The Hamiltonian has received the following open letter from Larry Pattison (Lawrence Thomas)
A Rogue Referendum
Run by the people. For the people
We seem to have passively resolved that a referendum held outside of an election, is a cost we are not prepared to incur to solve our cities dilemma with regards to a proposed new Casino in Hamilton.
After attending the Wards 1, 2, & 3 Town Hall at City Hall hosted by Ward 2 councilor Jason Farr, it inadvertently reminded me of the many flaws in our voting system. Although the room seemed to lean heavily towards the side of keeping a Casino out of our downtown core, the night was a good balance I thought, of the pros and cons of what a Casino brings to a city – good and bad.
Although I was on the side of Andrea Horwath and her very public desire to have the OLG give Hamilton time to hold a referendum on this issue, I left the Town Hall session that night feeling otherwise. I have great respect for Ms. Horwath, but the discussion made me realize that so many of the opinions we hold with regards to issues facing our city, the world, and people, are ones often held without all of the facts. At least all of the facts from a diverse collective.
Either way, it seems council is going to upset half of Hamiltonians if you take all polls floating around to date, but in an ideal community these major decisions should be made with the wishes of
the citizens at the forefront.
One issue among many surrounding this debate, is that mountain residents on the surface seem fine with a Casino going downtown, but those who live in the lower city mostly seem set against it. I would think in an ideal voting system, weight would be given to the home community on such a decision. I am not sure how the math would work but I don’t think people would take too kindly of me voting to put a garbage dump in someone else’s backyard. Perhaps two different things but I think the point has been made.
I do still think this is a decision that we should be making ourselves, but you could almost have a referendum to discuss how the referendum should be run.
Below are my opinions as to how I think we can hold a referendum on this issue, and for zero capital.
Representatives from all local media would volunteer their time from CH, The Spec, radio stations, to Raise the Hammer, The Hamiltonian, CATCH, and many of the independents selling, reporting, and heavily involved in our city like Joey Coleman, Matt Jelly, Adrian M. Brassington of This is Our Hamilton, and the list could go on.
All of these outlets would publish content that was very objective and didn’t use bashing tactics to sell the benefits of the side they personal lean to. It’s all about the facts and the assumptions would be ones that all of these outlets believed were safe assumptions to advertise to the masses.
All of these groups would have to QC one another’s articles to ensure as a collective, they all agree on the points being made. Perhaps every outlet publishes the same pieces to ensure we have attempted to reach every single outlet that a Hamilton resident would read, watch, listen to, and all with the same level of objectivity.
Existing articles would all be removed from the sites of the organizations above, until the collective agreed upon their message or they were changed slightly to remove bias.
Any ads that were placed would also not lean to one side. Our main goal of this practice would be more about changing the face of politics, the bullying tactics, the secrecy, the blame of others, the judgment, etc. All we want is what’s best for everyone with trying to understand on another’s needs from job creation to social programs, to growing the city and the individual communities.
Make it mandatory for all voters to have either attended a public forum not unlike the Town Hall meeting hosted by Clr Farr but a new one that travels around the city with the same speakers and general content at each session, or a taping of one of these town hall meetings shown over a live stream where users are logged and tracked so we know that residents have attended a session – that their opinions are informed.
Referendum counts if we manage to get more voters than our last municipal election. If not, the fate is in council’s hands. If the voter turnout is low, we can assume that the majority are okay with leaving this decision up to their elected officials.
Voting system is up to this volunteer committee to decide. We have some extremely technical folk in Hamilton that could develop databases, electronic means to vote, ways to vote in person or online or every possible way we can think of to get the folks to cast a ballot including if they are out of town/country during the balloting period. Perhaps there isn’t even any one voting day.
I think we have the dedication, expertise, and creativity within our city to turn this referendum project into something extraordinary. Even if your ‘side’ loses, I think what we stand to gain most from such a process is an enlightened, involved, innovative, and inspired community.
This isn’t ‘Our City Our Future’ vs. Go East Mountain. This is Your City Your Future. No for or against. Just FOR honesty, integrity, openness, and oneness.
Perhaps a volunteer run, organized, and designed referendum would not hold up as ‘legal’? In that case, perhaps our elected officials would still be the ‘official’ vote but they would promise to cast their ‘ballot’ based on our volunteer referendum results should the numbers exceed last elections voter turnout.
Percentages should have to be 60% or more in favor or it be deemed the public is in the middle about the issue. Once again, the vote would sit in the hands of council.
With representatives from all levels of Hamilton’s public forum, perhaps voters and officials would believe more in its results than a typical municipal, provincial, or federal election. Take the recent US voting system glitches as an example of what turns the voting populous off of this ‘democratic’ system.
These are just some of my thoughts as to how we could still hold a form of referendum on this issue without the exorbitant costs normally associated with holding them outside an election. We have recently received a decision extension to 2013 so would this give us time to devise such a plan?
How could all of us as partners, working together to get the word out there and to encourage people to head to the ‘polls’, change the face of citizen involvement in Hamilton?
There is a considerable trust issue with regards to politics in general so let’s put that trust in the hands of a greater more diverse collective, to ensure the message that is carried across our city on this very important issue is one that the community as a whole agrees with.
There are too many different variations of polls being circulated which is also a problem because there are also two issues at stake here really as I see it.
They are in my opinion:
Do you want a Casino in Hamilton?
Yes, downtownYes, keep Flamborough Downs
Yes, anywhere but downtown
Yes, anywhere period
Maybe a 5th option would be simply, ‘Let council decide’
If we keep Flamborough Downs…
Do not allow expansion. Respect the area as a conservation, Greenbelt district
Or something to that affect.I wouldn’t think that we need anyone’s permission to venture into such an undertaking as this. It’s just a matter of whether holding such a rogue referendum, would be accepted politically.
We’ve said no to a Casino once and one Hamiltonian put something very important into perspective on one of the local public forums. They intriguingly pondered that since a vote has been cast on this issue in the past, the only way to reverse that decision should be by hosting another referendum.
Some food for thought.
Thanks Larry for this submission. Respectful comments are welcome.