Will senior management be allowed to unilaterally shift the city's transportation priorities, or will Council step up and assert its leadership over the city's goals?
By Ryan McGreal
Published July 18, 2011
Are you going to stand for this?
The city's senior management team, led by city manager Chris Murray, has abruptly decided that staff will only do whatever work on rapid transit planning they are contractually obligated to complete, after receiving $3 million from the province to plan and design LRT in Hamilton.
Instead, a special position has been created to manage a task force to "aggressively pursue" all-day GO service.
Does this decision to switch Hamilton's transportation planning priorities and effectively kill LRT flow from a Council decision? If so, I'm having a hard time finding it.
If not, are you going to allow senior staff to overrule Council's directives and impose their own priorities on the city?
The dedicated staff of the Rapid Transit office have spent years and millions of dollars and engaged thousands of Hamiltonians to plan LRT because you directed them to do it. You had the vision and foresight to recognize that LRT is a transformative investment in the city's prosperity and revitalization.
The Province supported you and even granted the city $3 million to help pay for the planning, design and environmental assessment work. (Perhaps they are now wondering why they bothered.)
But over the past two weeks, the Mayor and City Manager decided that LRT is not a priority after all, despite the fact that nothing has changed and the weight of evidence from the planning process continues to strengthen the case for LRT.
First, the Mayor tried to claim that the public doesn't care about LRT. The public responded with a huge "clamour" of support.
Then the Mayor tried to claim that developers don't care about LRT. We've since heard from the Chamber of Commerce, the Home Builders Association, the Realtors Association, the Jobs Prosperity Collaborative and a number of developers both inside and outside the city who support LRT and are watching carefully to see whether Council has the leadership to make it happen.
They're definitely interested, but many are not especially hopeful, since they've been hearing mixed signals from the city's leadership.
As of today, the signals are no longer mixed. Murray's directive has made it crystal clear that the City is no longer interested in pursuing LRT.
Instead, we're going to meet our minimum contractual obligations and then suspend the program to focus instead on all-day GO service - as if they were in some kind of competition!
As recently as today, Mayor Bratina was still saying that the city can't make a decision on whether to support LRT without getting all the information.
With this new directive, the Mayor and City Manager have decided that we're no longer going to bother getting that information.
So I ask again: did you, the elected City Council, change your minds and decide that Hamilton has given up on LRT? Or was that decision made for you?
If the latter, what are you going to do about it? The province is watching. The development community is watching. Above all, the public is watching and counting on you to be the leaders we elected.