Originally posted to The Public Record's City Hall Blog at Now.ThePublicRecord.ca

A quick response to claims by Hamilton City Councillor Donna Skelly and Bay Observer editor John Best that I’m a proprietor of “fake news” posted on Facebook Friday.

You even see examples of wrong news, if not fake news getting out of hand in our local blogosphere. During a recent council budget debate, blogger Joey Coleman tweeted “Donna Skelly says the City should look at installing bike racks on the front of HSR buses as an alternative to Clairmont Bike Track.”
This prompted blogger Graham Crawford to post a satirical cartoon with Skelly’s photo and the headline: “In related news Ward 7 Councillor Donna Skelly said the city should look at installing traffic lights at major intersections.” The trouble is, Skelly didn’t make the comment attributed to her by Coleman and told him so after somebody sent her the tweet. A review of the tape of the meeting makes it clear that Skelly was discussing allowing cyclists free access to the bus racks in order to get up the escarpment. Coleman nonetheless posted a second tweet “I’ll call this “very quick win” because (unknown to those who don’t ride HSR), bike racks already installed.” Here’s the thing; Donna Skelly often rides the bus to work, so she is fully aware that bus racks are already on buses. It was a cheap shot to try to portray her as clueless and the blogger went on to make the false assumption that Skelly didn’t use public transit. Stereotyping? It’s no big deal but between Coleman and Crawford it shows how dangerous it is to be trigger happy with social media.

Donna Skelly and John Best Editorial on The Public Record as Fake News

What Was Said

Here’s what Skelly said during the November 25, 2016 City Council budget meeting:

“Let’s look at one very quick fix, which could be adding bicycle racks to the front of a bus, and then including the bus on the access itself”

I tweeted:

Donna Skelly says the City should look at installing bike racks on the front of HSR buses as an alternative to Claremont Bike Track #YHMgov

Then, I tweeted:

I’ll call this “very quick win” because (unknown to those who don’t ride HSR), bike racks already installed.

Full Audio of Skelly’s Statement

Here’s the short audio of Skelly’s statement (0:11 – 142kb MP3 file) and the fuller audio (8:46 – 6,620kb MP3 file) of Skelly’s comments surrounding the comment, giving you the full context.
(Skelly’s comment is at 5:35 in the longer audio)

Contextual Audio

It is contextual to listen to Skelly’s comments to listen to Sam Merulla’s comments (1:57 – 144kb MP3 file) minutes before during the meeting.
During his comments, Merulla first asked:

Another question with respect to Claremont, I have a constituent who works on Upper James and I was advised by her that there is no bus that actual travels down the Claremont. Can I get clarification on that?

Skelly, who was chaired, did not know the answer. She asked staff:

Is there someone who can speak to the bus routes [pause] Do we have anyone here that can speak to?

I tweeted:

Councillor Merulla asked City staff if there is any bus route on the Claremont Access – none of the Councillors or staff know #YHMgov

Then tweeted:

Seriously, there are 50 senior staff, 13 City Councillors, not one of them knows HSR bus routes well enough #YHMgov

It took a minute to find a staff member, who looking at their laptop, stated there was no buses serving the Claremont.
Skelly says she is a regular HSR rider, I’m not sure how she, being a Ward 7 resident who regular uses the HSR, doesn’t know the 7 “Upper” and 3 other Downtown-to-Mountain buses well enough to know they don’t use the Claremont.
Merulla then suggested that changing HSR bus routes to run on the Claremont and to provide bicycles free access to the HSR as an alternative to building a $2-million cycle track.

If there is a bus, perhaps we can partner with HSR to provide access to bikes down the Claremont on the bike itself … it something we might consider what I think will be far less costly than building the actual lanes itself.”

It was Merulla’s idea which Skelly was supporting.

My Response

The words stated by Clr. Skelly are accurate, she did state the City should install bike racks as an alternative to building the bike track.
It’s that simple.
If Skelly misspoke, and didn’t mean to express her idea in the words she choose, I would’ve been very happy to share with readers her clarifying remarks.
Instead, Skelly came to me after the meeting, complained that I was lying about her and that she’ll be acting to correct the public record.
I responded that I would review my recording and publish a correction if I misquoted her.
On Saturday, November 26, the day after, I pulled the audio and reviewed it.
On Monday, I saw Councillor Skelly and told her I reviewed the tape, and that I had quoted her accurately, and that I would happily retweet any clarification she posted.
In regards to the accusation that I’m running a “fake news” site,
I’ve already responded to this by posting the full audio, and this post. There is no further commented needed directly to the accusation.

Another Day At City Hall

Sadly, this is just another day at Hamilton City Hall.
Council does not like that I’m covering and recording every meeting so the public can see what their public officials are doing.
They are regularly calling me a liar and making various accusations.
I’ll respond as needed.
I’ll respond further to this if I have an opportunity.

Much More Important: City Budget, Combating Fake News, and A Call to Action

I hope you’ll enjoy an advance release of my The Public Record Radio Show interview for this coming Wednesday’s broadcast.
I interview Dr. Harry Kitchen of Trent University, one of Canada’s leading experts on municipal government finance and taxation, about his recent paper for the Munk School at University of Toronto’s Institute on Municipal Finance & Governance entitled New Tax Sources for Canada’s Largest Cities: What Are the Options?
Our City is facing a serious budget crisis, there is a serious discussion to be had about how we address this. This is why I’m not going to wait until Wednesday to release the interview, we need to be having this discussion now.
“Fake news” is barely distinguishable from mainstream coverage because so much of what passes for journalism today is poor quality poorly research content to fill space between ads and generate clickbait.
That’s the real problem – that serious journalism isn’t happening, and I’m not going to be part of this problem.
I’m committed to working hard to give you high quality journalism, insightful interviews, and to make our City better by helping you to fulfill your duty of citizenship to be an informed participant in our democracy.
I hope you’ll share this post with your friends, to stop the spread of the fake news in Mr. Best’s editorial about fake news.
More importantly, I hope you’ll take the time to read the IMFG tax sources report (it’s only 16 pages and it’s very insightful), listen to the podcast when I post it, and make sure to not be distracted from the major issues facing our City.
Building an informed Hamilton, that’s why I’m proud to serve you, my fellow Hamiltonians.
Thank you for the privilege.
Your fellow resident,
Joey Coleman