Thursday, May 31, 2012

A little bit of clarity, please.

Poster by Graham Crawford, 'Dissident' Primoris


The proposed lower city 'super school' is going to have an enrolment capacity of...wait for it...

Not 5,000. 

Not 4,000. 

Not 3,000, not 2,500, not 2,000, not 1,750, not 1500...

...but 1,250

The same size as Sir John A. MacDonald. 

And smaller than Westdale. 

The conversations that comprise the overall one regarding 'What's going on with our high school closings?' are all valid, ones I've always encouraged we be having, including the merits and implications of busing students on themselves and on neighbourhoods. But surely we can at least follow Daniel Patrick Moynihan's admonition?

"You're entitled to your own opinion. But you're not entitled to your own facts."

Here's a few more facts, courtesy of the HWDSB:

"In 2009/2010, there were approximately 2,600 extra spaces within Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board secondary schools. This number is expected to increase to nearly 6,000 extra places by 2020."

M Adrian Brassington

What's goin' on...?

"...the absurdly poor approach to engagement and governance..."

"This idea must get beyond the 'preaching to the choir' that can happen on RTH. Not that there's anything wrong with that -- it is (an) important step in thinking about and clarifying the debate -- but (the) message needs to get out there more widely."

"You're conflating different concepts here."

In the past 48 hours, two facebook groups have been set up to 'oust' the two Board of Education trustees (and Board chairman) from Wards 1&2 and 3. 

We've also seen these contributions from Graham Crawford, Dissident Primoris:

If you go to Raise the Hammer right now, even if you just peruse the relevant articles and just focus on their comments, the refrain is the same: 'We need to do something about this.' A local version of 'We're as mad as Hell, and we're not going to take it anymore!'

But more than this, at least to my earnestly optimistic eyes, a door seems to be opening. 

On the other side? Um... Everything I've been yammering on about for the past 18 months, everything that Town Halls Hamilton is predicated on, and everything I've been pretty pointedly strident about this year: that we need to accept that it's not that something is 'broken' in our system, what with the feelings of powerlessness and nitrous-fuelled cynicism...but that we simply haven't been playing our part in our own local governance properly. 

We haven't taken our rightful seat at the table with Council, City Staff and developers. Even though we've believed we had. 

Changing this is actually quite simple. 

Not easy...but simple. 

And I can't tell you how happy it makes me to see people finally pushing open that door a crack and considering what's visible. 'Fresh eyes' can be a wonderful thing. Or...

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

M Adrian Brassington

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Oh, 'If I had a million dollars'...

(Click to enlarge)

A group consisting of Beth Newport, 54, Julie Smith, 51, Monica Milek, 39, and David Derbyshire, 61, suggested cleaning up Barton Street, improving parking in the neighbourhood and acquiring more trendy caf├ęs and bars along Barton Street. 

Newport, who has lived in the area for 33 years, hopes a movie theatre can return to the neighbourhood if money is invested in helping what she calls a “great area.” She remembers the days of going to see a movie at the old Towne and Avon theatres.

“How many times have we’ve said, ‘Let’s go and see a movie?” she said to her group. “And we have to go to Ancaster. There’s nothing here for us.”

That's from a Spec article on the stadium precinct public meeting last night, 'Ivor Wynne community has its say on stadium project'. As someone interested in residents being able to contribute to how their own community gets re-imagined, I found the piece heartening. As someone with a lifelong passion for cinemas, I sighed. 

A couple of years ago, I wrote a pair of articles for Raise the Hammer. The first, 'To Prevent the Next Century Collapse, Understand the Bigger Picture', focused on the loss of one of Hamilton's remaining cinema treasures. The second, 'The Fall of The Century: The Cinema History Factor' dealt with the background reasons for the situation that Ms Newport bemoans. 

Although the writer lays it all out nicely (!!!), here's the Top Six list of 'Why?!?':

Great Community Activism

A petition has been sent to the Minister of Education regarding the closing of Prince Philip School.

The facebook page can be found here.

Well done. 

Latest 2012 DFC* Nominees

With the reference points all having to do with decisions being made by the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board:

"Why does the HWDSB hate Hamilton so much?"

 "That she would vote to give up on keeping the HQ downtown is reprehensible."

"But I don't even know if democracy is even needed in this context. By electing them you give them some separation from the provincial executive and they feel they have the warrant to do what they feel is right in the public interest."

"These bastards need to be punished on the next ballot. It will be far too late to fix the mess by then unfortunately. Completely disregarding the needs of the city."

*Dumb-fuckingest Comment

If something doesn't seem to work to our satisfaction...

...does that mean that it's 'broken', or more that it just doesn't do what we'd like it to...and maybe was never meant to?

There are lots of invectives sailing through the air this week regarding HWDSB trustees.

And the same could/will be said about City of Hamilton councillors. Or the mayor.

Nightmare decisions being handed down. Questionable procedures unfolding. A lack of accessibility abounding...and worse, the distinct feeling that "consultation is a joke; there is no 'consultation' when the decision's been made before we've even taken our seats for the first time".

People are angry (at least those who are aware, interested and energized), and the common refrain goes back to CHML's Scott Thompson's exhortation from the last election:

Some Unsettling Truths...And a Broken Record's Refrain

Photo: Raise The Hammer

This week has seen several developments on the education-in-Hamilton front. Decisions on school closings. The disbanding of the City-HWDSB task force to find another downtown location for the Board's headquarters. And as a result, Spec and RTH articles, and endless comments, observations and...and...vilifications.

I've pretty much stood back on this issue, wanting to see how it would unfold, rather than offering up an unqualified opinion.

Wanting to see how far the outrage would go. What might result. Whether or not it would grow into a 'movement' worthy of joining, or whether it would be the civic activism equivalent of a bottle-rocket's stoppered pyrotechnics.

In a way, it's been hard to watch. There are some notable participants in the general brouhaha, people of high intelligence, of 'community leader' status (or at least 'potential'), who have articulated their thoughts admirably. (Some of these thoughts have included being heartbrokenly gobsmacked at, in the end, the inarguable lack of interest/engagement/participation on the parts of affected residents, and Hamiltonians-at-large.)

From my vantage point, my feelings have been that a) certain elements in the discussion have been wilfully ignored, or downright denied. Here's a post I put up in February about this. And b) that we need to begin discussing the merits of this notion as it applies to all aspects of decisions being made by publicly-installed entities.

However, for the time being, here is a list of 'truths' that have been germane to the 'education' situation.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Lauren McCrawley: Penetration

May 2, 2022

In the decade since the formation of the Hamilton Federation of Neighbourhood Associations in 2012, how things happen in the city has changed so much that were it possible to venture back in time and present to that year's Council the implications of organizing, energizing and empowering Hamilton residents by way of NAs...chances are that 'gobsmacked' would have been the consensus reaction. 

Here's yet another excerpt from the interview with Federation Chair Ms McCrawley featured on 'This is Our Hamilton'. 

TIOH: What did you, or anyone associated with the HFNA, see as the best possible outcome at the neighbourhood level, involvement-wise?

McCrawley: I'm assuming you're not talking about the establishment of NAs, that you're talking about the penetration of 'participation'.

TIOH: Yes.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

In Aid of Hamilton Small Businesses, Part Three

I'll fully admit that I've smudged things a little bit here. What I had wanted to propose was a Hamilton version of the American Express 'Shop Small' campaign, where on one autumn Saturday, people shop at local merchants. 

For the two streets I keyed on, Barton Village and the core section of King Street East, this just isn't- Well, it's not a sane notion. There's just not sufficient 'there', there these days. But still, I think that in an effort to generate more support for small businesses in general by way of this kind of a campaign, we might attain some inroads in these two troubled sections of Hamilton. 

It surely wouldn't hurt, would it...?

Anyway, here's a set of pretty cool videos. Enjoy. 

In Aid of Hamilton Small Businesses, Part Two

What happened...?!?

King Street East, from John to James, both sides of the street, and Barton Street East from Wellington to Sherman.

I'm old enough to remember both streets thriving.

In the case of the former, aware enough to have seen three iterations over the years, with two of these being 'heydays'. The first, pre-Jackson Square. My primary reference points are The Capitol and The Palace, two Thomas Lamb 'cathedrals of film' within a stone's throw of each other. The second is the nearly two decades as defined by Jackson Square's presence. (I worked there.) And the third, beginning roughly twenty years ago; the sorriest phase of the downtown core's history from these eyes' perspective.

In the case of the latter? Well, pre-Jackson Square, pre-Eastgate Square, pre-Limeridge, pre-Mapleview, pre-Meadowlands. (There is a point to be made that everything began to change with the Centre Mall in '55.) 'Back in the day' when this portion of the city...the 'north-end'...was rife with industrial workers and their families. Back when Barton Street was 'main street' to them.

In December of 2010, I wrote an op-ed in response to a Spec article entitled 'And now, a full response to The Spec'. This piece contains much of what I'd express answering the question 'What happened?'

But news out of England has added to all this; they're watching as their 'high streets' are losing ground. 'Ghost Towns UK' is a MailOnline article showcasing the problems...and you can see, some of them are universal.

Up next: Keying on small retailers

In Aid of Hamilton Small Businesses, Part One

This slideshow is of Barton Village. From Wellington Street to Sherman Avenue. It was taken almost two years ago. 

Hamilton has some thriving 'main streets'. (Some so inclined would frame this as 'thriving BIAs'.) Unfortunately, we have at least two areas, two 'main streets' that are in dire need of re-invention. Barton Street as documented above, is one. 

Recently, I saw some commercials for an initiative to bolster small businesses. As in 'retail' businesses. And it got me thinking about getting the same thing going here in Hamilton. So I found myself wanting to post about it. 

But the two streets mentioned above are in such need of not just 'more business' (that is, the equivalent of a new haircut or new makeup or a new outfit), but major surgery. So I quickly realized that I would have to expand my scope. Hence the fact that this is a three-part series. 

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Meanwhile, over at The Spec...

An op-ed by yours-truly has been published in today's edition. 

The title assigned to it brings up an intriguing discussion: if a councillor who served from two terms ago is voted back into office, is it fair and accurate to say they were 're-elected'?

Sometime over the past two years, I saw a situation where someone who had served in office (but was not the incumbent) had 'Re-elect' on their signage. Meaning that there were two candidates running with this on their material. 

So The Spec's 'What if there were no re-elections?' put a slightly different spin on things for me. 

Big thanks to Robert Howard for adding to the production. : )

Oh, and here's the piece, MSC-style:

Monday, May 21, 2012

Latest 2012 DFC* Nominee

AnonymousMay 21, 2012
We have citizen engagement. It isn't perfecy and it isn't uniform, but it's there. It does exist the majority of Hamiltonians appear to be happy with the way things are. For the remainder, there are always ways of increasing your civic enagement. Don't waste time sulking that Santa Claus never wrote you back.

In the words of that ancient sage, Holy fuckolee

First off, I want to know what 'perfecy' means. Is it akin to 'nicety' or is it closer to 'perfunctory'? How about 'flippancy'?

Secondly, I hardly think that the 'majority of Hamiltonians' can be used as a standard-bearer except maybe regarding disengagement or apathy. So just because they're 'happy' doesn't mean things are hunky-dory and we should satisfy ourselves with the status quo and maybe order another round. 

Finally, bonus points for the Santa Claus bit. Nice

*Dumb-fuckingest Comment

Where is our Jim Green?

(Thanks to L.E. for pointing me in the direction of Mr. Green. Much appreciated.)

'Vision'? 'Slogan'? 'Motto'? What's the story, Morning Glory...?

(For the record, I'm no fan of the band. LOL)
'To be the best city in Canada to raise a child, promote innovation, engage citizens and provide diverse economic opportunities.'

Currently, the topic-de-rigeur at The Hamiltonian...and as referenced at both The Spec and CBC Hamilton the whole question of Hamilton's 'vision'

Or slogan. (As labelled by Mayor Bratina.)

Or motto.

And what's been fascinating to me, beyond the dearth of responses from Council to the ''Perspectives Virtual Panel: The Best Place to Raise a Child' article, is that even putting aside the possibility that the discussion has inadvertently taken a wonky turn (the words 'to be' seemingly MIA in all the discussion, as well as the reference being 'city', not 'place'; God is in the details, believe-you-me...), is the apparent disconnect and misinterpretation over what the intent of the City's vision/slogan/motto is.

Simply stunning...and stunningly simple.

A shame, really.

Raise the Hammer uses a voting system on their articles. You can 'upvote' (approve of) or 'downvote' (disapprove of) a comment. It's the electronic equivalent of applauding someone...or blowing raspberries.

Currently, I'm posting there as CouldaWouldaShoulda, rather than under my usual moniker of mystoneycreek. Why?

I've always been against voting. Especially as it's done at RTH. I find the practice juvenile and beneath a site that purports to want to create a better city.

Because my comments are consistently contrary to those found in the 'endless-loop echo-chamber', I have always been downvoted. (I could state 'The sky is blue!' and I'd easily grab five or seven downvotes.)

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Yes, it is. However...

Most of the action at Teresa & Co's site has to do with the 'Perspectives Virtual Panel: The Best Place to Raise a Child' article. 

Well, the fallout. 

Actually, it has to do with the non-responses from councillors. 

Um... As a matter of fact, it has to do with engagement...although not just the absence of the stuff on the parts of 13 of 16 Council members, but also how people are seeing the need for residents to press their representatives at 71 Main Street West more. 


Meanwhile, over at

...there's an article about the aging of the US Senate, 'Where are the young pols?'

Naturally, much of what's offered isn't applicable to Canadian politics. But within the Comments section there are some pretty stunning contributions. Here are two, and they're very much applicable to Canada, Ontario...and Hamilton:

I think it's not only a matter of money, and of baby boomers not wanting to vote for people who aren't their age..but also, every area of public service in this country has been denigrated for so long, who would want to run for office? Or teach? Or be a policeman or fireman? Or be a "useless gov't. worker?"
Very perceptive comment. We disrespect the very people who make society run.

Meanwhile, over at Raise the Hammer...

Poster by Graham Crawford, 'Dissident' Primoris

Mahesh P Butani has contributed a comment regarding the one-way, two-way discussion over at Raise the Hammer. I've encouraged him to submit it as a standalone article to Ryan McGreal, the Editor, as I believe that it merits far more than simply being downvoted by sheeples there, that its crux is more differentially pivotal than most of the material that invariably shows up in the 'Special Report: Walkable Streets' series.) His comment can be found within the Jason Leach article 'City Streets Deserve a Chance to Succeed.

Its crux is so vital because it deals with polarization, a reinforcement of the 'Us vs Them' mentality, and (my interpretation here), 'throwing the baby out with the bathwater', vilifying one-ways in the attempt to raise up two-ways to saviour-status. 

And the way I've read it, I can't help but paraphrase the Libby's beans commercial: 'More dialogue, please!' in my head. Granted, Mahesh maintains 

Friday, May 18, 2012

The 'One-way to Two-way' Endeavour...With a Twist

Poster by Graham Crawford, 'Dissident' Primoris

There is a movement afoot (!!!) to turn back to two-ways some of the one-way streets that were made so back in 1956. (All one has to do is check out Raise The Hammer.) 

Now, when I say 'movement', it's fair to say that at this point, most of it is at RTH and the 'Dissidents' (Hamilton Chapter) facebook group. But that doesn't mean that it's not going to gain traction, that we won't see this become a certified endeavour and not just a cliquish frustration-fest. (And though I'm on-board with the reasoning behind it, I am mindful of the fact that 50 or 100 people, no matter how eloquently, or how vociferously they're making their views known, are nowhere near sufficient to get The City to act. More on that reality, anon.)

Thursday, May 17, 2012


"While bantering with Morrow, who also was featured at the charity dinner with, Bratina said he will usurp Morrow’s 18 years as the city’s longest serving mayor."

'Bratina eyes Morrow to extend his legacy', The Hamilton Spectator

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Meanwhile, 750 miles down the road...

I loves me some serendipity.

This week, Mayor Bratina responded to The Hamiltonian's 'Perspectives Virtual Panel: On The Best Place to Raise a Child' by referencing a Bloomberg Businessweek article noting Virginia Beach, VA as one of the best cities in which to raise a child. (Truthfully, some wires have gotten crossed; I can't find the article the mayor cited; this one is 'America's 50 Best Cities'.) The city has certain commonalities with Hamilton; here's its Wikipedia page.

But I'm not posting this op-ed to flog one of the cities I'm currently visiting. This post is about a local VA Beach issue that should resonate with Hamiltonians. Here are the opening paragraphs of the Virginia Pilot article 'Virginia Beach hunts for best use for preserved land':

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Meanwhile, in Norfolk, VA...

During my visit to the area, I'm taking in the community conversations. 

Here are two. The first deals with development. The second deals with area schools. 

Both should resonate with Hamiltonians.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Five Great Crowdsourcing Things: Kickstarter, The Chagora Model, Change by Us, Give a Minute and Spacehive

Once again, my friend Mahesh P. Butani has thrown something through my open window, and then rung my doorbell. (I keep thinking he's going to stick around for a coffee, but he's always run off by the time I respond.)

This time, it's a article by Neal Pierce, 'Crowdsourcing's Golden Moment'.

Naturally, I'm recommending that you read the piece. But I also want to share some of the links contained in the well as at least one other.

Meanwhile, over at The Hamiltonian...

 ...they've published another of their 'Perspectives Virtual Panels', where they gather the insight and opinions of various Hamiltonians on a particular topic.

This time through, it's the City of Hamilton's claim to be 'The Best Place to Raise a Child'.

Additionally, yours-truly is in the mix.

Take a look, there are some pretty damned good bits to consider.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Muddy Reporting Does Governance Process Disservice

Last week, the Hamilton Community News featured an article entitled Expect ‘push back’ from developers, says Ontario integrity commissioner'. It caught my eye, and as I began reading, my curiosity was piqued all the more:

'If Hamilton adopts a lobbyist registry, organizations as small as neighbourhood groups, and as large as developer associations will need to sign onto the document to identify them as lobbyists, says Ontario Integrity Commissioner Lynn Morrison.'

The neighbourhood association reference surprised me. I couldn't see how conversations that should be happening between councillors and their constituents could fall under any 'lobbying' guidelines. So I contacted the Ontario Integrity Commissioner's office for clarification. 

Friday, May 11, 2012

"It's time to democratize democracy again."

Yes, it's an American article talking about American society and American politics. But despite all this, there's a lot of great stuff in there. 

'Democracy Is for Amateurs: 

Why We Need More Citizen Citizens'

Here are some highlights:

-When self-government is dominated by professionals representing various interests, a vicious cycle of citizen detachment ensues. Regular people come to treat civic problems as something outside themselves, something done to them, rather than something they have a hand in making and could have a hand in unmaking. They anticipate that engagement is futile, and their prediction fulfills itself.

-So how do we replace this vicious cycle with a virtuous one? What does it take to revive a spirit of citizenship as something undertaken by amateurs and volunteers with a stake in their own lives? There are four forces to activate, and they cut across the usual left-right lines.
  1. First, we have to develop our "citizen muscle."
  2. Second, we need to radically refocus on the local.
  3. Third, think in terms of challenges rather than orders.
  4. Fourth, create platforms where citizen citizens can actively serve.

I especially liked the Eric Liu-penned article's conclusion:

Recently I came upon a billboard by a congested highway. "You're not stuck in traffic," it said. "You are traffic." We aren't stuck in sclerotic government and extractive politics. We are these things. Our actions and omissions contribute to the conditions we decry. Or, to put it in positive terms: if we make the little shifts in mindset and habit to reclaim civic life, they will compound into contagion. We are the renewal of self-government we yearn for. That may sound like Obama '08 -- but it's also Reagan '80.

Citizenship, in the end, is too important to be left to professionals. It's time for us all to be trustees, of our libraries and every other part of public life. It's time to democratize democracy again.

(Oh, and don't forget to read the Comments section.) 

M Adrian Brassington

P.S. Thanks go out to Michael Borrelli for bringing the article to my attention. 

Thursday, May 10, 2012

"With the press this list is getting, it will be no problem to add a few hundred registered voters to it if necessary. Don't listen to what the councillors are saying about the high cost of looking into this - they are only fighting major ward changes because it will cost them their cushy incumbent position next election. We don't need new wards, we need different ones - and we need them to be VASTLY different in order to help topple the lassitude the incumbents drag into everything we try to do."

The above concerns the stumble that the ward boundary review petition has made, as noted in this Spec article.

For the time being, I'm keeping my thoughts to myself about how the petition effort was executed, but I do want to address the commenter's thoughts...because they really typify the disconnect-as-fuelled-by-anger&frustration that reactions of this city's residents often exhibit. (When indifference doesn't rule the day.)

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Talk about 'community engagement'...

Wards Corner is a neighbourhood in Norfolk, Virginia. 'Wards Corner Now'?

"Wards Corner Now is  a consortium of Civic Leagues, Businesses , Churches, Schools and the City with the objective and common goal  of improving the Greater Wards Corner area."

Here's a list of participating civic leagues:

o Algonquin Park/North Shore Point Civic League
o Belvedere Civic League
o Bollingbrook Civic League
o Concerned Citizens of Titustown, The
o Cromwell Farms/Ellsworth Civic League
o Glenwood Park Civic Club
o Lochhaven Civic League
o Meadowbrook Civic League
o Monticello Village Civic League
o North Meadowbrook Civic League
o Northside Civic League
o Oakdale Farms/Denby Park/Cottage Row Park Civic            League
o Riverfront Civic League
o Riverpoint Civic League
o Suburban Acres Civic League
o Talbot Park Civic League
o Wards Corner Civic League

More info can be found here.

So; imagine this kind of cohesion in Hamilton. 

M Adrian Brassington

Meanwhile, 750 miles away...

I've been coming to Norfolk, VA for the better part of three decades. For me, one of the landmarks of the area was a major crossroads, 'Wards Corner'.

At the junction of East Little Creek Road and Granby Street, it consists of two sizeable tracts of strip-malls on the north-east and south-east corners. 

While the latter has been announced as the location of a new upscale chain development (Harris Teeter, if anyone's interested), it's the former that's always enchanted me.

Midtown Shopping Center opened in 1947, some eight years earlier than Hamilton's Center Mall. Here's a slideshow. This provides great context: at the time it was known as 'Times Square of The South'.

There used to be a mainstay restaurant there. 'Uncle Louie's'. 'Open All Night', the sign still says; it was closed a few years ago.

Here's a Google Maps view of this portion of the Center. 

And these days?

Here's a progression of articles explaining the redevelopment history of the Midtown Shopping Center. I think there are some parallels to Hamilton, and maybe some lessons to learn there, too. 

Businesses Survive Evictions

M Adrian Brassington

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Getting to the heart of the matter...

Within my most wishful imaginings, I see town halls. And forums. And salons and seminars and all manner of exchanges that go waaaay beyond online participation such as emails and tweets and facebook posts amongst 'the converted'...


Sorry. It's just that there's been a flurry of activity this week over at Raise the Hammer (and it's only Tuesday!) that's been both curious and reassuring and boggling, and...and...

Articles and responses. By knowted Hamiltonians such as Graham Crawford and Jeremy Freiburger and Adrian Duyzer, as well as someone going by the moniker of 'Ersatz'. And the theme is consistent- But we'll get to that in a moment. First, excerpts from the material in question, which can be found in the articles or the subsequent comments contained therein 'Hamilton: Succeeding and Failing at The Same Time', and 'Hamilton's Problem is Not Ignorance'.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Now that's what I call a comment!

Over at RTH, there's a splendid comment on 'Hamilton: Succeeding and Failing at The Same Time', by Assistant Editor Adrian Duyzer. The fact that I'm offering up this shout-out about Ersatz's thoughts has less to do with the fact that I agree with much of them and more to do with the cogency found there. I wish all online commenting was of this quality. (Oh, and Ersatz: Any time you want to write a guest editorial on this site, let me know.)

By Ersatz (anonymous)
Posted May 07, 2012 at 10:58:33
Seems to me that the trick is reaching beyond preaching to the converted. These events seem to bring in those who are already convinced of the value of the cause and the wisdom of the measures and strategies required to get there. The shortfall is in broader public engagement. This seems to be particularly true of charettes, which tend to occupy a very narrow bandwidth.

Hamilton has always talked a good game. That has never been the problem. Solutions for what ails the city have bubbled up from every Tim Hortons in the city for 40 years or so. Over at City hall, they are hip to the trends and up on the buzzwords and postures required of with-it policy makers in the 21st century. They can vogue with the best of them. But in general, we're happy to settle for that. We celebrate our most mundane achievements, invest them with significance disproportionate to their real-world importance, and rout critical engagement in favour of universal boosterism and the belief that there's nothing that next-gen marketing can't solve.

I will echo the disrespect shown to those who have been working for change over the long term. There is often the perception among newcomers that those who went befgore lacked for something, whether an evolved appreciation of urban dynamics or work ethic. None of which is, strictly speaking, true, but it is common for the newly converted to be full of piss and vinegar.

It is easy for someone who has arrived here in the last two or three years to shake their head at what they see as a populace that has become ground down and dispirited in the midst of so much potential and opportunity. I am not disputing the mojo of insurgent money and cultural values, though there is a risk of Hamilton defining itself around transplanted urban aesthetics, which is arguably a variation on the "second city" inferiority complex: Hamilton will have turned the corner toward actualization when it can lay claim to a Smoke's Poutinerie and a Burrito Boyz and a handful of commercial blocks with a superficial resemblance to Queen West or Parkdale.

And it is easy for those who arrive in the hyper-networked world of today to tsk-tsk, but I wonder how many of today's I Heart Hamilton cohort would have the passion to slug it out in the trenches without being able to connect via cell phones and social media 24/7/365? Even five years ago, this was not the case. I'm not questioning the role or value of that ecosystem, but real change requires more leverage than a hot hashtag.

Voicing these thoughts is perhaps part of the problem, but candour is required if we are to move forward. It also needs to be said that this movement needs to draw on the energy and expertise of all corners of the city. Downtown renewal can't simply be a Ward 2 concern, or a Ward 1-3 concern. If that continues to be the case, in 2027 we'll be having a Cusp Plus 25 Memorial Charette on the former site of another landmark.

Not to worry, though: There'll be plenty of parking.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Regarding 'at large' councillors and the such...

Click on image for better viewing

Norfolk, Virginia is a city of almost 250,000. It has five wards...and two 'superwards'. The accompanying map illustrates this; the two superward councillors take in half the city each. So in a way, they have two 'at large' representatives at Council. More or less.

I've heard some talk in the Hamilton 'ward reform boundary' preliminary discussions (most as comments on articles) about the notion of 'at large' councillors. That they'd somehow provide much more equitable representation. (I've also heard references to a 'Board of Control', something Hamilton used to have...but these days, no municipality in Canada has.)

Last week, Norfolk voters went to the polls to elect the two superward councillors. This article in today's Virginia-Pilot illustrates one of the problems with an 'at large' setup, or at least one where it's partially this way. Specifically, the fact that someone can win the overall election, but fair poorly in some of the districts.  Meaning that residents in those areas don't get who they voted for as their councillor...even though their choice got the most votes in that ward. (In a way, this is nothing new; Mayor Bratina 'lost' in various wards, even though he captured the popular vote.)

I offer this up as something to consider if and when the subject of 'at large' councillors arises during the review process. 

M Adrian Brassington