Special Report: Creative City

Hamilton: The City that Refuses to Pivot

Effective leaders approach policy with curiosity and an open-minded willingness to follow the evidence where it leads. They change their minds when the facts change.

By Ryan McGreal
Published June 15, 2010

The great economist John Maynard Keynes was challenged, during the Great Depression, on why he had changed his position on monetary policy. He famously replied: "When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?"

In Hamilton, changing your mind when the facts change is the worst, most unforgivable political sin. It's a sign of weakness, a capitulation to the enemy, the thin edge of the wedge.

Once Hamilton gets its teeth into an idea, nothing - no change in circumstances, no twist in opportunities, no transformation of the global economic framework - can get us to change our minds.

We bend our heads to worship at the altar of previous investment. We've raised the sunk costs fallacy to an art form. We chase our losses all the way to the poor house.

And we never, ever admit we were wrong.

Chasing Losses in Air Transport

The city's Airport Economic Growth District (AEGD, formerly the "aerotropolis") is the zombie plan that refuses to lie still.

The premise is simple and attractive: develop three or four thousand acres around Hamilton International Airport so we can attract businesses in industries related to air transport. What the hell, it worked for Mississauga.

There are just a few fatal problems with this premise.

That is not even to mention the direct and externalized costs associated with converting some of the world's most dependable farmland over to industrial uses that the city's own studies project will be mostly low-value warehousing and logistics.

Nor is it to mention the ongoing opposition by the Provincial Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing (MMAH) to both the scale of the AEGD and the city's self-serving definitions of land use requirements.

Foregone Conclusion

But never mind all that! Given the time, energy and money the city has already invested in dragging the dead weight of the aerotropolis into the light, it would be outrageous to quit now. I have previously called the city's reality distortion field on this matter the Aerotropolis Dance.

The result of such perverse thinking has been an ongoing comedy of errors as the city twists its processes into unrecognizable shapes to make the AEGD fit into our stated objectives.

It started with the city's Growth-Related Integrated Development Strategy (GRIDS), which was supposed to be a long-range plan to limit sprawl and focus on urban revitalization. City staff produced six growth options, every one of which included what was then a 2,500 acre airport development.

Even though the vast majority of citizen comments on the options favoured the most compact plan with minimal greenfield development, the city settled on the option that met the legal bare minimum level of intensification - and that only on a technicality.

After Hamiltonians for Progressive Development and the MMAH launched an Ontario Municipal Board appeal that forced the city to take the airport lands out of its boundary expansion plan until the proper studies had been completed, the city actually increased the size of the "study area" by another thousand acres.

As per the OMB settlement, the city formed a "Community Liaison Committee", which it stacked with airport development supporters: Councillors Lloyd Ferguson and David Mitchell; representatives from the airport, Chamber of Commerce, and realtors association; a commercial property developer; a member of the Agricultural and Rural Affairs Committee; a housing developer; a real estate agent; the former Glanbrook town planner; a pro-aerotropolis air traffic controller; and representatives from Six Nations, Environment Hamilton, the Hamilton and District Labour Council and Hamiltonians for Progressive Development.

The city commissioned an employment study from Hemson Consulting that concluded all of Hamilton's job prospects lie in warehousing and logistics around the airport. The study was so bad that even Council noticed, and they commissioned a follow-up study, also via Hemson, to document the city's brownfields.

Thanks to some creative definitions of a "brownfield", the study managed to conclude that Hamilton doesn't have any - or to be exact, that the city has less than 75 acres of brownfields.

Meanwhile, the MMAH has been steadily chipping away at the city's proposed AEGD footprint while the city has struggled mightily to forge ahead with some kind of workable plan.

Fast forward to today's Planning and Economic Development meeting, in which the committee will be asked to endorse the AEGD draft secondary plan.

The CLC hasn't even met since January, and in any case the draft plan, like so many of our plans, favours the city's narrow, myopic agenda while marginalizing broader public and even economic considerations.

Live and Don't Learn

Live and don't learn, that's us
Live and don't learn, that's us

Richard Gilbert's landmark report to City Council on the challenges and opportunities presented by Peak Oil has largely failed to exert any influence whatsoever on the city's long-term growth plans. Without sacrificing his professionalism, Gilbert did everything but hit council over the head with the foolishness of their stubborn fixation on airport-oriented development.

If we can't get industrial businesses interested in our current highway-accessible industrial lands, what makes us think we'll be able to get them interested in our airport-adjacent, highway-accessible industrial lands, given our insistence that the development doesn't have to be airport-related?

Meanwhile, council got around the thorny issue of whether it makes sense to put all our eggs in the airport basket by insisting that the development happens to be around the airport but doesn't need to be oriented to the airport - which simply begs the question of why we're determined to put it there.

Certainly the city has no shortage of contiguous industrial lands adjacent to our completed ring highway system; but we are busy rezoning those lands for single-family residential and big box commercial uses.

If we can't get industrial businesses interested in our current highway-accessible industrial lands, what makes us think we'll be able to get them interested in our airport-adjacent, highway-accessible industrial lands, given our insistence that the development doesn't have to be airport-related?

Meanwhile, forward-looking cities are busy leveraging urban efficiencies to grow their economies through intensification, urban revitalization and public infrastructure productivity.

Effective leaders care more about making the best decisions than winning at all costs. They approach policy with curiosity and an open-minded willingness to follow the evidence where it leads. They change their minds when the facts change.

Effective leaders pivot, because they know that the most carefully prepared plan will dash up against reality if it does not reflect reality.

Ryan McGreal, the editor of Raise the Hammer, lives in Hamilton with his family and works as a programmer, writer and consultant. Ryan volunteers with Hamilton Light Rail, a citizen group dedicated to bringing light rail transit to Hamilton. Ryan writes a city affairs column in Hamilton Magazine, and several of his articles have been published in the Hamilton Spectator. He also maintains a personal website and has been known to post passing thoughts on Twitter @RyanMcGreal. Recently, he took the plunge and finally joined Facebook.

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By jasonaallen (registered) - website | Posted June 15, 2010 at 12:05:14

Like I've said before - People follow the incentive. Which begs the question: What could possibly be the incentive for City Hall to doggedly pursue this ludicrous course of action? Only when we understand that, will we understand how to fight it.

I am convinced it is more than just sheer bloody-mindedness. There must be something 'in it' for someone, somewhere. The make-up of the board you described comes pretty close to nailing it.

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By TreyS (registered) | Posted June 15, 2010 at 13:28:47

Let's follow a 30-year old Economic Development plan that Mississauga already did..... that'll work.

Let's duplicate the same thing and only 40 km away and ask those companies to up and move here because we're offering the exact same thing 40km down the highway. And probably at higher taxes.

That's innovative, and forward-thinking for you. Tell me, why is Hamilton's industrial/private sector economy shrinking again?

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By Kiely (registered) | Posted June 15, 2010 at 13:37:11

Meanwhile, council got around the thorny issue of whether it makes sense to put all our eggs in the airport basket by insisting that the development happens to be around the airport… - Ryan

We shouldn't be putting our eggs in any basket we don't control.

We have no control over the airline industry. One big fuel cost spike (or the eventual fuel shortage) and the whole industry could go belly up. Running around throwing our money and effort at things like airports, manufacturing companies, steel mills, etc… is dangerous. We could theoretically do everything "right" in pursuing those types of businesses and we will still have no luck attracting or keeping those businesses due to circumstances beyond our control. An individual city has minimal impact on the future of the airline industry or manufacturing in Canada. We could subsidize, pander, beg and plead for airport investment and manufacturing but global forces can undermine all of it.

The city needs to focus on things it has some control over: maintenance and improvements to current infrastructure, urban renewal, transit, zoning, cleaning up brown fields and submerged sludge piles, actively and aggressively enforcing environmental and emissions laws (instead of allowing our industries to circumvent or seek to soften them). In short, the city needs to concentrate on making a livable city that will attract the PEOPLE businesses want.

Dumping money into costly new infrastructure to woo an industry that has one of the highest bankruptcy rates of any industry and has been in a fiscal crisis for a decade is stupidity in action.

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By Bill (registered) | Posted June 15, 2010 at 13:57:22

Comments with a score below -5 are hidden by default.

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By Kiely (registered) | Posted June 15, 2010 at 14:40:15

Mississauga is booming. We are not! They pay less taxes than us. Mybe they are right and we are wrong! - Bill

I knew it wouldn't be long before someone would demonstrate the level of thinking at work here.

Post hoc ergo propter hoc.

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By Mahesh_P_Butani (registered) - website | Posted June 15, 2010 at 14:43:30

While many cities are struggling to make the shift from a resource-based economy to a knowledge-based economy - which is critical to their very survival, some in Hamilton are attempting to shift the city into reverse gear.

In spite of knowing better that this kind of projected growth will only set the city back in time - their incentive of personal gain is so strong, that they have managed to convince themselves and many others - using progressive sounding language, that their approach will bring job growth and prosperity to our city.

It is amazing to see how disjointed words that appear to profess a knowledge economy - end up instead, justifying a tired path-dependency.

Regions and their economic development policy leaders need to recognize that while preferential or proximate access to certain resources may have been important, even decisive, in their past, economic growth will assure that access to a new and different set of resources—particularly those resources relating to creating knowledge—will be more important in the future. As in business, the challenge for regions will be the willingness to shift their strategies to new forms of advantage, to render their old advantages irrelevant, before their competitors do it for them."

"Wealth creation will depend on our ability to balance four tensions: chaos and order, individual and community, present and future, and competition and cooperation."

~ Lester C. Thurow.

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By Rene Gauthier (anonymous) | Posted June 15, 2010 at 15:00:06

Ryan said:
Numerous studies into aviation economics confirm that proximity is everything. The farther an airport is from a major urban centre (read: Toronto) the less successful it will be at attracting tenants.

I have to bring this point up because this is not Hamilton's problem. The city core is far closer to the airport than Toronto's core. That's one point to ponder.

Here's the other...
As I said in the last article, "if you build it, they will come," is not a good enough reason for building this and we certainly can't say that Mississauga developed because of the airport. There were a lot of factors involved with businesses deciding to move to Mississauga from Toronto.

But here's the real question: How can we get businesses to build their base in Hamilton? What do we need to do to move away from the industrial and progress into technological and commercial? My concern is that the right people aren't in place at city hall to welcome these businesses.

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By Kiely (registered) | Posted June 15, 2010 at 15:35:35

But here's the real question: How can we get businesses to build their base in Hamilton? What do we need to do to move away from the industrial and progress into technological and commercial? My concern is that the right people aren't in place at city hall to welcome these businesses. - Rene

The right people aren't in the right place but it isn't just city hall it is the CITY.

I'm no expert Rene, that's for sure, but to me cities, like companies, are about people (and I do have some experience in this area). The company with the best people will prosper, the city with the best people will do the same. So a (admittedly) simple plan is stop focusing on businesses and start focusing on people. We shouldn't be asking, how do we get the businesses? We should be asking, how do we attract or develop the people businesses want and need? This may seem like semantics but it is an important distinction. If you are worried about business you'll focus on business. The city needs to focus on people.

A simple example of not focusing on people is the fact we aren't retaining immigrants; which is a huge pool of new ideas, new approaches, creativity and entrepreneurial spirit, wasted.

To borrow from an old saying… "It is the people, stupid".

Comment edited by Kiely on 2010-06-15 14:36:19

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By A People (anonymous) | Posted June 15, 2010 at 16:08:56

Just to add to Kiely's point above, I'd like to point out that an industrial economy is based on a surplus of low-skilled labour. A surplus means "cheap". We may have lost sight of this due to the success of labour unions driving up industrial wages in past decades, but we should be reminded every time we think of the more recent industrial success of Asia. Industries have fled North America, attracted mostly by the surplus of cheap labour there. They will not return to North America (not even an express-way ringed, airport serviced beauty like Hamilton) unless local wages drop to less than $1/day, and/or can be automated to equivalent cost. Why we'd pursue that route is questionable.

An information-based economy is based on a resource of high-skilled, well educated labour, people smart enough to know they want more out of life than just a job. They want things like health care, employment security, good parks and recreation, entertainment options and a good place to raise children. They decide where they want to live based on quality of life and either create their own jobs, or companies pursue them. These jobs tend to pay more than $1/day.

And while I'm at it Ryan, why the emphasis on "leadership?" In a democracy, aren't our elected officials supposed to be our representatives? It seems to me that effective representation is what you've been after, not someone to tell you what you need (an airport) and what you need to do to get it (vote for me.) This is more than semantics. This city is constantly looking for leaders, and constantly disappointed when it gets a council packed to its brand new rafters with people who lead but don't listen.

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By Rene Gauthier (anonymous) | Posted June 15, 2010 at 16:46:31

The reason why immigrants are leaving the city is mostly the lack of job opportunities. We've lost a tremendous number of jobs in the city and there will be more gone within the year. And of course, the city is about to face another major crisis. The office vacancy rate is about to skyrocket as city hall moves to its newly renovated location.

Let's not dwell too much on the people aspect, because you're missing the forest by focusing too much on the trees. It's more or less a supply issue. And staying on topic here, the whole point to the initiative is potential job creation.

The idea is not bad. After all, people used to live close to a river, because that's where the economic opportunity is. I think the biggest strength of the airport is the fact that the turnaround team are among the best in the business. What's really surprising me is that Tradeport hasn't really done much to lure airlines into Hamilton, since they can compete with PIA in several aspects, including costs. These guys are so busy trying to steal airlines from Hamilton by trying to build an airport in Pickering, perhaps it's time to give those clowns a taste of their own medicine.

But once again, the Aerotropolis should only be a plan in the event demand builds for commerce around the airport, but not a second before. My classic example is Copps Coliseum. They built it, but the NHL didn't come.

But without the right people in place, AEGD is a plan doomed to failure.

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By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted June 15, 2010 at 16:46:45

What do we need to do to attract businesses? Absolutely nothing. Look at the long list of companies which have treated our town like toilet paper in recent years? US Steel, West Jet, Siemens etc. And don't think that "high-tech jobs" are any safer with highly-skilled impoverished areas like India growing like they now are...

If we don't want our industrial base fleeing for the third world, why are we trying so hard to focus on encouraging business (like suburban big-box stores) which refuse to sell anything made in the first world? Do we really think that this will only affect OTHER cities? Or that other cities won't do the same?

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By grassroots are the way forward (registered) | Posted June 15, 2010 at 19:52:55

There are no jobs in this city, it is pathetic to say the least.

Oh well, if David Dodge gets his way, then welfare rates will be cut to 439.00 per month. Expect to see more homeless and destitute.

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By C. Erl (registered) - website | Posted June 15, 2010 at 20:27:23

Ryan is dead on when he said we never admit we're wrong.

My rather strange municipal obsession led me to go digging through the archives at school one day, and my research eventually led me to the original plan for the 'new City Hall'. The entire area where the convention center is was supposed to be an ice skating rink, corporate funded planetarium and 'forum-esque' plaza.

Snooping through the microfilm for the Spec around the same time, the number of comments from citizens and municipal officials questioning the feasibility and practicality of the project stood out.

A few months later, local media was abuzz with the idea of an glass foyer for city hall, and questions of its feasibility and practicality abounded.

We all remember who wrote "All the great events and characters of world history occur, so to speak, twice. The first time as tragedy, the second as farce."

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By jason (registered) | Posted June 15, 2010 at 21:21:38

It's interesting to think of what Hamilton would be like today had these 5 things taken place in our history:

  1. Not removing, but instead expanding our streetcar system
  2. No two-way streets
  3. The City Beautiful plan for the NW entrance to the city along the High Level Bridge
  4. The planetarium, skating rink, apartment towers that were all scrapped in the civic square plan
  5. Not destroying York St and Market Square/City Hall for a highway and Eatons.

I'm willing to let Jackson Square slide under the radar because it has brought over 1 million sq feet of office space, a hotel, hockey arena, library and retail space to downtown that otherwise wouldn't be there today.

Just imagine.....

Comment edited by jason on 2010-06-15 20:22:08

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By kevin (registered) | Posted June 15, 2010 at 22:11:38

"When a true genius appears in the world, you may know him by this sign, that the dunces are all in confederacy against him." Jonathan Swift.

You're doomed, Ryan.

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By Mahesh_P_Butani (registered) - website | Posted June 15, 2010 at 23:10:03

How can we get businesses to build their base in Hamilton? What do we need to do to move away from the industrial and progress into technological and commercial? .....How do we attract or develop the people businesses want and need? - Rene & Kiely

"Knowledge-based growth is the growth of an evolutionary system, not simply a Newtonian balance of supply and demand that always seeks equilibrium. The evolutionary framework implied by knowledge-based growth means that both the micro behavior of economic actors (firms, workers, and consumers) and the overall path of economic development can be pictured by invoking analogies to biological evolution". - Joseph Cortright, Economist, Impresa

We have to create pervasive conditions for this kind of organic evolution to occur in our city, in order to attract the kind of people - who will create and even attract the kind of companies that will help us shift from the industrial to the knowledge economy.

Fortunately, this has already started to happen in a small way in our city.

Here are a two defining views that can help us to expedite these conditions by understanding the unpredictability and complexities of "externalities" that are rarely factored into most development and transportation plans - let alone grand plans which are designed to be a 'polis' or a 'district'.

"Fortune Favors the Bold" ~ Lester C. Thurow, 2003

"Transportation in Contemporary Society: A Complex Systems Approach" ~ Joseph M. Sussman, March 2010

Comment edited by Mahesh_P_Butani on 2010-06-15 22:14:23

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By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted June 16, 2010 at 00:39:56

Boondoggle: noun. An excessively expensive project which is doomed to fail. Best typified by Hamilton's "Civic Square" urban renewal projects of the 1970s.

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By g. (anonymous) | Posted June 16, 2010 at 05:02:07

the aerotropolis is designed to fail, people! think about it for a minute. who is in charge of this city? developers. who has bought up all the land outside the urban boundary around the airport? developers. who wants this land to be inside the urban boundary so it can be developed? developers. who, after the land is inside the urban boundary and fully serviced at the cost of hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars, and, miraculously, is almost entirely vacant because there is no demand for this much prestige industrial in this area will put in relatively innocuous zoning changes from industrial to residential? developers. who will reap hundreds of millions of dollars from thousands of acres of new sprawl at the expense of every taxpayer in the city? developers.

and who makes all this happen? your elected officials!

it really is a brilliant bit of theatre. the classics never get old. bait and switch. if you don't support it you are anti business!

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By just speculating (anonymous) | Posted June 16, 2010 at 05:05:13

someone should find out who owns all the property in the proposed area and how much money they gave to council during the last election. pin search anyone? could be very illuminating.

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By Michelle Martin (registered) - website | Posted June 16, 2010 at 07:00:50

A People said:

An information-based economy is based on a resource of high-skilled, well educated labour, people smart enough to know they want more out of life than just a job.

I'm having a little trouble with the second half of that sentence- it seems to imply that those with unskilled jobs, or who haven't had the opportunities that many of us here have had to pursue post secondary education or a skilled trade, for whatever reason, couldn't possibly care about quality of life and have no aspirations beyond their paycheque, or are too dumb to know that health care, recreation, culture, rapid transit etc. are important, too. That's a pretty big leap to make.

Of course, that may not be what you meant to say.

I'm just thinking of the suicides of overworked, underpayed, assembly-line employees in China (who make things like iphones). Presumably those who died by their own hand were smart enough to know that they wanted more out of life than just a job.

Comment edited by Michelle Martin on 2010-06-16 06:02:52

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By grassroots are the way forward (registered) | Posted June 16, 2010 at 07:06:04

Thank you Michelle, I was inclined to write something also, but you said so much better.

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By moylek (registered) - website | Posted June 16, 2010 at 08:21:48

An information-based economy is based on a resource of high-skilled, well educated labour, people smart enough to know they want more out of life than just a job.

This jumped out at me, too, Michelle. When I was in high school, I knew a lot of kids for whom education was neither a priority nor, really, a possibility: some kids are not prepared for a long education and skilled work, some kids are too damaged for it, and kids are just plain dumb. My teacher friends tell me that - surprise, surprise - this has not changed in 25 years.

Some people are well suited to work which does not require education and challenge: I don't just mean that they can't do anything else, I mean that it's what they want. They just want to be told what to do, where to do it, and receive a fair wage for their day's labour, and then go home and pursue "recreation and culture". Some dumb people - even damaged people - live happy lives and give of their time and talents to their neighbourhoods and cities.

I'm all for our economy shifting towards more brain work and less grunt work - the trend has served us pretty well over the past few hundred years - but I get nervous whenever I hear talk which makes white-collar brain work sound like the "normal" thing do to, as if a manual labourer is merely a failed office worker. Granted, that might be true for many individual manual labourers, but not for all and I don't think that it should be true for our society as a whole.

Someone needs to build the roads, to raise the roofs, the collect the trash, to cut the trees, to dig the holes, and to clean the toilets. And the people who do these jobs need to be part of our society, not sad leavings or desperate brought-ins.

I'm not saying that we have ever put as much value on being a dustman as a doctor nor that we should, but rather that we can't aim our education and economic systems at producing a doctors' world in which the dustmen are merely embarrassing failures.

Comment edited by moylek on 2010-06-16 07:37:49

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By Kiely (registered) | Posted June 16, 2010 at 08:21:56

Let's not dwell too much on the people aspect, because you're missing the forest by focusing too much on the trees. - Rene

There is no forest without trees Rene.

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By Rene Gauthier (anonymous) | Posted June 16, 2010 at 08:33:50

...and trees can't grow without the right conditions.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted June 16, 2010 at 09:36:12

Hey, I like metaphors too!

If you remove the trees from a rainforest - say, to develop a monoculture of feedstock for beef cattle that will be shipped to foreign hamburger markets - the roots no longer anchor the thin, fragile soilbed. It rapidly washes away from the elements and the land becomes barren and deserted.

Observations:

  1. What trees really need to survive is the close and diverse clustering of other trees and related wildlife; and
  2. Replacing in situ organic complexity with export-driven technocratic monoculture is devastating to vitality.

Sounds to me like a clear-cut (ahem) case for Hamilton to focus its economic development efforts on anchoring and intensifying its built-up area instead of a logistical partitioned baby bowl in the middle of nowhere.

Don't let the peas touch the sweet potatoes!
Don't let the peas touch the sweet potatoes!

Comment edited by administrator Ryan on 2010-06-16 10:12:02

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By jason (registered) | Posted June 16, 2010 at 09:46:02

it really is a brilliant bit of theatre. the classics never get old. bait and switch. if you don't support it you are anti business!

But Hamilton needs all this land opened up as soon as possible. Look at how quickly the Red Hill Business Park filled up once the highway was built. The lineup is growing longer by the day.

http://www.raisethehammer.org/article/20...

Oh, and if anyone cares, the above article was written 5 years ago. Yes, FIVE YEARS. The more things change, the more they stay the same around here.

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By Hmmm? (anonymous) | Posted June 16, 2010 at 10:17:20

"the aerotropolis is designed to fail, people! think about it for a minute. who is in charge of this city? developers. who has bought up all the land outside the urban boundary around the airport? developers. who wants this land to be inside the urban boundary so it can be developed? developers. who, after the land is inside the urban boundary and fully serviced at the cost of hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars, and, miraculously, is almost entirely vacant because there is no demand for this much prestige industrial in this area will put in relatively innocuous zoning changes from industrial to residential? developers. who will reap hundreds of millions of dollars from thousands of acres of new sprawl at the expense of every taxpayer in the city? developers.

and who makes all this happen? your elected officials!"

Guess who had a $500 a pop fundraiser on the weekend in a private home of a business man, filled with developer/business types?

Our man Fred that's who!!!!

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By highwater (registered) | Posted June 16, 2010 at 11:07:04

I'm all for our economy shifting towards more brain work and less grunt work - the trend has served us pretty well over the past few hundred years - but I get nervous whenever I hear talk which makes white-collar brain work sound like the "normal" thing do to, as if a manual labourer is merely a failed office worker. Granted, that might be true for many individual manual labourers, but not for all and I don't think that it should be true for our society as a whole.

Someone needs to build the roads, to raise the roofs, the collect the trash, to cut the trees, to dig the holes, and to clean the toilets. And the people who do these jobs need to be part of our society, not sad leavings or desperate brought-ins.

I'm not saying that we have ever put as much value on being a dustman as a doctor nor that we should, but rather that we can't aim our education and economic systems at producing a doctors' world in which the dustmen are merely embarrassing failures.

This is especially true given what's in store for us.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted June 16, 2010 at 13:12:51

Look at how quickly the Red Hill Business Park filled up once the highway was built.

Our belligerent approach to the AEGD is nothing new, as Jason's comment will attest.

Hamilton's suburban, traffic-obsessed elites spent fifty years clawing and scratching and grinding down the opposition until they finally got the highway they wanted running through the Red Hill Valley.

A few years later, it's safe to say that the highway has over-promised and under-delivered on the breathless claims of its supporters and apologists. We have Canada Bread, of course; and Sam Merulla wants the highway to take credit for the new hardware store in his ward.

We also have the vast, sprawling subdivisions that were the real motivation to build the highway, since the home building industry was the biggest political and financial supporter of the plan (some of its members going so far as to violate municipal election law to finance the campaigns of its champions).

And of course, it's clear in retrospect that the highway was never more than a glorified thoroughfare. The exits are too close together (almost like cross streets) and the ramps are too tight for trucks to navigate comfortably.

So much for the promise that the completed ring highway would take the trucks off our downtown streets. After all, if Red Hill was clogged with transport trucks, where would all the residential commuters go? You can be sure they would be hollering about the congestion.

The premise becomes even more ludicrous when you read the letter that Bernice Flegg, the president of the Hamilton Halton Home Builders Association, recently wrote to the Spectator. She decries the "irrational voice" of citizens who had the nerve to demand that the city take their residential neighbourhoods - neighbourhoods that were built a century ago and aren't much value to greenfield builders - off the truck route.

Flegg actually manages to conclude - presumably with a straight face - that making Hamilton the best place to raise a child entails choosing the convenience of transport trucks over the safety and livability of (some) residential neighbourhoods.

It turns out that intentions affect results. A highway built under the impetus of residential home builders is inevitably going to serve the goal of enabling residential home building, notwithstanding all the post-hoc reasoning in the world.

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By z jones (registered) | Posted June 16, 2010 at 13:22:29

And don't forget that every one of those houses actually LOST the city money, since the home builders fought for so long to keep development charges from actually costing enough to pay for the city's cost for new infrastructure. http://www.thespec.com/article/767267

So we tax payers paid for their highway so that we could have the chance to help pay for their single family houses that they got to sell. AWESOME.

Comment edited by z jones on 2010-06-16 12:23:40

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By jason (registered) | Posted June 16, 2010 at 13:35:19

And don't forget that every one of those houses actually LOST the city money, since the home builders fought for so long to keep development charges from actually costing enough to pay for the city's cost for new infrastructure. http://www.thespec.com/article/767267

So we tax payers paid for their highway so that we could have the chance to help pay for their single family houses that they got to sell. AWESOME.

Gee, I can't figure out why Hamilton is in such a mess. And will be for the foreseeable future from what I can tell.

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By jason (registered) | Posted June 16, 2010 at 13:37:19

Our belligerent approach to the AEGD is nothing new, as Jason's comment will attest.

Hamilton's suburban, traffic-obsessed elites spent fifty years clawing and scratching and grinding down the opposition until they finally got the highway they wanted running through the Red Hill Valley.

A few years later, it's safe to say that the highway has over-promised and under-delivered on the breathless claims of its supporters and apologists. We have Canada Bread, of course; and Sam Merulla wants the highway to take credit for the new hardware store in his ward.

We also have the vast, sprawling subdivisions that were the real motivation to build the highway, since the home building industry was the biggest political and financial supporter of the plan (some of its members going so far as to violate municipal election law to finance the campaigns of its champions).

And of course, it's clear in retrospect that the highway was never more than a glorified thoroughfare. The exits are too close together (almost like cross streets) and the ramps are too tight for trucks to navigate comfortably.

So much for the promise that the completed ring highway would take the trucks off our downtown streets. After all, if Red Hill was clogged with transport trucks, where would all the residential commuters go? You can be sure they would be hollering about the congestion.

The premise becomes even more ludicrous when you read the letter that Bernice Flegg, the president of the Hamilton Halton Home Builders Association, recently wrote to the Spectator. She decries the "irrational voice" of citizens who had the nerve to demand that the city take their residential neighbourhoods - neighbourhoods that were built a century ago and aren't much value to greenfield builders - off the truck route.

Flegg actually manages to conclude - presumably with a straight face - that making Hamilton the best place to raise a child entails choosing the convenience of transport trucks over the safety and livability of (some) residential neighbourhoods.

It turns out that intentions affect results. A highway built under the impetus of residential home builders is inevitably going to serve the goal of enabling residential home building, notwithstanding all the post-hoc reasoning in the world.

PLEASE send this to council and the Spec editors.

Comment edited by jason on 2010-06-16 12:38:29

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By jason (registered) | Posted June 16, 2010 at 13:43:01

Ryan, I missed that letter to the ed. WOW. Thanks for posting a link to it.

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By z jones (registered) | Posted June 16, 2010 at 14:35:04

^Methinks Ryan isn't the Spec's favorite local writer just now.....

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By jason (registered) | Posted June 16, 2010 at 14:54:15

why?? He's only re-publishing their fine work for all to see.

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By Kiely (registered) | Posted June 16, 2010 at 15:11:43

Flegg actually manages to conclude - presumably with a straight face - that making Hamilton the best place to raise a child entails choosing the convenience of transport trucks over the safety and livability of (some) residential neighbourhoods. - Ryan

I read that... I didn't know whether to laugh or cry. I ended up just shaking my head.

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By Kiely (registered) | Posted June 16, 2010 at 15:19:17

^Methinks Ryan isn't the Spec's favorite local writer just now..... - Ryan

In that case, let's hope Ryan isn't "judged by the quality of his enemies" ; )

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By Mickie (anonymous) | Posted June 17, 2010 at 13:32:17

I am so pleased that there are likeminded individuals in Hamilton who want Hamilton to succeed and also have reservations of our elected officials. I wasn't a Hamiltonian during the last election, but I certainly plan on making my vote count this coming election. I came to Hamilton because I believe in its potential, but it's worthless and will remain untapped until we have the talent to coax potential into reality.

There is so much I need to know about our city, and I really want to contribute as a citizen. Are there organizations, meetings, other websites, etc.? I've already been in touch with my councillor (Bernie Morelli) regarding some neighbourhood issues in the past and got results, and I'm involved in residential and commercial real estate (specifically, leasing office/industrial/retail space)and would ideally like to see my career eventually focus on Hamilton's renewal and economic revitalization. I would be very willing to contribute to the effort on a volunteer basis, if that's what it takes.

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By Kiely (registered) | Posted June 18, 2010 at 16:15:00

am so pleased that there are likeminded individuals in Hamilton who want Hamilton to succeed and also have reservations of our elected officials. I wasn't a Hamiltonian during the last election, but I certainly plan on making my vote count this coming election. I came to Hamilton because I believe in its potential, but it's worthless and will remain untapped until we have the talent to coax potential into reality. - Mickie

Hear Hear! I'm right with ya' Mickie!

I've already been in touch with my councillor (Bernie Morelli) - Mickie

WOO-HOO!!! Ward 3!!! : )

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By Meredith (registered) - website | Posted June 20, 2010 at 23:31:54

Hamilton Civic League would love your help, Mickie - they are doing a survey of people in the wards to find out what each ward thinks of the major issues in the election - you are welcome to volunteer and help us find out that info -- and that will be published for all to see and hopefully lead to better political candidates/voter information too - and an accurate idea of what our city thinks! you can find out more at wevote.ca (link to the HCL web site on there)

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