Sum­mit show­cases civic en­gage­ment project

The Hamilton Spectator - - BUSINESS - JON WELLS jwells@thes­pec.com 905-526-3515 | @jon­jwells

The city’s civic en­gage­ment project, called “Our Fu­ture Hamil­ton,” has been billed as an un­prece­dented chance for all cit­i­zens to shape their fu­ture 25 years down the road.

Chris Mur­ray, the city man­ager, sug­gested that the in­clu­sive ini­tia­tive is fur­ther proof that Ama­zon should set up its much cov­eted sec­ond head­quar­ters here.

Speak­ing at the Our Fu­ture Hamil­ton Sum­mit at LIUNA Sta­tion Tues­day, Mur­ray said a pos­si­ble Ama­zon move to Canada “speaks to what we are do­ing here today,” adding that com­pared to the U.S., Canada, and by ex­ten­sion Hamil­ton, is a “wel­com­ing” place to at­tract CEO Jeff Be­zos (an avowed foe of U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump). With that, for the 400 gath­ered in the ball­room, Mur­ray played Hamil­ton’s slick “Wel­come to Un­stop­pable” pro­mo­tion video, urg­ing the sound en­gi­neer to “crank it up.”

The video, he said, has al­ready been down­loaded 53,000 times — which is just shy of the num­ber of Hamil­to­ni­ans who have had their voices heard in the en­gage­ment cam­paign over the course of a year.

The city’s “com­mu­nity vi­sion fi­nal re­port” to date says 54,332 peo­ple were en­gaged in this stage of Our Fu­ture Hamil­ton, a re­boot of the city’s 1995 vi­sion­ing plan called Vi­sion 2020.

The largest num­ber of re­sponses — 20,801 — came vis­it­ing the city’s web­site; an­other 10,000 from those stop­ping by lemon­ade stands at fes­ti­vals.

A ran­dom ta­ble at the back of the room il­lus­trated the di­verse na­ture of the project: McMaster stu­dent Maria Cor­rea, En­vi­ron­ment Hamil­ton’s Lynda Lukasik, Ac­ces­si­ble Hamil­ton’s Su­san Creer, east end ci­ti­zen Heather Don­i­son, and Eva Quil­don and her daugh­ter Feli­cia, from the Trinidad and Tobago As­so­ci­a­tion of Hamil­ton.

Not that every­one was all-in with it: Creer, while sup­port­ive in prin­ci­ple, ques­tioned if some view­points will be ig­nored by the city and de­vel­op­ers — for ex­am­ple, build­ing hous­ing on the wa­ter­front that will be un­af­ford­able to lower-in­come res­i­dents.

The re­port says the vi­sion­ing ex­er­cise has led to six com­mu­nity pri­or­i­ties: com­mu­nity en­gage­ment, eco­nomic pros­per­ity, pub­lic health and safety, en­vi­ron­men­tal re­spon­si­bil­ity, built in­fra­struc­ture, and cul­ture and so­cial di­ver­sity. The next step is work­ing to achieve that vi­sion through “com­mu­nity in­volve­ment, ac­tion, and eval­u­a­tion.”

One theme at the sum­mit high­lighted by Chelsea Ga­bel, a pro­fes­sor in McMaster’s In­dige­nous Stud­ies Pro­gram, was bet­ter en­gag­ing vot­ers with on­line vot­ing.

The key­note speaker, Greg Essensa, Chief Elec­toral Of­fi­cer for Elec­tions On­tario, said he sup­ported the ap­proach. When Essensa took ques­tions, a man stood and de­manded that driver’s li­cences no longer be per­mit­ted as iden­ti­fi­ca­tion at the bal­lot box, to elim­i­nate “bias” in favour of those who drive cars.

Later, an­other par­tic­i­pant took the floor, un­in­vited, to vig­or­ously de­nounce On­tario Pre­mier Kathleen Wynne and call for po­lit­i­cal re­form.

But given the na­ture of the event, and the au­di­ence, both men were lis­tened to and met with nei­ther cheers nor jeers.

Af­ter the sec­ond man had his say, master of cer­e­monies Terry Cooke, not miss­ing a beat, quoted Win­ston Churchill: Democ­racy is the worst form of gov­ern­ment, ex­cept for all the rest.

To learn more about “Our Fu­ture Hamil­ton” go to:

www.hamil­ton.ca/city-ini­tia­tives/pri­or­ity-projects/our-fu­ture-hamil­ton

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