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Candid assessment of city hall from retiring councillor
November 10, 2006

A 15-year veteran of city council has blasted the municipal political culture in Hamilton. In a candid interview last week on the CFMU radio show The Other Side, Flamborough councillor Dave Braden, who is not seeking re-election, elaborated on some of what he thinks is wrong at city hall. The excerpts below are part of the transcription available on the CATCH website. An audio version is also available.

On McMaster University:

“I can tell you without hesitation that the university, McMaster, is seen as a bit of a threat, because they are smart people that have real ideas and they’re at the forefront. They are the leaders. In our case, the city fathers are the ones that are regressive. They never want to be seen to be foolish so they really don’t want to associate with McMaster…. For example, probably the status of McMaster didn’t go up much when a hundred profs signed something that said it’s a stupid idea to build the Red Hill Expressway. Right? The city doesn’t want to hear what intelligent people have to say, when they have a broader view and a much more comprehensive view than maybe the city politicians or the city staff.”

On city finances:

“We need an additional – this year – one hundred million dollars to keep the present assets of this city in reasonable condition. And that doesn’t include at this point, the water and sewer.… We are overspending our revenues every year. We’ve got it down from about $95 million, on average, over the last five years, to about $70 million. So we’re only overspending – only, I say – our revenues by about $70 million a year. If you add this to the $100 million for infrastructure, it’s about $170 – which means you’d have to increases taxes, today, by 34%. Now nobody is willing to do that, and in fact we believe that there are many people that simply won’t be able to pay.”

On job creation:

“The economic development sort of strategy for this city, if you look at what is actually been happening, it has nothing to do with creating jobs, but it’s been with building new houses and suburban sprawl. That in fact has been the main direction of this city for the past 30 years. We have had independent consultants that we have hired, hoping they’re going to say something nice, which have come back and basically condemned our record by saying we really haven’t done anything.”

On sprawl:

“The city is reluctant to give this air time, but we know factually from specific local studies, and we also know from general research studies, that by and large for every new house of any kind – whether it’s a townhouse, or a semi-detached house, single family house or an apartment – that every one we build in a greenfield area in fact requires more direct and indirect cost to look after than it provides in taxes. What that means is every single new house we build raises everybody else’s taxes.”

On dealing with opponents:

“You wonder if it’s actually sort of a practiced strategy for those who are in power and want to maintain power to promote apathy and to disenfranchise citizens, to avoid real learning and real progress, and to make people feel completely incompetent, and that they have no sort of value or ability to affect change. … But there is such a huge force, and it’s very strong, to curtail intelligence, to curtail bright new ideas, to sort of stomp on people or alienate people who really do have a good idea they want to see come to fruition.”

On the Lister Block deal:

“This is a sole source thing. It’s coming from one particular area. This doesn’t meet anywhere near the test of investigation, and then to make matters worse, there is an association between that business and political campaigns. And it’s a reality. So if you are a bit of a cynic, and there is every reason based on the history of this city why people are becoming cynical – if they say that for the 10,000 properties downtown, they get nothing and one property gets $15 million. It’s pretty easy to become a cynic.”

On election candidates:

“We need to know if people that are running will have the confidence to stand up and do the right thing. Somehow they need to be asked a question, so when it’s extremely unpopular to do the right thing, whether or not these people will have the courage to do so. And one of the ways you can tell this. If they are already aligned with those people that are in government that have proven that they have a lack of integrity, or a lack of ethics or a lack of honesty. Sad to me it says everything. So there a number of people who are running in this election who are really puppets for a particular mayoralty candidate. And to me, that just speaks volumes.”

On the city manager:

“In Wade’s time, by and large, the city manager worked for the council. We now have a city manager who might as well be the executive assistant of the mayor. The city manager doesn’t work for council.”

© Citizens At City Hall (CATCH)