Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Out and about.

Hey! Maybe someone *is* listening!

Today's Spec has an article entitled 'Bratina plan short on details'.

I'm not posting here so much about Mr. Bratina's 'plan' as I am about something he's quoted as saying:

“We have to do a better job of making it easy to do business in Hamilton. That’s by simply changing the culture and changing the attitude. What’s the incentive for well-paid people who sit in offices to actually do anything?”

As I dealt with this subject in 'The Unspeakable Option' this past weekend, I found this statement intriguing. Allow me to translate as I've read it:

"We have to do a better job of showing that Hamilton is in fact 'Open for Business!' by making it easier to do business here. We have a widespread culture of obstructionism in City Hall departments, where those people who could facilitate solutions and foster growth are seemingly more inclined -and motivated- to maintain the status quo. Therefore, the habits of these well-paid people who sit in offices have resulted in the tax revenue share of businesses currently sitting at an egregiously-low 17%."

If I'm wrong in my interpretation, would someone from Candidate Bratina's team please get in touch to clarify?

And thank you, John Kerry.

'Love the sinner, but not the sin.'

You familiar with that? The actual quote is from Mahatma Ghandi: 'Hate the sin, but love the sinner.'

The core of it is 'Take issue with the behaviour, but don't damn the person behaving that way.' For many, this is a tough sell; looking deeper into the 'reasons behind the reasons' isn't the kind of work they want to be doing, so they go the superficial route and damn the person, throwing the baby out with the bath water while generating their feel-good quota via the self-righteous indignation. This approach is fraught with risks, it's hardly the stuff of an enlightened soul...but we live in busy times, so there ya go.

If you've visited this blog previously, you'll know that one of my passions is the notion of increasing the 'relationship of engagement' between citizenry and their representatives. Between ward residents and their Councillors. (Not, I need to point out once again, the other way around. If all the 'romancing' and 'wooing' and 'contact' is coming from one party, then the relationship is, not to put too fine a point on it, 'fuckled'.)

Seeing things this way necessitates acknowledging that the average voter is...well, apathetic. Uninformed. Hardly a good partner in terms of his or her contribution to the dance known as 'the democratic process'. (Beyond pointing out that we had a 37% turnout for the last municipal election, I could belabour the point by suggesting that you a) browse the Comments sections at various online sites, or b) go out and perform your own survey amongst Hamiltonians, asking people to list the top three election issues, describing them in detail, who they'll be voting for in their ward and for Mayor...and why.) And people don't like it when the mirror is held up.

Bringing me to the inspiration behind this post.

In this Boston Herald article, Senator John Kerry (previously a US Presidential candidate) is quoted as saying “We have an electorate that doesn’t always pay that much attention to what’s going on so people are influenced by a simple slogan rather than the facts or the truth or what’s happening.”

Ahem. Sound familiar...?

Over at Salon, Rick Shenkman's article 'John Kerry is right: Americans are ignorant' delves a little deeper into this issue.

Naturally, I invite you to take a look at both.

Some have accused me of being arbitrary in my declarations about the voting public in the City of Hamilton. (This 'some' includes at least one candidate.) That I am elitist, that I am dismissive...that I am unreasonably harsh in my assessment of voters.

So I want to state once again certain personal truths.

1) Everyone has the right to not give a damn about what goes on in their local governance. They have the right to be apathetic, they have the right to be ignorant, they have the right to say 'I'll vote every four years; between those times, leave me alone, don't expect me to take time out of my life to help you do your job.' They just don't have the right to conduct themselves in these ways...and then complain about the current state of affairs at any given point in time. (Correction: they have the 'right'...but it's hardly rational conduct.)

2) We get the government we deserve. And nothing will substantially change for the better, in the long-run, until we-the-people get involved. Yes, the odd candidate will come on the scene and provide a stellar burst of illumination, of inspirational leadership, of trust-infusing credibility...but then they'll be gone and things will return to 'normal'. And let's face it: 'normal' over the past thirty years hasn't exactly been something worth writing home about, yes...?

3) 'Love the sinner but not the sin.' Apathy, ignorance and everything that goes along with these traits regarding how we're governed locally, how the quality of our lives is affected within this arena, are worthy of dismissal. The people who exhibit them are not. I have infinite faith in people. If they're given the opportunity to rise to the occasion. (Keeping in mind #1.) I just don't happen to believe that we've applied the effort and resources necessary to effect this kind of paradigm shift, this change in value systems where people are actually and authentically engaged in their local governance. And this actually brings a smile to my face, because the unrealized potential is enormous.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

An 'unqualified opinion'? Here ya go!

(Photo courtesy of Raise The Hammer)

There's a comment on the article 'MacNab Street Terminal Nears Completion' over at Raise the Hammer that perfectly illustrates how ungainly some people's opinions can be....

...when they clearly haven't got a clue as to what they're talking about.

That is, they haven't researched, they haven't investigated...they've simply fired up their Opinion Generator and let 'er rip.

You want to talk about politicians making a mockery of governance? This is the 'general public' equivalent. (If they'd framed their indignation in the form of questions to be answered, I could have cut them some slack; a little humility goes a looooooong way.)

More edification, please...

Sunday, September 26, 2010

The Unspeakable Option

In this week's Stoney Creek News editorial 'Pan Am stadium appears doomed' (yes, the link may well still be broken when you read this post), interim Senior Editor/Managing Editor Mark Cripps puts forward some very cogent, straightforward thoughts. I don't agree with all of his connotations. But I do acknowledge that he's managed to state things plainly. And these days, with all the rhetoric being thrown about, the column is a breath of fresh air.

Some would disagree. Some would declare that we cannot let this opportunity slide by, and find ourselves empty-handed at the end of so much effort, becoming the 'laughing-stock' of the province, if not the country.

Since at least the beginning of the summer...when things really began ramping-up controversy-wise...I've believed that the Ivor Wynne-Scott Park 'superproperty' was where the new stadium should be built.

But beyond this, I've felt there's always been another choice for our Council to consider.

It's not really been talked about much. Mostly because of what's connected to it. The aforementioned 'laughing-stock' bit. It's just too grievous a contemplation for so many Hamiltonians.

Hence the title of this post.

But the truth is that we need to consider the possibility of having to say 'I'm sorry, but we are unable to come up with a way to make this work for the city and the people of Hamilton. Therefore, we're backing away from our 2015 Pan Am Games commitment.'

Would the sky fall as a result? Would the world end? Would Paxil or Zoloft or Xanax have to be insinuated into our water supply in order for us to cope? Would the Ti-Cats leave town? Would Mayor Fred be re-elected?

Clearly, the answer to all these questions is 'No.'

There's a lot that's currently wrong with Hamilton's governance. But I'm not as quick as some others to lay the blame on the Mayor, nor on Council, either as a whole or individually. Unfortunately, I believe that what ails us is a malaise. And while it's surely present in the general population (something I've touched on previously, and undoubtedly will again), it's the manifestations at City Hall that I believe to be the more insidious...and the far more crippling, because their very reason for being is to create a better way for us all.

From what I've gathered, contrary to the broadcasts out of City Hall, Hamilton is in fact not 'Open For Business'. My impression is that Hamilton has created an environment that does not encourage business development. That its by-laws and general policies do not foster a 'We're here to facilitate success' attitude. I believe that Councillors must shoulder some of the blame for this, but I don't believe they're the real villains here. Rather, I believe that the lower levels of governance...the 'civil servant' bits, the layers of bureaucracy, the habits, the mindsets, the kingdoms created...are where the problems lie.

I believe there is a 'culture of obstruction' within our city government, created and tended by non-elected officials. 'The Red Tape Barons', if you will.

I saw a number bandied about this weekend that suggested that more than three-quarters of tax revenue in Hamilton currently comes from the residential base. Meaning that only a small portion is being generated by business. Meaning that we most definitely are not 'Open For Business'.

I mention all this within the context of the Pan Am Games stadium discussion because not only do we have a 'city in transition' psyche process going on (underestimate at your peril how past losses 'fuel' present perceptions and dialogue), not only do we have an identity crisis connected to this (not a problem in itself; change is Life's constant, after all), but as a result of these elements combining with other contributing factors, there's a certain desperation that pervades almost everything having to do with moving forward.

So it should come as no surprise that the notion of 'losing' this opportunity to revitalize Hamilton by way of a Pan Am Games stadium...then to be the new home of the Ti-Cats...would be so traumatic a one to render it 'The Unspeakable Option'. People have become so down-in-the-mouth about what Hamilton is capable of, what our potential is, whether or not we're a functional city (even if you don't groove to the tune a downtown provides under any circumstances, you should be able to acknowledge that what's been allowed to happen to Downtown Hamilton speaks volumes about our ability to manage our resources) that even bad weather tends to reinforce it. So the idea of ending up with 'nothing' at the end of this process, the notion of walking away from the table because we've been able to see that we just can't accomplish what we'd committed to doing is beyond their ability to see in any other context than the catastrophic.

While I happen to believe it might just be a very, very good thing...if we don't get caught up in the expected self-immolation, self-flagellation and self-medicating.

For me, the real question -putting aside just how we're going to change this 'culture of obstruction'- is 'Who's going to show some actual leadership and guide us past this traumatic interlude, if it actually unfolds?'

Mark Cripps isn't very hopeful that something might be salvaged 'from the Pan Am stadium debate war zone.' In fact, he believes it would be a miracle were this accomplished.

As it stands right now, I think the 'miracle' would be if this person -or people- to marshall us all forward constructively actually materialized.

Saturday, September 25, 2010



Now, maybe to others, this is no biggee, but from my perspective, I think it's the most exciting development in local civic-activism blogging:

Cal DiFalco, publisher of 'The Hamiltonian', commenting on 'Raise The Hammer', published by Ryan McGreal, at the article entitled 'Fletcher: No Alternative to Rezoning for Pearl Company'.

Why is it important to me? Because it's genuine engagement.

It shows a willingness to venture out past our own 'storefronts', to tangibly expand this online community.

It's like a restauranteur having dinner at one of his competitors...only better. Because this demonstrates grace, is a tangible gesture towards a free-flowing of information, a desire to bring people together do create dialogue, exchange ideas.

Ironically, only this week, Ryan posted the article ‘Where Good Ideas Come From’, dealing with how important it is for people to be ‘mixing’ in order for creativity to be given its due.

Well done to all concerned.

Regarding 'de-amalgamation', Part Three

Notion: 'If it ain't broken, don't fix it.'

Question: If it is ‘broken’...what then?

I believe that in the case of the current ‘Hamilton’, amalgamation hasn't worked.

I believe that amalgamation has not served the interests of anyone involved.

And I believe that each of the entities in question...Hamilton, Ancaster, Dundas, Glanbook, Flamborough and Stoney Creek...has the right to declare its own interests and do what’s best for its own citizens, rather than feeling that it’s constantly compromising these needs, and/or feeling pushed along by the needs of its neighbour(s).

The current trend in good governance is to move away from ‘big’ and focus on ‘small’. The most common complaint I read in almost every situation I come across is that people do not believe that the behaviour and policies of their governments, their representatives reflect their needs. People feel they’re not being ‘heard’. (Yes, I concede that much of this would be remedied by my much-flaunted notion of increased ‘relationship of engagement’ on the part of the citizenry, regardless of the governance situation in question...therefore here I will dutifully refer readers to posts found on this blog with the label 'Civic Engagement')

So if we’re talking about the idea of creating high quality-of-Life circumstances within our neighbourhoods, our communities, our cities, it seems reasonable to me to do as little compromising as possible.

Meaning that each of these six arbitrarily-affixed municipalities should be looking after their own citizens’ needs while forging strong strategic alliances with the others. (Come on; there's no 'mutually-exclusive', 'either this or that' standing in the offing as come kind of insurmountable bulwark going please; all you nay-sayers out there, suck back the bile and stop pouting.)

Meaning that we really, really need to be talking about de-amalgamation.

There’s a pretty common anti-downtown bias in the Stoney Creek News editorial that to a great extent prompted this series of posts: they made reference to the "...tired, old downtown area." (Now, I'm not sure how different its sentiments would be were the area in question in a more vibrant state, but the funny thing is that this is the stance of a publication in a place where the downtown is absolutely, positively nothing to send a postcard from.) To me, this reveals about a fundamental -and typical- disconnect regarding cities and how they grow, what commercial, cultural and psychic importance 'downtowns' have always possessed, often manifesting itself in a strong dismissiveness about the basic concept of ‘downtowns’. (Regarding the particulars of what I'm espousing: I'll leave it to you to do your own research. I think that's only fair.)

Over time, I've come to the conclusion that those citizens of ‘The Amalgamated City of Hamilton’ who have no time for the downtown aren't actually valid participants in the discussion about the merits of a thriving central core and the value of its revitalization. Why should they be? The area doesn't interest them. They don't go there. Some haven't gone there in years. (Unless there's something they want to purchase or an exclusive experience can be had...then they conveniently change their tune.)

This conclusion is germane to the discussion about amalgamation because if I live in Stoney Creek, don’t you think it’s apropos for me to be more passionate about my own downtown core than one six miles to the west?

Conversely, if I’m a tried-and-true Hamiltonian, and I want my downtown to shine again, don’t you think it’s a little much to have to essentially ‘defend’ its resurrection to people in the ‘outlying’ areas of the amalgamated city because they're anti-downtown, specifically anti-Hamilton's downtown? (I happen to feel that it’s preposterous that any sort of 'defending' is warranted. Period)

If I’m a resident of Dundas, don’t you think it’s reasonable that I want the thrust of maintenance and growth that I’m paying someone to be the steward of to happen in where I make my home? Where I live...?

If I live in Ward 1 or 2, don’t you think that I shouldn’t have to apologize for wanting poverty-alleviation and jobs-creation resources to be brought to bear there, rather than watching development in the peripheral areas of the amalgamated city?

Ya know... I can’t help but let my imagination wander here, and fashion a scenario where we have a hypothetical ‘arranged marriage’.

Let’s suppose that on the one hand, we have a gal who’s an entertainer. She lives to perform. Not only that, but she lives to perform on the road. She loves the thrill of making a splash in different towns all the time. She loves the press, she loves the pace, she loves being in the spotlight. (She also loves the adoration of fans, the myriad ways this adoration manifests itself...and gets expressed.)

On the other hand, we have a guy who’s itchin’ to have a family. He’s a homebody. Loves to cook. Can’t wait to have big family dinners, to go on camping trips, to celebrate Christmas and Thanksgiving and birthdays...the full-meal deal.

Now I imagine them being brought together and ‘amalgamated’. (Come on; use your imagination. It’s not that hard.)

And then I imagine how things clearly do not line up.

Finally, I imagine the small number of ways this scenario turns out.

I figure that when amalgamation was foisted upon all of us, Hamilton was probably about twenty-five years away from being in a healthy, self-supporting, vibrant state. Of having its various woes addressed, of solutions being applied, of successfully moving past the ‘economic triage’ state that we can find the beginnings of somewhere around 1990. And that because of amalgamation, all of these vital processes were either denied....or put in abeyance. (Lord, there's a series of posts deserving to be written on this topic...but this is 'My Stoney Creek', not 'My Hamilton'.) Leaving Hamilton in this continued and protracted dysfunctional state.

And leaving the other five communities’ residents frustrated. And angry.

I’d have no problem with amalgamation were it a) warranted, and b) designed around a central municipality whose state wasn’t critical.

I maintain the neither variable was or is present here.

Hamilton needs to have the latitude to sort out its problems. Without compromising its state because of proclaimed -and confirmable- inequities in the design.

Stoney Creek, Flamborough, Glanbrook, Dundas and Ancaster deserve the same.

To bury our heads in the sand, to get that wide-eyed, frothing-at-the-mouth thing going on where ‘perceived failure’ gets us making bad decisions out of desperation (Pan Am Games stadium site-selection process, anyone...?), where we refuse to examine and acknowledge the core reality of our simply not acceptable.

We all deserve better.

The real question is: ‘Do we have the leaders in place who are possessed of the right kind of insight and courage to deal with de-amalgamation?’

Or are we going to ignore the fact that all the municipalities concerned have more than enough capabilities for being 'great friends', just not 'spouses', and settle for a begrudged 'marriage' in the process?

My answer comes from an old counselling maxim:

'People stay where they are until they're uncomfortable enough to have to move.'

Regarding 'de-amalgamation', Part Two

I want to say at the outset that I’ve formed my opinions as a resident of 'The Amalgamated City of Hamilton'. So while I may not be privy to the overview a Councillor or a City-department comptroller or otherwise-bureaucrat might possess, I am speaking as a citizen, someone for whom all these people work. I may not have their 'insight' into the workings of the City of Hamilton vis a vis potential 'de-amalgamation', but I’m willing to bet I probably have a better handle on the 'insight' of a person on the street than someone on the inside might...especially as I consider myself particularly aligned both with Stoney Creek and Hamilton.

The Stoney Creek News editorial 'Hamilton break-up' was a refreshing -if somewhat badly articulated- read. In the first portion of my 'analysis/commentary', I took a look at its message. But here, I'd like to address the common biases the piece reveals, illustrating truths that have been evident from the start of this arbitrary ‘experiment’. Truths that, were this a marriage, would have ended in either annulment, divorce...or the public spectacle of a household under extreme duress...with denial being its strange succor.

I suppose the best place to start is to acknowledge the internecine 'squabbling' that commonly goes in all cities. (Truth be told, it goes on in provinces, states and countries themselves...never mind larger conglomerations of associations, such as the European Union. But on a far more basic level, you see it in families. Witness the dynamic when there are, say, four brothers under the same roof.) Stark and staunch perceptions and entrenchments of place, of neighbourhoods, of community, of towns...of belonging. Pockets of pride. Healthy levels of self-interest. 'Uptown' vs 'Downtown' vs 'The University District' vs 'The Industrial Area' vs 'Entertainment Row' vs 'Sleepy Neighbourhood Enclaves, etc. No matter how you label the ‘frisson’, it’s there. It’s how Nature operates. Everywhere.

But the ties that bind in those situations -being part of the same city, the same 'family' as a result of organic growth- are not extant in this creature known as ‘The Amalgamated City Of Hamilton’. Regardless, from very start of Mike Harris's bullying initiative, we've sighed, rolled up our sleeves and expected that we'd make it work. (Or at the very least, make the best of the situation.) Why?

Probably because Canadians have such a strong sense of 'doing the right thing'...also known as 'manners', or 'being polite'...but also because for the longest time, Hamilton (and here I’m talking about the original city, not the amalgamation) has been in decline, resulting in undeniable protracted self-esteem issues, not to mention a questionable maturity level...meaning we’ve decided en masse to just accept our lot and soldier on. (The ramifications of all this will be looked at in the concluding portion of this series.)

From my perspective, all of the usual pride-and-competition-and-disinterest stuff that goes on within organically-developed cities have been accentuated in this amalgamation. Only because there's nothing 'organic' about the development, there's no 'blood', we're talking entirely different communities with entirely different histories, and (within limits) entirely different priorities.

So keeping this in mind, explain to me why should/would someone in Waterdown have any interest in the North End’s woes? Why should someone in Stoney Creek really have any concern about economic development in Downtown Hamilton? Why should someone living in Dundas feel compelled to weep about the travails of what is another city entirely? Other than the fact that we’ve all become inextricably connected, dependent on each other’s success. (Or so ‘they’ would remind you...while rationalizing to their hearts' content why we have to stay the course.)

Moreover, why, oh why would anyone expect that everything would work out fine? The various entities involved might not, as the Brits say, be a case of 'chalk and cheese', but seriously; other than the commitment we took on at the behest (I'm being generous here) of Premier Mike Harris and his cronies, what other reasons are there for grand expectations as to its success? When you take independent towns and cities and force them to 'become The Borg', unlike on 'Star Trek', wouldn’t you expect that longstanding mindsets and all their concomitant energies are going to come back and bite you on the ass?

Here’s what current mayoral candidate Mahesh P. Butani had to say on The Hamiltonian’s feature '10 Tough Questions' from September of last year:

Strategic errors were made by dismantling the regional structure in our city in the name of efficiencies and parlaying it into a loosely cobbled amalgamation of towns with an appearance of a larger city. What we already had in place a decade ago was the structure and potential of 'Polycentricity', a planning and spatial policy notion, which has been gaining currency over this decade in Europe and other parts of the world. We dismantled it politically in the name of progress, and we have suffered for it since then.

From 2007, here’s what Ryan McGreal of Raise the Hammer had to say in his post 'Singing the Amalgamation Blues':

"But let's be blunt: the real reason for amalgamation was politics, not policy: the provincial Harris government was determined to download social services onto municipalities and knew that Hamilton could not afford to carry its disproportionately high expenses without the help of its suburbs.

In short, the purpose of amalgamation was to enlarge the tax base so the government could impose its ideological agenda. Ontario is still paying for the disastrous legacies of the Harris/Eves government, and amalgamation is part of the price.”

(Interestingly, there’s actually a comment from a ‘Larry Di Ianni’ on this post.)

Look; all of the formerly-independent entities absorbed into the single-tier city known as Hamilton each possessed their own individual charms upon entry, their own brands of distinctness. And nothing has diminished after amalgamation. Go to Dundas. To Ancaster. To Flamborough, to Glanbrook, to Stoney Creek. What they had going for them back pre-2001 is still there. They are never going to become 'outlying bits of Hamilton', no matter how much anyone exhorts them to...including the Stoney Creek News.






The people in those places never wanted amalgamation. (They still don't.)

And really, reversing course once again for a moment, Hamilton (and many Hamiltonians within the city-proper) have no desire to compromise what it is to be a Hamiltonian living in Hamilton by somehow blending into the mix notions of Dundas or Waterdown or wherever. They don't, in fact, give a rat's ass about these five 'boroughs'...because in their heads -and rightly so- they're ‘Manhattan’ in this analogy, and that pretty much ends the discussion.

So what we have here, if we can be honest with ourselves, is equanimity...though nobody in power seems to want to talk about it.

Before moving onto the final portion of this series, here’s three final points to consider:

-How differently do you suppose something like the Pan Am Games stadium site selection process would have unfolded had there never been an amalgamation? Think of the dearth of conflict; Stoney Creek definitely wouldn't care if the thing was built at the proposed West Harbour or the HIP or the East Mountain locations. (Just that it certainly wouldn't be put at Confederation Park.)

-Perhaps if they'd renamed the city, instead of keeping the moniker 'Hamilton', the amalgamation might have had a better chance. Because what does 'Hamilton' mean to most people outside the city-proper? If I'm from Dundas, I'm not giving up my identity in order to kowtow to Mike Harris and his ilk, and if people refuse to take on the identity of a ‘single-tier metropolis’, why would we expect that any degree of cohesiveness would result on any level being considered? (Empty, half-hearted rhetoric aside.)

-I suspect that most successful amalgamations begin with one of two scenarios. The first sees a strong core city around which the ancillary cities will be affixed...eventually -and consistently- benefiting all parties through mutual goals, varied contributions, and a sense of synergy. If the Stoney Creek News is to be believed ("The original goal of amalgamating six municipalities into one city was a last ditch effort by the former PC provincial government to keep Hamilton from going bankrupt."), then this certainly wasn't the case.

The second involves more or less ‘equal partners’. Which we definitely didn’t have here, don't have...and never will.

Part Three: If it is ‘broken’, what then?

Friday, September 24, 2010

Regarding 'de-amalgamation', Part One

It's a curious thing.

No, not the concept of de-amalgamation as it pertains to Hamilton.

I'm referring to the article 'Hamilton break-up', published in the Stoney Creek News as written 'By Hamilton Community News Editorial'. (Which in itself is a curiosity; shouldn't there be a 'Staff' on the end of this appellation...?) Unless I'm mistaken, it's featured in all of Metroland's local publications this week.

'Hamilton break-up'.

It's kinda straightforward, right? Doesn't that lead you to infer that the article is going to be heading towards that- Well, 'ending'? You know; 'The Brad and Angelina break-up', dealing with the couple ending their relationship. 'The Beatles break-up', dealing with the group's demise. 'Hamilton City Council break-up', dealing with the fractious, self-harming situation regarding governance where it concerns-

Oh, never mind.

The article is fascinating to read. Not just for the lack of connectedness between its title and its bottom-line...but also because of some of the 'facts' it purports, the stance it makes them from...and yet, God bless their tiny souls, they manage to portray precisely what's wrong with the concept of the amalgamation we're currently labouring within...while being so...well, imprecise in the face of so-called wisdom.

"The original goal of amalgamating six municipalities into one city was a last ditch effort by the former PC provincial government to keep Hamilton from going bankrupt. By pooling financial resources from suburban municipalities, it was hoped Hamilton could finally move beyond being a perpetual money pit. It hasn’t happened."

The first problem I have with the editorial's second paragraph is the connotation that this 'effort' was a standalone. That Hamilton was the only amalgamation put into effect by the Harris government. (Clearly, it wasn't; my cursory search revealed a total of six resultant new formations.) The second is ' keep Hamilton from going bankrupt.'

Um...guys; your bias is showing almost from the start.

-On we go to the third paragraph, which lays out some pretty simple fiscal and situational truths about what kind of state this amalgamated Hamilton is in.

-Mayoral candidate Bob Bratina is up next; he's said to be the one 'to fan the flames of discontent.' Which, when you think about it, considering the rather a skewed presentation, don't you think? I mean, it takes a rather accusatory tone when I read it. As if he's up to no good, he's being mischievous, he's taking political advantage of people's frustrations and anger... Which means he really shouldn't be doing it, if I've taken what they're saying the right way.

-From here we're told about how Hamilton politicians have ignored problems over the past decade, we're reminded of some of the other transgressions of Council...and then it's opined as to " the city is going to great lengths to suck money from the suburbs to refill its own dwindling financial resources."

Um, gang? Your bias is showing again.

-Then we're onto area tax the debate has been delayed, and yet the suspicion that when it is dealt with, "...suburban residents will be stuck with higher property taxes."

-But that's nothing, nothing compared to this paragraph:

"The Pan Am stadium debate also widened the gulf between suburban and urban needs within this community. The West Harbour was all about “city-building,” trying to use a mammoth infrastructure project to rejuvenate a tired, old downtown area. When the East Mountain site entered the picture, the city’s urbanites denigrated the location as too expensive, contributing to urban sprawl and not worthy of consideration."

Wow. Whinge much? And from that awkward bias of yours, too.

-But then it gets really interesting: Considering the article has been telling us how badly things have been within this amalgamation, specifically from the point-of-view of the 'suburbs' (i.e. 'the other five entities that were forced to amalgamate'), we're now told that "Voters need to be aware that any process to de-amalgamate will be lengthy and painful."

I think I'm getting a headache.

-In our penultimate portion, it's essentially suggested that Councillors need to work harder, work smarter at making

-Finally, to sum up, we're offered this, reminiscent of hackneyed election rhetoric:

"For far too long the city has worked against its own community, dividing residents into tribes, and watching as they fight over scraps. A new council should work for the betterment of the community, providing solutions to problems, and uniting each area. Those accomplishments would finally create a “new” city of Hamilton."

Leaving me...totally confused.

Because I'd have guessed that with a title like 'Hamilton break-up', we'd have a nicely-fueled polemic about how not only is Council dysfunctional...but that we all need to concede that amalgamation be reconsidered, accepted as a flawed design...and scrapped.

Now, while I'm tempted to re-write the column...given the actual thrust the committee seems to have wanted to deliver...I won't. (Believe it or not, I'm sincerely making an effort to 'play nice'.) Instead, I'd like to address some of the elements of subtext within the article, the multi-mentioned 'bias' of the editorial...mostly because I happen to believe that this dialogue about de-amalgamation needs to not only be continued, but ramped-up. (So yes, I'm grateful the Stoney Creek News has held-forth on this.)

Part Two: De-amalgamation: Why so sad?

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

From one of our mayoral candidates

The following is a communiqué from Mahesh Butani. It's been published at The Hamiltonian as well as at Raise the Hammer. I invite you to check out the comments at both sites; it's intriguing to see how people respond, how they're triggered, how they contextualize things...what their intellectual limitations are. If nothing else, Mahesh has gotten -some- people talking. Which, under the circumstances, might be a very, very good thing.

September 20, 2010
This is not a Press Release

A sincere request to both the incumbents mayor Fred Eisenberger and the past mayor Larry DiIanni, to put a lid on the press releases:

The press/media release is an instrument that is used to announce something new and substantial or meaningful to the public via the media. It is not a weapon to launch political attacks nor is it a means to authenticate lackluster or dubious political performances of the past decade.

It is an understatement to say that the people of the City of Hamilton have suffered enormously under both your administration

Your policies over the last two terms have seen an increase in poverty, loss of industries and jobs, spiraling taxes and user fees, cut in essential services, and the degradation of our environment and physical infrastructure. Both of you have shown a total disregard for the financial and physical realities of our city, and instead have chosen to create and support projects that have brought no immediate or short term reliefs to the residents who have been suffering the serious consequences of your media driven leadership style.

Your continuing indulgence in projecting major economic gains from highly contentious ‘publicly funded’ mega projects, has brought us to the current state of financial and infrastructural crisis we are facing as a city.

With an election in a few weeks, instead of bringing forth policies and plans that at least have the –pretense– of leading us out of the colossal mess that our city has been in since amalgamation, you’ll no doubt continue to challenge the intelligence of the people by indulging in public mudslinging with your so-called 'media releases'.

Your most recent LRT media releases -which imitate Howard Elliot's latest missive on the same topic in the Spectator– are clear examples of your abject lack of knowledge of the kind of projects this city needs to recover financially; and displays your lack of sensitivity towards the families and countless small and mid size businesses in our city that are struggling daily to just survive the harsh realities of your policies.

Your assumptions that a few public announcements of unsubstantiated mega projects will bring back the lost jobs and prosperity ends up making a mockery of the fundamental tenets of economic development and community rebuilding.

Supported by an uncritical media -that's quite happy to change the focus of the fatigued minds from the absurd PanAM issue they helped create– both of you have shown poor judgment in quickly jumping onto the LRT bandwagon, something still in the design/review phase in our Planning Department.

Attempts to make this into an yet another hollow key election issue will no longer distract people’s attention from your very public record of lack of leadership over the last seven years.

While the one candidate who decimated an entire ecosystem in just one mayoral term has proudly managed to reintroduce himself to the people as a sensitive green man and is now pushing the limits of credulity by suggesting that he wants to reroute the LRT lines to whichever neighborhoods that promises him the most votes, the other, the incumbent who has made a political career out of selling the virtues of LRT –while being fully aware of the enormous funding gaps– now just weeks before an election wants to establish a SWAT team to twist the arms of the federal/provincial governments to hand over the entire funding for a LRT system, while he is still at their very mercy to yet deliver to the people his promise of the PanAM stadium and the Randall Reef capping.

It is this kind of pathetic posturing supported by an equally pathetic and uncritical media, that turns cities in a developed nation into a third world, banana republic; where just about anything goes, as long as you are in power, and you have a band of misguided merry men to cheer you along.

Both of you could have done better than this. Our city surely deserves better.

If you're both running out of ideas to win another term in office, I can suggest a few which are guaranteed to capture votes. How about focusing on creating real jobs from ground up? How about attracting new private sector investments? Or writing policies that open up the gates for small businesses to flourish, and increase wages for workers who are already present in our communities? Or even offering solutions to address the devastating impact that your continuing inactions have had on mental health issues at the street level in our lower city?

Putting a gun to the head of higher levels of government to get them to invest in Hamilton, or rerouting the LRT through various neighborhoods to win brownie points is not the best way to raise investments for a sustainable transit system, nor is it an appropriate way to win votes, least of all run a city.

It is my sincere hope that both of you begin to focus on issues that critically matter to the very survival of this city. I challenge you to read this report titled: "The False Promise of the Entrepreneurial University", by Marc V. Levine, and tell the people how wrong your past policies have been in suggesting to the people of Hamilton that our publicly funded Innovation Park is going to be the much celebrated driver of our economic engine!

I also challenge you to show up for this meeting tomorrow, and explain to the thousands of families of the lower city, as to how your policies over the last two terms have impacted their health and wellbeing.

Mahesh P. Butani

Monday, September 20, 2010

...and thank you Marvin Caplan!

'The Hamiltonian' deserves additional pats on the back for having Ward 2 Councillor candidate Marvin Caplan respond to the following:

Some may think that you've had your day in local politics and that you should allow for some "new blood" to prevail. How do you respond to people who may espouse that idea?

This 'out with the old, in with the new' refrain is a constant one for some. Not only is it alarmingly dismissive, but it's also often me the greater of the two misjudgements. (People with more access to information than ever before should know better.)

For me, it additionally ties into the issue of 'term limits'. And we all know where I stand on those.

Take a look at Mr. Caplan's response.