Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Lynwood-Charlton Centre Imbroglio, Part Three: The Road to Nowhere? Hardly.


After nearly six hours of listening, spit-taking, note-scribbling, cud-chewing, what am I left with?



And a kind of unsurprising bewilderment.

Naturally, the issue front-and-centre (the potential relocation of a day-residence care facility from one neighbourhood with Ward 2 host to more than its share of facilities to another whose profile is already that of 'over-saturated') is the focus. And I'm sympathetic to all involved. Especially those young women who are currently residents of 52-56 Charlton.

Monday, January 30, 2012

The Lynwood-Charlton Centre Imbroglio, Part Two: One Thing Leads To Another

I don't have any need to get melodramatic about what transpired at the January 17th Planning Committee meeting as they considered an exemption/amendment to the 2001 Radial Separation bylaw. But I did have moments when an eyebrow would rise, when I stared at the screen, when I jotted down references...or when I paused the video to ponder what I'd just heard. (Oh, poo; I've done precisely what I'd said I had no need to do.)

Instead, here are my impressions...in no particular order, though I've attempted to establish some order...including a cursory swing at the 'history of things' bat. 

Sunday, January 29, 2012

The Lynwood-Charlton Centre Imbroglio, Part One: What we've got here...

...is failure to communicate.

Well, failure to communicate well.

I've been listening to the January 17th, 2012 Planning Committee meeting. The bulk of the five hours and forty-one minutes has to do with the application for amending the 2001 radial separation bylaw as it pertains to using the 121 Augusta Street building to operate the current 52-56 Charlton Avenue facility out of.

I've looked at this issue recently here and here. In the first piece, I noted that there were a handful of contributing elements that made up the larger discussion. And that I worried that some would get lost, that conflation would rule the day, that the conversation so clearly required probably wouldn't happen...and we'd be no further ahead than before this issue came to the fore. 

But it's taken listening to the proceedings for me to really gain some clarity. To appreciate the viewpoints of the various participants, to understand all the better the general process at City Hall, and to place a value on what's probably needed more in Hamilton than even visionary leadership on Council: discourse and dialogue amongst residents. 

(But before I start taking a look at what this time spent has provided me –and I'll confess that due to the often cringe-inducing content, it's taken much, much longer than the actual play-time to get through– I'm going to go off on a brief tangent: Since I began attending Council meetings last year, I've been astounded at the abysmal level of exchanges. The amount of wasted time produced by Councillors. The bush-league 'political grandstanding' that seems to be habitual to so many around that horseshoe of theirs. The insecurity-based tendency to iterate the same point over and over and over again...until it's been ground into the dirt...and then pummelled some more. In summation: the paucity of genuine skill-sets pertaining to asking questions, in getting to the heart of a matter, in making the most of the time available. I find myself so gobsmacked that were I to make one single, solitary suggestion, I'd have the John Cleese management training video 'Meetings, Bloody Meetings' part of an ongoing Competencies & Proficiencies package afforded everyone on Council, because from what I've seen, remedial instruction is sorely indicated. But as I'm being candid regarding Council, I'll also point out that because we don't have ongoing opportunities for the public to improve their proficiency at discussing issues, they often fall down, too. We really need to raise the level of debate in Hamilton. So much is at stake. And we can surely do better.)

Up next: Let's take a good, hard look, shall we...?

M Adrian Brassington

Thursday, January 26, 2012

'Social media' and all that...

"Unfortunately, it's the case with social media that individuals too often engage in dialogue without the (or for that matter any) facts."

I've had some intriguing conversations and experiences this week, including a family medical one. Some have been trying, others have been illuminating, yet others have given me pause to think...and re-think. 

In terms of local governance, I think I'm getting a bad neck-strain from shaking my head so much. I'm finding myself quite dismayed by how there are issues at the fore...residents are bitching and complaining, some writing editorials, others producing posters...but in the main, nothing. And I feel like I've been dropped into a film; I'm not actually part of the 'action', yet I can wander through the desolation and general conflagration. All the while yes, shaking my head. 

I'll get to the quote that begins this post in a minute, but before I do, I have to say this: what irks me far more than disagreement is disconnect. The absence of an honest back-and-forth based on agreed-to information. Dysfunction drives me nuts. Serial, systemic dysfunction all the moreso. 

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Clarity is Vital

In any discussion that addresses 'the poor', 'poverty', 'people in need', 'food banks', 'social assistance' and all the government and non-profit agencies normally associated with such notions, clarity is vital.

Especially when the term 'poverty industry' is brought up.

It worries me when I see phrases like 'making money off the suffering of others'. Because I don't believe that clarity resides where those opinions are uttered.

We have a poverty problem in Canada. In Ontario. In Hamilton in particular. How much this has been magnified by the provincial government changing the dynamic in terms of 'who pays for what' and 'where services are located' is part of the debate, as I noted here. We need to help people who require help. That's not the issue. The issue to me is two-fold: considering the possibility that 'poverty' is more an economic development issue than it is a social one and therefore demands a different tack than what has traditionally been taken, and what I recently offered up on The Hamiltonian:

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Meanwhile, over at The Hamiltonian...

My good friend and breakfast-mate Mahesh Butani has had his article from Metropolitan Hamilton published by Teresa DiFalco et al.

It deals with what he feels the real story is with Charlton Hall wanting to move to Augusta Street, especially with how it ties in with the notion of a 'poverty industry' in Hamilton.

It can be found here.

Monday, January 23, 2012

I don't have one...and I'm worried.

Photograph Property of Historic Hamilton

What I 'don't have' is a qualified opinion on 'social services' in Hamilton. And what I'm worried about is that the discussion that we really need to be having isn't going to happen. 

 This week, a 'social' issue came to the fore, one that's managed to polarize Hamiltonians, as well as create several different discussions beyond the preliminary issue of the relocation of a 'group home'. 

 (For further context, here's a Spec editorial, here's a followup article, and here's a thread on The Hamiltonian dealing with the issue. As well, check out facebook groups 'Dissidents (Hamilton Chapter)' and 'Ward 3 Residents' Association'.)

I'm no expert in this area, even though I've had some substantial input from contemporaries of late. To me, here are the various (and variant) discussion points:

Thursday, January 19, 2012

And yet yes, this is what Hamilton's like.

"And so, in Hamilton right now, we're not only focusing on piddling
issues, but based on some of the online 'discussion' I've seen, we're
clearly out of our depths to even address these with any degree of 

LMAO. So true. At times it feels like my old high school debate club.

This was an email sent to me by a friend. The italicized quote is from an editorial published here this week. Yesterday something cropped up that may not quite have fallen into the category of which I spoke, but reinforced how aspects of Hamilton strike me in terms of 'What's Worthy of Discussion' and 'How We Discuss'. 

Graham Crawford, he of HIStory & HERitage proprietorship, of lambasting political poster notoriety, of incisive and insightful articles and editorials in The Spec, urbanicity and Raise the Hammer fame, mainstay of the 'Dissidents (Hamilton Chapter)' facebook group, was on Laura Babcock's 'Chats From The Lair' show this week. This fact was noted on The Hamiltonian. After which, commenting began...leaving me prompted to write this piece. 

Graham is an engaging man. I know him, we've had some long conversations upstairs in his store on James Street North. He was invited onto Ms Babcock's show because he has a strong voice in the city and he's in a position to say what he wants without fear of recriminations. He might have made for an equally engaging guest, but it didn't pan out that way. (No, this had nothing to do with his vocal problems, rendering him almost laryngitic. It had to do with- Well, it was a wasted opportunity, in my mind.)

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Ya gotta laugh!

"Blogging isn't writing, it's graffiti with punctuation."

What matters? The way I see it.

I guess I'm a bit of a non-conformist.

As well as expecting strong leadership from elected officials, I'd like to expect strong participation from residents. You know, as I proposed in 'The Great Governance Formula' over at Town Halls Hamilton last autumn. I don't believe the paradigm should be 'We vote people in, and content to let them get on with it, we hope things turn out for the best.'

For me, the problems with this notion are fundamental: First off, we don't spend anywhere near enough time vetting our candidates. We simply don't take the process sufficiently seriously. More often than not, the incumbent gets the nod, but not so much based on due-diligence being done, but on presumption. We presume that a good job has been done by a Councillor based on the absence of identifiable screw-ups and the presence of a high enough 'feel-good' level. (The truth is that people by-and-large don't stay on top of their Councillor's performance. In Guelph, their Civic League has developed a two-pronged approach: they established core values that correspond to those of the community, and then track how Council votes according to these values. A wonderful start, but not a be-all and end-all. To simply compare how a person voted with a proscribed list of 'values' as the sole determinant seems akin to those wacky Tea Partiers down south; it's arbitrary, its facile...it's not even as good an indicator as a student's report card is to really understanding their performance. If we can't utilize context and perspective equally when assessing, then I despair all the more for the process.) 

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Just because I can't.

Pursuant to my posts this morning, which were prompted by a post over at The Hamiltonian, I'm finding myself needing to respond to responses to my initial comment there. (I don't have anywhere near the latitude I should have at theh site, and I really hate to have my thoughts marshalled by others...especially when they tend to both autocratic and ill-considered...so I'm kindasorta forced to declaim here.)

First off, the notion that plastic food wrapping is the main culprit for 'stinkage': No. 

I can see that this might be a problem to a certain extent, but not anywhere near one that would have piles of refuse stinking up the neighbourhood, or your garage or wherever. 

Solution? Do a better job of isolating these materials and bag 'em better. (Yes, using another piece of plastic 'adds to the pile', but nothing about this whole 'waste' situation is compromise-free.)

Regarding the notions that 'most people don't recycle and if we adopt an every-two-week garbage pickup schedule, then we'll be awash in rats', that we'd be in for a 'disaster': Riiiiiiiight

I'll admit I have a soft spot for hyperbole, but these suggestions are just- Well, they're pretty typical of how we address challenges in Hamilton. 

Even if this were the case, then I'd say 'Let's take all the money that we're wanting to put into a Garbage Intelligence Agency...you know, the vans for surveillance, the undercover 'officers' for illegal dumping...and apply it to tracking down and nailing to the wall those people who have 'opted out of recycling'. 

Tell ya what; how about allowing some neighbourhood peer pressure to be put into play, to get the 'stragglers' on-board? Better yet, how about we get the actual Neighbourhood Associations involved? How about we have our own 'pride-cum-recycling Green Berets' program?

Wide-eyed and grinning.

This morning I had the good fortune to have breakfast with Mahesh Butani. (It was the third time in the space of a week we'd tried to get together; I swear, the man has to get himself either an assistant, or a pager.)

I'm very aware of the opinions that some have of the former mayoral candidate. I see it in the 'downvoting' he instantly receives at Raise the Hammer, as well as the sidelong comments made there. Now, I'm not his apologist. I'm his friend, but he doesn't need me to 'defend' him against those who would slag him off. He's more than capable of handling things all by himself, thankyouverymuch. 

Still, I get how people might get their feathers ruffled by his manner, how he approaches discussions, etc. I also get how he might strike some as being supercilious, condescending or even a blow-hard. (Like Clive Owen says in 'Inside Man': "Pay strict attention to what I say, because I choose my words carefully." For these concessions aren't really about him. They're about his anti-fans. And their capacities.)


'That Smell'? Part Three

'Garbage in, garbage out.'

It's an early computer programming maxim, but it has many applications (sorry) in this modern world of ours.

If you ingest more calories than you expend, you have to deal with ridding yourself of the excess.

If you spend more than you earn, you have to deal with the debt.

If you purchase goods with what can reasonably be referred to as 'excessive packaging', then you have nobody to blame when it comes time to processing the waste.

By the same token, if you're hung up on 'buying things', if you're addicted to a materialistic, acquisitional cultural mindset (I've cried when the calls have gone up for people to 'Consume! Consume! Consume! Save our economy! Generate jobs for your neighbours! Spend! Purchase! Obtain!' by so many North American leaders.), then you're going to have rubbish to attend to.

'That Smell'? Part Two

Photo property of Tim Noble and Sue Webster

I'm a 'reason behind the reason' sort of guy. I'm more fascinated by what motivates people to react, to behave in particular ways than I am in what's seen in the moment. 

In Part One of this series, I touched on the general attitude of that portion of Hamiltonians that is resistent to improving the way we deal with our household rubbish. The idea that we've convinced ourselves that we shouldn't have to be bothered to do anything more than put bags of all-in-one waste out at the curb, that our rights-of-entitlement trump any notion of the 'common good', or that we simply don't have the time to deal with such...well, crap

All fine and good; we live in selfish times. 

But tied into this, contributing to the formula, magnifying the process are several elements. 

The first, quite frankly, is leadership. 

'That smell'...? Part One

'You're entitled to your own opinions...but you're not entitled to your own facts.'

Moreover, nobody is 'entitled' to muddying the waters-of-discussion by constantly returning to a downright 'terminological inextactitude', by repeatedly waiving their hands, jumping up and down and yelling...

...when it's clear they don't want to have the conversation in the first place. 

Because what results isn't a 'discussion'. It's more 'some involved parties wanting to earnestly and genuinely seek out solutions while others want to shut down the process and go back to the way it used to be'. 

There are some Hamiltonians that can't be bothered to recycle. Or process their waste. They do it begrudgingly. But given their 'druthers', they'd welcome a return to throwing everything into green bags for pickup, period. 

That world is gone. It doesn't exist anymore...and really, never should have, either. It's a remnant of a time that connects with the pretty shameful way we addressed North America as 'conquerer-colonists', and we owe it to the Earth not to continue to be such asshats half a millennium later. 

Thursday, January 12, 2012

'Peg 'o my heart'? No, 'Sorce of my hilarity'


I'm feeling in a particularly playful...and, believe it or not, non-bilious...mood today, so I'm going to push the 'Indulgence' lever to the max and respond to a prat that I've had online run-ins with before.

He goes by the name of 'Sorce'. (I say 'he' because I'm of too high an opinion of women in general to believe that it could be a gal. If that seems somehow 'politically correct' in some twisted way, so be it.) He comments at The Hamiltonian.

I've consistently found him to be... A pain-in-the ass.

Not because I disagree with what he says (I often do), but because of his...well, his delivery.

He's a prat.

Meanwhile, over at Town Halls Hamilton...

Photo property of Tanya Day Ritchie, 
Ward 3 Residents' Association, facebook

...I've published a three-part editorial musefest about littering and how it fits into a more engaged community mindset.

Part One is here.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Interview? Questionnaire? Neutral? Investigative?

Recently, The Hamiltonian featured an 'interview' with Mayor Bob Bratina.

There's a lot of material in the mayor's response. (And from this material, some 'discussion' popped up on both the 'Dissidents' (Hamilton Chapter) on facebook and Raise the Hammer, which features an especially excoriating and blunderbuss-like article by Commander-in-Chief Ryan McGreal, 'The Exoneration of Mayor Bratina'.)

But regardless of the quantity or quality of the response, neither qualifies the piece as an 'interview'.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Meanwhile, back in Stoney Creek...

View Magazine has an article in this week's edition about this: 

It's courtesy of Don McLean and C.A.T.C.H. and it's entitled 'Taxes and Local Road Maintenance'.

I can't question some of the numbers provided, but I did find the context used, to be intriguing. (It feels strange to read anything about Stoney Creek, anywhere.) I'm going to pass along the link to Ward 9 Councillor Clark for his thoughts.