Municipal Election 2010

Voters: Educate Yourselves and Make an Informed Choice

By Jason Leach
Published October 20, 2010

With Hamilton's election mere days away and much of the electorate still undecided, it is a good time to look at the art of cramming as you study who to vote for.

The Hamilton Spectator hosted a debate the other night and at the end of the debate each candidate had a final one-minute closing statement. Nothing was too out of place, for the most part. Most candidates made typical-sounding summaries - either reiterating their platforms or taking one last swipe at their opponents.

Mayoral candidate Mahesh Butani, however, threw a curve ball that I've yet to see in Hamilton's politics. He didn't talk about his plans. He didn't take a cheap shot at anyone. He didn't even say "vote for me".

His final message to the audience was simple: "Log onto www.raisethehammer.org and educate yourself on who to vote for." He shared how RTH's election page had a wealth of info and Q/A with most of the candidates. He made it quite clear that his desire was to see people make an educated decision.

Now, you're probably wondering why this struck me as unusual and important. Let me explain.

Here we have a mayoral debate taking place in the Spectator auditorium, and on more than one occasion through the course of the evening, the audience was directed to RTH or to a specific article on RTH.

Those who are unaware of our humble beginnings need to know that the entire purpose of starting this volunteer-run outlet was to provide a broader range of information and ideas than we were seeing in the mainstream media.

I don't want this to come off as arrogant, but I can't help but notice the shift in thinking that has taken place at the Spec over the past few years. They are a huge operation with a large staff and many resources, but progressive editorials like this one were few and far between five years ago.

Quite simply, they now seem to grasp the concepts that are so important to seeing Hamilton become a vibrant, urban centre once again. It wasn't always this way.

RTH is starting to fulfil its mandate and perhaps even gently nudging some of the more established players in the right direction.

(Of course, the importance of social media and online publications isn't anything new, as Jason Allen so brilliantly explained in his essay on Naheed Nenshi's mayoral victory in Calgary.)

Try listening to local talk radio stations attempt to educate you about the upcoming election. Is it any wonder why no candidates suggested that their audience tune into CHML for election info?

You can sense a changing of the guard taking place in how we communicate and how we inform and are informed. The big media used to resort to the 'anonymous bloggers can't be trusted' routine when confronted with some hard, cold truth. The reality is that despite its faults, the web has opened up a whole new world of information that was previously kept quiet.

Angry, emotional radio rants are commonplace today and are somewhat worrisome. Commercial radio stations are content to ignore the facts if it means pleasing their financial partners or advertisers.

Mr Butani was quite correct in urging the public to educate themselves before voting - and it has never been easier for voters to do just that.

The fact is, you can't trust others to make the decision for you. Take some time this weekend, if you haven't already, and learn about the candidates themselves. Read through the platforms, voting records and Q/A for each candidate and make the choice that is right for you - not for someone else's bank account or backroom buddies.

Jason Leach was born and raised in the Hammer and currently lives downtown with his wife and children. You can follow him on twitter.

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By allantaylor97 (registered) | Posted October 20, 2010 at 14:25:42

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By Andrea (registered) | Posted October 20, 2010 at 14:27:23

At the Mayor Debate last evening Mr. Butani also spent his closing remarks urging everyone to get out and vote. He also referenced the 60+ years of age demographic and their collective voting power.

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By PseudonymousCoward (registered) | Posted October 20, 2010 at 14:37:16

turbo, thank you for demonstrating the mean-spirited rant mentality Jason warned against in his call on voters to educate themselves and not just listen to pundits.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted October 20, 2010 at 14:47:45

Am I the only one who is constantly frustrated when I watch the news at 11? CTV gives me wall-to-wall coverage of Rob Ford Rob Ford ROB ford rob FORD fob rord ROB FORD robfordrobfordrobfordrobfordROBFORDROBFORD ROOOOOOB FOOOOORRRRDDDDD rob ford

rob

ford

ROFOBROFOIHRFBFODFOPRO)FOOFORODFOFOORODFBDORBFO!!!!!!!!!!

And meanwhile CH occasionally mentions we have an election coming up.

You get more info from Cable 14. As much as I can't stand Bill Kelly, at least he's talking about the city.

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By lawrence (registered) - website | Posted October 20, 2010 at 14:49:39

Besides just educating ourselves on here, getting out to a debate to meet the candidates is important. I have met Mr. Butani on a couple of occasions, and although we had spoken via email many times before and I had already gained a great deal of respect for him before even meeting him face to face, shaking his hand and having a heart-to-heart conversation about our city, cemented a vote for Mahesh on my Oct. 25th ballet.

He has a lot of the same humbling qualities as Nenshi.I hope Hamilton follows suit with Calgary, with Mahesh shocking the polls.

I truly believe Mahesh represents real change. Not a change back, or change because it's what voters want to hear, or a different face to the same change. Mahesh represents a Hamilton so many have been dreaming of, and a Hamilton many could have never imagined.

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By H+H (registered) - website | Posted October 20, 2010 at 15:22:06

turbo

Aren't you the person who wrote less than 2 weeks ago:

"I've tried to reason with this crew, there is absolutely no point in it. You all have your minds made up whats best for the city and the facts be damned. Push comes to shove the majority disagree with every principal that this forum stands for. I certainly do."

Yet, somehow you know ahead of time you won't agree with Jason's preferred candidates even before you know who they are? Amazing.

Time for a little look in the mirror turbo? Have nice chat while you're there.

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By allantaylor97 (registered) | Posted October 20, 2010 at 15:33:27

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Comment edited by turbo on 2010-10-20 14:37:39

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By JMorse (registered) | Posted October 20, 2010 at 15:33:43

@ Pxtl

It's time to get an RTH channel on the airwaves if we expect CH and CHML to start covering the issues as Jason says the Spec is starting to do.

Anyone know how much that would cost? That's probably what's wrong. Advertisers would pay the bills, and thus control the message. Nevermind!

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By Andrea (registered) | Posted October 20, 2010 at 17:01:05

The Spec publisher was the moderator/MC last night - he was encouraging you to bascially drag everyone you know out to vote. It's a tough grind, I have been talking to my colleauges today and most are not engaged at all in civic events. Of my friends/family, obviously not all of them live in my Ward, making our level of knowledge about various candidates different- so I have been encouraging them to visit the RTH election site and read through the questions posed to all candidates.

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By cd (anonymous) | Posted October 20, 2010 at 17:37:54

"You can sense a changing of the guard taking place in how we communicate and how we inform and are informed. The big media used to resort to the 'anonymous bloggers can't be trusted' routine when confronted with some hard, cold truth. The reality is that despite its faults, the web has opened up a whole new world of information that was previously kept quiet."

Excellent observation, Jason. Recall how huge he role of social media was in the Obama campaign.

I like Mr. Butani's comment so much I think I'll vote for him.

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By CaptainKirk (anonymous) | Posted October 20, 2010 at 17:50:42

RTH has become a daily visit for me. I may not always agree, but it's certainly more thought provoking than modern main stream media and their sound bytes and celebrity gossip obsessions.

Wish we had a true discussion board here.

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By Borrelli (registered) | Posted October 21, 2010 at 08:53:01

For any Ward 2 voters out there, my partner Megan and I have compiled a lot of the publicly available information on the 19 remaining candidates into a single table which you can access at www.myboytheriotgirl.com/ward2. We've provided the links to where we grabbed most of the info, and a few other pieces were filled out by attending the Ward 2 debates on Monday, and talking to a few candidates at the Business Leaders function on Tuesday.

If you catch any glaring errors, or you're a candidate and want to set the record straight on something, then shoot us an email at megan@myboytheriotgirl.com.

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By jason (registered) | Posted October 21, 2010 at 09:33:26

Another good tidbit that was reported on CHML yesterday, but was never posted on their website and I haven't seen it in the Spec, is that the city is over $920 million in building permits now beating our all-time record for building permits issued in one year. City officials say more permits are coming in and the total will surpass $1 billion for the first time in the city's history.

Oh, did I mention that the entire world is suffering through the worst recession in 80 years??

Anyone but the incumbents, eh CHML??? Hmmm.....

Comment edited by jason on 2010-10-21 08:33:56

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By LauraF (registered) | Posted October 21, 2010 at 12:48:49

There's been a lot of positive progression in this city - it'd be a shame to see a loss of that momentum...

Anyone but the incumbent indeed.

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By frank (registered) | Posted October 21, 2010 at 15:04:52

I'm tired of the whole "vote for me cuz they're all dumb" argument or various mutations of it. Why can't candidates simply say vote for me because I want to do this and leave it at that? That goes for politics in general - municipal, provincial and federal.

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By frank (registered) | Posted October 21, 2010 at 15:05:40

LauraF I'm not sure you're comment makes sense... If there's been a lot of positive progression, that'd be a reason to vote for the incumbent.

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By democriptic (anonymous) | Posted October 22, 2010 at 11:13:02

Educating yourself is easier with a debate to evaluate the candidates. This is a letter from the current Ancaster News etc.
___________________________________________


Democracy does not extend to Ancaster
Letters
Oct 20, 2010
Large Medium Small Print This Article Tell a friend
I was disappointed to read that there will be no candidates meeting in Ancaster during this election.

Then, after reading last week’s edition of The News, I learn that John Dolbec, executive director of the Hamilton Chamber of Commerce, says that decision was “...democratically decided in September.”

Really! Who gave the Hamilton Chamber of Commerce the right to decide what is democratic for the people of Ancaster ? There are candidates meetings taking place all over the region but not in Ancaster. Obviously, democracy does not extend to Ancaster residents. Yet another of the many advantages of amalgamation.

Les Farrington, Ancaster

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By Need for the Truth (anonymous) | Posted October 22, 2010 at 12:34:20

I agree we need to learn about the candidates - but don't put trust in all the candidate's websites. Look behind what they say - do they stick by their words? For example if they say they volunteer - did they just start this year? If they say their job is such and such and that gives them the qualifications to be a councillor - ask their work place for a copy of their job description - that's usually public.

In Ward 11 we have three candidates. Two have been in the community for sometime and there is lots of history on them. The other seems to be a fly-by-nighter. None of his claims have been substantiated. He even wrote a press release for himself winning a debate that he obviously didn't win (I was there and the other two candidates acted in much more respectible ways and the incumbent had a much better understanding of the issues and the other challenger had a way better list of qualifications). Unfortunately The Hamiltonian picked it up the press release.....thought Cal would be more savvy than that - well maybe not but the grammar and spelling mistakes should have give it away??.....LOL.

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