January 31 was a day that our Council sent a unanimous message to our city. I truly believe that in the end, the Great Stadium Debate brought us all closer.
By Larry Pattison
Published February 10, 2011
The Mayor's family sat behind me for most of the afternoon, including his son (wearing a Markeith Knowlton jersey), his wife, and others. It reflected the sentiment felt over the course of the day around the Council table, in the gallery, and in the lobby outside the glass chamber doors.
Not long after we took our seats that Monday morning, we were asked to wait in the upstairs lobby while Council and staff went in camera.
Media, friends, and family gathered into the early afternoon, to reflect one last time on the past eight months. Chat circles formed, and the media interviewed Cats fans and citizens who have followed this process closely.
A part of me would have loved to have seen a packed Council chamber and outside lobby - like back in August of last year - but the quiet crowd further complemented the family atmosphere that symbolized that final day of this exhausting debate.
After 2.5 hours, the curtains that obstructed the view of the Council roundtable rose and for the last time, we returned to the gallery to witness the final chapter of the Great Stadium Debate.
For the most part, in the hours following Council's return to order, the past was left behind. That blistery final day of January proved to be a big stepping stone toward rebuilding so many of the bridges that had been broken over the course of this Pan Am process.
For many, there is no win at 75 Balsam Avenue North. For me, an Ivor Wynne victory is bittersweet. I strongly believe that this is the first step in something spectacular to come not only along Balsam Avenue itself, but in Ward 3 in general - including further growth of the Ottawa Street shopping district, and something new and old along Barton Street.
One of the traits I always loved about Ivor Wynne itself was the view: the escarpment, the lights of downtown at night, and even the steel factories and the symbolism in what they represent.
This is perhaps our last opportunity to change this area of our city. I can only hope that the rebirth of our old stadium can be the catalyst that so many stadiums have not been able to live up to.
There is no reason why Hamilton should not be one of the most desired places to live. From the escarpment that wraps its branches around our lower city and the many beautiful views from various points along it, to our harbor, Cootes Paradise, a city of waterfalls, a thriving arts community, and so much more.
Not to mention you can drive 20 minutes from the furthest point and be cruising along country roads with the smell of cows and nature wafting in through your open car windows.
Over $150M dollars is about to be spent in our home town. I feel there is too much potential in this stadium plan to ignore the value of the next chapter in our city's promising future.
Everything that has occurred over the past several months - the frustration, the long hours, the indecision - finally came full circle. Sure, there were still a select few who saw the resolution as a cup half empty, but the glass was full for many Councillors that day, including our mayor.
Differences were set aside and perhaps for the first time in all the days and evenings I had spent in Council chambers, there were flashes of inspiration. Finally, there was a reason to celebrate.
There were speeches from the heart, perhaps the best saved for our mayor, who even enlightened us all with some further history of our historic stadium.
I have taken many lessons away from the events dating back to last July. I have learned a great deal during my time spent at City Hall, on message board forums, and even from quality time spent in our Local History and Archives department at the Hamilton Public Library.
We have criticized council and the Tiger-Cats tirelessly this past year, but through everyone's congratulatory words leading up to last week's final vote, we were all reminded of just how much work went into this process from so many levels - including the citizenry.
It is easy to be critical of someone you do not know, to judge those whose shoes you've never been in. Someone whose job you would like or who holds a position you once held.
What's hard is realizing your own faults. Imagine the world is looking over your shoulder for a moment. What would the world say about you?
I have been judgmental throughout this process as well. It is not something I wish to or even can hide in the wonderful world of online forums.
I can't imagine the toll that politics takes on relationships of all forms - especially marriages, from the hours they have to put in during major decisions such as the Pan Am Stadium, to the thousands of emails and phone calls that have surely poured in from July until moments leading up to that last GIC meeting.
None of us deserves judgment. Not our family, friends, colleagues, or especially those we do not even know.
January 31 was a reminder, with the mayor's family behind me, that all of the men and woman who lead our city have families of their own. They are friends, mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, sons and daughters. They are human.
Should they be accountable for and contested against the decisions they are making on our behalf? Yes, but let your vote in four years time be their judgment, for you and I are no better for the harsh words we pass through conversation or over the web, whether anonymously or otherwise.
I am excited about the opportunity this amount of money represents, coming into our community. I can only hope that the citizen involvement will continue, as that can only make the result of this stadium district and the time, money and energy that will go into this project something we can all feel good about.
As council adjourned and chambers emptied, the Mayor walked into the gallery where he was congratulated on Council's victory. He hugged his son, shook hands with other family members, and thanked them all for being there for him on this important day.
Before making my way, I also turned and offered my sentiments in regards to the words our mayor chose to end this very long debate.
I truly believe that in the end, the Great Stadium Debate brought us all closer.
January 31 was a day that our Council sent a unanimous message to our city. A day we all moved forward together. The day our city joined hands.
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