Editorial

Making Amalgamation Work for Hamilton

If we can start to imagine ourselves as a region instead of a bickering jumble of competing interests, Hamilton can finally start to assert itself as an important centre.

By Ryan McGreal
Published September 09, 2011

I'm reading a book by David Rusk called Inside Game/Outside Game, in which he makes a persuasive argument that cities which want to revitalize their urban cores must first unite and align politically with their larger metro areas.

In fragmented metro areas, suburban municipalities undercut, cherry-pick and poach from the host city while dumping their problems there. The result is under-invested inner cities starved for resources and failing socially and economically, surrounded by affluent suburbs that are effectively gated against the poor.

It's particularly interesting given Hamilton's amalgamation blues, but the evidence certainly seems to support it. Reading this has forced me to rethink my earlier contention that amalgamation was necessarily a bad idea.

The real issue is that Hamilton was amalgamated in the wrong manner and for the wrong reasons. The Harris government wanted to cobble together a big enough municipal tax base to download social services costs to the municipal level. (Toronto and Ottawa were forcibly amalgamated with their suburbs for the same reason.)

Given that objective, it is unlikely that amalgamation could have gone better than it did. To borrow a quote from Michael Ignatieff when he expressed regret about supporting the Iraq War, "intentions do shape consequences."

This is why Flamborough was bolted onto the amalgamated city. Flamborough is geographically closer to Burlington than to Hamilton and is more oriented socially and economically toward Halton, but it was a necessary part of the Hamilton social service numbers game, so it went into the pot.

Unfortunate Side Effects

Of course, Flamborough is not the only unfortunate artifact of how amalgamation took place. As a sop to angry suburban voters, the amalgamated city was carved up into wards that preserved traditional communities at the expense of fair representation by population, with the result that the old city of Hamilton is grossly underrepresented on the amalgamated council.

According to 2006 Statistics Canada data, suburban wards 9 through 15 have an average population of 24,959 residents, whereas old city wards 1 through 8 have an average population of 41,231, or 1.6 times as high.

If we further split the old city, wards 1-5 have an average of 36,481 while 6-8 have an average of 49,147. The most populous ward in the city, ward 7, has 58,395 residents - close to four times as many as ward 14, which has just 15,920.

As a result, each voter in a suburban ward has far more voting power than an equivalent voter in an urban ward.

Another artifact of amalgamation was area rating for transit, recreation and emergency services. Under area rating, residents living in different neighbourhoods would pay different tax rates toward those services based on local service levels.

This preserved the fragmented allocation of regional resources that had long starved the inner city while diverting regional dollars to fund the high-cost expansion of those same suburbs.

Fixing Amalgamation

If we want amalgamation to work for Hamilton instead of against it, we need to fix these issues and align the interests of Hamilton's various communities so that our council can do a better job of thinking regionally and producing working majorities instead of splitting on fractious, parochial issues.

The good news is that Council finally fixed area rating this spring after years of foot-dragging. The issue threatened to be explosively controversial, but Council put together a formula that doesn't pit urban and suburban ratepayers against each other.

Next, Council needs to fix the ward boundaries so that residents are fairly represented on council. One option is to split wards 1-5 into six wards with an average population of 30,401 and split wards 6-8 into five wards with an average population of 29,488.

That would lower the average ward 1-8 population from 41,231 to 29,986, which is closer to the average ward 9-15 population of 24,959. It would also lower the overall average ward population from 33,637 to 28,031.

The third item will require the Province to fulfill its promise to restore social service funding to the Provincial level, where it belongs. Hamilton was amalgamated with its suburbs to create a tax base big enough to carry social services, but municipalities should never have been saddled with such cyclical and geographically unbalanced public expenditures.

This creates geographic conflicts between urban neighbourhoods of concentrated poverty and suburban ratepayers who feel they have to 'subsidize poor people downtown', undermining the effort to build coalitions between urban and suburban interests on a regional strategy that delivers net returns to everyone.

If we can muster the courage and strategic vision to rebalance our municipal governance system and redress the lingering side-effects of amalgamation - if we can start to imagine ourselves as a region instead of a bickering jumble of competing interests - Hamilton can finally start to assert itself as an important centre.

This was first published in the September, 2011 issue of Urbanicity.

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 Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted September 09, 2011 at 19:45:50

Beyond all the issues surrounding taxes and services, there's also the issue of local governance. Amalgamation took local councils from many surrounding cities and gave them back councillors. If we're ever going to "make amalgamation work", we'll have to address that issue.

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By mystoneycreek (registered) - website | Posted September 09, 2011 at 20:16:22 in reply to Comment 69323

Amalgamation took local councils from many surrounding cities and gave them back councillors.

Which I've taken ten times more words to express in my comment. LMAO

Well done.

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By mystoneycreek (registered) - website | Posted September 09, 2011 at 20:14:42

I'm still processing this essay (and the apparent monumental philosophical shift you've undergone), so for now, just a couple of points.

The real issue is that Hamilton was amalgamated in the wrong manner and for the wrong reasons.

Yes...and yes.

But I think that for the most part, you've missed the heart of the issue.

And by 'heart' I don't mean the core, I mean its very emotionality.

I wonder if this is the result of you being an 'Old City of Hamilton' dweller. Maybe being one means you may not have an easy path to empathy or understanding the basic (and not caterwauling, not declaiming, none of that; it's a much more benign, fundamental reaction) that those who have been forced into this marriage don't express their views in terms of taxes or any other salient aspects you might present.

It's simply the fact that Hamilton is Hamilton and it isn't Stoney Creek, isn't Dundas, isn't Ancaster, isn't Flamborough, isn't Glanbrook...and they're not Hamilton.

It's interesting; you want drivers to see things your way in terms of LRT etc, and sometimes I can see you figuratively tearing your hair out when you meet the same old resistance: "Why can't you guys just accept this truth?!?" Well, it's the same with this. "Why can't you guys just accept this truth about none of these towns and cities ever having wanted to be part of Hamilton...and no 'Win this one for the Gipper!' exhortations are going to change that?"

(Admittedly, what will change the minds of residents of non-Old City of Hamilton is attrition. You know, like Chinese water torture. Eventually we'll have been worn down and the mission will have been accomplished. But it's not going to happen because of the saliency of an essay.)

Even never having read the book you're referencing, I'm wondering if there's conflation going on between those situations where it's suburbia vs urbia...which really isn't the case in The New Amalgamated City of Hamilton.

(Oh, and I agree with the idea of re-doing the wards. Fully and completely.)

Comment edited by mystoneycreek on 2011-09-09 20:15:35

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By Mahesh_P_Butani (registered) - website | Posted September 09, 2011 at 23:34:37

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

You can change or disable this comment score threshold by registering an RTH user account.

Comment edited by Mahesh_P_Butani on 2011-09-09 23:54:07

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By Brandon (registered) | Posted September 12, 2011 at 08:25:40 in reply to Comment 69337

That the lobbyists here, much like Fred for years, frequently used selective academic or professional references to prop up the economically untenable and mind-dumbing public discourse on city building -(which needlessly swayed uninitiated readers to mob frenzy), is a testimony to their lack of in-dept understanding of urbanism and city building; and their utter failure to understand as to what constitutes a healthy public discourse in our complex times.

Unlike yourself, who is an expert on both city building and healthy public discourse? As far as city building, what people here have done over the years is examine what works in other cities, identified the fact that Hamilton has done the opposite and lobbied to change it. As far as healthy public discourse, anyone is welcome to post an article here. In fact, your replies are often verbose enough to in fact be a brand new posting.

Lashing out at personalities; desecrating the highest office of this city; making juvenile comparisons between the present and past administration to rally fan support and mislabeling it community support; feigning hurt; maligning a sitting mayor and chief of staff by selectively presenting excerpts from their emails and interviews, and then allowing un-moderated slander -- are actions even paid lobbyist in third-world countries would not stoop to, even if their livelihood depended on it.

This demonstrates complete cluelessness as to the nature of politcs in the world. Watch Fox News for an hour and you'll see examples of this about a sitting president, never mind a mayor. Add to that the fact that the mayor in question is remarkably unclear about his positions and only really gives significant media time to Bill Kelly and it becomes obvious that we got what we deserved when we elected someone on the "shmatform" platform.

So what drives this merry band of Fred's ultimate legacy in Hamilton to such dizzying depths? Two simple word: Ignorance and Arrogance.

Oh, the irony.

Ignorance - from utter lack of professional knowledge of what they support and speak, and their reluctance to engage with those with differing opinions, who would know better. The result is that those very people who pilloried Clr. Lloyd Ferguson just a year ago with the most grotesque posters and vile comments, are now most willing to have his baby upon merely hearing that he supports their untenable views on LRT in our economic times. Such is the depth of character of this legacy.

You've missed the point. If even Lloyd Ferguson, whose ward interests are not directly served at all, can see the light on LRT then anything is possible. As far as LRT being untenable, why is this the case? Because the PCs won't support it? That's a reason that makes sense, but rather than obfuscate the issue it should be made clear that that's the reason. The current process smacks of dictatorial control. Because of where the tracks are laid? No one is truly happy with the current choices, but they were made due to a car-centric decision making process claiming that "traffic must flow".

Never mind all that, a broad swath of groups have supported LRT while those who oppose it are using the exact same language that those in other cities who went ahead with it used and were proven wrong. Perhaps you're enough of an expert to know that they are in fact right in this case? After all, it'll never work in Hamilton, right?

Arrogance - from the false appearance of power, (created by online politicking from a comfortably safe distance of the real community) which fed for years the frenzy of suburban bashing; political baiting; character assassination; misinformation; and the continuing abject denial of many struggling communities outside of the safe bubble of their imaginary urban centre.

Once again, the irony...

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By mystoneycreek (registered) - website | Posted September 12, 2011 at 10:23:57 in reply to Comment 69414

As far as city building, what people here have done over the years is examine what works in other cities, identified the fact that Hamilton has done the opposite and lobbied to change it.

By 'here' you mean RTH?

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By Brandon (registered) | Posted September 12, 2011 at 10:38:17 in reply to Comment 69424

Yes.

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By Mahesh_P_Butani (registered) - website | Posted September 12, 2011 at 09:09:45 in reply to Comment 69414

Brandon, I can never thank you enough for quoting me so extensively :)

Now thanks to you, so many more people suffering from vision deterioration in Hamilton will at least be able to read my words, even if they choose to disagree -- words, which had for some reason faded to light grey.

Unfortunately, now you may have forced your friends to down vote your comment - in order to grey out my quotes :))

Would you consider that irony?

Shall we write this off as the unintended consequences of deploying anger in rebuttals?

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By Brandon (registered) | Posted September 12, 2011 at 09:24:15 in reply to Comment 69416

I'm impressed at the brevity of your response but not at your lack of engagement.

More importantly, where do you see anger? There was definitely sarcasm, but I'm actually trying to engage you to find out specifics on details upon which you wax loquacious but don't seem to provide much depth.

So, my challenge to you is to respond to those points where I've questioned you without delving into another orgy of thesaural self-gratification.

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By Mahesh_P_Butani (registered) - website | Posted September 12, 2011 at 10:21:49 in reply to Comment 69418

Brandon - You are most welcome! Would you be kind enough to rephrase your original query - so we can begin to engage meaningfully? Thx

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By Brandon (registered) | Posted September 12, 2011 at 10:32:29 in reply to Comment 69423

Mahesh,

Everything I intended to say is in relation to something you said, which is why I quoted you. I'm not sure what you want rephrased or why you want it rephrased when it's stated right there.

Let me try and simplify it for you though:

What policies supported here are economically untenable and mind-dumbing?

Do you seriously believe that the questioning of the policies of the mayor are unique to this group? That no other politician suffers such "abuse"? More importantly, what specific examples of this do you have?

What makes the views on LRT untenable?

And please keep in mind that I'm one of the uninitiated readers who was needlessly swayed to mob frenzy, so let's try and keep it simple for me, eh?

Comment edited by Brandon on 2011-09-12 10:52:31

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By Mahesh_P_Butani (registered) - website | Posted September 12, 2011 at 11:10:59 in reply to Comment 69425

Brandon, thank you for asking these questions. Quite simply there are two policies that have been addressed in my various comments here.

One is the lack of Design foresight. And the other is lack of Economic foresight.(in ref to LRT & WH).

To put is simply -- the untenable issues in design thinking spring from a lack of foresight in seeing how things would evolve over time -- (a case in point being, this blog - not to be overtly critical here, but if we continue to engage here - very soon you will find that our conversation will be reduce to a thin vertical strip - rendering normal reading insanely difficult - which is the inherent and fatal flaw of design, and its designer's lack of foresight which I mention) -- viz. LRT & WH the way it was planned, our city patterns are/were also in grave danger of such similar unintended consequences.

The untenable issues in Economic thinking around LRT primarily spring from a lack of foresight in seeing how the global economy has been operating -- ever since our long-term transportation strategy got naively hitched to a sporting event.

I have already commented many times, earlier on this blog - on the untenable issues in economic and design thinking around the WH.

With such economic thinking or lack of it -- both, the design of the LRT tracks suffered as there was an undue rush to grab money (which was never guaranteed); and the very future of alternate inner-city transportation itself suffered - as our transportation issues got all mixed up with the WH and the Games.

The state of the economy is highlighted neatly in the Spec today:

"President Barack Obama’s jobs plan announced last week yielded little reaction in global markets. Neither did recent talks among the Group of Seven finance ministers and central bank governors, who ignored calls for a stronger unified response to Europe’s debt crisis. Instead, they insisted that each country should tread its own path back to growth amid concerns of a global slowdown."

Now in this scenario - would you go ahead and pick a fight (and with whom?) to spend a billion+ dollars on a poorly designed LRT plan?

On the issue of "questioning" and "abuse" of politicians -- there is a very thin line between Journalism and Foxism - most on either side of this 'ism don't know which side they are on from one day to other.

I personally do not subscribe to the theory of: "Our fathers abused their politicians - so we shall abuse ours".

Yours, ought to be the generation that breaks this cycle of abuse, no?

I would love to give you specific examples of the abuses - but I can assure you that they will be faded to light grey in five minutes.

If you do insist on examples of abuse, I would however give it as a separate comment - so at least one of these comments has a chance of being readable for a bit longer.

Comment edited by Mahesh_P_Butani on 2011-09-12 12:26:46

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By Brandon (registered) | Posted September 12, 2011 at 11:39:36 in reply to Comment 69430

Mahesh,

I see a lot of words, but not a lot of content.

Regarding the design foresight of this website, switch to a flat view and the problem is solved. The real problem is in the medium as websites don't handle this well, you need a news reader to give the proper context. Ryan has made great efforts to get around this, but just because a car doesn't float doesn't mean it's a bad car or that it was a lack of foresight that made it so.

LRT was hitched to WH due to the fact that a big chunk of unexpected money was coming in for amateur sports and it was seen as a great opportunity to help revitalize downtown and get good transit in the process by giving a solid link between GO, LRT and bus transit along with an anchor destination. The fact that WH was hijacked at the last minute (and our current mayor was instrumental in this colossal error) is another story.

If there is a global slowdown, then building a better public transit system only makes sense. You want the best system in place to generate investments and LRT has been demonstrated to do this in many other locales. On top of that, as the price of gas goes up, it means that people have less money to spend on other things. By giving them excellent transit, you reduce the need to own a car and buy gas, which frees up money to be spent on other things that local businesses can provide.

How is this a poorly designed LRT system? How would you improve it if it is so poorly designed? Do you think the poorness of the design is due to bad design or is it due to bad compromises?

Regardless of whether or not we should abuse our politicians you didn't suggest that we shouldn't. You simply bemoaned the fact that not even a third world politician would ever suffer such abuse, which is just plain wrong. I also question whether or not pointing out his sudden changes of direction and his lack of clear positions is "abuse".

Comment edited by Brandon on 2011-09-12 11:40:56

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By Mahesh_P_Butani (registered) - website | Posted September 12, 2011 at 11:56:52 in reply to Comment 69435

Now Brandon, You almost had an engagement going there... and you once again messed it up by getting angry.

Want to try re-framing this again? No real need to rush this. Remember your first faux pas?

Comment edited by Mahesh_P_Butani on 2011-09-12 12:08:52

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By Brandon (registered) | Posted September 12, 2011 at 12:27:53 in reply to Comment 69438

I give up.

Now Brandon, You almost had an engagement going there... and you once again messed it up by getting angry.

Spare me the condescension. I have yet to get angry with you or to even insult you, I'm just trying to get some specifics out of you. Are you so thin-skinned that you take any questioning of your position as anger?

Want to try re-framing this again?

I've asked some very specific questions and you've provided a tremendous amount of words with no real answers, and then pretend that I've gotten angry.

No real need to rush this. Remember your first faux pas? You actually had to get you comment (with my extensive quotes) deleted here!! Why?

I have absolutely no idea what you're talking about here. The only comment in which I've extensively quoted you has been upvoted three times. You asked me to restate the questions so I did, even though they were right there waiting for your response. And once again, you failed to truly answer them.

Is it fear of the truth? or is it fear of truth being read by others here?

I'm not the one failing to clarify my position.

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By mrjanitor (registered) | Posted September 12, 2011 at 13:00:56 in reply to Comment 69443

Brandon,

It's staring to look like Mahesh and mystoneycreek want to run raisethehammer.org again. This condition seems to raise it's head every 6 months or so. It will pass eventually, however tedious the present may be.

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By z jones (registered) | Posted September 12, 2011 at 12:26:50 in reply to Comment 69438

Mahesh you are hilarious.

You accuse people of being angry but it's your comments that drip with angry sarcasm and holier-than-thou pomposity. You ask people to be clear but it's your comments that are a giant muddle of long winded sentences that no one can make any sense of. You ask people to "engage meaningfully" and when someone tries to, you just play silly games.

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By Brandon (registered) | Posted September 12, 2011 at 12:28:36 in reply to Comment 69442

Thanks, I thought it was just me.

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By Mahesh_P_Butani (registered) - website | Posted September 12, 2011 at 13:20:26 in reply to Comment 69444

Brandon, The reason I ask you to rephrase again is only because you show here that you don't read very well. And that is not a sin, and this is not a test.

But you see - even after posting a verbatim quote of me -- you manage to go and misquote me right after -- which I think is more than a reading and comprehension problem.

My original correct quote by you: http://www.raisethehammer.org/comment/69...

"...maligning a sitting mayor and chief of staff by selectively presenting excerpts from their emails and interviews, and then allowing un-moderated slander -- are actions even paid lobbyist in third-world countries would not stoop to, even if their livelihood depended on it."

Your misquote - right after quoting me: http://www.raisethehammer.org/comment/69...

"You simply bemoaned the fact that not even a third world politician would ever suffer such abuse, which is just plain wrong."

This is why I think you are not serious about engagement - and why I ask you to rephrase. I could give you more examples like this, but you will say that I am picking on you.

The entire story of the WH / LRT is filled with such faux pas with even sillier comebacks:

"If there is a global slowdown, then building a better public transit system only makes sense. You want the best system in place to generate investments..." ~ Brandon

Now, you talking like this can be easily forgiven; the past mayor talking like this last year was more than a stretch - but his fan-club continuing to talk like this even after a year of witnessing the accelerating global economic melt-down is just plain scary.

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By Brandon (registered) | Posted September 12, 2011 at 13:50:09 in reply to Comment 69457

My apologies for the "misquote", yet when you engage in hyperbole people look for the meaning behind what you're trying to say. What I got from your comment was that Bob was suffering an unheard of degree of abuse and I asked you to clarify that. Apparently it upset you when I used hyperbole as well.

It also doesn't change the fact that you have yet to answer any of the specific questions that I have given you.

Now, maybe you have an obscure set of debating rules that someone has to follow in order to get you to respond to them, or maybe you're just in love with your own prose. Either way, the end result is that you come across as someone who loves to pontificate and wants to be seen as a font of unquestionable wisdom, yet you're short on details.

I'll rehash the specific questions that you've dodged so far:

What policies supported here are economically untenable and mind-dumbing?

What makes the views on LRT untenable?

And now this:

Now, you talking like this can be easily forgiven; the past mayor talking like this last year was more than a stretch - but his fan-club continuing to talk like this even after a year of witnessing the accelerating global economic melt-down is just plain scary.

I'm glad you can forgive me as I'm a simple soul, it's very kind of you from your perch of wisdom to be that generous. Now please explain to me how an excellent public transit system harms the economic future of our city? I await the dispensation of your wisdom with bated breath.

Or was that too angry?

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By Mahesh_P_Butani (registered) - website | Posted September 12, 2011 at 14:53:19 in reply to Comment 69460

Brandon,

Thank you for the apology in misquoting me - and also for rephrasing the questions for me.

Could I get back to you later this evening with my views on this?

In the meantime would you be kind enough to share your words below - with the Mayor and Chris Murray:

"I have yet to get angry with you or to even insult you, I'm just trying to get some specifics out of you." ~ Brandon

Comment edited by Mahesh_P_Butani on 2011-09-12 14:54:28

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By Brandon (registered) | Posted September 12, 2011 at 16:15:02 in reply to Comment 69467

Mahesh, you're truly an ass, you know that?

What started this whole process was me trying to engage you and get some clarification on your comments. You then started asking me to jump through hoops for you, so I did a couple of times. Then you wouldn't answer because I was apparently too angry.

Now, with your latest round of crap, I'm done. You can't honestly complain about no one engaging you when you've avoided every effort to do so.

What do the Mayor and Chris Murray have to do with our discussion and my requests for clarification? Absolutely nothing beyond some sort of red herring.

You can take your condescension, your little debating rules and your verbosity and have fun making yourself feel superior to everyone around you. I'll be ignoring you from here on out.

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By Mahesh_P_Butani (registered) - website | Posted September 14, 2011 at 13:33:25 in reply to Comment 69479

"Switch to a flat view and the problem is solved." ~ Brandon

Thank you for brilliantly summing up the dissident's dilemma in Hamilton.

Has this not been the very approach of those seeking to bring change via tax-payer funded mega projects in Hamilton?

I would consider my approach and solutions to be based on 'meiosis'.

Whereas the very basis of LRT / WH campaign has been the opposite of meiosis, which is 'hype' - derived from 'hyperbole' -- or exaggerated claims of economic spill-over effects & instant revitalization, with no clue to finance, economics, and design.

I do hope you had time to reflect on your last comment, where you quickly reduced yourself to name calling.

On hindsight, was there another approach you would have rather taken to bring LRT to Hamilton?

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By Brandon (registered) | Posted September 14, 2011 at 14:31:09 in reply to Comment 69611

I've tried to find out more about your arguments by asking specific questions and your only responses have been to take on a holier than though approach (which you carry on here I might add) as if I'm not worthy of answers.

I'll freely acknowledge that I'm not well educated in the areas of economics and city building, but that doesn't mean I'm an idiot.

As far as "quickly reducing myself to namecalling", it wasn't quickly, it was after several attempts to get more information from you and your only response was to either tell me to restate or to comment that I don't read well.

Those are the actions of someone who is more interested in looking smarter than everyone around him instead of someone looking for people to engage with. Based on that, I stand by my assessment that you're an ass.

You can quickly and easily prove me wrong by actually engaging and answering some of the questions that I've asked. And no, I'm not going to go back and rewrite them for you. You'll have to figure out to do that on your own.

Ball's in your court.

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By highliner (anonymous) | Posted September 10, 2011 at 09:54:19 in reply to Comment 69337

Shorter Mahesh: "I resent not being the center of attention!"

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By WRCU2 (registered) | Posted September 10, 2011 at 10:27:50 in reply to Comment 69354

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By Mr. Meister (anonymous) | Posted September 10, 2011 at 00:47:35 in reply to Comment 69337

Tough read. You are obviously an educated man, why not try and make your writings a little easier to read? I especially wonder at the purpose of having a link in your diatribe linking back to the article you are commenting on which of course has your comment in it which in turn links back to the original article.....

What is the point?

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By Mahesh_P_Butani (registered) - website | Posted September 10, 2011 at 00:57:44 in reply to Comment 69341

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

You can change or disable this comment score threshold by registering an RTH user account.

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By Mr. Meister (anonymous) | Posted September 10, 2011 at 11:07:46 in reply to Comment 69342

Echo chamber? What echo chamber?

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By mystoneycreek (registered) - website | Posted September 10, 2011 at 11:11:12 in reply to Comment 69362

Echo chamber? What echo chamber?

I believe that its original (private) presentation was 'infinite-loop/echo chamber'.

For what it's worth. : )

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By Mr. Meister (anonymous) | Posted September 10, 2011 at 01:00:42

This forced amalgamation is at the heart of so many of the city's problems. A farmer west of Sheffield lives in Hamilton and yet has absolutely nothing in common with an urbanite living in a condo in the core. In fact that farmer probably goes to Cambridge more often than he goes to Hamilton. Cambridge is closer and has most of everything the farmer needs from a city.

Redoing the wards might make the representation more fair for so many of us living within the old city while at the same time making it even tougher for the voice of all those suburbanites to be heard. More wards in the old city will give us a bigger stronger voice even more capable of drowning out the voice (and with it the concerns) of the suburbs. That same farmer in Sheffield has even less use for LRT than I do and yet if it comes to pass he will be forced to help pay for it. This is the case for so many money losing city services that are not available or of no interest to that farmer in Sheffield.

The city has had to live with a very bad situation foe some time now and I believe it is not getting any better. If the province really will start to pay to return social services than the best scenario for all concerned would be to break the city up into it's component parts. If not I see many more years of animosity and unrest with little meeting of minds between "us" and "them"

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By mahesh_P_Butani (registered) - website | Posted September 10, 2011 at 06:28:29 in reply to Comment 69343

The farmer in west of Sheffield, may not have anything in common with the urbanites of downtown Hamilton, and may go for gas and supplies to Cambridge, because it is closer than downtown Hamilton - but which port would his produce go to, if there is a sudden demand spike in the world food chain for his output that could get him high returns? or which medical centre would he prefer being rushed to, if he developed a serious heart condition?

When one revisit a divisive debate that has been put to rest, and once again ask for the bread to be cut into little pieces - not only does every one go hungry from eating little morsels - but one also begin with a faulty premise and reach absurd conclusions. A better premise could be to find ways to bake a larger bread.

If the intent here is to open up a new fault line in the city among people who are just recovering from the ill-framed WH/LRT debate, just for a buzz - it is one of the most cynical moves in recent times. If this is payback for the supposed lost WH/LRT causes - it is a very dangerous play with serious consequences.

Hamilton urgently needs to get on with the task of economy rebuilding with a positive frame of mind, as a whole - and does not need another round of armchair quarterbacking with a re-manufactured trauma - this time of ward boundary re-definitions with allusions to deep geographic knowledge.

Using yet another 'expert' to prop this latest venture to divide the city - will only continue the downward spiral of public discourse in Hamilton, and delay its economic growth.

Such thinking is the natural outcome of taking a software development approach and literally transposing it onto urbanism -- where every 'expertise' such as David Rusk the most recent find, or Richard Florida, Howard Kunstler and Jane Jacobs from earlier on -- are treated as an application programming interface (API):

4.3 "...that allows you to take advantage of the expertise without necessarily knowing everything about the internals"...

The benefits of being a 'non-expert' on planning, economy or politics -- is also neatly built into this bizarre construct:

"...If not for this ability for non-experts to access expertise, there would be no way for the benefits of that expertise to disseminate into the broader society and inform our policy decisions."

Such loose thinking - 4.2, coupled with partisan politics has sown confusion and polarization among Hamiltonians for many years - who by now cannot tell the forest from the trees as new 'experts' are paraded to validate more untenable positions.

One simply cannot build a stable private world with such dubious constructs - let alone attempt to build a democratic urban world that can withstand scrutiny.

It is such inane constructs which have a much larger capacity to damage society permanently via its inherent lack of knowing the 'internals' - while blindly misapplying 'experts' ideas to generate buzz and lobby personal or political agendas, which uninitiated readers consume and spread further like wild-fire.

Knowledge itself is the victim in this. There is no room left for a Knowledge Economy to spring from such absurdities.

Such contrived constructs are a far cry from Biophilia and Biourbanism which has at its heart a sentience for the rich diversity of all life forms on earth and its interconnectedness to the universe - and where all life forms equally are deeply valued as expert 'peers', and not selectively chosen as expert API's to develop self-referential constructs.

The rest is about merely tinkering around with data - whether open or shut, to build more inane constructs without having a clue of the deeper 'internals' that rejuvenate and sustain complex relationships among life forms.

Mahesh P. Butani

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By Mr. Meister (anonymous) | Posted September 10, 2011 at 11:23:35 in reply to Comment 69346

Our mythical farmer would probably sell his goods wherever he can get the best price just like he does now. Since the prices really do not vary a great deal within a small area he probably goes to the nearest place that will buy his produce. If he develops a heart condition he, in all likely hood, would go to St Mary's Hospital in Kitchener since it is a good chunk closer than Hamilton General.

I am not using or referencing so called experts nor am I trying to create divides. I am referring to divides that exist and have existed since amalgamation. Refusing to believe it or refusing to acknowledge it does not make it go away. It actually makes it worse. It must be dealt with.

Refusing to deal with the problem and simply demanding that "we bake more bread" will not help with actual and real problems that divide the populace of this city.

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By mrjanitor (registered) | Posted September 10, 2011 at 07:40:15

Mahesh,

Are your comments here are retraction of your previously stated opinion in your article The Bi-Polarity of the Core? Quotes:

"We will never truly revitalize the downtown core until we can overcome our parochialism and cast away our lingering suburban mindset."

"In developing this thought further, it is important to recognize that although empirically untested, there are no fundamental doubts about the economic benefits of the LRT – amongst majority of those living and working in the core."

"The concerns put forward in support of the decision to reject the LRT from the IV/Gore area included: the fear of losing curbside parking; loss of business during construction; and congestion!!

"The kind of urban growth and its resulting economic benefits that we all desire so much is a direct result of urban density and not suburban density in urban settings."

"The bipolarity of our core springs partly from urban issues that continue to be defined and driven by suburban mindsets."

"Hamilton's planning and economic growth problems are not unique; its parochialism is. The bipolarity of our core springs partly from this debilitating human condition. Focusing on eradicating parochialism from our midst is critical to our collective economic and cultural success. It is the best legacy that you can leave behind."

I'm getting confused reading what you write, what exactly are you saying and how does it tie in with your past opinions. Have those opinions changed?

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By Mahesh_P_Butani (registered) - website | Posted September 10, 2011 at 08:46:59 in reply to Comment 69349

mrjanitor: My views on LRT have been fairly consistent. If you dig around in many of my older comments here - it has always supported LRT as one of the modes of transportations (a component of the larger Transportation Network) - which connects the under serviced suburban and urban areas to form an integrated city.

You will also notice that I have often referred to the ideas expressed here, back in April 2009: "Transport investment and the promotion of economic growth" by David Banister and Yossi Berechmanb:

One of the major unresolved research issues in transport is the question as to whether transport infrastructure investment promotes economic growth at the regional and local levels. The concern is not with the transport benefits, principally measured as travel-time savings, but whether there are additional development benefits from these investments. If they do exist, can they be measured? In this paper, we have developed a new approach based on defining the set of necessary conditions for economic development to take place – in addition to the economic conditions, there are the investment conditions and the political and institutional conditions. It is argued that it is only when all three sets of necessary conditions are operating at the same time will measurable and additional economic development benefits be found.

Since then, our economic uncertainties has increased not decreased - since then, the public consultations on LRT which was highly celebrated yesterday - was never about true design inputs from the public - it was about what someone in their fancy had slashed right across the lower city, and handed it down for validations via pat-on-the-head kind of public input sessions.

Upon realizing the extent of damage that such a thoughtless linear pattern of rail tracks would do to the entire lower city - as someone who is professionally knowledgeable about such issues, I have on many occasions raised these concerns which you will find here and elsewhere.

My views on LRT did not change, my views on how the tracks should be laid thru the lower city changed on seeing the approach to planning.

This high cost - boondoggle in my opinion was a direct result of this absurd design overreach - which I felt would directly destroy the very chance of introducing an alternative mode of transit.

This is the kind of planning that is done - when you think you are spending other peoples money.

Besides above, upon seeing the current global and national economic climate it behooves us to be cautious - especially considering that the final costs, cost sharing and inherent escalations are not yet discovered.

So we have a poor design pattern (my opinion), and no costs, no cost sharing principles, no local budget commitments -all in a highly questionable economic climate (factual).

What would your position be under such circumstance - if the fixed funding for preliminary design studies has been exhausted - and a provincial election is a month or two away, (with fair odds of a new prov. govt. nixing the commitments of the previous govt)?

Would you immediately start beating down the mayor and the chief of staff for such confluence of circumstances? or would you yell and scream at them two months later for choosing to spend beyond the contractual obligation - upon discovering that the project was nixed by the new govt).

It is your call - you are the Chief of Staff of Hamilton. You are the Mayor of Hamilton. What would you have done?

Even after the Liberal MPP's earnestly continue to assure you that they are paying for it until the last day of the election - would you have gambled Hamilton's weak cash position on such assurances? or would you have put the project on a discovery mode for council presentation - and focused on extracting the commitment for an all day GO service while the election is still undecided and the motives of the present govt. are very strong if only to win votes?

City planning is a fairly complex affair when you get down to it. It requires a lot of patience and understanding. Let us give credit where it is due - and learn to stop pillorying people when things don't work out as we expect it to.

LRT will come to Hamilton when the right circumstances evolve - in the meantime let us not stop doing what needs to be done to get ahead.

Comment edited by Mahesh_P_Butani on 2011-09-10 10:00:14

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By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted September 10, 2011 at 10:23:12

The seething resentment which still lingers from amalgamation won't vanish because the issue isn't addressed, and it'll only be inflamed if an attempt is made to address "amalgamation" as a whole without giving people a chance to say their piece.

The Amalgamation issue, like so many which have been furiously brought up above, come down to questions of structure. Hamilton is no longer just a city - we're a region. We stretch from Cambridge to Caledonia, with more identifiable communities, inner-city and out, than any of us can count. No one single body can represent this region, presenting numerous conflicts between different types of communities (urban, suburban, etc), as each attempts to seize control of what slim representation exists. If there's a single issue which demands town-hall style attention more than any other, it's amalgamation. However, it also displays some important stumbling blocks - people from Glanbrook aren't likely to be much more interested in a Town Hall meeting in the inner-city than they are in the edicts of City Hall. What we need is a network of such meetings anywhere and everywhere in the region, informal councils and debates which spans the region and enables each community to discuss internal issues and relate coherently with the rest of the city. Ambitious? Certainly. But would any serious attempt at changing the laws of this city by popular pressure entail less get-togethers?

As for other issues, such as nature of expertise, I think it's clear that few, if any, at RTH are "experts". By and large we're slightly informed dabblers, save a few people in a few individual fields. Everyone reading this site should keep that in mind. There's hundreds of groups of people just as clever all over the city - what's remarkable about RTH is how public the discussion has become. All of that being said, I don't see it as a bad thing. An informed society thrives on interdisciplinary learning, and not everybody needs a professional-level education in these subjects to grasp the fundamentals. I'd love to see more input from actual professionals, here and elsewhere of course, but I'll always learn just as much from the intuitive and experiential insights of the "ordinary people". Again, the goal should be to hear the range of input, not simply select the best voice to listen to.

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By mystoneycreek (registered) - website | Posted September 10, 2011 at 10:32:03 in reply to Comment 69356

Again, the goal should be to hear the range of input, not simply select the best voice to listen to.

And this goes along with your stellar tag-line:

"We shouldn't be looking for heroes, we should be looking for good ideas." — Noam Chomsky

Bottom-line for both: discourse, dialogue...engagement.

But would any serious attempt at changing the laws of this city by popular pressure entail less get-togethers?

Nope. But I'm heartened because we have nowhere to go but up.

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By You Know (anonymous) | Posted September 10, 2011 at 10:42:05

You know, Undustrial, Mahesh, Mystoneycreek...they suck up all the air that it's getting suffocatingly boring.

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By mystoneycreek (registered) - website | Posted September 10, 2011 at 10:51:04 in reply to Comment 69360

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

You can change or disable this comment score threshold by registering an RTH user account.

Comment edited by mystoneycreek on 2011-09-10 11:24:05

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By mystoneycreek (registered) - website | Posted September 10, 2011 at 16:04:31

Ryan:

Next, Council needs to fix the ward boundaries so that residents are fairly represented on council. One option is to split wards 1-5 into six wards with an average population of 30,401 and split wards 6-8 into five wards with an average population of 29,488.

That would lower the average ward 1-8 population from 41,231 to 29,986, which is closer to the average ward 9-15 population of 24,959. It would also lower the overall average ward population from 33,637 to 28,031.

So you're proposing adding three Councillors. (Three new wards.)

What do you think the general reaction will be from a cynical citizenry?

And how would you propose that Council 'sells' this to its constituents? Via The Spec, CHCH, CHML, RTH, urbanicity? Will there be any actual discussion? If so, where? If not... 'Good luck with that.'

What about just redoing the current ward boundaries? Some of them make no sense at all. (Just in 5, 9, 10 and 11 there are justifiable corrections to be made)

(Yes, I know what I'd said about agreeing with you on this point...but a very sane voice commented this notion to me today...and I may be obdurate, but I'm not stupid.)

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By thehighwayman (registered) | Posted September 11, 2011 at 01:03:52

As far as I am concerned, amalgamation cannot be fixed! The way it was brought in and has been perpetuated is morally and ethically wrong in what is supposed to be a democracy. Here we are, ten years along and the economic advantages that were supposed to result from amalgamation have not happened - not in Hamilton, not in Toronto. You can spout all kinds of intellectual rhetoric but it still comes back to the fact that our democratic rights have been trampled -- and the trampling continues! To quote Dickens: "Bah, humbug."

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By YesItCan (anonymous) | Posted September 11, 2011 at 10:07:31

By Bob Bratina who promised to undo it. And we're all waiting.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted September 11, 2011 at 10:39:14

We already have more councilors than the citizenry can reasonably stay informed about. I'd support a move to re-arrange the wards to be more proportional, but not while adding more councilors.

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By mystoneycreek (registered) - website | Posted September 11, 2011 at 13:50:33 in reply to Comment 69373

We already have more councilors than the citizenry can reasonably stay informed about.

Oh?

And how do they currently (attempt to) stay informed about them now?

Comment edited by mystoneycreek on 2011-09-11 13:52:58

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By kendall (registered) - website | Posted September 11, 2011 at 13:42:38

The truth is amalgamation was and always will be the 1000lb elephant in the room. The trick is not forcing it to leave, it is trying to keep it happy. I agree with equal representation by population, the fact is we simply can't afford any new councilors.Even though I would love to see a third councilor elected to share the duties in Wards 3 and 4. We simply need the existing ones to get out and work harder. Yes the Ward 14 councilor only has 15,920 constituents, but they have along way to go to reach these people. A lower city councilor only has to head to the coffee shop and can touch base with a lot more people.

The answer is not more, but better, much the way many large companies restructured after the recession and created a smaller tighter product or service. Please my analogies may not be tight, I realize many people where hurt by these restructurings, my point is Hamiltonian's will continue to hurt unless we put the elephant on a diet.

Comment edited by kendall on 2011-09-11 14:03:28

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By ScreamingViking (registered) | Posted September 11, 2011 at 13:48:11

If there were a way to reorganize ward boundaries (which itself would be a very contentious idea) to provide more balance between the urban/suburban/rural proportions within each ward, I'd be all for that. But it seems very difficult to do, especially in the western half of the municipality, where you'd probably still be left with several Ancaster-Dundas-Flamborough wards. I believe I remember seeing a map of such a proposed realignment years ago - does anyone recall that, or who proposed it?

Re-balancing the ward populations is a good idea, but without changing the boundaries in a substantial way you'd still likely have a "Hamilton" wards vs. "suburb" wards issue.

Another idea I've seen floated about at times: what if the city were to add a number of "councilors at large"? People who are elected by constituents across all wards, who don't have a specific ward responsibility but serve the same role that other councilors do when it comes to discussing city-wide issues. Perhaps they could even be given responsibility for specific issues so that their portfolio has more of a focus - e.g. economic development, social services, transportation, environment, public health, public works, etc. I understand that there may be no appetite for adding to the number on council, and there is probably no appetite for reducing the number of wards to maintain council size, but this may be one way to help mitigate ward parochialism which seems to be one of the biggest problems with amalgamation.

Personally I don't see the province approving of de-amalgamation. But it's clear that there are more issues to resolve.

Comment edited by ScreamingViking on 2011-09-11 13:55:21

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By highwater (registered) | Posted September 11, 2011 at 14:42:25 in reply to Comment 69375

I believe I remember seeing a map of such a proposed realignment years ago - does anyone recall that, or who proposed it?

I believe it was Transition Board Chair Marvin Ryder.

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By mystoneycreek (registered) - website | Posted September 11, 2011 at 13:52:03 in reply to Comment 69375

Another idea I've seen floated about at times: what if the city were to add a number of "councilors at large"? People who are elected by constituents across all wards, who don't have a specific ward responsibility but serve the same role that other councilors do when it comes to discussing city-wide issues. Perhaps they could even be given responsibility for specific issues so that their portfolio has more of a focus - e.g. economic development, social services, transportation, environment, public health, public works, etc.

What this sounds like to me...is akin to 'cabinet ministers'.

Has this been tried in any municipality, anywhere? (No, I'm not being flippant.)

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By bigguy1231 (registered) | Posted September 11, 2011 at 14:21:23 in reply to Comment 69377

We used to have it here in Hamilton, it was called a Board of Control.

We had 4 Controllers elected at large who along with the mayor acted as an executive committee. Anything that went to council was vetted by the board of control first. They basically set the agenda.

It was done away with back in the early 80's. The system worked well, the city has been on a downward spiral ever since they got rid of the Controllers.

The Controllers tended to have the interests of the whole city in mind when making decisions, rather than what we see with councillors looking after their own turf.

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By mystoneycreek (registered) - website | Posted September 11, 2011 at 14:46:02 in reply to Comment 69380

It was done away with back in the early 80's. The system worked well, the city has been on a downward spiral ever since they got rid of the Controllers.

bigguy1231, thanks for this excellent contribution.

The term 'Board of Control' is now ringing bells, bringing back memories.

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By mystoneycreek (registered) - website | Posted September 11, 2011 at 17:02:33 in reply to Comment 69382

This provides some perspective:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Board_of_Co...

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By ScreamingViking (registered) | Posted September 11, 2011 at 17:38:37 in reply to Comment 69386

That wiki article certainly paints them in a negative light. And if there was a concentration of power involved, I can understand why.

Would there be a way to keep the good parts of the idea, without the poor ones? For example, instead of being an "executive body" making decisions - the "control" aspect of the board - simply give them the same powers as the other councilors, even if each member has a focus on a specific area of city business (which to me would just mean they take a more active role leading discussion on those issues, chairing committees and being the primary voice for related issues)

My hope would be that such an addition to council would bring a more holistic perspective to meetings and debates and balance the voting. There's no guarantee of avoiding partisan politics, but perhaps it would help the present climate at city hall.

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By ScreamingViking (registered) | Posted September 11, 2011 at 14:00:56 in reply to Comment 69377

It is somewhat similar, though Cabinet Ministers still retain their constituency (which can lead to other problems, the largest of which is pork-barrel politics)

I'm not sure whether any models of the idea do exist out there. Or if there are provincial laws which would prohibit it.

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By JD (anonymous) | Posted September 11, 2011 at 14:48:17

insult spam deleted

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By tired of debate (anonymous) | Posted September 11, 2011 at 16:00:36

If you voted for harris back in the day, you ahve no one else to balme but yourselves, for the amalgamation mess. I wonder how many of the fools that voted for Harris, still vote conservative, thinking that this group really represents their interests.

Wake up people, messaging can make you belieive that toxic sludge is good for you!

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By mystoneycreek (registered) - website | Posted September 11, 2011 at 17:44:41 in reply to Comment 69385

If you voted for harris back in the day, you ahve no one else to balme but yourselves, for the amalgamation mess.

That's a real stretch. (And I'm being generous.)

While approaches are given a 'vote of approval', I think it's a bit rich in most situations...but especially where the party didn't actively campaign on a move like amalgamation of several municipalities...to say 'You voted for this party and look what you did!' I'm willing to bet that those people who voted for PC candidates way back when didn't know that amalgamation would result; that's hardly the kind of thing you make an election platform about. (Austerity and cost-cutting, yes.)

Comment edited by mystoneycreek on 2011-09-11 17:50:12

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By Cityjoe (anonymous) | Posted September 12, 2011 at 03:52:48 in reply to Comment 69388

Harris promised Not to amalgamate Hamilton - as part of his 2nd. term election campaign. Right before he amalgamated Hamilton. It took the local P.C. member here so off guard, that he resigned as a result. (Liberal ever since)

I understand what ToD is saying though. Harris was always very straight forward. He did what he said he was going to do, most of the time. The fact that some people didn't listen, or thought that Harris was magical - That he knew that they had voted for him, & would exempt them from the mess-?

So many people who had the most to loose voted for Harris, not once but Twice! I never understood why they didn't see themselves, & their future in his rhetoric.

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By theOther (registered) | Posted September 11, 2011 at 20:17:08 in reply to Comment 69388

MSC: My recollection is that Mr.Harris was permitted to obtain a second mandate from Ontarians. Even if you had any trouble deciphering his intentions through the first, ignorance is no tenable excuse for the second. There was no shortage of impartial yet competent witnesses in the vicinity. It appears his old sergeant-at-arms Deb is directing wee Timmy Hudak and their supposedly ailing babe to carry on with the ignoroid agenda. (But please don't bring their family into it; let their happy-fam photo-ops do the talking). But back in the Hammer: even populated as it was with vainglorious pols, the Board of Control represented an impetus for the municipality to think and act as a whole, not an assortment of mutually resentful fragments. Cheers, Other

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By mystoneycreek (registered) - website | Posted September 11, 2011 at 20:24:31 in reply to Comment 69390

My recollection is that Mr.Harris was permitted to obtain a second mandate from Ontarians. Even if you had any trouble deciphering his intentions through the first, ignorance is no tenable excuse for the second.

I agree...but I surely don't recall there being any campaigning on the four amalgamations that eventually resulted in the province.

But back in the Hammer: even populated as it was with vainglorious pols, the Board of Control represented an impetus for the municipality to think and act as a whole, not an assortment of mutually resentful fragments.

I'm still trying to nail down the date when the Hamilton Board of Control ceased to exist...but certainly did exist through the 70s, when most of the 'big changes' in Hamilton-proper had been put into effect, pre-Amalgamation.

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By theOther (registered) | Posted September 11, 2011 at 20:30:05 in reply to Comment 69392

I'll suggest that BoC pertained at least into the early '80's. Not sure what you mean by 'big changes'? (although I could posit a few on my own).

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By mystoneycreek (registered) - website | Posted September 12, 2011 at 06:32:30 in reply to Comment 69393

Not sure what you mean by 'big changes'? (although I could posit a few on my own).

Downtown Hamilton from '55-'80.

As much as anyone might bewail what was 'lost', the truth is that in terms of the original City of Hamilton, this is where most profound changes took place. (Or the genesis for additional changes were put in play.)

Comment edited by mystoneycreek on 2011-09-12 06:32:40

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By Mahesh_P_Butani (registered) - website | Posted September 11, 2011 at 20:17:43

Changing Hamilton's narrative to acheive the desired Urban SHIFT:

Changing demographics implies changing patterns of living and working. Ward boundaries are an antiquated construct that needs to be left alone. While they do serve an existing purpose to keep the enterprise functioning, they do little to take a city into its next phase of growth.

Geographically dividing up a city through ward boundaries, freezes cities in time. Incremental or drastic changes to this only manages to alter the frozen state for a little while before atrophying again.

Yes, cities and neighbourhoods also drift to their natural state of status quo - if we continue to use the same old approaches to frame new questions.

Playing around with ward boundaries may give a sense of order-making and empowerment, but it is a superficial exercise, and most often its motives are insidious - they do not spring from a deeper understanding of geography, economy and culture - but they spring from an impulse to push social and political preferences on to others. It is such ignoble impulse, shrouded in logic and science - which has destroyed the vitality of most North American cities.

In this day and age of unpredictable economic shifts, one thing that remains constant is human beings natural migratory patterns towards urban settlements. We need to leverage our existing circumstance to facilitate and accelerate this trend -- not by re-framing old questions, but by introducing a new vocabulary, with a new narrative that celebrates this on-going shift towards a fluid geography and economy -- and channel our diminishing resources and efforts to shatter the notions of myopic boundaries to enable the growth of local ecologies that are a truer representation of the new geography that is shaping around us.

Totally new modes of living and working - beyond the mere affectations of exposed-brick clad urban lofts, is what such a shift is capable of delivering. Real new jobs and respect for other life forms and other views, can only come from such a position.

To acheive this, it is imperative that we quickly learn how to frame questions.

Was opening up retrograde conversations about old boundaries at this stage in Hamilton's growth, really necessary? What kind of city building does such intent really expect to deliver?

This whole issue of Suburban Wards having more voting power than Urban Wards -- is a fallacy arising from arbitrary definitions, and aesthetic and political preconceptions.

If one has no problem calling the Aberdeen/Dundurn/Locke/Westdale area as Urban -- then one should have no problem calling Wards 6 to 8 Urban too. For they too has the same characteristics as Ward 1, albeit less aesthetic and less older, and possibly less wealthy, but nonetheless, essentially a suburban experience in an urban setting.

If this view is acceptable -- (and only a person trapped in old patterns would chose to counter such a narrative) -- then the population of Wards 1 to 8 can correctly be seen as an urban population of: 329,845 and the population of Wards 9 to 15 can correctly be seen as a suburban-rural population of: 174,715

Hamilton's Urban SHIFT - image.

The Urban SHIFT that occurs with this simple recalibration of what constitutes Urban - opens up an entirely new way of looking at our city. It puts to rest the absurdities of looking up or looking down at neighbourhoods - an activity that has consumed so much of our time and energy, and instead, allows us to focus on the task at hand, which is the equitable intensification of all areas which are now embraced as Urban.

This SHIFT also factors in the intensification of business districts in suburban and rural areas, and accords them the same attention and respect that is given to the unified city's core.

This Urban SHIFT is clearly achieved without any clamor for LRT or a sports stadiums - which if/when they happen is just a bonus - for such a SHIFT does not depend on infrequent high-points, but is founded on a much more realistic and incremental building of a true community binding multi-modal Transportation strategy.

Fortunately, we already have new low-mid rise/high densities in place on the King/Main corridor from downtown to Westdale. We just need to recognize this new urban re-generation tool, and expand intensification city-wide, by using the same techniques used in Ward 1 & 2 presently.

By keeping the same Ward boundaries and the same Councillor numbers - we are in a position to acheive this SHIFT quite simply.

We have a system in place in the public works, which is just about getting used to the existing patterns of ward boundaries and work processes initiated a decade ago. Fooling around with it would require re-engineering an entire system at a phenomenal cost and work disruption - with zero returns. The immense costs of rejigging such archaic systems once again, would never be recoverable.

The same energies can be used to bake a larger bread for all instead of putzing around with facile boundaries, and worn down citizen emotions.

With the inclusion of 6 new development officers in the six Zones above, a comprehensive and concurrent rapid intensification plan via new and in-fill development can be executed.

What is required is an entrepreneurial spirit to turn this city around in four years and not tinkering around with systems and processes which gives the illusion of progress while in fact creating more dependencies on tax-payer funding to acheive increasingly insignificant progress.

Hundreds of millions of dollars in new assessment revenues are simply waiting to be extracted from these six development zones. What is needed is just a new narrative and the ability of seeing the forest and the trees.

Mahesh P. Butani

Comment edited by Mahesh_P_Butani on 2011-09-11 20:25:42

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By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted September 12, 2011 at 00:52:35

Before we go blaming all the problems of amalgamation on the people who voted for Harris, let's keep in mind that votes were held on amalgamation, and it was defeated by enormous margins. There never was any public drive for it, urban or suburban, just the Harris government. Blaming voters because a government chose to dramatically curtail the influence of voters seems to me a bit misanthropic.

Amalgamation was, is, and will continue to be massively unpopular. Everyone tries to ignore it, but it's pretty clear that the elephant hasn't gone away.

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By mystoneycreek (registered) - website | Posted September 12, 2011 at 06:29:46 in reply to Comment 69401

Amalgamation was, is, and will continue to be massively unpopular. Everyone tries to ignore it, but it's pretty clear that the elephant hasn't gone away.

You're right. It hasn't.

And what's infuriated me has been the stock response to bringing it up: 'Oh, that would be too expensive!'

Um... Let's talk actual figures, shall we? Until then, please don't insult all of us...and be patronizing in the process...but patting us on the head and issuing this reply.

As I've said here and elsewhere, those who choose to ignore this 'elephant' need to understand what the construct puts into play. And it's not just about dollars and (lack of common-) cents. It's about sense of place, it's about identity, it's about context...and it's about feeling heard.

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By Cityjoe (anonymous) | Posted September 12, 2011 at 03:35:38

Very well written article Ryan!

Anger over amalgamation colours the result of all elections here & probably will for a long time. (We shall see what happens this time around.)

It also has a detrimental effect on governments at all levels. We elect the same people, for no other reason than amalgamation anger. We gain nothing from doing that. Sure winners, sure losers, & sure things don't generate interest.

It has served to divide & conquer the GHA, as well as simply downloading services. While citizens bickered & distrusted each other, a lot of wool got pulled over a lot of eyes. Sadly many don't seem to realize that. They only think that their area Won or Lost.

It seems whenever City Hall wants to enact something inequitable, they use terms like, "Fair, & equitable across the GHA". That way, they can compare rural Flamborough to Barton St E., & hide behind "equality" to pass something either silly or just wrong headed. Who can argue with "Fairness & Equality"?
Of course the real inequalities go unaddressed.

I doubt that the City of Hamilton would ever bring back City Controllers unless they could be 'controlled'.

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By Mahesh_P_Butani (registered) - website | Posted September 12, 2011 at 10:06:52

"...divides that exist and have existed since amalgamation..." ~ Mr. Meister

“Cease to lament for that thou canst not help; and study help for that which thou lamentest” ~ Bill S.

History of large human settlements are replete with mergers & amalgamations - cities thus evolve and grow. Settlements usually associated with frozen time are called Hamlets. That is not to say one is better than the other, it is just the way of growth.

Denmark: In 1970, mergers brought the number of municipalities of Denmark from 1,098 to 277. In 2007, the (by then) 270 municipalities were consolidated into 98 municipalities, most of them results of mergers.

Finland: An ongoing series of mergers has reduced the number of municipalities of Finland from 432 in 2006 to 336 in 2011

Germany: Several states of West Germany carried out municipal merger programmes in the 1960s and 1970s.

"Life can only be understood backwards, but it must be lived forwards." ~ Soren Kierkegaard

Comment edited by Mahesh_P_Butani on 2011-09-12 10:09:32

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By Another Capitalist (anonymous) | Posted September 12, 2011 at 10:51:46

I read the comments here with great interest.

If you want to de-Amalgamate, then we go all the way.

I never grew up in Stoney Creek, I grew in Saltfleet. Saltfleet was bigger than Stoney Creek in population at the time and there was a huge uproar. One Stoney Creek councillor, at the time, was quoted as saying "you've been taken over, get over it". This councillor was one of the last councillors in Stoney Creek and was screaming bloody murder in 2000.

I was also at the meeting to discuss a merger with Glanbrook and Stoney Creek. It went very well until the people from Stoney Creek stated that the new town would be called Stoney Creek. It ended right there.

This is about power and ego and nothing more.

And by the way, we didn't amalgamate in 2000, it started in the early 1970's with regional government. When funds from municipalities are pooled it's just a matter time before it becomes one.

Let's move on.

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By mystoneycreek (registered) - website | Posted September 12, 2011 at 13:57:21 in reply to Comment 69428

When funds from municipalities are pooled it's just a matter time before it becomes one.

I don't agree. At all. (And I grew up and spent most of my formative adult years in Stoney Creek, Saltfleet and Hamilton). Strategic alliances are absolutely, positively possible...while allowing all entities to retain much of what made them what they are. It all depends on what will is being exerted over the long-run.

I'd be curious to examine another time-line, one on which amalgamation didn't happen. (I'm not sure who on this site is capable of rendering this in an unbiased way. Yes, I'm aware that speculation is almost always 'biased'...)

Let's move on.

Honestly? This sounds like so many males in dysfunctional relationships: don't want to be bothered with the actual work associated with sorting things out, generating understanding, making things better...they just want to...well, you know, 'Move on.'

As we all know, this approach rarely ends well.

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By Fred Street (anonymous) | Posted September 12, 2011 at 12:29:35

The Hamilton Civic League meets on Mon Sept 26 from 7-9pm at the offices of Volunteer Hamilton (267 King St. E., Hamilton). Visit www.WeVote.ca to learn more.

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By Another Capitalist (anonymous) | Posted September 13, 2011 at 10:33:55

Honestly? This sounds like so many males in dysfunctional relationships: don't want to be bothered with the actual work associated with sorting things out, generating understanding, making things better...they just want to...well, you know, 'Move on

Wow, what a sexist comment.

It's been over a decade, some argue 4 decades. If many of these de-amalgamationists would put the same effort into making Hamilton a better place we would be much better off.

It's time to move away from the arguments/problems of the past. It's time to move forward!

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By mystoneycreek (registered) - website | Posted September 13, 2011 at 16:47:49 in reply to Comment 69527

Wow, what a sexist comment.

I'm a male...I stand by it.

It's been over a decade, some argue 4 decades. If many of these de-amalgamationists would put the same effort into making Hamilton a better place we would be much better off.

How do you know they're not, praytell...? (And since when is asking questions not a valid and reasonable gesture?)

It's time to move away from the arguments/problems of the past. It's time to move forward!

Except that if you don't truly understand what's happened, you're pretty much doomed to stay there. (Hence my 'sexist' observation.)

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By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted September 13, 2011 at 11:01:51 in reply to Comment 69527

We moved on. We've been constantly, jaw-clenchingly moving on for a decade now, trying to drown out the rabble. And yet, here we are a decade later, discussing it.

Where is forward?

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By Brandon (registered) | Posted September 13, 2011 at 14:12:11

Perhaps if we knew what the benefits of amalgamation were an accommodation could be reached.

A friend of mine who works for the city told me years ago that there were huge savings in job duplication. for many jobs, one person could do for the amalgamated city what one person in each former city had to do. How much was saved?

I don't know any specifics, but rather than everyone focusing on how upset they are about losing their individual identity it'd be nice to have hard numbers as to the benefits, if any, that were accrued.

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By mystoneycreek (registered) - website | Posted September 14, 2011 at 06:36:41 in reply to Comment 69553

Perhaps if we knew what the benefits of amalgamation were an accommodation could be reached.

A friend of mine who works for the city told me years ago that there were huge savings in job duplication. for many jobs, one person could do for the amalgamated city what one person in each former city had to do. How much was saved?

I don't know any specifics, but rather than everyone focusing on how upset they are about losing their individual identity it'd be nice to have hard numbers as to the benefits, if any, that were accrued.

I agree...within the context of savings.

Because 'quality of Life' isn't just about efficiency. And under the best of circumstances, it's hard to balance disparate priorities. (For example, a group of towns or boroughs that decide to amalgamate and become a city.) But that's not what we have here, and if you're honest, you'll be able to see that in certain ways, the process was a life-preserver for Hamilton, not the other way around. So even if you could prove that things are being done 'efficiently', that there are savings...that's great for Hamilton, always a good thing...but at what price to the gun-held-to-the-head other parties at the altar?

Secondly, I have to bring up the notion of bloat at City Hall. So in a way, it might very well be a case of 'We've lost weight! We're down from 467 pounds to 435! Woohoo!'.

Still morbidly obese, yes?

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By Brandon (registered) | Posted September 14, 2011 at 09:04:17 in reply to Comment 69586

Please keep in mind that I don't have a dog in this fight. I don't have any particular sentimental attachment to any individual city or town.

That being said it may have a saver for Hamilton, but it might have been one for the smaller towns as well. If the smaller towns are paying for services that can be provided for significantly less by the city then they save as well.

As far as bloat, keep in mind that Ford promised to eliminate the gravy train that ran through city hall, that he'd be able to provide huge cuts with no loss of services. Yet now that he's there.... Nowhere near the "gravy" that he claimed there was and service cuts are the only way to achieve the savings he's demanding.

I don't have any answers, I'm just trying to refocus the issue away from what everyone has lost to what possible gains there were.

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By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted September 14, 2011 at 10:44:36

I read a study a while ago which claimed that once restructuring costs were taken into account, there weren't really any cost savings. I'm not having any luck on google this morning, but if anyone can find some breakdowns (one way or the other), it would be nice to get an actual look at them.

I seem to recall something called the "law of increasing opportunity cost" from my days in economic class. It refers to the way costs tend to rise as you impose larger institutional changes at a faster pace. Might not be kind to attempts at restructuring multiple entire cities at once...

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By highwater (registered) | Posted September 14, 2011 at 11:10:15 in reply to Comment 69596

And don't forget that the main reason this was done was so the province would have larger entities on which to download their responsibilities. It's hard to imagine that any cost savings would have been significant enough to cover all the additional burdens placed on cities.

Perhaps if we knew what the benefits of amalgamation were an accommodation could be reached.

The benefits were only ever intended to accrue to the province. And for the Tories, handing political control of cities over to their suburbs was a huge bonus.

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By Mahesh_P_Butani (registered) - website | Posted September 14, 2011 at 18:02:13

All right Brandon, for the moment let’s assume that I am an ass, since you say it with so much conviction; and that I am also just “...interested in looking smarter than everyone...”.

Since you ask me to figure this out all on my own, first I have to find the questions you’ve asked – so lets go back and try to find them.

I hope you think this is a fair approach?

Excerpts from: http://www.raisethehammer.org comment: 69337 thru 69611 By Brandon & otr.

  1. Unlike yourself, who is an expert on both city building and healthy public discourse?

  2. As far as healthy public discourse, anyone is welcome to post an article here. In fact, your replies are often verbose enough to in fact be a brand new posting.

  3. This demonstrates complete cluelessness as to the nature of politcs in the world. Watch Fox News for an hour and you'll see examples of this

  4. Oh, the irony.

  5. Perhaps you're enough of an expert to know that they are in fact right in this case? After all, it'll never work in Hamilton, right?

  6. Once again, the irony...

  7. You've missed the point. If even Lloyd Ferguson, whose ward interests are not directly served at all, can see the light on LRT then anything is possible.

  8. I'm impressed at the brevity of your response but not at your lack of engagement. More importantly, where do you see anger? There was definitely sarcasm, but I'm actually trying to engage you to find out specifics on details upon which you wax loquacious but don't seem to provide much depth.

  9. So, my challenge to you is to respond to those points where I've questioned you without delving into another orgy of thesaural self-gratification.

  10. I'm not sure what you want rephrased or why you want it rephrased when it's stated right there.

  11. Let me try and simplify it for you though: What policies supported here are economically untenable and mind-dumbing?

  12. Do you seriously believe that the questioning of the policies of the mayor are unique to this group? That no other politician suffers such "abuse"? More importantly, what specific examples of this do you have?

  13. What makes the views on LRT untenable?

  14. And please keep in mind that I'm one of the uninitiated readers who was needlessly swayed to mob frenzy, so let's try and keep it simple for me, eh?

  15. I see a lot of words, but not a lot of content.

  16. Regarding the design foresight of this website, switch to a flat view and the problem is solved. The real problem is in the medium as websites don't handle this well, you need a news reader to give the proper context. Ryan has made great efforts to get around this, but just because a car doesn't float doesn't mean it's a bad car or that it was a lack of foresight that made it so.

  17. If there is a global slowdown, then building a better public transit system only makes sense.

  18. How is this a poorly designed LRT system? How would you improve it if it is so poorly designed? Do you think the poorness of the design is due to bad design or is it due to bad compromises?

  19. Regardless of whether or not we should abuse our politicians you didn't suggest that we shouldn't. You simply bemoaned the fact that not even a third world politician would ever suffer such abuse, which is just plain wrong.

  20. I give up.

  21. Spare me the condescension. I have yet to get angry with you or to even insult you, I'm just trying to get some specifics out of you. Are you so thin-skinned that you take any questioning of your position as anger?

  22. I've asked some very specific questions and you've provided a tremendous amount of words with no real answers,

  23. You asked me to restate the questions so I did, even though they were right there waiting for your response.

  24. I'm not the one failing to clarify my position.

  25. It's staring to look like Mahesh and mystoneycreek want to run raisethehammer.org again. This condition seems to raise it's head every 6 months or so. It will pass eventually, however tedious the present may be.

  26. Mahesh you are hilarious. You accuse people of being angry but it's your comments that drip with angry sarcasm and holier-than-thou pomposity.

  27. You ask people to be clear but it's your comments that are a giant muddle of long winded sentences that no one can make any sense of. You ask people to "engage meaningfully" and when someone tries to, you just play silly games.

  28. Thanks, I thought it was just me.

  29. My apologies for the "misquote", yet when you engage in hyperbole people look for the meaning behind what you're trying to say.

  30. It also doesn't change the fact that you have yet to answer any of the specific questions that I have given you.

  31. maybe you're just in love with your own prose.

  32. the end result is that you come across as someone who loves to pontificate and wants to be seen as a font of unquestionable wisdom, yet you're short on details.

  33. I'll rehash the specific questions that you've dodged so far:

  34. What policies supported here are economically untenable and mind-dumbing?

  35. What makes the views on LRT untenable?

  36. And now this:

  37. I'm glad you can forgive me as I'm a simple soul, it's very kind of you from your perch of wisdom to be that generous.

  38. Now please explain to me how an excellent public transit system harms the economic future of our city?

  39. I await the dispensation of your wisdom with bated breath.

  40. Or was that too angry?

  41. ...you're truly an ass, you know that?

  42. What started this whole process was me trying to engage you and get some clarification on your comments.

  43. Now, with your latest round of crap, I'm done. You can't honestly complain about no one engaging you when you've avoided every effort to do so.

  44. You can take your condescension, your little debating rules and your verbosity and have fun making yourself feel superior to everyone around you.

  45. I'll be ignoring you from here on out.

  46. your only responses have been to take on a holier than though approach (which you carry on here I might add) as if I'm not worthy of answers.

  47. As far as "quickly reducing myself to namecalling", it wasn't quickly, it was after several attempts to get more information from you and your only response was to either tell me to restate or to comment that I don't read well.

  48. Based on that, I stand by my assessment that you're an ass.

  49. And no, I'm not going to go back and rewrite them for you. You'll have to figure out to do that on your own. Ball's in your court.

Well… I can now clearly see, how difficult a task I had asked of you in rephrasing your original query.

For when even I cannot find your core question/s in the above partial extract – how could I have ever expected you to find them in your voluminous body of comments.

So, Brandon, I concede – my apologies, you were right, I am an ass, indeed.

While, I do find that point nos: 11. What policies supported here are economically untenable and mind-dumbing? 13. What makes the views on LRT untenable? are very well phrased by you, -- unfortunately, I am unable to answer both these - because in No:11, you don't clarify as to 'what policies' and 'supported where' or by whom?... the city's? the LRT lobbyists? or your? And in No: 13, I simply cannot figure out as to whose views you are referring to as 'untenable'? the city's? the LRT lobbyists? your? or mine?

I hope you are able to clarify this soon, so: "you can begin to "engage me and get some clarification on my comments".

Comment edited by Mahesh_P_Butani on 2011-09-14 18:11:34

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By Brandon (registered) | Posted September 14, 2011 at 18:54:09 in reply to Comment 69634

While, I do find that point nos: 11. What policies supported here are economically untenable and mind-dumbing? 13. What makes the views on LRT untenable? are very well phrased by you, -- unfortunately, I am unable to answer both these - because in No:11, you don't clarify as to 'what policies' and 'supported where' or by whom?... the city's? the LRT lobbyists? or your? And in No: 13, I simply cannot figure out as to whose views you are referring to as 'untenable'? the city's? the LRT lobbyists? your? or mine?

When looked at without context, you're right, they're hard to find. However, when you look at the fact that I was specifically referencing things that you had said, they make a little more sense. Here they are below, in context.

And we'll just ignore your hyperbolic response to my hyperbole based on your hyperbolic comments regarding the nature of criticism that Bob Bratina suffers.

That the lobbyists here, much like Fred for years, frequently used selective academic or professional references to prop up the economically untenable and mind-dumbing public discourse on city building -(which needlessly swayed uninitiated readers to mob frenzy), is a testimony to their lack of in-dept understanding of urbanism and city building; and their utter failure to understand as to what constitutes a healthy public discourse in our complex times.

You are the one that referred to "untenable and mind-dumbing public discourse". What policies supported here support this claim?

Ignorance - from utter lack of professional knowledge of what they support and speak, and their reluctance to engage with those with differing opinions, who would know better. The result is that those very people who pilloried Clr. Lloyd Ferguson just a year ago with the most grotesque posters and vile comments, are now most willing to have his baby upon merely hearing that he supports their untenable views on LRT in our economic times. Such is the depth of character of this legacy.

You talked about untenable views on LRT. What specific views and what makes them untenable?

Comment edited by Brandon on 2011-09-14 18:54:55

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By Fred Street (anonymous) | Posted September 15, 2011 at 09:26:11

"Finance head Rob Rossini said councillors will have to head off at least $32 million in “budget pressures” to meet their goal in 2012. Those pressures represent a residential tax increase of almost 5 per cent. “Compensation drivers are huge,” Rossini said, noting about $11 million of the budget pressures are attributed to salaries and related costs." That number also includes "unknown costs associated with battling the Emerald Ash Borer and operating the Lister Block."

http://www.thespec.com/news/local/article/594708--buckle-up-it-could-be-a-rough-ride

My calculator doesn't have a question mark on it, but I'll take their word on the math.

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