The Jury's In: Council Guilty of Evading its Job

By Ryan McGreal
Published February 15, 2010

Hamilton City Council, a group of fifteen elected representatives representing each of the city's wards, determined that they could or would not resolve the area rating fiasco in which Hamilton's different wards pay different tax rates toward city services. (Hamilton is the only city in Ontario that does this.)

Our councillors agree that the current system is broken but are too timid and/or conflicted to implement the obvious solution - a solution that city staff could or would not propose because they are so singlemindedly fixated on revenue-neutrality.

In fact, our councillors are so very conflicted over area rating that they have a hard time even agreeing about what they already agreed to do about it.

Into the sucking void that leadership would normally occupy flows political theatre. Last year, Mayor Fred Eisenberger proposed what he called a "citizens' jury" to break the area rating impasse.

The citizens' jury is a group of fifteen randomly selected representatives representing each of the city's wards and given the task of coming up with solving the area rating issue. The main problem with this plan is so obvious that even Council noticed, but that didn't stop them from voting to approve the plan at the February 8, 2010 Committee of the Whole meeting.

The citizens' jury is budgeted to cost the city just under $100,000, but that money will not go to pay the jurors, who must volunteer for this committee. The money will go instead to cover consulting fees and other miscellaneous expenses.

The city hopes to have the membership confirmed by mid-April, with the committee starting work at the end of July and presenting their recommendations to council at the end of November - after the upcoming municipal election.

The jury's recommendations will not be binding, so the new Council will still have the opportunity to spend another four years kvetching over what to do about area rating.

Ryan McGreal, the editor of Raise the Hammer, lives in Hamilton with his family and works as a programmer, writer and consultant. Ryan volunteers with Hamilton Light Rail, a citizen group dedicated to bringing light rail transit to Hamilton. Ryan wrote a city affairs column in Hamilton Magazine, and several of his articles have been published in the Hamilton Spectator. His articles have also been published in The Walrus, HuffPost and Behind the Numbers. He maintains a personal website, has been known to share passing thoughts on Twitter and Facebook, and posts the occasional cat photo on Instagram.


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By race_to_the_bottom (anonymous) | Posted February 15, 2010 at 12:28:48

There's one important difference between council and the citizens jury: the jury members politically don't have anything to lose so they can afford to stick to the issues.

Then again, their decision still has to get through council so it will probably end up going nowhere.

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By jason (registered) | Posted February 15, 2010 at 14:09:16

Times like this I'm so glad we don't have term limits. Just think. We get many more decades of this! YAY!!

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By grassroots are the way forward (registered) | Posted February 15, 2010 at 16:15:08

The report given by the consultant at the transit meeting back a couple of months ago, stressed that public transit needs to grow. Some areas of the city have limited access. Not every person who lives in different parts of the city have access to a vehicle and it is a shame that public transit options are few and far between.

Does not the problem lie with the politicians themselves, that fail to look at the greater good of the city and only look at their particular wards and do a very poor job of communicating the message out there, as it would mean if they actually stood up for the whole city, that they would not get elected again.

Why is the city wasting 100,000, when the councillors and the mayor should of dealt with issue by now.

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By Really? (registered) | Posted February 16, 2010 at 15:24:47

...and yet most will still win their Wards back!

Bratina will NOT get my vote this time for several reasons; main reason was his walking out on the Connaught decision as that just shows he's unable to make difficult decisions simply to save a couple votes. Well, that terrible decision lost my vote! Great strategy there!

Comment edited by Really? on 2010-02-16 14:25:18

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By Popo (anonymous) | Posted February 18, 2010 at 17:22:11

Bratina is only one of the 2 or 3 on council who actually does his job and isn't constantly on vacation or making some of the dumbest decisions the city has ever had to endure ala Mayor Fred.

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By Robert Rodgers (anonymous) | Posted October 01, 2015 at 14:47:48

Who are the members of the LRT Citizens Jury for Hamilton ON

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