Comment 33963

By Schoobabe (anonymous) | Posted September 21, 2009 at 15:04:19

NIMBY. Not In My Backyard. Okay, it's a misnomer. In Hamilton we're talking our figurative front yard. And we don't want poor people there. They're the big problem. Not that anyone meant to say that, but we'll treat them that way. The downtown BIA has been trying to get rid of downtowners for years. Problem is, nobody else wants them either, to the point that many of the poor, the disabled, the working poor etc. begin to feel that they ARE inferior and don't deserve to live in a decent community like any other person. They don't rate the "priviledge."

I'll let you in on a dirty little secret. The land opposite Mohawk College used to be a provincial mental hospital. It provided services to the mentally ill, not all of whom were restricted to the hospital's grounds. Mohawk itself was a farm, worked by and for the people in the hospital. Some local people, many who themselves might then have been called the "working poor," volunteered their services in the hospital. A number of the doctors who worked in the hospital lived in homes nearby, their children attending a school three blocks from these "undesireables" and later finding summer jobs in the hospital itself. The wealthy still bought property and built houses along the brow on either side of the hospital. One of the city's more expensive private schools occupied grounds kitty-corner from the hospital grounds.

To those who believe that you can have too many ill people in one part of the city, you overlook the fact that the old, sick and disabled not only can and do contribute to the economy of a community, but that they are the essential resources for an economy built on providing medical services. You cannot build an economy based solely on supply. Somehow you must accommodate demand.

There are many rationalizations for nimbyism, and "we've already got too many of those kinds of people" is by far the most popular. Even I might accept this if the recommendation were to provide the poor with greater access to a higher economic standard of living. You can't do this if you shift them from place to place. A stable community is required to build higher levels of economic activity. You get an entirely different sort of economic activity when you define the residents of a community as "undesireable" and shift them from place to place.

To build an interesting and viable downtown, local shops and businesses must not only serve the residents there, they must hire them to provide the products and services they require. That's how money circulates. And the rules of the community have to accommodate the people who live there ahead of those who might or might not eventually live there.

Has it occurred to anyone on the list that many of the things RTH contributors advocate, such as public transit and cycling, are affordable, and the argument not to provide them could be made under the excuse that they will only attract more poor people downtown?

And has it occurred to anyone that this city is itself poor? That the industrial wealth has left the area and that many individuals are living in reduced circumstances while retraining and others have taken early retirement with reduced income? Still others are relocating from poorer parts of the world. When you talk of not attracting the right sorts of people, you're simply planning to displace existing Hamiltonians with an imagined, better-spending citizen from some other place.

I think the odds for success would be better if we rebuild a new economy with the citizens at hand. Time to stop listening and believing the folks who say "I'll come downtown if you get rid of the people who live there now." Build a decent place for the citizens who now live there and their children are more likely to prosper and stay.

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