By Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Tuesday October 23, 2018
The Eisenberger train rolls on
Fred Eisenberger handily won the so-called “LRT referendum” election to become the city’s first repeat mayor since amalgamation.
But it is still unclear whether his signature project, a controversial $1-billion light rail transit line, will survive the election of a council that remains badly divided over LRT.
The veteran politician, 66, fought off a surprising challenge from Vito Sgro, a behind-the-scenes Liberal organizer who was not well known but ran a well-organized “Stop the Train” campaign hinging on the use of LRT cash for other infrastructure.
Eisenberger told jubilant supporters at his Upper James Street headquarters that there was a “fair number” of votes cast against LRT — “but we got more.”
“I see that as a mandate for us to move forward on LRT,” he said to a huge cheer from supporters squeezed into the room.
The veteran politician, who has served two terms as mayor separated by a defeat, repeatedly rejected the notion that LRT was the defining campaign issue. But Monday night, he told The Spectator “for those who wanted to make it a referendum, well, I consider this a referendum.”
It’s possible the fraught debate helped push up voter turnout in 2018 to an unofficial 38 per cent — not fantastic, but an improvement from last election’s dismal showing of around 34 per cent.
The LRT is backed by an unprecedented coalition of politicians, businesses, developers, education and health institutions, unions and anti-poverty groups.
But that establishment support certainly did not translate into a unified council. (Source: Hamilton Spectator)
As with most elections it’s never easy to fully prepare the perfect cartoon for the end result. Less complicated about the 2018 Mayoral election, compared with previous campaigns, was the fact that it was a two person race among a full slate of fringe candidates. Yesterday, I drew up three scenarios, all involving the proposed LRT. Full disclosure, two of the versions were revisions of cartoons drawn for the 2014 municipal vote which never went to print. The one which ran above, dubbed “happy Fred”, was the more celebratory version for Mayor Eisenberger – it was also the last cartoon I created, thinking it was the least likely cartoon to be used. The version I put most effort into was “sad Fred”, showing him asleep at the levers as his train glided off a cliff. If the numbers had been tighter between the Mayor and his main challenger Vito Sgro, I thought sad Fred would work best by reflecting his downplaying of LRT as a major issue in 2018. There was only one Sgro victory version, and as the first, and perhaps only depiction I ever draw of the man, it was the first cartoon I drew yesterday, showing him above the neck, and full-faced. Yesterday morning as people began casting ballots, Vito Sgro was viewed as a very possible candidate to topple Eisenberger and take Hamilton on a future course without LRT. While the project is by no means a for sure thing for this city, with several anti-LRT councillors returning or elected, it’ll take a Mayor with a mandate to champion it among council and the Doug Ford government. It has been more than 10 years since the offer of $1 billion was presented to Hamilton to upgrade its transit system, I think it’s time to get it moving once and for all.
…It has been a loooong conversation on making LRT and enhanced GO Transit a Billion dollar reality in this city. Here’s a gallery of transit cartoons from the past 10 years or so…
Not to mention these from 2010 and before: