Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Tuesday November 23, 1999
Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Saturday October 23, 1999
O’Brien’s Circus and Regional Restructuring Freak Show
Strange Antics, hot tempers and red faces restructuring: It’s a Jungle Out There
Imagine being in David O’Brien’s loafers. You come to Hamilton-Wentworth, charged by the provincial government with the considerable responsibility of coming up with a recommendation on restructuring local government so there are fewer politicians, lower taxes and optimum service delivery. You probably know, anecdotally at least, how rancorous the debate has been over the years.
But we’re betting the career bureaucrat must be shaking his head over how dysfunctional, mistrustful and downright hostile is the world of politics in Hamilton-Wentworth. Welcome to our nightmare, Mr. O’Brien. Mississauga, it ain’t.
Step right this way to observe all the local politicians. They’re the ones who sleep with their eyes wide open so they don’t get jumped by the mayor from one town over. So overwrought are they, so wound-tighter-than-a-drum, that their actions under pressure can get downright goofy. We’ve got the region’s top politician on a local radio talk show with a local member of provincial parliament. What happened could pretty much pass for the radio version of Jerry Springer, especially what went on during commercials.
Then we’ve got the iron-willed independentist faction from communities around the region who would just about rather die than suffer the indignity of a single-tier local government that includes Hamilton. So passionate, so victimized, are these people they think nothing of making unsubstantiated allegations of corruption that would get people sued in most circumstances.
The good news, and we’re confident that the adviser is well aware of it by now, is that the embarrassing antics of these few isn’t representative. Most of us here in Hamilton-Wentworth, and our neighbours going through the same process in Haldimand-Norfolk, are reasonable people. We’ve known for some time that we need a much more efficient system of government. We have lots of questions, and some legitimate concerns. We’re hoping that the adviser and provincial government will succeed where we’ve failed and re-invent local government in a way that makes sense. And we’re thankful that the circus has left town. (Hamilton Spectator Editorial, D12, 10/23/1999)
Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Tuesday September 21, 1999
Tri-Town Proponents Start Crunching Numbers
Consultants crunching the numbers for the proposed city of Wentworth will also be looking at that merger’s impact on the region’s other municipalities, and particularly the City of Hamilton.
The three towns that would merge — Ancaster, Dundas and Flamborough — know they must look beyond their borders in assessing the impact of restructuring.
Richard Fiebig, Flamborough’s chief administrative officer, said: “We will have to see what the impact is on taxation levels across the region. Based on past experience, I know that is important to the province.”
And he knew that even before the province articulated it recently — Fiebig was CAO-treasurer for the City of Kingston when it was restructured to take in two adjacent townships.
Referring to that merger, Fiebig said, “We had to ensure nobody would be disadvantaged.”
Toronto-based Hemson Consulting Ltd. has been hired by the three municipalities to estimate the costs, revenues and tax impacts of the proposed creation of the city of Wentworth. Ancaster, Dundas and Flamborough will split the $30,000 bill for that study.
Dundas Mayor John Addison says the three towns must show the province their plan won’t adversely affect other municipalities.
“We anticipate an adviser would look at that and pull the fuse on the plan. If the analysis shows a negative impact, we would have to work with the other municipalities to minimize any problems, ” he said.
The consultants will also look at the tax impacts of a supercity model, which is favoured by Regional Chairman Terry Cooke and Hamilton city council. Stoney Creek and Glanbrook are exploring a merger of their own.
The municipalities are anticipating the appointment of a special adviser tomorrow or Thursday at latest. Municipal Affairs Minister Steve Gilchrist announced last month that Hamilton-Wentworth is one of four municipalities in the province that will be restructured by the end of the year. The adviser will have 60 days to gather input before making a restructuring recommendation to the province.
Gilchrist wants the restructuring to streamline services, increase accountabilit y, cut taxes, and reduce the number of municipalities and elected officials.
If the city of Wentworth becomes a reality, voters in the new city would likely be electing 50 to 60 per cent fewer representatives than the 25 council members currently elected in the three municipalities combined.
The polling firm Environics has been hired to survey public opinion in the three towns. The $27,000 bill will be split among the towns.
Ancaster Mayor Bob Wade says he will welcome the results, even if those polled don’t support the tri-town model.
“We are trying to follow the will of the people, ” he said, “but when we are not hearing from them, it’s difficult. I will be happy to go with whatever the community decides.
“We know remaining on our own is no longer an option. It concerns me that people aren’t letting us know how they feel.”
The consultants’ report is likely to be completed within the next two to three weeks, and Wade anticipates a public meeting at that point.
“I’m reluctant to go to a public meeting before we have the facts and figures to give people, ” he said. – Lee Prokaska (Hamilton Spectator, A6, 9/21/1999)