Revitalization

Council Holds Keys to Board of Ed Fiasco

By Ryan McGreal
Published February 08, 2012

In the whole fiasco over the Board of Education building, it's important to remember that City Council holds the keys. The HWDSB deal is predicated on the Board selling 100 Main Street West to McMaster, and the McMaster deal is predicated on $47 million in funding and leasing commitments from the City.

Council needs to step back and ask a straightforward cost/benefit question:

We should not pursue a downtown health campus at any cost. Desperation planning can only result in a bad deal that costs a lot more than it delivers. Council has a history of unwillingness to walk away from a bad deal.

The HWDSB Trustees have their reasons for deciding that their best option is to sell 100 Main Street West, demolish Crestwood and construct a two-storey building next to Limeridge Mall and surrounded by surface parking - though we must take them on faith until the Board releases its study comparing a number of potential locations.

However, Council is under no obligation to facilitate a deal that serves the interests of the school board but does not serve the public interests of the city.

Nor is Council obliged to guarantee the success of McMaster's plans - especially if the net effect is to remove a building and a group of daytime workers, only to replace it with a cheaper building and another group of daytime workers at great public expense.

Council should tell both the HWDSB and McMaster to go back to the table and work out a creative arrangement that actually serves the city's public interest:

Finally, the solution should embrace mixed-use and include the addition of new residential supply. The downtown core will not thrive as long as it remains a monoculture of 9-5 employees who flee to suburban homes at closing time.

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 mystoneycreek (registered) - website | Posted February 08, 2012 at 07:58:26

Always great to see your strong voice in action, Ryan. Good stuff.

However, this BOE situation is merely another instance of how things have gotten away from us, the residents of Hamilton, and we're expending energies trying to 'make things right' because of the construct we've unwittingly given our stamp of approval to over the years. (Followed by grumbling, whingeing and griping. Or worse.)

Time to change the paradigm, because the next battle is already being quietly fought, and the potential 'loss' for us is far more than a building and a few acres of greenfields: AEGD.

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted February 08, 2012 at 08:00:31

Thank you. Where is the public outcry about spending 47 million to demolish two buildings and shuffle a few employees around? I guess the most cost conscious of us citizens are taking a vacation from letter writing now that the velodrome has moved on to Milton. I'm sure we'll be back though, well rested and ready to fight, when the question of LRT funding comes to the table.

Comment edited by seancb on 2012-02-08 08:01:16

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted February 08, 2012 at 11:00:47 in reply to Comment 73938

The city is paying McMaster $47 million to move downtown.

The Crestwood plan costs $31.6 million.

So it's actually 78.6 million.

Meanwhile, upgrading and expanding the existing HWDSB was estimated at $55 million.

Numbers from Board Trustee Judith Bishop's article here: http://raisethehammer.org/article/1533/a...

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By mystoneycreek (registered) - website | Posted February 08, 2012 at 08:09:41 in reply to Comment 73938

I'm sure we'll be back though, well rested and ready to fight, when the question of LRT funding comes to the table.

I fear that things will have gotten much more 'austere' financially in this province at that point so that any 'fight' will be moot.

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By bad deal (anonymous) | Posted February 08, 2012 at 09:02:30

The unwillingness of council to back away from a bad deal in the Pan Am stadium fiasco was failing to back away from the Rheem site and look at all sites with an open mind. This left the city and the Tigercats with a compromise that suits neither of them. It seems that the same type of thinking is going on today with the BOE. City Hall is so fixated with Mac coming downtown they are not doing whats best for any of the parties including themselves

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By the last paragraph (anonymous) | Posted February 08, 2012 at 09:11:25

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By H+H (registered) - website | Posted February 08, 2012 at 09:15:49

Ryan, Your cost/benefit question is extremely well stated. While its answer will beg other questions, that is precisely why it's such a good core question.

I recommend this question be included, in fact I think it should the prime question, each Councillor uses to develop his or her own position on the deal. It's not too late to come to our senses. Deals get undone, or changed, seconds before "midnight" all the time. While I don't prefer this kind of last minute thing, sometimes it's what you have to be ready to accept.

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By Anonymous (anonymous) | Posted February 08, 2012 at 10:29:30

I agree with THe Last Paragraph. We all need to be focusing on why no one wants to live downtown and what needs to be done to fix it. Keeping the BOE in the core isn't it. Perhaps an influx of mac students will help propel the downtown forward as business and developers see new oportunites

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By More Anonymous (anonymous) | Posted February 08, 2012 at 11:00:32 in reply to Comment 73967

So you don't think that the negative impact on daytime retail won't affect the push to foster nighttime retail? The biggest frustration of people who already live downtown is the inconvenience of everything closing at 5pm. If we want those people to stay, and others to move in, we need to work on that.

The dream would still be to have both MAC and the BoE involved in the same development. Neither of these stops functioning completely at 5pm. Night school, evening programs, meetings, space rentals, etc, all bring/keep people in the core. That can only help if our goal is to make the downtown retail landscape more livable.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted February 08, 2012 at 11:04:27

Imho, the focus of residential supply should be on getting all those upper apartments over downtown storefronts up and running. Didn't the owner of Rolly Rocket's describe some nightmare of red-tape preventing him from doing this?

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By jason (registered) | Posted February 08, 2012 at 11:24:52

In the whole fiasco over the Board of Education building, it's important to remember that City Council holds the keys.

Exactly why I'm worried....Ivor Wynne 2.0 anyone??

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By TnT (registered) | Posted February 08, 2012 at 13:08:35

University towns can really improve an area if done right. Last year I visited Queens U. In Kingston. First time in about 12 years. What a great downtown with a great mix of uses and costs. However, I would note that MacMaster has not had the same effect on the surrounding area of Westdale. By comparison it is a poor comparison to Kingston.

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By jonathan (registered) | Posted February 08, 2012 at 20:06:19 in reply to Comment 73988

I spent the weekend in Kingston; was talking with one of the locals about their downtown. You know what he credited with having helped resurrect it? The K-Rock Centre. A downtown arena, crammed into a tiny lot barely sufficient to hold it, with no parking.

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By mystoneycreek (registered) - website | Posted February 09, 2012 at 11:12:24

Perhaps the 'keys' in this instance, but in reality, the main (heretofore unengaged-at-the-right-times) player is...

http://www.thespec.com/opinion/columns/a...

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted February 09, 2012 at 12:03:29 in reply to Comment 74078

Reposting my comment from The Spec:

I don't know where you live, but here in Hamilton we seem to be good at jumping on board as soon as the decision process becomes public.

The Stadium debate hit the public attention the moment Bob Young started the process of torpedoing the West Harbor.

The Trustees debating BofE knew from the start that the public wanted them to stay downtown.

Ivor Wynne II had the public's attention the very moment Bob announced it to council and the world, and garnered public revulsion the moment we found out that our "partial" rebuild was now a "full" rebuild and we'd be emptying our coffers into this location that no longer offers any savings and isn't terribly good by any other measure.

The activists jumped on the LRT issue the moment the city manager reassigned the LRT team.

There are a lot of ways this city disappoints, but the level of civic engagement since the start of the Stadium debacle has impressed me. The only reason we don't act earlier is because we don't hear earlier, and that burden is on the press and city hall itself.

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By mystoneycreek (registered) - website | Posted February 09, 2012 at 13:28:04 in reply to Comment 74084

I don't know where you live,

I live in Hamilton. And I've witnessed everything you've mentioned.

The only reason we don't act earlier is because we don't hear earlier, and that burden is on the press and city hall itself.

Disagree entirely.

Which is why I believe we need to change the landscape, the construct, the paradigm, choose your pet reference.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted February 09, 2012 at 11:25:17 in reply to Comment 74078

Citizens were engaged from the start. Judith Bishop and other Board spokespeople have made it clear that they heard a strong message from the community that the board should stay downtown.

The Trustees didn't vote based on what the community wanted, they voted based on easy motoring and abundant parking.

The problem is not that citizens aren't involved enough or that we wait until the last minute to try and stop bad decisions. The problem is that our efforts at engagement are humoured, stonewalled and dismissed by institutions that are stuck on tokenism.

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By mystoneycreek (registered) - website | Posted February 09, 2012 at 13:33:51 in reply to Comment 74081

The problem is not that citizens aren't involved enough or that we wait until the last minute to try and stop bad decisions. The problem is that our efforts at engagement are humoured, stonewalled and dismissed by institutions that are stuck on tokenism.

Presumption tends to lead the way in this discussion. That because I'm critical of what's not been sallied, or sallied too late, that the 'blame' is on us.

That 'blame' is only valid if we allow the full scope of How Things Are Done in Hamilton' to continue.

http://mystoneycreek.blogspot.com/2012/0...

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By RenaissanceWatcher (registered) | Posted February 09, 2012 at 21:07:47

Here is the link to a somewhat encouraging news item titled "Board trustees want to hear Hamilton's Education Centre Plan" by Teri Pecoskie on the spec.com tonight. http://www.thespec.com/news/local/articl...

Comment edited by RenaissanceWatcher on 2012-02-09 21:18:07

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