Meet Ward 6 contender Chris Behrens. The following is a little bit about Chris, in his own words, as well as some Q and As.
I am 36, born and raised here in Hamilton. I grew up in the east end and moved up the mountain in my twenties. I was a licensed auto mechanic and now I am a certified auto teacher. I have additional qualifications in Communications Technology, Construction, Co-op, and Special Education.
I graduated Delta with a proficiency and a technological education award; I graduated both Mohawk College and Queen's with honours. I have had a passion for politics since I was a kid, and I have a love for this city. I have been promoting this city through the Waterfall Capitol of the World group.
1. What is your sense for the constituents in your ward’s satisfaction with their current councillor? What do you bring to the table that differentiates you as a candidate? What will you do differently?
While speaking with many of the constituents in Ward 6, I feel that they are both ready for, and in need of, positive change. Some have raised concerns about the Red Hill Creek Expressway promises which were not addressed by the current councillor. In addition to these promises, many constituents are concerned about our high property taxes, and others feel that we need stronger leadership in Ward 6. Finally, the constituents of Ward 6 strongly feel that they are not fully represented by their current councillor. As the new councillor of Ward 6, I would like to form community committees to give constituents an opportunity to share thoughts with me, in an attempt to address concerns promptly, while bringing the communities closer together.
As a new candidate running in Ward 6, I bring a fresh slate to politics. I am an honest, hard working person who wishes to make a difference in this riding. Through my hard work, I have developed many skills in my past careers that would prove useful to a councillor. As a Licensed Automotive Technician, I developed great diagnosis and problem solving skills. In a large dealership environment, I had the opportunity to work with, and learn from, many different personalities. As an Ontario Certified Teacher, I have learned to be a leader, a mentor, and show compassion towards others. Teaching has taught me the skills needed to work well with people from all walks of life.
During my last year at Queen’s University in Kingston Ontario, I was the Technological Education Teacher’s representative on the Education Student’s Society (ESS). This opportunity facilitated my skills in debate and taught me how to effectively work on a council.
As a candidate, I bring vision for improvement, knowledge of the community, a desire for clear communication, and positive change to the table. Honesty will be my number one quality. My keen knowledge of information technology will bring the constituents of Ward 6 even closer to City Hall, and my ability to emphasize with Ward 6 constituents’ concerns will bring the issues to the table promptly and efficiently.
2. Striking a balance between optimally representing your constituents, while also supporting initiatives that are for the common good of Hamilton is a balance you will have to strike. How will you approach striking that balance?
In order to strike a balance between representation and the common good I choose to take a teamwork approach which centers on communication with my constituents and colleagues. Throughout our lives we are taught the skills we require to work well with others, but we often lose touch with our abilities to communicate effectively in high stress, competitive positions. With that being said, I feel that I need to reach out to my constituents more frequently than the current councillor as a response to the concerns they have disclosed to me as a community member. If I am voted to represent Ward 6, I resolve to truly represent them first and foremost. Communication with my constituents about the common good for Hamilton as a whole will help the community to understand the decisions councillors need to make, rather than just accepting it ‘because the city says so’. With use of technology, my constituents will be able to express those concerns to me anytime.
If for some reason I feel that there is an issue that will improve this city, but will not immediately benefit my constituents, I will clearly explain myself without lying or creating ambiguity in my community. People have the right to know why decisions are being made and how those decisions will affect them. As councillor, I resolve to communicate honestly to my constituents and keep them informed of the positive and negative changes our city must face.
3. What has been one of your greatest challenges in life, what did you learn from that and what lessons might you leverage if you were to succeed in your bid to serve?
The greatest challenge of my life was my mother’s passing from cancer on my first day of high school. Like many young people who have lost loved ones, I had to grow up quickly. I moved out on my own and learned the valuable skill of setting clear goals and sticking to them. This skill helped me achieve much more than I could have imagined. Throughout the turmoil of losing a parent; I was able to graduate from Delta with a Technological Education Award and Proficiency in grade eleven. Further down the road, I graduated Mohawk’s Automotive Technician program with Honours, and more recently, I graduated from Queen’s University with Honours, a Diploma of Technological Education, and an Award from the Ontario Secondary School’s Teacher Federation.
I have learned that no matter what life throws at you, it is imperative to get back up when you’re down. Whatever gets in the way, all we have to do is keep our eye on the prize. The skill of steadfast determination has assisted me greatly. I am now a terrific problem solver who has been through many different scenarios in life. Whatever the issue is, I am sure that I will be able to find a solution.
4. One of the criticisms often echoed on blogs and other media outlets, is the notion that council is “dysfunctional”. Do you agree with that assessment and what will you do to ensure a contribution to a smoother running council, if elected?
As I mentioned earlier, we are taught the skills we require to work well with others throughout our lives; but we often lose touch with our abilities to communicate effectively in high stress, competitive positions. Therefore, I do not feel that the current council is “dysfunctional”, but that there is a rift in communication and teamwork due to the high stress, difficult decisions that have plagued our city this term. Ward 6 constituents have communicated their disappointment in the same old issues and personalities on council and have many good ideas for change. I feel that I would be able to represent my constituents effectively because I am a clear communicator who takes good ideas seriously. It’s true I am not a career politician; and although I have a lot to learn, I am a teacher who is willing to give up my career for a better Hamilton. As a councillor I hope to bring my skills as a teacher (especially my appreciation for good ideas) to our city council. Good ideas and consistent communication are sure to rebuild respect within our community.
5. Politicians necessarily must promote themselves to effectively campaign. Self promotion takes many shapes from an account of accomplishments and offerings, to a full tilt, sometimes over the top, exaggerated self congratulatory posture (which we are already seeing from some). Let’s park that type of rhetoric. Why are you running and why should Hamiltonian’s believe you?
I was born and raised in the East End of Hamilton; I currently live in ward 6. I have lived, worked, played, and paid taxes here in this city. I grew up watching the steel companies come and go, family owned variety stores close because of chain stores, hiking The Red Hill Valley when it still had trees, and following the Ti-Cats through the good and not-so-good seasons. I stood on the roof of Jackson Square rallying for an NHL team, and promoted this city along the 401 as the Waterfall Capitol of the World. I am a full blooded Hamiltonian who shares the same common goals as my neighbours. Right now my neighbours are saying, “Chris, we need change, we need Hamilton to move forward”. I completely agree, and that’s why I am running for city council. I saw a void and I feel that I can fill it--- not because I am the best citizen in Hamilton, but because I am an honest person who is willing put in my best effort for the better of Hamilton. I am not a career politician like the incumbent; I share many of the same concerns and goals as the rest of Hamilton. I am a true Hamiltonian; and that’s why Hamiltonian’s should believe me.
6. The Mayor represents one vote. However, a Mayor is considered the City’s leader. What would you look for in a Mayor and how will you demonstrate appropriate deference to that position?
The Mayor clearly has to be proficient at his/her leadership skills. They are the captain of the whole ship. Without leadership, you have chaos and anarchy. Without good leadership in a city, you have people calling council dysfunctional. The Mayor should have a clear vision that is beneficial to the city as a whole. Leadership skills helps the Mayor achieve his/her goals for the city.
I would demonstrate appropriate deference to this position by using my teamwork skills, and demonstrating character. I have had bosses in the past with both good and poor leadership skills, but I was able to work well with all of them. I feel that this was due to my positive attitude and my ability to communicate effectively with others.
7. What are your views concerning the need for an Integrity Commissioner?
My view is quite simple really: We need an Integrity Commissioner because the public does not trust those in office. Regardless of how we have reached the point that we need one, we need to acquiesce in order to regain the public trust. Of course this does not mean that the reason for an Integrity Commissioner is not important, and I resolve to find out how our community reached this point. More importantly, I hope to figure out how to gain the public’s trust in the future. To me, honesty is a way of life. I sleep well at night because I do not carry the guilt or fear that dishonesty brings. It would be nice to hear the constituents themselves ask for the removal of the Integrity Commissioner because they have faith and trust in their new city council.
8. How do you receive and process criticism?
In a competitive environment it is easy to take criticism as a personal attack. For myself, when I feel that when I am criticised, I read further into it instead of disregarding it as a personal attack. I try to listen and analyze criticisms made of me so that I can understand my mistakes and make improvements in my life.
On the flip side, a competitive environment also allows for criticisms that are in fact personal attacks that rarely hold meaning. In this situation, you just need a bit of thick skin, that’s all. As public figures we have to fight for what we know is right; but must not allow ourselves to get caught up in any meaningless attacks. Unfortunately, they do come with the territory.
9. How would you work with fellow councillors to gain support for your perspectives. What would be your guiding principles?
Working with any group of people is a lot like working in a classroom. Good character, leadership, clear communication, and superb team working skills are necessities. Just as students produce better ideas in an atmosphere that is positive, fun and friendly; so do people making decisions which affect our community. A common vision is just as important in a classroom as it is in city council. Vision and ideas have to be for the greater good of the community and its people.
Honesty, accountability, and professionalism are my guiding principles. We need to have a desire to strive for recognition of quality in all aspects of working and living in this city.
10. What does leadership mean to you? How would you demonstrate it, if elected?
Leadership has many aspects; the most important aspect of leadership is the ability to collaboratively work together with council for the greater good of the city. One must be assertive and trustworthy to make a good leader. My ability to set a goal and see it through to the very end will aid in my leadership skills.
I would demonstrate good leadership skills by being well researched and decisive on issues. As a leader I feel that it would be important to vote on issues that are for the greater good of this city which may not immediately benefit the Ward. However, it is equally important to steer clear of the status quo. If constituents have a councillor who is well versed on the issues and is willing to communicate all sides; they will understand the benefits for our city as a whole when a decision may not be in their best interest. We are the city of many communities; but at the end of the day, we are combined to form this great city.
11. Would you be open to a “10 Tough questions” style virtual debate, to be held on The Hamiltonian, with your contenders, including the current councillor if he/she runs?
I would gladly accept the debate challenge as democracy has been built on debates. Debate is an important part of the means necessary for the constituents to get to know who you are and what you stand for. I feel that this would be a great opportunity for me to get to know who I am running against; and what their goals for Hamilton are. A debate of this nature would also give Hamiltonians the same opportunity to get to know all of us, in order to make the best decision for leadership in Hamilton.
12. What are the top three things a councillor should always do. What are the top three things a councillor should never do?
Honesty is the key in gaining trust from the constituents. Promises made must be followed through. In the past when I have elected politicians to office, I felt that my vote was stolen when that Politician reneged on their promises.
Any member of public service has to show their professionalism. Behaviour is important to yourself and to your constituents. When a councillor shows great leadership skills and professionalism, everybody benefits.
Transparency is very important, you are performing services for the public, they should always know what you are doing; you are there for them, not yourself. You should always pay attention and listen to your constituents; give them what they, not what you necessarily want. Without transparency, the constituents feel that you have a hidden agenda, and their probably right.
To be in it for you is just unacceptable. I have chosen to run for office because I see a void that needs to be filled. The constituents of Ward 6 are tired of the ‘same old, same old.’ I have sacrificed my own personal life and career to serve the public. I am not a career politician; I also support limits on the terms in office. After many years in office, I feel that the politician is there just trying to protect their job instead of making the right choices for the greater good of the city.
Dishonesty is a terrible trait; my blood boils every time a politician lies. The strange thing about that is that they go about their business like it is acceptable and that they did nothing wrong. I feel that lies and broken promises should be penalized. Perhaps a wage cut or fine for those who try to deceive the public would fit the crime.
Complacency is another trait that a councillor should never have. A good councillor should consistently work like it is election year. Some councillors remain unnoticed until the time comes to get re-elected. A good councillor should constantly work towards the vision and ideals of the community by staying in touch with the constituents at all times.
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