Revitalization

Progressive Urbanism Benefits Entire City

By Ryan McGreal
Published March 01, 2013

Andrew Dreschel grapples with the cultural frisson between "old Hamilton" and "New Hamilton" in today's column, an interesting glimpse at how the groundswell of progressive urbanism that is reshaping downtown Hamilton looks from the outside.

Broadly speaking, New Hamilton advocates see themselves as informed progressives, engaged urbanists with a burning interest in the social, cultural and economic lifeblood of the city.

On the other hand, they generally see those who aren’t with them as status quo conservatives, reactionaries with established — and now challenged — influence and ways of doing things.

It's great to see Dreschel acknowledge and even celebrate what he calls "a new kind of Hamilton [that] is slowly emerging in the core. The monthly art crawl and annual Supercrawl are probably its most flashy agents, yet all the affirming arguments, creativity and idealism that were brought to the casino debate lend credence to it."

However, Dreschel also criticizes what he sees as an ugly side to the renaissance. His main complaints seem to be: 1) many so-called "New Hamiltonians" display "zealotry, self-righteous arrogance, immature vulgarities and an overweening patriarchal sense that they know what's best for everyone"; and 2) they behave as though the rest of the city shouldn't get a say in how downtown Hamilton is governed.

No Monopoly on Vulgarity

It's true that some of the debates over recent hot-button issues, like the proposed downtown casino, have gotten ugly and personal at times. However, it's misleading to suggest that the ugliness has been one-way.

The negative qualities Dreschel observes manifest on all sides in every conflict. Who can forget Peter Mercanti's infamous 47% moment?

"Who are these people? What is their background? What have they done?" said Peter Mercanti. "They get almost all the same weight as the people who really count. It shocks me."

The disdain in Mercanti's words is palpable, but it's not exceptional. Anyone who has lived for some time in the lower city - and particularly anyone who pays attention to civic affairs - is well-acquainted with the contempt and scorn that some residents of the upper city and suburbs routinely heap on the downtown.

For as long as I've been reading the Hamilton Spectator, I've been reading a steady litany of letters to the editor calling downtown a dump filled with lowlifes that should be razed to the ground. (And don't get me started on thespec.com's comment section, which is overrun by the most vitriolic downtown-hating trolls.)

The contempt that some people - again, not all people, and we would be remiss to tar with a broad brush - have for downtown is perhaps best exemplified by the joke told by more than one resident of the Mountain: Every time I flush the toilet, I'm pissing on you.

Vulgarity is ugly and unfortunate, and we should all strive to keep our comments civil. None of us are perfect, and we've all said and done things in the heat of the moment that we would later regret. That in itself is no argument against the generally inspiring, optimistic movement to revitalize the lower city with new ideas and new energy.

Who Has a Say?

Let's get something out of the way: with every ward councillor having a vote on every policy, representatives of the entire city do get a say on downtown.

(Indeed, urbanists are keenly aware that many of the more progressive ideas proposed for downtown are blocked by mountain and suburban councillors who either don't see the value of, or actively resent, spending money downtown.)

As Dreschel notes, downtown does receive significant public investment, though most of it was put in place by previous councils and much of it, like the Downtown Residential Loan program, is directly paid back by developers.

However, Dreschel's numbers completely skip the fact that the massive suburban sprawl that transformed Hamilton over the past half-century was extensively funded and subsidized by the old city. This funding arrangement long predates amalgamation, since tax revenue generated in the old city helped pay for sprawl infrastructure through the Regional government of Hamilton-Wentworth.

More recently, the entire city paid (and continues to pay) for the Red Hill Valley Parkway, the main purpose of which was to open up a billion dollars in new sprawl development on the east mountain, all of which also needs expensive local civic infrastructure.

To add insult to injury, Hamilton's low development charges ensure that the existing tax base continues to help subsidize every new suburban house that gets built.

All those kilometres and kilometres of water, sewer, road pavement, police and fire service, garbage collection and so on are extremely expensive, and the low-density land use they serve does not generate enough aggregate tax revenue to pay for them.

On top of that, we are giving big subsidies and grants to businesses to entice them to rationalize existing regional operations into our suburban business parks.

Sprawl Doesn't Pay for Itself

The simple fact is that low-density suburban infrastructure does not pay for itself. The only way a city can afford suburbs is for its downtown to produce enough surplus revenue to pay for them.

The reason is that urban infrastructure is vastly more cost-effective than suburban infrastructure. If the same amount of civic infrastructure can serve ten times as many people, the per-capita cost is necessarily much lower.

At the same time, economic research over the past few decades has found that a dense, diverse urban land use produces more economic output per capita than a single use suburban land use. A healthy downtown is not only cheaper to operate per capita, but also produces more economic innovation and more wealth per capita.

A sprawling city without a healthy centre is an economic time bomb, as urbanists have been trying to argue for years. It's why every expert who comes to Hamilton give us the same advice on creating the conditions for a healthy urban environment: tame your streets, invest in transit, fix your broken zoning bylaw, protect your heritage buildings, redevelop your surface parking lots, foster creativity, engage citizens.

It is therefore very much in the interest of our suburban councillors to understand what Jane Jacobs called "the economy of cities" so that they can continue to deliver the services and value that their constituents expect.

The array of "facts, stats, and knockout graphics" that Dreschel admired in Graham Crawford's presentation to councillors was an evidence-based effort to persuade them - all of them, not just the downtown councillors - that making decisions to support downtown is not charity but a necessary investment in sustainability for their own wards as well as the core.

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.

61 Comments

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By Realpolitik (anonymous) | Posted March 01, 2013 at 07:46:28

If logic and reason were the only barriers to policy shift, Hamilton would run like a Swiss timepiece.

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By Anonymous (anonymous) | Posted March 01, 2013 at 07:57:55

I lived downtown and worked downtown for a number of years, loving it and feeling safe. For the past 23 years I have lived on the mountain, but visit many of the coffee shops, and the Hamilton Farmers Market every Saturday. I have friends who live in Ancaster, who never visit the downtown core. His first excuse they ruined streets by changing them from one-way to two way, and he gets completely flustered. His second reason is how unsafe it is. I try to explain that it is just as unsafe where I live, the Hillpark area but he won't listen. It's sad, because they are missing out on so many new & fun places, not to mention Art Crawl & SuperCrawl.

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By jason (registered) | Posted March 01, 2013 at 09:08:12 in reply to Comment 86931

I'd hate to be your friend in Ancaster who gets flustered by 2-way streets. He must live his life flustered. Encourage him to buy a home on Cannon Street. Still a beautiful one-way street that will calm his nerves and improve his quality of life.

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By randomlady (anonymous) | Posted March 01, 2013 at 08:19:03

Fabulous article Ryan. Unfortunately we continue to see our City Councillors unable to grasp the concepts you've articulated above, save a few progressives whose names don't need to be mentioned here since we all know who they are. We need Councillors who make evidence-based decisions rather than populist, Councillors who have the ability to take the time to connect with their wards and get beyond 'us and them.' And we all need to be involved in that process. Progress takes a lot of time. I'm impatient.

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By LOL all over again (anonymous) | Posted March 02, 2013 at 19:12:20 in reply to Comment 86933

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By ScreamingViking (registered) | Posted March 02, 2013 at 22:25:55 in reply to Comment 86999

And that's why it's important that discussions contain all the facts and evidence, pros and cons, and risks and opportunities... to ensure that ideals and opinions are informed, and can lead to decisions that are sound.

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By LOL all over again (anonymous) | Posted March 03, 2013 at 15:33:10 in reply to Comment 87003

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By ScreamingViking (registered) | Posted March 04, 2013 at 05:54:34 in reply to Comment 87009

Since when did the human race do anything because it is the best informed thing to do?

The "human race" often does not act rationally. Does that make information and informed opinion irrelevant?

Who decides when enough facts have been heard and considered? You?

As a matter of fact, yes. And you too. And others who are engaged in some way. And the experts helping to guide the planning and processes. And those we've elected to make the final decisions based on feedback from everyone who provides it.

Who gets to decide which opinion is more important to the city? You?

Yes, me. And you. And others who are engaged in some way.

Who gets to decide what is more important to the individual? You?

The individual decides what is important to them. And they can either act on it, explain to someone else why they should act, or do nothing - again that choice is up to them.

Who gets to decide what is right and what is wrong? You?

What is right and what is wrong is not always black and white. But we all decide, as above. If you claim to understand democracy, you should know that.

That seems to be what you are preaching. I look at the same facts that you do but come up with a totally different conclusion. Does that make me wrong? In your eyes obviously but how about the eyes of 600,000 other residents but then you don't care do you. All you care about is your vision because you are aware of all the facts and know what is best for all of us.

You are assuming so much about me. All I'm advocating for is informed discussion. Is that such a bad thing? Is that something to fear? If so, why?

Please tell me what my "vision" is, since you seem to think you know it. Tell me why you believe I don't care what everyone else thinks?

I think not.

Apparently.

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By z jones (registered) | Posted March 03, 2013 at 21:11:25 in reply to Comment 87009

Yet here you are, all threatened by a discussion. Maybe deep down you realize the facts are different than you want, people's opinions are changing, they're going to keep changing and you're going to be left alone in the butt end of the 20th century that's passed, yelling at kids to get off your lawn.

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By Conrad664 (registered) | Posted March 01, 2013 at 08:40:33

Very nice artical Ryan , iv been saying that since i moned here in Hamilton from the east coast ,since then the city was going down waords but now for the past 3 years is picking back up , i juste hope that council don`t trow in a monkey wrench into it

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By LOL all over again (anonymous) | Posted March 02, 2013 at 19:14:04 in reply to Comment 86936

Funny how you chose to move to Hamilton of all the places in the country you could have chose. I guess Hamilton has been doing lots of things right all these years.

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By Conrad664 (registered) | Posted March 04, 2013 at 16:22:38 in reply to Comment 87000

Lol funny you should mention that i have moved here in 1994 for a job my friend told me about and i have been working full time since ... if poeples whant to work there is

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By Fred Street (anonymous) | Posted March 01, 2013 at 09:04:32

Old city has the bench strength and the numbers. Frustrating that the veterans keep getting outfoxed.

00 Bratina (2004)
01 McHattie (2003)
02 Farr (2010)
03 Merulla (2000)
04 Morelli (1991)
05 Collins (1995)

Avg 12 yrs experience

06 Jackson (1988)
07 Duvall (2006)
08 Whitehead (2003)

Avg 14 yrs experience

09 Pearson (2003; previously a 9 yr SC councillor)
10 Clark (2006; previously an SC councillor)
11 Johnson (2010)
12 Ferguson (2006)
13 Powers (2001-2004, 2006-present; previously an 18 yr Dundas councillor)
14 Pasuta (2006)
15 Partridge (2010)

Avg 7 yrs council experience (plus another 3-4 yrs pre-amalgamation)



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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted March 01, 2013 at 09:09:01 in reply to Comment 86939

That suggests yet another way to look at the issue: based on 2011 census data, Hamilton's old-city wards have much higher populations than its suburban wards.

The average population of lower city wards 1-5 is 36,041, while the average population of suburban wards 9-15 is 27,067. The average population of the three mountain wards 6-8 is a whopping 50,078! There's a gap of 3.5 times between the highest population ward 7 and the lowest population ward 14.

If we were to redraw the boundaries so that each ward has 30,000 people, there would be 11 wards instead of 8 in the area of the old city and 6 wards instead of 7 in the area of the old suburban communities.

But the ward boundary issue is a third rail of Hamilton politics - the lingering resentment from the forced amalgamation of the city with its suburbs in 2001 - and council has already punted it past the 2014 election, having previously punted it past the 2010 election.

In the meantime, suburban voters are systematically overrepresented around the council table.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted March 03, 2013 at 03:42:49 in reply to Comment 86942

To be fair, wards 6-8 aren't exactly big supporters of the ideals espoused on this site, and they're the ones suffering from the worst under-representation.

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By Block4three (anonymous) | Posted March 01, 2013 at 11:27:44 in reply to Comment 86942

I've been doing research on sprawl and some interesting information with respect to politics is becoming apparent. Suburbs are much more homogeneous (similar income,race,political views, etc.) than urban areas which have a much broader mix of people and thus a broader view of issues that are important to them. This leads to more focused (scoped) lobbying from residents in suburban areas and a more cohesive mandate for councilors representing them.

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By ScreamingViking (registered) | Posted March 01, 2013 at 12:44:14 in reply to Comment 86959

How much "organized" suburban civic lobbying is there though?

From my perspective, it seems like there is much more activity in Hamilton from those interested in supporting the older core of the region.

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By block4three (anonymous) | Posted March 01, 2013 at 13:05:03 in reply to Comment 86973

It is not organized in the sense that it is carried out publicly. It is via calls, emails, etc. The point is that when you have people of the same demographic (i.e. income) and since suburban areas tend to have tracts of houses priced at the same level.

In particular, car related issues are very focused for suburban areas and any changes to roads are viewed as a war on cars to people that rely on them for their daily existence.

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By ScreamingViking (registered) | Posted March 01, 2013 at 16:19:44 in reply to Comment 86977

I see what you're saying. Not sure I agree though - for some issues, demographics are not always correlated with psycho-graphics.

Just to ask an open question, what about quantity? Does there tend to be more contact per household from suburban dwellers than central-city residents? Or the reverse?

And furthermore, it would be interesting to see what percentage of constituent calls relate to major city-wide issues vs. local issues vs. minor/routine complaints, and how that varies between suburban and central wards.

Does the city track these things?

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By erskinec (registered) - website | Posted March 05, 2013 at 13:43:54 in reply to Comment 86981

I think you are both right. There is more interest from the core but the suburbs tend to more organized because their interests play well for the developers.

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By highwater (registered) | Posted March 01, 2013 at 11:45:11 in reply to Comment 86959

You may want to update your research. This is changing.

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By Block4three (anonymous) | Posted March 01, 2013 at 12:13:46 in reply to Comment 86962

Yes, I understand this to be the case in some cities in the US. However, Canada is lagging as house prices in the burbs have not dropped as significantly as in the US following the economic melt down. House prices in Hamilton's suburbs are still generally higher than the inner city limiting lower income migration outwards.

As fuel prices continue to rise I suspect that there will be a greater number of people moving back to inner city areas, driving up price and pushing lower income families to oversupplied suburbs.

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By highwater (registered) | Posted March 01, 2013 at 13:46:03 in reply to Comment 86969

Actually, it's happening in Toronto as well, but I linked to a US article as I felt that the the trends there were more analogous to what we might see here in Hamilton.

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By anonymous (anonymous) | Posted March 01, 2013 at 12:26:21 in reply to Comment 86969

I guess that all of these low income families will get to the suburbs on bicycles or walk and sustain themselves by farming on the front and backyards.

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By block4three (anonymous) | Posted March 01, 2013 at 12:59:23 in reply to Comment 86972

That is exactly the challenge facing the states right now. How do you transport low income families that are living in low density areas with limited transportation options?

One option - http://www.ted.com/talks/ellen_dunham_jones_retrofitting_suburbia.html

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By Fred Street (anonymous) | Posted March 01, 2013 at 09:44:04 in reply to Comment 86942

The following is intended purely for entertainment purposes.

REGISTERED VOTERS, 2010

353317 registered voters in the 2010 election. The average ward should therefore contain 23,554 voters.

01: 20,767
02: 19,424
03: 23,670
04: 23,721
05: 25,755

Avg 22,667 reg’d voters per
(or 4 revised wards @ 28,334 per or 2 revised wards @ 56,668 per)

06: 28,266
07: 40,571
08: 34,259

Avg 34,365 reg’d voters per
(or 4 revised wards @ 25,744 per or 2 revised wards @ 51,548 per)

09: 19,235
10: 19,350
11: 24,655
12: 24,449
13:18,439
14: 12,147
15: 18,609

Avg 19,554 reg’d voters per
(or 5 revised wards @ 27,377 per, or 3 revised wards @ 45,628 per)


VOTER TURNOUT, 2010
City-wide average 40.45%

01 40.71%
02 40.37%
03 30.96%
04 35.50%
05 41.32%

Avg 37.8% turnout

06 43.13%
07 39.86%
08 44.18%

Avg 42.4% turnout

09 40.25%
10 45.33%
11 43.30%
12 42.19%
13 45.83%
14 35.10%
15 35.07%

Avg 41.0% turnout


http://old.hamilton.ca/clerk/election/2010-election-results/defaultpollbypoll.asp

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By Fred Street (anonymous) | Posted March 01, 2013 at 20:01:09 in reply to Comment 86947

FOUR URBAN WARDS W/ LOWEST # REG’D VOTERS

01: 20,767 registered voters, 8,454 ballots cast
02: 19,424 registered voters, 7,842 ballots cast
03: 23,670 registered voters, 7,329 ballots cast
04: 23,721 registered voters, 8,420 ballots cast

87,582 registered voters / 32,045 ballots cast = avg 36.6% turnout

FOUR SUBURBAN/RURAL WARDS W/ LOWEST # REG’D VOTERS

09: 19,235 registered voters, 7,743 ballots cast
13: 18,439 registered voters, 8,450 ballots cast
14: 12,147 registered voters, 4,264 ballots cast
15: 18,609 registered voters, 6,526 ballots cast

68,430 registered voters / 26,983 ballots cast = avg 39.4% turnout


FOUR URBAN WARDS W/ LOWEST VOTER TURNOUT

01: 20,767 registered voters, 8,454 ballots cast
02: 19,424 registered voters, 7,842 ballots cast
03: 23,670 registered voters, 7,329 ballots cast
04: 23,721 registered voters, 8,420 ballots cast

87,582 registered voters / 32,045 ballots cast = avg 36.6% turnout

FOUR SUBURBAN/RURAL WARDS W/ LOWEST VOTER TURNOUT

09: 19,235 registered voters, 7,743 ballots cast
12 24,449 registered voters, 10,316 ballots cast
14: 12,147 registered voters, 4,264 ballots cast
15: 18,609 registered voters, 6,526 ballots cast

74,440 registered voters / 28,849 ballots cast = 38.8% turnout

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By jason (registered) | Posted March 01, 2013 at 09:13:02

One thought about the Spec piece today. Headline says "New Hamilton should understand that downtown belongs to everyone".

Very true. But keep in mind, 'old Hamilton' has ignored downtown and refused to invest in it, or 'go down there' for the past 25 years. One can be sympathetic to the passion displayed by those who have actually invested their precious time and money that has led to the turnaround. Now, those who fled downtown and let it rot for decades want to jump back into the mix and dictate "how to fix it". Sorry, you had your chance. Anyone is welcome to invest and enjoy the new downtown, but you can be sure the new guard will do just that - protect our core from being gutted and destroyed by many of those who had a hand in destroying it in the first place.

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By Conrad664 (registered) | Posted March 01, 2013 at 09:31:00 in reply to Comment 86944

Well said jason , when i moved to Hamilton in 93 in the naybourhood of Robert street next to a halfway house , but the core now is looking up witch i live in the south Sherman hub and i love it here its not really in the core but not to far and i like what i see downtown

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By LOL all over again (anonymous) | Posted March 02, 2013 at 19:27:48 in reply to Comment 86946

Just a glimpse of your tale and applying a little common sense would lead one to believe that when you moved here in 93 you took what you could afford even if it was not a very desirable place to live, beside a halfway house. As you settled in and perhaps saved some money or got a better job you moved to a more desirable area even though it was more expensive because now you could afford it. How close am I?

You were preceded by many thousands, including myself and my family, and many thousands more follow in your footsteps.

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By maureenowilson (registered) | Posted March 01, 2013 at 10:22:21

Thank you for this thoughtful and articulate response to Mr. Dreschel.

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By BeulahAve (registered) | Posted March 01, 2013 at 10:33:46

Yes, great response to this morning's column. But what is really impressive is how quickly Ryan can crank out these quality articles!! I hope that you submit this to The Spec and get it printed.

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By Woody10 (registered) | Posted March 01, 2013 at 11:47:16

Very good article, I'm a so called suburbanite but I love downtown and it's potential. Various comments above mention the need/hope that council moves forward with positive changes, long term positive changes but I have trouble believing this council will do that. I really hope I'm wrong. I'm impatient as well.

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By JM (registered) | Posted March 01, 2013 at 11:51:16

very well written Ryan! i don't know what else to say...

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By PublicSpacePete (registered) | Posted March 01, 2013 at 12:07:09

Unbelievable, that this blog and the comments merely confirm Dreschel's article. He says that all Hamiltonians need to look for common ground and work together to get stuff moving and then you again nail all people outside your group. IMHO a lot of the cultural downtown progress has indeed been made by the people that live there doing stuff. But the developers are also trying, so lets see whether the new hotels do bring in new visitors, hopefully so and its good that the developers have put their money down, subsidized with taxpayer money. We are a city in a mess in all areas with main roads, side streets, sewers, lack of jobs, public transit, city overspending on the wrong things etc. etc. etc. Let's have some reasonable discussion and use facts to make the right spending and cost saving decisions with our limited funds and stop the special interests getting their own. We need informed and involved taxpayers in all wards to tell councilors what WE want.

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By hotelier (anonymous) | Posted March 02, 2013 at 15:10:30 in reply to Comment 86967

You think that two or three hotel developers are going to save downtown and bring visitors -- so the people who live and work downtown should shut up?

Hotels don't attract people. Are you for real? People go to hotels because they are visiting a place for other, REAL reasons.

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By z jones (registered) | Posted March 01, 2013 at 16:35:29 in reply to Comment 86967

Are you serious? Dreshel has been trolling and hating on downtown since the escarpment was a coastline. This piece was way politer than he deserves.

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By INTHEMIDDLE (anonymous) | Posted March 01, 2013 at 12:55:34

Growing up in the core, I guess you could say that I am "old Hamilton", but I have embraced the core revitalization through support of James St. I must say that I felt that Andrew hit the nail on the head in terms of the attitude of the New Hamilton. They have such enthusiasm for their particular causes, which is commendable, but they are not too forgiving or accepting of opinions different than their own. I don't agree with two way streets, I supported the stadium but I would feel the wrath if I ever mentioned it around certain groups. I work tirelessly for the city, particularly the core, I have a right to have my opinion, but truly feel I will be a social pariah if I expressed them strongly. It seems that it is their way or the highway ( or two way street).

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By adrian (registered) | Posted March 05, 2013 at 01:52:51 in reply to Comment 86975

I think it depends on who you talk to. A lot of people are passionate and some of them might be prone to quick disagreement if they're feeling frustrated - and many of them are, with good reason. Many people are invested in the core, both literally and metaphorically, and get upset by the slow pace of change, fear-based decisions, and a frequent reversal of good ideas in favour of a status quo that hasn't worked for decades.

But I think most people are open to good, informed discussions, and are happy that people are engaged on the issues and learning about them, even if they don't always agree. Personally I would much prefer people to be engaged, even if they disagree with me on some issues, than apathetic.

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By virbius (anonymous) | Posted March 01, 2013 at 15:47:31

I have lived in Ancaster most of my life. It has changed and generally people up here are less engaged with their community than I remember back when. Such is modern suburban life. When I go downtown, which is often, I see a lot of people from a wide variety of backgrounds. It is sometimes gritty and sometimes uncomfortable, but you know what? It has heart. Those characters that you see, they're what gives our city a personality. The population density and the old neighbourhoods promote the engagement that is lacking in the suburbs. People are in the street and there is a vitality there. Yes, we are still recovering from the 25,000 good paying manufacturing jobs that have disappeared since the early 90s, but i think the future looks better than it did 10 years ago. People that think they are better than the next guy because of where they live arent worth worrying about. Let them hide in their McMansions and live their lives in front of their big screens. As for me I know I where I will be... Supporting the small businesses that make this city great and enjoying the down to earth atmosphere.

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By HamiltonBoy (registered) | Posted March 01, 2013 at 15:57:31

THANK YOU Ryan for an intelligent and thoughtful response to Mr. Dreschel. I am also born/raised "old Hamilton" (Balsam Ave), but now hang my hat in Dundas. Why did we choose Dundas? Well, it's a great place to raise a family, and the downtown core is an amazing place to stroll and meet friends. However, I am also a huge supporter of what's happening "organically" in downtown Hamilton, but am totally opposed to the "big money" view proposed by the Vranich's and Mercanti's. I am sorry to see that many of the nastiness towards the lower city emanates from the upper city and the suburbs, but please take heart in knowing that there many of us "out here" who like what's happening (albeit the progress is slow) in the core, and respect the views of thoughtful people like you, Adrian Duyzer, Andrew Hughes, Joey Coleman, Graham Crawford, Mark Chamberlain, Jason Farr, and the Hamilton arts community. If you have the energy, I would like to encourage you, as others have done here, to submit a version of your article to the Spec. I can only take so much of the "old boys club" (Dreschel, Thompson, Berton, Elliott, etc).

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By rattle and role (anonymous) | Posted March 01, 2013 at 21:00:34

Andrew can feel the political winds blowing in a new direction and doesn't like it. He's used to moving and shaking with the same old movers and shakers so of course he's afraid they might be starting to lose power. Make no mistake that's what his latest blurb is about. Ever since his man Larry lost in 2006 he's been a bit out to sea but at least Bob gives him good muck to rake. Fred was not under his thumb AND boring as a subject of derision.

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By Mal (anonymous) | Posted March 02, 2013 at 15:45:27

Around the time that the Spec's Lament for A Downtown series ran, I remember reading Mayor Wade's strategy for downtown revitalization. It was to build out the suburbs until no green space exists, making downtown a more viable development option. (This arms-length actuarial approach to urban stewardship was perhaps to be expected from a politician who came to municipal politics via life insurance.) Far from an enlightened development strategy, but it set the tone for the "New City of Hamilton." Going off the city's growth projections, those green fields should be eaten up in the next decade or two. The conversation has already begun to shift in recent years, aided in no small part by the fact that Downtown Hamilton is pretty much the cheapest real estate in the Golden Horseshoe.

http://www.thespec.com/news/business/article/888468--think-vertical-mayors-tell-home-builders

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By LOL all over again (anonymous) | Posted March 02, 2013 at 19:36:13

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By Shempatolla (registered) - website | Posted March 04, 2013 at 15:59:47

Nice retort Ryan.

I think if we (meaning all of us who have skin in the game by living in this city) are going to keep the momentum and renaissance that has clearly started in Hamilton rolling, we are going to have to stop applying labels and presupposing the motives of those who have divergent views from our own. Progressive Urbanists? What the hell is that anyway? Old Guard? You mean like the Politburo?

If we aren't careful we are going to end up eating ourselves and accomplishing nothing. See City of Toronto Council.

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By ScreamingViking (registered) | Posted March 04, 2013 at 16:37:03 in reply to Comment 87020

Agreed - labels and assumptions about motives do nothing to further the discussion about Hamilton's future.

There are a lot of ways to move forward and we won't all agree about how - but we can at least talk about it plainly and openly and maybe learn a little along the way.

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By highwater (registered) | Posted March 04, 2013 at 17:06:08 in reply to Comment 87024

We need a Christopher Hume. Our local MSM is dominated by commentators like Dreschel, Bill Kelly, and Scott Thompson whose MO's are obscuring facts in order to create division and controversy, and label and dismiss any citizen who speaks out against the status quo. It may serve the rage addiction of their audiences, but they are only fooling themselves if they think it serves the calling of journalism to inform and engage.

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By jason (registered) | Posted March 04, 2013 at 23:25:10 in reply to Comment 87027

I agree whole heartedly. Recently David Premi and Paul Shaker have been starting to gain this voice in the Spec with the regular column about 'rethinking renewal'. But we certainly need more 21st century minds working at these organizations. Mind you, most 21st century minds aren't too keen on getting a job in a dying industry.

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By Rimshot (anonymous) | Posted March 05, 2013 at 01:04:18 in reply to Comment 87032

When it comes to transparency, there's nothing like an opinion article with two authors.

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By Shempatolla (registered) - website | Posted March 04, 2013 at 17:25:41 in reply to Comment 87027

Scott Thompson doesn't even live in Hamilton, yet the gentlemen has no shortage of opinions on how things should be done here. He should be called out on that fact.

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By Noted (anonymous) | Posted March 04, 2013 at 16:07:33 in reply to Comment 87020

"In a time when cities are becoming more and more important, it’s foolish to divide Toronto — or Toronto and the GTA. Great cities are places where economic and cultural elements percolate together and unplanned things happen. More ingredients mean more possibilities. This doesn’t mean we have to go out to eat in the suburbs more or that people in North York should buy groceries on College St. But we should focus on what we all have in common, like how strip malls and downtown streets work, rather than the differences and made-up barriers."

http://www.thestar.com/life/2012/10/26/downtown_vs_the_suburbs_why_toronto_needs_to_call_a_truce.html

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By hooch (anonymous) | Posted March 04, 2013 at 19:12:22

So listened to Bill Kelly. He's u mad because downtown people aren't highfive'ing him for Red Hill. Or 'growing' the city by living in the burbs. Or something. I'm not sure. He just keeps growling the same couple things. It's pretty rough going.

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By erskinec (registered) - website | Posted March 05, 2013 at 13:24:41

The Dreschel article is a positive development; it shows that the Fat Cats are beginning to take notice - that there are other voices out for change that they must take account of.

A lot of people blame the politicians or the city staff but they are not the problem. The problem is exactly as you described, there are huge financial incentives to develop the suburbs and not develop the downtown core. When development does occur in the core, it occurs badly.

As citizens we have a right to be heard but that does not mean we will. To be heard we must be organized. There must be a coalition of concern individuals and groups that can promote a creative city agenda. Without such a coalition, the city staff and politicians will continue to listen to the developers who are promoting the same old narrative of the 50 years.

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By Sky (anonymous) | Posted March 06, 2013 at 15:51:20

I hope everyone does realize that many of the Suburbanites you seem to dislike; actually are real people who pre-amalgamation were happy with our little Towns ~ which had its' own "core" and rural areas...

As an owner of a 'rural' (according to the new City ROP) business; I can assure you that there is NO FUNDING/GRANTS/CITY MONEY for my business...Take a look at the millions being offered for the downtown residents AND business owners.

http://www.hamilton.ca/CityDepartments/PlanningEcDev/Divisions/EcDevRealEstate/UrbanRenewal.htm

http://www.investinhamilton.ca/downtown/business-improvement-areas/

And on and on it goes...

Balance across the board for ALL Taxpayers would be welome!

I am close to tears when I read about all of the money that is dedicated to the core ~ I could certainly use the break to keep my business (established in the 1960's) looking good and thriving. Instead, my taxes go up (NO SERVICES) and I have to watch the money flow away...

Have a great day everyone!

Danya

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted March 06, 2013 at 15:57:27 in reply to Comment 87071

many of the Suburbanites you seem to dislike

I'm not sure to whom you're directing this comment, but I've re-read this essay and all the comments and do not see any personal animosity expressed toward people who live in suburbs.

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By Sky (anonymous) | Posted March 06, 2013 at 21:46:56 in reply to Comment 87072

Sorry Ryan,

Maybe "dislike" is not the word to use...How about make referance against some of the people who chose to live somewhere other than the core? (and then say that we are somehow against downtown)

..."and particularly anyone who pays attention to civic affairs - is well-acquainted with the contempt and scorn that some residents of the upper city and suburbs routinely heap on the downtown"


..."To add insult to injury, Hamilton's low development charges ensure that the existing tax base continues to help subsidize every new suburban house that gets built."

..."there are huge financial incentives to develop the suburbs and not develop the downtown core."

Maybe I am just too sensitive these days and read wrongly between the lines of the RTH comments ~ yet it is insultive to me to read how the 'Suburbs' get it all. Conversation should be embraced (within a respectful tone, not voted off from viewing (immature and does not help with working together)because when it is, it gives the impression of Anti______ instead of difference of opinion. (Sure, keep the comment score ~ that adds a nice dimension.)

Just my two cents on trying to have us ALL work together to SUPPORT and MAKE HAMILTON the best place to live, work, play REGARDLESS of our address.

Have an amazing afternoon everyone.

Danya

PS "for entertainment purposes"...The post that has the 2010 numbers has a slight error...Ward 14 had NO VOTING~ Councillor Pasuta was not challenged (acclamation).

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted March 07, 2013 at 01:02:30 in reply to Comment 87086

How about make referance against some of the people who chose to live somewhere other than the core?

I'm not drawing general conclusions about the people who choose to live here or there - quite the opposite, in fact. I argued explicitly that you can't generalize about the personal qualities of a group based on where they live or what side they take on a given issue.

For example:

The negative qualities Dreschel observes manifest on all sides in every conflict.

[...]

again, not all people, and we would be remiss to tar with a broad brush

[...]

Vulgarity is ugly and unfortunate, and we should all strive to keep our comments civil. None of us are perfect, and we've all said and done things in the heat of the moment that we would later regret.

My concern, as always, is with the what the evidence tells us about the economic, social and environmental implications of public policy around land use and transportation.

For the past several decades, and still today, there are massive, systematic economic and regulatory incentives that subsidize suburban construction and suburban living while punishing and deterring urban construction and living:

  • Development charges do not cover anywhere near the cost of development for suburban expansion. Every new suburban development is subsidized by the existing tax base.
  • Property taxes are not enough to cover the operating and lifecycle costs of suburban infrastructure. The difference in those costs is subsidized by the existing tax base.
  • Zoning rules and mandatory parking requirements forbid any land use other than low density, use-segregated sprawl.
  • Infill projects in existing built areas are charged the same development charges, levies and fees as greenfield projects, even though the cost to develop them is necessarily much lower. Further, they face the same suburban land use rules, making a dense urban form much more expensive and procedurally difficult to accomplish.

Yes, there are some targeted programs to encourage downtown development, but at best they only partially mitigate the structural disincentives to invest downtown (and some programs, like the residential loan program, are revenue-neutral).

None of this is to suggest that people are somehow 'bad' for choosing to live in suburbs. Indeed, given the hugely disproportionate incentive structure, you'd have to be either foolish or deeply committed to urban living not to let your choices be guided by all those incentives.

The problem, aside from the fact that it's simply not affordable to run a city on suburban residential taxpayers, is that lots of people want to live in urban environments and can't find what they're looking for in Hamilton. Others prefer to live in a lively urban environment but end up compelled by our regulatory distortions to "drive 'til they qualify" for a mortgage on an artificially cheap suburban or exurban lot. Still others don't even know that an urban environment is an option, since sprawl is pretty much the only thing we've built in the past 60 years.

Demographics are coming into play in a big way, as well. For the first time in decades, young people want to live in places where they don't need to drive. If we can't accommodate them in Hamilton, they will take their youthful energy and lifetime earning potential to other, more accommodating cities. At the same time, retiring Boomers with lots of wealth want to downsize into smaller urban units close to lots of amenities. Again, they won't choose Hamilton if we can't offer those amenities.

I can't stress enough that this is not a judgment on anyone's character. It is, rather, an indictment of a regulatory and financial structure that is unsustainable by design. It incentivizes personal choices that harm the public interest and punishes personal choices that support the public interest.

If we change the structure, people's choices will change as well and we will be able to enjoy the net public goods that come from a healthy urban environment.

There will always be people who want to live in the suburbs, and a healthy city should be able to accommodate them. However, Hamilton has spent the past several decades committed to suburban living to the exclusion of every alternative, and our economic, social and environmental health have suffered considerably as a result.

Comment edited by administrator Ryan on 2013-03-07 01:09:33

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By Jessica (anonymous) | Posted March 06, 2013 at 20:43:20

I have always lived on the mountain, but I spent a lot of time in my youth taking the bus downtown and enjoying the downtown vibe (still do). I've always enjoyed walking around downtown (where things don't look as bland and homogeneous as some areas of the mountain can), where there are many interesting independently owned businesses. I'm always shocked by my friends who are fellow suburbanites that hold a very different view of the downtown than I do, painting it as a desolate, scary, dangerous place. But in the same breath, they will say that they never go down there. It really defies logic. How can feel so strongly opinionated about a place you never go?! I think it was some American mayor who said you can't be a suburb of nothing, and I couldn't agree more. I only wish it were easier to convince other suburbanites that this were true.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted March 07, 2013 at 01:05:32 in reply to Comment 87084

I think it was some American mayor who said you can't be a suburb of nothing

That was Indianapolis Mayor Bill Hudnut. There's an interesting article about him from 2011.

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By lakeside (registered) | Posted March 08, 2013 at 05:47:33 in reply to Comment 87091

I honestly believe that one day in the not-too-distant future, Burlington will willingly take its place as Hamilton's natural, and top-level, suburb.

Which is not to deny Burlington its recent blooming and the development of a truly identifiable downtown recently.

If this sounds crazy consider that, if I'm not mistaken, the entirety of Burlington (and Grimsby, too?) are included in the Hamilton CMA.

This is the natural order of things; bedroom community as it may sometimes be to those employed east of here, Hamilton is not the suburb.

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By ScreamingViking (registered) | Posted March 07, 2013 at 06:20:51

To be fair, Hamilton is not the only place where there are differences of opinion or where discussions about downtown redevelopment will be difficult (though good on the Ottawa council committee to be united for now) http://www.ottawacitizen.com/travel/Reth...

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