Commentary

Where Is Our Champion?

The transformation of Indianapolis from rust belt city to gem of the mid-west demonstrates the importance of civic leadership.

By Adrian Duyzer
Published August 09, 2011

Progress is not created by contented people. - Frank Tyger

Although we are Canada's ninth-largest city and larger than 460 of the United States' 513 urban areas (those with more than 40,000 residents), we're not accustomed to thinking of Hamilton as an important North American city. We punch below our weight.

Cities, however, change over time. In 1960, Indianapolis, Indiana was home to 476,258 people and ranked as the 26th largest city in the US. In 1970, the municipality of Indianapolis was amalgamated with its suburbs under a unified government called Unigov, and it leapt ahead in the population rankings to 11th.

This sudden expansion in population did little to disguise Indianapolis' economic and social decline. Indianapolis' manufacturing-centric economy had been decimated by outsourcing and globalization and like many post-industrial cities in the "rust belt", its urban core was decaying. Its disparaging nickname was "India-no-place".

In 1976, William Hudnut III, a Republican and former pastor, was elected mayor and began an intense program of economic development and downtown revitalization. He issued bonds to fund civic projects, implemented tax incentives to encourage companies to relocate there, and entered into public-private partnerships to rebuild the downtown.

Hudnut seized on sports as something that Indianapolis could become known for. He developed a vision of the city as the "Amateur Sports Capital of America". He attracted the national offices for rowing, synchronized swimming, track and field, diving and gymnastics. With help from a foundation called the Lilly Endowment, numerous sports facilities were built, including a track and field stadium and a velodrome.

When Hudnut proposed building a 60,500 seat stadium, many local residents dismissed the idea. After all, Indianapolis lacked a major-league baseball or football team. Who would play in Hudnut's "white elephant"?

Hudnut was undeterred. Construction on the stadium began in 1982, and Hudnut started looking for a tenant, attracting the Baltimore Colts in time to open the stadium in 1984. His gamble had paid off. The decision to build the downtown Hoosier Dome was visionary, further accelerating Indianapolis' program of downtown renewal.

Other achievements during his term included landing a 6,500 United Airlines maintenance facility and hosting the Pan Am Games. Today, Indianapolis is the mid-west's "shining example", "a rust belt beacon for how to reform", and one of the fastest growing regions in the United States. For his role in Indianapolis' transformation, Hudnut is widely regarded as one of America's most successful, visionary mayors.

Compare this brand of leadership to our current civic leadership and clear differences emerge.

Hudnut acted boldly and courageously. He proposed building a downtown stadium although he lacked a tenant because he truly believed in his vision of Indianapolis as a sports capital.

In Hamilton, we watched in dismay as our decision about the best place to build a stadium was hijacked by a team's empty threats to move.

Hudnut developed a vision of Indianapolis as the vibrant Amateur Sports Capital of America, and then he successfully championed it.

In Hamilton, when Mayor Bratina was urged to commit to our collective vision of light rail transit (LRT), he wrote, "The question before us is not not whether LRT has a champion, but whether all elements can be pulled together in an affordable, practical manner that can be supported by a majority of Council."

Can you imagine Mayor Hudnut saying that about building the Hoosier Dome, or attracting an NFL team, or rebuilding his downtown, or landing the Pan Am Games?

Bratina is intelligent and well-spoken. When he needs to be, he's personable and charming. He has a strong rapport in the community built over his years as a radio announcer and Ward 2 Councillor and plenty of political capital left over from his upset election victory.

He has, in other words, everything he needs to articulate and sell a vision of Hamilton to Hamiltonians, but instead of convincing Hamilton's remaining doubters and campaigning strongly at the provincial level, he's working against a vision for Hamilton that we've already been sold on.

Visionary mayors anticipate criticism and develop responses to it in advance. Visionary mayors develop creative ways to fund crucial investments in the cities they govern. Visionary mayors are in for the long haul, promoting and defending their projects - and their legacies.

Of course, Indianapolis' transformation from rust belt city to gem of the mid-west was not accomplished solely by Hudnut. Just like in Hamilton, Indianapolis' citizen and business groups supported a revitalization agenda with a downtown focus. The difference is that, in the character of William Hudnut, Indianapolis had a champion.

Where is Hamilton's champion?

This article was first published in the August 2011 edition of Urbanicity.

Adrian Duyzer is an entrepreneur, business owner, and Associate Editor of Raise the Hammer. He lives in downtown Hamilton with his family. On Twitter: adriandz

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By mike_sak (registered) | Posted August 10, 2011 at 02:24:56

margaret atwood?

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By TnT (registered) | Posted August 10, 2011 at 06:39:18

We seem to lack political champions like thus due to splintered ideas on council. Suburbs have a vastly different agenda to urban and the urban councillors are stuck in fiefdom mode. It will take groups of citzens to lead.

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By gullchasedship (registered) - website | Posted August 10, 2011 at 06:42:30

Our champion built Copps Coliseum.

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By thehound (anonymous) | Posted August 30, 2011 at 12:36:12 in reply to Comment 67770

Sorry, I disagree. Hamilton,s true champion bears his name:
COPPS Coliseum

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By mystoneycreek (registered) - website | Posted August 10, 2011 at 08:10:36 in reply to Comment 67770

Our champion built Copps Coliseum.

Honestly? If we're going to look at stuff with a bemoaning tone, it's vital to have context and perspective that's informed by an actual grasp of the downtown's history, the tenor of the times...you know, 'the big picture'.

Throwaway comments like this really don't get us anywhere.

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By TnT (registered) | Posted August 12, 2011 at 16:04:49 in reply to Comment 67777

What is the legacy of Vic Copps? He was before my time, but held up as a beacon and saint. Was he maybe Hamiltons greatest monster?

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By mystoneycreek (registered) - website | Posted August 12, 2011 at 18:28:13 in reply to Comment 67940

Was he maybe Hamiltons greatest monster?

By far the most ridiculous notion I've heard in a while.

Ironically, he's the subject of my article.

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By giving up (anonymous) | Posted August 10, 2011 at 07:58:10 in reply to Comment 67770

Somebody tried to do something and it didn't work, obviously the lesson is no one should try to do anything.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted August 10, 2011 at 09:18:55 in reply to Comment 67776

Homer: Hey, how come you never play your guitar anymore?

Bart: I’ll tell you the truth, Dad. I wasn’t good at it right away, so I quit. I hope you’re not mad.

Homer: Son, come here. Of course I’m not mad. If something’s hard to do, then it’s not worth doing. You just stick that guitar in the closet next to your short-wave radio, your karate outfit and your unicycle, and we’ll go inside and watch TV.

Bart: What’s on?

Homer: It doesn’t matter.

Comment edited by Pxtl on 2011-08-10 09:19:09

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted August 10, 2011 at 11:05:50 in reply to Comment 67781

Nice countervail to the endless "Monorail" Simpsons references we keep hearing.

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By Sigma Cub (anonymous) | Posted August 10, 2011 at 12:08:35 in reply to Comment 67792

Because it can lay claim to a transportation hub, a nuclear plant, a legendary recycling fire and at least one neighbourhood that resembles Crackton (not to mention a duff stadium), Hamilton could well be Springfield, though its institutional incest is pure Shelbyville.

Burlington/Oakville would presumably be Cypress Creek.

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By demosthenes (registered) | Posted August 10, 2011 at 06:44:55

To steal a quote from another frequent RTH reader . . .

We shouldn't be looking for heroes, we should be looking for great ideas!

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By mystoneycreek (registered) - website | Posted August 10, 2011 at 07:29:46

Great piece.

We live in a very strange world. Where 'the cult of personality' rules. Where people consume gossip and vicarious experiences to the same degree that they do their empty calories. Where 'celebrity' is valued more than excellence.

Such is this materialistic, acquisitional, entitlement-based, detached-yet-Facebooking culture of 2011.

What you're referring to in the notion of 'champion' is pretty much a rarity these days. It's not that those people aren't out there, walking amongst us, it's that the 'system' we've created usually obliterates or eviscerates them before they have a chance to actually influence us.

But they're out there. Those who are capable of visionary leadership. Those who are capable of not only generating brilliant ideas, but of corralling others who are also capable of such stuff, who are capable of inspiring those who they seek to lead...because, make no mistake about it, people yearn to be led. It's in our natures.

But in order to get these 'champions' front-and-centre, I believe that we have to start changing our own landscape in order to fully utilize their gifts.

It's probably very much akin to that expression 'When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.'

Comment edited by mystoneycreek on 2011-08-10 07:30:11

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By WRCU2 (registered) - website | Posted August 10, 2011 at 09:20:30 in reply to Comment 67774

Those who are capable of not only generating brilliant ideas, but of corralling others who are also capable of such stuff, who are capable of inspiring those who they seek to lead...

May modesty beseech you mystoneyteach; The students ARE ready and well within reach;-)

Comment edited by WRCU2 on 2011-08-10 09:21:08

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By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted August 10, 2011 at 12:32:54

I can't take the credit for my signature, but I feel it's a pretty important point (which is why it's been so long since I've replaced it).

There's no doubt that we could use a few leaders, champions, advocates, organizers etc. But fundamentally, is our problem not one of delegating these tasks away in the first place? Many of the skills associated with a good "leader" or "hero" could be learned by anyone. And while not everyone's a good writer, public speaker or researcher, we can all play "important" roles. As a teenager, I got a first-rate education on everything from media-strategies to publishing because the organizations I was a part of made a point to include as many people in these operations - even the dirty kids with silly hair. Having witnessed many similar organizations that didn't, it always cost them in the long run as the key individuals moved on or 'lost touch'.

People are really cynical about politics, and the best antidote is to hear about new and interesting ideas from people who aren't "special" or "important", and to be offered a chance to play a meaningful part themselves if they choose. For this reason, I love the term "organizer".

We don't need a hero, we need thousands of them. Where are our champions?

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By adrian (registered) | Posted August 12, 2011 at 06:11:39 in reply to Comment 67801

There's no doubt that we could use a few leaders, champions, advocates, organizers etc. But fundamentally, is our problem not one of delegating these tasks away in the first place?

Forgive me if I'm misinterpreting you, but are you suggesting that the fundamental problem is the democratic process, by which we elect people to act in the role of leader, champion, advocate, and organizer?

That aside, I think there's an important distinction between "hero" and "champion". A hero is someone endowed with great qualities (such as courage). A champion, in the way I have used the term, is someone who advocates actively and passionately. The first may be rare, the second simply requires hard work, determination and vision - which can be developed, as you pointed out.

The point of my article is essentially to point out the good that can come of having a mayor who acts as a champion, and to ask the simple question: should our mayor be our champion?

As far as good ideas go, I don't think that finding good ideas is Hamilton's problem. Our problem is doing something with them.

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By mystoneycreek (registered) - website | Posted August 12, 2011 at 19:55:18 in reply to Comment 67906

That aside, I think there's an important distinction between "hero" and "champion". A hero is someone endowed with great qualities (such as courage). A champion, in the way I have used the term, is someone who advocates actively and passionately. The first may be rare, the second simply requires hard work, determination and vision - which can be developed, as you pointed out.

We misuse the term 'hero'. It's become a watered-down notion, one even applied to athletes, fer crissakes. To me a hero is someone who does something beyond what's expected of them, sometimes at great personal risk. For example, a citizen rushing into a burning building and rescuing someone has performed an heroic deed. (For a firefighter to do this is not, in my eyes, heroic.) But people have 'heroes', those they admire, who have risen up from great inequities to accomplish greatness. (To me, these people aren't 'heroes', though they most certainly might reasonably be admired.)

A champion...in the way you've used it...is all about putting a cause first, and devoting themselves unfailingly to this cause.

The last great 'champion Mayor' we had was Vic Copps. (Which why I'm writing an article about him.) Before him? Lloyd D Jackson.

That we have to go back that far to see a demonstrable 'champion' persona in the Mayor's chair is sad. (And to some youngsters, considering some of the clued-out 'opinions' I've read right here on this site about what happened in the 50s, 60s and 70s...before most of these naysayers were born...it's undoubtedly galling to think of two urbanites as being lauded so plainly.) But those were different times, when forward thinking meant something other than what's it's come to have meant over the past two+ decades. So...

...should our mayor be our champion?

Absolutely! There's no more important role for this person to play! If the mayor isn't 'leading' us somewhere, somewhere he has a vision to take us, then what's the point of having one? Why not just have a Council with an alternating 'chair' position?

It's almost hilarious that this question is being asked. (No offense intended, Adrian.) And typical of Hamilton.

The real issue isn't what this city as a whole 'gets'. It's more trying to figure out what it does 'get'.

All this must change. Seriously.

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By mystoneycreek (registered) - website | Posted August 10, 2011 at 13:27:41 in reply to Comment 67801

We don't need a hero, we need thousands of them. Where are our champions?

Actually, they're all around us.

Unrecognized.

Some of them are working quietly in the background. Some of them are gathering skills until they're 'ready'.

But more important than our 'champions' are the 'enlightened support', who will be inclined to receive what the champions ultimately have to offer.

Preparation -> Appearance -> Recognition -> Vision -> Implementation -> Inspiration -> Support -> Further visionary efforts, further inspiration created, further support provided, and so on, and so forth...

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By WRCU2 (registered) - website | Posted August 10, 2011 at 13:11:35 in reply to Comment 67801

We don't need a hero, we need thousands of them. Where are our champions?

A few of us are meeting tonight Undustrial, are you interested? If you are and you can make IT to the International Village BIA by 6:30, then send me an email and I'll forward you the details.

Comment edited by WRCU2 on 2011-08-10 13:12:03

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By mystoneycreek (registered) - website | Posted August 10, 2011 at 13:13:23

Here's something I wasn't aware of: apparently Indianapolis is cited on occasion/regularly by someone 'particularly high-up' at City Hall...using the city as a reference point for policy, etc.

Funny, that.

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By GrapeApe (registered) | Posted August 10, 2011 at 13:35:25

Great article, but if I may add a point. The Pan Am Games is meant for amature sport and legacy infrastructure for amature sport. It would appear that Indianapolis capitalized on this by wholeheartedly embracing the concept, constrasted to what Hamilton seems to have done to use the funds to support half a new stadium for professional sport. Any word on the velodrome?

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By mystoneycreek (registered) - website | Posted August 10, 2011 at 13:44:55

It would appear that Indianapolis capitalized on this by wholeheartedly embracing the concept, constrasted to what Hamilton seems to have done to use the funds to support half a new stadium for professional sport.

As well, correct me if I'm wrong, but Indianapolis was the primary/sole site for the Games.

In other words, it wasn't 'shared' with someone down the road. There was integration. A solitary effort.

Honestly, I don't know why Toronto didn't just go it alone.

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By mystoneycreek (registered) - website | Posted August 10, 2011 at 15:32:22

Visionary mayors anticipate criticism and develop responses to it in advance. Visionary mayors develop creative ways to fund crucial investments in the cities they govern. Visionary mayors are in for the long haul, promoting and defending their projects - and their legacies.

As well, visionary leaders have to have an actual vision.

And they have to have a way to share that vision, bringing people on board, generating collaboration...or short of this, be able to strong-arm naysayers into line...inspiring people...which of course means not being a poopy-face.

How many of these boxes can we check off currently?

I'll tell you one thing from my perspective, from what I've been witnessing of late: whatever greatness ends up unfolding over the next three years, it'll only be because it's been foist upon our mayor, not because of any inherent 'vision' on his part.

For our benefit, naturally.

By us.

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By JM (registered) | Posted August 10, 2011 at 15:58:55 in reply to Comment 67814

Visionary Mayors, eh? Remember Bob Bratinas platform when he ran for mayor? ...this is usually where their vision for the city is exposed, and shared.

...

Exactly... there wasn't one. No platform = no vision!

At least Rob Ford has some form of a vision for Toronto - even though its destructive, but hey its a step ahead of Bob!

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By -Hammer- (registered) | Posted August 10, 2011 at 19:19:25

Uhh...it seems in this case, possibly Jason Farr?

http://www.thespec.com/news/local/articl...

Comment edited by -Hammer- on 2011-08-10 19:24:05

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By mystoneycreek (registered) - website | Posted August 11, 2011 at 06:37:29 in reply to Comment 67823

Uhh...it seems in this case, possibly Jason Farr?

Given my understanding of Council dynamics, I don't think Councillor Farr qualifies as a 'champion'. It's a nice gesture...maybe a tad self-immolating...but I don't think that it's the stuff of which Adrian speaks.

I don't sense there's any 'politician' on the scene who's got the vision, the personal energy, the charisma or the oomph to qualify as a true 'Champion'.

I'm not even sure we have any 'Masters of Industry' who could switch hats and become this entity. (And even if there was, would this community support someone who would almost certainly come from 'The Old Boys' Club'?)

Does anyone have any suggestions to counter what I'm saying here?

Is there a politician in view who has the package that Adrian writes about?

Is there a dynamo in the business community, even someone who's on the cusp, who has the potential to be a force to be reckoned with?

If there isn't, then I suspect there's really only two possibilities for 'salvation'. The first is that this person is going to come from without. How would they be received? The other is that we have to generate our own possibilities, our own potential, and by this newly-struck dynamism, essentially become our own 'mini-champions', which, in combination, effect the same result.

I know it's a tough concept for some to swallow, but maybe in the case of Hamilton, because of our 'legacy malaise', perhaps we do have become our own Champion together.

Thoughts?

Comment edited by mystoneycreek on 2011-08-11 06:38:37

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By Kiely (registered) | Posted August 11, 2011 at 08:02:08 in reply to Comment 67836

would this community support someone who would almost certainly come from 'The Old Boys' Club'?

The more I watch Hamilton politics the more I wonder if someone from the "Old Boys Club" will finally support this community.

It seems to be a self-preservation club to me.

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By mystoneycreek (registered) - website | Posted August 11, 2011 at 08:15:49 in reply to Comment 67841

It seems to be a self-preservation club to me.

Always has been. With ancillary payoffs for everyone else. (Smaller ones, admittedly.)

Most of the decisions, most of the players, the power-brokers going back to Adam have been 55+. (For example, the ones who decided to build City Hall and the BOE building. Oh, and 'Civic Square'.)

Can't see as this construct has changed. (the 'village elders' and all that.) Not even when keeping 'social media' in mind.

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By Kiely (registered) | Posted August 12, 2011 at 08:17:59 in reply to Comment 67844

Agreed MSC.

What has really begun to frustrate me is how much division is sown by our "leaders" and Institutions.

This is a deeply divided city and these "village elders" just seem to make it worse.

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By RenaissanceWatcher (registered) | Posted August 10, 2011 at 19:42:06

Apologies for momentarily digressing from the topic at hand, but Grape Ape asked "Any word on the velodrome?"

After the vote on the McMaster Health Campus/Public Health Centre proposal yesterday, a verbal report on the velodrome was made by Gerry Davis, General Manager of Public Works, to the General Issues Committee Meeting. Here is a point form synopsis of his verbal report:

-no decisions were required at this meeting

-the city is working with Mohawk College on a Memorandum of Understanding on a velodrome including 3 gymnasiums and a common area

-the land belongs to Mohawk College, and the facility will be owned by the city

-the city will operate the track and the college will operate the gymnasiums

-they are continuing to use a business consultant to refine the business plan

-the RFP on the velodrome, Ivor Wynne Stadium and York University Athletics Stadium is scheduled to be issued by Infrastructure Ontario by the end of August, 2011

-a meeting between the city, Mohawk College, Infrastructure Ontario and Toronto 2015 is scheduled for August 17th

-they don’t have the final specifications yet

-the overall cost has not been finalized- city staff will identify the overall capital budget, operating budget, revenue and operating costs, and the debt impact to the city

-the city will probably need to have a special GIC meeting before the end of August, 2011

-Trish Chant-Sehl noted that the RFP on the velodrome is not at the same level as the RFP on the other two stadiums

-after the RFP on the velodrome goes out at the end of August, 2011, it may be necessary for the city to file an addendum to the RFP by the end of September, 2011

-Brad Clark asked whether the city would be locked in at the higher number if the numbers are higher than council agreed to. Mr. Davis said they would come back to council if the number is higher

-Robert Pasuta asked whether the west harbour site has been officially removed. Mr. Davis said the west harbour is still the standing approved site and council would need to vote to change that

-Terry Whitehead noted that the project will have a significant impact on the neighbourhood surrounding Mohawk College and the discussion about the velodrome has taken place in a vacuum

Comment edited by RenaissanceWatcher on 2011-08-10 19:45:06

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By GrapeApe (registered) | Posted August 11, 2011 at 10:45:04 in reply to Comment 67824

Thank you - it's good to hear some progress.

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By mystoneycreek (registered) - website | Posted August 11, 2011 at 19:26:38

Two points came to mind today as I was on my knees. (Weeding. Seriously.)

1) The original definition of 'leader' involves taking someone from somewhere to somewhere else. Involving a journey with a starting point and an ending point. I'm not so sure that's going to be happening in our case, even if we're just talking figurative or metaphorical end-points.

2) My next commitment is to write an article about the last true 'champion' Hamilton had, what was actually accomplished, and why it's so difficult to play the role that was played by this mayor in today's world.

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By TnT (registered) | Posted August 12, 2011 at 16:26:04

On the Simpsons vein: whenever I go to Burlington or Oakville I am hooted out of town: Hoot hoot hoot!

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By mystoneycreek (registered) - website | Posted August 13, 2011 at 18:37:01

Now, I would have preferred this to have been an article within a separate section of RTH, maybe one entitled 'Learning About Our Past', but beggars can't be choosers, so here's my contribution towards context regarding 'champions' and 'the downtown' and 'urban development' and all that:

http://mystoneycreek.blogspot.com/2011/0...

It's not the article I thought I was going to write, which was going to be an examination of the last 'mayoral champion' we had in the city, Vic Copps, illustrating just what he had accomplished. But instead, it's a primer for that (and Mayor Jackson's cv, too), providing a pointed reminder of the fact that 'then' wasn't 'now', and to deconstruct things on the wildly-indulgent basis that it was...isn't just folly, it's the stuff of idjits.

Comment edited by mystoneycreek on 2011-08-13 19:16:19

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By Cityjoe (anonymous) | Posted August 30, 2011 at 12:13:16

Daniel Lanois!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
(but didn't he move to Ancaster?) :(

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