City politicians have received a variety of advice as they prepare to debate and finally pass Hamilton’s 2022 operating budget in the next month.
About three dozen residents outlined their priorities during a virtual public meeting on Monday.
Many of the delegates were members of the Just Recovery Hamilton Coalition, which envisions an inclusive city that leaves no one behind after the pandemic.
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“The COVID-19 pandemic really revealed some deep flaws in our society in the way we treat, especially those among us who are not as equitable and financially fortunate,” said Coalition member Karl Andrus.
He said the coalition has produced a budget policy document with 150 recommendations to better rebuild after the pandemic.
There are a number of themes within the recommendations, including the need for greater investment in child care, addressing systemic racism, housing as a human right, green infrastructure, and a recovery that comes with decent jobs with good wages.
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Members of the coalition’s gamut include the Hamilton Center for Civic Inclusion, the Hamilton Roundtable for Poverty Reduction, YWCA Hamilton, and the Hamilton and District Labor Council.
YWCA’s Violetta Nikolskaya focused her message on the need for more investment in permanent and supportive housing.
“We are desperate, with no options and the cold is beginning,” Nikolskaya said, referring to the dozens of people living inside the camps in city parks.
“All solutions must be considered through a gender lens, otherwise we will continue to find increasing numbers of abandoned women” and “without a safe place to go,” she said.
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Lynda Lukasik, Executive Director of Environment Hamilton, questioned how the climate lens, equity, diversity, the lens of inclusion, and the goal of making Hamilton the best place to raise a child and successfully age are currently being used to guide the budget process. .
“Right now, as a stakeholder sitting on the outside, it’s really not clear to me,” Lukasik said.
Anthony Marco of the Hamilton and District Labor Council was among several delegates who advocated for a living wage for city student employees.
“By agreeing to pay a living wage to most workers, this council has indicated that the majority of city workers deserve not to be in poverty,” Marco said.
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He added that because student salaries have not risen to that level, “the indication is that the city council believes that student workers are okay to live in poverty.”
The Hamilton City Council has asked city departments to limit the requested budget increases to two percent next year.
Andrus said he believes that many of the coalition’s demands can be met through “better distribution of the spending of our tax dollars.”
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