For this issue, we have asked the candidates to share their ideas on how to improve the city.
By Ryan McGreal
Published October 20, 2006
In a vicious, self-fulfilling prophecy, newspapers and TV news stations tend to decide early on which candidates for office are "high profile" or have a chance at winning. Those candidates get all the attention, interviews, and coverage. The other candidates are essentially ignored.
At Raise the Hammer, we don't believe this is the best way for the newsmedia to support the democratic process. Instead, we are dedicating this issue and the next to the election, and reporting on all the candidates we could track down, not just those whom we think will win. For this issue, we have asked the candidates to share their ideas on how to improve the city.
Our methodology was very simple. We sent an email to every candidate for whom we could find an email address, and asked the following question:
What are the five most important actions you would take to improve Hamilton, and why? (Please be specific. For example, "Improve accountability" is too vague; in this example, explain how you would improve accountability.)
If the candidate responded, even if only to refer to his or her website, then we included their response or a precis of their platform. In some cases, we replied to candidates asking for more details about a particular action. We also sent a follow-up email to candidates who had not replied to our first query.
We sent out 51 quesionnaires. Altogether, we received just 25 responses - less than half. (Ironically, among who did not reply are some "high profile" candidates. Presumably, they're doing well enough that they don't need the exposure.)
From Wards 5, 6, 14, and 15, we received no responses at all. Readers from those wards will have to keep looking for information on their candidates for office.
Among the candidates who responded, very few seemed to show any real vision, and many resorted to standard electioneering boilerplate: "more accountability," "lower taxes," "new infrastructure," "civic pride," and so on.
Most candidates opposed intensification, which is troublesome given the city's long-term growth strategy and the realities of climate change, global oil production, and declining farmland. Even in wards in the downtown core, which were originally designed for density and are suffering acutely from the effects of falling population, candidates referred to intensification as a "disruptive element" in neighbourhoods.
Only one candidate advocated making energy production and conservation a key economic cluster in the city's development plan, even though this was the recommendation of Richard Gilbert's peak oil report to council earlier this year and may be the most important investment Hamilton can make in the coming decades.
Only one candidate advocated a climate change action plan for the city, even though this may be the biggest crisis the world will face in this century.
Only three candidates advocated a rapid transit line running on the electrical grid, even though this is widely regarded as the cleanest, most sustainable form of public transportation, as well as the form most likely to attract adjacent private sector investment. Several candidates made general noises about "improving public transit" but offered no plan.
Only six candidates advocated cleaning up Hamilton's brownfield sites, including several incumbents, and none described an actual plan to achieve this.
All in all, an underwhelming bunch with just a few bright exceptions. Regardless of who ends up winning in each ward, it will take a lot of concerted pressure from citizens to ensure that this council acts in the interest of this city.
Read all the candidates' responses on our website: www.raisethehammer.org.
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