The City of Hamilton Won't Let us Speak at the City Manager Recruitment Meeting. We're Going Anyway.
By Deanna Allain
Published February 09, 2019
Hamilton City Council decided on Wednesday to go forward with a planned "City Manager Recruitment Steering Committee" meeting on this coming Saturday, February 9th, 2019 at White Oaks Resort and Spa in Niagara-on-the-Lake, an estimated 66 kilometres from Hamilton City Hall itself.
Confused? Welcome to the club. Even if Council Chambers could not be used for this meeting, there are countless meeting rooms, community centres, and public or private spaces available for use within our city boundaries.
The steering committee, comprised of (chair) Mayor Fred Eisenberger and Councillors Chad Collins, Lloyd Ferguson, Sam Merulla, and Maria Pearson, was established prior to the 2018 municipal election. This means newly elected Councillors had no opportunity to sit on the committee or approve its membership and direction.
Sound strange? You're not the only one to think so.
Newly-elected Councillor Nrinder Nann presented a motion to delay this process until after public delegations could be received and the current council approved the "composition and direction" of the committee. That motion was defeated in a 11-3 vote this past Wednesday.
Councillor Maureen Wilson, also newly elected this term, is said to be presenting a motion on this at the City Council meeting next week, but the agenda has not yet been made public.
So despite motions going forward and being supported by newly-elected Councillors looking to ensure we hire a City Manager while upholding practices of accountability and transparency, they are outnumbered by Council members who felt strongly enough to vote against such a proposition.
While these dialogues were taking place in the meeting, and a very frustrated discourse continued to follow the Mayor and members of Council on Twitter, a coalition of young organizers tuned in and decided to join the committee for their day at the spa. Email requests to delegate on Saturday were then sent to the City.
Mayor Fred Eisenberger, during this long Wednesday meeting, referred to the City Manager hiring process as now being "bizarre" with citizens requesting to speak before the committee, also stating, "It won't happen."
Sure enough, every request was declined.
The City of Hamilton is holding a public meeting on Saturday, which I always feel should mean the public is not only be permitted but encouraged to attend. If this should be the case, why is it then that it is impossible to arrive on time when taking the earliest possible transit service to this meeting in Niagara-on-the-Lake?
The earliest bus that can be taken that ultimately arrives within walking distance of the meeting location will only arrive at 9:00 AM, which was exactly when the meeting would begin.
As of Friday morning, and without notifying anyone publicly, the City of Hamilton changed the meeting time to 8:30 AM.
If a Council member on the committee decided to use transit to attend this meeting, they would not be able to fulfil their duties of arriving on time. It is now absolutely impossible to arrive on time or close to it when using transit.
Of course, this all calls to question what the cost of such an extravagant meeting might be.
Imagine - a public meeting that could have been held during hours in which City of Hamilton staff are already present. A meeting held in Council Chambers, a facility that does not cost any more to run for a meeting, without any additional mileage or hospitality costs to cover.
An idea that makes so much sense, it's usually exactly where and how committee meetings are held. Instead, the City of Hamilton has presumably decided to pay for mileage and time for any needed staff to work on a Saturday morning in Niagara-on-the-Lake, and decided to pay for use of White Oaks Resort and Spa and extra hospitality needs.
Hamilton is in very serious and dire need of leadership that operates under the basic principles of transparency, accountability, and democracy. Do we really trust that any candidate selected in this process, or believing in this hiring process, can meet our needs for a new City Manager?
With all this said, I, along with several other organizers in Hamilton, will be attending this public meeting.
By attending, we will be sending an important message to the City of Hamilton and members of Council that choosing to meet 66 kilometres or 66,000 kilometres away from City Hall will not stop Hamiltonians from bringing the transparency, accountability, and democratic values to them.
The discourse on this decision and the ones that will soon follow in the selection process for City Manager will go on for years to come. I, personally, expect much more from my city, from my Councillor, and from my Mayor.
The City of Hamilton will not let us speak on Saturday, so we will let our presence speak for itself.
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