While there is serious business conducted at the last meeting of the term, it's also a lot like the last day of high school for a graduating class. There will be at least four new faces around the table and a different mayor. There were speeches and applause for the departing members, including Russ Powers, who of course is retiring.
It was nice to see all the camaraderie. However, they left an important issue on the table. They deferred the decision of create an anti-racism resource position until the next term of Council. (Read more here: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/hamilton/news/city-council-delays-130k-centre-to-help-victims-of-racism-1.2777123.)
Those who voted for the deferral expressed a desire to learn more about the issue and the associated costs. That is despite the fact that the proposal had already been passed by the Audit, Finance and Administration committee earlier.
Those who voted against the deferral represented Wards that are most visibly affected by racism. In fact, Councillor Merulla was quoted thusly:
“It’s very sad that this council, particularly on the last night of this term, can be defined by not supporting this. [...] It’s easy for us to say,” he said. “It’s not very easy for those that need (the centre) to say. I look around this table and there aren’t too many visible minorities here.”
There are those that say that racism is on the decline in Hamilton but unsurprisingly, many of those voices come from the white middle class. Racism is systemic and pervasive and though I probably will never be on the sharp end of it, I want to be absolutely sure that my city has the resources available for those who are.
The proposal is for an 18 month pilot project and I intend on supporting it in Council. If after that period, we review the data and decide we're not getting good value, we can look at something different. On the other hand, if we do find that it's a needed and valuable resource, I'll be proud to say that I was there to stand up and do the right thing.