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Outerbridge calls legislation ‘reactionary’on

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Graeme Outerbridge

Graeme Outerbridge, the former Mayor of Hamilton, has criticised new “draconian” municipal legislation.

“I think it’s basically reactionary, targeted legislation because the Government, due to the America’s Cup, are very concerned about any disruption nationally because it’s so economically important,” Mr Outerbridge said during an interview with The Royal Gazette about his turbulent spell as mayor.

“They are being a bit draconian in doing this because they have both the mayor and council in place where there’s no necessity to do this.

“I think it’s the conditioning because of us being such an independent-thinking council, a council that was really the first and probably the last for a long time voted in by just a residential vote. They wanted to make sure they had control.

“If you have an elected body of officials, they are accountable to their electorate.”

Mr Outerbridge, who was mayor for three years until this May, said that while he attempted to build a good relationship with Michael Fahy, the Minister of Home Affairs, and members of parliament, he felt that his council was prejudged.

“I always say we were the council that people didn’t want because the interests that had controlled the city for all of its years all of a sudden were not at the table,” he said.

“We tried to create a committee with that element and put them around the table to give us advice and it worked to a certain extent for a while, but I think there was a quiet tide by the Minister to change the vote, and sure enough it came through.

“A lot of the changes that came to us through the amendments were, I think, reactionary and not really well thought out. People wanted change and we tried to provide that and, in doing so, controversy followed. Were mistakes made? Yes. It was sort of siege mentality because underneath this council was bubbling politics.”

He noted legislative changes which required already-signed contracts to be voided by the House of Assembly, and the subsequent vetoing of a plan to redevelop the Hamilton waterfront.

“The waterfront was the city’s property. The city wanted to move ahead after years and years of plans and actually do something and take it to the next level,” he said. “We did, and it was pulled away because this council wasn’t deemed to be the council to do it.

“It was disappointing but as I went further along in the process I understood when you have a national agenda, something that involves not just the City of Hamilton, because of the contemporary view of politics the tendency is not to trust. I don’t see myself as a politician.

“I see myself more as somebody who wanted to do good for a community. I wasn’t doing anything self-serving. Far from it. I spent three years with no pay other than the stipend for meetings, with a 40-to-50 hour commitment. I felt really responsible for these people, to make sure that their jobs were safe.”

Mr Outerbridge said he supported new mayor Charles Gosling’s efforts to create new local Government legislation — something he said he himself had begun work on.

Regarding the work done during his administration, he said: “Our policy outline always had a North East Hamilton focus, along with to maintain and do things like repave Reid Street and improve other areas, do beautification projects, improve service for visiting yachts so they have running water and electricity, improving the cruise ship terminal — they are very happy with that facility now.

“We made investments in things we felt we needed to, and worked in the parameters we had.

“I think the big project still out there on the horizon is the sewage project, securing and redoing the outflow.

“It’s going to be a big upgrade and big cost and I think we will have to work with Government because they are using that facility a lot, too.”

Minister Michael Fahy