Mayor Fred Eisenberger sat down with CHCH News Sunday evening for a 5-minute year end interview.
Eisenberger opened stating the new Council is an exciting change entering into 2019, making special note that 7 of the 16 members of Council are women – the most of any Hamilton City Council in history.
Here is a summary of the issues discussed.
Light Rail Transit
Asked about the pending Council vote on the maintenance and operating agreement, Eisenberger stated “Well, I think the more important green light we need to have is from the Premier and the Province of Ontario – I think this is much more critical.”
Eisenberger continued by stating progress on the project is moving forward “everything is moving forward, so I don’t expect there is going to be a vote at Hamilton City Council.” Continuing “I expect that the Premier is going to give us the thumbs up, which he sort of did in Grimsby”. Eisenberger stated he has a mandate from the voters to implement LRT.
CHCH’s Nicole Martin tried multiple times to get Eisenberger to answer on the pending Council vote, each time, Eisenberger redirected his answer away from the thrust of the question.
At present, it is not clear if there are enough Councillors in favour of LRT for approval of the maintenance and operating agreement. The operating agreement has been repeatedly delayed, and City staff are not stating when it is expected to arrive in front of Council for a decision.
“Let’s make it available, but also regulated, controlled so people know what they are getting”, Eisenberger stated.
Eisenberger is in favour of a regulated legal retail market for cannabis in Hamilton, stating this will help to decrease the black market which is supporting the current illegal cannabis storefronts across Hamilton.
Eisenberger holds shares in a publicly traded cannabis production company. His involvement in the cannabis debate has been cleared by the Integrity Commissioner, and is in keeping with the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act as he is not a controlling shareholder, does not hold more than 10% of any publicly traded company, is not a director of the company, and does not have a pecuniary interest as defined by the Act.
Council will debate legal cannabis retail at a special January 14 Council meeting, public delegations will not be allowed at this meeting.
Council must decide before a January 22, 2019 provincial deadline if they wish to ban cannabis retail in Hamilton. If Council does not make a decision prior to January 22, the Council is deemed to “opt-in” to legal retail in Hamilton. Potentially millions of dollars in excise tax payments are at stake in the decision, if Hamilton Council votes against legal retail, the City of Hamilton will not receive any of the excise revenue the province plans to share with municipalities.
Affordable Housing and Poverty
Eisenberger touted Council’s $5-million per year targeted funding for Affordable Housing.
Eisenberger renewed his calls for the federal government to move forward with the funding for the National Housing Strategy, that the problems of poverty in Hamilton are urgent and require more resources than just what City Hall can provide.
Eisenberger closed this segment saying these issues “keep me awake at night” adding “social unrest can happen if we don’t address these issues”.
The full 5:16 interview video can be viewed on the CHCH website here: https://www.chch.com/fred-eisenberger-interview/