My old home town finally did something I never thought I'd see them do: they turned a corner.
By Ben Bull
Published November 23, 2006
Is it just me, or was Monday November 13 a figment of my adolescent and under-stimulated imagination?
Wow. What a night. Right when most people were settling down to watch a re-run of Coronation Street or CSI Miami, I was busy doing what countless other Hamiltonians were doing: refreshing my computer screen.
It was almost ten o'clock and I had not yet recovered from my nine o'clock shock - the unsuspecting Google search that led me to the Hamilton municipal election page and the curious stats that suggested Larry Di Ianni was trailing Fred Eisenberger by, what, half a percent?
What the hell was going on?
A few email exchanges later, I realized that all was well and this was really happening! How sad am I? I wondered as I willed the polls to close, one by one, and blinked my eyes in an effort to make the numbers go the way I wanted. I don't even live here anymore...
By ten o'clock I was ecstatic: We did it! In truth, I wasn't sure what 'we' had done or even who 'we' were.
I had never heard of Fred Eisenberger until Hamilton's Community Action Network (CAN) endorsed him a few days before, and I was highly suspicious of his intentions now. I was certain of one thing however: The people had spoken.
The fact that Hamilton's electorate had chosen to turf out their sprawl-friendly Mayor was a confirmation to me that my old home town had finally done something I never thought I'd see them do: they'd turned a corner.
"If they'd done this two years ago," my wife remarked on hearing the news, "we'd have never moved."
I doubt that's true. My wife and I returned to Toronto earlier this year after an exasperating five and a half years in the Hammer, in part because of the backward political culture and diminishing quality of life.
Still, the sentiment was honest enough. Even after eight months away, the old town feels closer than ever.
Of course, Our Fred has yet to pull up a chair at the council table, and the columnists and cartoonists at the Hamilton Spectator have already unsheathed their snide remarks. There's a long way to go yet, but one thing's for sure - the change feels good.
As the night wore on and I scuttled down the stairs to catch Randy Steele's interview with the giddy Mayor-Elect, I couldn't help but give myself a little pat on the back.
("What the hell are you doing?" asked my wife. "Do you have an itch?")
Having been heavily involved with CAN and Raise the Hammer over the past couple of years, I felt an uncharacteristic surge of pride that my modest efforts as an accidental activist may have had just at least a little something to do with the way the events were unfolding.
452 votes, I thought to myself. That's not a lot. But of course, it's not about me. No, wait, it is. OK - it's not.
If I'm being magnanimous I would at least spare a thought for the real hard workers of Hamilton's activist community - CAN's Alice Smith, Mayday's Kevin McKay, and CATCH's Don McLean, to name but a few.
If I'm being truly honest I would give credit to the real architects of Di Ianni's decline - the overburdened, overtaxed and long suffering people of Hamilton.
But whatever the reasons behind the new climate of change, I hope we can all embrace the challenges ahead and allow ourselves a certain amount of uncharacteristic Hamilton optimism. Whether you like it or not, I have the distinct feeling that Hamilton is on the right track.
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