Politics

One Last Swipe at the 'Witch'

By Ryan McGreal
Published November 16, 2006

(This blog entry has been updated.)

Graeme MacKay, the Hamilton Spectator's sharp, funny, and sometimes mean-spirited editorial cartoonist, took one last opportunity to throw a swipe at Joanna Chapman, the private citizen who did City Council's job for them and personally pursued charges against Mayor Larry Di Ianni for his violations of the Ontario Municipal Elections act.

Turning the David-and-Goliath mythos on its head, MacKay's November 15 cartoon shows a gleeful, witchlike Chapman brushing off her hands as she drops a slingshot and walks away from the giant feet of her slain opponent, who lies in repose with a "Re-elect Larry Di Ianni" sign resting against his shin.

This closes a trilogy that started with a malevolent, scheming Chapman pushing Mayor Humpty Dumpty off the wall and continued with a sorcerous (complete with black cat) Chapman monkey hanging onto Di Ianni's back.

Again and again, we see the habit of blaming the whistleblower and sympathizing with the whistleblown.

Joanna Chapman did not break or even bend the law: she enforced it. When she first raised the issue with council, they failed to do their job and launch an audit on the Mayor, preferring to close ranks around one of their own.

Di Ianni denied any wrongdoing and attacked Chapman's character until the evidence was overwhelming that Chapman was onto something, and then he switched to claiming he had made an "honest mistake".

All along, the Spec echoed Di Ianni's line despite the actual facts of his overcontributions, which make the "honest mistake" excuse laughably implausible.

Finally, when voters chose Eisenberger over Di Ianni - by a narrow margin, to be sure, but remarkably considering Di Ianni outspent Eisenberger by something like 20 to 1 - the collective response from Di Ianni's bought priesthood was a kind of flabbergasted outrage.

Again, the response has been to attack the Chapmans of the city for assailing Di Ianni's credibility, instead of asking whether their own uncritical support for the disgraced Mayor led them into self-delusion.

It bears repeating one last time: no one hurt Di Ianni's credibility or integrity but himself. No one broke the law and then lied about it but Di Ianni himself. All Chapman did was to demand that City Council fulfil its obligation to investigate Di Ianni's violations, and then to pursue the matter herself when Council abrogated that obligation.

If holding someone accountable for their crimes and abuses is a despicable act, then our law enforcement agencies and institutions are equally to be despised, but I don't see anyone at the Spec suggesting that the police are nasty and vindictive when they investigate crimes and arrest suspects.

Chapman's real 'treachery' was not in targetting Di Ianni but in demanding that he be held accountable: to the law, to his peers, and to the public. Accountability is the enemy of cronyism, so the cronies do all they can to discredit attempts to enforce it.

Until now, the city's political culture has been secretive, insular, and dogmatically self-reinforcing. Mayor-elect Fred Eisenberger ran a successful campaign on a promise to transform the cosy, buddy-buddy culture at 71 Main St. W. into a culture where accountability encourages integrity. If he's serious about this, he has an uphill battle ahead of him.

Update: Graeme MacKay wrote an insightful and instructive response to this piece in his blog.

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 November 16, 2006 at 12:38:24

And if he's serious about it, he'll have to prepare to make enemies at the Spec. Good news is, the citizens of Hamilton know the difference between right and wrong. Hamilton has such a rapidly growing network of community councils and active citizen groups that I think council realizes times have changed. Citizens have gone from voting once every 3 years (now 4) to now being involved and having their voice heard every day and month in between elections. We elected this council and it is us who will hold them accountable during their term. The spec can twist truth and stay cosy with their buddies all they want, but the people have spoken. We are running this town. when I saw 'we' I mean you, me the business people, the farmers, the techie-business owners, teachers, steelworkers, doctors, waitresses, cooks, artists, musicians, architects, dancers, contractors, clerks etc...... The people of Hamilton finally run the city of Hamilton.

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By Drew (anonymous) | Posted November 16, 2006 at 13:27:16

That last cartoon wasn't really insulting to Joanna. That's what she looks like. The monkey-on-the-back one was more of a jab.

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By peter (anonymous) | Posted November 16, 2006 at 16:59:52

let's not underestimate the role that misogyny
has played in all this. i don't know if it's been talked about but i really believe that it's a significant factor in her treatment by city hall and the media. had former dundas councillors powers or sampson blown the whistle would the reaction have been the same? i really wonder...

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By adrian (registered) | Posted November 17, 2006 at 09:06:26

In the Biblical story of David and Goliath, there is no ambiguity about who the hero is. The story serves as inspiration for all of those who have fought larger powers from a position of weakness and prevailed.

Chapman's story is inspiring for the same reasons. You, madam, are a hero. If all citizens were as willing to challenge authority and stand up for good governance, our world would be a very different place.

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By Really? (registered) | Posted November 20, 2006 at 14:02:54

Have the people really spoken? We have more citizens than before yet less of a turn out at the polls. As for Joanna Chapman, people should take the mean spirited cartoon for what it is. It is not the first person that cartoonist has slammed unduly. He draws what the editorial board thinks. After all he is on it helps form their opinion. And we all know how close the Spec is to Di Ianni. Heck I wonder if he and Dreschel are having an affair or something! Such whining and lamenting after Di Ianni's defeat! They have to be more than friends.

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