The Exempt Media in Hamilton, Ontario must be scratching their heads this morning, asking, "What the fuck happened?" Just a couple of days ago, the so-called "opinion polls" showed Larry DiIanni, the incumbent, having a huge lead over his main rival Fred Eisenberger. Last night, in what may be one of the biggest upsets in years, Eisenberger actually pulled off a win -- a plurality of just 452 votes out of roughly 123,000 votes cast. So what put him over the top?
YouTube, that's what. The 60 second web-only ad, put on by Fred's cash-strapped campaign (underfunded because he refused any corporate or union donations), was sheer brilliance. Larry's team called it an act of desperation, and Hamiltonians considered the casual dismissal of one of the Internet's most powerful tools a huge insult. Sure, DiIanni's conviction for financing irregularities owing to the last election must have hurt, but this was the last straw.
Congrats to Fred and everyone on the megacity's new council, including Brad Clark in my old stomping ground of Ward 9 (Upper Stoney Creek), who I consider a friend notwithstanding his Conservative leanings. They're going to have to work hard as well as need a heck of a lot of luck over the next four years. Residential taxes are among the highest in Canada here, owing to a shrinking commercial base; and although the opening of the Red Hill Creek Parkway next year should ease traffic pressures, the lack of both serviceable industrial land in the greenfields, contaminated brownfields as well as a defeatist and NIMBY attitude among city residents both in the urban and rural districts puts the former "Ambitious City" at a serious disadvantage. However, the city does have quite an advantage in the service sector and it should be building on that but much more aggresively.
One of the big priorities Hamilton has to address is how to introduce Bus Rapid Transit into the transportation plan. This is something that nearby cites are planning to move forward with already, including Brampton and Mississauga (which are waiting on the Harperites for funding) and which is probably the best solution for this city's gridlock, especially during the rush hour. The simple fact is that to make it work, one of two solutions will be needed. The first is that dedicated traffic lanes will have to be carved out where the routes will most likely be -- King/Main and Mohawk for East-West; Upper James and James/John for North South, with some kind of a bus interchange either at the bus/train depot on Hunter Street, or a new one at Gore Park or on Rebecca Street. The second is to use existing infrastructure but to alter traffic lights to give priority to transit vehicles along the same routes (the vertical white bar that appears in some parts of Toronto and Montréal as well as quite a few US cities).
We also have to deal with the welfare hammer, once and for all. If Hamilton is going to be part of the GTA's transportation strategy, then we should also be part of the pooling of social services. It's not fair that we pay 25% of property taxes for welfare, while just across the harbour in Burlington as well as the rest of the Golden Horseshoe right out to Bowmanville it's at 15%.
That can wait, however, for a few weeks longer. For now, I say victory is sweet. Vive le YouTube!
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