Join the Conversation

Those of us who wish to accelerate the process and have more meaningful, inclusive conversations must reach well beyond our personal or organizational contacts and find ways to repeatedly invite all residents to follow and contribute to the dialogue.

By Larry Pomerantz
Published September 30, 2013

On Saturday, RTH contributor Jason Allen asked whether Hamilton is ready for the conversation it needs to have about its issues, values and priorities. Ready or not, the conversation is already underway, as it always has been, and as it always will be.

Those of us who wish to accelerate the process and have more meaningful, inclusive conversations must reach well beyond our personal or organizational contacts and find ways to repeatedly invite all residents to follow and contribute to the dialogue.

Conversation can't be transformational without a sufficient number of voices, organizations and communities weighing in. We need to create critical mass and build the necessary environment to carry the conversation throughout our city.

We do not need to wait until an election to have a conversation. However, under our current municipal democratic system, an election represents a unique and ideal window of opportunity to fuel conversation. Attention spans and timing are critical components to any conversation.

How fortunate for us all that an election is only a year away and election campaigns legally commence in January 2014!

Bigger, Better Conversation

We are all at different points along the conversation but there are two things we really need to focus on to achieve a bigger, better, more meaningful conversation.

First, we need to encourage those who have special expertise for certain portions of the conversation (taxes for some) to bring that expertise into the conversation, but not to allow it to dominate the conversation. The tapestry of the conversation must be rich and have many balanced threads, if it is to be truly inclusive, sustained and transformational.

Second, we need to find ways to explain to the silent majority why they need to be part of the conversation. If we fail to make the conversation relevant, wide-spread and inclusive, then we will fail to empower residents to form opinions based on the conversation and risk having uninformed voters casting ballots primarily on the basis of name recognition.

Ask the Question

One way to introduce the silent majority to the conversation would be to ask, "What type of city do you want to live in?"

Specific issues, values and priorities may just be important enough to encourage individuals to take part in and remain connected to the conversation. The real challenge is to find ways to bring awareness of the conversation to all residents including those who are unaware a conversation is even underway.

The Hamilton Civic League is attempting to do this with our recently launched Values & Priorities Survey, posted at

We are counting on everyone already engaged in the conversation to complete the survey and to invite others to the conversation by registering their opinions on a multitude of issues of municipal significance that are components of the conversation.

We may not have a Naheed Nenshi in our community and we can't afford to wait for one to step forward. We must, however, continue the conversation and make every effort to invite everyone to be part of it.

Larry Pomerantz is the Chair of Hamilton Civic League.


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By Tired (anonymous) | Posted September 30, 2013 at 11:26:49

While an admirable initiative, to have a conversation there needs to be people who are listening, espcially in this case, the City. We can discuss amongst ourselves as much as we wish but with a city who sits and"listens' to citizens and does their own thing anyway, not once or twice but pretty much always.

Yet despite this much of the population cannot even insire themselves to vote them out. so things continue. we need new voices and new ears at City Hall but too maany don't seem to care enough. So I am having trouble seeing how a survey which will likely be filled primarily by those who already raise their voice and are not heard, is going to affect change.

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By have to start somewhere (anonymous) | Posted October 02, 2013 at 12:18:46 in reply to Comment 92779

The idea is that with a solid foundation of principles chosen by the people, we can score current councillors and future candidates against these foundations in order to help people understand who to vote for. Without talking to people first, then there is no way to accurately "grade" our politicians...

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By Keith (anonymous) | Posted September 30, 2013 at 13:27:15

I think there needs to be a conversation with residents outside of downtown- with people on the Mountain, Stoney Creek, Binbrook, Rockton, Waterdown - about what they envision the city looking like. While it's great to have the conversation downtown, we'll be stuck in the same circle if we don't engage the other 70% of the City's population. The reality is they vote at higher levels than those downtown, have more councillors, and end up holding a lot of power. Without them, City Hall won't change because they are the majority voice.

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By Joshua (registered) | Posted October 05, 2013 at 21:15:04 in reply to Comment 92789


Thanks very much for your comment. Our upcoming 2014 municipal election will, perhaps, tell our city a new tale.

It would be good, too, to see the ancient divide between down-town and up-town abolished. There are Hamiltonians on the Mountain who want walkable streets, complete and safe for kith and kin, and open to all varieties of transportation. We are becoming, it's true, envious of our down-town, whose lives are being immeasurably improved by complete streets and vibrant neighbourhoods. Think of it: when was the last time someone said that something good was happening on Upper James, not just James?

It's true that suburban councillors, and those residents who live in the suburbs here on the Mountain, have more political weight to their vote. I live in the largest ward in the city, the seventh, and we have one councillor to find citizens and bind them. Our streets carry more automobiles and are two-way, so our needs, predicated upon a sense of place and fittingness, are, understandably, different. We need bicycle lanes and infra-structure (lights, mostly, and pedestrian cross-walks) more than one-way streets.

Political engagement, beginning at the civic level, is essential and should permeate every aspect of our citizenship, especially in the secondary and elementary schools.

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By Hamilton Civic League (anonymous) | Posted September 30, 2013 at 16:36:06

The survey will be administered at the door of an equal number of residences in each ward. It may take weeks or months, but it will be thorough and completed long before the next municipal election. We will collect the opinions of residents from every ward and then the data analysis will begin to help us develop a plan forward. Many have good thoughts about what our community could be, some go further and express their ideas through various forms of conversation, but the odds of transformation taking root in our community will increase exponentially if we all take those good thoughts and good words and turn them into good actions. The best way to ensure success is to volunteer to take the survey out to the community. Please consider volunteering at Please consider asking your contacts to complete the online survey and to volunteer to take it out to the doorsteps of the wider community.

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By Fred Street (anonymous) | Posted September 30, 2013 at 18:32:23 in reply to Comment 92802

"The survey will be administered at the door of an equal number of residences in each ward."

This may be a silly question, but if you're looking to get a clear read, might you not be better served by a proportionate sample size?

Ward 7, for example, has a population 3.5 times that of Ward 14, while Ward 8 has a population twice that of Wards 1, 9, 10, 13 or 15. Going off historical data, there appear to be twice as many eligible voters in Ward 7 as Ward 1, 2, 9, 10, 13 or 15 and almost four times as many as Ward 14.

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By Hamilton Civic League (anonymous) | Posted September 30, 2013 at 19:00:47 in reply to Comment 92804


We divided each ward into 14 sections and are seeking 25 surveys, conducted in person, from each section to form a control group. We have capacity to accept an unlimited number of surveys online. The survey contains one question about ward realignment. I get your point though. Please complete the survey and share it with others.

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By I know what you're doing (anonymous) | Posted October 02, 2013 at 11:57:02

Your project is the biggest ruse in the city. You are shilling for Brian McHattie's mayor's run. Don't couch your efforts in any other way. Also, look at Mr. Pomerantz' environmental record. Nice job, Larry

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By bikehounds (anonymous) | Posted October 02, 2013 at 12:22:55 in reply to Comment 92857

I'm not sure how you came to this conclusion, but I attended a civic league meeting years ago - well before a mayoral run was anywhere near McHattie's radar. In other words, the league has been working for some time to build resources necessary to gather real input from the people who live in this city - no small task.

Since you are commenting anonymously, I can't guess about your motives, but I can't imagine they are altruistic. Why are you against true citizen input?

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By SCRAP (anonymous) | Posted October 02, 2013 at 15:19:18

bkehounds, I agree with your comment, while I may not agree with every stance Larry takes, he has worked very hard on this.

I think it is important for people to at least look at the survey, fill it out, maybe the data will show a completely different picture of what people want, you might find commonality that was not previousily identified.

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