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.
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.
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