Whitehead wants the best of both worlds: to be seen magnanimously doing the right thing at a policy level, while at the same time dog-whistling the bitterness and resentment of cynical anti-urbanists who see the lower city as 'nowhere'.
By Ryan McGreal
Published March 15, 2017
In the now-classic manner of shameless right-wing populists, Ward 8 Councillor Terry Whitehead has launched a sleazy strawman smear attack against the movement for a more inclusive city by accusing it of precisely the narrow, self-serving ideology that his own divisive politics exemplify.
Whitehead has signed his name to a short op-ed in the Hamilton News that tars the entire progressive movement in Hamilton with baseless accusations and slimy connotations.
There's a small but vocal group of well-intentioned ideologues who, through the use of social media and other activities, continually try to have a disproportionate influence on senior staff and council's decisions.
They have a narrow view of what should happen in the City of Hamilton. Some people describe them as anti-car, requesting actions such as putting roads on road diets, more delineated bike lanes, elimination of parking lots, raising parking rates and support for LRT in absence of having good and strong policies in place.
It is absolutely not "anti-car" to support a more balanced transportation system that provides for everyone, takes both local and citywide needs into account, and makes the city more inclusive and more accessible to more people. If there's a "narrow view" here, it's the view that Hamilton's streets should continue to cater to driving at the exclusion of all other circumstances, transportation modes and personal preferences about how to get around.
Hamilton does, in fact, have "good and strong policies in place" with respect to its transportation system, including expanding mobility choices, making walking and cycling safer and more accessible, improving transit, moving forward with a citywide rapid transit plan that starts with B-Line LRT, and generally improving the currently lopsided imbalance between driving and everything else.
Council has consistently voted to approve these policies - not because a "small but vocal" cabal of urbanists has cast a spell on them, but because they are well-supported by decades of clear evidence and expert advice as well as having popular endorsement across the city.
Whitehead knows all this, because he's been on Council since 2003 and has voted consistently in favour of those "good and strong policies" - including literally dozens of votes in support of our LRT plan - only to undermine, obstruct, smear and delay the actual implementation of those policies where it serves his parochial interest to do so.
Nobody wants to live on a dangerous street, but Whitehead is playing an ugly, dangerous game by encouraging people who don't mind someone else living on a dangerous street if it saves them a couple of minutes.
Animated GIF of a pickup truck jumping a speed hump on Markland (Image Credit: Tom Flood)
Whitehead writes, "The complete street approach is prudent" and refers to the City of Edmonton's Complete Streets Guidelines as a good model, but it is not clear that he has actually read those guidelines because they sound exactly like what the progressive urbanists he accuses of narrow ideology would support:
Complete Streets represents a change in roadway design philosophy. The intent of the Complete Streets Guidelines is to encourage a holistic approach to roadway design in order to develop a network of roadways that are designed to be safe, attractive, comfortable and welcoming of all users.
Whitehead wants the best of both worlds: to be seen magnanimously doing the right thing at a policy level, while at the same time dog-whistling the bitterness and resentment of cynical anti-urbanists who see the lower city as 'nowhere,' its residents as 'lowlifes' not worth caring about, and its streets as mere thoroughfares and shortcuts to some other destination.
There is, in fact, a "single-minded crusader" in the political and civic debate over how Hamilton's streets should operate and whom they should provide space for, and that crusader is the politician who fights against every single effort to broaden the range of uses that a street can accommodate.
To be clear, this is not an urban vs. suburban conflict. Whitehead is doing a grave disservice to his own constituents by undermining the effort to make the city's transportation system more accommodating for everyone. After all, suburban residents appreciate and benefit from safer streets and better transit just as much as anyone else!
But as usual, instead of taking the opportunity to build bridges between communities and improve mutual understanding and compassion, Whitehead has once again sought to drive a wedge into this city and pit the groups against each other. He ought to be ashamed of himself - but he probably won't.
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