Tuesday, August 31, 2010
In reference to the 'Fruitland Road Issue', as covered in this recent editorial, in which I proposed a stop-gap solution of a reduction in the speed limit from 50 Km/h to 40...something I got just about no response to from any of the email's recipients...I have this further suggestion:
For a pre-determined amount of time -say, three months- why don't all trucks using Fruitland Road voluntarily reduce their speed to 40 Km/h as a gesture of goodwill, as a generous offering towards improving the situation for the long-suffering residents?
As stated previously, this would add approximately twenty seconds onto the average trip from Barton Street to Highway #8, an amount of time hardly pivotal in the overall 'profitability and practicalities' scheme of things, yes?
Now, given that truckers are in no way 'the bad guys' here, that they're merely executing their tasks and responsibilities to move product and keep our system working within the designs that have been in place for more than a century, one would hope that this sincere gesture of largesse would somehow have a ripple-effect and maybe, just maybe help move things along towards the inevitable solution. Wouldn't one...?
I await with bated breath how this is received by all concerned.
I was delighted to receive two replies back from my open letter within the very first day. (Even though one candidate got my name wrong. *sigh*)
It's somewhat encouraging to find that potential leaders of our community appreciate how vital it is that they 'get' issues on more than merely the superficial, or the pep-rally level. Which is why, once I have all the candidates' responses, I'll be asking more comprehensive questions of them on this issue.
(Additionally, I need to make clear that I have not forgotten about incumbent Councillors Pearson in Ward 10, or Mitchell in Ward 11. Their positions are a matter of public record, but I do plan on bringing them into the discussion before too long.)
From Bernard Josipovic, candidate for Ward 10:
Monday, August 30, 2010
That's a half a garbage bag's worth of primarily bottled water carcasses, pop cans, cardboard coffee cups and candy bar wrappers.
All collected from a soccer pitch in the shadow of the CHCH Tower.
While I was driving back from Hamilton this morning, I actually witnessed something I'd hardly ever seen in-person. As I passed him and his loutish pals, this scuzz-bucket proceeded to dump the bag and the wrapping from his submarine sandwich.
Just tossed them to the ground as he strolled along.
I'll admit to going drop-jawed.
I cannot fathom how people can litter. It's beyond my ken. I just can't get my head around the wanton disrespect.
"Bratina believes something is drastically amiss when a councillor like Chad Collins can pull Confederation Park off the list of potential stadium sites "on a whim" and almost push through a motion to have local taxpayers pay the cost of all residential flood damages not covered by insurance."
Mr. Bratina, possible mayoral candidate can equate a notion such as the absolute desecration of Confederation Park with an accounting/fiduciary issue?
I've had some degree of respect and admiration for particular elements of his abilities shown of late...but this surely ain't a hallmark moment for Mr. Bratina in my books.
In light of yesterday's post on 'The Hamiltonian', especially considering that there was no substantive text and no opportunity for discussion on the part of commenters, I'm wondering if you each have a policy statement you'd like to share with my readers on this issue.
Please email me whatever response you feel best represents on record how you wish to be seen addressing this contentious -not to mention 'long-and-drawn-out'- subject.
Friday, August 27, 2010
On this occasion, let's limit it to the 'existing' spaces available in town: two empty lots, two empty stores...and two locations that should be emptied of their current tenants.
So here's the latest round of 'Re-invent The Downtown':
#6-'Repair Depot', featuring shoe repair, key-cutting and clothing alterations
#5-Health Food Store
#4-Cheese and Butcher Shop
Now, as I'd been discussing all this with a friend, referring back to the series that began all this talk (at least for me) at regular intervals, the top two suggestions are what I'd refer to as 'Game-changers'. Getting an independent grocery store would change the complexion of the downtown markedly. And could be a tipping-point. But I'm not talking about some crap knock-off notion, I'm not talking about a deli or a Denninger's...I'm talking about a home-grown version of a 'Whole Foods' type place.
The dinner-cinema idea is a no-brainer. There is no rep theatre outside of Toronto (I don't consider 'The Westdale' to be in this category.), you could cater to local retirees to a great extent...and the 'dinner-cinema' model is so unique, so wonderfully distinct that I believe it would find a home quickly downtown, and be an amazing draw for Stoney Creek. (For those of you unfamiliar with my yammerings-on about this idea, take a look at the site for 'The Commodore Theatre' in Portsmouth, Virginia.)
A bike shop...such as 'Ancaster Cycle' or 'Freewheel Cycle' in Dundas, or 'Neworld Cycle' in Burlington...might seem esoteric, but my feeling (having spent time in the biz, and having seen more than my share of how small towns become resilient and vibrant) is that the right shop opening in Downtown Stoney Creek could serve as a sortakinda 'initiator', jump-starting some of the major players in town into action.
The Cheese and Butcher Shop... I can also see this as a 'mews' development, or something akin to the St. Lawrence Market in Toronto. Cheese...organic meats (as as Cumbrae's in Dundas and Toronto)...a baker...organic produce...a wine-seller...and maybe a health food store.
Of course, I still believe a dedicated health food store...such as 'The Horn of Plenty' in Dundas...is a natural for Downtown Stoney Creek.
Finally, the idea of a kiosk'd shop...shared space...for shoe repair, key cutting, alterations, and maybe non-warranty small appliance repair seems a great way to introduce small services on a smaller, more manageable (read that as: 'less risky') scale.
The bottom-line is that any one of these, or in any combination, might be the key to turning around Downtown Stoney Creek. Who knows? Stranger things have happened...
This is a local neighbourhood's common area. (It's not in Stoney Creek, but across Centennial in Hamilton.)
It's been in this state, more or less for as long as I can remember. More than two years.
It's not in some 'far removed' part of the community. There's tons of foot-traffic going by every day. And yet it's -seemingly- never been cleaned up.
Because nobody cares.
Because nobody feels compelled to look after this communal patch. Nobody seems to feel any amount of self-respect, of pride to motivate them to grab a garbage bag, take ten minutes and clean it all up. And setting an example, maybe prevent others from effectively crapping in the open.
So if the way in which we view our world can be seen in this common example of modern behaviour, why should we expect that things in general ought to be any better?
Specifically, if we don't feel that our lives deserve the respect of a clean environment, why should we expect that our best interests are being looked after by those we put in office? Why should we feel we deserve that?
Of course, I've dealt with this notion of 'the relationship of engagement' with our elected officials, about creating a new way of seeing our roles in society, about the need to produce a value system shift towards a far more involved, engaging citizenry, here, in this series of articles.
I'm just sayin'...
Monday, August 23, 2010
I was referred to this blog post on the weekend. Naturally, it reminded me of what I've been stressing lately, the 'relationship of engagement' regarding we-the-people and our elected politicians, as found in this series.
Additionally, I was directed to the site of Candidate in Ward 3 Paul Tetley. In it, within the 'Change' section, a particular element resonated for the same reason:
Accountable City Government
"It is essential to have an open process where residents can participate in the decisions that affect where they live. I will ensure your voice is heard, that your opinions matter, and that City Hall is held accountable."
Both people essentially point out the flaws in the way things are right now, but I still tend to flinch at how it's all labelled, and how the 'Us vs Them' mindset is -albeit passively- entrenched.
Once again: I do not believe the solution to the perceived disconnect on the part of local politicians, the legacy frustration harboured by the average voter, tax-paying citizen will come from new rules and regulations, from any sort of 'integrity commissioner' acting as investigator, from any declared intent to 'make City Hall more transparent and accountable'. I believe a better paradigm needs to be grown, only happening when we've achieved a quantum shift in mindset about our relationship with our elected officials, about how we see our roles in our governing.
But I'm grateful that there are cogent voices out there reminding us that things have to change in order for things to get better.
Sunday, August 22, 2010
Recently, I've been spending some time taking a look at the 'Fruitland Road Issue'. You know, the one regarding truck traffic. And an apparently long-promised bypass, turning the road into a cul-de-sac at Barton, quality-of-Life issues (rumbling windows, noise, exhaust fumes), and a –from my perspective– tagged-on 'safety issue'.
I read everything that was available at the Stoney Creek News site, as well as from other online resources. I had some frank conversations with 'people-in-the-know'.
While I don't claim to understand the entire issue, and am in no way declaring myself an 'expert', I sure feel like I 'get it' more than I did before I took the time to do my investigating.
What did I learn?
Well, I learned more about conflation, about how common it is.
I learned about how major a fuel emotion can be when one side of an 'argument' is being expressed, and how this fuel super-charges, making the engine race into the red-zone in no-time-flat. (And, no surprise here: it does nothing for the stability of the vehicle.)
I learned how hard it is for people to retain their objectivity when so much angst- and anxiety- and enmity-infused time passes. (Consider as well just how many administrations on various levels of government have been in power over the forty years in question, not to mention the amalgamations that have taken place.)
I learned how a pet phrase of mine can come to be a huge component of the way in which things unfold, and also how people conduct themselves: 'People want what they want.'
I learned that what I would have expected to be information essential to having a full and in-depth discussion...wasn't part of the process. Some of it hadn't even been considered.
I was also reminded of how true the adage is 'There's three sides to every story: yours...mine...and The Truth.'
(I also felt a small amount of bemusement when I was able to provide some information of my own: I lived 'out there in the late-60s/early-70s, so I remember stuff that many currently in the fray weren't even aware of. tee-hee)
I was speaking about all this with a friend today. And at one point, I think this is what I said/asked/opined:
"Given that it's such a short stretch of road -1000 meters as I measure it from Barton Street to Highway #8- as a short-term measure, until the inevitable bypass is constructed, why isn't the speed limit reduced to 40Km/h?"
I live in the Centennial Parkway area. Trucks (as well as almost all regular traffic) constantly speed in this 50 Km/h zone, so I'd put good money on there being just as much of an incidence-rate of speeding on Fruitland Road.
A speeding truck is:
-causes more 'rumbling'
-generally more 'disruptive' in all ways to the quality-of-Life in a residential area.
A truck reduced in speed from 50 to 40 Km/h is:
-not going to find this 20% reduction having any appreciable decrease in profitability over a 1000 meter stretch...and quite frankly, if its driver believes this to be the case, then seriously; remedial training efforts need to be imposed for the trucker and his employer, because this notion is entirely specious, given the breadth of the potential benefits. (For the record, my abacus tells me it tags on an additional 20-or-so seconds to the trip. Wow; that's a profit-margin scorcher. Not.)
Frankly, this stop-gap solution (and let's not pretend this is anything but a temporary measure) to me is so obvious a one that I'm kinda scratchin' my head as to why bigger brains than mine hadn't thought of it and instituted the damned thing years ago. Surely a lot of grief could have been prevented.
So; I'm going to be making a few of the players involved in this issue aware of this post, and my suggestion, because quite frankly, I think it's a hellova lot better a suggestion than having a traffic embargo from 7pm to 7am. I'll be curious to hear their responses...and just how many elements of what I've mentioned above, 'the things I learned', will be reinforced.
Friday, August 20, 2010
Thursday, August 19, 2010
'The only positive from great stadium debate'
In this week's episode, Mr. Cripps presents some notions that I'm sure would be received with open arms by- Well, by the sort of people he writes for.
Basically, the thrust of his piece is twofold:
1) "We need a change at City Hall. We need some new blood, some new ideas, a new approach to finding solutions and working through problems."
2) He sees the public outrage and passion expressed at the stadium mess will translate into increased voter participation.
I feel the need to note these additional points:
3) "I expect there will be a significant shift at City Hall after the Oct. 25 election. Some people may only vote based on their opinion about the stadium issue, but at least they'll vote."
4) "I imagine there must be some concern by some politicians at the prospect of campaigning with the stain of a lost Pan Am stadium and a departing CFL franchise on their resume."
5) "Some (school) trustees push their political loyalties onto our children, designing and implementing policy aimed at circumventing parent's (sic) rights."
I'm going to attempt to go through them all, doing my best to explain just why I'm gnashing my teeth.
1) Well, as I've been saying here and elsewhere (mostly at The Hamiltonian), the notion of 'change for change's sake' is- Well at the very least, naïve. And for a Managing Editor to take this tack...
If there's a problem with the effectiveness of Councillors, then the very least that's required is to make a thorough examination of their voting records, their attendance, their interaction with their constituents, all the variables. But to simply get enraged about one issue and then with the resulting hate-on, feel the need to 'toss 'em all out'... Strange behaviour indeed. (And to my mind, worse than the average politician's, the supposed cause of the communal ire.)
When you vote in new politicians, you hope that fresh ideas and fresh ways of seeing issues will more than compensate for the lack of experience in the arena. Sometimes this proves to be the case, sometimes not.
But the other side of this coin is the concept of 'term limits' for the sole sake of ensuring fresh blood. Which doesn't make any sense to me at all, especially where talent is concerned. But I'll get to the crux of the matter here, in a moment or two.
2) Increased voter participation is fine. As long as the voters are informed. Again, more on this shortly.
3) Oh! Absolutely marvellous! It's not an issue that the voters don't have qualified opinions, just that they're voting. OK; so if we had mandatory voting, how would Mr. Cripps then feel about what the voter's role is in the system? Would he feel more inclined to believe that voters would then be obligated to possess a greater awareness of what's going on locally, so they'd be casting a more informed ballot? Otherwise, if we're just happy that people are voting- God, I don't even want to complete the remainder of that sentence.
4) Why? No one politician will be responsible if a) no stadium gets built, and b) the Ti-Cats leave. And besides; there's no crime in the former happening. If we can't find the right way to do it, then we can't find the right way to do it. Only the immature and the stoopid see this as a 'Must Do' situation. As for the latter, Mr. Young's situation... Well, as much as I don't believe any of this was handled particularly well, more than anything else, it illustrates how awry things can go when the public good is paired with private need. Despite seeming to run parallel.
5) Sorry, I can't even mount the effort required to address this one. "...designing and implementing policy aimed at circumventing parent's (sic) rights." Funny; this line all by itself shot Mr. Cripps' credibility to Hell for me. I had to go back and re-read the rest of the article, just to prove to myself that he'd at least been rational in being out-to-lunch elsewhere.
In summary, Mr. Cripps sees increased voter turnout as the only positive from 'the great stadium debate', that as long as more people vote, that in itself will be a 'positive'. If they make questionable choices, no matter. What does matter is greater turnout. More is better, after all.
Maybe Mr. Cripps should consider running for Council. He seems be what so many dissatisfied voters are clamouring for. And you know what they say; 'We get the government we deserve.'
This part of Stoney Creek is the only portion I have no history with...at least as far as its current state goes. My context is Penn Lumber. The Mah's Chinese Restaurant. And certainly no gurgling fountain.
Despite this, despite still feeling I'm in a foreign town when I pass by, I do love it.
I love the intent. I love the goal...which I won't state or interpret here, but it should be clear to anyone who actually walks in the area what those-who-made-it-happen had in mind.
I stand here at the fountain and I can't help but feel even more impassioned about what Downtown Stoney Creek could be, should be. This is actually a vision aligned with my vision of that 'vibrant and resilient' downtown I yammer on about here. And yet currently, it's this blip, this anomaly; driving by it is actually a little surreal for me; you see it, you blink...and as you wind past McDougall's and you're coasting through 'The Downtown That Time Forgot', your mind whispers an enquiry: 'Did we just pass by a fountain...?!?'
If I had the resources, I'd pay a graphics designer/programming team to construct a sim of what Downtown Stoney Creek could look like, beginning the approach from the Augustus Jones fountain.
And I'd pay a second lump of cash to hear the naysayers respond.
Wednesday, August 18, 2010
According to this Stoney Creek News article, the Old Fire Hall on Lake Avenue South is slated to be demolished. While this saddens me, I'm not writing so much about its history, or its place in the community. Nor am I writing about the whispered iteration of this site, what's going to become of the space.
No, I'm writing about what this development does to two very pivotal elements of the 'Neverending Story'-ish metered parking brouhaha in Downtown Stoney Creek. (In fact, the third portion of this 'Non-business Triumvirate of Core Arguments Rallied Against the Demon Horde Known as The City of Hamilton And Their Public Parking Revenue Curse' is also apparently -in due time- set to leave the stage...but I'm getting ahead of myself just a bit, here.)
If you go back into the recent mists of time and take a look at Stoney Creek News articles about our 'paid parking crisis', if you read carefully, you'll see that a major thrust of the 'We can't have this happen here!' faction was how utterly debilitating the effect of charging rental for car spaces would be on three distinct entities, two of them housed within the Old Fire Hall: Seniors Outreach Services and the Stoney Creek Food bank. (The third one I promise to get to presently. Be patient, Gentle Reader...) The argument was that paid parking would be catastrophic for these two groups. Chicken Little stood back in admiration and awe at how this part of the overall discussion was handled...and she took notes.
The Old Fire Hall is coming down.
The Stoney Creek Food Bank and Seniors Outreach Services are being relocated. (And, seeing as you've displayed such patience, allow me to say that because of a suggestion of a rumour of a grapevine intimation, it appears that the Royal Canadian Legion is- Well, available for consideration, sale-wise...or is perhaps approaching that state.)
Which means that whenever the 'discussion' about paid parking in Downtown Stoney Creek enters its next phase, what had previously been paraded as three heartstring-tugging, front-of-that-very-parade elements...
...will have been removed once and for all from the discussion.
And already, before any of these developments have actually unfolded, my curiosity has been piqued to adrenaline-coursing levels. I can hardly wait to see how the Ostrich-worshiping People the Stoney Creek News featured so prominently in their coverage will foment their rebellion against the despicable 'tax' levied by the overlords at City Hall.
...if, in an effort to retain 'stable tenants', the Major Players in Downtown Stoney Creek, or anyone else who is contributing to a shifting status quo, be they businesspeople or politicians, whomever... It would be downright catastrophic if the spaces currently available on King Street, and those that might become available in the near future, were 'allowed' to be filled by anything other than what this pivotal section of town requires, which is retail and leisure.
I've dealt with all of this repeatedly on this blog. Repeatedly and consistently. Stressing the fact that unless you get the mix right, what you'll end up with is... Well, what you'll end up with is what you see in front of you right now if you stroll from Lake Avenue to Elm Street.
So the 'worst possible development' would see a vast majority of our prime Downtown Stoney Creek spaces containing things like doctors' offices. Lawyers' offices. Health and fitness and personal-pampering professionals. Tax advisers, financial consultants, personal development gurus...psychics.
You can't see me right now, but I'm bleary-eyed, gnashing my teeth and pushing the heels of my palms into my cranium. (I refuse to pull my hair out; Nature's been conspiring to accomplish this for decades, and I'm not going to assist in any way whatsoever.)
To watch your hometown's downtown fall into dilapidated disrepair is one thing. Watching vapid super-development run roughshod, tearing down heritage and replacing it with soulless concrete is another. But watching what appears to be going on in Downtown Stoney Creek is another kind of torment entirely.
Tuesday, August 17, 2010
Monday, August 16, 2010
...then this post would be a scholarly, erudite riff on Edgar Allan Poe's 'The Raven'. It would be chock-full of allusions, of clever associations and witty juxtapositions of Poe's world and ours, and the resultant editorial would bring on a quiet smugness, maybe add a little peacock's strut to my gait, infuse my personality with, I don't know, the air of 'coming across as so all-knowing and condescending,' (Thanks, 'Petra'.) It might have begun something like this:
Once upon an evening muggy, while I pondered bored and fuggy,
Over lackings and misgivings of my hometown's downtown,
While I wandered, depression descending, sensing torpor never-ending,
I regarded the mix, the assortment of businesses, imagining excursions, how synergy-
My brain being only its meagre size and me being not nearly as clever as what's required to go down that path, what you have instead is the usual pedantic stuff, no bells and whistles, just me yammering-on. Sorry.
Saturday evening, I had the chance to go on a reconnoitre of two area 'downtowns'. Westdale and Dundas.
It was fascinating...enlivening...and depressing. It was great to see these two areas again, to stroll the sidewalks, to reacquaint myself with the shops. Hardly a 'Vacant' sign to be seen, great storefronts, evidence of real activity. (Even though this was past business hours.) But ultimately, depressing. Because when you really take a good look at another 'downtown's profile, deconstruct its viability, examine the surrounding neighbourhoods, assess the contributing factors, especially when things are working well (I'm not talking about utopia here, I'm no dumb-bunny when it comes to the realities of retail/service industry business), then understanding washes over you.
Then, when you compare in your head your own town's core, place everything side-by-side and objectively- Well, that's when the depression sets in.
As I walked, I imagined a picture puzzle, and inserted this Dundas feature into Stoney Creek's 'downtown'. I took this store from Westdale, that restaurant, and slotted it in on King Street. I played with the possibilities, pretended an entirely different landscape.
Mostly though, while I was doing this I was asking myself 'If you transplanted what you'd take from these two areas into Stoney Creek, if you did it overnight, would it 'take'? And how long would it take to 'take'? What kind of resistance would there be? How long would it be before 'locals', those guesstimated five thousand residents/potential shoppers/no-brainer patrons living within the 'authentic Stoney Creek' (Centennial-to-Gray-to-Queenston-to-the Escarpment) shifted their shopping habits to make Downtown Stoney Creek more a part of their default routine, even taking into account the undeniability of The Draw of the Mall?'
Adding to all these ruminations were undeniable features:
-The upcoming Cactus Festival
-Farmers' Markets actively promoted in both communities
-People on the sidewalks
As a coda, the next day I had the rare opportunity to drive through Downtown Stoney Creek. To experience it as most do, in a car, and not on foot.
OK; that's enough for this self-therapy session. But rest assured, we're not done here. (And maybe by next time, my brain might have been enlargened, even if just enough to effect a Poe-esque riff. Or maybe I should be concentrating on a more contemporary source. Eminem, perhaps...?)