Here is the full text of the Mayor's latest reply. Below that I have responded to his claims.
Dear Mr. Kevlahan,
Thank you for your message. My reply to Mr. Berberick was copied to you as a courtesy, and first of all addressed your unfortunate and incorrect remarks about me, to wit:
The Mayor has said he is the champion of "keeping Hamilton affordable", by which he seems to mean avoiding infrastructure spending, ensuring our housing costs remain low and property taxes don't go up. Surely it is preferable to have an attractive city with excellent employment opportunities, rather than relying on derelict buildings, vacant lots and a stagnant economy to depress costs!
This is deplorable. The truth is as follows, carried in the reply to Mr. Berberick and you. "During the time I was downtown Councillor property values and new commercial tax assessment steadily increased. In fact there were only two Wards that showed property values increasing above the average of the entire City. One of them is Ward 2. New commercial taxes in the core over the past 5 years have increased by over a million dollars. We will likely do at least the same between now and 2015."
With regard to advocacy groups, I don't consider neighbourhood associations in the same light as Vancouver's CORE. My record as Ward councillor speaks for itself. I successfully advocated for bicycle lanes coming this year to Durand, enhancements to the neighbourhood park during this term, a "soupie" for the children, two way traffic on James South, St. Mark's being repaired, significant improvements to City Housing located in Durand, increased Police surveillance, reduction in Hess Village nuisance, the Thistle devleopment finally underway, and may I say support for the LRT concept.
The following statement from your text is misleading and inaccurate.
As late as June we were all asked whether we would be willing to continue to serve another year to continue our valuable work. A month later a surprise announcement from the City Manager essentially killed this work by saying the City would not continue any work on its own beyond the end of the $3 million grant from Metrolinx.
In fact the LRT team was advised in May by senior management, not Chris Murray, on the recommendation of team leader Jill Stephen, that the mandated work would be completed and the team reassigned to their seconded positions by years end, when the contracted positions' terms expired. This aligned with the depletion of the $3 million provincial grant, with no further funding anticipated. Council will make further decisions before the end of the year based to a large extent on the information gathered by the LRT group.
The serious knowledge gap between truth and perception is exacerbated by your statement herein:
There is no reason the City couldn't continue its own planning efforts, or ask Metrolinx for more money. The fact that this strategic decision was made by a bureaucrat is a worrying precedent, as has been pointed out by Councillor Ferguson and the media.
The City may well continue its own planning efforts, we may ask metrolinx for more money, based on the information we will receive from Jill Stephen's group. Councillor Ferguson was completely out of line in his public statements, as I subsequently pointed out to him. No strategic decision was made by Chris Murray, except to ensure that the mandated work is completed in a timely fashion.
Taken together with your unrelentingly negative comments about the B-line LRT project and the associated land use planning, anyone interested in this project could only assume that you and the city manager are killing the LRT project by starving it of resources.
Your assumption is baseless, misleading, and worst of all sad in its misunderstanding and intent to diminish personalities.
Mayor, City of Hamilton.
I certainly did not attack Bob Bratina's record as a councillor in Ward 2 in any of my statements. Bob Bratina's comments about "keeping Hamilton affordable" were made as Mayor, and I assume refer to his priorities as Mayor. I am grateful that he took the time to read my contributions to the public discussion over urban planning and LRT in Hamilton. Public debate is important.
Regarding the Mayor's obvious lack of support for LRT, I was responding to his recent statements in the media - especially on the Bill Kelly show, together with city manager Chris Murray - regarding LRT and to his detailed response to a letter from the president of the Durand Neighbourhood Association, reiterating its support for the current LRT proposal.
In these cases, the Mayor had nothing but criticisms for the LRT plan - although, as a non sequitur, he claimed he still supports the concept. He has also stated numerous times that all-day GO service is now the top priority and that LRT is not a project we should worry about in the short or medium term.
The Mayor and City Manager have deliberately set GO and LRT in opposition to each other, whereas Metrolinx has confirmed that we are not being asked to choose or prioritize them and that both projects are important.
I would be happy to hear in detail why Bob Bratina does support the LRT concept, and what he is doing to make sure Hamilton is in the best possible position to build such a system. I haven't heard anything but criticism of Hamilton's LRT project since he became Mayor.
My statements regarding the Rapid Transit Citizen's Advisory Committee (RTCAC) are completely accurate, and can be verified by Rapid Transit manager Jill Stephen and the other members of the committee. We were all under the impression that the planning would continue into 2012, and we were indeed asked to stay on another year at our June meeting.
At no time were we told that the Rapid Transit Team would be disbanded and that work would cease as soon as the Metrolinx money ran out. The first we heard about this decision was indeed the email that was distributed by Chris Murray, which came as a complete surprise.
I called Jillian Stephen (director of the Rapid Transit Team) to double-check my impressions of Chris Murray's email and its effect on LRT planning. She confirmed that she was not aware that Chris Murray would send such an email, and will need to talk to him to clarify what he means by essential and non-essential work related to the Metrolinx contract once he returns from vacation.
The Rapid Transit Team work plan currently includes the secondary land use plan for the B-line corridor (not part of the Metrolinx contract). It was intended to be completed for presentation to Council in March 2012.
Jill is waiting for clarification on whether work on this land use plan will continue or not. Nevertheless, the Rapid Transit Team is currently still encouraging public input on its land use plan at public information centres this month.
Chris Murray's email clearly indicates that he was making a new decision of his own, not simply reiterating an existing policy:
To this end, I have made a decision to suspend all current direct and indirect activities of the Light Rail Transit Initiative other than any work activities required to be completed under the agreement.
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