As the school year winds down, so does this volume of the Silhouette. The end of something usually begs for some kind of retrospect to think about what we did, how it could have been done better, or what we need to continue to do.
When I flip through the editorials and the news pages, I see a noticeable difference in our news and opinion coverage. There were more stories this year about the greater Hamilton community instead of simply focusing on McMaster and McMaster Students Union issues. Hamilton city politics has been equally entertaining and frustrating to follow, as I’ve written for reasons before.
If there’s one takeaway I hope our readers have from this year, it’s that students need to make their voices heard in the Hamilton community. In 2018, we have to go out and vote for the councillor we want to represent us, because we haven’t done that in the past and that’s why students are consistently forgotten by Hamilton city council as a whole.
Last week provided a great example. Hamilton Street Railway proposed two cuts to bussing routes that directly serve the McMaster campus. The proposal, which council voted against, was to eliminate the extra busses provided at peak times.
The MSU was never consulted on this, and if it wasn’t for the reporting of Joey Coleman of the Public Record, it never would have been on the Sil’s radar. The HSR was proposing to cut service less than two months after McMaster students agreed via referendum to keep the same service levels at a higher cost. We would have been paying more to get less.
Instead, students spoke up. They tweeted about it, maybe some emailed the Ward 1 councillor Aidan Johnson. Within the day, the proposal was dead. Students won, right?
No. The cuts really never should have been on the table. But its par for the course, and McMaster students have done it to themselves. Our voices can be ignored because we don’t vote in municipal elections. I’ve written about this before, but I’m writing about it in the final days of this volume because I think it’s that important that students actually go vote in 2018.
City council will not ignore us if we vote and show up to the meetings. The trans rights protocol passed earlier this month featured a number of speakers from McMaster and I believe they made some of the best arguments for why Hamilton needed to support this.
And I understand that voting in municipal politics isn’t that exciting. The stakes don’t seem as high as provincial or federal politics, and making a decision is difficult as the coverage is much lighter. Local politics gives you the opportunity to see change in action that you can’t get at the other levels. Some seem insignificant, like decisions on when to open splash pads, but the trans rights protocol mentioned above is a tangible and meaningful impact. Hamilton city council is currently working on a landlord registry too. City hall talks about much more than zoning changes and parking rates.
We need to be proactive rather than just reactive. As the media landscape continues to change in Hamilton, it is less likely that we will be able to rely on journalists to shine a spotlight on changes that will impact student life. McMaster students can and should make themselves a political player in 2018. We are not an afterthought.