Concerns From a Ward 8 Constituent

A Ward 8 resident asserts that Ward 8 Councillor Terry Whitehead does not speak for him in accusing downtown advocates of wanting to "hijack" the Transportation Master Plan

By Gord Stephan
Published February 23, 2015

Dear Councillor Whitehead,

I write you today to express my displeasure with your recent behaviour, comments, and your incorrect assumption that your stance on public transportation is unanimously held by all of your constituents.

You recently applied the term "hijackers" to those in the lower city who are actively participating in the debate on public transit. (This is reminiscent of the words of former Mayor Bob Bratina referring to some people as "dissidents".)

In the guise of representing your ward, you have deliberately created a division between the upper and lower city. Again, you don't like what they have to say, so you return to this completely unprofessional behaviour.

Resorting to name calling of people who are exercising their right to voice their opinions is childish and worthy of a seven-year-old on a school playground. As much as it is your right to disagree, it is not acceptable to name call.

I must also assert that you have a public voice to make your opinions known, whereas the "hijackers" do not have that luxury.

Do I also need to remind you that a politician's job is to consensus build, not to be antagonistic? You were elected to do this. Your mandate is based on achieving 75 percent of 36 percent of of eligible Ward 8 voters who voted.

Given that you were elected by barely a quarter of the electorate, perhaps you should undertake additional consultations with the electorate before you presume you speak for all of us. You don't speak for my opinions.

I can fully understand why the Wynne government has been reluctant to commit to funding of any public transit enhancements. This council cannot present a united front on the topic. Given your recent comments, it is unlikely there ever will be unanimity and the city will never receive the funding so badly needed.

I find it disconcerting that you are afraid of the process being "hijacked" by downtowners, but you are willing to give an equal vote on transit to the suburban wards who pay considerably less to fund the system. So you are willing to allow those who don't use the system to have more power than those who do use it and pay more for it. What is democratic about that?

I am very concerned about your behaviour to challenge an individual to an IQ test over social media. This is most unprofessional of a politician. I cannot, for the life of me, determine what would make you think that this was acceptable behaviour for anyone, let alone an elected official.

The public deserves an elected official who will remain professional, mature and not submit to others' behaviour.

Your challenge of the city staff objectivity of the bus lane report was insulting, uncalled for and totally out of line. I do not have a problem with you objecting to the conclusions of the report, but to question the objectivity of the individuals who prepared the report is difficult for me to comprehend.

These people have been hired to do a job and, as such, for you to question their conclusions because you don't agree with them shows me that you are in fact the one who cannot make objective conclusions of your own.

Your predetermination that the bus lane was a bad thing, right from the get-go, does not allow you the privilege of insulting city staff.

Needless to say, all of these issues give me pause to question your ability to truly represent the constituents of ward 8. I want a representative on council who can tolerate dissent without name calling, act in a professional manner at all times and be respective of all opinions. This is something that you clearly have not displayed.

Update: Councillor Whitehead sent the following reply:

There are a group of narrow minded activist that have made it clear they have the monopoly on all solutions. Just like the red hill activist that cost taxpayers of this community tens of million of dollars. It is not about whether they should have opportunity. My comments where about ensuring others are not intimidated and allowed an opportunity to engage.

My comment was not directed to engaged citizens city wide that wish to constructively provide input into this process .

Gord Stephan is a resident of Ward 8 in Hamilton.


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By Modo (anonymous) | Posted February 23, 2015 at 08:35:38

Not only can he not think, he can't spell, doesn't know or ignores basic grammar rules...All that aside he reminds me of a Harpocon using buzzwords like activist in a pejorative way. Gord is right, thinking like this will cost us our transit money, which will have no effect on Whitehead whatsoever, but will affect those of us in the city who are unable to get around easily without adequate transit.

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By Scarn Name (anonymous) | Posted February 23, 2015 at 09:04:59

Funny he should compare transit advocates to Red Hill activists who "cost taxpayers of this community tens of millions of dollars", because Terry's beloved one way highways are the things costing taxpayers tens of millions of dollars by killing the rejuvenation of the downtown. He and his ilk are the new anti- activists holding up progress by blocking the changes we need to grow the economy.

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By CharlesBall (registered) | Posted February 23, 2015 at 16:29:41 in reply to Comment 109537

Be careful. A few people held up the expressway for decades using tactics that could be applied to he lrt. How would you like it held up for decades in environmental studies? I suggest that you not give them any ideas.

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By alas (anonymous) | Posted February 23, 2015 at 10:17:53

Just a matter of time before they'll be calling dissidents, radicals, and ultimately, terrorists.

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By H1 (anonymous) | Posted February 23, 2015 at 10:24:39

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By mikeonthemountain (registered) | Posted February 23, 2015 at 11:00:44

This former ward 8 resident who lived near and shopped at Westcliffe, had trouble boarding a bus to get home from work; it was already full of students and GO commuters when it left downtown. I do share the concern in this letter.

Terry has already decided who the "transit activists" are, so the difference in worldview is going to be very difficult to break through. That said, insulting Terry is not the way to succeed. But he and these Ford Nation types in general may only get more cruel, as the Detroit model, which Hamilton has explicitly stated it is to emulate, implodes on itself and there is just no tax money to do what is needed. Solutions get attacked as waste. There is an example in nature of something devouring itself in this fashion - cancer - it is not enough to exist, it must deny the other organs their sustenance as well, finally to the death (or radical shock treatment) to the host.

So it is very troubling that transit advocates who had genuine problems using the system, and for that reason have to finally say something, are being flushed away as "hijacking activists". And the more you address it, the more the people who are supposed to fix it play the victim.

I had to leave because commuting from there was untenable by any method. I guess the ward is self selecting for the suburban drive everywhere types. And there is nothing wrong with that. Downtown too should be allowed to develop appropriately to its vision, and not be trampled underfoot to only be an around the clock bypass for the highway.

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By H1 (anonymous) | Posted February 23, 2015 at 15:05:13 in reply to Comment 109564

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By Stever (anonymous) | Posted February 24, 2015 at 13:41:35 in reply to Comment 109569

I get it, your problem Is with a low income people.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted February 23, 2015 at 15:08:24 in reply to Comment 109569

Did you miss the part where everybody supported the $300 million transit upgrade plan from our new transit director even though it's basically "hey, let's have downtown ridership and the province pay for more frequent service on the mountain, even though that might jeopardize our LRT plan!"

The new transit plan is completely counter to everything you just said, and yet it's still broadly supported by transit activists.

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By Hijacktivist (anonymous) | Posted February 23, 2015 at 15:29:18

All the activists I know want to see good transit/transportation across all parts of Hamilton, including Ward 8.

Whitehead likes to pretend there's a competition so nothing gets done. He complains of the problems in his ward, but instead of fixing them, he uses them as excuses to keep things terrible everywhere else. He manufactures conflict where none really exists in order to make it look like he's accomplishing something.

Proof: He could have fixed some of the traffic/transit issues in his ward, but instead he spent $1.7m of his Area Rating budget on a bocce court that nobody uses, then continues to complain of congestion and bad transit.

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By jason (registered) | Posted February 24, 2015 at 09:59:36 in reply to Comment 109573

cut him some slack. He's only been in office 13 years. He'll get around to dealing with real issues in the next 13. Maybe.

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By larry diwhitehead (anonymous) | Posted February 23, 2015 at 15:45:13

I know about all the commies and anarkest who run underground Hamilton, like YOU, you people, its you whos wrekin evrything in this city that could be excelunt except..It's your fault. & I'm not going to take it anymore

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By bvbborussia (registered) | Posted February 23, 2015 at 21:03:00

"Given that you were elected by barely a quarter of the electorate, perhaps you should undertake additional consultations with the electorate before you presume you speak for all of us. You don't speak for my opinions."

Brilliant. Excellent letter.

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By walter (anonymous) | Posted February 24, 2015 at 00:55:23

I can't wait until Whitehead's loud mouth makes him forced to resign

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By Memory (anonymous) | Posted February 24, 2015 at 08:17:31

Okay you found one guy in a large ward who agrees with you. How about the 80% of people who voted for Terry. He speaks for them. I agree with Terry's point and I have family and friends in Ward 8 who also see it that way.

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By Math (anonymous) | Posted February 24, 2015 at 08:21:44 in reply to Comment 109640

80%? you mean 27%. Most of Terry's constituents stayed home on election day.

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By LeeEdwardMcIlmoyle (registered) - website | Posted February 24, 2015 at 08:36:50

As a late-coming participant in the Redhill protests at City Hall back in the 90s, I was deeply disappointed that the City of Hamilton had pushed for the expressway, which to my mind still has not given us value for dollar, and cost us immeasurably, both environmentally and historically. About the only reason I can think that the East End isn't currently a sooty grey smudge would be because the steel factories have been shutting down concurrent to the erection of the expressway. I won't go into the environmental assessments or the property damage caused by flooding as a result of the expressway on the surrounding properties. Let's just say, I disagree with your assessment of the Red Hill debacle.

I think it's interesting that a councillor who has shown a clear inability to grasp reality is quoting pretty much verbatim the same tired old explanations for the lack of engagement and the refusal to consider the concept that big money and Robert Moses-style city building initiatives (ie Big Roads everywhere) does NOT in fact solve a growing city's problems. Whether the Red Hill Expressway has benefitted the outer wards is up for some debate, but it clearly hasn't done much to benefit the lower city, because not enough people use it to avoid driving through the Downtown Core, which is clearly evidenced by the traffic levels, the potential gridlock, and the entire bus lane/LRT/BRT debate cycle.

Terry, you want big roads and no obstructions to your constituents' commute. We get that. You and your allies on Council could not be clearer on that point. But what you want and what we as lower city residents need are wildly divergent. We need our small shops and businesses to be revitalized, and just about everything we're trying to do to aid that is being shot down by your Council allies, seemingly because it would enable us to get up off of our knees and get things done around here again. I could be grossly out of order here, but it feels like naked power-mongering and class warfare. You accuse us of being narrow-minded, and yet you refuse to consider our needs, even though we have time and again left you and your constituents largely unsullied.

We debate issues that affect us adversely. That is by definition our right as citizens of a modern Democracy. We aren't imbalancing anything. You're just ignoring us with impunity. And you get away with it because you have seen that your electorate will vote you back into office because no one with enough political currency wants your job. You feel safe and smug in your Council seat, treating us like we're the whole problem, rather than a symptom of the bigger problem, which you yourself are an even bigger symptom of.

It's systemic, Terry. When politicians stop listening to citizens because they're committed to an unpopular or even detrimental course of action, engagement breaks off and bad political decisions, like your beloved expressway, get ramrodded through. Politicians ask why voter turnout is down, because they acknowledge that low turnout belies their claims to a clear mandate. The answer is simple: decades of ignoring the residents when they tell you what they want, because you have the arrogance to believe you know better than they do.

No one knows better than anyone else here, Terry. We're not saying you know nothing, although you often demonstrate far less clarity or fact-based knowledge than is becoming of a City Councillor. What we're saying is, we're closer to the problem, which allows us a certain perspective on the issues at hand that you don't currently possess. If you refuse to consider our views and suggestions, even going so far as to dismiss them out of hand, then of course we're going to get loud. No one likes to be ignored, particularly when so much is on the line.

We want you to concede that you aren't necessarily the best judge of the situation in the Downtown Core. We are perhaps be a little too close to the problem, but you aren't merely a remote, cooler head; you're completely out of touch with our needs. You've proven it with alarming regularity. You don't live in the core. Your power base isn't in the core. Your interests aren't really in the core. So your determination to undermine our efforts to revive the core are a mystery to most of us.

If I were to be uncharitable, I'd go so far as to suggest you barely even work in the core, considering most of what you do when you are in City hall is undermine every vaguely progressive measure, approving only those fewer proposals that either benefit your constituency directly, or that effectively slaps a PR band-aid on problems that could better be addressed with a greater, more proactive show of intent and commitment than approving plans that are years or even decades away, and that you will merely flip-flop and debate the merits of, if and when they ever come to fruition (see Traffic Master Plan/Two-Way Conversion Schedule; see also Staff's Transit Report).

You want a vote in our process. Well, news flash: You've got it already. You have one of sixteen votes, where we have effectively none, save when we're in agreement with our own councillors. We want things done a certain way, and since we are taxpayers just like your constituents (and don't tell me yours pay more, Terry; the numbers are in, and you are wrong), we have a right to demand certain services and measures. We have a right to expect better from your colleagues, and by extension, you.

That's what your function in all of this is. You are supposed to be a barometer for the will of the people of the City of Hamilton, to effectively tell City Staff what we believe needs to be the course of action. Consensus building isn't merely some modern buzzword catchphrase for politicians to bandy about in public while they make fiat decisions without approval or consensus. It's how modern Democracies function. It's an acknowledgement that we hired you to do a job, and expect you to perform to a certain level, which we as citizens are entitled to evaluate by any means we choose. If you think that's unfair, then you are probably right, but it doesn't change the fact that it's true. You chose this job, Terry. It carries with it great responsibility. That's not just a word; that is a burden of great weight, and one that you repeatedly fail to carry with any grace or character.

So before you malign the citizens of Hamilton further with your baseless assumptions, perhaps it's time you considered the naked truth; that you are part of a growing problem with engagement and commitment in this City, and that you need to reprioritize your efforts to do the greatest amount of good for the city as a whole, and not just your chunk of it. Your method of politics is the very definition of short-sighted and myopic, Terry. That is what narrow-minded means. Please think on that.

Thank you.

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By Do you dirve (anonymous) | Posted February 24, 2015 at 09:16:04 in reply to Comment 109642

Traffic has been reduced immeasurably on the mountain and the roadway could not be busier. A lone should be added. Not only was the fight a quixotic battle, anyone who fails to see how wildly successful it has been is an ostrich.

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By LeeEdwardMcIlmoyle (registered) - website | Posted February 24, 2015 at 11:36:48 in reply to Comment 109643

Editor's note: this comment has been published as an article with the author's permission.

Comment edited by administrator Ryan on 2015-02-24 16:08:37

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By mikeonthemountain (registered) | Posted February 24, 2015 at 11:53:04 in reply to Comment 109658

Brilliantly put.

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By Why Stop at One (anonymous) | Posted February 24, 2015 at 10:56:58 in reply to Comment 109643

Add a lane. Why not add 3 more?

What don't you understand?

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By jason (registered) | Posted February 24, 2015 at 09:58:01 in reply to Comment 109643

wildly successful as in a new highway is now full of cars??

If only there was a city like Los Angeles who could have taught us this phenomenon 40 years ago......

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