* Photo by Kageaki Smith. Mayor of Hamilton Charles Gosling, pictured at this week's meeting at City Hall.
* Photo by Kageaki Smith. Mayor of Hamilton Charles Gosling, pictured at this week's meeting at City Hall.
Six months ago, voters looking for change and a greater voice in their community elected a new leadership team for the Corporation of Hamilton.

Since taking office, and with your support, we've come together and stood together as a team, taking on whatever challenges face the people of Hamilton not because it's easy, but because it's important - not just to the voters of Hamilton, but to everyone across this island.

We have always believed that finding common ground makes common sense - but only if we can do that in a way that does not compromise our principles and values.

We feel it's important to protect the ideals of both central and city democracy.

It's important that people have a voice in the things that touch their daily lives. Municipalities provide those important and alternative means by which people can participate, contribute their talents and see immediate result to their efforts.

And it's important that people feel connected to their community and city government. The entire focus of your elected members is the welfare of the City and the people who live here, work and visit.

The real issue is who is best placed to make tough decisions about priorities and to get the best possible outcomes from the finite resources available.

During our campaign, we asked for your support and assistance in helping us do things differently and better, and to move Hamilton in the right direction.

And our record will show that we have come far in effort - breaking with traditions of the past to bring meaningful and innovative change in the way your city democracy serves you.

For over 200 years Corporation meetings were held behind closed doors. We have opened those doors. Our discussions are public. Our budget for 2010 is now a public document - and reflects our strong record of fiscal responsibility.

For the first time, members of the community know in detail what we have identified as specific priorities, and we have obligated ourselves to achieve specific openly declared objectives within a specific time frame. And future board meetings will soon provide the public with an opportunity to make comments, questions or presentations prior to the board discussion and voting on an issue.

No other Corporation has been so open, set its challenges out for public scrutiny and obligated itself to getting the job done.

Now, just as the members of the community are having their voices heard, there is an effort by government to have those voices silenced.

Unsettling news

Recent news that the government has paid $800,000 to a Bermuda law partnership and one of America's largest law firms to develop a report on how to "reform" the Municipalities Act is very unsettling to all those who value our system of direct democracy at the most local level.

While it is now reported that there are no "preconceived notions" regarding this "reform", its original intent in hiring this consulting firm was crystal clear in its Request for Proposal - "Cabinet determined that the most practical, efficient and effective reform would be to repeal the Municipalities Act 1923 and transition the operations of the municipalities into the relevant Government departments."

This initial payment of $800,000 is significant amount of money. And the final cost of such an effort could eventually reach millions of taxpayer dollars. Imagine the number of teachers that could be funded with this money or the development of a Magistrate's Court programme to collect the millions of dollars of uncollected parking fines - further example of national waste.

Government has identified and is working hard to deal with many significant national issues - this money and effort could better be used towards those goals.

This is not to say that reform is unnecessary. The current Corporation leadership has already implemented significant reforms designed to increase public transparency and involvement. And we have submitted to the government a list of recommendations for additional reform to the Municipalities Act.

The Corporation has no ability to make these changes, only Government can legislate this. We look forward to hearing back from government on these recommendations.

Ultimately, we believe that the Corporation and Government can work closely together, as partners, to tackle the many issues that face Hamilton and the island. Working together will get greater results than any action that limits (or eliminates) the voice of the local community.

That voice is only useful, however, if you use it. I encourage all the members of the Hamilton community to speak up. Reach out to your Member of Parliament, whether a back bencher or Cabinet member by phone or email. Let them know that you want your voice to be heard at the most local level.

Even with the uncertainty about what that future may hold, I want to assure you that we have been - and will continue to be - focused on solving problems and setting a constructive and cooperative agenda that will benefit all the residents of Hamilton from North Street to the Waterfront, today and tomorrow.

CHARLES GOSLING is Mayor of the City of Hamilton.