Municipal Election 2006

Mismatched Priorities

By Jason Leach
Published November 12, 2006

Interesting observations from the Spectator's Weekly Pulse over the past ten weeks: people listed their most important priorities for the city and it appears as though the gulf between politicians and citizens is as wide as ever.

Our candidates and politicians constantly tell us that economic development is their number one priority. RTH has written extensively on how to develop a city properly and even on some of the backroom dealings that go on at city hall that would lead to a politician proclaiming "economic development" (i.e. sprawl) as their number one priority.

It seems you and I have different priorities. In fact, economic development was seventh on the list of citizen priorities after taxes, infrastructure, social services, downtown revitalization, environment and public transit.

After Monday's election, we need to hold our politicians accountable in these areas. The past 20 years has seen a focus almost exclusively on "job creation" and "economic development", yet the reality has been a declining city in the midst of Canada's most prosperous region.

In other words, our politicians have no clue how to bring jobs and investment here. I would suggest that they focus on those top six priorities and I'm confident the end result will be more investment and real economic development.

As long as we continue to hold onto this 1950s notion that more pavement, bad health and dirty air are all natural byproducts of "development", we'll continue to be passed over as companies and CEOs choose cities with a high quality of life, urban amenities, transit and cycling options, parks, culture, proper tax levels and re-investment of those taxes into the existing neighbourhoods as their preferred location to open new offices and locations.

We must vote in new politicians who understand 21st Century cities and economies. Otherwise, the downward slide will continue.

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 steeltown (registered) | Posted November 12, 2006 at 14:46:46

Economic development should be a top priority in Hamilton, 57,000 Hamiltonians leave our city every day to work. If the number of Hamiltonians leaves our city for work increase soon we won’t have the complete power to govern on our city and will be lumped into the GTA. Just look at the Greater Toronto Transit Authority that Hamilton is now involved in with countless other sprawling communities. I don’t want Hamilton to be one of Toronto’s sprawling communities that has to rely on the city for jobs.

We must Economic development a top priority. Simple, you want taxes to go down? More companies to Hamilton will help reduce the burden on property taxes, want downtown revitalization? Get companies to invest office jobs, want deal with the social services problems? get more jobs to make people leave the social services program, want better infrastructure? More companies to Hamilton increase the city’s revenue source to repair infrastructure.

Economic development means so much more than attracting more jobs.

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By rusty (registered) - website | Posted November 12, 2006 at 15:08:11

You are spot on steeltown. Jason sent this blog to me yesterday, and my response was this:

I never quite understood this 'goal' of Economic Development. Economic development is always the goal of a city - it's one of the main objectives. It's like saying 'safety' Of course we should keep our cities safe - this too is a constant objective.

What people don't seem to understand is that they are by-products of good city management. You can't just state 'Economic Development' and 'Safety' as goals - you have to say HOW YOU'RE GOING TO GET THEM.

And, sadly, it's the way Hamilton politicians currently go about achieving these goals that ensures we will never reach them.

Hamilton's business as usual politicians often accuse 'progressive' types like us of being anti-economic development. This is ridiculous. All of our objectives are geared towards making Hamilton a more prosperous town. The difference is that we measure prosperity and Quality of Life in more than just minimum wage jobs and revenues, we measure it in reduced poverty rates, cleaner air, safer streets and stronger communities.

It's not the goal that is the issue - but how we achieve it.


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By Ken (anonymous) | Posted November 12, 2006 at 20:01:52

Say Jason, I'm obviously not up on the details here since I'm sitting 1000 miles away, but it seems to me that you overlook the counter argument of the economic development crowd and may unfairly characterize their position. Their counter argument is that in order to address the other half dozen things that citizens prefer money needs to be gotten from somewhere. Therefore, economic development has to be a priority. As for economic development being equivalent to more pavement, I disagree. No doubt many in favor of economic development see it this way and they need to be countered on this point, but economic development is actually possible without it. In fact, I believe that in most cases the better economic development happens without more pavement. This I suspect is the fight you want to wage--yes economic development but no pavement--and on this I'm with you 100%.

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