Ward 1 Councillor Aidan Johnson's call to action is unleashing the divides between Town and Gown in the McMaster community this weekend.
Johnson sent an email Thursday evening to numerous community leaders in the Westdale and Ainslie Wood area asking them to respond to an "unfair" Silhouette editorial which was properly critical of his approach towards students.
Johnson did not specific how or why the editorial was "unfair".
I'm regularly on campus, and the editorial accurately reflects the sentiments that I'm hearing on campus towards Johnson, and is one of the better argued editorials in the student-run newspaper in many years.
I cannot emphasis this enough, the editorial gave Johnson an opportunity to address student concerns, work on his own communications with students, and he should be thankful these issues are being openly discussed with two years until the next municipal election.
Today, Saturday, The Silhouette published a letter they received from Mark Coakley in defense of Johnson. Coakley was writing in a personal capacity, and not on behalf of the Ainslie Wood Community Association of which he is chair.
Coakley strongly disagrees with the editorial, strongly supports Johnson, and his words reflect the wound Ainslie Wood continues to have from the lose of their only public school in the neighbourhood, the former Prince Philip. The substantial increase in the student population, and decrease in families, was a major contributor to the closure.
Johnson is submitting a response to The Silhouette editorial to the student-run newspaper, and it will be published this coming Thursday.
The question today is: Will Councillor Aidan Johnson respond to the legitimate concerns expressed in the editorial, articulate a clearer vision for the future of Town and Gown relations, and lead?
Town and Gown tensions need not return to the crisis points of the previous decade.
Update: On January 17, Councillor Johnson's response was published in The Silhouette, here's the opening:
In October 2014, I had the honour of being elected city councillor for Ward 1 (West Hamilton). Many students voted for me. I remember those votes every day. I’ve been able to build a relationship of trust with the student community. It is a bond that I value.
The primary concerns I hear from students relate to ecology and human rights. Both spheres of policy are constantly on my mind. To make a greener, bluer City, I have put wheels in motion to ban sale of bottled water at all municipal sites. I am also working constantly for deeper protection of Cootes Paradise – the fragile marsh-land that rings campus. To address climate change, I’ve worked successfully for a $1 billion investment to build light-rail transit (LRT) in Hamilton – a potent alternative to cars. Our new LRT line will begin at McMaster.