Special Report: Walkable Streets

More Divisive Anti-Downtown Rhetoric from Councillor Whitehead

How does denigrating citizen engagement, driving a wedge between neighbourhoods, and reducing the lower city's role to that of a place to drive through promote any of the City's goals?

By Nicholas Kevlahan
Published February 19, 2015

CBC Hamilton reports that Ward 8 Councillor Terry Whitehead doesn't want engaged citizens in lower city Hamilton to "hijack" the city's Transportation Master Plan review:

There's a whole silent majority that hasn't been part of anything that's been going on in the city for various reasons. They're raising families and they're employed. There are many reasons why. They're disconnected with what's happening in the lower city and we need to connect.

Whitehead is implying, quite bluntly, that engaged citizens who care enough to email, show up to City meetings, and advocate for things like two-way conversions in their neighbourhoods, improved transit or LRT must not have families or are unemployed!

Yet another reason Hamilton is "the best place in Canada to disengage citizens".

Whitehead says that he cares more about the views of an imagined "silent majority", whose minds he presumably can read, than those who actually take the time to get involved.

Not that it should matter, but he should know very well that the many of those engaged citizens are not unemployed troublemakers with no families, but active professionals with young children who deliberately carve time out of their busy schedules to get involved in issues they care about because they really care about their city.

You'll also notice that Whitehead wants Mountain residents to "have a say" - by which, judging on previous behaviour, he means a veto - on changes to parts of roads not in their wards, provided the road connects to their wards. And he has redefined the term "regional road" to describe them.

Doesn't he know that roads form a network and everything connects to everything else?

Disengaged Residents

There's a deeper issue here. Whitehead is actually quite right to be concerned that his residents are not actively engaged with civic issues.

But the response is not to imply that those who actually are engaged don't have anything better to do with their time, or that somehow lower city residents set out to damage the quality of life for people on the Mountain.

Most importantly, it doesn't imply that since Mountain residents drive through lower city neighbourhoods, their opinions about what makes those neighbourhoods liveable should have just as much weight as those who actually live there.

If Whitehead is genuinely concerned about disengaged Mountain residents, he should try to find out why they are disengaged and what the City could do to engage them more.

He should not believe that he can read the minds of those disengaged citizens and that they must obviously be thinking that they only care about other neighbourhoods to the extent that they are quick and easy to drive through.

He should admit that, since his residents are so disengaged, he actually doesn't know what they think, but that he would like them to be more involved in civic affairs.

His response to the lack of engagement by his own residents is insulting to those residents who take time out of their busy schedules to do exactly what the City's Vision Statement encourages them to do.

Not a Zero-Sum Game

Most fundamentally, he should stop assuming that urban and street design in wards outside his own - particularly the lower city wards he seems fixated on - can be reduced to the concerns of those drivers who simply see them as an obstacle to getting quickly where they want to go.

If he wants his residents to have a say on changes in other neighbourhoods, why does he never make positive suggestions for things that he believes might actually improve the lives of the people who live in the lower city?

Why does he think this is a zero-sum game where if life gets better for residents in the lower city, it must necessarily be at the expense of those who live on the Mountain?

Why doesn't he take the same view of other neighbourhoods, like Stoney Creek, Dundas or Ancaster, since Mountain residents shop and work in those places too?

Maybe he should think about how this interpretation stacks up against Hamilton's stated Vision to be the "Best place in Canada to raise a child, promote innovation, engage citizens and provide diverse economic opportunities."

How does denigrating citizen engagement, driving a wedge between neighbourhoods, and reducing the lower city's role to that of a place to drive through promote any of those goals?

Nicholas Kevlahan was born and raised in Vancouver, and then spent eight years in England and France before returning to Canada in 1998. He has been a Hamiltonian since then, and is a strong believer in the potential of this city. Although he spends most of his time as a mathematician, he is also a passionate amateur urbanist and a fan of good design. You can often spot him strolling the streets of the downtown, shopping at the Market. Nicholas is the spokesperson for Hamilton Light Rail.

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By Rimshot (anonymous) | Posted February 19, 2015 at 15:27:00

#Whathead

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By Rick (anonymous) | Posted February 19, 2015 at 15:37:49

Whitehead should make a public apology for his inflammatory comments.

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By DBC (registered) | Posted February 19, 2015 at 15:37:52

I'll believe he is genuine when he openly calls for the one-way conversion of streets in his ward.

He could kill two birds with one stone in his addled mind - congestion addressed with "safer" streets.

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By CharlesBall (registered) | Posted February 19, 2015 at 15:39:35

There is an old saying: "The squeaky wheel gets the grease." To say that does not necessarily denigrate the squeaky wheel. It is both an observation and a warning. There are many wheels on a train and just because you concentrate on the squeaky one doesn't mean that you should not engage in regular inspection and greasing of all the other wheels.

By calling someone a squeaky wheel can be degrading. But it can also just be an observation that the person squeaking is only one part of the whole train.

Comment edited by CharlesBall on 2015-02-19 15:39:57

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By kevlahan (registered) | Posted February 19, 2015 at 16:48:59 in reply to Comment 109336

The City has officially adopted as one of its four Vision goals to be the "best place in Canada to engage citizens".

If not all citizens are equally engaged, the proper response is to work harder at engaging the under-engaged, not to claim that those citizens who are actually doing what the City wants them to do are "hijacking" the process! Ensuring that the (by definition unknown) views of the "silent majority" deserve more attention (because they are a majority) runs completely counter to the City's goals and basic democracy.

Don't forget that in the case Whitehead is referring to the City is actually requesting citizen engagement and opinions ... it is not a question of "squeaky wheels" complaining, it is a matter of citizen's volunteering their time and effort to help out the City!

If voter turnout is below 50% (as it has been in most municipal elections) we don't claim that those who did vote were "hijacking" the election. We don't modify the election results after the fact to take into account what we guess those who didn't vote might have wanted. We try to increase voter turnout!

The problem of disengaged residents is not fixed by devaluing the views of those who are engaged, and by implying they have nothing better to do with their time!

Comment edited by kevlahan on 2015-02-19 16:55:35

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By jason (registered) | Posted February 19, 2015 at 15:42:43

remember folks, the fact that some streets on the Mountain still don't have sidewalks after having the same councillors in office for 15-20 years is the fault of downtown residents trying to improve their communities.

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By H+H (registered) - website | Posted February 19, 2015 at 15:46:21

Very well said Nicholas. Being involved equals hijacking in Terrry's mind. I guess displayed apathy means you're being victimized by the engaged.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted February 19, 2015 at 15:55:15

If he's worried about improvements in his ward getting passed over, maybe he should be focusing on gaining positive change in his own ward instead of blocking positive change in other wards.

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By KevinLove (registered) | Posted February 19, 2015 at 16:48:27

From the article's CBC link. According to Mr. Whitehead, one of the ways that we are "hijacking" the Transportation Plan is that:

"...the majority of your consultation to start with is in the lower city," Whitehead said.

Except that if we keep reading the article, we see that Mr. Whitehead is a forked-tongue, bare-faced liar.

Here are the first planned public meetings for City in Motion: Hamilton's Transportation Master Plan:

Monday, March 23, 
Art Gallery of Hamilton
, 123 King St. W.

Tuesday, March 24, 
Chedoke Presbyterian Church
, 865 Mohawk Rd. W.

Wednesday, March 25, 
Battlefield House Museum and Park, 
77 King St. W., Stoney Creek

Thursday, March 26, 
Emmanuel United Church
, 871 Upper Ottawa St.

Comment edited by KevinLove on 2015-02-19 16:50:03

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By H1 (anonymous) | Posted February 19, 2015 at 16:58:44

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By Stever (anonymous) | Posted February 20, 2015 at 12:08:41 in reply to Comment 109345

Actually, engagement meetings are usually scheduled in the evenings. I'm sure between your family and friends who are interested someone could attend to voice opinions and gather information.

Also, I seem to be paying for a traffic interchange in Waterdown though I don't use it, nor will I benefit from it...

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By AnjoMan (registered) | Posted February 19, 2015 at 17:53:18 in reply to Comment 109345

bq. Also If you want to change traffic patterns, add bike lanes etc in your area go ahead, but don't expect the whole city to pay for it.

The ironic thing here is that lower city councillors would probably vote in favour of spending money to 'change traffic patterns' in Whiteheads ward, since they have already experienced how such changes can be great for their wards.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted February 19, 2015 at 17:44:37 in reply to Comment 109345

Also If you want to change traffic patterns, add bike lanes etc in your area

This is not reflected in reality. Suburban councillors like Whitehead have frequently fought against developments in lower-city wards that were inexpensive-enough to be considered a rounding-error in the city's budget, and thus easily fall into the money collected within that ward.

The stolidly refuses to mind his own business.

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By kevlahan (registered) | Posted February 19, 2015 at 17:04:02 in reply to Comment 109345

Send an email. That's always possible outside of working hours, and the city is happy to accept emailed comments. In any case, most of these public information sessions are held outside of working hours, in the evening from 6-8pm or on the weekend.

The problem is that Whitehead explicitly doesn't want traffic patterns to change in neighbourhoods outside his ward because it might affect his residents driving! If he did as you recommend and not object to changes in other wards, people wouldn't be so upset!

As for each ward paying for its own capital projects, that is just so far from reality that it's not a reasonable suggestion (should ward 15 pay the $20 million for road widening all on its own?). What you are suggesting is area weighting, by ward, for all spending!

And note that Whitehead opposed the bus lane, which wasn't in his ward, and cost nothing to the City.

Comment edited by kevlahan on 2015-02-19 17:14:24

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By H1 (anonymous) | Posted February 19, 2015 at 17:13:47

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted February 19, 2015 at 17:42:02 in reply to Comment 109348

It cost $200k to build it and $100k to remove it. Which is a lot to you and me, but in terms of government cash that's couch-cushion money. Remember we're spending $100 million on road work this year and that's apparently not enough.

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By kevlahan (registered) | Posted February 19, 2015 at 17:16:54 in reply to Comment 109348

It cost the City nothing: it was paid by Metrolinx money that was to be spent on transit projects. In any case, he was happy to spend even more of that Provincial money to remove the bus lane, so spending provincial tax payer money was clearly not an issue.

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By H1 (anonymous) | Posted February 19, 2015 at 17:21:21 in reply to Comment 109349

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By sigh (anonymous) | Posted February 20, 2015 at 13:11:42 in reply to Comment 109351

We have a word for the stakeholders of a municipality represented by elected officials, and it's not taxpayer. It's citizen.

Citizens are the people council are representing, citizens are the people who use municipal infrastructure and services, citizens are the people who are being consulted. Roads and transit are for citizens, not taxpayers. Some citizens are taxpayers, but that doesn't give them authority over the rest of the citizens of this city.

Taxes are not a subscription to services, but rather the way that those who are able contribute to the polity they reside in, so all citizens can benefit from a financially stable municipal government.

You live in the city of Hamilton, not the city of Ward 8. You have a moral obligation and a financial responsibility to the citizens of the entire city. In return, you get fire, police, ambulance, schools, libraries, recreation, surface roads, a ring road, transit, an airport, a lake port, social services and on and on. That's the deal. It's a pretty good one.

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By maybe (anonymous) | Posted February 20, 2015 at 13:18:52 in reply to Comment 109450

You may be right. But until you stop tax paying property owners from moving,they will have more political clout at the municipal level than other citizens.

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By Stever (anonymous) | Posted February 20, 2015 at 12:11:41 in reply to Comment 109351

cbc.ca/news/canada/hamilton/news/queen-street-hill-construction-late-and-more-expensive-1.1866806

Where's my benefit?

Get over I don't want to pay for stuff that's not close to my home. It happens to all of us.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted February 19, 2015 at 18:25:43 in reply to Comment 109351

NO. There are 540,000 taxpayers in Hamilton and 13.7 million taxpayers in Ontario.

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By ergopepsi (registered) | Posted February 19, 2015 at 18:54:42 in reply to Comment 109367

Not to nitpick but 60% of the population of Hamilton is employed (the other 40 are kids, unemployed). So it's more like ~300000. I would assume the number is about the same for all of Ontario.

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By mathy (anonymous) | Posted February 19, 2015 at 19:12:56 in reply to Comment 109372

so kids don't pay sales tax now? i need to get me some fake i.d.!

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By ergopepsi (registered) | Posted February 19, 2015 at 19:31:03 in reply to Comment 109374

Ooo-k. I wasn't going to respond but come on guys. Where do the kids get the money? They are in the 40% unemployed group. They get the money from their employed parents. A kid buying gum isn't suddenly being 'taxed' like he's been sprayed by a skunk or something. The money he got from his parents is being used to pay the tax. His parents pay the tax. If you have no income you do not pay tax. 60% of the population are income earners and so that proportion of the population pays tax. (Yes, social assistance and mat leave are taxed - but this is a clawback and so doesn't add to the tax pool)

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By KevinLove (registered) | Posted February 19, 2015 at 22:42:25 in reply to Comment 109376

And the money I get from my employer is being used to pay the tax. So therefore my employer pays the tax, not me.

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By ergopepsi (registered) | Posted February 19, 2015 at 23:33:10 in reply to Comment 109390

Serenity now...serenity now...

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted February 19, 2015 at 19:09:30 in reply to Comment 109372

Everyone pays tax, not just people with jobs. Even a kid buying gum at a convenience store is paying sales tax, excise tax, etc.

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By Stephen (anonymous) | Posted February 20, 2015 at 09:21:18 in reply to Comment 109373

We should talk about how many Hamiltonians are actually net recipients of tax dollars versus net contributors (just kidding- no, we should not).

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By Stephen (anonymous) | Posted February 20, 2015 at 09:28:02 in reply to Comment 109411

Anyway, you know what he means when he says "one taxpayer." But the bus lane would have been worth it regardless of source of funds.

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By jason (registered) | Posted February 19, 2015 at 18:19:35 in reply to Comment 109351

who is being buried in debt by these car addicts. Despite driving rates dropping in Hamilton and our infrastructure deficit out of control, we've added 90km of NEW roadway in suburban Hamilton the past 5 years.

I'm with Terry. Lets stop allowing the suburban road hogs to hijack our entire city budget.

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By kevlahan (registered) | Posted February 19, 2015 at 17:26:32 in reply to Comment 109351

Who paid twice: once to put in the lane, and again to remove it. It would have been much wiser to save the money and keep the lane, which staff said was working well and fulfilling its objectives.

You were arguing that each ward should pay for its own projects, except for shared resources.

Transit is a shared resource, just like police and fire, and this money was provincial and so has nothing to do with wards each paying for their own projects (unless you think the city should never accept provincial money unless it is somehow pro-rated to the provincial tax paid by each ward).

Comment edited by kevlahan on 2015-02-19 17:27:05

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By KevinLove (registered) | Posted February 19, 2015 at 17:35:41 in reply to Comment 109353

It is also the provincial government that picks up the $511 million in annual healthcare expenses for people in Hamilton poisoned by motor vehicle drivers.

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By H1 (anonymous) | Posted February 19, 2015 at 17:17:57

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By Stever (anonymous) | Posted February 20, 2015 at 12:15:42 in reply to Comment 109350

You do know that it costs more to support the low density suburbs right? Should the Mountain pay a pumping charge on their water bill? I mean the pumping to my historic city house doesn't need to be pumped as far, or up a 300' escarpment. So the people on the Mountian should pay more.

Also, should be a toll on the mountain accesses, because I don't need them so shouldn't have my tax dollars paying for them. Next landslide which closes more lanes tough luck just leave them closed until the Mountain wards pony up.

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By ergopepsi (registered) | Posted February 19, 2015 at 17:37:51 in reply to Comment 109350

But that's not how it works. Currently it seems too many people are using that kind of fantastical thinking to monkeywrench improvements that are anywhere but in their own backyard.
Personally, I think C. Whitehead isn't as much interested in building the city as he is in keeping his job. He's using a populist doctrine to pit his voters against the rest of the city ( with the downtowners being the ultimate enemy ) thus creating an us vs them mentality. He can then be guaranteed enough fear votes to stay in the cushy chair for a long time. But, for what it's worth, the status quo isn't killing anybody. It just isn't doing anything.

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By KevinLove (registered) | Posted February 19, 2015 at 18:42:38 in reply to Comment 109357

Except the status quo is killing the 93 people in Hamilton who are poisoned and killed by motor vehicle drivers every year.

Comment edited by KevinLove on 2015-02-19 18:42:52

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By DBC (registered) | Posted February 19, 2015 at 17:30:10 in reply to Comment 109350

And if you don't have school aged children you shouldn't pay for schools either right? And if you're not sick you shouldn't have to pay for hospitals........

Where exactly is the cave in which you live located anyway?

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By KevinLove (registered) | Posted February 19, 2015 at 17:38:10 in reply to Comment 109355

Maybe we should run with H1's anonymous idea. If Ward 2 pays for all its own roads, then we get to say who uses them. Finally, no more rat-running cut-through car drivers terrorizing our children on the Herkimer Racetrack.

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By H1 (anonymous) | Posted February 20, 2015 at 12:24:02 in reply to Comment 109358

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By Jeff_Tessier (registered) | Posted February 19, 2015 at 17:28:37 in reply to Comment 109350

Can you name a public-funded resource that can only be used by the residents of a particular ward? I may very well use a rec centre outside my ward if it's convenient to my job, or if it offers programming that fits my kids' schedule better than "my" rec centre. Similarly, different parks have different amenities that appeal to people across the city. Though I may not use a road built out in Binbrook, the community I live in requires people and goods to travel on roads so I'm a beneficiary of that.

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By Steven (anonymous) | Posted February 19, 2015 at 17:25:56

Bandits Whitehead and Collins have hijacked democracy with their brazen coup on the King St. TOL issue, and they will do it again. This is organized crime at its finest.

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By Cementhead (anonymous) | Posted February 19, 2015 at 18:14:17

You've all seen who contributes money to Terry's campaigns right? A very developer/corporation heavy list that shows you where his loyalties lie.

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By Cementhead (anonymous) | Posted February 19, 2015 at 18:19:09

hamilton.ca/NR/rdonlyres/006C3477-2DB4-4ACC-8332-B41373511A62/69810/TerryWhitehead.pdf

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By terrymccuaig (registered) - website | Posted February 20, 2015 at 21:16:44 in reply to Comment 109363

Thanks, Cementhead. That audit trail explains a lot.

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By Noted (anonymous) | Posted February 19, 2015 at 22:05:18 in reply to Comment 109363

Here's his 2006 campaign disclosure: hamiltoncatch.org/download.php?id=154

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By Rimshot (anonymous) | Posted February 19, 2015 at 21:47:11 in reply to Comment 109363

First name Ronald. Seems apt.

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By Cementhead (anonymous) | Posted February 19, 2015 at 18:21:55

Why is a company called Ewen Road Housing Inc. (based in London, ON) giving Terry money?

forum.skyscraperpage.com/showthread.php?t=140241

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By jason (registered) | Posted February 19, 2015 at 19:37:55 in reply to Comment 109365

Hmmm, this is interesting. They've proposed a student high-rise in the West End near Mac. I'd like to know the details of this donation arrangement.

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By KevinLove (registered) | Posted February 19, 2015 at 18:41:31 in reply to Comment 109365

Because they want to do business in Hamilton?

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By Fred Street (anonymous) | Posted February 19, 2015 at 22:23:21

In fairness, familial obligations do restrict workers' ability to engage with the system...

"Sarachman said he had spent about $100,000 in the lawsuit, and decided he didn’t want to spend more money, plus use up three additional years preparing for a new trial. Instead, he was looking forward to spending time with his family."


hamiltonnews.com/news/flamborough-resident-prepared-to-take-whitehead-to-court/
thespec.com/news-story/2160070-whitehead-s-language-malicious-demeaning-defamatory-
caselaw.canada.globe24h.com/0/0/ontario/superior-court-of-justice/2011/05/16/sarachman-v-whitehead-2011-onsc-2946.shtml
flamboroughreview.com/news/put-it-on-our-tab/
hamiltonnews.com/news/whitehead-sarachman-end-legal-battle/

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By ergopepsi (registered) | Posted February 19, 2015 at 23:42:39 in reply to Comment 109389

Not having 100 grand to blow on suing some two bit city councilor would do it for me.

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By KevinLove (registered) | Posted February 20, 2015 at 00:23:36 in reply to Comment 109396

The true irony is that Mr. Whitehead was being sued for defamation in which (among other things) he called Mr. Sarachman an "irrational liar."

And now we are reading an article in which Mr. Whitehead is being quoted as saying:

"...the majority of your consultation to start with is in the lower city," Whitehead said.

Which is simply not true. Mr. Whitehead knows or ought to know where the consultation actually is taking place. Which is:

Monday, March 23, 
Art Gallery of Hamilton
, 123 King St. W.

Tuesday, March 24, 
Chedoke Presbyterian Church
, 865 Mohawk Rd. W.

Wednesday, March 25, 
Battlefield House Museum and Park, 
77 King St. W., Stoney Creek

Thursday, March 26, 
Emmanuel United Church
, 871 Upper Ottawa St.

So who is the liar now?

Comment edited by KevinLove on 2015-02-20 00:27:06

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By Pedro (anonymous) | Posted February 20, 2015 at 04:38:19

Almost 64% of eligible voters in Ward 8 didn't vote in the 2014 election. Perhaps THAT is the silent majority that should be engaged before 2018.

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By Fred Street (anonymous) | Posted February 20, 2015 at 12:31:34

Re: "Lower City"

By my back-of-napkin tally, roughly 250,000 Hamiltonians reside below the Escarpment.

map.hamilton.ca/static/pdfs/wardmaps/AllWards_Statistics.pdf
raisethehammer.org/static/presentations/hamilton_cts.html

That'd be all of the old "lower city" (Wards 1-5), amalgamated "lower city" wards 10 and 13, plus around 30% of Ward 9, 25% of Ward 11 and even portions of Wards 12 and 14.

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