Media

Anti-McHattie Hit Piece Cheapens Column

By Ryan McGreal
Published November 05, 2007

Once again, the Spectator's Andrew Dreschel has used his column as a launching pad for a personal attack against someone he doesn't like.

Today's column, 'McHattie drops the ball on teamwork', begins:

City councillors routinely make choices about how they spend their work hours.

Sometimes they make good time- management decisions, sometimes they make bad ones.

Last week Brian McHattie made a very bad one indeed.

Dreschel notes that five councillors and the city manager missed last week's team building workshop with Chris Bart, a McMaster business consultant, but saves the lion's share of vitriol for the councillor he loves to hate.

Dreschel chides McHattie for missing the session to attend to "issues that affect his west Hamilton ward" - conveniently forgetting that he has previously criticized the councillor for his "focus on the city's big picture ... at the expense of constituent and small-business concerns".

Dreschel also dismisses McHattie's claim that Bart's team building sessions don't provide much value for a civic government - again, conveniently forgetting that he himself had criticized the session's participants for "smoking wacky tabacky or lacing their lunchtime pizzas with special herbs" over the city objective they put forward.

I understand that a column is a space specially reserved for its writer to argue opinions rather than merely state facts. It's mainly what we do here at Raise the Hammer.

I also understand that Dreschel's stock-in-trade is muckraking, or politics at its most personal.

However, any writer with as large a readership as a high-profile Spectator columnist has an ethical responsibility to form opinions based as much as possible on objective, factual analysis and not merely raw partisanship or personal animosity.

Ultimately, hit pieces like this undermine his more cogent arguments by association and cheapen the character of the masthead under which he writes.

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 smoked salmon (anonymous) | Posted November 05, 2007 at 11:51:51

Dreadful jumped the shark a long time ago. Don't give him any more free publicity.

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By jason (registered) | Posted November 05, 2007 at 12:03:25

cheapens his column?? how is that possible?

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By Frank (registered) | Posted November 05, 2007 at 12:52:57

I avoid his column like the plague. Negativism never helps anything move forward. Dreschel likes to assume he has the answers for everything.

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By highwater (registered) | Posted November 05, 2007 at 13:53:28

Thanks to you and Jason for calling out this transparent attack. I was moved to fire off an LTE after I swore I never would again. I doubt they'll print it though, I think I'm over my quota.

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By bias (anonymous) | Posted November 05, 2007 at 20:39:00

Speaking of columns that makes your eyes roll, this site is becoming a little predictable. Whether you are a Dreschel fan or not, wouldn't you agree McHattie should have invested the time to be part of the city's strategic planning? The guy leading it does sound like a goof, but I know I'd still like all city councillors to be there to decide where they want this city to go.
This session was organized after all by the mayor, who you all seem to love on this website. Perhaps your own bias is affecting your take on this column I gotta say. I'm a big McHattie fan, but think he may a bad call on this one. If the mayor, instead of Dreschel, criticized McHattie for his absence, would you feel different? I suspect so. I'd take this site a lot more seriously if you didn't create idols who can do no wrong...how about acknowledging that all the councillors have good and bad points to different degrees.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted November 06, 2007 at 08:20:54

Hi bias,

Thanks for your comment. I think the record shows that we try to commend and criticize members of council for what they do, not for who they are.

To take a single example: when a majority of councillors - including the Mayor and Brian McHattie - voted to increase transit fares during budget negotiations in March, we wrote a pretty scathing letter accusing them of "beyray[ing] this city's vision and goals":

http://raisethehammer.org/blog/547/

We then reported on why the Mayor and Councillors Bratina and McHattie voted for the fare increase, and encouraged RTH readers to pressure them to change their minds:

http://raisethehammer.org/blog/550 http://raisethehammer.org/blog/551 http://raisethehammer.org/blog/556 http://raisethehammer.org/blog/549

One of the reasons we like Brian McHattie is that he does listen to his constituents, study carefully the policy issues he's being asked to vote on, attend public neighbourhood meetings, reply to phone calls and emails, and take a creative, hopeful approach to city politics.

He does respond to feedback, including constructive criticism, and he is willing to reconsider his decisions, as he ultimately did with the fare increase issue:

http://raisethehammer.org/blog/557 http://raisethehammer.org/blog/560 http://raisethehammer.org/blog/573 http://raisethehammer.org/blog/579 http://raisethehammer.org/blog/596

I think the corporate team building exercise probably was something of a waste of time. What difference does it make if Council establishes a hazy set of abstract goals when most councillors still don't understand the basic issues and vote based on ideology or gut instinct rather than a pragmatic understanding of the issues?

To put it quite plainly, McHattie already exemplifies the qualities Bart introduced during the session - teamwork, excellence, fiscal responsibility, prosperity, innovation, and valuable contributions and accomplishments.

The difference is that he does it authentically, simply by being a competent, accessible, and imaginative councillor. I'll take that over any number of cheerleading sessions.

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By jason (registered) | Posted November 06, 2007 at 10:10:30

plus, one can only take so many of these stupid exercises...remember the last grand attempt at developing our vision and slogan:

reach, dream, rise, shine

Please Brian...skip out on these meetings all you want (along with the other 5 who also missed).

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By highwater (registered) | Posted November 06, 2007 at 10:42:56

And did you see how Professor Bart described himself? "I've unlocked the mystery of mission...No one else in the world has figured out how to do it except for me!" Sweet Jesus what a load. I hope McHattie was out getting a massage.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted November 06, 2007 at 11:41:57

Today's Spec has a great letter to the editor about Dreschel's column:

"McHattie hits the nail on the head when he says that the type of thinking promoted by such workshops '... has little relevance to democratically elected leaders in the public sector.' ...

"City councillors and staff should find better uses for their time and our money by wasting less on strategy sessions and spending more on the needs of their constituents."

http://www.thespec.com/Opinions/Letterto...

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By Rusty (registered) - website | Posted November 06, 2007 at 15:28:01

To bias's comments,

I would like to know what the strategy session that McHattie missed out on was (and why he skipped it!). As some have alluded to here, I suspect it was a bullshit excercise but that's an assumption at this point.

Although it is a key responsibility of every councilor to attend to their citizens concerns directly, it is equally important for them to understand and contribute to city planning initiatives as a whole. I suspect this may be why McHattie skipped the session, because many folks either don't 'get' effective city planning or they don't want to get it, and thus there is no point planning a strategy under these constraints.

But I'd like to know. Because part of the problem in Hamilton City Council - at least this is how it seems to me - is that many councilors spend most of their time attending to their constituents needs and not enough time trying to understand how to grow the city as a whole. Getting a community center or Stop sign approved for their ward is the only barameter by which some councilors seem to measure their success.

Sam Merulla is a classic example of this in Hamilton, Rob Ford in TO - both these councilors are well-known for being very attentive and effective at dealing with constituent complaints, but both have a somewhat flaky understanding of how a city should grow.

Cheers

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By nobrainer (registered) | Posted November 06, 2007 at 20:10:01

It's right there in Dreshel's column Rusty. Mchattie skipped it because


McHattie openly contests the value of the exercise. He questions "how much it will really change life" and freely admits his ward issues take precedence over a "canned perspective" from the corporate world.

McHattie argues Bart's sessions are little more than a "transplanted presentation" geared to private sector thinking that has little relevance to democratically elected leaders in the public sector.

"We're not dealing with customers, we're dealing with citizens," says McHattie.


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By jason (registered) | Posted November 07, 2007 at 09:53:07

in other words, this exercise had nothing to do with the 'city as a whole'. Dreschel himself ripped Brian during the election for caring about the big-picture too much instead of his local ward. As a resident here, I can speak to the fact that he has a great vision for our local area AND for the entire city. And thankfully, his vision involves real work on the ground, not sitting around drinking coffee coming up with crap like "reach, dream....." I won't repeat it all again. it's too stupid.

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By anonymous (anonymous) | Posted November 07, 2007 at 23:39:39

I wrote in the other column regarding this issue, lets not allow Dreschel get to us. He is sometimes right and mostly wrong! He's still in disbelief about Mayor Fred winning the election and is taking pot shots at everyone he doesn't follow his beliefs.

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By cityhall (anonymous) | Posted November 09, 2007 at 10:45:35

While skipping the workshop was not necessarily the best thing (if for no other reason than to keep an eye on what the rest were plotting) I do not think it a big thing to miss one of those rather pointless exercises which I have been through similar events at my workplace. Certainly not worth an article. But you also may notice that McHattie often comes under fire from Dreschel even in articles that have little to do with him!
Finally, any "vision" that came out of that meeting is likely another recycled (the only recycling they really do) bad idea from the past which the narrow minds at council and a vision that has been long agreed apon by the same gang of decrepid councillors who come back year after year after year to make sure Hamilton chokes on their backward, stale "vision" of Hamilton.

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By highwater (registered) | Posted November 14, 2007 at 07:29:39

Good morning Running Dogs! Damn. I guess I just admitted I read Dreschel's column, didn't I?

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By nobrainer (registered) | Posted November 14, 2007 at 08:19:30

A summary if you just can't bring yourself to read it:

Oh, waaaaah I still can't accept the fact that my dear buddy lost the election the developers paid so handsomely for him to win, so I'm going to fling around a lot of vaguely worded insults and hope some of them stick.

whew!

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By log table (anonymous) | Posted November 14, 2007 at 10:48:52

I said it before, if Dreschel hates you, you're probably on the right track.

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By everywhere365 (anonymous) | Posted November 16, 2007 at 20:30:23

Perhaps Dreschel simply envies Brian Mc Hattie.

Too bad the media can make U look good or bad....or at least they try. But, like here, it can also work against them.

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By everywhere365 (anonymous) | Posted November 16, 2007 at 20:33:10

sorry, "them" meaning the media or "speaking of the devil"....

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By highwater (registered) | Posted November 19, 2007 at 13:46:51

Hi Everywhere,

I don't think Dreschel envies McHattie so much as he fears him, and the grassroots activism he represents. It's no coincidence that after McHattie, his next favourite target is the citizens who support him.

You know the old saw "First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, then you win", well it seems Dreschel has moved on from ridiculing to fighting. I suspect he'll be getting more and more vicious from here out. Then the good guys will win.

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