Special Report: Transit

Council Cop-Out on Area Rating

Council is passing the buck by shifting the political heat that radiates from area rating off their own backs onto a randomly selected group of residents.

By Ryan McGreal
Published November 25, 2009

Council has failed yet again to fix the thorny issue of area rating, the city's policy of charging different tax rates to different parts of the city for transit, recreation and fire services. Last night, instead of making a decision on area rating, a slim majority of councillors voted at a Committee of the Whole meeting to establish a citizens' jury of randomly selected citizens to spend the next year studying options to fix it.

Area rating dates back to amalgamation as a way to soften the adjustment for surrounding municipalities, but Hamilton is the only city in Ontario with such a system. As a result, the old city of Hamilton pays nearly three times as much for transit as residents in Glanbrook, three and a half times as much as residents in Stoney Creek, four times as much as residents in Dundas, and nearly five times as much as residents in Ancaster.

Back in 2008, Council acknowledged that the area rating system is broken and voted unanimously to endorse Councillor Scott Duvall's motion to resolve the issue before Council's mandate ends in the 2010 municipal election.

However, Councillors are in dispute as to whether they had agreed to resolve area rating before the mandate ends and implement it in January 2011 (Duvall's contention), or else to resolve it in 2011, as Mayor Fred Eisenberger argued last night.

Staff Recommendation Misses Point

At last night's committee meeting, staff presented a recommendation to eliminate area rating by raising suburban rates and lowering urban rates so that everyone pays the same rate and the overall change is revenue-neutral for the city.

I've been arguing that this is a terrible idea for transit: it would further deepen the conflict between urban and suburban ratepayers without generating any new money for transit, and it would effectively force the HSR to redistribute its already inadequate resources across an even larger area (given that the current rating assumes the old city gets more service and the suburbs get less service).

On the other hand, if suburban rates were raised so that they are closer to what the old city pays - to $148 on a median-priced home compared to $195 on a median-priced home in the old city - the city would receive over $7 million in additional funding, which could then be used to improve service across the city.

Unfortunately, the staff report is committed to making any change revenue-neutral - even though council did not instruct them to do this when they asked for a recommendation - and did not offer alternatives for the Councillors to consider.

Politically Convenient Citizens' Jury

The Committee of the Whole rejected the staff report but then narrowly passed Mayor Eisenberger's proposal for a citizens' jury. A compromise by Councillor Tom Jackson to have the citizen's jury run for six months instead of a year was narrowly defeated.

Setting aside the fact that this means Council won't vote on area rating reform before the 2010 election, the decision feels like a cop-out. Council is passing the buck by shifting the political heat that radiates from area rating off their own backs onto a randomly selected group of residents.

Councillors who supported the citizens' jury argue that it represents "public consultation", but real public input entails broad-based participation, two-way dialogue between the city and residents, and a final council decision that reflects the public will.

A citizens' jury does none of this. A randomly-selected committee of residents may or may not do a better job of researching alternatives than staff, and they may or may not do a better job of choosing among options than elected Councillors; but they simply replace one narrow, closed process for another.

It's hard not to conclude that the real value is political: the novelty of an uncommon deliberation process and the convenience of a scapegoat if the decision turns out to be controversial (and it will).

Another Urban/Suburban Split

Another interesting thing to come out of this was the sharp urban/suburban split in votes. With one notable exception, all the urban councillors voted against the citizens' jury and all suburban councillors voted for it. It almost precisely mirrors the recent vote split over the proposed HSR fare increase.

The suburban councillors, who have the most to lose politically by fixing area rating, uniformly voted for the citizens' jury, which won't present its recommendations until after th 2010 election. On the other hand, all the urban councillors except Councillor Bob Bratina voted against the citizens' jury.

Today, Bratina posted an essay on his website ("Area Rating", 2009-11-25) explaining his decision:

Blanket removal of Area Rating would bring a modest decrease in taxes in the older part of the City, but a significant double digit increase to those in the newer areas. Nevertheless Council has set a date for implementation of a phased-in plan to deal with the problem. The date was and continues to be January 2011. Mayor Eisenberger understands the volatility contained in the application of these measures and put forward a process that allows for broader public understanding, and a buffering to the still-extreme emotions stirred by what has been said and done in the past.

He added that the Ward 2 residents he has spoken with don't know anything about area rating, so it is important to precede any decision on area rating with a period of public outreach.

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 jason (registered) | Posted November 25, 2009 at 14:07:47

I'm all for citizens committees and stuff, but seriously, what's the point of this one?? Does anyone really expect a suburban resident to admit "yea, we've had a free ride for too long. It's time for fairness to take place". Or an urban resident to say "on second thought, I love paying way more taxes than the suburban areas and helping them to build their highways, while allowing them to avoid paying for transit. If it ain't broke don't fix it".

Honestly. spare us the political games. This should have been dealt with by our lousy transition team back in 2001.
Similar to Ottawa's situation (which had a competent transition team, and DID deal with this back in 2001) we need to draw a new boundary showing the line between rural and 'urban' (old city and suburbs that are urbanized) and have that be the guidelines for this system.

Either way, get on with it already.

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By James (registered) | Posted November 25, 2009 at 15:56:07

I live in Waterdown and I genuinely care about the future of Hamilton and want the City to thrive. For me then, this is not a suburb versus city thing...it's a question of fairness. I simply don't get the services as a resident in Hamilton does. HSR's Route 18 is a joke, there are no community centres in Waterdown and our library is pathetic. Furthermore, my neighbours down the street fall within Burlington and therefore pay 50 percent less tax than I do.

If council or whomever resolves that it's one rate fr the whole city, I will sell my house and move to Burlington because the difference in taxes between the two will allow me to afford a bigger mortgage across the municipal boundary.

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By nobrainer (registered) | Posted November 25, 2009 at 16:30:52

@James

FTFA: "the city would receive over $7 million in additional funding, which could then be used to improve service across the city."

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By Tammany (anonymous) | Posted November 25, 2009 at 17:05:23

"If council or whomever resolves that it's one rate fr the whole city, I will sell my house and move to Burlington because the difference in taxes between the two will allow me to afford a bigger mortgage across the municipal boundary."

This is laughable. The lousy hundred bucks or so a year is enough to make you sell your house? Give me a break.

This is a prime example of the sort of ignorance and petty stonewalling endemic to Hamilton civic debate that will forever prevent the advancement of a progressive agenda in this city.

How can suburbanites cavil about subsidization when everyone else has been footing the bill for their ridiculously unsustainable lifestyle for decades?

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By jason (registered) | Posted November 25, 2009 at 17:36:19

James, I appreciate your honesty and desire to see the bigger picture.

Just to make you aware, one of the biggest changes that will arise from area rating is to improve transit service in suburbs who currently aren't paying much towards transit, but will be once they pay the same transit tax rate as Hamiltonians. You'll see improved service in Waterdown once we get rid of area rating.

As for the Burlington comparison, it's really not a fair comparison. If our entire Golden Horseshoe operated in a fair manner we would recognize the fact that the majority of social needs are pushed out of wealthy suburbs like Burlington and Oakville and into the big, older cities like Hamilton and Toronto. Toronto receives transfer payments from surrounding areas to help with social costs, but Hamilton gets the shaft by the province as usual in this respect. I realize that currently it would appear to be a good savings to move to Burlington, but many people locally and at the provincial level are pressing hard for fairness to be brought to the table when it comes to dealing with the social burden in the GTA. Either Burlington can start keeping their addicts, social service recipients and increasing taxes to pay for the social costs of housing, shelters etc.... or they can start sending some payments Hamilton's way since most Burlingtonians who fall on hard times come into our city since the social services are already well established and accessible. One would hope that places like Halton who push their poorest citizens elsewhere will see some tax increases to help us pay for dealing with their social responsibilities.

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By Ward 2 Resident (anonymous) | Posted November 25, 2009 at 17:49:15

Bratina has to GO!!!

An inner city rep sticking it to the inner city residents

Hey Bob I know you have two fulltime salaries why don't you just move to the burbs rather then screwing me over.

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted November 25, 2009 at 18:02:39

James, picture a young couple who lives downtown in a narrow row house - or maybe even on one level of a 3-unit narrow row house, and who does not own a car.

Why do they have to chip in for the overpasses on highway six which allow for the perpetual expansion of waterdown housing developments? Why do they have to pay into the snowplough and road maintenance funds that service a waterdown resident's 50 foot wide lot when their street frontage is equivalent to 14 feet (divided by the number of units in their building)?

It's because we live in a community where we recognize the need to collectively pay for services that benefit the city as a whole. This includes transit.

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By Tammany (anonymous) | Posted November 25, 2009 at 18:03:55

Personally, I've always questioned Bratina's suitability to represent the interests of the most urbanized ward in the city.

I know he is generally considered to be one of the "better" councillors, but I would not be saddened or the least bit disheartened if he were to stand down in 2010.

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By Tammany (anonymous) | Posted November 25, 2009 at 18:10:09

"It's because we live in a community where we recognize the need to collectively pay for services that benefit the city as a whole. This includes transit."

Well said. And those services which, empirically, can be shown to produce greater utility to the community as a whole deserve pride of place when it comes to divying up the coins in the collective purse. Things like transit and education are at the very high end of the public utility spectrum. Things like public snowplowing and road repair in sparsely populated exurban locales are not.

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By jason (registered) | Posted November 25, 2009 at 22:36:36

Sean. Excellent points.

Folks who live in urbanized suburban areas like Ancaster or Waterdown can't claim to have worse services than Hamilton, other than transit. Heck, some areas in Ancaster still have their sidewalk snow cleared by the city. I sure don't.

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By James (registered) | Posted November 26, 2009 at 07:23:05

Just a few extra points to respond:

  • I take the HSR to Aldershot GO station every day and live in a townhouse which is far more energy efficient than any of the building stock in the old city. So I would ask you all to get off your high horses about unsustainable living outside the city. What about the mountain? It's 60 foot lots are far larger thanmy meager 20.

  • I don't believe Route 18 would or necessarily should improve. I'm the only person on it most of the time and it's wasteful monetarily and environmentally to run an empty bus all over town.

  • Waterdown residents do not want or need Hamilton to come in and provide improved services. Waterdown had no community centre and so people in the town (rather than municipal staff) got together, raised money, held spaghetti dinners spending a decade on getting a YMCA. It's a fantastic fee-based not-for-profit that I pay market rates for but underpriveledged can use for free. Are you all telling me that the City can do better? Bullshit.

  • The difference in taxes is 50 percent which is about 150 bucks in my case. That translates into 45 grand a year on a mortgage. Considering I'd get nothing more for that extra cash and the folks at Hamilton city hall will squander it paying inflated prices for buildings to their friends at LIUNA...are you starting to understand our frustration?

  • Agree about provincial transfer payments. Those assholes at Queen's Park need to start paying for the services they mandate...if I was in charge, I would send a bill to the province sometime in 2011 (election year) and threaten to stop paying for them. But that won't happen, because we're complacent in this country led by political windbags rather than people of character with the nuts to make tough decisions.

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By jason (registered) | Posted November 26, 2009 at 09:02:27

James, I agree with much of your frustration when it comes to Hamilton's politicians playing footsies with friends and backroom dealings and with the provincial transfer payment nonsense, but a couple of your points need some clarification.

  1. It's not just 'old city of Hamilton' politicians that are caught in backroom deals. We recently found out about the $2 million kickback the city hall developers are going to receive due to keeping the project early and under budget. Ancaster's councillor is in charge of this project. Instead of spending that $2 million to upgrade to limestone, we are giving it away.

  2. You say Waterdown residents don't want or need Hamilton to provide improved services.
    Who then, paid the bulk of the cost to run new water/sewer infrastructure out there over the past 4 decades to make all the new growth possible? Who is paying for the new upgrades to Hwy 6 and new ramps at the 403? Who pays the increased snow removal and garbage pickup tabs for the new mega Hwy 6 and widened Hwy 5 etc.....

I remember when Bob Wade was running for mayor and at a public forum someone asked him if it's true that old city of Hamilton taxpayers had paid for 2/3 of all necessary infrastructure that made the Meadowlands possible. He replied "yes that sounds about right. Hamilton is the biggest city in the region".

It's important to remember that Flamborough doesn't bring as much annual tax money to the city as Ward 8 all by itself. Ward 8! It's largely suburban on the west Mountain. I'd love to see the numbers from Wards 1, 2, 3 or 4.

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By alrathbone (registered) | Posted November 26, 2009 at 09:37:10

"I don't believe Route 18 would or necessarily should improve. I'm the only person on it most of the time and it's wasteful monetarily and environmentally to run an empty bus all over town."

Part of the reasons routes like 18 and 16 have such low ridership is they are convoluted, and feature infrequent service at very limited times of time. In other words, they are a useless service.

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By another capitalist (anonymous) | Posted November 26, 2009 at 10:00:19

I came from a suburb, I now live downtown.

The suburbs have a had a free ride since Regional Government in the early 70's.

The first thing that happened was all of the capital improvement reserves were amalgamated. The only city that had any real reserves was the old city of Hamilton.

Where did the first $10 million (1974 dollars) go? To fix the aging water/sewer systems in Dundas.

To the people in the suburbs; you don't like the stigma of living in the City of Hamilton, fine. But don't cry about your taxes and lack of services. Your argument is completely garbage.

BTW, I lived in Stoney Creek, you think politics were bad in Hamilton, you should have seen the sweethearts in Stoney Creek.

Also, didn't the new City of Hamilton have to absorb some sort of multi-million dollar lawsuit in Flamborough. Apparently it was so big that it could have bankrupted the town.

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By jason (registered) | Posted November 26, 2009 at 11:09:06

another capitalist, you're right on the money.

To make matters worse, Hamilton began losing much of it's powerful, tax generating industry, yet the 'needs' and financial projects in the entire region didn't go away. We went through this period where we were funding the massive suburban growth in our region with less and less tax money coming into the old city.

People in the suburbs shudder at the state of our central, lower city, yet don't realize that much of the money that paid for their suburban expansion came from those central Hamilton wards.

Now when we want to bring some sense of fairness into an unfair tax structure, the suburbs are up in arms. Thanks a lot.

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By Rural in Nature (anonymous) | Posted November 26, 2009 at 11:22:36

Interesting subject, as a family that lives in a rural part of the now greater City of Hamilton I was not asked to join, nor was I provided better services after amalgamation. I am all for transit, but to be honest, transit will never come anywhere near a 5 km radius of my house or farm. Why should I then pay for services I do not receive? I would agree to pay if under your model all citizens rural and urban where 500 metres walking distance to transit, which we know will not happen. If the old City of Hamilton wants me to foot the bill for the services I will never receive. Then I agree with poster James, it is time to get out and/or allow us rural communities the right to split and take care of ourselves. Which I might point out, was the model before forced amalgamation that required less taxes and better service for us the rural community.
This would also solve the problem of Ward 8 (take your pick of Hamilton urban wards) paying for infrastructure improvements in the rural communities of Flambourgh, Glanbrook, Mount Hope etc.
By the way, Glanbrook would gladly give all your garbage back that we now take at the Edward’s Landfill site.
My two cents.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted November 26, 2009 at 11:43:00

Rural, if you live in the rural part of Hamilton, you don't pay a transit levy and won't pay a transit levy under any area rating reform proposal I've seen.

Both the current and proposed models draw a distinction between areas in the urban part of the city (both urban and suburban) and rural parts, and the latter pay no transit levy.

However, I maintain that everyone living within the urban boundary should contribute fairly to transit, in exchange for having: a) fair direct access to transit and b) the economic benefit of living in a city with high quality transit.

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted November 26, 2009 at 12:56:45

To James and Rural in Nature:

Why should transit, fire and community centres be treated any differently than any other municipal services?

I understand the frustration of not having HSR at your doorstep, but if you want "pay for play" for transit then it should be "pay for play" for all services.

Check out this report from Ottawa which says that 10% of the population was rural, but they spent 44% of the road budget servicing them: http://forum.skyscraperpage.com/showthre...

It would be interesting to see the numbers for Hamilton.

It may not be fair for rural residents to pay for buses that don't pass through their neighbourhoods, but it's equally unfair for urban dwellers to pick up the tab for long stretches of road connecting sprawling rural properties.

It looks to me like suburban/rural wards want the best of both worlds - they want the whole city to pick up the tab for "necessary services" (i.e. services that benefit them the most), but they consider any services that benefit them the least as "unnecessary" and want a pay-for-use model for those alone.

My direct question is: if you so desperately want "pay-for-use" for transit, why aren't you fighting for the same for every other service?

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By JWilbur (registered) | Posted November 26, 2009 at 14:21:35

Seems to me there is one clear way to resolve this that should satisfy everyone.

Don't reduce old city rates.

Bring new city rates up to the same level as old.

Use all the extra money generated to build out the system to the new city.

Done, fair, better for all of us!

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By rusty (registered) - website | Posted November 26, 2009 at 15:39:45

Whining about amalgamation is going to get us anywhere. This seems to be at the heart of many people's agitation. Get over it, it's done. Although this may be reversed eventually it's not going to happen anytime soon.

If the old city is going to continue to help foot the bill for the higher costs of suburban development then the suburbs should help with the cost of transit (even this isn't a fair comparison as sprawl does not benefit everyone whereas transit does...)

The alternative is to BROADEN the scope of area rating to we can pay a fair proportion for all the services we use (road building and maintenance, snow removal, garbage poick up...). Hmm, I wonder what that would do to our tax bills?

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By madmatt (anonymous) | Posted November 26, 2009 at 16:07:46

JWilbur, your idea is too logical and makes too much sense for it to work in Hamilton. I live in a 100+ year old home in the core. Our infrastructure has been paid for several times over; that's why tax rates are, and should be, lower here. Suburbanites can't seem to accept the FACT that ALL their infrastructure is new and not yet paid for. They should blame the developers for not providing the services. I'm still trying to figure out why Waterdown was amalgamated with Hamilton instead of Burlington(which makes geographic sense).

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By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted November 26, 2009 at 16:49:57

Urbanite Hamiltonians are constantly footing the bill for building and servicing suburban developments for decades. Our water, sewers, schools and roads were built decades ago or longer, our libraries and buses are easy to fund and frequently used because of our high density and traditional urban development pattern.

The area-rating system of judging transit use based on where you live is sloppy math, anyway. Ancaster residents don't get turned down when they try to bus from Jackson Square to Upper James, nor are their fees any higher. Not having convenient bus service around your home is a predictable consequence of not choosing to live to anything else worth busing to, and doesn't mean you aren't also being provided bus service to, from and between hundreds of other shopping centres, workplaces, libraries, sporting facilities or government offices.

Oh, and as someone who lives in Beasley, I know exactly what it feels like to not have a community centre.

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By another capitalist (anonymous) | Posted November 26, 2009 at 16:56:50

I'm still trying to figure out why Waterdown was amalgamated with Hamilton instead of Burlington(which makes geographic sense).

Because Burlington didn't want them!!!!

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By James (registered) | Posted November 26, 2009 at 17:08:44

Folks,

Where on earth has everyone gotten the idea that Hamilton taxpayers subsidize those In outlying areas (I'm avoiding the term burbs here because quite frankly, Hamilton mountain is far more sprawled out than my town of Waterdown). Property values are higher outside of Hamilton which means tax receipts are higher. Really then, it's the opposite, outlying communities subsidize the old city. Meanwhile, the outlying areas portion of costs ALREADY included in our property taxes nowhere near represent what we receive in terms of services (nor should they - our populations are lower and we don't need many of the services for sociology-economic reasons). The objection from those in outlying areas is therefore - we already subsidize the City enough and won't accept any more. If the new city were to deamalgamate tomorrow - the old city of Hamilton would be broke in a second.

Secondly, the capital costs for new development are paid for through development charges and by anticipated future tax receipts. Operating costs (plowing roads) are also paid for through tax receipts FROM THE NEW DEVELOPMENTS. That's why staff and council are always okay with a new Walmart even though their policies don't support it - the amount of tax money they provide is huge relative to their burden on the city's operating costs.

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By jason (registered) | Posted November 26, 2009 at 18:21:59

FYI, it is ILLEGAL in Ontario for any municipality to recover 100% of the costs of development through development charges. I think the maximum allowed is something around 75%. Hamilton's charges are lower than most places in the Golden Horseshoe.

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By shaddupsevenup (registered) | Posted November 26, 2009 at 19:04:17

"Why should I then pay for services I do not receive?"

If I don't have kids, why do I have to pay an education levy so that your kids can go to school? You can't cherry-pick what taxes you want to pay when you live in a democracy.

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By James (registered) | Posted November 26, 2009 at 20:44:45

Yes, it's not 100 percent through development charges...it's usually around 20-30 percent directly but then the tax base is increased and existing residents usually benefit from new services, so pays for itself eventually.

And actually you do get to pick what services to provide - municipalities classified as towns or counties have different servicing requirement to cities. It's why Oakville continues to call itself a town even though it's effectively a city. But let's say for the sake of argument one says one should have to pay for all services on principle - shouldn't the delivery and availability of those services then be equal across the geographic area as well?

It's all very well to take the high road here and talk about everybody paying the same because "we're all part of society" - but the reality is, Hamilton is a massive municipality that is unique and unlike any other municipality in Ontario. For all intensive purposes, Hamilton should really be a two-tier municipality with a regional government (in which case there would be a variation in taxes between the different areas) - but it's not. We're one big, dysfunctional city where a farmer in Beverly would be no different to a single mother in Beasley (I'm stereotyping for illustration so please let it go if your offended). That's not realistic and doesn't happen anywhere else in the province because both sides lose.

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By jason (registered) | Posted November 26, 2009 at 22:11:31

the last numbers I heard were that every new suburban home in Hamilton resulted in a NET loss of $1,000-$3,000 per home, annually. The measly residential taxes don't even cover the costs of snow/garbage/road repairs/electrical/sewer work that needs to be done in those new neighbourhoods.

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By reality check (anonymous) | Posted November 27, 2009 at 03:20:37

But no worries, James. Carry on travelling your own high road.

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By James (registered) | Posted November 27, 2009 at 07:23:14

If anyone can disprove what I'm saying with empirical evidence - I'd be interested to see it and will willingly change my position. I ask though - why would a municipality allow growth if it didn't pay for itself? It doesn't make sense.

Reality check - you can't just criticize me generally. That's attacking rather than debating. Take your sour grapes somewhere else.

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By grassroots are the way forward (registered) | Posted November 27, 2009 at 08:41:16

James: Maybe we need to follow the money, if you get my drift.

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By Brioski8 (registered) | Posted November 27, 2009 at 09:51:06

"If anyone can disprove what I'm saying with empirical evidence - I'd be interested to see it and will willingly change my position. I ask though - why would a municipality allow growth if it didn't pay for itself? It doesn't make sense"

Empirical? Don't have to, how about Logical Reasoning.

Picture a 100m stretch of road in saaayyy.... Herkimer Neighborhood. Tightly packed duplexes with the ocational 3 story apartment building. Population density of lets just pick a number of 100 individuals. I don't think this unreasonable and in accuality is probably higher.

Picture an idylic rural road say along 6th Conc. Flamborough. Same stretch of 100m. Larger lots, mucho space between houses, fewer individuals per metre. lets saaaaayyyy 30 people live along that 100m stretch. This might be charitable, in reality it's probably lower.

Lets use trash collection as an example. Both 100m stretches of road get their garbage collected once per week. Each has the same limitations on the amount of garbage that can be tossed. Each neighborhood recieves the same level of service yet which one costs more to provide that service?

Lather rinse and repeat for snow plowing, road maintenance, police and fire coverage. Add in capital costs for building new infrastructure to service sprawl development. And taaa daaaa! Short term gain of immediate tax revenue for long term pain or increased maintenance and servicing costs down the line.

What's that you say? You don't recieve the same quality of service as those in the City? Well guess what? We don't get a very high quality of service either. After a big snow storm it may be 2 days until I get plowed out. Many people phone the police and if its a busy night the police may not get to them right away if it's not a serious emergency.

There is this misperception that City folk are just swimming around in municipal services, laughing away at how the stupid rural folk are paying for it all. THIS IS NOT TRUE!

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By JonC (registered) | Posted November 27, 2009 at 10:05:29

James, Cities pay more for infrastructure than they receive from the developer. Jason is correct in his statement above, if you don't believe it, how about you prove it with empirical evidence. The problem is that you only see things like how many times a bus comes by a day instead of say, how much sewer line had to be built to your door. If ten people live in a condo, is it fair for them to have to pay for the roads and sewers and whatnot to a single home.

Also the assertion that this urban/rural co-existing is unique to Hamilton is obviously very, very wrong. Hamilton is not some special case. While, many cities in the Golden Horseshoe have allowed development to force out all of the agriculture, but a short list of other cites in Ontario with plenty of rural areas follows Ottawa London K-W Kingston Sarnia Barrie Guelph North Bay Timmins

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By rusty (registered) - website | Posted November 27, 2009 at 11:28:29

James: "why would a municipality allow growth if it didn't pay for itself?"

That's either deliberately provocative or naive (on this site especially). Have you never heard of a little thing called Developer Influence?

Hamilton follows a 'growth is good' mantra, while blindly ignoring the fact that low density growth simply adds to our overall bill. The developers run the city. It's as simple as that.

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By nobrainer (registered) | Posted November 27, 2009 at 11:58:52

Here here, rusty. You could also point out that every year Hamilton goes into it's budget process deep in the red and has to raise tax rates/cut costs/beg the province for a bailout to balance the books. Growth in Hamilton isn't paying for itself, right before our eyes!

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By jason (registered) | Posted November 27, 2009 at 12:37:16

Nobrainer, that is the best point I've heard yet to prove this fact. If all the new suburban growth over the past 30 years was just raking in new money for the city, why are we always short every. single. year.

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By Anon (anonymous) | Posted November 27, 2009 at 14:08:37

Area rating can even be seen to be punitive in some respects. I will use my own example as a Ward 2 resident. Since transit is one of the services available for my use I am charged for it. Since my children need to use the bus to get to school I have to purchase bus passes for them. This costs in excess of $1,000 per school year. Gee, if I just had the brains to move further out my taxes would be lower and they would get bused to school for free. Doesn't seem very fair.

One more point..........I want to laugh when I read some of the Spec's letters to the editor on this topic. The old "I have a well and septic system" from all those over taxed outliers. Water and sewer charges are separate from property tax. You pay these over and above your taxes.

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By Maggie (anonymous) | Posted November 27, 2009 at 16:01:20

Bob Bratina is a disgrace to the residents he serves. He should resign NOW!! Bob get the Hell of office or run in the suburbs in 2010!!!!

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By TreyS (registered) | Posted November 27, 2009 at 16:23:52

@ Rural in Nature Ask yourself this.......

I will never receive the open-heart surgery that you might.. Why should I pay that?

I'm tired of hearing the suburban residents say "amalgamation..... that I didn't ask for"..... did you ask for universal healthcare, did you ask for subsidized college/university, did you ask that you pay for your own 8 miles of paved road that leads to yours and one other house?

@ James And if you think Burlington offers better transit.. then go for it. Have you ever seen a bus in Burlington... with people actually on it? Have you seen their libraries? Their community centers? What they charge for ice-rink time, public pools/swimming lessons.... DOESN'T EVEN come close to what Hamilton offers.

Hamilton has its issues but dollar for dollar Hamilton offers great value for the taxes, in terms of transit, DARTS, community centers, pools, hockey rinks, policing, firefighting, rescue response, education, proximity to emergency care, diversity of economic living... i could go on and on. Hamilton beats any other 'city' in the GTA in these respects. But some residents don't want to pay for it. Maybe bc their current situation allows them to say "I don't need it... I'm not paying for it". But where do you think you're going to live if something (God forbid) happened to you and you needed special services/care, subsidized housing. You'll need to live in a real city that can accommodate your special needs, with housing, transit, therapy, community services. Try and get that in Glamflambastardstown.

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By TreyS (registered) | Posted November 27, 2009 at 16:25:00

Bratina did make a huge effup with this vote....

This should be his and Fred's rubicon.

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By rusty (registered) - website | Posted November 27, 2009 at 17:31:13

Rubicon? Where did I put that dictionary...

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By Jelly (anonymous) | Posted November 27, 2009 at 19:28:48

I know it's not a popular notion, but I'm still all for the idea of deamalgamation- and I don't say that as a disgruntled suburbanite- I'm a lifelong resident of Hamilton Proper, a mythical place that exists only in my dreams, where rural and suburban wards have no say over what happens in my urban neighbourhood. Enjoy your stadium, Stoney Creek! ;)

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By Ward 2 watchdog (anonymous) | Posted November 27, 2009 at 21:25:42

Hey hey ho ho Bob Bratina has got to go!!!!!!




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By James (registered) | Posted November 27, 2009 at 22:12:21

I appreciate the constructive debate here, but I'm still waiting for somebody to prove me wrong.

JonC - you raise a good point. I would be quite willing to pay more for roads to reflect Flamborough's portion if it meant our proprotion of other taxes decreases proportionally to reflect our usage. Roads are the second largest budget item so I would aniticipate this to increase; however, with social services being the largest item (of which there is almost no need in Flamborough) and Culture & Rec being third largest (of which we also receive nothing) I'm positive that on balance we would be better off (ie: taxes lower) I stand by my position that no one on this message board has been able to prove that the city is being short-changed by the outlying areas with empirical evidence. As for sewers and water, that is not part of our property taxes so is not relevant.

Rusty - if you really believe the conspiracy theories you expound, you should work towards implementing a moratorium on development forever. Let me know how that works put for you.

TreyS - you may be right, value for money may be top notch in Hamilton. You're missing the point though- if the services are not provided, needed and/or wanted (depending on what we're talking about), it doesn't matter what the value is - the demand is not there which results in a subsidy from areas where there is no demand to areas where the demand exists.

Jelly - let's do it. Tax rates in Hamilton would jump and I'd stop subsidizing services I don't use.

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By James (registered) | Posted November 27, 2009 at 22:26:05

One more thing - why don't we start collectivizing our efforts against the province to get them to pay for the services they mandate. The single largest budget item is social services, of which almost all are provincially mandated services.

Why don't we have the balls to tell Queen's Park to pay for its services and stop Hamilton from being a dumping ground for poor people? We're fighting each other rather than addressing the real problem here - the douchers running this province into the ground.

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By TreyS (registered) | Posted November 28, 2009 at 00:42:29

^ I voted your comment up for your use of the word "douchers".

With all due respect if the Province collectively pays for the mandated services, as you suggest then it's still goes against your argument that you don't want to pay for the services because A. you don't want them or B. you don't use them.

The only difference is that the services' costs will be spread over the 9 million people in Ontario not just the 500,000 in Hamilton.

I'm not arguing with you. I agree the Province should start paying for more of the services unless they intend to bankrupt all the 'old' cities in the province.

To get this back on track. This was a total Cop-Out and Political move on Fred. Nothing will change in a year from now, nothing will come from the citizens' group. In the end it's all the same... the suburbs taxes have to increase. Shame on Fred and Bob for this wimp vote.

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By Bob Bratina (anonymous) | Posted November 28, 2009 at 01:09:26

Council has agreed that area rating will be dealt with beginning January 2011, and that has not changed. Taxes will shift beginning then. This is not a matter of "indecisiveness". The political advantage is not with the Mayor, who is falsely accused of ducking the issue. All will be confronted with area rating in the 2010 campaign. The political manipulation in this case favours the politicians demanding a decision now, who may just be wanting to gain an advantage by claiming to have lowered taxes. Those taxes will be adjusted, as directed by Council, in January 2011.

The Maggies of the world are strangely silent on the subversion of democracy that almost took place when a certain group tried to pass a $50 million dollar uninsured flood damage relief with 5 Councillors absent. Staff stated clearly that night that the matter should be reviewed to determine the potential costs, but the group insisted on passing their motion then and there without further review or comment. Three of us broke quorum and forced a further meeting which resulted in defeat of the measure. The stupidity of that initiative is staggering. It would have virtually put the City into a downward financial spiral, since every subsequent event would require the same level of compensation. We would now in fact be in the insurance business. What would insurance companies offer in future if the City has a policy of picking up uninsured damages?

For Maggie and others, the new policies proposed by staff for area rating will, as voted by Council, come into effect in January 2011. This entire blog is a tempest in a teapot.
Where was the discussion on the flood relief fiasco? I've put that matter to the Governance Committee to determine if our Procedural by-law can be changed to prevent such a high-jacking in future.

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By grassroots are the way forward (registered) | Posted November 28, 2009 at 09:17:19

It is apparent that there are many issues to discuss before the next election.

James: Check this out.

http://www.facebook.com//note.php?note_i...

There are many issues:

transit taxes poverty jobs accountability transparency development flooding

and the list goes on

We, the people, can initiate change!

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By Maggie (anonymous) | Posted November 28, 2009 at 09:32:50

To the future former Councillor Bob Bratina:

Interesting post obviously you are hearing footsteps and rightfully so come next election.Also I see you are losing sleep considering what time you posted your comments. What I find interesting is the fact you highlight the fact you have not only abandoned Ward 2 residents with your area rating stance but that you abandoned a meeting you are required to attend and the poor flood victims in this city all in one swoop. I recently read a blog post where the blogger stressed that it is no surprise that there is a village in Ward 2 known as Hess Village because you Bob are a village idiot.But most importantly a disgrace to the people you claim to represent.

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By John Neary (registered) | Posted November 28, 2009 at 10:14:33

James >> "...with social services being the largest item (of which there is almost no need in Flamborough) ... I'm positive that on balance we would be better off (ie: taxes lower)"

This is exactly why amalgamation was necessary after services were downloaded. Why should residents of the old city of Hamilton pay the entire cost of social services for the region?

Seriously -- think about that for a second.

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By shaddupsevenup (registered) | Posted November 28, 2009 at 10:15:28

That was rather uncalled for.

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted November 28, 2009 at 12:12:18

James: "with social services being the largest item (of which there is almost no need in Flamborough)"

The need for social services is not geographic (which is why the financial support of them should not be area-specific). The reason there is a "need" for services downtown is because that is where the services are provided - so that's where the people who need the services go.

If we lived by the model you suggest - that the cost of services provided within a given ward are covered only by those who live there, then everyone who doesn't need services would move out of that ward. It makes no sense.

As a society, we have to decide whether we are going to provide the services or not, and if we do, all must pay equally. That's how "social" services work.

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted November 28, 2009 at 21:26:43

John Neary >> Why should residents of the old city of Hamilton pay the entire cost of social services for the region?

According to the 2009 budget, "Agencies and Support Payments" totaled $263,240,541. On the revenue side of the equation, the city received $286,510,812 in grants and subsidies. It would appear that other levels of government ARE picking up the tab for Hamilton's social services.

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By grassroots are the way forward (registered) | Posted November 29, 2009 at 08:12:16

What is missing from the picture is a body that would actually go in and examine just how successful or should I say effective many of these agencies are, in terms of helping people.

Many of them exist just to fill out paperwork, yet do little to actually help you, they are service, not action. Too much duplication of the same thing, in which those trying to access services are sent out on an endless trip filling out paperwork and the fact the many of the people working in these agencies lack the skills that are necessary for many of those accessing services.

Can someone please explain how someone who was a receptionist, has the skills necessary to be telling people about work, occupatonal health and safety, employment standards, workers rights in general. In most cases they do not care about your rights as a worker. This person do not even know what the term living wage meant. In person's mind minimum wage meant living wage.

So why are we funding this agency?

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By John Neary (registered) | Posted November 29, 2009 at 10:11:58

A Smith >> "According to the 2009 budget, "Agencies and Support Payments" totaled $263,240,541. On the revenue side of the equation, the city received $286,510,812 in grants and subsidies. It would appear that other levels of government ARE picking up the tab for Hamilton's social services."

Those are categories used for accounting purposes. The money from the latter does not all go into the former. (Emergency Services and Public Works, for example, both received millions of dollars from "Grants and Subsidies".)

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By J Morse (anonymous) | Posted November 29, 2009 at 10:22:43

James: "with social services being the largest item (of which there is almost no need in Flamborough)"

Let's see.. put distance between yourself and the needy, and you keep more of your money.

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By adam2 (anonymous) | Posted November 29, 2009 at 13:27:46

Quote from James: "If anyone can disprove what I'm saying with empirical evidence ... (I) will willingly change my position."

Quote from James: "Where on earth has everyone gotten the idea that Hamilton taxpayers subsidize those In outlying areas (I'm avoiding the term burbs here because quite frankly, Hamilton mountain is far more sprawled out than my town of Waterdown)."

-------------------

Okay James, here is some empirical evidence. You agreed to change your opinion in light of such evidence...


DENSITY CALCULATIONS:

Hamilton City: 173,595 pop / 13,054.54 = 13.3/ac
Hamilton Mountain: 143,702 pop / 12,558.19 ac = 11.4/ac
Waterdown & Flamborough: 72,548 pop / 139,203.66 ac = .52/ac
Ward 15 alone: ? pop / 36,798.66 ac = ?
**Can anyone find Ward 15 population statistic? It cannot include any of Ward 14 to be valid.

So...
- Hamilton Mountain density is 22 times more dense than Waterdown/Flamborough
-Hamilton City is 26 times more dense than Waterdown/Flamborough.


EMPIRICAL EVIDENCE:


DENSITY PER AREA:

Reference for Ward Area in acres has not changed (population data on this document is from 2001 and NOT USED in the density calculations): map.hamilton.ca/Static/PDFs/WardMaps/AllWards_Statistics.pdf

Hamilton City: Ward 1, Ward 2, Ward 3, Ward 4 (3,759.00 ac + 1,635.74 ac + 3,570.92 ac + 4,088.88 ac) = 13,054.54 ac
Hamilton Mountain: Ward 6, Ward 7, Ward 8 (3,950.97 ac + 4,315.35 ac + 4,291.87 ac) = 12,558.19 ac
Waterdown, Flamborough: Ward 14, 15 (102,405.00 ac + 36,798.66 ac) = 139,203.66 ac


POPULATION BREAKDOWN BY POSTAL CODE / AREA:

Reference for Population Data according to Canada Post (note this only includes people with fixed addresses, so Hamilton City population would be higher): www.realestateproperty.ca/location/homes.html

Area Population
Stoney Creek (L8E) 33,105
Stoney Creek (L8G) 22,280
Stoney Creek (L8J) 17,960
STONEY CREEK TOTAL 73,345

Hamilton City (L8H) 27,666
Hamilton City (L8K) 32,999
Hamilton City (L8L) 34,435
Hamilton City (L8M) 14,190
Hamilton City (L8N) 14,800
Hamilton City (L8P) 22,183
Hamilton City (L8R) 10,795
Hamilton City (L8S) 16,527
HAMILTON CITY TOTAL 173,595

Hamilton Mountain (L8T) 19,331
Hamilton Mountain (L8V) 21,792
Hamilton Mountain (L8W) 24,512
Hamilton Mountain (L9A) 23,296
Hamilton Mountain (L9B) 16,426
Hamilton Mountain (L9C) 38,345
HAMILTON MOUNTAIN TOTAL 143,702

Waterdown, Flamborough (L0R) 72,548
WATERDOWN, FLAMBOROUGH TOTAL 72,548

Ancaster (L8S) 16,527
Ancaster (L9G) 6,683
Ancaster (L8K) 1,591
ANCASTER TOTAL 24,801

Dundas (L8S) 16,527
Dundas (L9H) 11,681
DUNDAS TOTAL 28,208

HAMILTON TOTAL: 516,199

These population values were last updated approx. mid 2007 as the most recent population statistic is 560,000.

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By adam2 (anonymous) | Posted November 29, 2009 at 13:39:16

Consider this imaginary scenario and let me know if you disagree with any of the logic:

- Area A is twice as dense as Area B.
- Both areas pay the same tax per person
- Fairness says Area A should have twice as much infrastructure and twice as many services as Area B.

- Now apply this logic to an area that is OVER 20 TIMES more dense than another area. 20X is such a large difference it is difficult for the human brain to truly appreciate.

Should we be asking for 20X as many services and infrastructure in the lower city and Mountain? What about 10X as much? Why not 5X as much? Okay, lets settle for 3X as much... remember, lets be fair here.

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By Skeptic (anonymous) | Posted November 29, 2009 at 19:12:22

It's humorous to watch the blind leading the stupid.

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By Hopeful (registered) | Posted November 30, 2009 at 05:22:47

As much as I want to live in vibrant urban Hamilton, I'm starting to doubt that it will ever be. There doesn't seem to be the will or the ability to achieve anything with the current powers that be (I'd guess that 80% of decisions I've cared about at City Hall have been deferred or gone the "wrong" way, in my books, since I closely started to follow things in 2005). Toronto and some surrounding environs are starting to look incredibly appealling even though our family's bread and butter is old city Hamilton and we do not want to commute everyday. I say this with sadness but also an ulterior motive... someone has got to get on the ball, find progressive candidates, generate some funds and put forward some solid arguments for regime in the coming year! If we're stuck with who we've got for much longer, it will be time move! Anybody want to have their name on a lawn sign???

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By Hopeful (registered) | Posted November 30, 2009 at 05:27:34

Sorry, that should have been: "...and put forward some solid arguments for regime change in the coming year..." Whoops.

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By James (registered) | Posted November 30, 2009 at 08:24:29

John, sean and A Smith - social services (among other things, like transit) are absolutely needed but are not in the scope of what property taxes should pay for nor what they were originally designed to pay for. In an ideal world, there would be little to no property tax because they are regressive and fall disproportionately on the poor and middle classes.

I should have been more precise with my last comments - I resent paying for services like culture & rec because in Waterdown, we are not provided with these services yet pay for them. Culture & rec are not public goods - they're beneficial to be sure - but we could muddle along without them. Social services, however, were (before Mike Harris) services paid in whole by the province and they remain provincially mandated and regulated. My resentment lies in the fact that Hamilton is a dumping ground for poor people from the rest of the province and the costs associated with it fall disproportionately on Hamilton taxpayers as a whole. That is why above, I asked you all to stop bashing the burbs and start looking at how Hamilton is being screwed relative to other municipalities. For example, look at Oakville's budget - social services is way down at the bottom in terms of its proportion of the budget. In Hamilton, it's the largest budget item. It is true that the Province gives the city grants and subsidies, but they give those to other municipalities as well and they still don't cover anything close to the full cost. That money is "go away" money and gives windbags like Bratina something to come back with when people like me accuse them of incompetence of this issue.

adam2 - you have made a false cause logically fallacical argument. Just because density is lower does not mean that costs are higher. It's a grossly oversimplified conclusion. Let's take roads for example - most of the roads in Flamborough are lightly traveled and have no trucks on them. Their lifecycle is probably around 10-15 years for paving, maybe more. And when they do need repaved, the base has not been damaged so it's a relatively inexpensive job. There are also no sidewalks to replace and few streetlights or traffic signals. Compare that to Burlington Street - It's a concrete road (much more expensive than ashphalt) and it barely lasts 5 years before it starts crumbling. Then there's all that elevated structure that needs repaired along with sidewalks, signals etc.

More density means more costs but one has more tax revenue to cover those costs. Just look at Toronto - the whole city is built out yet they're in defecit this year half a billion dollars. It's because it's expensive to run a City...

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By jason (registered) | Posted November 30, 2009 at 10:29:41

Hopeful, I hear you.

TVO had a 30 minute documentary last night about Portland, Oregon. It was stunning to see video footage of their downtown in the 60's. The place was a dump!! Lots of cars, and no people or businesses.

The point of the show was to heap praise on Portlands decision makers for seeing the future by looking to old examples in Europe and choosing to avoid the mistakes of L.A.

Seeing that show seemed to drive the point home even further that Hamilton will NEVER see that sort of turnaround. So much of a city's success is tied to it's decision/policy makers. Need I say more?

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted November 30, 2009 at 10:34:07

We discussed social services because you brought it up as a service that you shouldn't have to pay for because there is no need for it in Waterdown.

I agree that the province should be covering provincially mandated services, but the reality right now is that we all pay for it, and using that particular cost as an argument for area rating (under the guise of fairness) is pointless.

Rural roads may need repaving less frequently than Burlington Street, however they still must be ploughed and salted, cracks filled, etc.

We do not have specific data for Hamilton but I already linked you to a study from Ottawa that found that 44% of the city's road budget went toward maintenance of rural roads that serviced 10% of the population.

Why would Hamilton be different? Do we have different road maintenance equipment? Horse drawn ploughs? Self-healing concessions?

All we are pointing out is that for area rating to be truly fair, every service must be area-rated. All or nothing - no cherry picking which services are pay-as-you-go.

Logistically though, it makes much more sense for us all to pay an equal share.

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By another capitalist (anonymous) | Posted November 30, 2009 at 11:17:46

I think a certain councillor is entertaining thoughts of running for mayor.

And you cannot become mayor if you do not have significant suburban support.

I wonder who that would be.

Also, with Russ Power's comments on the weekend, I think I would like councillors voted for at large and with a 2 term limit, imposed immediately.

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By highwater (registered) | Posted November 30, 2009 at 11:33:46

Would that 'certain councillor' be one who draws a pension from a paving and road construction company?

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By nobrainer (registered) | Posted November 30, 2009 at 11:38:11

fyi I think "another capitalist" is referring to Powers admitting he's opposed to fixing area rating because he's parochial and only cares about his own ward.

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By another capitalist (anonymous) | Posted November 30, 2009 at 13:05:02

No, I find it odd that the voting went along urban/suburban lines except for one

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By cityjoe (anonymous) | Posted November 30, 2009 at 13:21:28

I completely agree with James. You can't expect people to pay more in taxes for a virtually none existing ROTTEN, HORRIBLE, USELESS none-service that is presented to them as a taxable white elephant.

More taxes will give the 'Burbs 'better bus service' in future? LOLS!! That will Never happen. That will come in handy, once nobody cares about public transit or a bus service any more. They will just get into their cars (as many cars as is needed for the family to work, go to school. shop etc.)& their feet will never again darken the steps of a HSR bus.

(I wonder Where it is that the people who complain overtime about traffic congestion, pollution, gridlock, one way streets in mid town think these cars are coming from & going to? If you already Have Decent bus service, are low to middle income, chances are that you are NOT using a car to get around to start with!! So Who should we be seeing as a target group for HSR clients? Maybe the people who cannot use the awful service they have? Perhaps people are sick of commuting to Toronto, Mississauga, Stoney Creek, Niagara, etc., & would dearly Love to get on a bus that goes to a Go Bus/Train, or LRT in Hamilton & travel in safety to their destinations? Maybe instead of chewing their nails all Winter in bad road conditions, they might prefer to read, do some work or surf, or even take a nap on the way to work. Who wants to arrive at work/school more exhausted than they would normally be @ the end of the day, & then face that awful drive Again to get home?) We could probably triple Go usage in a month, get more cars off Hamilton streets, & get even more off the 403, & get tons more people onto HSR, IF we committed to seeing farther than the end of our short stubby collective noses, & stopped playing the Blame Game Chant...Repeat after me: "City GOOOOOD!! Suburbs BAAAAAD!! CITY Sustainable!!! Suburbs Wasteful!!! )

I'm about at the point of saying, "If the 'Burbs are so wasteful & such a thorn in your self- righteous sides. then Cut Us Loose! Cuz after all, you can't have it both ways. If I have something that costs too much to maintain, I get rid of it. That's just common sense."

Honestly, rather than having the awful service that we pay for now, I'd say`, "Get Rid Of It Completely." WHY SHOULD WE PAY TAXES FOR A USELESS PIECE OF TOKEN POLITICAL CORRECTNESS? If Hamilton cannot/will not commit to their own propaganda talking point of 'Consistency' (B.S.!!)then please abandon it, for everyone's sake. Nobody likes a liar, even if they are "consistent" in their fables.

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By Cityjoe (anonymous) | Posted November 30, 2009 at 14:01:17

Quote: "James, picture a young couple who lives downtown in a narrow row house - or maybe even on one level of a 3-unit narrow row house, and who does not own a car.

Why do they have to chip in for the overpasses on highway six which allow for the perpetual expansion of waterdown housing developments? Why do they have to pay into the snowplough and road maintenance funds that service a waterdown resident's 50 foot wide lot when their street frontage is equivalent to 14 feet (divided by the number of units in their building)?

It's because we live in a community where we recognize the need to collectively pay for services that benefit the city as a whole. This includes transit."
******************************************
I was 1/2 of this couple once. Never had a car for 25+ years, lived in a 100 year old semi-detached row house in west Toronto for many years. (& co-incidentally was Young at the time.)
I'll bet you a bunch that your hypothetical couple will not live in that same house in 20 years time, & will probably be glad to leave it. Until later when they start to slow down & don't want a bigger property. Then they may move into a seniors' building with no frontage for the next 20 years. It all balances out. IMHO, high rise apartment life is no life for young children & seniors, no matter how great it looks on paper 'frontage & stats-wise' to somebody who is healthy, & single in their mid 20-30s.

Why do they have to pay for an overpass in Waterdown? 2 reasons:
1) The same reason I have to pay for inner city rec. centres & programs, schools both separate & public when I don't have school age kids any longer, & senior's centres when I'm too young to attend them. :P Because: "We recognize the need to pay collectively for services that benefit the entire City" That reads "ENTIRE CITY" in case you missed that.

2) If James & the folks around him had decent public transit that might get them & their families around town, to work etc., maybe there would be no need to build that overpass? Does James o.k. all that urban sprawl? Do his neighbours? No, The City does! Please assign blame appropriately if you must assign it at all!

My house is over 60 years old & it was once considered 'sprawl'. I expect many people @ the time saw King & Cannon Street development as 'sprawl' when the cows had to leave. So anything New is 'sprawl', & anything old is 'sustainable development', even when it's so bad that it gets knocked down & re-developed??

Maybe that comment: "It's because we live in a community where we recognize the need to collectively pay for services that benefit the city as a whole. This includes transit." Sooo, should this also be applied to James & Waterdown? Yes, it should! If the City won't do decent HSR service then, I guess it has to do the overpass & the roads.

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By JonC (registered) | Posted November 30, 2009 at 16:49:37

Me thinks you should consider comparing the average lot size per residential unit at Cannon & King to those in the new developments. Sprawl doesn't apply to all new development, just the wasteful.

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By rusty (registered) - website | Posted December 01, 2009 at 14:01:16

Yup. CityJoe, just because development eventually catches up to sprawl neighbourhoods does mean they weren't wasteful neighbourhoods in the meantime.

I fail to see what is so confusing about the principal of unit cost? A 200 yard road with 5 houses on it costs more per capita to build and maintain than an inner city street. Same goes for the corresponding sewage pipes, transit service, snow removal, garbage collection, school bus service and so on. Why on earth anyone would need 'proof' of this is beyond me - it's common sense!

The idea of communal taxes and government for the benefit of everybody doesn't and shouldn't apply to wasteful spending. Sprawl is wasteful spending and I don't want my taxes to fund it.

If people want to live in large lots fine, but let them pay an appropriate cost and stop asking me to subsidize it.

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By markwhittle (registered) - website | Posted December 01, 2009 at 17:51:44

Last time I checked my tax bill it was based on the value of my home then the mill rate is applied to that. In 2008 MPAC decided it was worth another 8 grand, my tax bill went up accordingly.

So if you own a half a million dollar home you pay the appropriate taxes at whatever the mill rate is.

Area rating skews this so that a smaller home in Hamilton ends up paying the same taxes as a huge home in Ancaster. Sooner or later area rating will be gone, that's for sure.

Putting it off for a year or two will not change this. Putting this off to a new council was cowardly of Hamilton council in my humble oppinion.

That's Hamilton, get used to it, or do something about it at the ballot box. That's how democracy works.

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By Meredith (registered) - website | Posted December 02, 2009 at 18:09:44

"It is no use saying, 'We are doing our best.' You have got to succeed in doing what is necessary." -- Winston Churchill.

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By Winston Churchill (anonymous) | Posted December 02, 2009 at 19:07:10

Hey Meredith, you forgot about "The era of procrastination, of half-measures, of soothing and baffling expedients, of delays, is coming to a close. In its place we are entering a period of consequences."

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By Meredith (registered) - website | Posted December 02, 2009 at 23:25:35

Or the much more succinct "Do or do not. There is no try."

It's gettin' pretty bad when you need the Jedi to step into civic leadership...

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By adam2 (anonymous) | Posted December 02, 2009 at 23:37:30

Quote from James: "Just because density is lower does not mean that costs are higher. It's a grossly oversimplified conclusion. Let's take roads for example - most of the roads in Flamborough are lightly traveled and have no trucks on them."

Hwy 6 and Hwy 5 are full of trucks.

You still haven't refuted the density calculation. You said you would change your view if presented with empirical evidence. For every square km of road downtown, 26X as many people are paying property taxes on it.

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By adam2 (anonymous) | Posted December 02, 2009 at 23:38:41

Sorry, edit above: 26X as many people are paying property tax on it as that same square km of road in ward 14 or 15.

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By Jonathan Dalton (registered) | Posted December 03, 2009 at 11:28:56

One comment. Comparing our property tax to Burlington is riduculous. Just go ahead and move there. They have a higher industrial tax base because the provincially funded QEW laid out the red carpet of industrial sprawl right to their doorstep. They have less transit costs because their transit system is a joke. They have no social services costs because - I don't even need to explain that one. Sounds like a good deal.

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted December 04, 2009 at 16:01:48

Jonathan Dalton >> Comparing our property tax to Burlington is riduculous.

It's not ridiculous, it's a lesson as to how to attract more investment and increase property assessments. Furthermore, if Hamilton wants to be more progressive, it should exempt the first 50k of property values from property taxes completely.

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By grassroots are the way forward (registered) | Posted December 04, 2009 at 19:46:18

I was at a meeting where someone spoken about the growing poverty in the Halton region. So even though it is not talked about, it does exist where more and more people are struggling.

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By mike (registered) | Posted December 11, 2009 at 19:45:05

@Adam:

Sure, more people are in the downtown per area. Don't you need to compare the amount of road per person too? Simply saying more people pay for the roads in the core doesn't mean anything. Out in the rural areas, roads are primarily a grid system such as the concessions and intersections are few and far between. There's a much higher percentage of paved space in the core than there is in the rural areas.

I'm not arguing either way (I'm still undecided) but I think that a more logical conclusion would be to simply find out how many meters of road exist per person in, Say, Flamborough compared to ward 14 or 15. Sure, sidewalks, intersections and lights make a significant difference, too, but to start I think that the comparison would even the scales a bit. The ratio of taxpaying citizens to kilometer of road still probably means that ward 14 pays for more services, and as such deserves more, but it'd still make a difference.

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