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:
Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Thursday October 4, 2018
I don’t think I’m the only one to declare that this has got to be the quietest, and indeed, dullest municipal election Hamilton’s had in a long time. As ground is supposed to be broken for a billion dollar LRT system, politicians are waffling in their support, and advocates for & against are huddled in their echo chambers. Mayor Fred Eisenberger claims it’s not even the top issue of the 2018 campaign. With a new unpredictable government in charge at Queen’s Park saying do what you want with the $1B, which the previous gov’t said was only for LRT, there’s a lot of uncertainty about what is coming Hamilton’s way, despite having spent $100 million, and years talking about it. It’s as if people are done talking about it, on either side of the debate, and maybe an election is the wrong time to whip up voter attention, especially when only 35% of them will even bother to cast a ballot.
Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Saturday April 7, 2018
Doug Ford ‘ploy’ has Councillors second-guessing LRT
Some city councillors are second-guessing their support for LRT following Conservative leader Doug Ford’s announcement Hamilton can spend the $1 billion on other infrastructure projects if it rejects light rail.
Lloyd Ferguson, heretofore a staunch LRT supporter, says Ford’s proposal is “very appealing” and will force him to rethink his position if the Conservatives form the government after the June 7 provincial election.
“The main reason why I supported LRT is I couldn’t turn down $1 billion,” said the Ancaster councillor. “Now if we get to keep that $1 billion and use it across the entire city, that’s a game changer.”
Ferguson says he knows Ford’s position is an “election ploy.” “But don’t you capitalize on those opportunities for the people we represent?”
Tom Jackson says he’ll also consider changing his vote if the Conservatives are elected.
The east Mountain councillor says he ultimately backed LRT because he didn’t want to throw the $1 billion away by turning the project down.
But Jackson says Ford’s proposal giving the city the option to spend the money on other transit and infrastructure projects dovetails with his own preference to spend it on the city’s transit fleet and upgrading roads, sidewalks and water mains.
“I wished all along I had the latitude on how to spend the money,” Jackson said. “If (PCs) are fortunate and lucky enough to win a majority government … this aligns with what my preference has been.”
If, however, the Tories fail to win or form a minority government unable to follow through on Ford’s offer, Jackson says he’ll continue to support LRT to hold on to the $1 billion.
Terry Whitehead, a reluctant light rail backer at best, says he’s always maintained he’d reweigh and measure his support for the project if circumstances change about how the $1 billion can be spent. (Continued: Hamilton Spectator)
…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 8 years or so… Updated October 2018
Not to mention these from 2010 and before:
Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Saturday January 20, 2018
Councillors back 5 minute speech limit
The days of long-winded repetitive council speeches may be numbered.
After a vigorous 30-minute debate, Hamilton councillors have voted to restrict their statements and questions during meetings to a five-minute time limit.
Donna Skelly, who proposed the speaking cap, said the idea is to impose some discipline on talkative councillors and to be more respectful of time constraints and tying up valuable staff hours.
Mayor Fred Eisenberger called the proposal “music to my ears.”
Eisenberger has previously groused that some councillors waste too much time by running off at the mouth with scant regard for time management.
“I think it’s a good thing to institute some discipline in this process,” said Eisenberger. “We tend on too many occasions to hear the same thing over and over and over again.”
Matthew Green agreed. “If you can’t say something in 500 words (it) probably doesn’t need to be said.”
But the proposal, approved 8-7 at this week’s general issues committee, ran into strong headwinds.
Here’s how the committee vote went. For: Aidan Johnson, Farr, Green, Skelly, Brenda Johnson, Eisenberger, Arlene VanderBeek, Lloyd Ferguson. Against: Merulla, Chad Collins, Jackson, Terry Whitehead, Judi Partridge, Maria Pearson, Conley.
Although Robert Pasuta was absent, the vote is unlikely to be overturned when it goes to council for approval next Wednesday. Pasuta, himself a man of few words, says he’ll support the cap. After all, it reflects his own philosophy: “Think about what you’re going to say and don’t blabber on because who listens?” (Source: Andrew Dreschel, Hamilton Spectator)