Katherine Abell / The Silhouette

Who the hell do we think we are?

Whose opinion matters and whose does not when discussing a change that will affect an entire city? Most people would say that if it involves everyone, then everyone’s opinion should be taken as seriously as anyone else’s. The Hamilton Spectator published a quote from Peter Mercanti saying,  “Who are these people? What is their background? What have they done? They get almost all the same weight as the people who really count. It shocks me.”

This statement got such an outcry that by lunchtime the piece was taken down off their website. I am not going to say if I agree with a casino in downtown or not. What I do not agree with is the idea that one person’s opinion is more valuable than another.

An opinion may be more informed or the person feels that their opinion carries more weight since it is in their backyard or they have experience in that area. Those things may be true when discussing the best way to grow a crop or what computer program works best for what you want to do. When a decision affects the whole community, I think that every person who lives in that community should have a say.  Lawmakers and those community members should work together and find what works best for everyone. Will everyone be happy? No. Will these decisions be easy? No. Mercanti asks, “who are these people? What is their background?”

Maybe I should talk about Peter Mercanti. He won Hamilton citizen of the year in 2010. He owns Carmen’s banquet center and holds the high opinion of the community that he lives in. I can understand the arrogance that goes into his statement. He has accomplished much and has been recognized for his accomplishments. What I don’t understand is his assumption that his opinion is the only valid one and that any intelligent person must obviously share his opinion. It reeks of self-importance and a delusion of infallibility.

Worse, it seems classist and elitist, like the bourgeoisie of old looking down their noses at the poor, dumb proletariats. Who do they think they are, anyway?  They only live in the area that will be affected by that casino. They should be grateful that the wise old folks in charge deem them worthy of the crumbs from their table.

The casino is a volatile issue, which has people’s emotions running high. Mercanti’s comment has just driven a wedge between the two factions of the argument, sending the message that the voice of the common person falls on deaf ears and that the upper echelons of power are going to do what they want in the end, regardless of the cries of protest.

This begs the question: is Mr. Mercanti’s opinion shared by the city planners, and if so, do our elected officials actually serve the wishes of the people who elected them or is democracy an illusion to soothe the masses?

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