Revitalization

Now We Can't Afford It?

By Jason Leach
Published February 23, 2009

From the "ironic" files, a piece today by Andrew Dreschel states his opposition to the Pan Am bid because we "can't afford it".

Equally ironic is Councillor Sam Merulla (Ward 4) stating the same thing.

These are the same two guys who fell all over themselves in praise of spending half a billion dollars on a highway in Hamilton not too long ago.

Imagine living in a city where folks like this ran the show and tax money was only ever spent on potholes? I'm sure people would flock here from all over the world and turn this into Canada's next boomtown.

After all, who doesn't love a city addicted to pavement?

Jason Leach was born and raised in the Hammer and currently lives downtown with his wife and children. You can follow him on twitter.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted February 23, 2009 at 08:46:04

I'm actually kind of meh about the Pan Am facilities. I think Terry Cooke gets it right when he points out that these things never pay for themselves in spinoff development; but that if we're determined to do it, we should at least put the facilities downtown where they have the best chance of producing some value.

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By lowbrow (anonymous) | Posted February 23, 2009 at 09:00:07

Not sure what your trying to argue Jason, what, they should support the PanAm bid just because they supported the RedHill bid? What if __both__ of the bids are wrong? Should we cut off our nose (PanAm) to spite our face (RedHill)?

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By Ariel (anonymous) | Posted February 23, 2009 at 09:18:54

Jason is as confused as ever and if he bothered to check out the environmental and economic benefits of Red Hill, he would know that he was wrong and the whole world was right. As for Pan Am, Sam is right we can't afford a stadium and free transit and a bridge to nowhere and a new city hall and the cops to police the crimes downtown and the many social programs that are brining this city to its knees.
Nor, can we afford whiners, Jason

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By jason (registered) | Posted February 23, 2009 at 09:38:28

Ariel, so please explain how Hamilton's economy and future will be brighter than ever if we scrap "Pan Am, free transit (not sure where you're getting this from), bridge to nowhere (please explain?), new city hall, cops to police (the public who pays them), and many social programs."

You're arguing that Red Hill had great environmental and economic benefits to the extent that we need never spend a dime on anything else in Hamilton. Just sit back now and watch the world flock to us because we built a highway?

Please explain this further for us.
Also, please provide examples from other cities that have frozen spending on absolutely everything except a suburban highway and let us know how they are doing economically.

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By jason (registered) | Posted February 23, 2009 at 10:19:03

hey, does anyone know how the arrangement for the proposed pool will work?? It's proposed to be built at Mac. Does that mean they will own it once the games are done, or will it be a public pool?

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By highwater (registered) | Posted February 23, 2009 at 11:21:05

From what I've read, Mac would be paying for it, so it would be theirs, but the public does have limited access to Mac facilities.

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By TreyS (registered) | Posted February 23, 2009 at 12:23:18

What's baffling to me is that the Airport is the second decision. These guys are so anxious for any reason to expand the urban boundary into Mount Hope that'll even build a stadium like this in the middle of a field. so that the homebuilders can move in.

Ask yourselves this. If the City really intends on making the airport lands for light industry, then how well does an amenity like a stadium and velodrome fit into an industrial park.

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By jason (registered) | Posted February 23, 2009 at 12:40:36

Trey, this is actually one of the main reasons I hope we get the PanAm games. The games chair and board have made it clear that they don't want the stadium out in 'cow country'. I think that's why they rushed that press conference last week showing the stadium by the west harbour, knowing that city council was voting today on the stadium location. The Cats have made it clear (and anyone with eyes can see) that they will need a new stadium, and very soon. I'd prefer to get it now with the province paying a pile of the cost instead of later when we have to pay for the whole thing.

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By jason (registered) | Posted February 23, 2009 at 12:44:09

FYI, Nicole MacIntyre is blogging live from the council meeting: http://hallmarks.thespec.com/

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By Ariel (anonymous) | Posted February 23, 2009 at 13:02:02

All the usual suspects have lined up to support big business and the city shelling out for the stadium. Sam is right and even he seems to be weakening. We are doomed. The expenditure is going to be great and the revenue stream non existant.

Unlike the expressway which has generated many many tax dollars in development, Jason.

I am good for investing but only if there is a return. Council is being played for suckers again.

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By Helvetica (anonymous) | Posted February 23, 2009 at 13:05:50

Ariel said "Unlike the expressway which has generated many many tax dollars in development,"

You got hard numbers to prove this? I don't count big box stores in this thinking...

When will this city learn?


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By Rusty (registered) - website | Posted February 23, 2009 at 15:05:34

Looks like council approved it then (was this a committee meeting or the actual council session?)

Not sure how I feel about this. Overall, if the games are awarded to TO, and the site is developed on the waterfront I think it will spur development and investment - which is good. On the other hand council will need to push for a whole lot more investment in this area (transit) if the stadium is going to be a success. And they will have to ensure the stadium is properly integrated into the neighbourhood (let's not surround it with an airfield's worth of parking for instance). Nice to see Hamilton making bold moves again.

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By jason (registered) | Posted February 23, 2009 at 15:41:13

Ariel, while your digging up your numbers for Helvetica, I'm still waiting for a response.

By the way, just as a free tip - it's not enough to find out what the value of construction has been along the top of Red Hill. You also need to factor costs borne by the taxpayer for every new road, sewer, hydro, snow removal, garbage, police, transit etc..... Hamilton has insanely low development charges. Happy researching.

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By Capitalist (anonymous) | Posted February 23, 2009 at 15:47:46


Does anybody remember watching the last Pan Am games on tv? Or how about who the host city was? Has anybody on this website travelled to a Pam Am games host city just to watch the events?

Nobody cares about the Pam Am Games. It is a sad excuse for T.O because they lost the Olympics and did not get Expo. Toronto is so insecure it is embarrassing - "oh everybody look at us Toronto - we are a world class city becasue we get the Bills once a year and have hosted the Pan Am games"

Nobody from outside southern Ontario will come to watch these games because NOBODY CARES!

If we do get these games, the only people who will come to events in downtown Hamilton will be people who live in downtown Hamilton. How does this justify spending millions of tax dollars on this boondoggle. If you don't agree with me it is probably because your income is too low to even pay taxes.

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By jason (registered) | Posted February 23, 2009 at 16:03:33

another quality post from capitalist.

In my view, PanAm is neither here nor there. The Cats need a new stadium (I love Ivor Wynne, but 80 years is a little past it's lifespan) and will press for one very soon. This is a chance for us to do two things:

  1. Get the stadium with provincial and fed money kicked in. You know they wouldn't pay a dime towards a new TiCat stadium otherwise. This isn't Toronto. No provincially funded Skydome project will ever happen here.
  2. This might be our only chance to put this new stadium in a proper location. the PanAm folks want no part of a stadium in 'cowtown'. If we wait and try to build a new stadium for the Cats with no PanAm pressure for it to be in the right place, and with no upper government money to help pay for it, we all know that city council will likely stick out in no-mans land for political reasons (aerotropolis) and to save money.

This is the best chance to get the stadium at a discount to local taxpayers (apprently Sam Merualla's constituents would rather wait and pay millions more. More power to them) and in the right location.

The North End neighbourhood association has a right to ask questions about the project and to ensure that it is done properly, but to suggest that property values will go down if it is built at the West Harbour location is laughable. As if all the empty, burned out warehouses there now are boosting their property values.

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By mattchall (registered) | Posted February 23, 2009 at 16:56:59

I grew up in Winnipeg in the '70's, after the Pan-Am games were held there. They built an excellent aquatics centre( Pan-Am Pool, with 2 world class pools) as well as an outdoor velodrome. The pool is still in use today, although I believe the cycling track succumbed to the prairie weather. Projects like this aren't there to make money, but to contribute to the overall quality of life for the citizens, which in turn creates more development. Personally, I'd like to see Ivor Wynne, Brian Timmins and Scott Park leveled and a new multi-use sports complex built there (including the velodrome and new public fields). It's already on the proposed LRT line and leaves the waterfront open for residential/shopping development.

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By professor fail (anonymous) | Posted February 24, 2009 at 08:43:57

@Ariel - "check out the environmental and economic benefits of Red Hill, he would know that he was wrong and the whole world was right." You mean the whole world that has stopped building highways since they __never pay for themselves__ and is building rapid transit instead?

fail.

@Ariel - "and the cops to police the crimes downtown" you mean the crimes downtown that are at the same rate as the crimes in the suburbs? Those crimes? Downtown is no more dangerous than the Mountain but don't let facts get in the way of your anti-downtown rant.

fail.

@Ariel - "Unlike the expressway which has generated many many tax dollars in development, Jason." Bwa-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha! Ah-ha-ha, thanks for the good laugh. I'm sure Loews property tax will help cover the $250,000,000 cost of the RHVP.

fail.

@Capitalist - "If you don't agree with me it is probably because your income is too low to even pay taxes." Are you even able to make your case not based on insulting people that disagree with you?

fail.

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By Ariel (anonymous) | Posted February 24, 2009 at 09:43:54

The PanAm vote is done and I agree with Merulla that it was a big mistake and with McCarthy who called the lure of the games 'fools gold'. But it is done and Council will have to live with the consequences unless they luck out and Bogota wins the games. Then what will you say to the TiCats now that Council is on record that Ivor Wynne is a bad stadium that can't be fixed. Do you tell Bob Young to shove it? No, you now have to build a stadium at full cost because you have conceded the point on Wynne's viability. Another dumb move.

As for Jason asking me to make the case for the Parkway. I don't need to Jason. You and your buddies will always dismiss the Lowes or PetSmarts or Silver City's or Leon's or the banks or gas stations or car lots or homes that have been facilitated by the road. These activities represent more tax dollars to pay for crime fighting in the failing downtown where only fools want to invest. Sad but true.

But Jason, if you don't believe the activity around the road, just go there on a weekmorning or afternoon or weekend and see happy Hamiltonians use the road. Then drive to Centennial or Kenilworth and see the trucks NOT on those roads because of the parkway....I know that won't convince you, but just do it. It may teach you something about success.

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By Gabriel (anonymous) | Posted February 24, 2009 at 10:06:03

Ariel "Then what will you say to the TiCats now that Council is on record that Ivor Wynne is a bad stadium that can't be fixed."

Um are they on record saying that or are they on record saying it's a better opportunity to build a new stadium as long as the province is willing to pay for some of it? Stop putting words in people's mouths.

"As for Jason asking me to make the case for the Parkway. I don't need to Jason."

Translation:

"As for Jason asking me to make the case for the Parkway. I can't Jason, because everyone knows the new development doesn't come anywhere near paying for the $25,000,000 cost of building it or the $10,000,000 a year to maintain it. So I'll just insult you instead."

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By Gabriel (anonymous) | Posted February 24, 2009 at 10:06:55

Sorry that should be "the $250,000,000 cost of building it".

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By Ariel (anonymous) | Posted February 24, 2009 at 11:21:13

Gabriel, you are tooting the wrong horn. Read some of the Councillor comments as well as the mayor saying the stadium isn't worth fixing because it is like throwing good money after bad...if that isn't an admission that the city is a poor landlord then I'm not sure what is...also read the comments saying that the TiCats NEED to be kept in town (I agree by the way) and you get the 2 plus 2 make 4 scenario.

As for the road? A good investment that is paying dividends AND I think the Feds paid for half of it didn't they?

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By Ariel (anonymous) | Posted February 24, 2009 at 11:23:20

I said above that the Feds paid for half of it, but I think it was the province not the Feds...nevertheless the case is made...we had help paying for the road which is bringing in revenue...we will have help paying for a stadium which will be a losing proposition, if you read the paper.

I never thought I'd agree with Merulla but on this he is a genius!

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By Rusty (registered) - website | Posted February 24, 2009 at 12:03:02

The taxpayers paid for RHVP - does it really matter which pot it came from?

Ariel - let me introduce you to a common concept used in the private sector. It's called RETURN ON INVESTMENT (ROI). Every major investment gets measured against this. Invetment return projections are calculated as part of the project's business case and then, once the project is approved, the returns are measured against the projections and the cost of the project to determine if it has been a success. Governments rarely measure ROI (I wonder why...?).

Until the RHVX proponents or critics can point to some hard ROI numbers it's not possible to determine whether it is paying for itself. One thing is for certain though, 250 mill plus the on-going maintenance costs is a lot of money to recoup, and it's not going to be recouped through the property taxes of a few single family homes and bix box stores.

Cheers

Ben

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By PanAm Who? (anonymous) | Posted February 24, 2009 at 12:33:30

Mark your Caldendars: 2015 - The Year Hamilton Became a Suburb -

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By PanAm Who? (anonymous) | Posted February 24, 2009 at 12:34:10

Mark your Caldendars: 2015 - The Year Hamilton Became a Suburb -

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted February 24, 2009 at 12:56:38

Ariel,

Speaking for myself, I thought the Red Hill Valley Parkway was a bad idea because it got a lot of things wrong:

  • Negative municipal ROI on construction and maintenance costs. Net increased property tax assessment on new developments oriented to the highway would have to exceed $20 million per year just to cover the debt servicing, maintenance and lifecycle costs, let alone the actual cost of construction.

  • Subsidizes excessive driving by making it easier to drive long distances. This increases overall per capita energy consumption and air pollution.

  • Subsidizes low density land use by opening road access to greenfields in the far east mountain. This destroys prime agricultural land and results in a net drain on city finances since developer charges and property taxes are not enough to pay for the public infrastructure these developments require.

  • Induced demand (look it up) means even the traffic alleviation is only a temporary respite.

  • Opportunity cost of spending the capital on projects with better ROI and economic development potential.

Everything I've seen since the completion of the RHVP supports extreme skepticism of the claims of its proponents - not least of which the fact that none of them seem to want to discuss in any detail whether the Parkway is actually performing as promised in terms of economic development and job creation.

Some proponents have distanced themselves from it by claiming that it was undertaken poorly - that it would have supported economic development if the land use and zoning were done differently.

That's a cop-out. The biggest political and economic supporters of the RHVP in the 2003 election were residential home builders, and their most-supported candidates were the people who won a majority on council and finalized the highway.

It should come as no surprise, therefore, to discover that the highway completion has principally enabled low-density suburban development - a land use that is, among other things, a net drain on city finances.

It turns out that, to borrow a phrase from a rueful Michael Ignatieff after supporting the Iraq War, "intentions do shape consequences".


As for the Pan Am Games bid, I'm inclined to think it's also a bad idea, and for many of the same reasons; except that a) it doesn't cost as much, b) it doesn't get as many things wrong as the RHVP (at least it won't subsidize sprawl land use and transportation), and c) it would generate a positive use on land that is currently being wasted as a non-performing brownfield.

I realize that's a pretty tepid endorsement (if it can even be called an endorsement), but I think it's important to use the same criteria to evaluate the two projects if we're going to compare them.

It seems to me that using generous standards for the RHVP but strict standards of performance for the proposed stadium is a double standard that impedes constructive debate.

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By Captain Logic (anonymous) | Posted February 24, 2009 at 13:35:40

Here's a Win-Win for RHVP Lovers & Haters: build an Light Rail Manufacturing Plant in the empty, semi-serviced Glanbrook Industrial Lands.

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted February 24, 2009 at 13:56:10

Does anybody know who owns the RHVP? If it is the city, why not sell off 49.9% of it to a private toll operator and start getting a stream of income?

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By Accountant (anonymous) | Posted February 25, 2009 at 07:48:06

Ryan said in opposition to the RHVP:

"Negative municipal ROI on construction and maintenance costs. Net increased property tax assessment on new developments oriented to the highway would have to exceed $20 million per year just to cover the debt servicing, maintenance and lifecycle costs, let alone the actual cost of construction."

You are not factoring in the savings in servicing Centennial Parkway, Parkdale, Kenilworth etc. which are now not used as much because of the RHVP. Also you are not factoring in the human benefits of having a proper road for all those trucks and cars which were once in neighbourhoods. That's a pretty good ROI; also, the assessment growth will grow as the North Glanbrook Ind park is now being serviced to attract industry, which wasn't possible without the RHVP. Your early snapshot in time is incomplete and inaccurate.


" Subsidizes excessive driving by making it easier to drive long distances. This increases overall per capita energy consumption and air pollution."

I don't think that RHVP users are coming here just to use the road; they have always been using LOCAL roads, even the out of towners; quicker access to the east mountain means gas savings; as well, the fact that it isn't stop and go traffic because of the lights etc. means more efficient gasoline usage.


"Subsidizes low density land use by opening road access to greenfields in the far east mountain. This destroys prime agricultural land and results in a net drain on city finances since developer charges and property taxes are not enough to pay for the public infrastructure these developments require."

Check your facts. Only the more dense development doesn't pay its share; the larger homes more than subsidize the denser development. However, the road also opens up employment lands.


"Some proponents have distanced themselves from it by claiming that it was undertaken poorly - that it would have supported economic development if the land use and zoning were done differently.

That's a cop-out. The biggest political and economic supporters of the RHVP in the 2003 election were residential home builders, and their most-supported candidates were the people who won a majority on council and finalized the highway."

Who are these proponents? Quote them or point to their statements. I look pretty carefully and haven't found this to be the case. I also attend most of Council meetings and have not found this to be so. As for the 2003 election, voters had a choice and they made it. They may not have elected the right people according to you, but they did elect people who supported the road. And from I see, businesspeople support everyone who runs...they hedge their bets.

Ariel may be incorrect about the Pan Am issue, but this project as expensive as it was paid for by the city taxpayers and the provincial coffers-not the Federal ones as was mis-stated-(and Yes, Rusty, it is all the same taxpayer, however, the money that goes from us to Toronto doesn't always come back. This time it did.)has already proven itself.

I have no need to use the road because I live in the lower city and only use it to connect from the QEW or Burlington street to the Queenston Road area. Just this alone has saved much grid lock on Barton Stret near Woodward and that is great for that neighbourhood.

As for 'induced demand' (thanks for the lecture by the way, you aren't the only knowledgeable one in the world, Ryan); that is why the road was underbuilt; it should have been built wider, and can still be widened. And if they had listened to people like me, it would have been.

Over and out.


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By another capitalist (anonymous) | Posted February 25, 2009 at 09:06:09

People, I think some of you are missing the big picture!

We would be getting funding from the two other levels of government to clean up a huge brownfield mess! Nevermind if you like the Pan Am Games or not.

That area is a disaster and because of the cost, will never be cleaned up.

With this project, you get a remediated area, a new stadium and who knows what other spinoffs.

If the city had to clean this area up it would cost it triple the money!

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By Woody10 (registered) | Posted February 25, 2009 at 10:47:53

Wow, excellent,I agree with almost all of what 'Accountant" says. I used to drive from the QEW to King St. on Centennial at rush hour and it would take about 35 minutes. The pollution was DEADLY. The spinoffs from the highway are there, you just have to be full of common sense to see it.

And "another capitalist" , I agree 100% with your last comment. This is our only chance for this type of help. We should all be praying we win the games bid. This City will stay stagnant if not. We've seen what's been going on for years, and nothing will change for the better unless we win and BUILD!

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By Cityjoe (anonymous) | Posted February 25, 2009 at 23:57:59

The Cycling Championship, The Canadian Open Golf Tourney, & Soft Ball Baseball Tourneys generated interest & money in Hamilton without a ton of expenses. Why don't we just do things like this until the economic picture becomes better, or at least clearer? I'm sure that other events, both sports & cultural could be looking for a place just like Hamilton for a venue.

I'm not saying we should never try for the Pan Am Games, I'm just saying that we should give it a few years.

(I'm glad that somebody has made it clear that they don't want Pan Am facilities built in 'Cow Country'. I'm sure that the cows feel the same way. However, history doesn't seem to agree. Nobody seems to want to do anything with Downtown brownfield development, no matter how much more sense it makes to be downtown.)

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