HamiltonsDemocracyisinTrouble.pdf

Posted: June 16th, 2021

HAMILTON’S LOCAL DEMOCRACY IS IN TROUBLE
Adapted from an article by: Chris Erl

From The Hamilton Spectator, Feb. 9, 2021.

A. If you are unfamiliar with Reddit, the best way to quickly describe it is to paraphrase the
opening line of Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities: it is the best of times, it is the
worst of times. Reddit serves as an online message board where people can share
photos, ask for and provide advice and, as of late, share stock tips. The anonymity of the
site can produce awful behaviour, but it can also bring out the best in people.

B. If you sift through all that digital clutter, you can find a space, or “subreddit,” for our
incredible city. The message board called r/Hamilton has just under 40,000 members.
This online community includes folks chatting about house prices, posting photos of the
fall colours at the Devil’s Punchbowl, and sharing stories about our local history. I am
sure it also includes more than a few very confused fans of a certain popular musical.

C. On Jan. 30, the moderators of r/Hamilton announced they had been contacted by
Reddit’s legal department. Evidently, someone from city hall had noticed the message
board’s icon was our city’s official logo; the six-pillared bridge, representing the six
communities of Hamilton and visually similar to our city’s iconic High Level and Skyway
Bridges. Rather than discuss this with the moderators, the city sent a trademark
infringement complaint to Reddit.

D. Alone, this action may seem petty, pointless, even puerile. The city’s logo cost $600,000
of taxpayer dollars and is meant to symbolize our city, not simply brand a corporation,
but a simple message could have addressed the issue. Instead, the city brought the
hammer down. This cannot be considered in isolation, as it is just one in a long line of
attempts to chill citizen engagement and widen the gap between city officials and
residents.

E. Take, for example, the recent proposals floated at city hall surrounding letters submitted
by residents. Council is deliberating whether to empower the city clerk to hold back
letters critical of any councillor. Rather than these letters being part of the public record,
they would be privately redirected to the integrity commissioner. While some letters
submitted to council may be less-than-tactful, corresponding publicly and freely with our
elected officials is a cornerstone of our democracy. Who benefits from withholding letters
critical of elected officials—the officials, or the people they serve?

F. Then there’s the matter of what the integrity commissioner has actually dealt with this
year. During this term of council alone, numerous high-profile complaints have landed on
the desk of that office. Councillors have threatened journalists and residents, sent
offensive and incomprehensible emails in response to questions, and have weaponized
the office, turning it backward onto residents who had the audacity to speak their mind.
This is not limited to city council, as trustees of the Hamilton-Wentworth District School
Board were also targeted in a similar fashion by one of their colleagues for taking a
stand against racism and discrimination.

G. All of these actions, taken together and combined with the culture of secrecy and
antipathy toward the public that emanates from local institutions, are concerning. This is
particularly worrisome from the perspective of a researcher like me who studies
democratic institutions.

H. How healthy is democracy in Hamilton? Though exact figures and historical data are
hard to find thanks to an institutional disinterest in detailed data-sharing and record-
keeping, we know that voter turnout and engagement is low. This is understandable, as
there are not many incentives to get involved in our local politics. Engaged citizens are
berated by elected officials in meetings, on social media and over email when they
participate. Actions as small as using the city’s logo or as visible as protesting for more
affordable housing are met with swift and brutal backlash. Trustees operate in secrecy
while councillors use language reminiscent of the conspiratorial and dangerous rhetoric
advanced by those on the political fringe.

I. When we step back and consider the wider picture, it is evident that Hamilton’s local
democracy is extremely unhealthy. Municipal politicians view the public with fear and
resentment while residents struggle to have their voices heard and participate in their
democracy without harm or hindrance. All this points to a need for a culture shift in
Hamilton’s local politics. It is time to find common ground, drop the attitude of hostility,
and welcome folks back into the conversation. At the very least, the city can start by
giving r/Hamilton back the logo — a symbol of bridging divides — with an apology.

The Directions:

Your answers must be written in complete, grammatically correct sentences. Be sure to
number your answers properly and to look at the mark allotment for each question. You may
use the Methods of Development, Literary Devices and Tone handouts to aid in your
analysis.

1.In your own words, state the author’s thesis (1M). Then, provide an example of one of the
methods of development (see list below) (1M) used to support the thesis. Explain why you
find it most persuasive. (2M).

a) concession
b) compare and contrast
c) question and answer
d) example

2. Identify TWO stylistic devices from the passage (see list below). (2M) Explain how the
devices contribute to the impact of the passage (4M):

a) metaphor
b) rhetorical question
c) alliteration
e) understatement

3.Identify the tone of the passage (1M) and provide an example that highlights this tone (1M).

4.Give ONE specific example of the author’s use of diction (specific words chosen for their
connotation/implication) (1M). Explain what makes it effective (2M). If quoting a whole
sentence, be sure to underline a specific word or phrase as the effective diction.

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