Democracy: Straight to Hamiltonians

By Steve Buist / Hamilton Spectator

Here’s a novel concept for you. What if Hamilton residents came up with their own ideas for how the city could run and then presented those ideas to the politicians who might one day run the city?

“It sounds a bit idealistic, doesn’t it?” said Norman Kearney, campaign director for a newly launched venture called The People’s Platform.

“I’m not familiar with anyone else who is starting out with a plan made by the people and then going to the candidates,” added Kearney. “It’s always the other way around.”

About 100 people packed into the aptly named Democracy coffee house on Locke Street South on Tuesday night to kick off The People’s Platform campaign. (Photo at top of post, courtesy of Democracy cafe)

“We thought, ‘Why don’t we look at this from a different perspective?'” said Kearney. “Democracy’s not broken; it’s just missing a few pieces. So we started thinking, ‘What could some of those missing pieces be?’

“People are frustrated with the choices. Others feel that even if the choices are right, the policies are not. The best place to start is with people and their ideas.”

Kearney, a Carleton University graduate student and former host of a Hamilton radio talk show, witnessed firsthand the power of participatory democracy last year when he facilitated a Ward 2 budgeting exercise.

“I don’t think people are cynical or apathetic or jaded,” said Kearney. “That’s only in relation to the political process and it’s because it’s not delivering on their expectations.

“People care. People want the world to get better. They just feel there are so many roadblocks to participating.

“One of the things we want to do is clear away a lot of those roadblocks,” he added.

The People’s Platform offers three layers of potential engagement for Hamilton residents, starting with a simple online opportunity to offer ideas.

There will also be three forums, to be held on Aug. 9, Sept. 13 and Oct. 11.

Finally, there will be two charettes, designed to fine-tune some of the proposals, which will ultimately be put to a vote.

By the end of the process, The People’s Platform intends to present a slate of the top proposals. A questionnaire will then be sent to municipal election candidates, asking them whether they support the proposals or not, with their reasons.

The final results will be posted on The People’s Platform website.

“There’s really no way that this campaign can fail because at a minimum we’re going to be enriching the discussion,” Kearney said.

sbuist@thespec.com

905-526-3226

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