Politics

Pot, Meet Kettle

By Ryan McGreal
Published April 12, 2007

Normally, we at RTH try to steer clear of muckraking in favour of reporting and commentary on the issues at hand rather than the antics of various personalities. However, I was deeply disappointed to read in Nicole MacIntyre's Hall Marks blog about another brouhaha at City Council.

First, Councillor Bob Bratina, frustrated after Mayor Fred Eisenberger motioned him to wrap up his comments about the city's building permit process, "whipped his pen across the council chamger, hitting the door and narrowly missing [Councillor Brian] McHattie's head."

Then, after the meeting, Councillors Tom Jackson and Terry Whitehead reportedly got into a yelling match over whether to add another member to the Heritage Committee.

Finally, Bratina allegedly began swearing at Councillor Lloyd Ferguson about the proposed pedestrian bridge over the QEW.

As MacIntyre put it, "Apparently the f-word was flying around like the candy from a burst piñata" (and you thought municipal politics was boring).

Aside from the sheer vulgarity of elected representatives engaging in such shameful, unacceptable behaviour on the taxpayers' dime, we have the added hypocrisy of Bratina throwing things and swearing after he so recently took umbrage at Councillor Sam Merulla's "bullying, psychotic behaviour" during a committee meeting in March over the proposed transit increase.

At the rate this council is going, voter participation in the next municipal election will be down to the single digits.

Instead of an integrity commissioner, perhaps Mayor Eisenberger would be better off hiring a referee.

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 joejoe (anonymous) | Posted April 13, 2007 at 09:39:53

Well I'm in two minds about this one.
While the behaviour is unprofessional, at least it gives us an insight into the depth of the divisions and the frustrations our councilors must be facing. And, without making excuses for the behaviour, I can only imagine the depth of the stupidity that provoked the outburst.

I have heard some weird and wonderous tales about Hamilton's City Hall shenanigans over the years and more than once I have asked myself, "How do councilors put up with this crap?" I know if it were me on council, I'd flip out on a regular basis or else quit in despair. And I doubt it would only be a pen I'd be throwing.

Perhaps now that we are sinking toward the bottom of the barrel, something might actually change.

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By Cal DiFalco (registered) - website | Posted April 13, 2007 at 13:54:11

I am embarrassed on behalf of council. I believe in spirited discussion. I also believe in the interactionists view of conflict; that being, that conflict is often times fruitful in bringing solutions that would have otherwise not emerged. However, that view does not endorse a "free for all". Yes, it is possible to disagree, even vehemently, and still be respectful. My embarrassment for them, does not come from a quixotic place.

The conduct and actions described are clearly out of bounds. Councillors are elected to provide effective representation. How effective can one be when he or she is throwing pens at others or otherwise hurling obscenities? I cannot believe that anyone in their right mind could believe that taxpayers are paying for that kind of "performance". You could probably find more effective representation in a schoolyard.

Shame on those councillors who carried on in that way, and thank-you to those who did not engage. Passion is a key ingredient in being effective, but bullying and senseless drama, are not.

Those councillors who are behaving in that way are simply failing us. I hope they remember their accountabilities to the taxpayers.

I think we are well served to have a Mayor who has a calm demeanour. I'm not sure an Integrity Commissioner will do the trick. Sounds like we need bouncers in council.

Shameful.

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