Council Needs Concrete Goals to Overcome Personality Conflicts

By Joey Coleman
Published January 23, 2011

this blog entry has been updated

Mayor Bob Bratina may be missing Monday's special General Issues Committee meeting as he's scheduled to be in Regina for the Big City Mayors Caucus organized by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities.

On its own, this is noteworthy but not newsworthy - the Mayor is often unable to attend meetings due to city business.

What will make his absence newsworthy is that the Mayor called the GIC meeting for January 24 and then requested the meeting be moved to the 27th due to the scheduling conflict.

Early this past week, Mayor Bratina emailed City Councillors requesting the rescheduling of the meeting. In order to reschedule, a majority of Councillors were required to agree. While the results of the "vote" are unknown, Monday's meeting is continuing as scheduled.

Mayor Bratina and a majority of Council do not see eye-to-eye; there are strong personality clashes. This is not surprising when you consider the now-Mayor was known for numerous arguments with fellow Councillors last term, including the infamous pencil throwing incident.

These personality clashes are now showing in how Council is being conducted and conducting themselves.

This is a problem for all of us. City Council must function for the next four years. The Mayor and Council need to work out their differences.

The best way for this to happen is for the 16 individuals to work together on a vision for the direction they need to take the City over the next four years.

The plan needs to be more than "the best place to raise a child" or we'll "address poverty in the 'Code Red' neighbourhoods." Only with a set of concrete goals can Council and the Mayor have a shared agenda with which to overcome their personality differences to work towards improving Hamilton.

With the Pan Am debate finally coming to a finish, the City needs a positive vision to revive the public mood after the great disappointment of the stadium debate.

In a nod to nostalgia, we can become the "ambitious city" once again.

January 26, 2011 - Update by RTH Editor Ryan McGreal: This blog entry originally noted that the Mayor "runs a small office" and stated that his office made a "mistake" in scheduling the special GIC meeting on a date when the Mayor would be unavailable.

Mayor Bratina contacted RTH by email today and called this statement "false and defamatory".

According to Peggy Chapman, Mayor Bratina's Chief of Staff, the Mayor had already decided before January 23 that he would attend the GIC instead of the Big City Mayors Caucus.

Chapman stated in a phone conversation with RTH that it was not a "mistake" on anyone's part to schedule the GIC for January 24, and that the Mayor did not need to be in attendance at the meeting. "The Mayor hasn't said much within the GICs. He's letting everyone else deal with it and not demanding to speak - it's not agenda driven in that way."

It was after City staff and some other councillors recommended the Mayor attend the GIC that he changed his plans. Chapman added that the Big City Mayors Caucus would not have enough mayors in attendance to achieve quorum for policy making, so there was less value in Mayor Bratina attending.

Chapman also argued that the staff working in the Mayor's office are non-political and that she, as Chief of Staff, decides where the Mayor goes and what he does. She took strong objection to the suggestion that an office staffer had made a "mistake".

I have edited this blog entry to remove the two paragraphs in question pending further investigation.

Joey Coleman covers Hamilton Civic Affairs.

Read more of his work at The Public Record, or follow him on Twitter @JoeyColeman.


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By hammy (anonymous) | Posted January 23, 2011 at 17:13:54

Wow, the mayor isn't going to be at the meeting Mon. night? I wonder who on council would not have voted to reschedule??

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By HA! (anonymous) | Posted January 23, 2011 at 17:29:53

Biggest Problem: Bratina can't ever stick with one vision! He's all over the place all the time. The man cannot be trusted!
Therefor, this will never happen.

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By What (anonymous) | Posted January 23, 2011 at 18:02:36

I wonder if he is not going to be there because he knows the potential outcome and doesn't want to be around for it....very strange!

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By bigguy1231 (registered) | Posted January 23, 2011 at 18:07:26

The mayor is only one vote on council. Why would the rest of councillors inconvienience themselves to accomodate one person.

If the mayor thought that the meeting was so important he could have stuck around for the meeting and flew out right after. Whats more important city business or a photo op with a handful of other mayors.

As for council having to put their differences aside to be able to deal with the mayor. Why should they? Again he is only one man and one vote on council. He does not control the agenda or the debate, council does.

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By RenaissanceWatcher (registered) | Posted January 23, 2011 at 18:46:07

It is also important to note that decisions made by council at a General Issues Committee meeting are confirmed/ratified at the next Hamilton city council meeting. There is only one city council meeting (January 26th) left between now and the February 1st deadline for Hamilton to submit its stadium proposal to Toronto 2015 (Hostco).

Waiting until January 27th to hold the General Issues Committee on the Pan Am stadium vote would require adjustments to the usual voting/ratification process and give city staff less post-vote time to formalize and submit the Hamilton proposal to Toronto 2015 by February 1st.

Comment edited by RenaissanceWatcher on 2011-01-23 18:53:47

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By bob lee (anonymous) | Posted January 23, 2011 at 19:35:19

I had to read this twice before I got your point - council did not vote to accept the schedule change because of personality conflicts epitomized in last year's pencil throwing incident. Now they need to come up with more concrete goals to overcome such conflicts.

Okay, well this is all a bit of a stretch, lots of reasons why they voted not to reschedule that aren't necessarily personality conflicts, and I see no basis for thinking a 'concrete vision' will get around such conflicts. The more concrete your vision the more people who are opposed to it are going to be on the other side, just watch the budget deliberations going on right now. I suspect council views the mayor as a showboat for his pre-election waffling, but when they get down to it it's pretty much the same crew as last term, and we're going to be seeing a lot more of the same, urban v suburban issues predominating.

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By Meredith (registered) - website | Posted January 24, 2011 at 15:02:02

One of the manifold definitions of leadership is that it involves three things - a leader, followers, and a shared goal.

While a common goal won't make up for a poor leader, leadership without a clear goal is directionless and scattershot.

Goals without overall strong leadership on city council lead to (a) lip service and (b)the kind of of personal preference, individual-ward preference chaos we so often see.

At least concrete goals provide another piece of the puzzle.

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By R Don Lyres (anonymous) | Posted January 25, 2011 at 12:04:00

Joe, you make a good point that council would do well to develop and forward something more of a common, or at least better integrated, agenda for the city.

It's interesting that you chose 'concrete' as the word to represent this change of process. As Bob Lee pointed out above, 'concrete' could already be used to describe the position of some of those around the horseshoe, at times.

What's more, 'concrete' is that in which so much of council business results. How we arrive there is often a tortured process but somehow , ahem Lloyd, we always seem to end up with a 'concrete' result.

Concrete is a fabulous building material but it is not the only option out there. Let's save the concrete for the LRT and focus on something a little more inspired for the rest (e.g. City Hall cladding and forecourt), next time. Let's not forget that concrete can be tinted, patterned or otherwise used constructively.

The same could be said of the sometimes rigid thinking at council. A little nuance could go a long way.

And let us not forget that even concrete, as rigid as it is, is an example of four things -- portland cement, stone, sand, and water -- coming together to uphold something bigger than the sum of the parts.

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By adam2 (anonymous) | Posted January 30, 2011 at 11:58:16

I read the title too quickly and thought council was pouring more concrete over a heritage building somewhere. LOL!

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