Municipal Election 2014

Eisenberger's LRT Position Ultimately Unhelpful

By Zachary Spicer
Published May 08, 2014

Mayoral candidate Fred Eisenberger wants you to know that he supports LRT. He makes his support clear on his website in this release, which states:

Eisenberger says he supports LRT because it will bring millions of outside investment dollars to our community, resulting in thousands of new employment opportunities, growth and re-urbanization, and huge potential for economic uplift and additional revenue for the entire city.

Eisenberger is correct. LRT is a game-changer for Hamilton. His recognition of this is commendable, but his elaborate consultation strategy is not.

He states in his release that the city requires a "consensus forum" and that people need "more information". The city has already done this.

The public has had their say. Council has affirmed and re-affirmed their support for LRT. The time is right to push for funding and get the project going. Eisenberger's position simply sets the process back.

There is nothing wrong with wanting the public's input. In fact, it would be terribly irresponsible to proceed without it, which his why the city put in place a fairly elaborate system of consultation and information sharing. Revisiting this process at this stage would result in unnecessary delays in the project.

He is right to acknowledge that there are some people that have concerns about LRT. Chances are there always will be people who criticize the plan. Very few public policy initiatives receive 100% community support. Going back to the public consultation stage to placate the project's critics is counter-productive. It truly is time to move forward.

There is a good chance that Eisenberger knows this as well. He is a smart man after all. By focusing on additional public consultation, he is trying to have it both ways: appease LRT proponents by appearing to move the project forward and appease LRT opponents by leaving the door open a crack for cancelling the project or converting it into something like BRT.

The only problem is that this "LRT if necessary, but not necessarily LRT" stance does not satisfy either side.

If Eisenberger does truly support LRT as he claims, he needs to clearly demonstrate it. As the old saying goes, fortune favours the bold. Hopefully Eisenberger finds his voice on the subject as the campaign continues.

Zachary Spicer is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science at Brock University. He lives in Hamilton and golfs regularly (but is still pretty bad at it). You can follow him on twitter @ZacSpicer.


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By kevlahan (registered) | Posted May 08, 2014 at 09:24:38

In August 2010 the City set up exactly the sort of citizen's advisory committee Eisenberger is suggesting, with very broad representation from stakeholders and residents throughout the city.

In fact, it was called the Rapid Transit Citizen's Advisory Committee! I was a member, and the only member representing a group officially advocating LRT (Hamilton Light Rail). The other members were owners of property near the line, BIA representatives, various institutional stakeholders, and regular residents from all over the City.

The group met from September 2010 until late 2011 when the Rapid Transit Team was disbanded. The group provided advice to City Staff, raised many concerns about details of the plan and attended numerous public forums so residents could talk directly to a fellow resident, instead of to a staff member.

The City hosted a huge number of public meetings, in all parts of the city, had a big advertising campaign to get the word out, and in the end produced the broadest and most successful public consultation process in the city's history. And the result is that thousands of residents made their concerns and opinions known, and the vast majority (over 80%) strongly supported the B-line LRT plan.

Here is the agenda of the RTCAC committee, which gives an idea of the amount of work and consultation involved (over 32 meetings and public forums) :

Why doesn't Eisenberger (and the rest of Council) remember this massive public consultation, complete with citizen's advisory committee, that occurred only three years ago!

Not only is it waste of money and time to re-do this whole consultation process, forming another "citizen's advisory committee", it is completely irresponsible to suggest this can be done in less than five months without the assistance of City Staff (remember the Rapid Transit Team no longer exists).

It is also an insult to those residents who volunteered dozens of hours of their time and many evenings and weekends to help the city out with the consultation process the last time. Why were they just ignored?

Most importantly, the massive public consultation with citizen's advisory committee made absolutely no difference to Council's feelings about the plan: many councillors continued to believe it was "controversial" or "unpopular" despite the results of the consultation. Why would another such exercise be any more effective unless it tells councillors what they want to hear (i.e. that they can safely jettison a controversial, complicated and expensive infrastructure project)?

Here is the list of the members:

Alaric Woodrow Glanbrook, general public

Alissa Golden Hamilton, general public

Brian Detlor Hamilton, McMaster representative

Chani Shrive Dundas, general public

Chris Blackwood Hamilton, Mohawk College representative

Daniel Rodrigues Hamilton, Hamilton Chamber of Commerce representative

Frank Scremin Hamilton, Hamilton Airport representative

Ian Dunlop Flamborough, general public

Jan Lukas Ancaster, general public

Kathy Drewitt Hamilton, BIA – Downtown representative

Kelly Stewart Hamilton, property owner along corridor

Liz Duval Hamilton, property owner along corridor

Michael Korkut Hamilton, property owner along corridor

Michael Slusarenko Hamilton, property owner along corridor

Nicholas Kevlahan Hamilton, Hamilton Light Rail representative

Paul Facia Hamilton, property owner along corridor

Peter Hill Hamilton, general public

Robert Barlow Stoney Creek, Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board Trustee

Ron Smithson Stoney Creek, Chair of Seniors Advisory Committee

Simon Gautrey Hamilton, general public

Susan Braithwaite Hamilton, BIA – International Village representative

Terri Wallis Hamilton, Advisory Committee for Peoples with Disabilities (ACPD) representative

Thomas Shields Hamilton, property owner along corridor

Comment edited by kevlahan on 2014-05-08 09:53:36

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By jason (registered) | Posted May 08, 2014 at 09:41:32

We're down to one candidate with strong, unequivocal support for LRT. That's where my vote is going.

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By we don't care (anonymous) | Posted May 10, 2014 at 02:22:49 in reply to Comment 101141

Thanks, because we care that you're voting for your councillor as mayor. Now I know where my vote _won't_ be going...

The enemy of my enemy is my friend...

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By mikeonthemountain (registered) | Posted May 10, 2014 at 07:50:28 in reply to Comment 101215

That's the spirit! Vote out of spite! That'll fix society's problems in no time!

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By At least it's voting.. (anonymous) | Posted May 10, 2014 at 14:03:14 in reply to Comment 101222

Hey, at least they are voting. I won't be upset if Mayor Fred returns. I will be upset if we elect McHattie though... that guy's breath must smell like his foot from how often it's in his mouth...

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By Hunter (anonymous) | Posted May 08, 2014 at 13:10:28

The municipal election is looking grim. All of the momentum and usual media suspects seem to be behind Clark.

I think one should consider strategically abandoning McHattie in favour of Fred. McHattie is a superlative councillor (I lived a long time in his ward) and I support his policy views. But my fear that he could't connect with the electorate seems to be proving out. His Red Hill and statue issues have all but destroyed him. I've considered spending time and money on his campaign but unless he changes his approach, and fast, he will simply have no chance of winning over the voters outside of Ward 1.

Even though McHattie is the strongest proponent of LRT, I think the best chance is to support Fred, who has a chance at winning. I would hate to see Clark win on a split Fred/McHattie vote.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted May 08, 2014 at 13:33:20 in reply to Comment 101147

Hopefully one of them will have enough sense to bow out and endorse the other before the voting day. It's a long time before municipal election day, and the provincial one is happening in the meantime.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted May 08, 2014 at 13:37:54

I think Eisenberger may be gun-shy of taking the firm approach for the best option after the stadium debacle. Bratina was elected because he wanted to waffle on the stadium location and consider every site in detail.

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By Hunter (anonymous) | Posted May 08, 2014 at 13:52:01 in reply to Comment 101149

Seems to be a practical and prudent strategy.

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By McHattiealltheway (anonymous) | Posted May 09, 2014 at 09:09:23

Thank you for this article. Thank you for pointing out that Fred is essentially and effectively anti-LRT, only a softer version. His double talk is more to be feared then Clark for realizing LRT.

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By McHattiealltheway (anonymous) | Posted May 09, 2014 at 10:05:30

Fred's approach doesn't demonstrate the kind of leadership Hamilton needs in regards to LRT. He's simply pandering as politicians nowadays do best, as opposed to leading, like McHattie.

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By Voter (anonymous) | Posted May 09, 2014 at 13:24:35

Having McHattie in the race changes the dynamic. It's the difference between having someone to vote for as opposed to picking the best of the rest. If it was just Clark-Eisenberger, I'd hold my nose and vote for Fred. The problem is that Fred is not the right man for the job. Period. His position on LRT shows that he has learned nothing from how he dealt with the stadium issue when he was mayor. Simply stating your preference for something, but waffling when it counts is not leadership. Fred is a nice guy, but his track record shows that he simply can't seal the deal when it counts. We need someone who will actually be able to deliver for Hamilton.

McHattie has made a few missteps as well as some great moves in the early goings of the campaign, but as a potential Mayor, he is far and away the best candidate. He is a rock solid councillor with a track record that fits where Hamilton is going as a city. It's very early in the campaign to get a true sense of sustained momentum, but McHattie has a strong base that's growing. I don't think Eisenberger even has a base left to grow from.

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By Anon (anonymous) | Posted May 14, 2014 at 11:10:45

Fred is intelligent and a master of playing what some like to call the evidence-based card meanwhile, like all politicians, he has his narrow interests as well. He is human. Ryan, thank you for your opinions on the stadium debate and your take on the process.

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