Keeping Track of City Council’s Failures
From the Nest, Issue 8
by Ryan Moran
Straight up, the City Council Fail Lists are not a labour of love.
It is both easy, and not terribly enjoyable, to keep running annual tallies of everything our City Council gets wrong (especially those “legacy” career councillors who have been on for two terms or more).
Unfortunately, it’s also important. Our digital-media-addled minds make it so hard to remember what happened last week, that accounting for all the ways our long term elected leaders fail us on a regular basis, and across entire terms of Council, becomes essential.
I was asked what motivated me to start keeping these lists, and truthfully, it’s not a breakthrough story. Rather, it was based in absolute disgust and abysmal disappointment for all the crap that figuratively and literally came down the pipe in late 2019.
Hamilton was still reeling from revelations surrounding the Red Hill Valley Parkway cover up, the events at Pride, including the City of Hamilton’s response, what we learned about the 24 billion litres of sewage dumped into Chedoke Creek, chased with the cancellation of Light Rail Transit (LRT) – it was a lot to take in a very short amount of time, even for a city that is no stranger to less than fantastic news.
Aghast at all this, and taking a step back, creating these lists was simply just a moment’s thought of “wait a minute, let’s start writing these down”. As the first list began to take form for 2019, more items came to mind, and the list began to grow. These items, and the others throughout the years, deserved to be remembered.
In general, there is a lot of angst, and often deservedly so, towards our career councillors. Their “antics” and failings often serve as fun anecdotes at community gatherings or city events, and their “bumbling” reputation pervades well beyond our city’s boundaries, receiving groans and eyerolls in higher political circles.
Reputations are borne out behaviour and, as I began to reflect on 2019’s list of fails, a pattern emerged, taking on a very descriptive and tangible shape. More importantly, when I began to see the regularity and the consistency of their failing behaviour, the humour surrounding Hamilton’s “bumbling” reputation was quickly lost. It went from funny to shocking. After all, this is our city, this is our future, and City Council are the stewards.
The process of tracking the fails became easy, it was just a matter of waiting. The more challenging part was determining which fails were isolated one-offs and which were connected to bigger issues.
Some stand out more than others.
A good example is the events surrounding Pride in Gage Park, especially the presence of hateful demonstrators. This event alone was a black eye for the city. It shattered any illusion that Hamilton was progressive and safe. Council abdicated its duty to hear the warnings and heed the advice of its own LGBTQ Advisory Committee. As a result, the violence from hate groups, that the committee had signalled was a problem, occurred. In response? Absolute silence and negligence from our elected leaders.
If good leadership unifies, it seems that an absolute vacuum of leadership can have the same effect. Another example of this sort of multi-level, deeply structured fail that, by and large appears to unify the city in its rejection of the long term incumbents on council, is the Chedoke Creek sewage dump.
This failure is so abhorrent, unlike the politically divisive issues our city has faced in previous decades, from the stadium debate to LRT, that residents of the city seem universally disgusted enough with Council’s actions that they’re generally on board with seeing them turfed.
Not satisfied with a 24 billion litre failure alone, there is an entire microcosm of exceedingly poor judgments that surround this failure that have really galvanized Hamiltonians against Council’s long term incumbents.
- The initial negligence that allowed 24 billion litres of sewage to be dumped into Chedoke Creek and Cootes Paradise for half a decade
- The cover up of the dump by Council, leaked to The Hamilton Spectator, that Council knew about prior to the 2018 municipal election (meaning that incumbents deliberately withheld information from Hamiltonians in order to ensure their re-elections)
- The response by some Councillors to come after the whistleblower, rather than do right by the city
All this is to say that the long term incumbents on Council make tracking the failures hard.
The complication comes in the form of determining the simple failures, like the Mayor tweeting a morbidly glib comment about the insurrection at the United States Capitol, to sifting and sorting through those that are deeply structured over time and across multiple events, meetings, and in some cases, years – like the the 14 years of LRT dithering, a decision-making disaster no matter where you stand on the issue.
Fortunately, for us as residents, and for the sake of our city’s future, we can make it easy for Council.
In October 2022, we can end these fail-lists with our own, single point “to-do list” – simply put, do not vote for a single one of these long term incumbents.
Ryan Moran is an award-winning brand builder and entrepreneur; he holds a BA from McMaster University, an MBA in Strategic Market Leadership from McMaster’s DeGroote School of Business, and a Graduate Diploma in Arts Management & Leadership from Queen’s University; in addition to his day job as a strategic marketer supporting the growth of Ontario’s innovation ecosystem, Ryan is the cofounder of CoMotion Coworking & Event Spaces, and founder of the Hamilton-based timepiece company Locke & King