In a recent article in The Hamilton Spectator on the topic of ranked balloting (see it by clicking here or purchasing today's print copy) and the General issues Committee 9-5 vote against it, perhaps the most profound and important statement was made by Matt Jelly who said " Yet another governance issue that shouldn't be in the hands of council incumbents."
And while Mayor Eisenberger and councillors such as Green, Merulla, Farr and Skelly proved that, in this instance, they could elevate themselves, it remains true that council sometimes wanders into matters that include an ingrained conflict of interest.
Another example is the idea of an Integrity Commissioner, and the form it takes in Hamilton. This position reports to council and, in the past, through queries by The Hamiltonian to this office, it has been made clear that the position considers itself as reporting to council. In essence, we have created a position that is charged with ensuring councillors abide by the code of conduct, under threat of repercussions (no matter how limited these are), but the position remains essentially beholden to council. Some may suggest this would explain some questionable decisions coming from that office.
The Ward boundary discussion is another example where council has involved itself and attempted to shape the discussion and decision. Some suggest it is doubtful that they would have even engaged at all, preferring to preserve the safety of the status quo. In fact, the matter has been deferred before, and gained urgency only on the heels of citizens who threatened to take the matter to the OMB.
And it is pretty safe to assume that the notion of term limits for city councillors will never find expression, save for a critical mass demanding it across the province, or , at least, as a pilot in a city.
Good governance involves making all efforts to serve the public in the best way possible, uncontaminated by personal conflicting interests. If Hamilton is to graduate to the next level of governance capacity, it must find a way of referring decisions that pose a conflict, to the very people whom they are beholden to; the citizens of Hamilton.