Media

Councillor Hits Back at Critical Column

By Ryan McGreal
Published March 17, 2009

Forget Sam "Have You Seen My Press Release" Merulla, now it's Sam "Who's Talking About Me?" Merulla.

Councillor Merulla (Ward 4) sent an email blast to local media yesterday in response to Spectator columnist Andrew Dreschel's less-than-salutory article on Merulla's antics, suggesting that Dreschel's column was "malicious, evil, laughable or simply cognitively impoverished".

Calling Merulla "distracting" and "disruptive", Dreschel writes that Merulla's "in-your-face and over-the-top behaviour is in a league of its own." Worse, Dreschel argues, Merulla's "grandstanding ... inevitably casts the same garish cartoon colours over" the rest of Council.

Dreschel's column closes by noting that Merulla's ward residents love him and returned him to Council in the 2006 municipal election with a wider margin than in 2003.

From advocating transit fare freezes to blasting provincial downloading, there is no stronger or louder defender of the poor on council.

Fearlessly outspoken, Merulla truckles neither to big money nor to the influential sacred cows in this town.

Merulla apparently discovered the column through a Google Alert on his own name - a service by Google that automatically sends you emails of news articles that contain keywords you're interested in tracking.

He forwarded his Google Alert email with the link to Dreschel's story and added:

To whom it may concern:

After reading today's column entitled, "Merulla's behaviour in a league of its own" my only response is that I thank you for taking the time to highlight my efforts at council in attempting to focus on priorities that matter.

I will never apologize for being a "fearless leader" in what I believe in strongly because it is not in my nature to be a fearful follower in something I don't believe in at all.

Also the wonderful aspect of a democracy is no matter how malicious, evil, laughable or simply cognitively impoverished one's opinion is, they have a right to their opinion and for that we should all be grateful. Thanks for your opinion!

There's never a dull moment in city politics.

Related: Merulla recently launched some acrimonious email exchanges with Ward 2 Councillor Bob Bratina, reported here and here, in full view of local media.

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 writes a city affairs column in Hamilton Magazine, and several of his articles have been published in the Hamilton Spectator. He also maintains a personal website and has been known to post passing thoughts on Twitter @RyanMcGreal. Recently, he took the plunge and finally joined Facebook.

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By jason (registered) | Posted March 17, 2009 at 09:19:57

I especially love the part about Sam never toeing the line when it comes to 'sacred cow' projects in Hamilton. Red Hill anyone?? LOL

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By Synxer (registered) | Posted March 17, 2009 at 12:10:10

I lived in Sammy's ward. From the very first pamphlet he sent out to our homes, I knew he was the wrong person for the job.

He means well, but, damn. He belongs in a bar, not in council. I've noticed his genuflection for the media attention. The very fact that he has announcements sent to him about himself is priceless.

The unnecessary showboating, a tan darker than Matt Hayes, this page: http://www.hamiltoncatch.org/archives/co... (Sam Merulla is the only one in the page who looks like he is posing for a modeling agency). I know this has nothing to do with his political aperture, but it's still pretty funny.

The reason why he was re-elected is simple. All the literature that he sends to the homes of his ward outweigh the surprisingly low attention to his non-sense in the media.

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By Anonymous (anonymous) | Posted March 17, 2009 at 13:22:20

I have no problem with dissenting opinions during discussions. In fact they should be encouraged to ensure that the council is not dominated by people who all view things the same way. Homogeneity might be good for getting things done, but it also leads to groupthink and lack of exploration of true alternatives.

However, anyone who has ever worked in a group can attest that after the debate and discussion is over it's necessary for all group members to get on board and move as a team. Harping on old disputes consistently is not productive, and it will eventually make that dissenting voice more marginalized than it may already be. Council is no different than any other group in that respect.

Actions such as his e-mails to fellow councillors complaining about the Pan Am Games after the US Steel shutdown do not help anyone. The boat has sailed on the Pan Am Games and council has made their decision. To bring that back up again cannot result in anything useful. Even if he had not copied the media outlets on the e-mails, such e-mails still demonstrate that he is unable to get along with council unless things go his way.

I think it's important to have councillors who will challenge the status quo, but Sam has to learn when to debate, and when to keep quiet.

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By Randal Reefer (anonymous) | Posted March 17, 2009 at 16:41:56

The creature known in latin as Merullas-Horriblis thrives on any form of attention it can get. Its habits consist of conducting ego searches on google, issuing half-baked media releases and finding big words in the thesaurus to use in the improper context.
Do not approach this beast. If it is ignored it will likely creep back into a dark corner and not bother anyone.

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By JonC (registered) | Posted March 17, 2009 at 18:58:52

I enjoy the irony of him responding to an op-ed about his over the top behaviour as "malicious, evil, laughable or simply cognitively impoverished".

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By Type Numeral (anonymous) | Posted March 20, 2009 at 19:04:23

Cudos to Merulla for not being cowed or silenced. As bothersome as Merulla's tenacity may be, his behaviour is probably necessary for his political survival. Sure, it would be nice for those who bow to concensus for the out-voted to quietly go away, but some politicos, perhaps those most worth their salt, tend not to view lost battles as the end of their wars. They persist, often until the right decisions (from their points of view,) rather than the easy ones, are made. That is the nature of politics, and if you can't stand the heat, take your manners out to the parlour.

If Merulla didn't fight for his constituency, loudly and visibly, it is doubtful he would be re-elected, and to some extent that is what Drechel said. What Merulla did NOT say, however, is that the column or the columnist were "malicious, evil, laughable or simply cognitively impoverished." He said that everyone has the right to express themselves in a democracy, even if the Dreschel or anyone regards their opinions as "malicious, evil, laughable or simply cognitively impoverished." He is referring to how he himself may be regarded.

It is easy to say that disruptive behaviour is an example of an ineffectual city council, but I prefer to look at results. Spending money on facilities that cannot achieve their stated objectives and are more likely to detract from a neighbourhood than enhance it, is ineffectual and wasteful. Pointing this out, loudly and for as long as necessary, is good civic representation.

Of course, this doesn't say much for the concept of leadership, and its need for quiet, respectful followers. Here at RTH, we should be sure we keep our pinkies up when we converse with our leaders. That has never failed to earn us their respect.

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By Woody10 (registered) | Posted March 21, 2009 at 00:39:29

Lets face it, the one who's name comes up the most in the media, either good or bad, is the one who gets the votes in a extremely poorly attended municipal election. That is why Mr. Merulla continues to, unfortunately, be re-elected and will most likely get the nod next time as well.

On a side, "Type Numeral" you said "Spending money on facilities that cannot achieve their stated objectives and are more likely to detract from a neighbourhood than enhance it, is ineffectual and wasteful." is this in reference to the proposed stadium complex for the PA games??

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By Dwayne Brown Ward4 (anonymous) | Posted April 16, 2009 at 11:43:58

How else will Merulla be able to take credit for "spear-heading" initiatives that others bring up as issues in Ward 4 or the city at large. It's like when people plug their ears with their fingers and scream at the top of their lungs to avoid hearing what someone else is saying...he uses his tactics to hi-jack ideas, get attention focused on his so-called efforts, and then avoid having to explain himself when asked to fill the details (having in fact no tangible results to point to at the end of the day)...Becoming a politician may have been his dream, but I hope the voters help to wake him up because he has quite frankly turned into a nightmare.

Dwayne Brown

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