Transportation

Cooke: Chamber Cops Out on Street Conversions

By Ryan McGreal
Published August 05, 2008

Terry Cooke, former regional chairman and now a columnist for the Spectator, directed a blunt j'accuse at the Hamilton Chamber of Commerce on Saturday for choosing to "sit on its hands" on the matter of two-way street conversions.

The column was a response to a letter to the editor by Chamber CEO John Dolbec, who defended the Chamber's position of "benign neutrality" on the grounds that its members can't reach consensus on whether to endorse converting Hamilton's downtown streets back to two-way.

Supporters of two-way conversion argue that wide, one-way streets discourage pedestrians (RTH File Photo)
Supporters of two-way conversion argue that wide, one-way streets discourage pedestrians (RTH File Photo)

Calling the Chamber's neutrality a "cop-out", Cooke laments, "In the marketplace of ideas, Hamilton's voice of business can't take and defend a position on the most talked about local policy debate in recent memory."

Pointing out the Chamber's "proud history of advocacy on both local and national isues even where there was a clear difference of opinion within the ranks of business leaders", Cooke concludes, "No wonder the Chamber's influence at City Hall is fast becoming irrelevant to the decision-making process."

Ouch.

Earlier this year, Cooke wrote in his column that the city should "summon the political courage to simply eliminate our anachronistic system of one-way streets. No more public-policy baby steps and enough already with pilot projects" like the James and John St. conversions.

However, it's not just the Chamber of Commerce that is divided over street conversions. Some city councillors, like West Mountain councillor Terry Whitehead, object to spending scarce dollars on a project they are not convinced will pay for itself in economic development.

In July, council voted against endorsing the Five-Year Review of the Downtown Transportation Master Plan. The motion was lost (PDF) as follows:

Instead, they voted to reconsider the matter at a subsequent committee of the whole (COW) meeting. That will take place at a special COW on August 7.

You can read the Downtown Transportation Master Plan Five Year Review (PDF).

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.

31 Comments

View Comments: Nested | Flat

Read Comments

[ - ]

By jason (registered) | Posted August 05, 2008 at 11:58:46

Good for Terry.

Took the words right out of my mouth.
Chamber=Irrelevant.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By John Dolbec (anonymous) | Posted August 05, 2008 at 13:31:00

Well, if we are indeed so "irrelevant", then why on earth is our opinion so darned "important" to everyone? :-)

Just why did Terry waste two columns of space, why did two contributors to the Spec. want to drag us into it "unsolicated"?

And why now two seperate blog pieces on this site alone?

If we do not really matter at all - then why, oh why, all this fuss?

And further, Tery should be the first to know that it is not "courage" that we lack; i.e that we must agree with him, but are just too "scared" to act.

We remain unafraid to still tackle big issues "head on" publically and privately where we feel that we do enjoy a reasonably strong concensus amongst the broader business community; e.g. Airport Employment Lands or the Mid-Penn.

However, we cannot morally say that we represent business, when we feel that business is clearly very divided.

Proponents just have to do a better job presenting their case - not get up on moral "high horses" chastising those who may not be yet fully "on side" - bullying is certainly not the way to influence anyone, particularly someone genuinely undecided.

And from where I sit at this moment; I say again, that I perceive no broad concensus from business people, even amongst the downtown entrepreneurs - so, again, if you don't want that message "kill the messenger" if you will -but it will not change the issue.

We will not be bullied into something as important as this - convince us.

Cheers.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By lost canon (anonymous) | Posted August 05, 2008 at 13:53:16

wow mr. dolbec, i'm not sure i'd want you representing me.
your (the chamber) importance lies in your potential, which you seem complacent to squander (or shill out to developers). this is what you should take from this attention.
where is a proactive stance at educating your chamber about the issue(s) and getting all perspectives, find case studies or whatever.

benign neutrality is perhaps the poorest expression you could have possibly come up with.


Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By King Queen (anonymous) | Posted August 05, 2008 at 14:23:18

This is why I love Raise The Hammer! Political coverage in Hamilton was never this good when it was in the hands of the few and conducted 'behind closed doors'.

John Dolbec, like Terry Whitehead... thanks for joining the conversation! The city's a better place with open debate (even if it does get a bit snippity in places).

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By Chamber Pot (anonymous) | Posted August 05, 2008 at 14:45:54

Terry Cooke is trying to reinvent hmself. And not doing too good a job at it!

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By jason (registered) | Posted August 05, 2008 at 15:02:00

Mr. Dolbec, your opinion is "so darned important" because you represent the Hamilton Chamber of COMMERCE. Most average joe's recognize that organization as one that should be leading the charge to better prosperity, business and vibrancy in our city. The fact that you're choosing not to is making you irrelevant as a BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT organization. Maybe fewer boring conferences and swanky parties at the Hamilton Club and more focus on turning this city around would be appropriate. As Cooke so accurately points out (albeit in different terms), you guys are quick to support any decision that the suburban home builders and big box builders want, yet can't take a stance on something so basic to the business climate and livability of the downtown as two-way streets. Your group also opposed making North Hamilton streets safer for children by lowering the speed limits on all side streets (leaving James and Wellington alone). This ain't the 1950's. The day of the zooming automobile has come and gone. Sadly, it's taken our downtown core and chamber of commerce with it.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By Pro-Ponent (anonymous) | Posted August 05, 2008 at 15:07:25

"Proponents just have to do a better job presenting their case"

ROFLMAO I seem to remember you saying the resurgence on James North "seems to have started about the same time the city made James North into a two-way street (in 2002). I ... was always skeptical about that, but a lot of merchants in the area swear by it."

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By Social Ecology (anonymous) | Posted August 05, 2008 at 15:11:26

"...if we are indeed so "irrelevant", then why on earth is our opinion so darned "important" to everyone?"

It's so "important" because the political economy we live under is not democratic. People who control capital have more political power than the people who do not control capital. Therefore, power is not held equally by the "demos" - the citizenry.

However, the municipality is the one "level" of government where citizen action can overcome this to create directly democratic forms. That will be the real test for "raising the Hammer" - and every other city.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By highwater (registered) | Posted August 05, 2008 at 15:40:35

"Proponents just have to do a better job presenting their case."

Nonsense. Proponents have done an excellent job presenting their case. Vested interests and people who are unable to see beyond their own preconceived notions refuse to see the mountains of scholarship and empirical evidence supporting conversions that has been presented over and over and over again. Clearly no amount of evidence will convince those who are determined to maintain the status quo at all costs, and frankly, it is offensive to suggest that the fault for that lies with proponents.

What you see as "bullying", is anger and frustration at the squelchers who refuse to engage in honest debate about this crucial economic issue. And yes, it is dishonest to stare at a mountain of evidence and sniff that it is "not enough" to convince you when the truth is that you simply do not want to be convinced.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By Citizen325 (anonymous) | Posted August 05, 2008 at 15:42:50

Dear Jason,
You seem to have some very strong opinions regarding the Chamber's internal procedures and/or positions. Can you please tell me what credentials you hold to do so? (i.e. former member, former board member, etc.)
Thank you.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By nobrainer (registered) | Posted August 05, 2008 at 15:45:21

"You seem to have some very strong opinions regarding the Chamber's internal procedures and/or positions." Easy to figure out: just reverse-engineer from the output.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By Capitalist (anonymous) | Posted August 05, 2008 at 16:29:32

Jason, your rant about big box stores and suburban developers is getting tired. We all get the idea: YOU DO NOT LIKE THEM. But accusing the Chamber of not wanting to make north Hamilton streets safe for children is pretty low. Using children as a tool to state your case is disgusting. At least Ryan doesn't reduce himself to these tactics.

As for one-way, I see the conversion of King-Main-York as beneficial for the downtown, as these are really just highways. Although not all roads should be converted.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By adam1 (anonymous) | Posted August 05, 2008 at 18:56:49

I had the chance to visit Ottawa recently. They have a lot of 1 way streets, but they are fundamentally different:
- 2 lanes maximum
- 1 carpool lane shared with buses and cyclists
- ABSOLUTELY no synchronized stop lights
- sidewalks along major streets are 3 times as wide as Hamilton's
- parking lane
- trees provide a buffer between curb and sidewalk.

My credentials are irrelevant. I am a tax paying citizen that wants positive change in the downtown. I am open to reasons why any of the above points should not be implemented in the downtown immediately.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By Campbell (anonymous) | Posted August 05, 2008 at 19:42:18

Adam1:

I like all the features you listed for Ottawa's one-way streets, except for one. If they are not synchronized, what's the point of one-way? May aswell have two-way. That's why I'm arguing (if they stay one-way) for synchronization at a radically reduced speed.

40 km/h synchronization would be good for cars, bicycles, and pedestrians. Cyclists have the option of riding at a comfortable pace of 20 km/h or (if they're fit) 40 km/h, making all the lights.

However, I don't know what implications (if any) light synchronization have for streetcars, given that they have to stop periodically.

But either way, a transformation of King and Main into more people-freindly streetscapes would require some financial cost from the city. But Terry Whitehead opposes one-way conversion on the grounds that it would cost money. Does he oppose ANY reform of land-use on this corridor?

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By jason (registered) | Posted August 05, 2008 at 19:51:03

325 - nobrainer pretty much answered your question.

Capitalist - go back through the Spec and 900CHML archives. I heard Mr. Dolbec himself being interviewed on radio stating his opposition to reducing speeds on sidestreets in the north end. In fact, I called in the show shortly after his interview was finished. The north end neighbourhood association wants to look at the idea as a way of making their neighbourhood one of the safest to raise a child in Canada (remember, one of Hamilton's so-called goals??). Mr. Dolbec stated that the Chamber opposed the idea. If you don't like that, take it up with him.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By jason (registered) | Posted August 05, 2008 at 19:53:27

sorry for the double post, but I have to say this. Citizen 325 - my credentials are simple: I'm a taxpaying citizen who wants to see our city turn around and boom. I don't believe that democracy is a once-every-four years pastime.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By Reason (anonymous) | Posted August 05, 2008 at 23:45:13

Jason is a light weight; and so is RTH if it thinks it represents the wider spectrum of opinion...don't waste your time M. Dolbec. Tend to other relationships. Leave RTH to the Jason and the Agree-o-nuts who inhabit this space!

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By adam1 (anonymous) | Posted August 06, 2008 at 00:00:18

For those of you who consider raisethehammer and its readership a small insignificant group, take a look at daily hits for this site. Its pushing 20,000.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By jason (registered) | Posted August 06, 2008 at 07:21:07

Reason - we're lightweights?? Please explain. I didn't realize we were in a boxing match here. By the way, great post....although you may want to change that screen name to 'babble' or something more more approprirate. lol.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By Citizen325 (anonymous) | Posted August 06, 2008 at 07:39:54

Jason & Nobrainer

I too am a citizen with rights and concerns, but I would never be as bold as you to critique the internal process of an organization I was never privy to. You just lose all credibility in your argument, even if it has valid points.

As for “reverse-engineering from the output”, your logic is flawed. The reverse engineering process is based on discovering technological principles of a device through complete internal and external analysis of its structure, function and operation to create a new program that does the exact same thing.

All this blog seems to be doing is amplifying the perpetual “he said/she said” argument in our City. I have yet to see the beginning of a solution here. Isn’t this our common goal?

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By Citizen325 (anonymous) | Posted August 06, 2008 at 07:41:15

Jason & Nobrainer

I too am a citizen with rights and concerns, but I would never be as bold as you to critique the internal process of an organization I was never privy to. You just lose all credibility in your argument, even if it has valid points.

As for “reverse-engineering from the output”, your logic is flawed. The reverse engineering process is based on discovering technological principles of a device through complete internal and external analysis of its structure, function and operation to create a new program that does the exact same thing.

All this blog seems to be doing is amplifying the perpetual “he said/she said” argument in our City. I have yet to see the beginning of a solution here. Isn’t this our common goal?

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By jason (registered) | Posted August 06, 2008 at 07:49:26

Citizen325.... you are correct when asking for the beginning of a solution. I think that's why this blog was posted in the first place. Terry Cooke wrote a great piece encouraing the Chamber and public to support two-way streets in order to support business downtown and residents moving into downtown. I think that is the beginning of the solution - getting the Chamber off their duff to support something that is so clearly benefiting the downtown core. You can't help but wonder about the Chambers operations when they are so quick to throw support behind something so vague and unproven as the MidPen highway, yet won't support something so proven and working right before our eyes as two-way streets. I suppose the solution would be to get the Chamber to support and attempt to educate their clients to the merits and benefits of two-way streets downtown.
Otherwise, they need to explain to the rest of us that downtown Hamilton and it's businesses are absolutely pleased and happy with how things are and don't want any changes. Benign neutrality is not an option.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By Reason (anonymous) | Posted August 06, 2008 at 08:41:00

Adam 1...20,000 hits does not 20,000 people make...try 1,000 people who come in 20 times each!!!

You are one of Jason's Agree-o-nuts!!!!

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By Agree-o-nut (anonymous) | Posted August 06, 2008 at 09:13:53

You know if you were really committed to Reason, you would probably not resort to insulting people you disagree with. Screen name fail right there.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By John Dolbec (anonymous) | Posted August 06, 2008 at 11:15:37

As the question of the Chamber's position on North-End Neighbourhood "side streets" has come up - I simply will quote from the Chamber's published public policy position in this matter which makes this specfic reccomendation to the City, namely:

"The Hamilton Chamber of Commerce urges the City of Hamilton to consider the
unintended negative effects of restrictive traffic flow to the Harbour and its various
points of interest. (However) The Chamber supports lower speed limits on ‘local’ roads, coupled with calming measures that allows for vehicular movement to clearly outline which
roads are ‘arterial’ and which are ‘local’."

My expressed concerns, as cited on CHML, was to the proposition of a "blanket reduction" on all streets in the NEN to a 30 KPH maximaum speed limit - but, as above, we in fact do endorse selectively applied slower speeds on local "side" streets.

By the way, if any one ever has any questions as to the Chamber's public policy positions and/or presentations to any level of government, they are all fully published on our web site (www.hamiltonchamber.on.ca).

You need not speculate.

And, further, these polices are almost entirley all derived in a fully democtaric fashion, open to full partcipation by any and all members in good standing at any time who chose to partcipate, via our standing Committee/Division structure, again as outlined on our site; with each member, regardless of size or sector, carrying each one vote only.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By jason (registered) | Posted August 06, 2008 at 12:29:25

Sorry John, but I heard the interview and the North End rep who spoke to Bill Kelly stated clearly that James and Wellington would not be affected by this proposal. You still said the Chamber would oppose it. Many callers who phoned in were somewhat surprised at your position considering 99.9% of Hamiltonians have never, and will never, drive on streets such as Picton, Macauley etc..... Also, there was no 'restricted' access to the harbour being suggested. Side streets would go to 30km an hour. Barricades and dead end streets would be 'restrictive'. Safer speed limits for narrow, residential side streets are not.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By Jihn Dolbec (anonymous) | Posted August 06, 2008 at 12:56:58

All i can say is read the actual policy statement in full, Jason - It speaks for itself.

It all depends on your precsie definition of what are purely "local" streets - certainly we have no problem with say Picton, Macauley; but you would need to go on a specifc street by street basis when you get into the "etc." part - e.g. Bay Street may not be considered by some to be purely "local" in nature; at least as presently utilized.

Again, you really do not to speculate about any Chamber position - they are, for the most part, fully open to public scrutiny at any time "on line".

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By Frank (registered) | Posted August 06, 2008 at 13:49:02

Mr. Dolbec, let me refer you to the Transporation Association of Canada's Manual for the Geometric Design of Roadways... In there the definition of a "local" road is clearly outlined and if I remember, I will post it for you when I get home. As it stands, if I'm not mistaken, the entire two way section of Bay Street qualifies as a "local" road. Quite honestly, the section south of Main Street from I'd say Hunter is widely underused and would benefit immensely from lane reductions (1 lane each way) increasing livability in those areas.

Also, you quote policy however on the radio show it's quite possible that you spoke out of your own opinions. Regardless, your statement as quoted by Pro-ponent in 2002 was never addressed here. Has policy changed since then?

As far as credentials go, I don't believe that anything other than a desire to see the city change and grow is required.

Also, if anyone considers RTH lightweight, consider that we've got John Dolbec and Councillor Whitehead posting on here recently as well as an occasional visit from the Mayor. Don't let the fact that we have screen names cause any disillusion as to the effect our statements may or may not make.

John, I don't believe that your job is represent EVERYONE. I believe in a democracy the MAJORITY is represented. If you're waiting for everyone to agree with anything, you'll be waiting til the cows come home! Step up! Git 'er done!!!

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By Reason (anonymous) | Posted August 06, 2008 at 21:02:13

Frank said: "John, I don't believe that your job is represent EVERYONE. I believe in a democracy the MAJORITY is represented. If you're waiting for everyone to agree with anything, you'll be waiting til the cows come home! Step up! Git 'er done!!!"

Yea, John. Just like the Red Hill Expressway...most wanted it and RTH types went along with the majority because it was the fair thing to do!

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By Frank (registered) | Posted August 07, 2008 at 08:16:34

Reason....or not. Regardless of whether the decision is determined to be right or wrong by the individual it is still the body's responsibility to represent the majority.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By jason (registered) | Posted August 07, 2008 at 10:27:48

anyone check out the 'research' on Terry Whiteheads website?? quality stuff from the 1940's with plenty of gaps and missing data. Oh, and did I mention it's from the 1940s?? Who says city council is stuck in the 50's??

Permalink | Context

View Comments: Nested | Flat

Post a Comment

You must be logged in to comment.

Events Calendar

Recent Articles

Article Archives

Blog Archives

Site Tools

Feeds