Thursday, September 23, 2010

Meet Ward 2 Contender Marvin Caplan

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 dfferentiates you as a candidate? What will you do differently?

CAPLAN:  I am a candidate for council in Ward 2, which was served by Councillor Bob Bratina, who is a candidate for Mayor in 2010.  I believe constituents always deserve to have their opinions carefully considered. Community groups and organisations must be consulted and partnered with to facilitate good decisions by their representative.  While a Councillor’s job is to represent the Ward, he or she must also keep the needs of the entire city in mind.  Today, governments intersect and overlap in funding and regulations. The Councillor for Ward 2 should be an effective advocate at all levels of government. Given the number of disadvantaged people in our neighbourhoods, the Ward 2 Councillor needs to be a leader with heart for the Heart of Hamilton.

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?

CAPLAN:  What is good for all of Hamilton is good for the central city. Fair taxes, good services, and measurable levels of performance by all departments will make things better in Ward 2 and across the city. 

In terms of striking a balance between constituents’ interests and the common good of the City of Hamilton, deliberations at City Hall often include expert reports and studies that are not reflected in detail in media reports or most constituent debates.  As an experienced City Councillor, I believe in consulting with my constituents and responsible representation on their behalf, and to review and consider the professional inputs of City staff and colleagues and others at provincial and federal levels of government. 

For example, one specific issue that is sure to be contentious is “Area Rating”.  As one city, giving special treatment to our suburban citizens means Ward 2 pays higher taxes.  Flamborough and Ancaster Councillors will fight to see that they are not taxed for services which are not enjoyed there.  The only viable solution is to phase in the removal of area rating.  So for the good of the city, and for a solution to a problem, I will support a phase in rather than a small reduction in Ward 2 taxes immediately.  While many may think this short-sighted, when it comes time to ask the Suburban Councillors for their support we are more likely to receive it when I understand their problems. 

I will not be beholden to special interests, but will offer RESPONSIBLE and CONSULTATIVE  representation and advocacy for our downtown core, for Ward 2 residents, and for Hamilton as a whole.

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?

CAPLAN:  Like everyone I have made mistakes in the past, failed in some ventures, and fell short of the expectations of others.  I believe that no-one is perfect. Good people learn from their errors and grow. My failures have driven my success, my errors have driven me to learn and strive to grow and be a better person.  My successes and my growth have lead me to enter politics and strive to utilise my political, professional, and business knowledge to benefit the city that has given me and my family so much, and serve the Ward that has occupied my attention and passion for years.  I offer a unique combination of long political experience, professional and business expertise and success, and deep knowledge and concern for our city and the residents of Ward 2.

Election to City Council means a steep learning curve.  It takes many councillors a year to get comfortable. One area I hope to leverage is my knowledge of the city’s processes. Many councillors have never even read the Municipal by-law that sets out the rules of conduct on Council. Further, my business and board experience have taught me how to read budgets, and that the member of a Board of Directors, particularly the board of a $1,000,000,000.00 plus* corporation that spends time managing the minutiae, is wasting valuable time of the city’s staff and their own time.  If we want elected officials to truly control budgets, they must:

  • Set policy
  • Set measurable and realistic goals for departments
  • Monitor and report to their citizens on the progress or lack towards achieving goals that have been set
  • Put multi-year budgets in place so that senior staff can budget and plan properly
*(The total city budget for 2010 is $1,253,122,000.00).

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?

CAPLAN:  Anyone who pays the slightest attention to Council agrees it is dysfunctional.  If I can be forgiven for a little pride, one of the reasons Council worked a little better seven years ago is because I voted on the issues, not the way the ‘insiders club’ or the power brokers wanted. Councillors who are ward heelers ignore the city’s needs and make it difficult for other Councillors who take the needs of the entire city to heart.  The first rule of most politicians is “get re-elected.”  After all, you can’t be an agent for change and progress if you are not in office.  But, a smoother running council is a result of Councillors treating each other with respect, carefully considering other points of view, and sometimes choosing compromise over conflict.

Politics should be a matter of consultation, communication, and compromise.  It is sometimes difficult to achieve everything one wishes for one’s constituents.  I offer intelligent and effective leadership, long professional and business expertise, responsible governance, consultative and informed decision making, and am not beholden to special interests or single issue pressure groups.  I pledge to do my part to make City Council and City Hall more effective, for Ward 2 and for all of Hamilton.

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. Let’s park that type of rhetoric. Why are you running and why should Hamiltonian’s believe you?

CAPLAN:  I am running because I believe I am the best person to help the people of Ward 2 and our city.  While I understand your wish to avoid excess self-congratulations, unlike other candidates for Ward 2 Councillor, my record as Councillor for three previous terms, in 1995-2004, speaks to my commitment and effectiveness in Hamilton’s City Hall and in our inner city neighbourhoods.  My personal activities and record clearly shows deep commitment and involvement with socially disadvantaged residents, from the Out of the Cold program for the homeless, volunteering in children’s reading programs at inner city schools, breakfast programs at St. Luke’s church hall near Bennetto school, and many other community services and initiatives for our less privileged neighbourhoods.  What my life has shown until now is that I am a person of drive, compassion, intelligence and integrity. While no guarantee, the best indicator of future actions is past history.

Hamilton is facing unprecedented economic and cultural challenges, and remains a warm and vibrant community with so much to offer – in our people, our neighbourhoods, our diversity, our businesses and cultural organizations, as well as our unique and globally renowned greenbelt, combined with well serviced transit, harbour, airport and rail services.  I believe in hope, and I believe in Hamilton.  We’re beginning to see signs of renewal in Hamilton, including the James Street North neighbourhood in Ward 2.  I’m deeply committed to Hamilton’s continuing viability and success, and wish to support our continued resurgence in the new economy of the 21st century, and offer leadership with heart in the heart of Hamilton.
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?

CAPLAN:  On a practical level, one of the difficulties we have in Canada is that our system does not give Mayors the powers many U.S. Mayors have.  One way of thinking about Hamilton’s Mayor’s distress is he or she is one Mayor of sixteen Mayors. Over the past few years the lack of a unified vision has cost us dearly.  The Mayor should chair Council meetings with a firm hand.  As the Chair of those meetings any Councillor who acts in a disrespectful manner to the Mayor or other Councillors should be removed from the Council Chamber until an apology is made.  If a councillor acts like a child, he or she should be given a “time out.” One should always treat ones colleagues with deference.  I will always respect the office. Even when I disagree with the office-holder.

On a general level, Hamilton deserves a Mayor with an informed, responsible and executable vision for sustainable growth and revitalization and the future of Hamilton.  The key issue is not that the Mayor holds one vote on Council, but the quality of decision making and governance by the Mayor and members of Council.  I pledge to represent Ward 2, the heart of the city, responsibly and consultatively with the incoming Mayor and members of Council, to the benefit of our downtown constituents and Hamilton as a whole.  I face the challenges of having held office.  The record will show I worked well with Regional Chair, Terry Cooke, Mayors Morrow and Wade.  I have rescinded any support for any candidate, met with all three leading candidates and pledged my support and co-operation should any one of them win.

7. What are your views concerning the need for an Integrity Commissioner?

CAPLAN:  In any democracy, there is a need for responsible checks and balances to ensure that our leaders are serving the interests of their constituents and community and not using the opportunities of public life inappropriately.  I support creating The Office of the Integrity Commissioner to ensure that our municipal government is functioning effectively and avoids costly conflicts of interest and distractions from our duty to serve our city effectively.

8. How do you receive and process criticism?

CAPLAN:  Like anyone in public life, I have strong opinions, but I have learned through experience to listen to constructive criticism and feedback, in the interests of improving my performance – personally, professionally, and politically.  I’ve been humbled in the past, and pledge to do all I can to serve Ward 2 and Hamilton consultatively and effectively, to our benefit as a community.

9. How would you work with fellow councillors to gain support for your perspectives. What would be your guiding principles?

CAPLAN:  Some politicians approach public life as an adversarial debate to achieve their goals at the expense of others.  I believe that with reason, judgement and vision, consultation, communication, and compromise, City Council deliberations need not be adversarial, and we can more often reach decisions in which everyone benefits.  Even if everyone may not get everything they want, everyone can usually get what they need.  We need to keep the interests and needs of the people of Hamilton at the forefront.  Win-win negotiating is far more preferable to ‘I win/you lose’ debates that are too often pursued by some members of Council.

10. How can Hamilton get back on the road to prosperity?

CAPLAN:  Hamilton will return to the road to prosperity only after or while Council is getting its own house in order.  Our municipal leaders must be informed and prepared by the best advice from experts in ‘the new global knowledge-based economy’ and tailor this to Hamilton’s specific strengths and needs to facilitate Hamilton’s return to economic prosperity.  Specifically, we need to capitalize on the following strengths and emerging trends in Hamilton:

  • Achieve synergies of new and existing businesses, including small businesses and new ventures, exploiting our geographical position in the centre of the third largest economy in the world;
  • Reduce our rates of poverty and illiteracy, which contribute to social problems, poor health, and crime in inner city neighbourhoods;
  • Encourage and support the arts and artists, and the continuing revitalization on James Street North;
  • Encourage labour and management to avoid confrontation and work cooperatively whenever possible, to the benefit of all parties and Hamilton’s economic future;
  • Support local businesses and Business Improvement Areas and local neighbourhood community groups, and work to retain and grow local businesses and foster new business ventures;
  • Invest effort and economic development resources toward retaining university and college graduates and professionals to make Hamilton their home;
  • Continue partnering with Hamilton universities and colleges to grow our new knowledge and service based professional economy.  (In addition to McMaster’s Innovation Park, might we one day develop synergies between McMaster University and Mohawk College to develop an arts college or animation or computer science / technology hub in the downtown core?)
  • Implement strategies that make far better use of the education, skills and drive of our immigrants and refugees, and promote Hamilton’s diversity and welcoming culture to skilled immigrants and their families;
  • Replicate successful innovative, entrepreneurial ideas that help the private sector help us – like Tax Incremental Financing that has seen hundreds of new dwelling units built downtown;
  • Recognize and promote our agricultural lands, world-renowned greenbelt, and local food and agricultural production.  (Few Hamiltonians recognize that well over 70% of greater Hamilton is composed of rural and farm areas!)
  • Recognize and promote at all levels of business and government -- locally, provincially, nationally, and internationally --the economic benefits of a ring road and an excellent harbour for shipping needs, rail yards, and an airport, and existing industrial and commercial infrastructure, whose geographic elements working in concert are a very powerful economic engine;
  • Honour the principles of Vision 2020 and make Hamilton the best place to raise a child;
  • Reward senior City staff for excellence, to support, and retain excellence in our municipal institutions;
  • Recognize that while we have a long way to go, we have come a long way in diversifying our economy;
  • Invest in and promote downtown Hamilton and support innovation, economic and cultural renewal and sustainable environmentally responsible development and growth;
  • Convince Siemens to convert their Hamilton plant to manufacturing wind turbines. 
The suggestions above are all practical, possible, pragmatic and proven.  We need the will to achieve these benefits for Hamilton, and the commitment to see them through to completion, and a willingness to develop new economic visions for new challenging economic times.   There is no single magic solution.  To return Hamilton to prosperity will require a disciplined and informed Council, a commitment of co-operation by all sectors of Hamilton, intelligence and entrepreneurial skills. We must, as pointed out in Vision 2020 and every “new” vision since then, have the vision of a greener, artistically rich, diverse, and economically sound community.  We need one more thing too, pride, the belief and the commitment to do.  I believe in hope, and I believe in Hamilton, and I hope you might support my vision for our economic revitalization, in Ward 2 and beyond.  Most importantly, we need to get Hamilton to belief in itself!

11. What are the top three things a councillor should always do? What are the top three things a councillor should never do?

CAPLAN:  To do:  Listen, Listen, Listen!  Listen to constituents, listen to staff, listen to one’s colleagues, listen to a ‘Kitchen Cabinet’ of advisors drawn from various segments of our city, listen to criticism from everyone (in my case especially my intelligent and wise wife), listen to one’s own conscience and sense of integrity, values and principles.

To do:
1.      Listen and listen some more.
2.      Think and re-think and revise your opinions as required by changing realities, rather than being swayed by empty rhetoric.
3.      Communicate, consult, and serve your community before yourself. 

NOT To Do:
Do not ignore reasonable criticism and others’ points of view. 
Do not proceed without adequate reflection on consequences. 
Do not fail to consult and communicate and apologize as required.

12. What would be your position on the Pan Am stadium issue?

CAPLAN:   As of press time, from a general perspective, the Pan Am Stadium is a critical issue that continues to evolve and is now in under deliberation with the possible involvement and investment of municipal, provincial, and federal levels of government.  I cannot comment in great detail without being privy to all of the terms of the agreement as they develop, but I support the development of the Pan Am stadium as a cultural and tourism magnet and opportunity for responsible economic revitalization and employment in Hamilton, offering the opportunity to showcase Hamilton on a global stage.  As a Ti-Cats fan, I hope for a resolution that will satisfy all parties and a location that will be accessible to local and intercity visitors.

My personal view is that there should have been greater consultation with our most important stadium customer before committing to a decision.  With all respect to City staff, I believe the manager of this small department was suddenly asked to manage a $50 million dollar project without adequate support and assistance.  Perhaps hiring a professional with experience at this scope might have been beneficial, but hindsight is 20/20.   We are now scrambling to find the best solution for spending many millions of dollars, with no plan, no vision, no information, and no goal.  I believe Sam Merulla’s view is correct:  like most Hamiltonians I love the Tiger Cats, but respectfully, Hamilton taxpayers should not be subsidizing Bob Young’s private investment.  We should compromise somewhat to keep the Ti-Cats in Hamilton, as this is a key source of community pride, but that does not mean we should accede to every demand on the part of Mr. Young and the Tiger Cats organization. 

By Marvin Caplan
Candidate for Ward 2 Councillor
Tel: (905) 573-8304 or (905) 526-1033
Address: 103 Main Street East, Hamilton, ON  L8N 1G6


  1. Ward 2 ResidentSeptember 23, 2010

    Ward 2 does not need a seasoned politician like Marvin Caplan who still supports the "Old Boys Club". Ward 2 needs a FRESH face on City Council.

  2. Ward 2 Resident - Cable 14 DebateOctober 18, 2010

    Marvin, stop the bullying tactics at future debates, let others speak without you speaking over them. I do not want a "Power Tripper" as my counsellor.


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