I’ve been heartened by the great efforts to date of those involved with the casiNO campaign. I was really impressed by the turnout to the City Hall consultation on January 17th. There has been a great web presence, effective use of social media and good coverage in the mainstream media. And I’m sure there’s a whole lot more good things brewing that I don’t even have a clue about, because there are some pretty smart people working on this.
Still, I’m a bit worried. The Mercantis & Hard Rock have money and influence and LIUNA has all that plus a whole bunch of boots on the ground. And of course every 30 seconds our friends and neighbours are watching an OLG TV commercial that makes losing your shirt at a casino seem like a selfless act of generosity that helps ensure the future happiness of lonely seniors and disadvantaged kids.
It’s a potent political combo. It requires a potent response. Anti-casino forces have shown they have great air support, but do we need to torque up the ground game a bit?
So the armchair quarterback in me is left wondering if there are any plans to mobilize casino opponents to do face-to-face, neighbour-to-neighbour outreach.
Put a couple of hundred casino opponents in Council chambers and some mountain or suburban Councillors will blow it off as “stacking the meeting” - I spoke to several afterward and heard that exact sentiment expressed from some quarters. Run a fabulous online/social media campaign and some mountain or suburban Councillors will blow it off as the “slacktivism” of a handful of dissenters. Again, I have also heard the likes of this from the mouths of some of our elected folk.
But imagine you took just 50 (or even 25) of the hundreds of casiNO supporters who came out to the City Hall meeting, gave them some campaign materials and a brief training on effective door to door canvassing. Then put them on doorsteps in Ward X for a weekend or two. No Councillor in the city would blow that off.
Engage people: Hamiltonian-to-Hamiltonian, neighbour-to-neighbour. Talk to them about what a casino will do to our city and the impacts that it will have on all of us. Talk to them about the fabulous development that has been taking root in downtown Hamilton - the influx of entrepreneurs, artists and new residents investing their time, their sweat, and yes, their money into building a vibrant downtown we can all be proud of.
It’s important to remember that most of these people don’t come downtown much, if at all. Most have never been to an artcrawl, and many probably never will. They remember the James St. N. of 2003, not the James St. N. of 2013. Invite them down to see what’s been going on. Make sure they understand all the reasons to be excited about the new Hamilton without a casino. Because hell, in 2003, even I might have been pro-casino just to see anything get started in the core.
So let’s talk to them about what’s at stake: what is to be gained, what might be lost, and what a huge difference they can make with a simple phonecall, letter or email to their Councillor. Ask them to think how they’d feel about a casino if they were trying to raise kids downtown, as so many of their neighbours are. Ask them to sign a petition, ask them to join our Facebook page, ask them to follow us on twitter, invite them to an information meeting. Talk to them.
And then when you’ve done that in Ward X for a weekend or two, you move on to Ward Y and do it all over again. And so on…
Core dwellers and progressive urbanists everywhere in Hamilton need to talk to their neighbours from around the city, because it won’t be the Councillors from Wards 1 through 4 casting the deciding votes to put a casino in their own backyards. It will be the Councillors from Wards 5 through 15 who carry the day. And they answer to their constituents, not to Jason Farr’s or Brian McHattie’s.
At the end of the day, a Councillor up on the mountain, or out in Dundas, or in Stoney Creek isn’t going to be swayed by a lot of Twitter traffic, Facebook likes or a killer GIF*. Don’t expect them to be afraid of the wrath of Matt Jelly or Graham Crawford, formidable though they may be. But always remember that they’re petrified of old Mrs. Finucci** on West 15th. Because she lives in their Ward. And she votes.
We oughta spend more time talking to her. She’s a nice lady and she cares about her neighbours. She cares about her city. And she votes…
*Actually, i haven’t seen a killer GIF yet, but we really ought to have one. So as long as I’m being bossy, could we please get one of those?
**Name has been changed to protect the privacy of stereotypical Hamiltonians
- theoriginalpurchase posted this