What is the Citizens' Forum?
The Citizens' Forum is a randomly selected group of 20 Hamilton residents who will meet from September 11 through to October 23 to learn about the issue of Area Rating. The Citizens' Forum will make their recommendation to the newly elected City Council that will take office after the upcoming 2010 municipal elections to be held on October 25.
The Citizens' Forum is being asked to make a recommendation they see as most fair for the entire city. They will have access to the information they need to assist in their conversations and they will hear directly from residents, organizations and businesses. As they listen to the community and review the information they will reflect on the similarities and differences that make Hamilton a wonderful and diverse community. In the end they will be asked to recommend the fairest way to move forward that recognizes the different ways services are delivered and experienced by residents.
The Citizens' Forum is an advisory body, not a decision making body. When this process is complete, City Council will hear from the committee and will then make its own decision.
Citizens' Forums are being held more and more in Canada and around the world as a way of moving away from politics that divide people into competing camps and the "winner takes all" mentality. People like the fact that it's “people like them” influencing decisions that spend their tax dollars and affect their lives. While citizens' forums will never replace elected officials, it is a way of expanding the political conversation to include a wide range of people and points of view in a thoughtful, productive way that recognizes that -- at the end of the day -- we are all connected.
In this case, twenty randomly selected people will have the opportunity to learn more about area rating of property tax and hear from regular people, interest groups and experts on the various options they might consider and the implications of these so they arrive at the best recommendation they can. All the information available to the Forum members is also available to the public, so that all residents of Hamilton have an opportunity to learn about this topic together. This process will be overseen by a Steering Committee composed of leaders from across this community.