Though a powerful influence around the council table, Collins usually doesn't stick his neck out or take a leading role on super contentious issues. LRT is a notable exception.

On the other hand, the habitually outspoken Merulla all but courts controversy, frequently rubbing people the wrong way by design.

During a recent rant, Merulla accused LRT opponents and fence-sitters on council of being weak-kneed and obstructionist.

Collins pushed back his chair, occasionally scanned the ceiling and looked straight-faced and forbearing.

You'd never guess the good buddy at his side was putting the verbal boots to him.

Then again, given the distance between where he and the media sit, it was impossible to see whether or not his ears were red and throbbing with blood.

Andrew Dreschel's commentary appears Monday, Wednesday and Friday. adreschel@thespec.com 905-526-3495 @AndrewDreschel