Air Pollution

Councillors Are Human Beings

By Ryan McGreal
Published May 11, 2007

(This blog entry has been updated)

I wasn't able to attend last night's committee of the whole on the anti-idling by-law, but my friend Jen Dawson went, and she reports a beautiful phenomenon: councillors who went into the meeting dead-set against the by-law changed their minds after listening to the citizen delegations.

Here is Jen's report after the meeting, printed with her permission:

Tonight at the Committee of the Whole meeting at City Hall, eight brave and inspiring students [from the SAGE program at Strathcona School] stood up and told Council why they would pass an anti-idling by-law, and read an excerpt from the play that was written for the anti-idling assembly in March.

Then they delivered the "polar bear valentine", signed by many Strathcona students, parents and teachers at the assembly, to Mayor Fred [Eisenberger]. It was an impassioned and confident performance, and a beautiful example of student leadership. The Councillors were visibly moved.

The amazing outcome to the meeting, reached at about 9:30 p.m., was a unanimous decision of committee to support an anti-idling by-law.

It was fantastic to watch Councillors who, prior to the meeting, had publicly declared that they did not support the by-law stand up (literally) and have their names spoken aloud, one by one, by the Clerk as being in favour of the by-law. A number of the Councillors mentioned the children's performance when discussing their reasons for believing the by-law was important.

Councillor [Brian] McHattie, who was the force behind the by-law, told me afterwards that he only had five votes in favour prior to the meeting. At the meeting, seven more votes were gained. He said the presentation by the students was obviously a powerful motivator.

Even Councillors Lloyd Ferguson, Dave Mitchell and Maria Pearson, who have actively obstructed the by-law since its inception, were moved to change their minds after the public meeting.

It takes a lot of courage to change your mind publicly over an issue on which you have carved out a strong, rigid position. Councillors Ferguson, Mitchell and Pearson, plus the other councillors who went into the meeting opposed to the by-law, deserve recognition and credit for their willingness to listen to the public and reconsider their positions.

Hamilton just became a better place, a place where citizens can feel proud of our municipal government's ability to represent us and make good decisions based on pragmatism and public support rather than ideology.

Thank you for helping to restore our faith in the municipal system.

Update: Councillor Maria Pearson replied to this. Here is her reply:

Yes, I did change my position, but so did the information that was put on the table. We did pass the by-law but not funding for enforcement officers. This will be reviewed in the 2008 budget. My issue has always been the money to enforce such a by-law. I have always supported education, signage and advertising.

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 Ted Mitchell (registered) | Posted May 15, 2007 at 11:16:46

Three cheers for the kids!

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