Councillors Committee Assignments: A List of Interesting Changes and What They Could Mean

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This article, part of a two part series, focuses upon noteworthy membership changes to committees. (Click here for a breakdown of the assignments taken by the four new Councillors.)

City_Hall_By_Joanna_StJacques_nightThe new City Council decided upon their committee assignments during a series of behind-the-scenes discussions during the past month.

They were able to find agreement behind the scenes on appointments to all but one Board. Council was divided on who their Police Services Board representative would be. (Full Article on PSB Vote here.)

Councillors haven’t decided upon assignments for the City Committees – including most citizen advisory committees – which City staff are seeking to eliminate.

Here’s a list of the committees with noteworthy changes: Greater Bay Area Committee, Web Redevelopment, Municipal Heritage, Business Improvement Area (BIA) Advisory, Governance Review (Accountability and Transparency), Hamilton Port Authority – City of Hamilton Liaison Committee, and Selection Committee.

Greater Bay Area Committee

Ancaster (Ward 12) Councillor Lloyd Ferguson and Waterdown/Flamborough (Ward 15) Councillor Judi Partridge will join Mayor Fred Eisenberger on the joint Hamilton-Burlington “Greater Bay Area Committee” for the new term.

This is an interesting change because only Partridge’s ward borders Burlington and previously, the Wards 1 and 5 Councillors sat on the Committee.

The GBAC was primarily responsible for negotiations on the municipal contribution to the Randle Reef project, and is currently organizing a joint response to Federal plans to download the Burlington Canal Lift Bridge to the municipalities. The Port Authority and Province have both indicated they are not interested in taking responsibility for the bridge.

East Hamilton (Ward 5) Councillor Chad Collins stated in February, when Ottawa sent Council a letter offering the bridge, that federal officials told him the annual operating costs for the bridge is approximately $2-million.

GBAC is also the lead committee for discussions of the LaSalle Park ownership issue. LaSalle Park is owned by the City of Hamilton and leased to the City of Burlington for $1-per-year. Burlington wants ownership. It’s been an ongoing issue since the 1960s. While the status quo appears to be working, Aldershot Councillor Rick Craven is pushing for a permanent settlement to the question.

Web Redevelopment

Only one of four Councillors overseeing the City’s internet presence is an active user of the Internet to connect and communicate with Hamiltonians.

Yes, the people responsible for dragging the City out of the 80s into the internet age aren’t the poster children for online engagement.

The Web Redevelopment and Service Channel Sub-Committee’s four members are new Stoney Creek (Ward 9) Councillor Doug Conley, Stoney Creek (Ward 10) Councillor Maria Pearson, new Dundas (Ward 13) Councillor Arlene VanderBeek, and Partridge compromising the committee membership.

Only Partridge (@judipartridge) is experienced in using the Internet as a primary tool of communication.

VanderBeek started using Twitter and Facebook during her election campaign. Thus far, her use has been limited. That she has continued using the tools a few times since October is a hopeful sign.

At present, the City’s new website is in preview (http://preview.hamilton.ca/), there is only one staff member dedicated to Internet communications (8-4 M-F), and the City’s limited web staff are working towards an eventual launch of the new website.

The first meeting of the committee will include an update of the new timeline for implementation of the new website.

Among the other responsibilities of the Committee is figuring out the City’s service channels for citizens. At present, the City does not often citizens many options of communicating with the City. The City is trying to improve its call centre, and to eventually look at online reporting for service requests.

Municipal Heritage

Ferguson isn’t returning to the Heritage Committee this term. He’ll be replaced by Partridge, in what can only be described as a hopeful development for heritage advocates in the City.

Ferguson was the least enthusiastic voice for heritage conservation on the Committee, often the centre of tensions on the Committee due to his counter viewpoint to most heritage advocates.

Pearson is returning to the Committee and new Ward 1 Councillor Aidan Johnson is taking the seat vacated by Brian McHattie’s decision to run for Mayor.

Business Improvement Area (BIA) Advisory

New Central Lower City (Ward 3) Councillor Matthew Green is taking the Councillor seat on the BIA Committee, replacing West Mountain (Ward 8) Councillor Terry Whitehead.

This is the earliest meeting committee at City Hall, gathering at 8am on the second Tuesday of each month.

Green is a small business owner within the Ottawa Street BIA, running his fitness studio there. (Green is hiring a manager for his business and does not plan to be involved in the day-to-day operation.)

The BIA advisory committee has a major role in the Pan Am Games.

The major hot button issue for the BIAs is City grant policies that extend incentives previously only available in BIAs to other small business districts. Properties within BIA zones pay an levy on their property taxes, whereas businesses outside of BIAs do not.

It was an unwritten understanding that BIAs would use their levies for improvements, often match with incentives from the City. With the move to expand incentives, this could cause tensions in BIA areas between merchants who support and those who do not support BIA membership.

Governance Review (Accountability and Transparency)

Council’s infamous “Accountability and Transparency” Sub-Committee was officially disbanded earlier this year, after achieving its goal of implementing a lobbyist registry. *roll eyes*

The responsibilities of the of so-called “Accountability and Transparency” committee (which did not release its minutes or agendas online, couldn’t meet for months on end, and took seven years to deliver an inadequate lobbyist registry) have been inherited by Governance review.

On Governance Review will be “Accountability and Transparency”‘s chair Ferguson, Green, Pearson, Partridge, and VanderBeek.

Partridge expressed great frustration at the end of his rookie term about the lack of progress on matters of accountability and transparency. Will see run for Chair?

Ferguson could seek the chair, considering the public attention about matters of transparency and accountability, does he wish to be back in the limelight on these issues?

Pearson is reserved. She could run for chair, but the likelihood doesn’t seem high.

Either of the rookie Councillors could run for chair, but considering this position relies heavily about an experienced chair and the rookie Councillors time consuming roles on Planning Committee, this is unlikely to be successful.

Who chairs this committee will determine its effectiveness, as the committee only meets at the pleasure of the Chair.
This committee will be called upon to close the many loopholes of the Lobbyist Registry and oversee the new joint Lobbyist and Integrity Commissioner.

Considering how ineffective Earl Basse has been, and his inability to complete investigations in a timely manner, expect Councillors to make effective leadership of this committee a priority.

Hamilton Port Authority – City of Hamilton Liaison Committee

This committee, of which I can’t recall when they’ve ever met, will be interesting this term as the City and Port Authority are on a collision course over the proposed waste-to-energy plant at Pier 15.

Mayor Eisenberger, Green, and A. Johnson are the three council members on this committee which has no power beyond talking with the Port Authority.

Green’s made stopping the waste-to-energy plant this first priority as Ward 3 Councillor. Will he be able to get a meeting of this liaison committee with the Port Authority?

If so, this could become a committee to watch. If not, it remains as irrelevant as ever.

Eisenberger is a past Chair of the Port Authority Board of Directors. The Mayor must represent the views of Council on the liaison committee. At present, Council’s position is to seek more information on the proposed waste-to-energy plant.

Selection Committee

One of the most secretive and powerful committees is the Selection Committee. They decide who Council’s citizen appointee to the Police Services Board will be, who gets to be on citizen committees, tribunals, and boards.

There are six Councillors on Selection Committee: Collins, Central Mountain Councillors Scott Duvall, Green, B. Johnson, Merulla, and Whitehead.

Green is a rookie Councillor and secured a seat on selection committee. This indicates he’s building good relationships behind the scenes with other Councillors. It’s also noteworthy that other than Duvall, all the Councillors on selection are active online communicators.

Could we see more engaged citizens gaining appointments this term? Or will Selection choose those who keep a lower profile?

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