City hall recog­ni­tion for ail­ing Bob Mor­row

Former mayor hav­ing ‘se­ri­ous’ health trou­bles but hon­our has been in works for years

The Hamilton Spectator - - COMMENT - AN­DREW DRESCHEL An­drew Dreschel’s com­men­tary ap­pears Mon­day, Wed­nes­day and Fri­day. adreschel@thes­pec.com 905-526-3495 @An­drewDreschel

City coun­cil­lors are ex­pected to vote Fri­day on nam­ing the City Hall fore­court af­ter ail­ing former Hamil­ton mayor Bob Mor­row.

Coun. Sam Merulla, who is mov­ing the pro­posal, says the hon­our has been in the works for years and has noth­ing to do with Mor­row’s health chal­lenges.

“Bob’s the long­est serv­ing mayor in the his­tory of old Hamil­ton and now the new city of Hamil­ton, as well,” Merulla said.

“What bet­ter place to rec­og­nize his longevity and the suc­cess of his ca­reer than the place where gov­er­nance is cen­tred.”

Mor­row, mayor from 1982 to 2000, says he’s “very flat­tered” by the pro­posal but is re­luc­tant to com­ment too much un­til it be­comes of­fi­cial.

“You never know, there could be mishaps,” he said. “Stranger things have hap­pened.”

As long­time Hamil­to­ni­ans will re­call, Mor­row, 71, has al­ways been very pri­vate. The fa­ther of two sons ac­knowl­edges he’s deal­ing with health prob­lems but de­clines to dis­close specifics.

“I have chal­lenges but I’m meet­ing them and do­ing my best.”

Still, the fore­court nam­ing can’t help but have a slightly omi­nous over­tone. Last Jan­uary coun­cil voted to name the fore­court of An­caster’s old town hall af­ter former An­caster mayor Ann Sloat who was in ill health.

The un­veil­ing of the plaque took place in March. Sloat died last month at age 89.

Mor­row says he’s re­ceiv­ing med­i­cal treat­ment and go­ing through a “lot of rig­ma­role” but he’s “get­ting by and still ac­tive.”

“It’s se­ri­ous enough but not life-threat­en­ing. It’s not ter­mi­nal, at least as far as I’m aware. But I guess we’re all on a time frame.”

Mayor Fred Eisen­berger, who had a hand in putting to­gether the mo­tion, says hon­our­ing Mor­row is the right thing to do af­ter all these years.

“We’ve never re­ally named any­thing af­ter our long­est serv­ing mayor so I’m de­lighted to put it for­ward.”

“He was the right guy at the right time and he served our com­mu­nity spec­tac­u­larly.”

Eisen­berger be­lieves Mor­row’s great­est legacy was help­ing to di­ver­sify the lo­cal econ­omy, set­ting in mo­tion a trans­for­ma­tion that has seen the Con­fer­ence Board of Canada name Hamil­ton’s econ­omy the most di­ver­si­fied in the coun­try for four years run­ning.

“He un­der­stood that we needed to spread our wings and bring in new in­dus­tries that would help us di­ver­sify from that one steel in­dus­try town.”

Eisen­berger also lauds Mor­row’s record on eth­nic di­ver­sity.

“He re­ally un­der­stood the his­tory of all the eth­nic com­mu­ni­ties here and he still does.

“I know of no one who has that sense of his­tory and un­der­stand­ing of all the eth­nic­i­ties we have in our com­mu­nity.”

Merulla agrees, not­ing many eth­nic groups saw Mor­row as tran­scend­ing Hamil­ton’s tra­di­tional An­glo-Saxon per­cep­tions.

“The Ital­ians, the Por­tuguese, all the eth­nic com­mu­ni­ties ap­plauded him and put him on a pedestal where he be­longed.”

Ide­al­ized or not, Mor­row re­ally did have a re­mark­able prea­mal­ga­ma­tion po­lit­i­cal ca­reer.

He won his first elec­tion as an al­der­man for the west-end Ward 1 in 1968 at the ten­der age of 22. He was dis­qual­i­fied, how­ever, be­cause his name wasn’t on the voter’s list. He roared back in 1970 and then two years later was elected to the board of con­trol, an ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee of coun­cil elected at large. Af­ter a brief hia­tus, he ran for mayor in a crowded field in 1982, scor­ing at age 35 the first of six may­oral vic­to­ries.

His 18-year run as mayor came to an end in the 2000 amal­ga­ma­tion elec­tion, which he lost to former An­caster mayor Bob Wade. Eisen­berger also ran in that elec­tion, plac­ing third be­hind Mor­row and ahead of former Lib­eral warhorse John Munro.

Eisen­berger jokes that Mor­row still holds him a tad re­spon­si­ble for his de­feat since his can­di­dacy split the vote to Wade’s ben­e­fit. “But he’s for­given me.” Time and a gen­er­ous spirit will do that. Fol­low­ing his de­feat, Mor­row went on to be­come a cit­i­zen­ship judge for two terms and then in 2014 was ap­pointed by coun­cil as an in­terim coun­cil­lor for Ward 3 af­ter the death of Coun. Bernie Morelli.

HAMIL­TON SPEC­TA­TOR FILE PHOTO

Bob Mor­row in 2000. Coun­cil is ex­pected to name the City Hall fore­court af­ter the ail­ing former mayor on Fri­day. He served as mayor of prea­mal­ga­mated Hamil­ton for 18 years.

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