Municipal Election 2010

A Beasley Resident's Election Issues

Will the Ward 2 candidates commit to supporting urban redevelopment and liveable streets?

By John Neary
Published October 14, 2010

The advantage of incumbency in city council elections paradoxically raises the stakes in the rare circumstance that the incumbent councillor does not run for re-election - such as in Ward 2, where Bob Bratina's decision to run for mayor has led to a 20-person scramble for one of the two open seats on council. Given the youth of many of the candidates, whomever we elect on October 25 could very well be our city councillor for decades.

The economic and public health problems affecting older neighbourhoods such as Beasley can at times seem intractable. I certainly don't pretend to have a easy solution to them, and I'm suspicious of anyone who does. But there are nevertheless some issues in Beasley that might be ameliorated through simple, cheap, politically palatable means.

So here is my personal list of Beasley-related questions for the Ward 2 candidates.

1. How will you promote the redevelopment of the former Cannon Knitting Mills building?

This 110,000 square foot knitting mill was remarkably in business until 2009. It has been on the market since then, listed for $799,000. The city of Hamilton is doing at least two things to discourage the redevelopment of CKM as a residential building.

First, it administers a transportation system that continues to send pulses of high-speed truck and car traffic down Cannon Street, which tends to discourage people from wanting to live there.

Second, the city requires on-site parking spaces in all new residential developments, which is rather difficult to implement in the case of a solid brick 110,000 square foot building that fills its entire lot.

There are a number of ways in which our new councillor could work to promote the residential redevelopment of CKM. First, he or she could work to rescind the absurd requirement for parking spaces - or at least to pro-actively waive it in this instance. Second, he or she could arrange for the city to provide dedicated parking spots along the eastern side of Mary Street, incorporating the adjacent sidewalk if necessary.

Yes, you heard that right. I'm suggesting that the city offer up the sidewalk for parking spots. That sidewalk is useless anyway: it's interrupted by a curb cut for the old loading bay for the knitting mill, and nobody much likes walking in the shadow of an abandoned building. Let's not make the perfect the enemy of the good.

2. How will you ensure that the Hamilton Downtown Mosque is able to acquire the land behind their current building in order to construct their proposed school, housing complex, and mosque expansion?

The block bounded by Wilson, Mary, Rebecca, and Catharine streets contains five elements: an empty Rent-A-Bay shop in the southeast corner, parking lots in the northeast and northwest corners, a large fenced area covered with gravel (and weeds, and garbage), and the Downtown Mosque on Wilson Street.

The fenced area, a former bus storage facility, is currently owned by the province. For several years, the mosque has been trying to acquire that land in order to build a complex that would include a larger mosque, a school, and some housing units.

This project, if completed, would represent the first large-scale privately-financed residential development in our neighbourhood in many years. Even if the design was a bit suburban for a downtown property, it would have been a great step forward for Beasley.

Earlier this year, it came to light that the police were also interested in purchasing that land to build a storage facility. In mid-July, the Spectator reported that city council had agreed to purchase the land on behalf of the police.

The Spectator paraphrased current Ward 2 Councillor (and mayoral hopeful) Bob Bratina as saying that "there was no way for the city to purchase the land for the mosque" because "had they declined interest the land would have gone to an open bid, where ... a land developer could have outbid the mosque."

It seems quite doubtful that a land developer really would have outbid the mosque, given that land "developers" in Beasley seem more interested in tearing down buildings than in putting them up.

In any case, a police storage facility (read: one-story prefab shack surrounded by surface parking) will do nothing to revitalize our neighbourhood. By contrast, the mosque development would bring hundreds of new residents and students to Beasley.

The land in question is just across Mary and Wilson Streets from Beasley Park (and Dr. Davey school), so the educational use is a sensible one.

To add insult to injury, the Spectator subsequently reported that the police don't just want to purchase the land behind the mosque. They also want to purchase the parking lot currently being used by the mosque.

How much of this treatment will the Downtown Mosque suffer before deciding to leave downtown Hamilton?

Our new councillor should take an unambiguous public stand in favor of the Downtown Mosque's plan to redevelop that block, and should make it a priority to find another property for the police instead.

There are many other vacant properties throughout the city that the police could use for storage. (They could have used the Century Theatre, if they'd thought about it before it fell down.)

In any case, downtown is not the right place for a storage facility. Or is this issue really about surface parking?

3. Will you work to enact the measures listed below in order to make our streets safer and more liveable? If not, then what other measures do you propose?

I don't intend to enumerate the problems with our transportation network. That has been done before. This election offers a rare opportunity to propose solutions and to hold our newly elected councillor to account.

So, here's my list of measures that would make our neighbourhood streets friendly for residents and pedestrians:

First, install traffic lights at critical walking/cycling intersections between major and minor streets:

Ferguson Avenue is supposed to be a bicycle route connecting the escarpment to the waterfront, but its intersections with Main St. and Barton St. are not signaled. Oops.

Mary Street runs along the west end of Beasley Park, and is an important walking route to Dr. Davey School for children who live west of the school and either north of Cannon or south of Wilson. The last four intersections are on natural pedestrian corridors to Landsdale and Central neighbourhoods.

Second, install a four-way stop sign at Robert St. and John St. This intersection connects the Parliament Towers on the west side of John Street with McLaren Park on the east side. It is also on the natural walking route between Beasley Park and James North.

John Street has relatively little traffic north of Cannon. Pedestrians should be able to cross at Robert without waiting for a break in traffic or for a light to turn green.

Third, widen the sidewalks on Wilson Street. Doing so would involve removing one lane of traffic. Too bad. The sidewalks are barely a metre wide, which is inappropriate on a major street with high-speed truck traffic.

Fourth, convert our minor streets (King William, Rebecca, Hughson, Catharine, Mary) to two-way traffic. There are sections of these streets (e.g. Catharine north of Wilson, Mary north of Cannon) where street parking on both sides leaves only one lane for traffic, and one-way traffic flow may make sense.

But two-way flow should be the rule wherever there are two open lanes or more. None of these streets carries a large amount of traffic, and none of them crosses the boundary of our neighbourhood in both directions. (King William and Rebecca end at James, Hughson and Catharine at the CN tracks, and Mary at King.)

They should not be engineered for fast traffic flow.

Fifth, convert our major streets (Wellington, Cannon) to two-way traffic, and desynchronize their traffic lights. Unlike the other proposals listed above, this one would have a significant impact on citywide traffic patterns, and other ward councillors might balk. It would take some horse-trading to pull this one off.

But I would like our next councillor to go on the public record stating that two-way conversion and desynchronization is one of his or her political goals, and to engage in the necessary deal-making to see that it happens.

John Neary lives in Beasley Neighbourhood and practices general internal medicine at St. Joseph's Healthcare Hamilton. He would like Hamilton to develop an urban environment that creates less gainful employment for his profession.

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By dreed (anonymous) | Posted October 14, 2010 at 07:35:32

While I agree with most of what I read here, I don't think that stoplights at those intersections are entirely necessary. In fact I feel they might have a detrimental effect on both vehicular and pedestrian traffic in that area.

I live quite close to Beasley, and hardly ever find there to be too much traffic to manage as a pedestrian. Too many lights cause driver fatigue, and have the unwanted effect of hasty decisions, or speeding to get through a light.

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By mystoneycreek (registered) - website | Posted October 14, 2010 at 08:09:54

Can't applaud this post, and the efforts that went into crafting it, enough.

Here is a person, a resident, who has taken the time to form not only a set of observations and questions...but has also presented some solutions.

Are all of his points 'correct'? Maybe not. But I'll tell you what they are: they're part of the answer to the question 'How can things be made better in Hamilton?'

I believe that our revitalization, our rebirth will not happen by putting some magical assortment of Councillors into office. I believe that Mr. Neary's efforts, and others such as his are the key, because they come down to fostering dialogue, increasing the relationship of engagement with those who represent us in local governance.

Well done, Mr. Neary. Looking forward to hearing more from you.

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By Martinus Geleynse for Ward 2 Councillor (anonymous) | Posted October 14, 2010 at 08:12:16

Hi John! These are important questions which seem to be representative of many of the broader and systemic issues facing much of Ward 2.

I would like to note, however, that despite my age (I'm the youngest candidate in the race for Ward 2), I am pushing for a two-term limit for councillors. I have no desire to sit as a career councillor! I believe in providing a fresh perspective and fresh energy for a limited time, and then moving aside to allow new energy to move into the office every 1-2 terms.

To address your questions:


1. How will you promote the redevelopment of the former Cannon Knitting Mills building?

ANSWER: I'm so glad you asked this question, as I use this building as an example frequently when talking with people about the development process in our broader downtown. The CKM is selling for only $799,000, as you'd mentioned, but carries with it development charges of approximately $300,000. So, any developer looking at taking on the project loses the "great deal" they got on the property when the development charges are added. Suddenly it's just another warehouse with a lot of overhead.
As a councillor, I would push hard for expansion of the downtown rejuvenation districts (currently primarily composed of main traffic corridors) to include the full parking lot district (John and Cannon) as well as the CKM.
With the CKM, a recent offer on the building by a condo developer fell through, in part, due to the ridiculous parking requirements our development regulations require. This is unacceptable. In an age when we are pushing public transit, walkable/bike-able communities, how can we place such an emphasis on parking spaces to accommodate the unwanted traffic in our neighbourhoods? Again, this is something I have already included in my platform: to revisit and revise outdated and restrictive bylaws. This City must become a positive partner in the process of city-building. Interestingly, with the CKM, the structure of the building is so solid that another 3 storeys could be added on top of the existing superstructure (just like Core Urban's new Witton Lofts project). In order to add appeal to the property, a developer may consider using some of the ground floor as a parkade.
The CKM building could be a tremendous addition to the Beasley neighbourhood - offering increased pedestrian traffic, more eyes and security for the Beasley Park it overlooks, and perhaps even a cafe or two with a patio in the traffic loop on the southernmost side. This property is a prime opportunity for the City to demonstrate its willingness to 'make it work' for urban residential development.

With downtown revitalization, we can't debate which will come first any longer: the City needs to be the chicken that will produce the egg. The City must make downtown such an appealing investment that developers and investors simply cannot turn it down. Investing in residential urban intensification will pay off on the back end through taxes, increased spending base, etc. Waiving development charges is an obvious answer. Did you know that all of the businesses on the entire north side of Gore Park (between James and Hughson) provide approximately $340,000 in taxes per year? And that this is nowhere near carrying its own weight? Conversely, a recent high-density residential conversion in the downtown (Staybridge Suites) provides approximately the same amount ($340,000) of tax revenue to the City!



2. How will you ensure that the Hamilton Downtown Mosque is able to acquire the land behind their current building in order to construct their proposed school, housing complex, and mosque expansion?

ANSWER: I have already been in conversation with the president of the mosque and have had coffee with another one of the mosque's executive. I've been exploring this project with excitement for some time now! As you pointed out: the police plan is detrimental to the area. The mosque plan, however, is brilliant. This campus would include an affordable residential component, a library, a school, a mosque, and a community centre. All of these elements are planned to be open to public access! As my friend from the mosque pointed out: it's everything we want...at no cost to the city. The mosque already has significant financing in place, and is all but ready to break ground on this project. Furthermore, the police storage facility is a non-starter as the mosque has made it clear that their current property is not, nor will be for sale. Bottom line: I am in full and active support of this project as it will provide incredible vitality, increased security, and enhanced community to the area.



3. Will you work to enact the measures listed below in order to make our streets safer and more liveable? If not, then what other measures do you propose?

ANSWER: Absolutely. In fact, you've hit upon another point already in my platform: making the city more pedestrian-friendly and less accommodating to car culture. As someone with offices on James St. North, I find it difficult to cross two lane, two-way traffic without a light. The idea of crossing 4 or 5 lanes of one-way traffic (frequently moving at 80 km/h) is simply not an option. How can we be best place to raise a child when we are more than willing to cater to the rapid movement of cars and trucks through our residential neighbourhoods?
About 3 years ago, Vancouver adopted a transportation policy that placed modes of transportation in priority. First priority is pedestrian/cycle traffic. Second priority is essential business traffic like delivery vehicles and couriers. Third priority is private vehicular transportation. It's a people-first approach to traffic, and it's something I would love to see Hamilton adopt.

So, on the record: I am in favour of more two-way conversions, reduced residential speed limits, acceleration of the cycling master plan, desynchronization of traffic lights on our urban [highways] roads, and the implementation of safe pedestrian crossings.


Again, thanks for posing these questions, John.

Our urban neighbourhoods need investment. Investment will come about if the neighbourhoods are viewed as a good investment. Livable, vibrant and safe neighbourhoods are a good investment.

If you'd like to learn more, or to talk further, head to: www.martinus.ca

best,
Martinus

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted October 14, 2010 at 10:07:14

Realistically, the whole city's plan is based on keeping Main and Cannon 1-way. I imagine every other street in the city is negotiable except those two.

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By nobrainer (registered) | Posted October 14, 2010 at 10:09:01

Realistically that's a stupid transportation plan. Make them both two way and both have the same capacity as they do now only the cars are slower and less dangerous to ME walking along them.

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By jason (registered) | Posted October 14, 2010 at 10:22:33

this post may be redundant now that Martinus himself has posted, but this was my first though upon reading your post John.

such as in Ward 2, where Bob Bratina's decision to run for mayor has led to a 20-person scramble for one of the two open seats on council.

Martinus was registered long before Bob had dropped out and long before the 20-person scramble took place. I think Ward 2 residents need to take that into account on voting day. Martinus wasn't simply looking for a 'free job' like the others. He really wants to represent Ward 2 and was actively campaigning for the position with Bob still in the picture.

John, Beasley is lucky to have residents like you. It is so overlooked and neglected too often by the 'powers that be'. It's important for folks like you to remain active in your community. I noticed big signs up today on York and Wilson advertising the 2-way conversion plan will be completed by November. This is one more small piece of great news for the area.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted October 14, 2010 at 10:30:51

@jason

Considering how Matt Jelly ran for mayor last time around and lives in Ward 2 (unlike, say, Caplan), I don't think he could fit into the "free job". Still, if the street signage is any indicator it looks like Shane Coleman is running away with it.

Comment edited by Pxtl on 2010-10-14 09:31:30

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By jason (registered) | Posted October 14, 2010 at 10:41:48

yes, you're right about Jelly. I was more referring to the rest of the crop who literally came out of nowhere. Jelly had been thinking about running for some time and has been politically active in this city for years. Jelly has a great slogan - Already Working for You. I don't even know most of the other candidates.

I wouldn't put too much stock into lawn signage. Based on the debates I've been to/watched it seems to be a two-horse race between Jelly and Martinus.

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By FenceSitter (anonymous) | Posted October 14, 2010 at 12:41:15

two-way coversion may sound good, but....

Are we just going to turn cannon/wilson from one-way expressways to 2-way expressways?

Change has to come, but it has to be done right.

Nice article John.

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By mrgrande (registered) | Posted October 14, 2010 at 13:14:52

Rather than the (rather expensive) operation of turning the one ways into two ways, could we first try just unsynchronizing (desynchronizing?) them? I think that'd be a cheaper alternative that would fix a lot of the problems with those streets.

Maybe it's been done before? Anyone have any insight?

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By H+H (registered) - website | Posted October 14, 2010 at 13:23:14

John

Let me echo mystoneycreek's"Well done, Mr. Neary. Looking forward to hearing more from you."

Your thoughts are all logical and actionable, even if we do run into some challenges regarding two-way street conversions and widening of sidewalks. They are also all from the perspective of a resident, a pedestrian and a cyclist. Love it.

Also, I'm pleased to see Ward 2 Candidate Martinus Geleynse took the time to respond to each of your points in some detail. Not fluffy. Not only that, but his responses show he is not only aware of some of the issues you mention, but also that he has already taken time to gather additional information. I'm impressed.

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By bob lee (anonymous) | Posted October 14, 2010 at 14:12:41

ok, two things. Graham Crawford that's a shill and a bad one. You're in the guy's freaking campaign video.

And two, "I wouldn't put too much stock into lawn signage. Based on the debates I've been to/watched it seems to be a two-horse race between Jelly and Martinus."

Can this idea realistically inhabit your brain? Now I appreciate Martinus' zeal and I love Matt's bylaw crawl, but if you think this is enough to make a two-horse race then you have a lot to learn.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted October 14, 2010 at 14:29:03

What bob lee said. Elections aren't about the young, hip people that Jason may talk to... they're about the endless number of stay-at-home moms, the seniors in high-rises, etc. that vote far more consistently and for major candidates during elections. Those folks have barely heard of Geleynse, and probably think of Jelly as the guy who ran for mayor in the last election... maybe if they get the spec they may be aware of Jelly's other projects.

Unless a person is politically engaged, we rely on a CHML and the ever-shrinking Spec for the news. And the only coverage I hear from them is the throw-the-bums-out-for-screwing-the-Cats drum beat, no actual coverage of the ward-level candidates.

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By H+H (registered) - website | Posted October 14, 2010 at 16:10:01

Bob Lee

Like I said, I'm impressed. Aren't you?

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By MattJelly (registered) - website | Posted October 14, 2010 at 16:51:27

Hi John- we chatted for a while during the McLaren Garbage Crawl about some of these issues, but I wanted to respond a little further on these points.

  1. How will you promote the redevelopment of the former Cannon Knitting Mills building?

I believe our marketing strategy for downtown properties needs a complete rethink. The City needs to be proactive in marketing this buildings, and others such as the Federal building, to investors. We need to connect sellers with the right developers who will implement Putting People First – the downtown secondary plan. We need to make sure we provide both responsible planning review and timely decisions to ensure development happens. We need to work with the developers to utilize our financial tools such as the downtown loan programs. We need to ensure that the current development charge exemption for downtown remains. And, we need to alter the Cannon superhighway so that the CKM building is on a street that people want to live on. I know the Knitting Mills property has some contamination issues which would have to be addressed before anything takes place on that site- I'd like to offer interest-free loans for developments for remediation work on brownfield sites such as these, to make it a little more attractive to rejuvenate. It's a remarkable building in a lot of ways, and it's proximity to Beasley Park makes it a great asset.

  1. How will you ensure that the Hamilton Downtown Mosque is able to acquire the land behind their current building in order to construct their proposed school, housing complex, and mosque expansion?

There are two approaches I will take. First is to work with the Downtown Mosque to get timely approval of their plans for the entire block. Second, I will work very closely with the Police to find a suitable alternative site. Bottom line: The Downtown Mosque plan is exactly what we envision for the downtown and it will be right near the City’s new park at John and Rebecca- a real win-win scenario.

  1. Will you work to enact the measures listed below in order to make our streets safer and more liveable? If not, then what other measures do you propose?

I support making these intersections safer and more accessible for pedestrians. In some cases this will mean traffic lights; in other cases speed humps; pedestrian activated signals and still in other cases, two way conversion. This is part of my platform to build child and family friendly neighbourhoods. I believe it is critical that these decisions are made with full community input so that we put the right traffic control in the right place in a way that works for the neighbourhood. It's unacceptable to me that we have literal highways running through our downtown and dividing residential neighbourhoods. The process to calm and reroute this traffic must be ongoing.

Thanks for the questions!

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By Mogadon Megalodon (anonymous) | Posted October 14, 2010 at 19:02:35

Prediction: We're heading for a council that is 80% identical to the current lot, under the guy who was edged out in the last election. The new crop = the old lot under the old, old boss.

Prove me wrong, Hamilton.

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By TnT (registered) | Posted October 14, 2010 at 20:09:26

I have a solution: Why not get the mosque to move to the Cannon Knitting Mills building and use it for all of their needs. Then move the Pearl Company into the old mosque and turn the area behind into an interactive community space good for hackey sack tournaments.

Sorry for the sarcasm.

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By old timer (anonymous) | Posted October 14, 2010 at 21:31:28

they said they wouldn't revert the streets back to one way because that is going backwards. Actually by making them 2 ways it is going backwards because james street for example used to be 2 ways 50 years ago but it caused so many problems it was fixed by making them one way, now they are revering them back. It is completely backwards what they are doing now, it's not progression at all.

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By John Neary (registered) | Posted October 15, 2010 at 09:56:02

Matt and Martinus: thanks for your thoughtful comments. As Matt mentioned, I have had the occasion to speak to him about some of these issues in recent weeks. I have also spoken to Martinus and at least one other candidate (Marvin Caplan) about these issues as well. I would be very happy to discuss Beasley issues with the remaining seventeen candidates, but the opportunity has not yet presented itself. (It might present itself at the joint Beasley/North End all-candidates meeting on Monday evening at Dr. Davey School.)

I decided (rightly or wrongly) to advocate for issues rather than for candidates in this election. That decision was driven by a number of factors: (1) I don't think that anyone else would particularly care if I endorsed any candidate, (2) I believe that active members of neighbourhood associations (such as I) should stay away from being too partisan in civic elections, (3) I thought that the best way to achieve my goals for the neighbourhood was to promote them widely and try to get broad support from the various candidates.

I might have been mistaken in my third point. Maybe a lot of the candidates don't read RTH. Maybe they didn't consider these questions from a private citizen to be worth their time. Maybe they think that the CKM should remain empty, that a police storage facility is better land use than a mosque/school/housing complex, and that liveable streets don't matter in Beasley. (If that's true, I'd love to hear their arguments.) Or maybe they are just really busy and haven't responded yet, or perhaps they have addressed these issues in other venues, and I am blissfully unaware.

In the end, if anyone else in Ward 2 considers these issues to be important, they can see that at least some of our candidates have taken strong public stands on them, and they can take those stands into account when they cast their ballots. That matters more than a personal conversation between me and a couple of our candidates, and that is what I had hoped to achieve.


@dreed: traffic lights don't matter much to young, able-bodied people (like me), but they matter a lot to people in scooters, people who walk slowly, and people pushing baby carriages (also like me.)

@FenceSitter: two-way expressways would have slower traffic speeds, which would be safer and more pleasant for pedestrians. And they would make our neighbourhood much more negotiable for cyclists. In the end, it's a lot harder for a four-lane street to be an expressway if it has two-way traffic.

@mrgrande: I called for desynchronization as well as two-way conversion. But they might as well happen together: once the lights aren't synchronized, the benefit (to crosstown motorists) of one-way traffic is minimal.

@mystoneycreek, FenceSitter, jason, H+H: thanks for the encouragement. I wonder if other people out there have similar lists of issues for candidates in their neighbourhoods.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted October 15, 2010 at 13:55:42

@John Neary

Considering how close we are to deadline, and considering how piss-poor the news coverage is of the ward-level politics, I would say they're really damned busy just trying to get their name and message out, and probably don't keep tabs on every political blog online... even if this one is probably the biggest in the city. I was chatting with Jelly on the Supercrawl/Open Streets weekend and he said he was pulling 18-hour days for those events.

Comment edited by Pxtl on 2010-10-15 12:56:44

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By slodrive (registered) | Posted October 15, 2010 at 16:16:03

I'm wondering if any and/or all could help clarify this one-way versus two-way argument. First, keep in mind that I am not a resident of the downtown core -- thus, my experiences there are much more limited than many on here.

I tend to flip flop a bit on the two-way conversion of traffic. For areas in and around neighbourhoods, yes, I totally understand the demand for slower traffic. But on streets like Main and King (and here's where the ignorance might come into play), is it not a benefit to the city and those who live downtown to be able to get to their crossing streets in the most efficient manner possible? Whether by car or by bus, one of the things many outsiders speak highly of is the ability to get from A to B -- especially if they know where they're going.

It would think that a balance must be struck between safety and congestion. I wouldn't think it would be in anyone's interest to have traffic snarling on the major thorough-ways. Business, public transit, environment and pedestrian would all seemingly be negatively affected by this, no?

Interested in some perspective on this. Thanks!

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted October 15, 2010 at 17:07:27

@slodrive

I'm actually a fan of Council's long-term compromise plan on this (prettymuch everything 2 way except Main and Cannon), but I can still field the question:

Cars on the 1-way streets drive fast. Really fast. Faster than the speed limit, and faster than is really safe in the middle of a city (and a bit louder, too). Beyond the safety issue, this creates a secondary problem that it scares and annoys pedestrians (and thus, shoppers) away from the stores lining the 1-way streets. You have to understand - think of the greatest cities in the world.

Think of what their main, exciting, vibrant, living downtown streets look like - places like Manhattan or Paris, or London, or wherever. Now think of what the traffic on those streets look like. Crawling, slow traffic that you can safely walk out into if you are trying to catch a cab or just get across when it's backed up. Obviously, this is an extreme example, but that's the basic principle.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted October 15, 2010 at 17:53:23

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By katydid (registered) | Posted October 15, 2010 at 18:31:31

I attended the Ward 2, Cable 14 Debate, and watched that same debate when it was aired. All of the 5 leading candidates expressed a passionate concern for the downtown core, inner city poverty, and aging infrastructure, however, only one of the five, James Novak, actually lives in Ward 2.

I can only imagine the progress that would be made in the downtown and adjacent neighbourhoods if the non-resident candidates ran for election in the wards they live in, managed to get elected, and maintained that passion for the downtown area. We would then have at least 5 City Councillors sitting at City Hall with a passionate concern for the City Core, or would their passion for the core cool if they were running in their own Wards?

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By Henry and Joe (anonymous) | Posted October 15, 2010 at 22:35:01

@slodrive, re one-way/two way argument:

There are people much more knowledgeable than me on this subject, but I can tell you that I have never met a person from outside of Hamilton that has said "I really like all the one way streets, because I find it easy to get around". The people that like it are people who know the area and like to make quick cross town trips. I have heard many people say that they don't like to go to Hamilton because of the one-way streets. I always found that bizarre, because if you are a tactical driver with decent skills, one ways make driving in a grid system quite easy. My guess is that outsiders don't like it because when you are looking for a destination and are unfamiliar with the street names, the one way traffic moves to fast to negotiate comfortably. Whe a driver is looking for a street and then realizes they can't move over 5 lanes in 4 car lengths to make a turn, they understandably freak out a bit.

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By John Neary (registered) | Posted October 16, 2010 at 08:34:41

@katydid: who are the "5 leading candidates?" I can think of at least eight candidates who seem to be running strong campaigns. And I haven't seen any polls.

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By Geoff (anonymous) | Posted October 16, 2010 at 11:57:40

I'm new here so maybe I'm missing something, but why do people want to de-synchronize the lights? I've heard of cities hiring companies to synchronize their lights to improve traffic efficiency. its seems like some people here want to move backwards and make things less efficient.
What problem are you trying to solve by de-synchronizing the lights? The only reason I can think of is maybe some people think the cars are going too fast? If that is the case, all that needs to be done is synching the lights so that they encourage slower traffic. I drive along Main, Canon, and King regularly and find the synching perfect! I love it. It's part of what makes me glad to live in Hamilton. It takes me forever to get anywhere in Burlington or Oakville. Hamilton is great to get around in.
Synching of the lights also helps to reduce pollution and gas consumption.

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By Geoff (anonymous) | Posted October 16, 2010 at 12:06:19

Are there stats available about how many pedestrians are hit along Main, King and Canon relative to other streets with the amount of traffic taken into consideration?
To me, it would seem that one way traffic would be safer for pedestrians. Pedestrians only have to look one way when crossing, and there are periods where there are no cars coming because of the one way synching.
To try and make more traffic seems extremely backwards to me.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted October 16, 2010 at 16:39:56

Geoff, I invite you to check out the study finding that one-way streets are more dangerous for children. It's tempting but dangerous to assume that complex network effects can be predicted using simple, single-variable logic.

As for the "efficiency" of one-way streets and timed lights, it's a false localized efficiency that leads to a less efficient city overall. Optimizing individual streets for fast driving encourages more people to drive longer distances more frequently, which results in more overall driving, more overall air pollution, and a more far-flung built environment in which destinations are spread farther apart, hence requiring more driving and more pressure to "optimize" the streets for fast, long-distance driving.

Comment edited by administrator Ryan on 2010-10-16 15:42:15

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By Geoff (anonymous) | Posted October 16, 2010 at 21:10:43

Ryan,
Thanks for the link to the study. The problem I see with that study is that it compares injury rates on one way streets to that of two way streets without factoring in the number of cars/pedestrians on the streets. If you count the total number of cars that pass along King, Main, and Canon in a day, it will be way higher than for other streets, and there are way more pedestrians crossing those streets. Regardless of whether those streets are one way or two way, there is a higher likelihood of pedestrians being hit.
I don't get the whole argument that people drive too fast on one way streets. If that is the case, then all that has to be done is to slow down the synching so that if you drive too fast, you come to a red light rather than a green light. This would encourage slower driving. Two way streets only encourage people to drive faster to beat the successive, long line of red lights awaiting them.
Can you prove that making driving more efficient and less frustrating encourages people to drive more? If someone needs to drive somewhere, they will drive somewhere. Long gone are the days of driving for pleasure.
My job requires that I drive throughout Hamilton, Burlington, and Oakville on a regular basis. Hamilton is, by far, the most enjoyable city to drive in and through. It can take twice as long to go half as far in the other cities. That decreases quality of life, increases pollution, increases fuel usage, and discourages people from visiting and working in those areas.

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By Matteo Gentile (anonymous) | Posted October 17, 2010 at 11:31:23

Hey John and others for engaging in this forum. Quite honestly, it has been real busy as you can imagine but wanted to respond to your questions/thoughts.

1.How will you promote the redevelopment of the former Cannon Knitting Mills building?

First we have to address ways of making Cannon a more livable street by addressing the speed and width of the street. Personally I would like to see the 4 lanes reduced to 2 allowing for wider sidewalks AND street parking as this will inherently slow down traffic. Further as in my platform, we must offer incentives to business owners and developers to invest in the core. I’ve also talked about how I believe the City should remediate Brownfield’s to make them a viable option for development. We either recoup those costs on the purchase of those lands or at worst; we get the money back from taxes when those lands get back into use. Moreover, similar to the Pearl Company, we have to re-think bylaws that hinder development and I would push for a review of our parking requirements.

2. How will you ensure that the Hamilton Downtown Mosque is able to acquire the land behind their current building in order to construct their proposed school, housing complex, and mosque expansion?

Great another ugly box! This is insane. In no way can we allow this site to be anything other than all the good things the Mosque plans for. No way would I support buying this property for a police storage facility. There are too many other sites they can have.

3. Will you work to enact the measures listed below in order to make our streets safer and more livable? If not, then what other measures do you propose?

Honestly John, I cannot commit to all the measures you have listed. But I can commit to making Ward 2 a more livable community by consulting with residents like you to allow for all sides to be heard. I am for slowing down traffic, incenting business and developers to invest in Ward 2 and for the City to remediate our North-end Brownfield’s. I am for putting a freeze on any application for development permits or re-zoning of anything other than Brownfield’s or priority neigbourhoods. We can talk all we want about getting industry to re-develop our Brownfield’s but the reality is, it is and obviously has been a tough sell. We need to make the lands attractive and we can re-direct our wasteful spending to do this. Doing this brings people and jobs to the City’s core. People and jobs will ultimately make the ward a better living area.

Again let me thank you for being so engaged in our community and I apologize for being late to the discussion. I look forward to meeting you Monday at the Dr. Davey School. Let me finish by saying that I am for two-term limits. I was the first and only candidate to not only publicly say it but include it in my printed materials. For others to try and "own" the position now that it is gaining traction are not being genuine.

I urge you to visit matteogentile2010.ca to learn more about me.

Sincerely,
Matteo Gentile
Candidate for Ward 2

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By katydid (registered) | Posted October 17, 2010 at 12:57:04

@John Neary

I mentioned "5" because that is what the commentators chose at the end of the debate when they gave their citique. I thought the majority of the candidates gave a very good showing. The critics didn't chose the candidates I would have chosen, but that is their perogative. I don't mind there being 19 candidates. It does make it more difficult to get a handle on their platforms because time is so limited. As a voter, I've had to do a lot more digging in this election than I have ever had to do in the past. I still favour a candidate that actually lives in Ward 2 and there aren't very many of them out of the 19 running, and I favour a candidate with business, political, and community involvement experience. At the moment, of the 5 the critics chose, I think James Novak best meets this criteria.

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By John Neary (registered) | Posted October 17, 2010 at 13:07:10

Matteo: thanks for your detailed and well-considered responses. I am glad to see a number of our candidates supporting the mosque and the redevelopment of the CKM. And I'd love to see Cannon Street narrowed.


Liban Abdi has dropped out of the race, so our 20-person field is down to 19.


Anyone who doesn't understand why one-way traffic and synchronized lights are bad for neighbourhoods can email me if they'd like to meet at Cannon and Wellington sometime to go for a walk.

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By marvincaplan (registered) | Posted October 17, 2010 at 23:10:12

How to re-use the knitting mill building. 1. The rule about parking spaces can and should be changed based on circumstances as it was for all of the new Condominiums in the core. I helped pass that rule for the "core" and would support it again. See the comments in several places about Tax icrimental financing on my web site in several places. As well, non on site parking was used for a condo on York St. I am proud to say it was my idea on how to solve the problem. Happy to explain how when time permits. There are other inducements that can be used if they can be done in such a way thet the Province does not consider them "bonusing."

  1. How will you ensure that the Hamilton Downtown Mosque is able to acquire the land behind their current building in order to construct their proposed school, housing complex, and mosque expansion?

All city depatments and the School board are circulated before the Province or city sells off property. When the first discussions with the Mosque were held the Police decided they "needed" the space. The police can use other similar space including a City Owned Parking lot across King William st. Negotiating with the police is never easy, but with enough support it can be done. It is difficult to arrange enough community support to engineer sufficient pressure to help the police do the "right" thing. So you know those backroom deals every-one hates? All decisions must be made in public. Negotiations and making babies are best done in private. The question is how to make it easy for the police to say yes. They won't get there in public meetings.

If elected, and even if I'm not I will be happy to help the mosque buy, and develop an expansion.

  1. Will you work to enact the measures listed below in order to make our streets safer and more liveable? If not, then what other measures do you propose?

Pedestrian activated traffic lights where they don't belong can be more dangerous than leaving things alone. Traffic engineers recommendaed against a pedestrian activated signal on Cootes drive because it was too close to a lit intersection a few hundred meters further up the highway. Neighbours insisted one was needed and another study agreed to put one in. Within a year, a Mac student was killed crossing against the light. It may well have been a coincidence. No other accident had ever occured there. Care and common sense are as important a safety measure as any other. Not having had the opportunity to look at the suggestions below, and being a decade out of date on what the current warrents are for pedestrian activated signals I would like to arrange a meeting on the issue with Hart Solomon. He is the city "expert" on this sort of issue.

Four way stops are intended to controll, not slow traffic. When used to slow traffic they often have the opposite effect. Jack rabbit starts and excessive speed between stop signs are often the case. Humans often use their own common sense rather than the posted speed limits and four way stops where they often "roll through."

I do like the suggestion of wider sidewalks on Wilson. We did try adding parking on Main West to slow down traffic. Cars rarely take advantage of them, and I have always felt wider sidewalks were an excellent traffic calming method.

Some cities (New York is one) use wider sidewalks in order to keep one way streets. My former understanding is that one way streets are safer for pedestrians. I will continue to examine and discuss traffic matters with both engineers and planners as well as communities.

I hesitate to take stands (in private or in public) that can later cause me to regret having taken a position. So rather than promise to state "that two-way conversion and desynchronization is one of his or her political goals, and to engage in the necessary deal-making to see that it happens" I would rather say I will do all I can to make Hamilton a more pedestrian and bicycle friendly city.

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By MartinusGeleynse (registered) | Posted October 17, 2010 at 23:37:52

Matteo,

I have a quick and honest objection about your statement:

 "Let me finish by saying that I am for two-term limits. I was the first and only candidate to 
  not only publicly say it but include it in my printed materials. For others to try and "own" 
  the position now that it is gaining traction are not being genuine."

You may recall, that I was the fifth candidate registered in Ward 2. When I registered, the other declared candidates were: Hoojung Jones, Liban Abdi, Kevin Wright, and Shane Coleman. This was long before Bob decided to run for mayor, and long before you registered your candidacy. Considering my print materials already contained the plank of term limits before you became a candidate, I respectfully beg to differ with you when you state that I am not being genuine. Cheers, Martinus

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted October 18, 2010 at 06:13:15

My former understanding is that one way streets are safer for pedestrians.

Some studies conducted in the 1940s seemed to indicate this, but more careful, recent studies have concluded the opposite.

One-way streets have higher rates of child pedestrian injuries than two-way streets in this community. Future risk factor and intervention studies should include the directionality of streets to further investigate its contribution to child pedestrian injuries.

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By John Neary (registered) | Posted October 18, 2010 at 08:24:50

Hi Marvin,

Thanks for sharing your positions. I'm looking forward to seeing you and the other candidates tonight.

John

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted October 18, 2010 at 09:51:16

Marvin Caplan contacted me through my Buzz account and explained to me that while he lives just one block outside of Ward 2, he works in Ward 2 (and has for a long time) and does a great deal of volunteering there and in ward 3.

So there's that.

I think a lot of people are realizing how much RTH has become the strongest site for discussing ward-level politics. Maybe I should stop shooting my mouth off here.

Comment edited by Pxtl on 2010-10-18 08:52:11

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By TnT (registered) | Posted October 18, 2010 at 13:09:41

If a mayor has to live in Hamilton to run I think that ward councillors should have to live in those wards to qualify.

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By slodrive (registered) | Posted October 18, 2010 at 13:57:18

@henry and joe, Ryan, Pxtl,

Thanks very much for helping me gain some perspective on this. My only concern would be something that Pxtl posted:

"Think of what their main, exciting, vibrant, living downtown streets look like - places like Manhattan or Paris, or London, or wherever. Now think of what the traffic on those streets look like. Crawling, slow traffic that you can safely walk out into if you are trying to catch a cab or just get across when it's backed up. Obviously, this is an extreme example, but that's the basic principle."

This is what makes me second guess the wisdom of the two way streets -- in part, anyway. While understanding that these are extreme examples, I just worry about encouraging idling cars. Increasing the city's smog factor doesn't make it more liveable. And, if this slows the HSR routes down, it makes public transit less palatable.

I definitely feel like -- especially given some of the links posted -- I'm in agreement with the two-way conversion. However, I'm just wondering if more of a hybrid would help mitigate the environmental issues of congestion, while still slowing traffic down in areas more conducive to residential and pedestrian activity.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted October 18, 2010 at 14:16:48

Congestion is a funny thing. At a micro level, congestion increases air pollution; but on a macro level, congestion reduces air pollution by discouraging superfluous car trips and creating markets for investment in density and mixed use (i.e. if it's harder to drive, businesses have an incentive to move closer to their customers).

What happens is that those cities that do the most to optimize the efficiency of driving end up with the worst overall air pollution. In Hamilton, for example, driving is responsible for more than half of all our air pollution - and the trend is getting worse, not better.

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By H+H (registered) - website | Posted October 19, 2010 at 05:16:17

TnT

How about our General Manager of Planning and Economic Development? I think it might be a good idea if he lived in Hamilton, and not in Kitchener. Silly, I know. After all, it's only an hour from Hamilton. And shares almost none of the same challenges as Hamilton. So, what difference does it make?

Well, other than he doesn't pay any property taxes in Hamilton, and likely spends almost no money here. Or doesn't go to dinner to any restaurants in the City on his own dime? Or walk the streets of his neighbourhood, or the downtown, or a park, or anything with his family? But hey, I'm sure he spends a fair buck at the Esso station at King and Dundurn, fueling up on his way home to KW. Now that's city planning!

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By Seine Mind (anonymous) | Posted October 19, 2010 at 05:58:03

@TnT "If a mayor has to live in Hamilton to run I think that ward councillors should have to live in those wards to qualify."

Why not extend that to continuous residence for at least one council term? All too easy to just rent a flat while you’re en route to file your nomination papers, and it's proof positive that you care enough and have developed sufficient perspective on the ward dynamics.

I'm not entirely serious here. The objection has everything to do with the candidates in question. If it was someone you admired and thought highly of, you might wish barriers lower still.

In addition to which, it has to be said: If a non-resident can win the battle for hearts and minds over indigenous candidates, that is perhaps qualification enough. We are all operating under the preconception that voters elect the candidate they deem most worthy of the job, are we not?

One would hope that we as a city aim to secure the best talent for various roles, and that such expertise is not geographically specific. In that way, for example, we might also enjoy the entertaining and educational input of a retired businessman whose corporate perspective relates to his years spend building a high-performing business in Toronto.

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By Meredith (registered) - website | Posted October 19, 2010 at 10:06:29

When I was a resident advisor during my undergrad, there was a rule that a student had to live in residence a full year - not just one semester - before they were allowed to apply for the position of resident advisor. I'm fairly sure that's the same at most colleges and universities. It meant a few great potential RAs couldn't get in, but by and large it safeguarded how well the job was done and who knew the culture best.

That was to represent a few dozen students on pretty minor stuff and provide a minimal amount of leadership!

However, in our city, we have no such standard or residency requirement for who will represent tens of thousands of people in an area, for four years, on matters of much greater importance.

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By Seine Mind (anonymous) | Posted October 19, 2010 at 22:02:53

Right, so a one-term qualification period. I'm good with that. If you can't hack it in a ward for four years while you lay groundwork for a run, you're just a tourist who's going to spend four years on the taxpayers' dime getting up to speed.

At least that's the theory. In reality, it's quite easy to spend four years somewhere and not have much of a clue about what's going on around you. And then there's the neighbourhoodism – Ward 2 in particular is a real socioeconomic potluck, and it's not as if you can't get elected while ignoring whole tracts of the ward. You could be a Durander, for example, and never venture downtown. Or a North-Ender who seldom crosses Main.

Bottom line? If you want better candidates, the answer is probably not top down. I imagine that there's greater success to be found by working from the grassroots up.

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By H+H (registered) - website | Posted October 21, 2010 at 04:25:17

Seine Mind

I live in Hamilton. The GM of Planning and Economic Development doesn't.

I pay taxes in Hamilton. He doesn't.

I spend money on services (restaurants, dry cleaning, groceries, hair cuts, etc.) in Hamilton. He doesn't.

I offer a citizen's comments on Planning and Economic Development decisions. He makes the Planning and Economic Development decisions on which I comment.

When I lived in Toronto, although I grew up in Hamilton and spent the first 5 years of my working life working in Hamilton, I never offered comments or observations about how to live in Hamilton. He lives in Kitchener and implements decisions for Hamiltonians that affect how they live in Hamilton.

I believe we should hire the best, no matter where they are from. I also think, when they are at the very highest level in the city bureaucracy, they should consider living in the city for which they establish and implement policies that will affect every single citizen in that city. This isn't just any job at any corporation, this is a top job with the Corporation of the City of Hamilton.

Comment edited by H+H on 2010-10-21 03:48:54

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