City will hire out­side lawyers to fight ward bound­ary ap­peal

The Hamilton Spectator - - LOCAL - MATTHEW VAN DONGEN mvan­don­gen@thes­pec.com 905-526-3241 | @Mat­tatthes­pec

Coun­cil will hire out­side lawyers to fight a cit­i­zen ap­peal of pro­posed new ward bound­aries in Hamil­ton — and against the opin­ion of its own con­sul­tants.

Ear­lier this year, the city adopted a coun­cil­lor-sug­gested plan to tweak ex­ist­ing Hamil­ton ward bound­aries instead of changes rec­om­mended in a $260,000 con­sult­ing re­view.

The de­ci­sion was made de­spite warn­ings from the city’s own con­sul­tants the plan fails to ad­dress con­cerns that kick-started the re­view in the first place — growing ward pop­u­la­tion dis­par­i­ties.

Con­sul­tant Robert Wil­liams told coun­cil­lors he couldn’t sup­port the coun­cil­lor-sug­gested plan if it were ap­pealed to the On­tario Mu­nic­i­pal Board.

Coun­cil­lors dis­cussed a pend­ing cit­i­zen ap­peal be­hind closed doors Wed­nes­day and emerged to vote to hire out­side lawyers to de­fend the city plan.

Coun. Matthew Green made a point of stat­ing his op­po­si­tion to the city’s de­ci­sion to de­fend against the ap­peal, call­ing it “a gi­ant waste of money.” He sug­gested the city was des­tined to lose and have a 16th ward im­posed.

Coun. Lloyd Fer­gu­son, by con­trast, said the city’s cur­rent plan “re­spects the im­por­tance of ru­ral Hamil­ton” in de­ci­sion-mak­ing.

The city’s con­sul­tants sug­gested two over­haul op­tions for Hamil­ton’s po­lit­i­cal bound­aries, in­clud­ing adding a 16th ward on the Moun­tain or re­draw­ing the ex­ist­ing 15 wards to bet­ter re­flect cur­rent and fu­ture pop­u­la­tion trends.

They said the coun­cil-in­spired plan “straight­ened out some lines” on the ward map but didn’t ad­dress fun­da­men­tal and growing rep­re­sen­ta­tion dis­par­i­ties.

For ex­am­ple, the city’s most pop­u­lous ward by 2026 would still be Ward 7, with around 70,000 peo­ple rep­re­sented by one coun­cil­lor. The same num­ber of res­i­dents would live in Wards 10, 13 and 14 com­bined, yet be rep­re­sented by three coun­cil­lors.

It wasn’t known Wed­nes­day when the case would be heard, but coun­cil­lors said there are two ap­pel­lants.

One, Ward 9 res­i­dent Mark Richard­son, wrote in The Spec­ta­tor he was ap­peal­ing the cur­rent plan be­cause of coun­cil’s “reck­less dis­play of self-in­ter­est and dis­re­gard of fair­ness” in ig­nor­ing the ad­vice of its own hired ex­perts.

He also sug­gested some coun­cil­lors sim­ply want to de­lay the process un­til it is too late to change ward bound­aries in time for the 2018 election.

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