Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Yup. That's how it's done elsewhere...

The article  '5 Canadian Hot Spots to Visit' has Dundas at #4. With its downtown being the focus. 

I don't need to be told that Stoney Creek ain't Dundas, that their King Street is so much longer than ours, that there is so much more potential with so much more synergy at play. 

But even acknowledging all that, doncha think it would be nice if Downtown Stoney Creek had in its 2 blocks (and yes, I'm being arbitrary here, but only because we're dealing with a longstanding, habitual truth) something akin to what Dundas has?

I'd pay to sit in on a discussion as to why Dundas and Stoney Creek...both with rich heritages and stable communities...have ended up with such different 'main street' profiles. 

Friday, June 17, 2011

One Newspaper, One Letter, One Article

The letter 'Meters probably costing more than any change collected' in this week's edition is a solid representation of a viewpoint regarding the effects of paid parking on Downtown Stoney Creek streets. It voices the frustration regarding the issue while fostering a less-than-stellar comprehension of the particulars. To wit, while "revenues from the paid parking meters netted less than $30,000 since July 1 of last year. For this meagre amount, which does not even reach 25 per cent of council's projected target," may indeed be true, it's also declared that "the city is now responsible for tripling the vacancy rate of our downtown storefronts in less than a year."

And herein lies the problem. 

First off, Downtown Stoney Creek, as noted on numerous occasions on this site (found by searching on The 'Downtown' Issue) has for the longest time been in fairly precarious straits in terms of its robustness. If you look here you will see that we had numerous business opportunities laying fallow before the paid-parking effort was initiated. 

Secondly, people seem to (selectively?) 'misremember' that we had major construction going on last summer on Lake Avenue that undoubtedly had enormous impact on the amount of traffic Downtown Stoney Creek experienced. I  haven't seen anyone bringing up this point in any article I've come across. I'm assuming it's more convenient...and satisfying...to aim all salvos at 'The Big, Bad, Amalgamated City of Hamilton'.

Finally, as I'd noted ad nauseam, the primary problem with the vibrancy and resiliency of Downtown Stoney Creek is not predicated on whether or not the street parking is free. To believe so reveals either wilful head-in-the-sanditis, or a complete lack of understanding of the real contributing factors. (All of this was referenced here, a post that contains further on-site links.)

While I appreciate how the Rob Hardy's passion for Stoney Creek is manifest in his Letter to The Editor, I can't help but feeling a little sad at how the crux of the matter is being missed by so many lookers-on. Entirely

The article 'Old firehall a hot place for parking' notes an ironic development very much connected to all this. (And I must say, it's intriguing to see that the News' editorial slant showing itself in how information is relayed.)

(And before I go any further, here's a photo album
to peruse.)

Some believed that the Old Fire Hall...as I implied in this post last year...was an ideal candidate for a community theatre-type endeavour, such as they have in Ancaster. And if Downtown Stoney Creek wasn't in the state it's in, there may have been a valid argument to not tearing the building down. But to me, this would have required that the profile of the BIA be entirely different. That there would have to be elements in place whose existence would have made the idea of a community theatre-type affair seem less a shot in the dark than it was. (These elements are not in place, and once again, I'm having to ask what those people attending The Battle of Stoney Creek Bicentennial in two years' time will be doing when they're not attending the festivities; as it stands now, there's really nothing to do downtown, nothing to see and very little to purchase.)

For the record, these arguable points are presented as fact  in the News piece: 

-"Downtown Stoney Creek businesses have suffered financially since the city established metered parking on King Street last July." There may be somewhat-correlation here, but causation...

-"The parking lot behind the Royal Canadian Legion branch has about 125 spaces and offers two-hour free parking. Businesses and politicians point to the parking meters as the reason for the area’s high vacancy rate." I'm sure they do...but only those who are being discriminatory with the truth. 

And of course, I have to comment on this insight from City employees: "Parking staff agreed the on-street parking is “under performing” because the community refuses to pay for parking. Staff also argued motorists are using the parking lot rather than paying for on street parking."

Yes, the Downtown Stoney Creek community refuses to pay for parking. And yet I would bet a kajillion dollars that, were there actual anchor tenants in the downtown, bonafide 'key draws', this issue would be moot. Visit any neighbourhood where there are genuine reasons to visit, where commerce is the raison d'etre for the effort, and you'll see that people will pay for the convenience of parking. (Here's a hint: Stoney Creekers aren't of another breed entirely from their cousins who frequent the BIAs I'm referring to. It's more that there's no rationale reason for them to be coming downtown anyway...so why should they feel inclined to pay for this non-experience?)

This 'paid-parking' issue is much more complicated than these observations would suggest, and I would point the reader to this post as well as this one for some insight. 

Finally, once again I entreat The Stoney Creek News to actually do a series on Downtown Stoney Creek, examining its history, its time-honoured importance to the community, and why it's in the condition it is today. It's long overdue. 

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Oi vey...here we go again...

Today's News has the article 'Pay parking blamed for vacancy spike'. I don't think there's much 'new' here, nothing groundbreaking, and as Councillor Brad Clark points out, "We knew this was going to happen. We were not being Chicken Littles.”

True enough. However...

However, as I pointed out two months ago here and here, the health and sustainability of Downtown Stoney Creek goes well beyond whether or not the –small percentage– of available parking is of the pay-as-you-go variety. 

I'm not saying that the extrapolations regarding vacancy rates are suspect. I'm saying that to focus on this issue, while entirely ignoring the other factors at play only allows the citizens of Stoney Creek the comfort of a demonizing element, a continuance of an 'Us vs Them' mindset...and probably in itself prevents Downtown Stoney Creek from becoming what it might be. 

We need to think on a much bigger level and with a much more informed perspective than strictly a paid-parking issue. Even if braying against this allows umbrage and righteous indignation that provides us a moiety of succor against the 'malnutrition of place' that Stoney Creek's 'Golden Square Mile' seems to chronically suffer from. 

(And as a post-script, this paragraph from the article really gives me pause:

"The immediate area of the Stoney Creek BIA, which is from Lake Street to the Attic Restaurant, has 10,000 residents, but most of that population are seniors, with few families with children."

I'd be very curious as to how the term 'the immediate area' is defined. Because if we're talking the aforementioned 'Golden Square Mile' of Centennial to Gray, from Highway 8 to the Niagara Escarpment, the genuine catchment area of Downtown Stoney Creek's BIA, then I'd like to see the numbers, please.)

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

As David Bowie sang...

Over the past few months on Raise the Hammer, I've been known to comment on threads that have to do with local governance. I don't tend to comment on actual issues much, mostly because often I feel I'm nowhere near equipped well enough to add to the discussion. I'm not a policy wonk, I don't have an understanding of many of the challenges of The Amalgamated City of Hamilton, and I believe fervently in 'rendering unto Caesar'. 

This goes hand-in-hand with my belief that discussion, discourse, dialogue are vital to improving our lot locally. This doesn't mean I don't have an opinion about things-Hamilton, but more that this often-strident opinionator feels more compelled to explore avenues to increase the aforementioned aspects of of engagement than championing a cause or a set of 'political values'. 

I've found myself regularly looking at remarks made by commenters, ones that point out how City Hall seems to be set up more to get the job done as seen by City staff and Counsellors than to actually elicit participation and feedback by residents and shape policy according to these, ones that point out the general apathy present in the populace, ones that bemoan the fact that 'engagement' with those charged with looking after the public good is seemingly-pointless...I find myself regularly looking at them and agreeing...and yet scratching my head at why it's not readily apparent to them that what's not working within the paradigm cannot be fixed within the paradigm...without making some wholesale changes. 

In other words, I liken it to complaining about how the company you work for is set up, about the inequities, about the drawbacks...and yet not appreciating that in order to 'make things better', you're probably going to have to find a better job. 

Or to being in a relationship that's just not satisfying, bitching about what doesn't turn your crank...and yet appearing ignorant of either having to genuinely work at making it better, or exiting and starting anew with someone else. 

In one of my comments, I predicted that 'our' revolution will actually have an impact on our lives equal to what's been accomplished elsewhere in the world in 2011. Except that it's going to happen so gradually as to be pretty much impossible to view on a news report. 

And that I see what's possible as being almost entirely predicated on innovations in technology...and yet, in the end, this 'revolution's' success being almost entirely dependent on innovations in humanity. Specifically the way in which we order our lives, what we see as being important

1) The technological innovations can be seen as: 

-Social media. (An interconnectedness never before witnessed.)
-Open data. (Access to previously difficult-to-access, or essentially unavailable data about our communities.)
-Availability of context and perspective. (The ability to make comparisons all the world over.)
-The phenomenal speed at which all of these are capable of being accessed.

2) The human element has to do with what I've previously referred to as a 'lifestyle change', where people see involvement and participation in their own governance as an integral part of their value system. Not as an obligation, but simply as something they do, in the same way that good parents don't see what they do as an 'obligation', but merely as something they believe in, an integral part of their value system. 

N.B. Without the second portion of this, nothing substantive will result. It would be like having scads of facilities providing physical fitness opportunities, but with little interest shown in using them...so they sit unused. Naturally, the hope is that a groundswell occurs, one in which how people see sustained engagement is informed by the tech advances, effectively 'inspiring' them. Or, facilitating their inspiration. 

Currently, the 'system' isn't designed to accommodate these changes. In fact, it's mostly resistant to them, it lags behind something awful in some regards. (In fairness, progress has been made in others.)
Worse than this, many of those involved in governance and management are ill-designed to accommodate these changes, too. Additionally, they too are resistant, lagging behind something awful in some regards. (Again, there are some who are better suited to executing their directives than others.)

Regardless, I don't see 'business as usual' as being possible much longer. 

Too much has changed. Many of the habits of 'politicians', their expectations, the processes by which governance is implemented are, in comparison to the accessible resources, simply unacceptable. And will be regarded even moreso as time grinds on. 

I predict that many 'politicians' will go kicking and screaming unquietly into that good night, simply unwilling or incapable of adaptation. (We're presently seeing signs of this in The Amalgamated City of Hamilton.)

Of course, in perverse lock-step with these realities (and equally perversely allowing a reprieve of sorts) is the habitual apathy of residents. It would be great if the citizenry became sufficiently enraged -quickly- to insist on engagement and thereby initiating all the faster what I've suggested. But it's doubtful this will happen; Like the man said, "Things don't tend to change unless there's either a) a crisis, or b) something 'sexier' is presented." So until people in the main see the benefits to their own daily existences of becoming integral parts of their own governance, they're going to stick to the 'sexier' option of a hands-off, laissez-faire attitude known as 'I voted, now leave me alone for the next four years!' 

Hope, however, springs eternal. 

Monday, June 6, 2011

Now here's something distinctly Stoney Creekish...

This book came out a couple of years ago. I read it and reviewed it at the time. 

In it, the author takes issue with 'the legend of Billy Green'. In fact, on December 12th of 2009, The Spec published an article on the book and this controversy, 'Is the Billy Green story balderdash?', which can be found here.

Recently, the Stoney Creek Historical Society published a 'rebuttal' entitled 'Billy Green and Balderdash'. Researched and written by David B. Clark, Douglas A. Green and Mary Lubell, it provides counter-arguments against Mr. Elliott's stance on this local hero's legitimacy. On June 3rd, The Spec published the article 'The battle over war hero Billy Green'.

Here's an excerpt: 

"A foreword from the board of directors of the Stoney Creek Historical Society says the booklet is an effort to “clarify the facts surrounding the exploits of Billy Green and what has traditionally been believed concerning his contribution to the British triumph at the Battle of Stoney Creek ... and to respond appropriately to recent attempts to downgrade his importance.”

I've read the booklet and am impressed with the amount of effort that was clearly applied, as well as the clarity of information achieved by the writing. 

I'm looking forward to seeing how this 'dialogue' unfolds, how Mr. Elliott responds...and as the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Stoney Creek approaches, how Billy Green's legend holds up. 

(As an aside, there's a valid discussion to be had regarding the very definition of the concept 'hero'. But this post is neither the time nor the place for that indulgence.)

Friday, June 3, 2011

Yeah, 'Otherwise, what's the point?'

There's a great article over at Raise the Hammer by Larry Pattison, 'Stadium Committee Needs to Engage Community'. Referenced in it is a Spec editorial by Lee Prokaska, 'Right to know is paramount'. In it, as well as in Larry's editorial, you'll find a lot of themes common to the 'citizen engagement' thrust found here on My Stoney Creek, such as this gem:

"Openness, transparency, accountability - this is what citizens crave. We don't want less information, we want more. We don't elect representatives so they can behave like sheep. We elect them to represent our interests and fight for what is important to us. Otherwise, what's the point?"

Always nice to know that we're not a lone voice in the wilderness, huh?