Hamilton politics gets under the skin. Raise the Hammer news stories from the depths of hell haunt Ben's dreams.
By Ben Bull
Published April 21, 2006
Now that I am safely tucked away on the other side of the lake, I have been having the weirdest dreams about life back in the Hammer.
The first few nights were harmless enough. I dreamt I was reading Raise The Hammer - an article from Ryan about progressive politicians, Trevor's piece about the latest clean air award for Hamilton, and an amazing photo tour by Jason Leach, featuring the Red Hill Creek in full flow ? and not a road in sight. It was good stuff.
But then I woke up and checked my email: one from Jason about a pedestrian charter - for cars, and another bemoaning the recent spate of café closings in and around the downtown. What the hell was going on?
I tried not to think about my old town for the rest of the day. After all, I was in Toronto now, a city with its own set of problems. As I settled down to sleep that night I reassured myself that Hamilton would be just fine. Things might get a little crazy sometimes but really, how bad could things get?
As I drifted off I found myself browsing RTH once again...
* * *
Hamilton City Council has struck a deal to resurrect the historic Lister Block with the surprise announcement of a state of the art slaughterhouse facility coming to the core.
"This is great news for our city," declared Hamilton Mayor Larry Di Losani. "It will put Hamilton on the map."
City Council, in a last minute in camera Committee of the Whole meeting last night, voted 8-7 to support the proposal by BSE Industries to convert the historic Lister Block into a Beef and Poultry processing plant.
Opponents of the plan, most notably councillors Tim Jockson and Bull Killy, feared for the impact the new facility would have on the beleagured core.
"Hamilton's downtown is at the very heart of our recovery," said Mountain Councillor Killy. "This kind of industry has no place in a downtown."
Councillor Jockson agreed, saying, "You could get four drive-throughs on that same piece of land. Or another mall. It's sheer madness."
BSE's plan, which includes preservation of the historic façade and conversion of the indoor shops to chicken coops, has been hailed as "revolutionary" by Hamilton's activist community.
"We are so very happy about this," enthused Troublemakers at Town Hall spokesperson Dan McBean. "We've been pushing for a chicken coop/slaughterhouse combination facility at that location for some time now. This is sure to bring people downtown."
The proposal is not without its controversy. Animal rights actrivists Bridget Bardot, Paul McCartney, and his wife, comedian Heather Mills, apparently contacted City Officials by phone last night, to voice their displeasure.
"They told us to 'Save the Seals'," explained City Manager Glenn Lychek-Robertson-Peace. "I think they got a bit confused."
The Hamilton Spectator attempted to reach officials at BSE Industries headquarters in Narobi, but without success.
* * *
I woke up with a loud clucking in my head ? it was Molly with her Chicken Little toy, "Chickey Lickey wants a drink." Ten minutes later I was fast asleep again...
* * *
Almost 50 years to the day after Hamilton's downtown streets were switched to one-way, the city's Public Works Department has announced it wants all downtown streets to go three-way by the end of 2006.
"We have given this a great deal of thought," explained Public Works Director Scott Stevens. "And also, we didn't know what else to do."
The city's one-way system has been both pilloried and praised by local residents and tourists alike. Proponents include Troublemakers at Town Hall spokesperson Ron McShane, who has labeled Hamilton's downtown streets "death traps," saying they are "built for speed."
Councillor Mave Ditchell disagrees, however, insisting he will vote against the motion when it comes before Council next week. "Hamilton's one-way streets help me get where I want to go in a hurry," he explained, "which is usually anywhere but the downtown."
Three-way streets are a relatively new phenomenon in North America, although they have been in place for many years overseas.
"It's a decentralized, chthonic, autonomous conglomeration of mutually exclusive modal activities," explained Professor Rick Shaw, McMaster University's emeritus professor of backward street planning.
"Cars, bikes, pedestrians, in-line skaters, scooters, pogo sticks, mules, it's pretty much a free-for-all. All kinds of people will die."
"We've thought of everything," countered Stevens. "Mules will have their own lanes."
Downtown residents and business owners appeared unimpressed by the announcement.
"Here we go again," complained Director of the Hamilton's Downtown BIA, Mary Hocus-Pocus. "Haven't we suffered enough?"
Hocus-Pocus's sentiments were echoed by Chamber of Commerce Director John Dilbert who asked, "What's a three-way? It sounds like fun."
Work to revert the downtown streets is slated to begin mid-September of 2006, stop for a few weeks for no reason, then be suspended indefinitely for an environmental assessment.
* * *
Crazy dreams. As I trudged my way to work I thought about maybe not checking my emails today. But what if there was something important? Something about another awful collision on Main St.? Oh dear.
That night I slept fitfully...
* * *
Hamilton's little-known Ministry of Words announced today that all of Hamilton's civic projects must have the suffix "opolis" appended to them.
At a downtown Press Conference, Committee Chair Barry Whitehead explained, "The reasons for this are obvious. It makes the projects sound much more impressive, and that's good for Hamilton's image."
After the success of the highly-touted Aerotropolis proposal, which promises an astounding 52,000 jobs for the region, Councillors were tasked with finding innovative ways to sell other poorly thought-out projects to the Hamilton public.
"The Aerotropolis proposal was sketched out on the back of a napkin", explained Planning and Development Manager Joe Poppadoma. "If you look closely at the slide presentation, you can still see the stain from Anthony DeTurkstra's beer mug."
"Aerotropolis would never have gotten off the ground if we hadn't put the word 'opolis' in the title," agreed City Manager Greg Robertson-Lychek-Peace. "It's all in the marketing."
The new wording is likely to cause confusion among City staff, at least in the short-term. The Red Hill Expressway is slated to be renamed, "Redhillopolis" and the new Lister Block development, "Listopolis."
When asked if the current Aerotropolis project would have to be renamed "Aerotropolisopolis", Councillor Whitehead scratched his head and said he had to go to the bathroom.
Future projects are shaping up the same way.
"Just after 4:20 yesterday afternoon, I came up with a plan for an underwater theme park in the harbour," explained Poppadoma, of his latest master plan. "It will bring 100,000 jobs and 250 million dollars in new investment to the City."
When asked how he had arrived at these figures Mr Poppadoma simply tapped his head and said, "It's all up here mate. And on the back of this beer mat. I'm going to call it "Poppadomopolis'."
At this point your humble reporter threw down his notepad and walked out.
* * *
I woke with a start, and looked around the room. Just another dream. Aerotropolisopolis? Really?! Such a caper could never happen in Hamilton, erm, right?
Ryan and Jason and Trev, and all the other responsible Hamilton citizens I'd left behind, had got it covered. Yes? Of course. I'd heard that Raise The Hammer's next issue was all about Hamilton's future as an Electric City. Everything was going to be fine. Go back to sleep...
* * *
Hamilton is to become a fully functioning electric city, thanks to a new initiative approved by Hamilton City Council late last night. In an 8-7 vote, Councillors elected to reverse the trend towards oil dependent power supplies, and move towards more energy efficient methods.
"It's high time Hamilton became an electric city" declared Mayor Larry Di Losani "2006 will hereby be known as the year the lights went on in Hamilton!"
Not all Councillors, however, were enthused by the decision.
"I thought we already had electricity in Hamilton," said Mountain Councillor Tim Jockson. "To be honest, I was quite shocked to learn otherwise."
Ward 6 Councillor Tim Cully agreed, saying, "I assume this is something to do with the downtown? I always wondered why it looked so dark down there."
Downtown business owners were equally skeptical.
"Our business will be ruined," complained Candles 'R' Us owner Barry Wick. "I guess it's time to get into bulbs."
The decision to re-jig the grid was met with jubilation by Hamilton's environmental community.
"This is great news!" gushed Environment Hamilton Director Dan McBean, from his offices at Ottawa and Barton. "2006 will hereby be known as the year the lights went on in Hamilton!"
"Hey, I said that!" said Mayor Larry Di Losani, who had just walked into the room. "You're nicking my lines!"
At this point Messrs Di Losani and McBean began pulling each other's hair and wrestling around on the floor like girls. Raise The Hammer turned out the lights, and left.
* * *
At the breakfast table I scanned the daily news. Record Hydro bills expected, power blackouts coming soon, more stuff about the new power plant coming to the Toronto waterfront. I pinched myself: I was wide awake.
A quick check of the clock confirmed I had a whole half hour before work. I lay back on the sofa, closed my eyes and went back to sleep...
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