Light Rail

Letter: Will You Be Ambitious With Me?

By Letter to the Editor
Published July 07, 2011

Mayor Bratina and Councillor Morelli,

I'm writing you today to remind you of a few things that might be getting lost in the noise around LRT and Hamilton.

My name is James Arlen. I'm one of the increasing number of people who have chosen Hamilton to be home. Just more than five years ago, my wife and I went searching for the ideal mixture of elements necessary to do the best job we could for our family.

Hamilton was (and still is) more than 50% of what we need. This is only true because I can easily commute to Toronto for work - what I do, isn't done in Hamilton... yet.

We have made Hamilton our home in every way we can manage. My kids are proud to attend Cathy Wever Elementary, and have since it opened - it is an amazing facility with some unbelievably committed staff (who sadly have to re-apply annually to keep their jobs - what a stupid system).

I founded think|haus - Hamilton's Makerspace - and have put Hamilton on the international map of places where interesting things are happening in next generation manufacturing and the desire to build things with our own hands - to experiment and fail, to experiment and succeed. You'll recognize think|haus as providing facilities to Hamilton's OpenData project - levelling the playing field between singular corporate interests and the real needs of your constituents.

We are a family that gives everything we can to Hamilton - in fact Mr. Bratina, it was only last month that you stood side-by-side with my nine-year-old daughter in the reviewing stand for the Guides and Scouts Parade. She was practically vibrating with excitement as she retold the story of standing with the Mayor of Hamilton (in her words: "No, seriously, SERIOUSLY, I was RIGHT THERE beside THE MAYOR!!! RIGHT THERE!! Here, let me show you a picture!!!).

That's the stuff that we should hold as extraordinarily important.

I think though, that you both may have forgotten a few things. Please think about these things.

The first thing to remember is that you already voted in favour of LRT. Yes, you already voted on it - you were both councillors who voted on the topic. It's easy to say this because, lets face it, the only thing that will change the make-up of Hamilton City Council is the 30 years necessary to age out the existing council.

I say this because council has a notoriously short memory about who made which decision in the past. It's quite interesting, really, that you all have such a problem remembering what you voted on or ensuring that what you voted is what actually happens. I'd like to see you all enforce the outcome of that previous vote because, really, you often forget to enforce the outcomes of your votes.

Notably, in our neighbourhood, you have forsaken tens of thousands of your constituents by permitting Red Cliff not to follow the approved plan for the Centre Mall redevelopment. What happened to the friendly pedestrian features? What happened to the street-facing features along Barton? Don't even get me started on that whole stadium thing. That was a bad Saturday Night Live sketch that just would not end. Well, technically, hasn't ended yet... where are we with that anyways?

The second thing to remember is that you are absolutely not in the business of governing based on the "needs" of your prior voters - or even of the "needs" of anyone over the age of 18. You are responsible for the needs of the next generation.

For too long, this city has been infected with the idea that repeatedly borrowing from the future to serve the "needs" of today is ok. The reality is that you may have already made enough mistakes to have foreclosed on Hamilton's future. You've seen the result of that mental illness in the union battle for defined benefit pensions - an idea which requires that the future workforce be significantly larger than the workforce of today to support the future needs of todays workers. Because, you know, 200 years of the Industrial Revolution taught us that we would need more workers as machines became more expensive, less efficient and larger.

You're doing exactly the same thing with every decision you've made for the entire tenure of your time in office - you vote for those things which will get you more votes in the next election without any thought whatsoever to the real cost. A cost that my children will face while you complain about having insufficient civic services for the infirm and elderly.

You've shown signs of this illness repeatedly. Why didn't you vote to maintain the infrastructure of the city (water, sewage, roads, etc.)? Did you really think that replacement is cheaper than incremental maintenance? Why do you not spend the money to replace the lead pipes in the lower city wholesale? Is it going to be more expensive than the 70+ years of health care necessary for the children that you are poisoning every day through your inaction? (Yes, I know about the loan program, but do landlords ever take you up on replacing the lead pipes running to their illegal rooming houses and converted single family dwellings?)

You voted to make Hamilton the best place possible to raise a child. Do you think that you're doing that? You owe the children of Hamilton a prosperous future. That is what every parent owes their child and you stand in loco parentis for thousands of non-voters.

The third thing is really quite simple. Hamilton was once known as The Ambitious City. As I teach my children about the absolutely amazing list of firsts and sheer audacity of the Hamilton of the past, I am saddened that the most ambitious thing I can point to in today's Hamilton is the conversion of a small part of Wilson to two-way traffic. Yup, that's it. Everything else that is happening in Hamilton is happening despite your efforts!

It's time to step up, put the "R" back in HSR - it's an "R" we still had less than 20 years ago when the tracks were ripped up from Main Street and we really need an obvious sign of civic commitment now. Make Hamilton THE place to live, invest, work, and play. It's time for a full court press. It's time to be Ambitious.

Will you be Ambitious with me?

James Arlen

We welcome feedback from our readers and invite you to send a letter to the editor. Please read our submissions policy for details.

12 Comments

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By lawrence (registered) - website | Posted July 07, 2011 at 14:19:40

Well said, James. Especially about Red Cliff and Centre Mall/street facing, pedestrian walkways.

Love this line:

Will you be Ambitious with me?

It's what made me read this letter in particular. That should be the title of something grander.

Love think|haus by the way. Very cool place and I for one, took a lot out of that open data/fusion tables workshop.

Thanks for taking the time to write this.

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By Ruffa Bektas (anonymous) | Posted July 07, 2011 at 14:26:04

hi there
just a question. Was there ever an LRT in Hamilton before? I am not originally from Hamilton. I moved here 5 years ago from Windsor therefore I don't know Hamilton's LRT history.
Thank You.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted July 07, 2011 at 14:36:03 in reply to Comment 65740

Hamilton had streetcars until mid-century, as well as radial lines and even a funicular running up and down the Escarpment.

The acronym HSR is short for Hamilton Street Railway. The HSR started in the late 1800s and operated Hamilton's trams. In 1946, a bus company called Canada Coach Lines bought the HSR and removed the tracks to replace the streetcars with buses and trolleybuses, or buses rolling on rubber tires but powered by overhead lines.

The City took over the HSR in 1960, and the last trolleybuses were retired in 1992.

Comment edited by administrator Ryan on 2011-07-07 14:51:22

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By lawrence (registered) - website | Posted July 07, 2011 at 14:32:59

Yes it did, Ruffa. Here is a pic from before my time, but this is what I remember as a kid. They weren't rail bound but they were electric.

Comment edited by lawrence on 2011-07-07 14:45:16

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By lawrence (registered) - website | Posted July 07, 2011 at 14:43:08

The trolley bus era in Hamilton was now officially over. (March 1st 1994)

So would National Steel Car get the contract to build LRT? Wouldn't that be a nice made in Hamilton solution.

lol Now being used as a cottage

More details about the specifics of the Cable Trollies

Comment edited by lawrence on 2011-07-07 14:53:40

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By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted July 07, 2011 at 16:22:26 in reply to Comment 65745

National steel car? Having known a lot of welders, fitters and the like - it's not much of a secret that they're by far the sketchiest shop in town. Let's not have our town's most ambitious project of the decade put together by folks who fill welding gaps with caulking guns, then paint over it.

Bombardier? Sure, I've ridden in their LRTs abroad - very nice. But when everybody I know in an industry (either trains or welding) has horrible things to say about a supplier, I'm gonna be very cautious about what I buy from them.

Comment edited by Undustrial on 2011-07-07 16:22:53

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By lawrence (registered) - website | Posted July 07, 2011 at 16:24:14 in reply to Comment 65766

Sad to hear that is the rep (truth?), about Steelcar.

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By lawrence (registered) - website | Posted July 07, 2011 at 17:18:34

* funicular * I was trying to remember the name of that. My parents talk about that system. Sounded kinda cool.

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By Akbar (anonymous) | Posted July 07, 2011 at 18:31:43

insult spam deleted

Comment edited by administrator Ryan on 2011-08-08 22:33:23

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By Abu'l (anonymous) | Posted July 07, 2011 at 20:07:24 in reply to Comment 65780

You should find something more useful to do with your time.

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By Capital Idea (anonymous) | Posted July 07, 2011 at 22:49:48

I worked at National Steel Car and that is a vile slur about the quality of work done. How about put a bit o money into the local operation instead of some foreign billionaires. Enough of the Bratina/Morelli slams. They managed the hardest two wards in this town and you laddadeda college kids think you have it all figured out. Morelli has been voted in five times, I think the proves he is respected by the people of my hood.

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By WRCU2 (registered) - website | Posted July 08, 2011 at 07:35:08 in reply to Comment 65787

that is a vile slur

I agree, lawrence was building a great head of steam plus I like his Industrious Thinking and his very informative linking!

Also, I wish to express my appreciation for James Arlen, with many thanks for sharing these same ambitions, I really enjoyed both of their history lessons.

Comment edited by WRCU2 on 2011-07-08 07:59:18

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