Saturday, July 31, 2010

The connection between the two photographs is...

See that place to the right of the middle of the photo? 'Ann's Coffee Shop'. It was the eatery fixture downtown 'back in the day'. (Currently, that title is held by 'The Village Restaurant'.) This photo was taken during the Santa Claus Parade in 1972, and is courtesy of the Virtual Museum by way of the Erland Lee site.

It says 'Coffee Shop' on the sign, but you may as well think of it as a diner. Because it was. It was owned by Ann Brown, a lovely round woman...and I guess I must have spent some quality time there, because the mere thought of the place makes me grin. I remember her being kind, and strong and wise.

And this? This is a typewriter a dear friend gave me as a 'novel-warming' gift when I moved to Collingwood to attempt to write my first novel almost two decades ago.

Can you read what's typed there? On that faded piece of paper?

When I was around eighteen, I wrote one of my first screenplays. It was set in Stoney Creek. I took it so seriously (I'd intended to film it myself) that I actually cast it. I remember calling up this gal, an actress in school productions, and asking her if she wanted to star in it.

Anyway, while I was writing this screenplay, my best friend at the time was my 'listener'. My sounding board. I'd get stuck on some element of plot, some ditch in the story...and we'd throw stuff around, I'd come up with an angle...and move on. (Most of this was done shooting hoops in his driveway) Well, over the course of me writing this script, there was this one bit that became legendary. A real sticking point. The story had the lead characters at Ann's...but I had no idea what was going to happen next. We'd go back and forth on this troubling aspect of plot, and get nowhere. I'd leave it alone for a while, only to eventually return to it saying "So we're at 'Ann's'..." Ever after, whenever I got stuck, even when I'd moved onto other projects years later, it became this huge piece of schtick to repeat it. It never failed to make us laugh, and never failed to grease the creative wheels. (It also helped remind us of more innocent days.)

And there you have what's typed on that decrepit piece of paper.

Friday, July 30, 2010

The second in an ongoing series

Down Memory Lane, Volume Two

The information at the album says it all; it was nice to solve some mysteries after all this time.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

If only it was a guilty pleasure, then I'd be enjoying it...

Honestly, I swear to God, I do not make a point of waiting for my Stoney Creek News to be delivered on Thursday mornings so I can flip through it to find something to lacerate. I don't. It just seems to work out that way lately.

This week's front-page, lead story had me staring wide-eyed from the start...and I hadn't even read the article yet.

By the time I had, I was shaking my head at the discrepancy between its thrust -Larry DiIanni's highly-anticipated return to mayoral politics- and the headline itself, which reads 'Eisenberger still favourite for mayor: professor'

This lead-off to the Stoney Creek publication's current issue is insulting on two levels. The first I've just mentioned: the bulk of the article is about DiIanni, not about the wherefores of Mayor Fred Eisenberger's re-election aspirations being as strong as this McMaster prof, Mark Sproule-Jones believes them to be. Never mind that he provides almost almost a paragraph of purely subjective supporting evidence as to why he believes this to be the case. (Including the gems "He has kept the ship afloat. There have been no major gaffes." Wow. Talk about damning with faint praise.) The fact is that the headline is almost a non sequitur.

The second is the greater of the sins. It's July. There's just under three months until Voting Day. Not all incumbents have declared one way or the other, and some wards don't have a challengers to the incumbent. In other words, it's early days. And yet, despite the fact that nothing substantive has been declared on the part of any of the two 'leading' candidates, we've got front-page headline that brings into play the musings of a local prof, as if the heavens have opened and we're being handed this news-flash from on-high.

Is that what the voters of Stoney Creek warrant?

Though the article itself has its merits, the lead-headline...often what sums up the impact of the lame.

Think of it this way: How would you feel about a sports announcer who, at the beginning of the championship game, mere seconds into play, declares as to how 'the reigning champ is still the favourite, or so my resident expert tells me...'? Wouldn't you feel insulted that the broadcast thinks so little of your ability to discern what's going on that this guy would state something so baldly...well, fatuous?

Never mind the fact that in sports, the two teams (along with the refs contributing their part, of course) battle it out, with only their efforts deciding the outcome, not the fans'. Whereas in politics, it all comes down to how the voters feel come Election Day; in the end, it's out of the participants' hands entirely.

Even so, my bottom-line question is: 'Why this headline now?'

What purpose does it serve? (Especially as it's wholly misleading in regards to the actual thrust of the Keven Werner-written piece.)

Honestly, this is flabby journalism at its worst. I can only hope that as the campaign heats up, that we're going to see more skillfully considered material presented to us in a much more professional way by our community newspaper.

But maybe that's just me displaying flabby optimism.

Oh, well; next Thursday morning is less than a week away now. May as well break out the whetstone for my favourite lacerating device.

Monday, July 26, 2010

"What do you want?"

Downtown Hamilton - WWI Victory Bonds Rally

This post's title is perhaps personal counselling's best starting point. While it's effective in almost all situations involving people, from little kids' demands to workplace disputes, here I'm asking it in regards to local politics.

Hand-in-hand with this question (and I'll get to the reason for asking it in just a bit) is my personally held belief -as stated elsewhere on this blog- that before you can even begin to address a problem, you really need to understand as much as you can about the problem. (Yes, I've dealt with this in my ten-part series on 'What is a 'downtown', and how come Stoney Creek's bites the Big One as much as it does?')

The 'problem' is our current dissatisfaction over City Council.

'Vote 'em out!' seems to be the rallying cry on many fronts. (Which is kinda odd...seeing as how few currently holding office have thrown their hats into the ring, and moreover, how few wards are, at this point, uncontested. This slant is from info I was given fairly recently...but don't quote me.) As if a new batch of people is the answer.

Is it?

I had a very, very interesting email exchange with Ryan McGreal of 'Raise the Hammer' last week about elections. About what people might look for in candidates, to get the best councillors elected. Now, Ryan and I have had our moments in the past. Ideological rough spots. But the truth is that there's very little that separates the way we see a good many issues...our difference lie mostly with arbitrary labels the tangentially philosophical, which have the least to do with quality of Life of all the factors and variables being discussed. (Sorry for being vague here, but I'm trying not to derail myself.)

In his response to my enquiry, Ryan presented some fantastic viewpoints. Ones I'd love to share...but I can't, because they're his, and he's informed me of his intention to publish an article based on his thoughts at some point closer to the actual municipal election.

What I can tell you is that at the core of what he suggests is an absolute need for engagement. Not just on the part of the councillors. But also -actually, more importantly, really- on the part of the voters. The populace. In order to ensure that what gets done in each ward, for each ward, to each ward reflects what those constituents want. (Or at least more than it has in recent history.)

So here I ask my initial question, the title of this editorial: 'What do you want?'

I'm asking this of the average citizen. The average voter. You.

Do you want to vote, then hand off the reins of power to the councillor (and Mayor) that you elect and not have to be bothered with stuff? Leave them to it, trusting that they're competent and that they're going to get the job done, while you return to living your life? After all, isn't that why we pay politicians, so we don't have to spend the time making sure the business of the City is being properly attended to?

Or do you want to play a bigger role in how the City is governed, maintain your engagement with your councillor by way of the ward online site, by emails, by 'town hall meetings', by online versions of the same?

I happen to agree with Ryan. I think it's a brilliant observation. I think that it speaks to the very essence of being a good citizen, of being a good community member, a good neighbour, a good part of your family. Instead of 'entitlement', we're talking about 'engagement'. Instead of 'Us and Them', we're talking about...well, just 'Us'.

This notion connects to that other reference I made: developing as full an understanding of what's wrong, what's gone wrong. What actually happened over the past four years? People are carping, there's a fair amount of discontent, but what decisions were made, why were they made that way, how else could they have been made...? Did our politicians actually screw up? Why do people feel such dissatisfaction about their City government, why do they feel so disenfranchised, so impotent? More to the point here: would increased engagement on the part of the average voter throughout a councillor's term prevent some of this discontent?

Whatever the inherent flaws are in politics, I'm not sure that merely raising our fists in righteous indignation is going to accomplish much beyond fooling us into believing that we're actually doing something to change what is so clearly not working...or at least not working as well as it could. As well as it should.

So I suppose the next question to be asked, one that will be the subject of another crack at all this at a future date, is 'How do we generate a better sense of political engagement amongst citizens?' Not just 'How do we increase voter turnout?' but 'How does maintaining political engagement become part of a person's lifestyle?' How do we make that value system shift to that paradigm?

Stay tuned.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

They call me MR. CRIPPS!

Here's another take by Mr. Butani on Mark Cripps'
-previously skewered- column.

And of course, I was obligated to respond:

It's hard to figure where Mr. Cripps gets his perspective...and yet not. Take a look here at how he viewed G8/G20 protestors...and he's had some pretty whiney things to say about stuff like car-flags during the World Cup.

What's fascinating to me is that while he's pumping out this stuff a la 'Fox News', he's also ruminating on notions of tolerance.

I have no delusions as to what the Metroland group of area 'community newspapers' are all about. They're the modern equivalent of the barber shop discussions or the hair salon gossip-catchups...they're a little bit of news, a little bit of 'good news'. (Of course, the core truth with these papers is that they probably only exist because they're delivered with a massive pile of retail addition to having ads of their own within the publication itself.) So the tone is not the same as for The Spec, for example.

And yet... I'm seeing almost zero leadership on their part in respect to the role a 'community newspaper' should be displaying, at least in my neck of the woods (I am referring of course, to Stoney Creek), and Mr. Cripps is probably the worst example. If he's going to wax so poetical about substantive issues such as municipal identity, then can we please get the whole package? Otherwise, shouldn't he just have his Dave Barry/Gary Lautens-esque 'column' placed in a more frivolous section, and actually feature someone who has a true journalist's bent?

(And while I'm at it, why-oh-why isn't this group of papers in the 21st century, with an online presence that features message boards (we ARE talking 'community', after all...) and stories updated in real-time and not just according to their weekly publication dates? Honestly; you're either in for a penny, in for a pound in this newfangled 'Internet' thing...and right now, the Metroland group is sitting in a ditch, not even on the fence, if I may be so bold as to mix my metaphors.)

Well done, Mahesh for calling out Mr. Cripps on this baldly egregious column. Would that Mr. Cripps would respond. *sigh*

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Even in rainy repose... still...

...warms the cockles of my heart.

Taking a Step Back

Though this is my 'civic activism' blog, I've contributed and posted elsewhere on the subject for a while. I'm not a city planner, I claim to be no authority, have no 'schooling', but have developed an abiding appreciation for living spaces over the years, especially having spent time in a fairly broad variety of locales.

When I've lived locally, I've always felt I was a citizen of two cities; Stoney Creek and Hamilton. I was born there...but raised here. I lived in Hamilton for long stretches of my adult life and established one of my careers there...and yet currently live in Stoney Creek, having returned here quite unexpectedly. I should add that I'm not 'torn' between them, not at all. Not when my tattoo declares: 'Nothing succeeds like excess'. Each city represents different things to me, and I revel in them all.

It's ironic that currently, both are in need of revitalization and rejuvenation. Funny, that...

I've mentioned in other essays that I'm always more interested in knowing the 'Reason Behind the Reason' ('RBR', my riff on 'Question Behind the Question', an approach to accountability coined by personal guru and business success consultant John G. MIller.) than I am in the details of what's happened. In fact, the actual event, the decision, the process almost never holds as much fascination for me. I want to know more about what led to what's in the spotlight than the object itself, I want the backstory more than I want the news item.

So I guess it should come as no surprise that I've gotten into my shares of tussles with people looking back on mistakes Hamilton has made. Mostly because a) they're often as not nearly old enough to have seen first-hand what they're ranting about, b) they've not done sufficient research to hold a qualified opinion, and c) they look back with the perspective of modern day, with a 2010 mentality. (I'm tempted to add d) that they take waaaaaaay too much delight in expressing righteous indignation...people for whom getting pissed-off seems to be some kind of side-vocation. But I won't. I do have some restraint.)

Probably the greatest target for them to aim their vitriol at is the Jackson Square effort. Originally conceived as 'Civic Square', it was a grand scheme with the lofty goal of reinventing the downtown.

Now, I'm not writing this piece in order to delve into what transpired, why it's regarded by so many as a qualified failure. For anyone who's interested, there's a fabulous essay available online entitled 'The Facelift and the Wrecking Ball: Urban Renewal and Hamilton’s King Street West, 1957–1971' by Margaret T. Rockwell. Google it. It's well worth the effort. In fact, if you live in the area, you owe it to yourself to understand why things are the way they are in Downtown Hamilton these days...and this document will supply a good half of the story.

What compels me to put finger to keyboard is the renewed understanding of how dangerous it is to look back and re-examine what was, what happened...without appreciating context. Because by insisting on interpreting 'facts' this way, nothing is accomplished...and the conversational waters definitely get muddied. To everyone's detriment.

In a nutshell, most people looking at the débacle that was the Jackson Square effort focus on what resonates for them (the loss of all those 'shantytown' residences, the light-manufacturing businesses that were woven into the fabric of the area, and perhaps the #1 complaint: Old City Hall) and forget to -or willfully decide not to- factor in all the contributing elements.

In effect, they don't consider the Reasons Behind the Reasons.

Jackson Square (or, as I have pointed out, 'Civic Square') was conceived in the 50s. The men who were responsible (yes, it would be almost entirely men shaping the future of a city's core), the movers and shakers, the planners and developers, the politicians and money-men were generally of a generation whose roots were in the turn of the 20th century. They were the products of two World Wars, one that had only been fought a decade and a half previously. They had lived through The Great Depression and were living within the circumstances of the Cold War, they witnessed the rise of Madison Avenue defining the new religion of consumerism, they were seeing the birth of rock and roll, of television, they rode the seemingly endless waves of the post-war boom...they were of a mindset predicated on the need for change, for growth, for creating a future that owed less to respect for the past, convention and conservation than it did to innovation and progress...progress, progress, progress.

These are the elements that the ranters seem to constantly forget. Or ignore.

These are the contributing factors that played parts in how badly things turned out downtown, informing the entire process to so great an extent...

...and yet mostly, they're disregarded by those whose motto seems to be 'Vilify, Vilify, Vilify!' Lord knows they rant it at full-speed (and full-volume) when they're in their revisionist-cups, and along with irking me something fierce, this tendency makes me sad. Because in their own way, they're crapping on the past as much as they're accusing the transgressors from back then of doing.

No matter the situation we're talking about, I think it's important to understand how we got to where we are. That we must truly understand to as great an extent as is possible, before we can effect any solutions or corrections. That it behooves us to take a really good look at the entire picture and not just the part we want to put under the microscope.

Humans are inherently flawed. All humans are foible-rich. While I believe that there are always going to be some who have dastardly intentions, most 'screw-ups' aren't the result of some diabolical plot...they're more a grand combination of missteps and miscalculations, badly-formulated concepts as executed by less-than-brilliant practitioners...rarely the result of evilness, but rather, orchestrations of stupidity. ('The Gore Park Fiasco', anyone...?)

So my wish for anyone trying to glean understanding of something -it could be a development scenario, it could be a political faux pas, it might be a crisis-of-confidence in a relationship- is to endeavour to grasp the fullest context possible, given your resources. To search out the Reasons Behind the Reasons.

Oh, and leave the ranting for the online 'experts'. Unlike Love and Wealth, I suspect there is a finite amount of Vilification in the universe, and really; who are we to deny the High Dudgeon group their sustenance?

Friday, July 23, 2010

Nice to know I'm in good company.

Mahesh P. Butani, one of the Mayoral candidates, posted this editorial about the Mark Cripps' piece that I just 'examined' yesterday. Good food for thought.

Oh, and it's always fascinating to read the Comments, too.

It's *such* a great notion...

The interior of The Commodore in Portsmouth, VA, a 'dinner-cinema' experience.

Part of my 'dream solution' for reinventing, revitalizing Downtown Stoney Creek, found in this portion of my 10-part series, was a re-birth of The Fox, for the past 44 years known as The Royal Canadian Legion, as a 'dinner-cinema', of course the film version of 'dinner-theatre'. The model for this is The Commodore Theatre.

But the New York Times has an article online today telling us about two new cinema ventures of a similar styling.

As I've said previously, it's a great concept, it bucks the conventional model enough to in turn buck the traditional (lack of) success where independent movie houses are concerned...and it's a sure thing for a community such as Stoney Creek.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Thank you, Goethe.

"Civilization is a permanent exercise in respect. Respect for the divine, the earth, for our fellow man and so for our own dignity."

Gotta Give The Guy Credit

In this week's installment of 'Tales from the Crypt', Group Managing Editor of the Metroland area community rags Mark Cripps manages to tear off big chunks of two entirely separate, yet currently connected issues. In doing so, he shines a little light...but I don't think the resulting effect was what he was straining for: putting the flashlight in his mouth and making like a scary Jack-o-Lantern.

The two issues are 1) Suburbia as 'serfdom', and 2) the unassailability of highway-served stadiums.

Now, on the first count, Mark and I actually start out on the same side of the discussion insofar as the implementation of amalgamation back in 2001. My feelings back then, and buttressed by both empirical experiences here and in the UK in the interim, as well as a diverse selection of digested reading materials tells me that 'bigger is not in fact, better'. In almost any instance. In fact, in order to find a way out of the morass we've created with our current manifestation of whatever-you-want-to-call-what-ails-us, this consumer-driven, entitlement world, we're going to have to 'go smaller'. You know, right down to notion of neighbourhoods being the hubs around which communities and towns and cities are built. But that's another discussion entirely. The bottom-line is this: I don't like the arbitrarily-created entity called the 'City of Hamilton'.

I was born in Hamilton. I've lived a good portion of my life either in Hamilton or nearby. But I was raised in Stoney Creek and Winona, and over the years, have spent quality time in both Dundas and Ancaster. So I cannot be convinced that Hamilton is anything other than Hamilton, and not Stoney Creek, not Dundas, not Ancaster and not Flamborough...and those fine cities are not, by any stretch of any bureaucrat's addled imagination, Hamilton. Am I in favour of 'de-amalgamation'? Yup. You betcha. (Not that it wouldn't come at a cost, or require some creative thinking and negotiations to make a new dynamic arrangement work. But hey; the genie that's currently outside the bottle has a peculiar smell, the upkeep is ridiculous...and its textbook description is 'unwieldy'.)

So what Mark and I do agree on (I think) us that the notion of the 'City of Hamilton' doesn't fly. (Albeit for different reasons.)

What we don't agree on is the extrapolation of how people supporting the West Harbour site -those who wish to see Hamilton's downtown revitalized by extension- are expressing themselves, and what all the clamour really means.

Mark takes umbrage at the very idea of a domino-effect initiative at the West Harbour being paraded so enthusiatically. He sees the cheering and the lobbying on the site's supporters as being...well, 'putting down the suburbs', because championing the West Harbour site means saying 'No' to the East Mountain site...and in Mark's flashlight-illuminated cranium, this means 'Down with the suburbs! Boo! Hiss!'

Three tiny points here: Firstly, one of the primary reasons the downtown has suffered neglect from an civic administration standpoint is that a great majority of the available energies have gone into the development of the peripheral aspects of the 'City of Hamilton'. You know...the suburbs. Mark's self-described 'serfdom'. Secondly, in order to connect the dots to his umbrage, there has to be a somewhat-shortfall where self-esteem is concerned. Otherwise, generally we don't tend to get bent out of shape over such -ill-founded- extrapolations...leading me to ask 'Why so down in the mouth, Mark?' Thirdly, someone being proud of whatever it is they're proud of doesn't automatically mean you can infer that they're saying that you're crap. (Please see my second point.)

So; people who are championing the West Harbour site see everything connected to it as being great for Downtown Hamilton's renaissance. They're not 'anti-suburbs', they're 'pro-downtown'. And shouldn't feel one iota of obligation to defend their beliefs, certainly not because Mark has decided in that Jack-o-Lantern getup that he -and others in similar costumes- have been slagged-off.

But I will concede that the West Harbour supporters are -to a great number, I'm sure- anti-suburban stadiums in general...which is connected to Mark's other bully-pulpit issue, 'the unassailability of highway-served stadiums'.

I'm going to keep things simple here and concentrate on the salient element of this disagreement, the crux-point: those people who believe that the West Harbour site is a better choice in terms of downtown development are at the same time, pro-transit and anti-car mentality. Whereas Mark is seemingly, at least from what I've gleaned from his editorial, a staunch believer in The Car as King.

And you know what? As I related in this piece, for me the discussion begins and ends with these polar-opposite approaches. Approaches not just to stadiums, but for a hellova lot about Life in general; at the core, we're talking about value system clashes. (Again, another discussion, another time.)

My guess is that Mark's existence is deeply-embedded in the car-culture. (Or the car-culture is deeply-embedded in his existence, take yer pick.) My sense is that Mark can't make the mental leap to a new paradigm that does not have the car as the focus, that he's resistant to even considering a value system predicated not on an accelerator pedal underfoot, but on an integrated public transit system. I'm willing to bet that even this part of my commentary will have him making all kinds of new faces to be ghoulishly highlighted...each successive one all the scarier than the previous.

I welcome a healthy debate. I appreciate a well-considered argument, indeed celebrate discourse that adds to the discussion. Sometimes someone else's pointed thrust, no matter how diametrically-opposed to yours, can actually help clarify not only the topic being discussed, but help make your position all the clearer. Having said all that, I'm finding more and more that my reaction to Mark's editorials is a wide-eyed, drop-jawed 'WTF?!?'.

Naturally, without the flashlight effects.

I know, they're so far away...

In the'll have to click on the photo to properly see them; I didn't feel comfortable taking a shot any a group of seniors doing Tai Chi this morning. Seeing them made me smile and feel glad that we have our open spaces.

So, when 'they' won't publish...


Here's my letter that wasn't chosen by the Editor for this week's edition:

Re: 'How many shoppers will just drive away?', July 15, 2010

Mike Matheson declares a viewpoint in his letter, one that I'm sure some Stoney Creek residents share, one that needs to be addressed openly, one that is connected to some much larger issues, some of which I'm betting Mr. Matheson hadn't even been considering when he wrote his letter.

In it, Mr. Matheson exercised his free will recently on Locke Street, having deciding that metered parking was not acceptable and motored away from a possible shopping excursion. OK; so my first question is: 'Are you saying that the notion of paying $1/hour for parking is going to automatically veto a visit to a dedicated shopping area?' (The Locke Street metered parking is tied in with all the Hamilton Area BIAs, and there's a very specific history that goes along with this current situation, one that perhaps 'some' Stoney Creek residents are not fully cognizant of; maybe Connie Behie of the Stoney Creek BIA needs to do an article here laying out the history for one and all, for once and for all.)

If this is true, my second question is: 'Do you ever venture outside your -seeming- world of free parking?' You know, into the rest of reality?

My third question would be 'Do you honestly believe that Stoney Creek residents will follow your example (ignoring the fact that there is Municipal Lot #3 which provides 'free parking') and simply not shop downtown, all because of a dollar, less than the cost, for instance, of a pre-packaged bottle of water?'

My fourth and final question isn't really a question per se, it's more an invitation to engage about this issue -paid parking- as it connects to the larger realities of the modern world as well as to consider what the discussion really is regarding 'metered parking' in Downtown Stoney Creek: 'Can we actually *talk* about this for once...please...?'

My blog is called 'My Stoney Creek'. ( I began the blog because I love my hometown and am concerned about its state and its future. This issue is one of the two initial reasons I began posting there: to examine and address the whole brouhaha over the 'injustice' of the 'imposed' new paid parking philosophy/strategy, especially in relation to the much, much bigger picture of the vitality of Downtown Stoney Creek. There are all sorts of articles there, including a 10-part series addressing not only 'What is a 'downtown'?' but also 'Can Stoney Creek Have a Vital, Vibrant Downtown, Or Is It Stuck With What It's Got, Forever?', so I won't take up valuable newspaper space and belabour the point here.

What I will say is this: It is my impression that many, if not most of the people who have been screaming 'The sky is falling! The sky is falling!' are either a) not conversant with how a thriving retail community happens to get that way, or b) of a generation that has -again, seemingly- little grasp whatsoever of change itself and the truth that if it's not addressed proactively, it will end up burying you...or both a and b. Not to put too fine a point on it: the 'problem' with Downtown Stoney Creek, what 'threatens' its existence is NOT 'metered parking', it's complacency, apathy and a distinct lack of vision.

As I've said on the blog, we need to start discussing this issue instead of wasting time and energy blathering like whiney creatures about the unimportant and the insignificant.


Of course, this makes me very curious as to whether the News feels a revitalization of Downtown Stoney Creek is a relevant issue at all. So I invite the Editor, Kristy Elik to provide some kind of feedback as to the editorial 'position' they've taken regarding the 'metered parking brouhaha' as it relates to our downtown's health.

I await with bated breath.


What I Love

I love engagement.

I love pro-active movement.

I love people fighting for what they believe in, and in that fight, expressing themselves in a graceful way.

This video supporting the West Harbour Pan Am Stadium choice, absolutely, positively fits within these categories.

Good luck to them.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010




Downtown Stoney Creek.

And the metered-parking spots on King Street east of Mountain Avenue...are mostly filled.

Guess people aren't driving away after all, huh...?

(As for the spots west of Mountain Avenue...they were mostly empty...mostly because maybe Municipal Lot #3 is close, and it's still free? Maybe?)

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Even on the weekends, some toil

Merlo's Clear-cut Gets a Trim!

The situation makes no more sense to me than it did 36 hours ago, but it did get tidied up. (Is that a consolation?)

Saturday, July 17, 2010

A 'Letter to the Editor'...but not one of mine.

In this week's Stoney Creek News, there's a letter addressing the metered parking 'situation' in Downtown Stoney Creek. It's from a reader whose name I recognize from previous editions of the News, contributing to the discussion of other issues over the past year that I've also contributed to. The letter is here, but I'm going to publish it as well:

How many shoppers will just drive away?
Jul 15, 2010
Re: Downtown parking meters up and running, July 8, 2010

I had an appointment on Locke Street South the other day and, while driving back from it, I saw some shops that looked interesting.

I spotted a parking space and pulled up, my mind working on which place to check out first.

To my chagrin, there was a large box nearby that read “Pay Here First” and I simply drove away. I can't help but wonder how many people will do the same thing in downtown Stoney Creek now that parking meters have been installed.

Mike Matheson, Stoney Creek

Needless to say, I was typing out a response immediately, and after I'd entertained a friend, several hours I sent it off to the Editor.

I'm not going to publish it here, because I've got the feeling that to do so pretty much obliterates any chance my letter has at getting published by the News; I think that there's some line I cross when I do this, that they maybe feel like their toes are being stepped on, even if it's just to the extent that I'm effectively removing them from the loop, so it's no longer a Stoney Creek News 'Letter to the Editor', but more a reprint from a local activism blog. (Not that this 'genteel' approach on my part will have any guaranteed effect on how they see me and my opinions these days. They may have decided to ignore me forever and ever, Amen. And of course, I can't do a thing about that. But I will say this: 'Eo non abicubi'. Or, for those of you who failed Latin, 'I'm not going anywhere.')

However, I do want to generally comment on how this letter makes it abundantly clear to me that Stoney Creek desperately needs to generate dialogue about its downtown. It's one thing to have divergent opinions. It's one thing to be clinging to mindsets that are anchored in bygone days. But when the very life of an area is being misunderstood, when, shall we say, there's a discussion about whether or not someone should be wearing jeans or trousers, short-sleeve or long-sleeve shirts, shoes or boots, while they're actually suffering from secondary hypertension and are at imminent risk of a heart attack or stroke...then we've reached the point where someone has to do whatever they can to get the dialogue started.

Which is exactly what I'm doing here...

...while hoping that the Stoney Creek News will take it upon themselves to see the whole notion of 'downtown revitalization' as being the unacknowledged elephant in the room, take the lead and at least open the general discussion.

Friday, July 16, 2010

...with some perspective on the side, please.

This blog was initiated as an expression of 'activism'. Maybe not the flavour of activism some would agree is 'proper activism', so here's my definition of the word: 'Behaviour, gestures and efforts that promote engagement and discussion towards an improved existence.'

Periodically, I will be injecting stuff into the mix that's decidedly not about Stoney Creek, references that...well, add to the stew. As I have a personal blog where I tend to cover this stuff on a daily basis, I'll endeavour to show some restraint and only feature bits and pieces I feel are worthy of the cause...namely activism as defined above. Here is my first contribution in that vein.

As individuals we are not powerless. Opportunities for meaningful and important action are everywhere: in the food we eat, the work we do, the transportation we use, the manner in which we relate to others, the clothing we wear, the learning we acquire, the compassionate causes we support, the level of attention we invest in our moment-to-moment passage through Life, and so on. The list is endless, since the stuff of transformation is identical with the stuff from which our daily lives are constructed.

We are each responsible for the conduct of our lives...and we are each unique. Therefore we are each uniquely responsible for our actions and choices in this pivotal time in human evolution. There is no one who can take our place. We each weave a singular strand in the web of Life. No one can weave that strand for us. What we each contribute is distinct, and what we each withhold is uniquely irreplaceable.

Duane Elgin, 'Voluntary Simplicity' (Second Revised Edition), p.134

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Waddya know! Something *purty* at Merlo's Clear-cut

I almost missed it. Right there, in the middle of all that...all that 'rebirth'. Life's like that, huh?

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

There's two sides to every...stump?!?

It's funny (not really) the things you can find out on the trails.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Plus ca change, c'est plus la meme chose...

With all the brouhaha that's unfolding about the Pan Am Games stadium site, I've been reminded of certain truths.

The first is that before you begin making decisions, you need to have answered the question 'What do you want?' (I know, I know; it seems obvious, but then how do you explain having two diametrically-opposed approaches to the eventual location, 'urban' and 'not-urban'? To me this smacks of negotiating the architectural details of an automobile race-track's design without beforehand agreeing to whether we're talking F1, NASCAR or NHRA.)

A second is 'Too many cooks spoil the broth.' You'd think that having almost a dozen-and-a-half people conferring on such an item might actually increase the chances of a sound decision being reached.

Third, that putting bizarre developments aside, it's actually possible to predict how a situation will look in five years, ten years, within surprisingly accurate parameters.

Finally, 'Nothing changes unless something changes.'

For me, connected to all this is the notion of 'city building' and the responsibility of corporate citizens within that process. As I've laid-out elsewhere, everyone's success leads to...everyone's greater success. The notion that businesses should be anything other than pretty-much self-serving is an unrealistic one within the societal paradigm we've constructed (I'm not saying it's 'right'), and yet to not understand how things work better when we all work better not only sad, it's naïve.

Of course, given the photo at the beginning of this editorial, I'm focusing on Downtown Stoney Creek.

If nothing is 'changed' regarding the dearth of retail draws, if the profile of the area is not expressly grown (read that as: 'improved'), then what you see right now is what you'll see in five years, in ten years, yadda, yadda, ad-nauseam-yadda.

I guess the real question is where the leadership is going to come from to initiate this change, inspire (and form) the innovation and spirit of reinvention.

Politicians? For that to happen, there'd have to be some kind of consensus about Downtown Stoney Creek, some kind of vision, some kind of plan. (You know, like the 'Battlefield Park National Historic Site Master Plan'. Except that- Well, you cannot 'mandate' within our free-market, capitalist system.) And who does that involve, government-wise? Chad Collins (Ward 5), Brad Clark (Ward 9) and Maria Pearson (Ward 10)? Why would anyone else in the City of Hamilton care? (Actually, even though I've never read anything from any of these three elected officials that addresses the revitalization of Downtown Stoney Creek, I'm listing these three simply because all of their constituents are losing out because there is no 'downtown', and I'd prefer to keep this cabal small; please refer to the aforementioned 'too many cooks' aspect.) Will it bethe City of Hamilton's Manager of Downtown Renewal Ron Marini?

Will it come from existing businesspeople in Downtown Stoney Creek? Will there be some kind of push made from a current 'player'? Again, wouldn't there'd have to be some kind of common vision involved? Wouldn't there have to be some kind of 'plan' in order for that to happen? Some agreed-to concept, some kind of 'New Downtown' notion that people have embraced?

Will someone with a non-partisan interest in the welfare of the area be the one to drive things forward? I'm thinking of course of our very own newspaper, the Stoney Creek News.

Or maybe change will result by chance. Maybe one good, solid entrepreneur, by dint of pure luck will move in, and this particular entity will start a chain reaction, one that results in a slow trickle of the kinds of businesses as suggested in the penultimate episode of my 10-part series about re-imagining Downtown Stoney Creek, 'What to do, what to do?'. Maybe we'll just...



Honestly, I'm not sure how what I'd like to see happen in Downtown Stoney Creek could happen. Like it or not, many people -I'm referring here to politicians, to businesspeople, to the regular citizenry- tend to become attached to the status quo. (Label it as 'Inertia' or 'Complacency'...or 'Indifferent Flabbiness'.) So change tends only to happen either when theybegin to see things differently, or someone else who sees things differently comes on the scene and becomes a player. Otherwise? Short of calamity, what you see is what you get...and is what you're always going to see, what you're always going to get, at least until that calamity, or that change gets injected into the mix.

How depressing.

I almost wish we had something akin to the Old Boys' Club in 'The Legend of Bagger Vance', stepping in when the town needs a saviour: