Special Report: Light Rail

Light Rail Plan Has Already Had Extensive Citizen Engagement

LRT opponents have had nine years to raise their concerns. Now Council's job is to provide leadership to ensure success, not hide behind last-minute obstruction agenda.

By Peter Hill
Published April 09, 2017

It was in 2010 that the City created a Citizens Advisory Committee to look into the proposed Light Rail Transit (LRT) system. The Committee reported to Council a year later.

That Committee reviewed the proposal from end to end, getting answers to a broad range of questions to ensure that the concept was valid for Hamilton, that it was accessible to all, that it was tied into the existing systems appropriately.

This group of over twenty Hamiltonians who represented the disabled, seniors, community groups, business organizations along the route, women and men, all of whom represented lifetimes of knowledge, wisdom and experience of living and loving this city, vetted the whole concept.

The outcome was a changed proposal.

Then in 2015 and 2016, Mayor Eisenberger had another review made of the project, a Citizens Jury composed of a randomly selected group of representatives from every ward.

In other words, there has been a thorough public consultation process. Citizens who have waited years to provide their input, especially negative suggestions and roadblocks, should have spoken up and made their contributions when it mattered - in the project development stages when things could have been changed easily.

Though several things have changed, such as the eastern terminus and the northern extension to the James Street North GO Station, the concept remains the same: that this is a first step in city building. It is not the end; it is the beginning of a major, decades-long process to create an efficient city capable of competing in the future as we now see it developing.

Yes, it moves people, but have you noticed how development always follows transportation systems? The city will have a higher tax base and it will have more people living in less space, which is an important factor in reducing maintenance costs for our infrastructure.

Yes, there will be disruptions but these are short-term. Yes, businesses will be inconvenienced, but this is your challenge as community leaders - to reduce the negative impacts on these businesses through carefully crafted legislation which might include reduction of taxes among other emoluments and allowances.

Let me repeat, it is the job for which you were elected: that job being to provide leadership and support to effect change and improvement in our city.

It is a craven attitude to cower behind the opinions of others who have agendas and to claim that you are representing the needs of your constituents. Your constituents, regardless of where they live in our community need you to have a forward-looking vision, not a retrograde one.

I, like many in Hamilton, have remained relatively quiet about this situation but the foot-dragging attitude has to stop. It must stop now and you must identify how you can help our city become better.

Councillors who still have questions have not been doing their job - this has been on the books for nine years now! That is plenty of time to gain a thorough knowledge not only of the problems but also of potential solutions to those problems so that all of us can gain.

Even those of you who have been elected since this first surfaced have had time to identify how you can support this city-building project.

To those who do not identify with the negativism shown by your colleagues, push harder. Speak out more fully in the community, not just at Council and Committee meetings. Explain to Hamiltonians - all Hamiltonians - how this first step will benefit all. Open houses are not enough.

Finally, and this is just as important, we need to get on with other problems facing the city which need attention and are not being given to them, due to the excessive time and energy devoted to this issue.

Peter Hill has served on the Boards of Hamilton Children's Aid Society, Amity Goodwill Industries, Haldimand & Area Woodlot Owners' Association, Ontario Woodlot Association, and many other community committees. He was inducted into the McMaster Alumni Gallery of Distinction in 1991. He is a Past-President of the Durand Neighbourhood Association, Hamilton Public Relations Society, Lupus Society of Hamilton and was the founding Business Co-chair of the Hamilton-Wentworth Training Board. He served as President of the Dundas Valley Orchestra in 2009-2010 and 2012-2013. He has served on the city's Urban Advisory Committee and was a member of Hamilton's Rapid Transit Citizens' Advisory Committee (2010-2012). He holds a Master's degree in Geography. Now retired, he was Associate Registrar at McMaster University where he initiated its student recruitment activity and, subsequently, Director of Public Relations at the Hamilton Civic Hospitals where he initiated its community communications programs.

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By notlloyd (registered) - website | Posted April 09, 2017 at 19:07:05

Citizen engagement is hardly the main issue. Nothing took longer and had more citizen engagement than the Linc and Red Hill. Then a small group of rabble grousers stalled the thing for decades. They played tricks and called in political favors (like Bob Rae's post election stall and Sheila Copps' theoretical environmental assessment)and then it was built way above cost. However, unlike the Red Hill that had broad proletarian support, my guess is that a referendum would show the opposite for the LRT. This thing will be built with or without citizen "engagement" which is really a red herring anyway.

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By JimC (registered) | Posted April 09, 2017 at 19:48:08 in reply to Comment 121173

Wish they stalled longer. The Red Hill is a disaster. Heartbreaking that they filled in such a beautiful valley with concrete, graffitti, and litter.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted April 10, 2017 at 06:07:52 in reply to Comment 121174

I call BS on your concern for the Red Hill Valley, given your constant trolling against the one transportation investment that will actually do something to save Hamilton's remaining farmland and rural wilderness from sprawl development.

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By JimC (registered) | Posted April 09, 2017 at 20:28:54

A statute of limitations on dissent and protest? This article was intended as satire right?

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