Special Report: Creative City

Looking at the Whole Board: Moving Hamilton Beyond Wedge Politics

Successful cities are transformative but they need investments of all kinds, including our time, our energy and our best efforts. But most of all, they need us to believe in the possible.

By Maureen Wilson
Published April 28, 2017

I: Look at the Whole Board

Politics in Hamilton is broken. Until it is fixed, our city will never be as successful as it could be.

Nowhere has this chronic condition been more evident than in the high stakes political poker game of the City's Light Rail Transit (LRT) plan. LRT did not create this dysfunctionalism. It just revealed it.

LRT very nearly fell victim to Hamilton's cultural wars. These wars have been simmering for some time: urban versus suburban, Mountain versus Lower City, liberal versus neoliberal, older versus younger, hope versus insecurity. Most of all, these divisions are rooted in class.

LRT has become the latest weapon in the game of wedge politics. Wedge politics occurs when a certain politician seeks to exploit division to fuel their own political ambition. A wedge is used to attract and then lock in a segment of voter support not previously enjoyed, or to solidify and then expand an existing base of support.

Typically, this is done by focusing on feelings of disaffection or resentment. This game is presently at play because there is both a city election next year and, more importantly for some ambitious City Councillors, a provincial election with a sitting government that appears more than vulnerable.

We have seen this wedge strategy deployed during the ongoing debate about bike lanes. At first, the few people riding their bikes around town and calling for safer and more accessible routes were mostly ignored, often depicted as something akin to hippies. But, as their numbers grew, along with their voices, a political opportunity was born in the form of a wedge.

Nearly lost altogether was the opportunity for politicians to bring all sides of the issue together in an effort to share information, build understanding and find common ground. In wedge politics and cultural wars, everything is positioned as a zero-sum game and the goal is to keep the various sides apart so that they do not come to identify and understand their mutual shared interests.

The politically ambitious have been seeking to fuel simmering resentments that are holding us back as a city. In Hamilton, this takes the form of resentment about downtown and the people who live there, either by choice or out of necessity. Downtown was the place you moved from, not to.

The rhetoric cuts both ways: either downtown is abysmal and can't be helped so don't throw good money after bad; or, why does Hamilton's downtown get all the money and the rest of us get none?

For others, a genuine unease about their own economic security is causing them to wonder about any kind of big public investment, and where you stand on transit reveals where you stand on principles of equity.

On the other side, there are sentiments that the suburbs are less sophisticated, less cultured and more insular. And the people living in these neighbourhoods often feel that they are being looked down upon by those in the lower city.

Plus, there's a lot of misinformation about the LRT project. Without a doubt, it is one of the largest and most complex investments in Hamilton's public infrastructure - ever since our city became the first municipality in North America to build a sewage treatment plant in 1896.

Perhaps the ease with which the debate has been hijacked and forced into the realm of the absurd and irrational is the price we pay for failing to regularly invest in the public good - and with it, the practice of having to knit together a coalition of the willing to get stuff done.

Successful city building takes on the traits of a seasoned and skilled chess player. Successful cities see the whole board. Successful leaders create the conditions for this to happen. In this kind of game, there is no room for wedges.

II: A Citizen's Right to Access Information

I came into motherhood later than most. It's been the single greatest privilege of my life and stems from that moment when I was brave enough and smart enough to say yes to the guy I fell for at first sight and sound.

My kids have taught me more stuff than I'll ever teach them. Try explaining the most horrible historic event or existing condition to a child and you'll know what I mean. That first time you discuss Hitler and the holocaust, Canada's residential school system, lynching, apartheid and on and on.

The horror in their eyes and their inability to wrap their head around such incivility and inhumanity always causes you to think as the adult : "What were they thinking? How and why could that happen?"

So goes the burden and responsibility of being a parent. All of these big and even small moments offer the gift of re-education.

On a recent bike ride with my ten-year-old, I was told many tales including the story of a Greek mathematician who had invented something akin to the steam engine. Apparently, the blueprints went unrealized. Ahead of his time. Imagine, my son said, what might have happened if they tried and gave the guy a chance.

This led to a conversation about those all-too-frequent moments in history when opportunity is lost and its impact will forever be unknown. Most nights my son and I read a book about the history of the world. Too many nights we read about how leaders set out to destroy knowledge with the burning of books, poetry and writings of all kinds.

On our bike ride, my ten-year-old wondered what those ancient writings could have said and where we might be now if only they weren't destroyed.

I thought about all of this as I huffed and puffed my way home and how, sadly, the impulse behind some things never change. I thought about this whole Trumpian fake-news thing and how this compares to the impulse of those ancient regimes to control and even destroy information in an effort to maintain power and control thought.

And then I thought about our own Hamilton City Councillors and how they define and fulfill their public duties.

It seems that one of the most informed people in our city on the subject of LRT has been blocked from the twitter feed of a certain Councillor from Waterdown, Ontario. Now, this citizen has to be one of the most civil, engaged and informed persons I know. He operates on the basis of facts. Recently, he skillfully responded, point by point, to the untruths and errors in the Waterdown Councillor's about-face on LRT as printed in a local Metroland paper.

She responded by blocking him from her public twitter feed, which she uses frequently in her communications with her constituents. Her constituents are now denied access to this information. They are being denied access to facts.

As a public servant, you define your role as either a gatekeeper or a citizen builder. A gatekeeper seeks to control the type of information distributed to constituents such that it supports that servant's political ambitions. This is a pretty easy gig.

A public servant who sees their role as a citizen builder works to involve their constituents in all parts of the democratic process - giving opportunity to learn and understand the complexity of need, the importance of vision and balance, and when to recognize opportunity.

Central to building is respecting the right of all citizens to access information on all sides of a debate and then make an informed decision with this information in hand. This is a much harder gig. It's time-consuming, often frustrating, and is an investment whose dividends are not always immediate.

For too long, we have asked too little of citizens and we have let the easy gig pass for leadership because we don't want to put the time into building. On some fronts, we've stopped noticing the difference.

And one day, our kids will wonder about opportunities lost and what would have happened if we had only tried out that blueprint.

III: Bed Bugs Can Happen to Anyone

"Bed bugs can happen to anyone." That's the message that flashes across the electronic screen outside of Hamilton City Hall for drivers to read as they head east on Main Street.

What's implicit in this public health message? What on earth does this have to do with this essay on LRT, public transit and the need to look at the whole board when making and assessing public policy?

In short, the story of bed bugs speaks to the bias that underpins our politics, our policies and where locally-elected officials decide to spend public money.

Until recently, it was believed that bed bugs did not constitute a public health problem because that problem was contained within a certain segment of our city - the urban poor. Once this risk extended "to anyone" - meaning, other than the urban poor - then it became a concern to everyone.

This kind of assumption, or bias, underpins all forms of public policy and affects our approach to how we design and build our city. It informs where and how we build our residential subdivisions and who gets to live there, the design of our streets and our public spaces, and our expectations about safety, public cleanliness and even the state of our public schools.

Unfortunately, more than any other municipal service, public transit is the most bias-ridden political hot potato.

Why? Because the urban poor use transit. Add to that list immigrants, single mothers with strollers, and angry-looking teenagers with tattoos and piercings. Public transit has the additional cultural burden of being supported by those downtown-living, latte-drinking hipsters and liberal elites.

There's an additional, relatively new phenomenon, that overlays this class fuelled mix: populism. The rise of populism has meant that even those citizens who stand to benefit most directly and immediately from an investment in high order transit do not support the project because a) it is coming from City Hall and therefore it must be bad and b) it has the support of the "elites" and therefore it cannot be trusted.

These are the unspoken sentiments that underlie much of the opposition to LRT and serves as the perch upon which certain City Councillors seek to stand.

This inherent class bias and growing wave of populism, eagerly fanned to the delight of some Councillors, gives reason to the complete lack of reason and absence of coherency on the part of those City Councillors still opposing the investment of $1 billion into Hamilton's future.

It explains the otherwise inexplicable: that our city's largest employers, anchor institutes, transportation experts, health care providers, educators and city builders seem not to have been able to affect the debate at all.

It has been shoved into the realm of the irrational by sheer political force and the blatant willingness on the part of City Councillors to ignore all evidence - despite their own repeated calls for more evidence.

The problem with all of this, of course, is the precedent it sets for future debate and city building initiatives. Smart cities, successful cities, responsive and responsible cities will need to build things if they want to sustain the level of prosperity they presently enjoy or, like Hamilton, regain prosperity lost.

By undermining evidence-based policy advise, by engaging in class-based politicking, by ignoring their duty to genuinely inform and engage, by dismissing a coalition of citizens wanting to be active, Hamilton's future prosperity is far from assured.

By playing politics with the province, this city has surely jeopardized the willingness of any senior order of government to invest in Hamilton's future. Who in their right mind would?

And perhaps most importantly, the politically motivated intent to divide our body politic - pitting some parts of our city against others - has done untold damage to our local democracy, our local institutions and our sense of who we are and what we can be.

In the case of this week's LRT vote, reason and opportunity were finally - barely - able to prevail over irrational populism. But the damage to our political discourse and public engagement will not be undone by a single vote.

And to those who do such damage, this mother says, shame on you.

IV: The State of Our Civil Service

I recently attended the screening of I am Not Your Negro at the Westdale Theatre with my family. I have neither the talent nor intellect to describe its significance and its power. James Baldwin's observations about American life, American illusions and the treatment of black Americans is as important and relevant today as when his work was first released 50 years ago.

Baldwin spent a life trying to understand why white Americans have treated black Americans so badly, so unjustly, so violently, and with such inhumanity over the course of that nation's history. The answer is complex and complicated, but I think Baldwin concluded that the answer lay within the self-hate of white Americans, the illusion upon which their world was built and which was always changing and the fear that accompanied such change.

If you saw the movie and/or are familiar with Baldwin's writings, I would appreciate your insight.

There's something about experiencing this kind of film in a public cinema with other people. As you rise from your seat and make your way out into the lobby and onto the street, you know that others bore witness to your experience, and you to theirs. You are now forever accountable for your knowledge.

The late great basketball player and coach John Wooden said that the true test of a person's character is what they say and what they do when no one is watching. But, what about when people are watching?

What about when people bear witness to questionable character and do nothing? Does it tell us more about the person committing the infraction or the people who bore witness and sat in silence? Or both?

In Canada, our system of government derives from the Westminster (British) tradition. Within this tradition, the civil service is non-partisan. In other words, the make-up of the civil service does not change when there is a change in government. Our civil service functions on the basis of merit and they are there to provide evidence-based advice to elected officials, as opposed to political advice.

At the federal and provincial levels, governments receive this advice privately from top bureaucrats called Deputy Ministers. There is a Deputy Minister assigned to each department or ministry. The head of the Canadian civil service is called the Clerk of the Privy Council. The head of the Ontario civil service is the Secretary to the Cabinet.

Our local government model is generally based on this tradition, with one exception. The civil service at Hamilton City Hall must also offer their advice in public during committee and council meetings. The head of the civil service for the City of Hamilton is called the City Manager, and rather than deputy ministers there is a Senior Management Team. The SMT oversee various departments.

While imperfect, the value in this kind of tradition is that it provides for continuity in service and the accumulation of expert knowledge and professionalism over the course of political change. They are not supposed to temper their advice according to the political agendas and values of locally elected Councillors. They are to service those values with the best advice possible.

Donna Skelly, newly elected Hamilton City Councillor from Ward 7, is either unaware of this century-old civic model or is choosing to ignore it. Either way, it is a disturbing development and one that should concern us all and the future of city building in Hamilton.

On more than one occasion, Councillor Skelly has questioned the intent and integrity of Hamilton's civil service. She suggested that their motivations were political and their advice not based in fact but rooted in politics.

The accusation was met with silence by the City Manager, members of council and the Mayor. Councillor Skelly herself remained silent at a public meeting when an audience member and organizer claimed that both the Mayor and another member of the city's senior management team had compromised themselves on the LRT project.

When confronted, Councillor Skelly denied any duty in rejecting this kind of unfounded (and incorrect) recrimination. She stated that members of the public were allowed to say whatever they wanted, unchallenged, and that it was not her duty as a City Councillor to correct their mistakes nor advise them of the inappropriateness of their remarks. (Is this what we would expect from any member of a board, volunteer or corporate, at a shareholders' meeting?)

So what? Why does this matter to city building? Isn't this just inside-baseball stuff? I will set out why this development is both troubling and threatens progressive and responsive city building.

Accusing Hamilton's civil service of playing politics risks creating a civil service that is political. We only have to cast our gaze back to before amalgamation in 2001 to see how dangerous such dysfunctionalism can be to city building. A weak mayor, a weak city manager and a handful of Hamilton City Councillors who ruled by fear and reward tested the key principles of the Westminster model - merit and non-partisanship in our senior civil service.

And while this malignancy was not the cause of Hamilton's economic stagnation, it served to magnify Hamilton's woes and created a progressive policy vacuum and a risk adverse culture, not to mention a financial accounting system that could only be described as a mess. A prosperous city might be able to withstand this kind of culture for a short period of time but a economically stagnant city cannot.

By allowing the accusations of one or more City Councillors to go unchecked with the suggestion that staff are compromised and not offering their best professional counsel creates the slow drip that leads to the flood of dysfunctionalism. In Hamilton, we have been there and done that and the outcome is never ever good.

It will make it difficult for the city to attract and retain the best and the brightest of policy minds, it will instill a risk-averse culture when what you want is a hub of innovation, and it will limit the chance of good ideas getting to print and to the table for public debate and consideration. Eventually, the city and all citizens will pay the price.

At all times, and especially at a time of critical debate, we must safeguard our public institutions along with the rules and norms that guide these institutions in order to safeguard the public interest. This is particularly the case today with the rising tide of populism and the war on experts and activism.

When we bear witness, we become an accomplice to what we have seen and heard and we become accountable for how we respond. Or, in the case of too many, how we remain silent.

V: Neuroplasticity and City Building

I've spent too much time and energy over the past number of decades trying to figure out the city I love, especially when it can inflict such heartache. But even after these periods of deep frustration, Hamilton remains the object of my affection. It shall ever be thus.

How do you explain a city of such startling contrasts? A place that can inflict such highs and lows? A place with limited possibilities that time and time again limits its possibilities with self inflicted wounds born out of an absence of courage, character and vision on the part of its political class?

I have argued that to understand the dynamics of any policy, including LRT, you have to look at the whole chess board and what's at play and in play. I have attempted to identify some of the factors at play specific to LRT. In this last instalment, I would like to address one other.

Neuroplasticity.

Hold on. What does neuroplasticity have to do with LRT in Hamilton?

Neuroplasticity is all about how our brains work. Hamilton's own Dr. Jean Clinton tells us that scientists used to believe our genes played the most significant role in determining our behaviours. But really, it is our environment. Our brains are sculptured by experience. Our genes can be turned on or they can be silenced as they interact with what goes on around us.

Dr. Clinton gave a talk recently about understanding the adolescent brain but as I listened, I couldn't help but think about city building.

She recounted the story set out in the book The Brain That Changes Itself about an older man who suffered a debilitating stroke and lost most of his competencies. His son was a neuroscientist. The neuroscientist son began a process of trying to retrain and reconnect parts of the father's brain by starting everything over again.

He began by having his father crawl around the garden. Eventually, the father progressed to a slow walk with the help of the garden fence and other nearby supports. Gradually, the older man regained his ability to walk on his own. Ultimately, the stroke victim returned to his teaching position at the university. Later, when the father passed away, an autopsy revealed he had a hole in his brain.

Even before the autopsy, the son saw what was not yet visible. He believed that the front and the back of the brain could be reconnected, around the hole. "I see it when I believe it is possible" replaced "I'll believe it when I see it" and brain science was turned upside down.

"I see it when I believe it is possible" must be the mantra of city building. Believing in the possible and then making plans to realize these possibilities is what separates successful cities from all other places.

Implicit in neuroplasticity is hope. Neuroplasticity is teaching us that the brain is always changing and that at certain times in life, even a time of crisis, timely intervention can strengthen and even repair the brain.

Cities are like that too. Successful cities are transformative but they need investments of all kinds, including our time, our energy and our best efforts. But most of all, they need us to believe in the possible.

For the most part, supporters of LRT are hopeful without being naive. They see the possibilities this kind of transformative investment offers in strengthening and transforming Hamilton for more people. But change can bring fear. And at such time - especially at such times - we must lead with hope (supported by facts) rather than fear, uncertainty and doubt.

Knowledge + hope + courage = Successful city building.

Thanks for reading. Onward Hamilton. May it always be the object of our affections.

Maureen Wilson is a member of The Useful Knowledge Society of Hamilton.

20 Comments

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By ImprovingTomorrow (registered) | Posted April 28, 2017 at 11:22:10

Excellent piece. I may make myself a t-shirt that says "Knowledge + cope + courage = successful city building."

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By Borrelli (registered) | Posted April 28, 2017 at 12:01:13

Great piece--thanks for sharing, Maureen!

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By Dor (registered) | Posted April 28, 2017 at 17:21:28

Excellent piece, thoughtful. I'll take one of those t-shirts knowledge +cope+courage= successful city building

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By kevinlove (registered) | Posted April 28, 2017 at 17:26:18

Great piece, Maureen! I heartily endorse this diagnosis of a profoundly disturbing trend in Hamilton's politics.

One comment:

On more than one occasion, Councillor Skelly has questioned the intent and integrity of Hamilton's civil service.

Most unfortunately, Councillor Skelly is not the only councillor to do that. A certain type of councillor has perceived that City staff make a great target because they cannot fight back. This type of councillor can hurl any number of slurs, aspersions and outright lies at any member of City staff knowing that their victim has to just take it. This is the behaviour of a bully: to pick on someone who cannot fight back. The unfortunate reality is that this bullying behaviour pays off in terms of publicity. And as long as this behaviour is rewarded, then it is safe to predict that it will continue.

The solution is to make sure that this behaviour is NOT rewarded. This is one of the great services provided by Raise the Hammer. Those who can testify to the truth have a venue to speak up on behalf of City staff who have been falsely maligned and slandered.

If we are going to build a thriving and prosperous city, we need to have a culture of truth. We need to speak the truth to each other, and not tolerate falsehoods and slander.

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By Deleted User (anonymous) | Posted April 28, 2017 at 23:54:38

"Perhaps the ease with which the debate has been hijacked and forced into the realm of the absurd and irrational is the price we pay for failing to regularly invest in the public good"

Nice and condescending. What else can I expect from the cultural elites?

Hi Maureen. I *am* the urban poor. I don't have kids (plural) like you. Because how could I afford them? I bet you live in a house. I will never own one. I don't have a car or a licence. I ride the bus. I'm against the LRT.

I'm against having to pay two fares to travel to Stoney Creek when I used to pay one. I'm against having to wait for a second mode of travel when I could just sit on a warm bus. I'm against the 60% increase in traffic along Aberdeen. I'm against advocating for the developers downtown like Tyler Pearson and Darko Vranich. I'm against the gentrification that is being touted as "economic uplift" when I know only the rich will be uplifted; the poor will be left holding higher hydro bills (we sold a public entity for this) and higher rents. I'm against losing unionized HSR jobs to a private consortium. I'm against spending public dollars to enrich private interests like property holders who have already said they can't wait to increase rents and condo prices: http://www.thespec.com/news-story/7247562-what-s-in-it-for-me-digging-up-development-along-the-lrt-line/ Even they admit that the LRT has nothing to do with transit. I'm against removing bike lanes and increasing lanes for car traffic. I literally won't be able to ride my bike to Westdale anymore.

I don't appreciate being told by people like you that I'm being "absurd and irrational" and that I just don't "understand."

I understand. I understand everything. The LRT will only hurt me and my ability to get around this City. Please watch for me next time I'm walking 800 meters between stops in the rain or paying a bus fare so I can get my bicycle to Westdale. Watch for me when so many people are packed into the downtown that my landlord increases my rent because demand allows it and the elites like you who just want to consume more and more and more and want more shops, more restaurants, more everything and call it "intensification" have packed as many Torontonians into my little city as possible. Watch for those who lose their job at a little mom and pop because Tyler Pearson displaced it with a corporate business who can pay higher rent and the City can "increase their tax base." Why do we want to increase our tax base? So we can pay for more services for more people for more everything of course! More is always better. Ryan has shown me the way. It's always "more." More, more, more, more. Guys we really need more! There's not enough! We need more! More customers, more people, more dollars, more condos!

Thanks for taking so much of your valuable time to explain to backward people like me that the real path to happiness is condo towers and urban shopping and that urban density allows everyone to enjoy more consumption. It's wonderful! I'm sure the 60,000 on social assistance in Hamilton can't wait for the flood of new dollars you're promising everyone. Will you be signing the checks or will Tyler?

Hooray for LRT! Can't wait for Hamilton to be the new Mississauga. Ever been to Square One? It's the best! And so pedestrian and bike friendly! And now Streetsville, what was once a small, sustainable, community-owned town, is a curiosity, buried in an urban nightmare of concrete and fast movers. Check out Dundas sometime and see the town my grandmother immigrated to in the 50s. You won't be able to recognize it anymore. They've paved the Valley and people like you point to "progress." Progress. Progress. Thanks again Maureen for gracing us with your presence here and helping me get my head on straight!

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted May 01, 2017 at 05:44:52 in reply to Comment 121423

Thanks, JimC, you're right on cue to demonstrate precisely the absurd and irrational dysfunctionalism Maureen was writing about.

I'm against having to pay two fares to travel to Stoney Creek when I used to pay one.

Metrolinx has made it clear that fares will be integrated with HSR.

I'm against having to wait for a second mode of travel when I could just sit on a warm bus.

LRT will run between McMaster and Eastgate. I'm not sure where you're going but 14 km is a lot of complete trips, and most people who will have to transfer onto LRT already have to transfer onto the B-Line.

I'm against the 60% increase in traffic along Aberdeen.

That was a worst-case estimate, not a likely outcome. The same analysis concluded that overall traffic congestion gets worse without rapid transit.

I'm against advocating for the developers downtown like Tyler Pearson and Darko Vranich.

So you prefer advocating for the suburban developers who have been destroying the wilderness and farmland you claim to love?

Development is going to happen. The question is: will that development build the city up or out?

I'm against the gentrification that is being touted as "economic uplift" when I know only the rich will be uplifted

Stagnation is not an affordable housing policy. Without investment, our existing stock of housing continues to degenerate and units gradually become uninhabitable.

the poor will be left holding higher hydro bills (we sold a public entity for this) and higher rents.

Ontario hydro bills have been increasing in recent years because the government has invested billions of dollars in rebuilding our generation and transmission capacity after decades of underinvestment and artificially low prices. It is not at all clear that the partial sale of Hydro One will will have an impact on hydro rates in the future.

I'm against losing unionized HSR jobs to a private consortium.

Efforts are already underway among LRT supporters to try and ensure that the operators are unionized. Unlike you, project supporters are actively working to make it better.

I'm against spending public dollars to enrich private interests like property holders who have already said they can't wait to increase rents and condo prices

What they're saying is that they want to build more housing of various types and price points, as well as more commercial space along the LRT corridor.

Even they admit that the LRT has nothing to do with transit.

No one is literally saying LRT has nothing to do with transit. Land use and transportation are closely tied: the kind of public transporation infrastructure the cities build shapes the kind of land use that takes place.

If we focus on roads and highways, we get car-dependent, low-density sprawl and urban disinvestment (so much for the poor people you claim to care about).

If we focus on rapid transit, we get transit-oriented, higher-density mixed use development that provides a wider variety of living and working arrangements, including increasing accesibility to homes and jobs for people who can't - or would rather not - drive.

I'm against removing bike lanes

This is literally the 24th time you have made this ridiculous claim, and it's still bullshit. The City and Metrolinx have both confirmed that we will end up with a bike lane netowrk that is at least as good, and preferably better, than what we have now.

I literally won't be able to ride my bike to Westdale anymore.

Ugh, enough. Seriously, go find something better to do than continuously posting the same debunked, false claims over and over again.

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By bobby2 (registered) | Posted May 02, 2017 at 16:50:21 in reply to Comment 121443

Ryan, you never seem to fail being right on cue to demonize, allege troll, accuse Jim of being a total idiot because you choose to believe every promise of the great attributes of LRT without every questioning their reliability. You might educate yourself and broaden your current locked in views with the vast experience & professional journalism of Royson James of Toronto Star about how Toronto's experience shows the many benefits promised by binge spending on transit never materialize! He actually states many benefit claims by these professions are delusionary! But, don't let opposite opinions to your views & gullibility cloud your judgement that just maybe some of miracles of LRT you so vastly believe in, may be wrong? Ryan, I'm not saying you are totally wrong in your beliefs, just that you refuse to consider opposite views which may be both relevant & possible.

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By ryanplestid (registered) | Posted April 30, 2017 at 12:04:04 in reply to Comment 121423

Hey Jim,

I think all of your concerns are important and pressing. To start I will play devil's advocate.

The LRT could, and should, help to pull some of the urban poor out of poverty. A humming economy can help everyone provided it is harnessed properly. More shops, more cafes and more restaurants, all mean jobs that can be filled by people who currently live in Beasely, St Clair, Lansdowne or any other neighbourhood that borders the LRT. Of course this argument requires some kind of affordable housing strategy, and this is the harnessing bit I alluded to, and it is what is key, because unlike some I do not believe for an instant that the free market left to its own devices helps any poor people. As noted elsewhere in the comments, I think you should expect and integrated fare, but it is certainly an important issue and needs to be advocated for. Your concern about walking longer may be justified, but its important to note the bus system will be re-aligned and optimized to feed into the LRT. This should mean you wont be walking too much. Hopefully outside of rush hour you will be allowed to bring your bike on the LRT. Finally, the LRT will certainly increase demand for living downtown, but it will also give the city leverage as developers try and get as close to the line as possible. I will discuss why that leverage matters below. You ask why we need to grow out tax base, and the answer is simple: cities cost money. The fact that you have the quality of life you do (mobility due to transit, places to go to, roads to bike on) is because the city has a tax base. Without growing that tax base, dysfunction will set in.

Now that I am done arguing the other side, I want to emphasize that every point you made is important, and needs to be advocated for, but that does not mean turning down a one billion dollar investment in the city is a better alternative.

I encourage you to think deeply on this matter, and maybe even writing an article. People with your perspective are incredibly important in this discussion and city hall needs to hear your voice. Suppose the LRT goes ahead, what needs to be done to make the LRT equitable to the urban poor? What macro-goals need to be achieved? Affordable housing, and economic inclusivity come to mind for me, i.e. ensuring existing residents are given access to the economic benefits that will come with the LRT. That is my limited perspective. Clearly fare integration is also a concern.

I believe Sarah Jama has raised many of the same concerns, but recognizes that LRT+Advocacy is better than the status quo. After the procurement is approved, and the LRT is clearly going ahead, this advocacy will be essential. That is one year away, it seems like now would be the time to get organized.

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By ergopepsi (registered) | Posted April 30, 2017 at 14:20:56 in reply to Comment 121434

Jim has been trolling RTH for quite some time now. Don't expect him to reply to you. He also has an uncanny ability to morph into a member of whatever segment of the population he thinks might have a problem with the coming LRT. He's gotten especially ornery since the vote on the 26th.

What he's been perpetrating is a kind of information terrorism. He'll write up a bunch of half truths and make unfounded claims supported with no evidence and then abandon it. What he hopes will happen is some poor unsuspecting soul will stumble upon his post and take what he has written as a valid argument. He won't attempt to defend his claims as he knows they are indefensible. His concern-troll arguments are the abandoned briefcase at the bus station.

Before last weeks critical vote I've made a point of countering each claim he's made in an attempt to protect people from thinking what he had to say was nothing but the truth. I'm done for now, the project is going ahead and it's time for everyone to get together and make this LRT the best it can be.

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By Dylan (registered) | Posted April 30, 2017 at 10:12:08 in reply to Comment 121423

It seems your major concern Is related to gentrification, rather than the LRT itself. It's a completely valid concern. Gentrification is already underway in the lower city, LRT or no. However, LRT will no doubt accelerate it, and that is in fact the a major goal of the project This will benefit more people than it will hurt, but make no mistake, some people, especially renters like yourself could be negatively affected. Rent will increase, as will the general cost of living downtown. You've probably already seen this happening over the last decade.

I don't think fighting the LRT project is the best avenue for you. I think the solution to mitigating the negative impact for people such as yourself is to lobbying for subsidized housing in the lower city, to help people from being priced out of their own neighbourhoods.

A lot of people here can and will argue against your points concerning the project. But I'll just say that as a transit user I think and hope that you enjoy the train when it's finally done. I take the bus daily and it's loud, crowded, smelly, and is slow loading/unloading passengers, especially those with mobility issues. LVRs are a much more pleasant ride for everyone.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted May 01, 2017 at 05:49:07 in reply to Comment 121432

Almost no one who actually uses and relies on our bus system thinks it's just fine as it is.

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By Austinmicheal55 (anonymous) | Posted April 29, 2017 at 07:09:59

spam comment deleted

Comment edited by administrator Ryan on 2017-05-01 05:50:07

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By kevlahan (registered) | Posted April 29, 2017 at 11:56:14 in reply to Comment 121426

Seriously, you have the gall to link to your highly unethical "research paper writers" website! Any student who uses your service is guilty of academic fraud and is exposing themselves to expulsion (and certainly to failing the course they submitted the essay for).

In case anyone doesn't know about these unethical organizations preying on vulnerable students, here is a quick introduction:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Essay_mill

and some articles exposing the practice:

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/windsor/wi...

http://www.macleans.ca/education/uniandc...

http://bc.ctvnews.ca/essays-for-sale-ctv...

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/manitoba/c...

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Comment edited by kevlahan on 2017-04-29 12:21:29

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By Haveacow (registered) | Posted April 29, 2017 at 11:09:01

Jim why do you have to pay 2 fairs to get from Stoney Creek to Hamilton via the LRT? Doesn't the HSR have transfers? I know for a fact that, you will transfer for free between the buses of the HSR and the LRT! I know of no Ontario based LRT system that plans to double charge transferring passengers from buses. It would be economic suicide if they did! If Toronto (Finch West and Eglinton Ave. Crosstown LRT Lines), Ottawa (Confederation and Trillium Lines) and Waterloo (Ion LRT Line) can have private consortia (groups of companies) build, operate and maintain their LRT lines and still not charge for transfers from their bus fleet neither should people in Hamilton worry about this for the HSR. Why change the system now just for Hamilton.

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By AP (registered) | Posted April 30, 2017 at 05:26:18

Thanks for sharing, Maureen! Grateful for your insight and hope, and glad to see the latter persisting. I remember your announced desire/self-imposed challenge to remain hopeful on an episode of the Graham Crawford Show. It resonated with me, because I too have been on an intentionally and actively hopeful and forward-moving kick for a year or so; there's lots of reasons to shake our heads, but the up/down direction (saying "yes, we can overcome this, and this is how!") is a much better way to live and build community! Keep going!

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By cyberfarer (registered) | Posted April 30, 2017 at 11:44:44

It looks like a good place to get my bike stolen. Sorry to be the downer, but I do wish they would put some thought into bike lockups.

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By Haveacow (registered) | Posted May 01, 2017 at 07:52:23

I think Maureen's article has some fantastic points, this statement in particularly rings very true, especially when I saw the following comment article from the Waterloo region Record Newspaper.

Nearly lost altogether was the opportunity for politicians to bring all sides of the issue together in an effort to share information, build understanding and find common ground. In wedge politics and cultural wars, everything is positioned as a zero-sum game and the goal is to keep the various sides apart so that they do not come to identify and understand their mutual shared interests.

Here is the link to a very interesting comment/opinion piece from the Waterloo Region Record

http://www.therecord.com/opinion-story/7...

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted May 01, 2017 at 09:01:24 in reply to Comment 121447

That article got quite a bit of play on social media over the weekend. It's unfortunate that the Waterloo Record columnist responded to negativity with an escalation of the same: she not only attacked Hamilton as an ugly city, but also attacked Hamilton's most vulnerable, marginalized residents. It was a missed opportunity to "go high".

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By Haveacow (registered) | Posted May 01, 2017 at 08:28:28

For someone who worked in the media herself, Donna Skelly doesn't particularly come across as very media savvy.

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By Missy2013 (registered) - website | Posted May 08, 2017 at 12:24:16

... Gosh, the passion in, and for, the City is so great ... Here's a wee suggestion.

People get tired of being 'beaten up' all the time. They get tired of being told they are WRONG, stupid, imbeciles, etc. They invariably react in anger, stick in their heels. They get super stubborn. Walls go flying up. Twitter accounts get 'blocked' etc. Everyone gets increasingly more 'testy'. It breeds such a negative and unproductive energy all round.

So, how about a re-calibration of sorts? Can we all start from the premise that both civil servants & elected politicians are there, primarily, to do their best - as they see fit?

You, they, we may not agree with them, there may be 100% legitimate beefs - but SOMETIMES it really helps EVERYONE get along if a 'kind' word can be spoken, if forgiveness can be practiced, from time to time. Remember, we're all only human: we stumble forward, getting it right sometimes, getting it wrong sometimes. We all evolve.

Giving praise periodically is GOOD. The on-going negativity and 'bashing' just breeds more of it. It really becomes a vicious circle that just gets more bitter and acrimonious as time goes on.

'Rome wasn't built in a day', as the old saying goes. We are also all creatures of habit. Transitioning and ANY change, by definition, will be disruptive and unsettling to some. It's never going to be 'easy' for everyone. That said, OF COURSE change can and will come in the evolution of the City.

Moving forward, everyone has to just 'chill out' a bit. Please.

Why not come CELEBRATE the City on June 11th at 'A Day on the Bridge'?

It's FREE for everyone until 5pm, followed by a GALA dinner to raise funds for the Cootes Eco-Park, a long term investment to create a better and more livable community for all. This event demonstrates truly progressive & forward-thinking positivity. Put down the hatchets for awhile and come ENJOY THE VIEW ...

Facebook event page: https://www.facebook.com/events/67327766... and GALA dinner tickets: https://www.bruha.com/event/391

My two cents.

Comment edited by Missy2013 on 2017-05-08 12:26:01

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