We need to challenge some of the current "accepted" practices in favour of more balanced and sustainable ideas that benefit more than an influential few.
By Paul Glendenning
Published October 20, 2006
A healthy city is a vibrant organism, filled with the life and hope of its residents. To maintain the health of such a large and sometimes unwieldy creation, we elect a series of officials to lead, to serve, to fulfill the wishes of the people.
On November 13, 2006, the people of Hamilton have a chance to help the city grow and attain new levels of prosperity and optimism. Or, they can let it continue to decay with rampant pollution, poverty, corruption and scandal.
Thanks to entrenched complacency both within political office and without, the options for this election are few.
For Mayor, we currently have scandal-ridden Larry Di Ianni, a man whose time in office has been filled with court battles, conflict of interest troubles and costly and questionable dealings and projects.
Di Ianni has gone begging on his knees many times, not for his people, but for corporations like Maple Leaf, which is now pulling its slaughterhouse operations out of Ontario entirely; or to upper levels of government, begging with one hand while wasting taxpayer money to sue them with the other, all to scrape together funds squandered on unaffordable monster projects like the Red Hill Expressway.
He is now set to drive forward to push the Mid-Peninsula Highway, Aerotropolis, and increasing the police force to help enforce his draconian version of leadership.
To stem the tide of decay, we have Fred Eisenberger, a man who is so far the biggest threat to Di Ianni's return. Lacking, however, is a firm sign of change.
Eisenberger's platform follows Di Ianni's so closely it is unclear if such a vote would be purely for change rather than a vote for growth. There is a hint of green, however, in his past and combined with being less entrenched than Di Ianni, there is some reason for hope.
Hope is needed with the rest of the race being filled with relative unknowns. From the apparently herbally inspired Brother Baldassaro to the divinely inspired Diane Elms, the rest of the race have not, whether due to media bias or lack of campaign intensity, been able to break through to become a serious challenge. Yet.
That could change, particularly if there is substance behind these candidates' platforms. But this change would also depend on major media taking a firmer stance to inform the people of all their choices, and on voters doing their research.
For those who think it is too time consuming, considering how deeply municipal politics affect the daily lives of each and every citizen, the time is well spent.
As the campaign machines have only started to roll, it is still uncertain if much more hope is to be found among the Ward races.
Far too many candidates appear to be variations on the same theme: business and development driven candidates who either underplay social and environmental concerns, or dismiss them altogether.
Instead of pushing for a balanced approach, such ideas are considered extreme or unrealistic despite being essential. Quality of life cannot be measured in dollars alone.
Some balance may be found in councillors such as Ward 1's Brain McHattie and Ward 2's Bob Bratina. Their approach shows some of the potential available, were it not for a majority of entrenched councillors answerable to special interests.
It is unfortunate that, particularly in Ward 1, such balance appears to be actively opposed by both of his opponents. Choosing instead to favour personal interests in development and small business respectively, one declares the environment something for the province to manage, and the other feels it is an issue for better days. Those days can never come without due consideration to all aspects, not just financial ones.
So not only do we need to do research and find out who is truly worthy to lead our city, we also need to challenge some of the current "accepted" practices in favour of more balanced and sustainable ideas that benefit more than an influential few.
Some potential can already be among the new councillor candidates. Examples of such potential can be found in environmentally-minded Dundas candidate Julia Kollek and community activist Ward 3 candidate Sean Gibson.
Kollek appears to have a conscientious approach for Dundas. Meanwhile, Gibson's enthusiasm gives some hope for life to be rejuvenated into Bernie Morelli's troubled and impoverished Ward.
As the time to vote nears, perhaps other enthusiastic, active candidates will challenge the status quo; for a change in direction is vital. More debts, mega projects, and shady deals we do not need.
What we do need is a government responsive to the people with the only "shadiness" coming from more trees.
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