Politics

Cal DiFalco Interviews Councillor Ferguson

By Ryan McGreal
Published November 06, 2009

Hamilton is cursed and cloven by sharp, seemingly impassable political divides that leave anyone with an opinion stuck on one side or the other. In the absence of an actual partisan divide (local politicians are not allowed to represent political parties officially), these ideological divides still manage to perpetuate a pernicious us/them mentality that precludes meaningful discourse.

I'm always excited at the chance to establish common ground that crosses these boundaries. It's easy to agree with like-minded people, but real political progress must come from broad-based consensus on initiatives that benefit everyone, even those whose interests rarely intersect.

The biggest obstacle to finding common ground is often not the facts of a given issue but the hardened attitudes that ensure people on opposing sides of a political divide won't listen to each other.

So I was excited to read Cal DiFalco's interview with Ancaster Councillor Lloyd Ferguson yesterday as part of DiFalco's "Ten Tough Questions" feature on his website, thehamiltonian.net.

I haven't always agreed politically with Councillor Ferguson, but I will argue in his strong defence that he has demonstrated a willingness to change his mind when confronted with new evidence. That is, he's generally willing to listen.

For an example close to my heart, he progressed from grave reservations about light rail transit - predicting a motorist "rebellion" against dedicated rapid transit lanes - to embracing it enthusiastically after visiting three other cities that have experienced strong growth and development related to their new light rail lines.

Another example that comes to mind is Ferguson's change of heart over the city's Office of Energy initiatives, which has produced significant net savings to the city through reduced energy consumption.

In yesterday's interview with Ferguson, DiFalco asked: "It has often been said that you bring a business lens to the City. If the city was, in fact, a business and you were the C.E.O., what would you do in your first 90 days?" I want to highlight Ferguson's response:

I would have a direct link to a champion in Economic Development with authority to break down barriers. The #1 complaint I hear from investors is how slow it is to get applications processed. Investors don't want more glossy brochures or to be taken to lunch. They want someone with the power to get through the red tape. Public process needs to be followed, but we need an accountable champion for every application.

I have long argued that Hamilton needs to reduce the friction that goes along with investing in Hamilton, in part through:

I'm sure Councillor Ferguson would dispute some of these actions - or at least dispute their relative importance as priorities - but I think we can both agree that it shouldn't be so difficult and painful to decide to invest in Hamilton.

That kind of agreement can help form the basis of a shared understanding between progressive urbanists and business-oriented suburbanists on how to make Hamilton a more attractive place to do business, alleviate pressure on residential property taxes, and generate wealth to develop and improve the urban amenities will make Hamilton a valuable place to do business.

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 Capitalist (anonymous) | Posted November 07, 2009 at 11:45:34

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By Fail (anonymous) | Posted November 08, 2009 at 16:29:26

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By markwhittle (registered) - website | Posted November 15, 2009 at 08:09:54

A company called Liberty Energy has been fighting city hall red tape for many, many years trying to put forth a solution to a very un-romantic problem, sewage sludge. City Hall has one set of hoops for Liberty, while having a much looser set of hoops for themselves, trying to hedge their bets to the tune of $60 million (Gasification Plant with different, un-proven technology than Liberty). No wonder Investors are gun shy, these Captains of Industry are in contact with each other all the time, they know the score and land elsewhere. You can hire all the Marini's you want, it's council that can't get their act together. Watching them work on Cable 14 sets my teeth grinding at their rank incompetence, paper shuffling and confusion. Here's a link to an interesting take on the matter at the Bay Observer.

http://www.bayobserver.ca/index.php?post...

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By wlly (anonymous) | Posted December 28, 2009 at 01:08:55

Ferguson could barely win his ward and now people are suggesting he should be mayor. wtf is that about. I know, he is in bed with all the money people and developers and they need a new lap dog. That explains everything!

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