Wednesday, May 29, 2002

Poverty Protest

Activists send warning to city council: take poverty seriously
By KEVIN WERNER, Ancaster News, May 29, 2002

The drums along Main Street contain a warning to Hamilton councillors to assist the city's less fortunate and eliminate the Red Hill Creek Expressway project of face the consequences in 2003.

About 200 people attended a rally outside city hall May 29 to protest the 2002 budget and the cuts they believe threaten the environment, social service programs and residents quality of life. The rally was to coincide with council's ratification of its budget, which contained a 4.6 per cent average residential tax increase. The increase translates into an additional $120 to the property tax bill. Council approved the budget at a special meeting May 23.

And as councillors carried on their business in the council chambers, natives thrummed on their ceremonial drum well into the night, making it difficult for politicians to be heard.

"We can find a way to provide $1.2 million for business people (to purchase a hockey team), said Don McLean, a director of the Friends of Red Hill Valley, which helped organize the rally along with Hamilton Action for Social Change. "But we can't find a way to provide the money to the transit service."

He urged people, a mixed crowd of young and old people, environmentalists and union supporters, to "give a lot of these councillors their walking papers" after the 2003 municipal election.

Peter Archibald, for the Coalition of Social Justice, was more direct in his attack against councillors, who he said was the root cause of Hamilton's problems.

"Throw some of the bastards out of office," he shouted.

The protesters were angry that the $477 million budget contains $7.1 million in business tax cuts, while residents have to pay more in taxes for less services.

Due to area-rating and a phase-in program councillors agreed to last year to counter the effects of amalgamation costs, Flamborough residents will see a 6.9 per cent tax increase, while Ancaster and Glanbrook residents will absorb a 6.1 percent and 6 per cent tax hike.

In addition, the protesters contend councillors, where a majority of them were wearing green buttons, along with their supports in the council gallery last week, that stated "The Expressway, the Right Way" in defiance of calls to eliminate the expressway, are supporting a multi-million projhect rather than using the money to rehabilitate the city's crumbling infrastructure; keep city libraries open; and repair community recreation centres.

"There are more people homeless, more people in need," said Wayne Marston, president of the Hamilton and District Labour Council. "Yet council is committed to paying for the expressway. The mismanagement is disgraceful."

Councillors are following a pro-business agenda and are contributing to the "erosion of democracy," said Ray Cunnington, Hamilton's representative of the Council of Canadians.

"The city of Hamilton has its priorities wrong," he said.

Lynda Lukasik, an east end Hamilton environmentalist and a member of Environment Hamilton, warned the people, some carrying signs that read "Red Hill: A Faster Road to Bankruptcy"; "Put People First"; and "Amalgamation Meant No Tax Hike",that the city's financial situation isn't going to get any better over the next few years.

Robert Rossini, the city's director of budgets and Hamilton mayor Bob Wade have confirmed that residents could be facing nine and 11 per cent tax increases over the next two years if the provincial and federal governments don't assist the city in lifting some of the social service expenses Hamilton has been forced to shoulder. They also confirm that the city isn't providing enough money to keep its aging infrastructure and recreation centers form falling into disrepair.

If councillors continue to follow a business-centred agenda, residents should expect even more cuts to needed environment programs, she said. This year councillors cut money to Action 2020, an environmental policy city councillors are expected to follow, and they rejected a reduced pesticide spraying program.

"We need a people's agenda," said Mrs. Lukasik. "It's time for a change."

 - - -
Drums protest expressway as council passes budget
By DAN NOLAN, Political Affairs Reporter, The Hamilton Spectator

The loud tones of drums and native chants played as a backdrop to city council last night as it met to rubber stamp its $477 million city budget.

The sounds came from in front of City Hall by native protesters who were part of a rally staged to show displeasure at the budget.

Councillors, however, were unfazed by the noise which, at times, made it hard to hear people speaking. No one referred to it and they passed the minutes of their meeting last week in which they approved the budget.

The rally, attended by more than 200 people, was staged by the Hamilton Action for Social Change. While the group's spokesperson, Randy Kay, said members were disturbed by numerous aspects of the budget -- such as their allegation it caters more to business than the average citizen -- the majority of protesters sported stickers proclaiming, "I love the Red Hill."

This referred to council's continued commitment to spend more than $100 million to help build the Red Hill Creek Expressway.

Critics argue it will bankrupt the city and destroy the last remaining greenspace in the city's east end. Some natives are opposed because they claim the valley is full of native burial sites.

Supporters, including the majority of council, say the highway is needed to move traffic and build up new assessment. Ward 12 councillor Murray Ferguson said people are free to demonstrate, but said debate on building the expressway was settled long ago.

About half a dozen people spoke at the rally, including Wayne Marston, president of the Hamilton labour council. He said council was heading down a "dangerous" road with the expressway.
Hundreds Rally to Oppose City Budget

 - - - -

Hamiltonians turned out in large numbers to register opposition to the city's budget last night.
Hamilton Action for Social Change

What would normally be yet another dull council meeting was livened by the 250+ crowd gathered in front of city hall to register their opposition to a budget that abandons justice and sustainability for a pro-business "economic development" model.

As council voted to give more than $1.2 million over five years to owners of a Hamilton hockey franchise --some of the richest men in the community -- the majority of citizens were handed cuts to services and tax increases.

Outside city hall, aboriginal drummers and dancers worked to make the Creator smile, while inside, council rubber stamped an unpopular and destructive budget.

In the new budget, taxes for home-owners will rise by $120, almost half of which will be transferred to the corporate and business community through tax reductions.

Further millions will be spent to destroy the city's largest urban park, the east end's Red Hill Valley, by going ahead with plans to build a $220 million expressway through the valley.

Cuts to HSR bus service, libraries and public health were also approved by council.

Lynda Lukasik, director of Environment Hamilton, warned the crowd that cuts to public transit, public health and environmental programs will only increase in subsequent budgets.

"The majority of council are not listening to us. Now, more than ever, we need a people's agenda."

The white-male dominated council is solidly in support of policies favouring business interests.

Yvonne Maracle, a Mohawk activist who spoke at the rally, suggested that council should instead tend to the dismal state of the torn social fabric and homelessness before handing millions over to the rich.

"Governments have forgotten about the basic element of life: caring about our fellow man," said Maracle. "Instead of looking at the immediate community as a resource, they look on us as a hindrance. To start the healing, Hamilton must invest in the weakest link to make us stronger."

Don McLean of Friends of Red Hill Valley reminded people that grassroots activism has already prevented many of the cuts originally set out in the draft budget. For weeks prior to the rally, activists put up posters and handed out thousands of leaflets to citizens on the streets, urging them to contact their councillors to register their concerns, and to attend the rally.

McLean said the next step is for people to continue to organize in the community, and work to "give councillors their walking papers" in the 2003 municipal elections.

Peter Archibald of Hamilton Coalition for Social Justice said that the budget process has to be "opened up to the community." He also told the crowd to prepare for civil disobedience in the face of an unresponsive council and their destructive policies.

Other speakers included Wayne Marston, President of the Hamilton Labour Council, Ray Cunnington of the Hamilton chapter of Council of Canadians and David Jefferess of Hamilton Action for Social Change, the group who called the rally.

- - - -
[text from the call out]


Community life threatened by city budget cuts
The new City budget imposes major cuts on libraries, social housing, public health, HSR bus service, cemeteries, recycling and a long list of environmental programs. It terminates the Clean Air Hamilton program, reduces park maintenance and slashes the Seniors tax rebate program as part of $26 million in budget cuts. Disabled transit (DARTS) will not receive any new money needed to provide adequate service. At the same time, residential taxes will go up $116 per home, nearly half of is being used to REDUCE business taxes by $7.1 million. The Red Hill expressway remains a council priority, but the budget baldly admits that "insufficient funding is being provided for facility maintenance, rehabilitation and renewal; and capital funding levels are far below infrastructure needs in the area of roads, storm sewers and waste management."

Hamilton City Hall, 6:00 pm
Wednesday, May 29, 2002

Mayor Wade's budget will trash community needs but will still push for building the clearly unaffordable Red Hill Creek Expressway, despite dire staff predictions about falling "further behind in infrastructure maintenance, rehabilitation and replacement" and creating conditions where "new capital projects will become financially prohibitive." City of Hamilton Budget 2002.
"This singular project (Red Hill Expressway) is taking us on the slippery slope toward bankruptcy," Ward 13 Councillor Russ Powers



  • Wayne Marston - President Hamilton & District Labour Council
  • Yvonne Maracle - Aboriginal Activist
  • Don McLean - Friends of Red Hill Valley
  • Lynda Lukasik - Environment Hamilton
  • Peter Archibald - Hamilton Coalition for Social Justice
  • Ray Cunnington - Council of Canadians, Hamilton

No comments:

Post a Comment