Growing calls for Councillor Angela O'Leary to stand for mayor are being heard after the city council ended its 10-Year Plan deliberations late last Friday night with a 9.7 per cent rates rise for Hamilton.
In an interview with the Hamilton News this week, the long-time councillor said she was disappointed with the new city budget but was not thinking about the mayoralty — at least not for now.
Ratepayers face the almost 10 per cent hike in their next rates bill and then 3.8 per cent rise each year until 2028.
"I've been opposed to this budget since March 2017 when the mayor first raised the idea of a 12 per cent rates increase," Cr O'Leary said.
"The budget was built on the mayor's priorities and certainly not my priorities and I don't think the majority of Hamilton residents' priorities either."
Cr O'Leary is disappointed the new 10-Year Plan is a complete departure from the plan agreed in 2015, rather than building on the commitment the council had already made with ratepayers of annual rates rises of no more than 3.8 per cent.
"I knew the 3.8 wouldn't go through," Cr O'Leary said.
She said residents were not even given the option to vote for the status quo in public consultation when it came to the rates discussion.
Included in the 10-Year Plan is the decision to spend $7 million to buy buildings along Victoria Street and hold them for future use, a reduction of the $12 million to buy and bowl buildings in the same area for a central city park.
Cr O'Leary questioned Mayor Andrew King's style of leadership in regards to those decisions.
"The mayor has not made any secret that he lobbies for votes. He stopped lobbying me very early on last year because I am uncomfortable with that.
"I want a discussion with all the members in the room and it is not the kind of politics I play," she said.
"It's not the kind of politics Hamilton deserves."
After news of the rates increase reached disgruntled residents, commenters on her social media page called for Cr O'Leary to put her hand up for mayor at next year's local government election.
"You are doing a great job and would be a great mayor if you decide to go for it in 2019," former by-election candidate Matthew Small said.
"Roll on next year's elections. This boys' club has to go," Murray J Swann said. While adding 'Angela for Mayor' in a separate comment.
"Thank you Angela — you must be exhausted and disappointed — but you have stood up for the residents of Hamilton," Elaine McDonnell said.
Despite the growing calls, Cr O'Leary said she had put little thought into the idea, as she was focused on the 10-Year Plan.
"I am very flattered and humbled by that. It is a very tough environment at the moment and it is a very negative one. You have to build up some resilience to continue here," Cr O'Leary, who has been a councillor for 10 years, said.
She described the current council as a negative work space.
"Every time I stand up for myself, or stand up for some professional behaviour in a working environment, I get smacked down."
She said the suggestion that she stand for mayor becomes a political knife that gets thrown at her by colleagues who would say she was just opposed to things because she was running a mayoral campaign.
"I will worry about it next year," Cr O'Leary said. "It does not matter which way I move, some of my colleagues will attack me personally."
She said would like to see more diversity on the council in 2019, particularly more women and younger councillors.
"There are many amazing men and women and young people out there that should stand for council, but the first words out of their mouths is 'why would I come into that horrible environment?'.
"It is a very challenging environment to be in as a woman. I am surviving on a daily basis at the moment."
"Debate me off my policies and my ideas, but leave the fact that I am a woman out of the equation, but that does not seem to be case."
Hamilton News has requested a post 10-Year Plan debate interview with Mayor King.
Hamilton's 10-year plan will be adopted at the end of June. The next election will be at the end of 2019.