Saturday's West Harbour rally is an opportunity for the Mayor to coalesce a worthy movement around his leadership. The crowd will be in no mood to hear diplomatic triteness.
By Keanin Loomis
Published August 06, 2010
"A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way and shows the way." - John C. Maxwell
Since reaffirming his support for the West Harbour stadium location following a period of uncomfortable uncertainty following Mediator Fenn's report release, Mayor Eisenberger seems to have become the de facto leader of the West Harbour side of the stadium debate, while at the same time insisting that an increasingly unlikely amicable resolution is still possible.
I don't envy the position the Mayor is in right now, stuck between a rock and a hard place so close to an election. If defeat of the West Harbour proposal is snatched from the jaws of victory, impressions of his lacking the requisite leadership abilities crystalize and certainly doom his reelection. If he wins, it's unlikely that "Boxed In" Bob Young suddenly ends the drama - threats of lawsuits and relocations don't just go away overnight.
Getting the Tiger-Cats on board will still be an election issue with lingering wounds exposed for political hay-making. Still, in politics even a messy win is a win.
Though Our City, Our Future can claim to representing a large percentage of Hamiltonians who have come to embrace grand visions of a large infusion of government cash accelerating our nascent urban renaissance, no individual has emerged to take on Bob Young toe-to-toe. Instead, a whole movement has risen up in response. Seeing this play out one too many times, a more activist electorate has attempted to hold its leaders accountable for their commitments to finally embrace progressive urban renewal.
Caught off guard by the Tiger-Cats ill-timed and sudden aversion to the West Harbour, the Mayor has been cautiously stradling the divide. However, being the person to whom demands (PDF) are addressed has a way of sparking a reaction and the Mayor has replied with some encouraging statements that match the public's disdain for Tiger-Cats' heavy-handed rhetoric.
With the Ti-Cats and the CFL having overplayed their hands and alienating citizens that were once reluctant to choose sides, the public is now firmly of the opinion that Bob Young's bluff must be called on principle alone.
Despite the cover that this broad community and establishment support have provided, the Mayor, as de facto leader, has still not emerged as the firebrand equivalent to Bob Young. As a Chief Executive that is still trying to find a solution that makes everyone happy (and does the least damage to his reelection prospects), his actions and measured statements have been dignified in comparison to the Tiger-Cats'. But they also have the effect of giving supporters of the West Harbour the feeling that the rug could be pulled out from under them on Tuesday in some Faustian bargain with the Province or a majority of Councillors.
Promised reports have been delayed, information even to Councillors has been scant and neither side seems to be budging. Even with further proof coming out today that the Tiger-Cats' proposals are "financially sustainable" for one person only -- costing the taxpayers tens of millions more than the West Harbour -- too many Hamiltonians, not knowing if anyone with political power in any of the three tiers of government is actually working hard to affect their will, are waiting on pins and needles as Tuesday's deadline is fast approaching.
Saturday's West Harbour rally is an opportunity for the Mayor to coalesce a worthy movement around his leadership. The crowd will be in no mood to hear diplomatic triteness; passionate supporters of urban renewal and sensible community investment want to know that as decision day draws nigh, this time might will not trump right. Attendees will want to be reassured that the Mayor has dug in his heels for the good of Hamilton and that Bob Young isn't somehow out-manoeuvering him and popular will behind the scenes prior to Tuesday's vote.
Most importantly, West Harbor supporters will want to know that he has the votes in Council to reaffirm the progressive, City Building values that have created optimism for this city's future. In short, they want to know that their leader is truly leading.
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