Throughout the past decade, Dave Shuttleworth has worked at many stations, and in several formats, including Country, Oldies, Adult Contemporary and Talk. In 2006, Dave took a chance at local politics when he ran for Hamilton city council. Although he didn't win, he had an impressive showing.When he's not on the air, Dave can be found all over town at various events; hosting functions, jamming with local musicians, or taking in a lecture at McMaster University, where he is completing his Political Science degree. Dave and his wife, Jennifer Sanders, live in downtown Hamilton with their daughters, Laurel and Julia . Dave answered all 11 questions I put to him. Welcome to 10 + Tough Questions with Dave Shuttleworth of 820 Talk radio.
1. In terms of relativity, how would you compare this present council with the last, in terms of effectiveness, performance and good stewardship? Please explain your answer.
This council clearly has trouble getting along, and Mayor Fred has not done anything about it. If he had taken a hard line at the beginning of this council, perhaps the attitudes of councillors toward the Mayor would be different. Fred needs to fire a shot across the bow sometimes. And, on that note, the councillors in wards 2, 4, 5, 8 and 9 should watch out if and when he does! The only time Fred did take a councilor to task in public was on my show. He publicly scolded Ward 8 Councillor Terry Whitehead on my show over a supposed conversation with Gary Bettman after Hamilton had been denied an NHL team for the umpteenth time. It was such a big deal that CHCH was calling for the clip!
2. As a radio talk show host, you must have a pretty good sense of how Hamiltonians feel about how our municipal council is serving us. Can you summarize what you are hearing and what the common themes or feedback has been.
Admittedly, it’s still the same-old “those politicians just want to get re-elected” attitude. I have heard concerns that councillors are “lifers.” Oh and my personal favourite: They don’t care about us, they’re just trying to further their careers! I think that there is a problem with the question, because there might be a citizen who is very happy with their councillor, but they will never call a talk show about it. Nor, will they email me to say “That councillor from Ward (?) is doing a heck of a job. As a host, I can get a better perspective by calling city officials, talking with callers and reading other media. Callers alone will, very often, only give me one perspective. That’s not necessarily bad, but it is not balanced.
3. Do you believe that Hamilton continues to be in a rut, but is doing more on the marketing front to convince us otherwise, or are you seeing signs of Hamilton turning itself around?
I’m so gad that you’ve asked that question. Yes. Back in 2004, when I was on the now-defunct “Opinionators” on cable 14, I ask: “If you were going to have a party, would you clean up the front lawn but not the rest of the house? No, you wouldn’t.” That’s what Hamilton has been doing consistently, particularly with the downtown. How many millions did we pay for the interlocking brick at King and Wellington? The overhanging signs too? For what? We rolled out the red carpet into the same old dump that we were ashamed of before. We could earmark 100% of our budget for our “marketing strategy,” but it wouldn’t make any difference if we increased the amount of subsidized housing in the core. Granted, that’s only one issue. The “Waterfalls Capital” campaign is well-intentioned but it’s too far-fetched. Perhaps we do have the most waterfalls localized in one geographical region….but other than a core group of dedicated hikers, can Chris Ecklund, who owns the trademark, no one cares. I bet you didn’t know that Hamilton was once proclaimed “Canada’s Country Music Capital.” That designation hasn’t really served us well, has it?
Hamilton will never be successful by branding itself the “(insert moniker here) Capital” Funny enough, Hamilton’s true appeal to the outside comes in a form that we don’t need to market. Out real estate is very attractive to the Toronto set. This is good news that will spread without any marketing dollars whatsoever. In addition, it is a call to revamp our core infrastructure of road, rail and transit. As Canada’s 9th largest city, we can not and should not be relying on gimmicks!
4. Why do you think so few people vote in Hamilton municipal politics and what can be done to increase the turn out?
I don’t think that voter turnout is a problem that is unique to Hamilton. Municipalities across the country often complain of low voter turnout – somewhere in the area of 35%. Sure, municipal politics isn’t as sexy as federal or provincial politics but it has always amazed me, the low turnout, that is. Civic politics is where the proverbial “rubber meets the road.” We vote least for the individuals who can affect us most. We can’t punish citizens for not voting. They will be punished for electing (or not electing, for that matter) the group of councillors that they will! In the past there have been calls for civic tests or full exams to be taken in order for potential voters to get the right to vote. But that will only diminish the already low numbers!
5. Mayor Eisenberger won by a slim margin over former Mayor Di Ianni. Having seen both lead this city, do you think we are better off under the current leadership, at the Mayoral level? Please explain.
I think I have a unique perspective, having seen both govern, knowing both men very well, and having run for council during that historic election. This goes back to my first answer. Fred does not stand up for himself in the way that Larry did. Take for example the Maple Leaf plant proposal during the last council. When Council turned it down Larry took the rest of council to task for such a lost opportunity. I can’t say if the city is “better off” under one or the other, but there clearly was a more cohesive council under DiIanni.
6. What do you read into the extraordinary length of time it is taking to hire an Integrity Commissioner? Do you think an Integrity Commissioner will make a difference?
I can’t speak to the length of time it has taken to secure an integrity commissioner. I don’t know how to go and find one. I will say this: He or she would have had a field day on this council already! It’s ridiculous to think that council can pass judgment on their own, especially given the track record of some of them.
7. Do you believe in term limits for city council? Please explain.
No. Term limits are not a solution to voter apathy! This might go back to an earlier answer, but with less than half the eligible electorate turning out, it’s really our own fault for keeping a “Lifer” in there. I would like to think that, in a democracy, we could control that problem. We also have to consider – as funny as it might sound given the comments that I have made thus far - that there are councillors who are doing a good job on behalf of their constituents and those people should not be restricted by term limits.
8. What was the most challenging on air experience you have had. Please describe the circumstances.
This is a strange question. I’ll answer it in two parts.
Every on-air experience is a challenge. It needs to be interesting, compelling and thought-provoking. In this era of instant communication and on-demand media it is quite challenging to convince anyone to listen to a new AM radio station. The best compliment that I can get is when someone says “I stayed in my car and listened to you the other day.” To think that someone would delay their plans to listen!? I like to be up to that challenge everyday.
On a personal level, it is always very challenging to go on the air when I am dealing with a personal matter. I am not in a business where I can go to work and just keep my head down and “mind my own business.” For as real as the topics are, in the end I have to put on a show not matter what kind of mood I am in.
9. Who would you say is or was the most effective Hamilton politician or community leader. Why did you pick that person?
Cal, You don’t expect me to name just one, do you? OK, Me! For explanation see above! Ha!
10. People, especially politicians, talk about "The Next Hamilton". Are we making progress toward a new version of Hamilton, or are we still stuck in the ditch?
I don’t think that we’re ever “stuck in the ditch.” Perhaps it’s a rut…or a crevasse…you can find a crevasse near a waterfall, right? Anyway, where was I? Oh yes, The Next Hamilton. Look, it’s encouraging to see progress. The Pan-Am games, Light-Rail, Downtown Renewal (well, they’re moving the bus stops, at least). These are issues that we have talked about for years and we are finally seeing movement on them. We have to face facts that it takes forever sometimes to accomplish these goals…Red Hill Expressway…anyone? Conversely, Hamilton has to stop this thinking that subsidized housing is the answer to all of our problems. In the last year alone the city has proposed two subsidized housing projects in the downtown core (2 that I am aware of, perhaps more). This is not sustainable. There is only so much money that we can give to the poor before it is no longer an investment, and I believe that we have past that point. Voters in Hamilton should consider their vote before they send the slate of NDP candidates to Ottawa and Queen’s Park. Hamilton is more than just the poor and that should be recognized.
11. Are you optimistic that the Pan Am games will be good for Hamilton, in a sustainable way?
Yes, I am. Look, I’ll be the first to admit that we’ll probably be way over budget and Hamilton will not get half the attention that it thinks it will get since these are Toronto’s games. But to think that we might get a new stadium and all of the residual benefits even a few years before the games open, that’s very positive. The land would sit empty for however many more years if we didn’t get this opportunity, so let’s jump on it while we can.
Thanks Dave for your contribution to The Hamiltonian and for your interest in Hamilton. You can visit Dave's web page and see his on air schedule by clicking here