More bylaw officers are coming to Mac
If you have been pushing the parking limits in Westdale and Ainslie Wood, consider this your heads-up.
On Dec. 14, Hamilton city council voted to increase the number of bylaw officers in the communities surrounding the McMaster campus. Aidan Johnson, the councillor for Ward 1 which includes many McMaster students, submitted the motion. The motion was approved after it was tabled eight days earlier.
Johnson spoke at a city council meeting on Dec. 6 about the need for more enforcement.
“I won’t go into a big speech about how bad it is, I won’t go into a big speech about all the noise problems and hygiene problems that are bylaw violations. I think it’s fairly well-known that throughout the community that McMaster neighbourhoods — Westdale and Ainslie Wood — have special challenges in terms of by-law enforcement,” said Johnson. He also said the neighbourhoods are “really suffering” because of bylaw violations. The issue of absentee landlords was not mentioned in his opening remarks as part of a reason why there are neighbourhood issues but other councillors brought it up.
The original motion called for “one full-time Environmental By-Law officer, assisted by one part-time officer and student help in the summer” because the current structure “is not sufficient to deal with ongoing noise pollution and and hygiene problems associated with bad student housing.” The expenditure would be $113,000 for the employees and $26,000 for the vehicle.
Johnson asked McMaster University to contribute money to fund a second full-time by-law officer, but the university said they were not able to fund it right now. Johnson told city council that Mac would be “genuinely interested” in funding it after a one-year pilot project, which is what the councillor is proposing. In an email, McMaster University spokesperson Gord Arbeau said they support the hiring of co-op students, but “we’ve been clear that we will work with the bylaw enforcement officers to help support their work but we are not in a position to contribute funds towards their hiring.”
During the Dec. 6 meeting, ward 5 councillor Chad Collins pointed out that a bylaw enforcement team was created between three wards in 2013 to address these issues in a proactive manner. It was clarified that Johnson could use this program, but residents tell Johnson that “it does not feel” like there is proactive enforcement. Another councillor mentioned that there was an existing program that used Mohawk College co-op students.
Johnson tabled the motion to get more information.
“I will go back to McMaster for more conversation, I will go back to my excellent two neighbourhood associations for conversation,” said Johnson.
These neighbourhood associations are the Ainslie Wood/Westdale Community Association and the Ainslie Wood Community Association. Students are represented by the McMaster Students Union.
“It’s my policy to treat the MSU as equivalent to the ‘other’ neighbourhood associations in the ward,” said Johnson in an interview with the Silhouette this summer. However, Johnson’s website does not list the McMaster Students Union as one of those neighbourhood groups on his website.
The bylaw officers are being brought in specifically to address concerns with students, but the MSU says they were not consulted. Johnson asked the union to endorse a motion that asked for the university to contribute more money, but the MSU did not. This new motion was not brought to the MSU.
The Dec. 14 meeting saw the motion reintroduced, asking for the Mohawk co-op students to police McMaster students. At the Dec. 6 city council meeting, it was noted that the Mohawk co-op program issued $68,200 in tickets, with wages costing $42,400 for a positive difference of $25,800 from Jan. 2016 to Aug. 30, 2016.
One city councillor used the discussion of bylaw enforcement to discuss larger student issues. Lloyd Ferguson, councillor for Ward 12, Ancaster, said that some students “terrorize” the community and suggested that McMaster academically suspends people who violate property standards bylaws. For a city that has made a lot of noise about trying to retain post-secondary graduates, the latest actions suggest that is not very high on their list.