Sprawl

Pearson: Live and Don't Learn

By Ryan McGreal
Published July 17, 2007

Maria Pearson, councillor for Stoney Creek, has had enough. She's tired of listening to claims that sprawl development is a bad idea and she isn't going to take it any more.

Pearson, a member of the former Stoney Creek council when it was busy disgorging itself toward Niagara at top speed, doesn't want to contemplate that this course might, in retrospect, have been a bad idea.

As usual, Citizens at City Hall (CATCH) has the scoop. After Councillor Bob Bratina (Ward 2) argued that sprawl planning has resulted in higher emergency services costs to service far-flung subdivisions, Pearson fired back:

"I'm taking exception to hearing it more and more," she said. "I don't believe that they were errors in the days when the urban development was put in place."

Pearson insists that what they did was perfectly acceptable because they were following "their mandate, their directive, and their requirements in meeting this development" and that the "by-laws are still in place that allows development to go ahead."

Of course, the councillors themselves decided what their mandate was and ratified their own by-laws, but let's set this aside for a moment and consider the larger argument.

In short, Pearson argues that because they were following their mandate to approve low density, car-dependent, single use developments, it's therefore unfair to argue that they did anything wrong.

However, the very issue at hand is that the philosophy behind sprawl - the principles that informed the mandate, the directive, and the requirements - is fallacious. It's based on an incorrect set of assumptions about the sustainability of endless growth and ever-increasing energy use.

Pearson's response is to refuse, stubbornly, to reconsider that philosophy and those principles in light of new information. She insists, "I really take exception to continuing to hear that we made mistakes. We just tried to go in the right direction."

Refusing to admit a mistake is a sure-fire way of continuing to make the same mistake over and over again. As John Maynard Keynes famously said, "When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do?"

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 The Other Side (anonymous) | Posted July 17, 2007 at 19:40:05

In a way you have to admire Councillor Pearson for giving it back to Brattina. She's right, Stoney Creek did have their own Vision and goals.

Look at Ancaster, in my opinion a complete community: heritage, commerce, industrial, mix of housing, beautiful parks and open space and assessment value increases (commercial/industrial)of close to four percent last year compared to old Hamilton in the negatives. Heck we even had our own Emergency services.

What a dream it would be to undo amalgamation and quit funnelling money to our ugly sister.

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By nobrainer (registered) | Posted July 18, 2007 at 10:57:39

Yeah, the Meadowlands are a complete community alright, what with the never ending single family houses, the Golf Links highway and the hunk of oversized warehouses so big it needs its own road and you couldn't walk to the store if your life depended on it - and it might just if you try!

Know why there aren't any 'undesirable' poor or mentally ill people in Ancaster? Because there's no where for them to live. They're in "old Hamilton" (sounds like Rumsfeld talking about "old Europe") so you don't have to look at them.

You benefit from the social services in Hamilton just as much as the people who live there, and its only fair that you help pay. That's why Mike Harris amalgamated Hamilton in the first place, so the combined city could afford to take social service costs after the Tories downloaded them.

Gee, who voted for the Tories? The people in "old Hamilton" or the people in Ancaster? You made your bed and we all have to sleep in it.

"What a dream it would be to undo amalgamation and quit funneling money to our ugly sister."

Yeah, sure, except that, oops, THE CITY LOSES MONEY EVERY TIME IT BUILDS A HOUSE IN THE SUBURBS. Sorry for yelling, but if any funneling is going on, it's money drained out of city coffers to pay for sprawl while 75 year old water mains flood people's basements in streets long since paid for by property taxes.

Hey, I'm with you on de amalgamation. Just upload social services back to the province where they belong, let the city of Hamilton be governed by people who actually LIKE the city of Hamilton, and let Ancaster sprawl itself into oblivion if it wants.

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By Dwayne Brown (anonymous) | Posted July 23, 2007 at 14:29:57

The problem is that all of the councillors pretty much have their own individual mandates - with occasional overlaps. They follow those mandates as if God had ordered it. So it's not surprising when they freak out and refuse to admit where things could be(need to be) changed. It might be nice if they decided to work together to solve lots of problems rather than deny (or have other councillors point the finger) that there are problems - that would be an excellent mandate!
Dwayne Brown

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